Long Post/Short Story
“Of all of the struggling I’ve done in my time to make good on the promises I’ve made when drunk with love, you’ve resulted in the most pain,” words marked with sincerity that, if spoken twenty years ago might have sounded more like angry regret. A short man, plump of gut and thinning hair, stood crooked over a cane, 47 and looking almost half again that with all of the wrinkles around his mouth and bags under his eyes, those giant black pools whichï¿½like the swirling colors in oilï¿½mixed sorrow, wisdom, admiration, pride, and love with a lack of resolve when staring into the particular eyes which he now found himself reflecting in. While his was a body dying before its time, hers was one untouched by pendulum or hour hand. She stood thin, tall, honey skin and long brown hair, her glaring gaze said experience all the while her smile wreaked of youthful naivete. She didn’t reply to his comments, only putting her hand on his shoulder and shaking her head a little, as if he were a boy who had just discovered that one quarter might be worth more than ten pennies.
“There you go, smiling all the while. Never any answer. Never any excuse. Just look at you.” He did so, his lips struggling to keep a stern demeanor. “I can’t,” he cracked, “I can’t do anything but feel good about you every time you come back.” She smiled again and turned on her heel to walk over and lay down in the grass. Some women her age are grandmothers. She was still an adolescent.
The two had met twenty five years before this scene, one of them just beginning a career as an architect, the other working as a waitress in a little restaurant on Pittsburgh’s South Side. They were young and crazy about each other and neither of them cared for the rigors of the modern mold, so they did as they pleased and in turn smiled most of the day, and so people smiled back, or sometimes gave them jealous scowls but such intentions are lost in the spring clean of early love. They were only together for a few months, but for the boy that time was amazing. One day the girl told him that she was going to live in a tent and travel Asia for awhile. He was flabbergasted, and told her he couldn’t leave, he was too wrapped up in his career, but he understood who she was and though he tried as hard as he could to argue with her about it, he simply enjoyed their time together and kissed her on the forehead as she got on the giant steel bird that flew her away and out of his life for the next four years.
When she returned, he was a very different man indeed. The rigamortis of life had set in, and he was well rooted as a homeowner, with a car payment and local acquaintances (often referred to as “friends”) and a steady route to work every morning. She had uncontrolled hair and a skirt that an African pygmy had made for her. He told her stories about how he’d built this or that important building and she told him how she’d walked along the edge of the Great Wall of China. He realized his life to be drab and wanted nothing more than to stay with her for the rest of time, how she could change all of the everyday bores that were his routine. She found him amusing, but he had by now lost everything that was hopeful about him in youth, and there are only so many stories you can ramble off about architecture and the hypocrisy of the business world before they all start to sound the same. So she was off.
And then a few years later she showed up again, only to stay long enough to make him happy and then leave just in time to crush him all up again like some hitchhiking aluminum can that strayed too close to a passing truck.
And so now was the 6th or 7th time she’d come back, and probably the last in his lifetime. His age wasn’t material, it was mental, and soon his body would give in because his mind refused to work anymore. No longer did he feel pain, the nerves were too tired to endure. He could only walk if it was to go to the fridge for alcohol, or drive to a poker game or some other event involving heavy drinks and allowing him to forget about what had happened to him throughout his life, the differences between here and there and where here should be but because there was always a little askew he just ended up taking so many wrong turns he couldn’t remember how to get back on the original road.
“So I’m dying. Are you going to stay now?” he asked with sincerity, hopeful, as he was every time. Even to that very moment he was uncertain of her answer.
She leaned up, kissed him on the hand resting on the cane and said “I have to go now. But in the next life, when we meet, remember to try harder as a kid so you won’t have to when you’re all grown up. I’ll see you then…”
Up Next: Amélie