Downfall

It came easy to him, to just open up and begin talking about his life, with me. When we walked around the property, Danny showed me all of the plants that he and his wife had tended to. I was able to recognize things, relating them to the climate, and he realized that I liked ‘flowers n shit’, too. I even showed him photos from my laptop of the things I’ve done in my own gardens.

“I’m going to need help this summer,” he reasoned, looking out in to his little Eden.

I brought him over yellow begonias in a terra cotta pot with old English ivy growing down the sides. He said it was beautiful. And every day I dropped in to talk, I would gauge how he seemed to be doing. Always seemed to be doing a little better, given the occasional sadness. In everything I did I reminded myself of the woman still there, still loved very much, and I always let him tell me about who she was.

What he didn’t fully realize was that I was also inspired to come back from a dark period in my life, because of him. While he assumed I was giving him attention, he overlooked the fact that I might not eat that day if it wasn’t for the Cheerios, waiting. And I might not know what to do with myself if I didn’t have to get over to Danny’s where his home was under attack.

Another time I brought my meal over, an apple. Original sin.

I explored a dining room while he graded bulky cardboard science projects, often cursing as he unfolded them, looking for graphs and pictures.

“I just want this fuckin’ shit outta my house.” A teacher’s work is never done.

Meanwhile I was touching things on a bookshelf, lots of books on Christianity. He almost became a priest at one point in time. I emptied my change in to a little dish of coins. Collection.

Then one night, in the rain, we jumped in to the hot tub. It was the first time he had opened it back up in many months. I noticed that he never removed the chain from around his neck, as he let the water touch it. A blue light came on underneath and I watched our hands collect the bubbling foam, gathering it up and tossing it over. A lot of quiet moments, when we didn’t speak.

My mind is always running, always creatively observing, as I watch this man.

Opening up some doors, he said, “I just wanna see something. There was this jacket…”

And all of her clothes are there, lining the entire thing left to right, a beautiful master closet.

“I’m sorry. Are you OK with this? Is this weird?”

I smiled inside. Of course, it’s weird. But I am accompanying on this adventure. “It’s fine.”

He told me a story about a golden Pooh bear I found at the edge of a guest room bed. He had set it in the Disney store’s window with her name on it, during a scavenger hunt.

“Here it is.” He pulled out a blazer in hounds tooth fashion and took it off the hanger.

“You always say I talk about money and shit, but seriously, do you have any fucking idea how much this cost? I just, really quick, I just wondered…”

I put it on. It fit. It was lovely. And I saw his hand out, respectively wanting it right back. I told him it was beautiful. And that the golden Pooh story was awesome.

Last night he showed me a photo album from the Pooh scavenger hunt. Afterward they had dinner at the first place they’d dated, and he presented a rose to her with promises tied on. The promises had been pressed into the book and he tried reading them out loud. His hands had been following along with the words, dirty nails from when he had his hand in the soil earlier – but he stopped.

So I read them.

He had a moment. And he hugged me, and asked me what I thought about him. I did not give an answer.

He asks me, all of the time, what I’m thinking.

“Well. For the past however long, things have been this way, I was just thinking about how I have you, this place, this dog, and your wife on my mind. Every day. I think about you guys.”

We spent some time weeding the islands in his front yard. Neighbors looked on. I stayed low to the ground. I bet they all look at us and consider his fragile state. Everything is definitely very delicate…and I’m not just talking about him.

Our moments together are important to me, and I feel driven to the center of them. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really like this guy.

I wish I could follow my heart.

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I Went For the Coffee

Danny suffered a violation the day he went out to handle funeral arrangements for his wife. Her family broke in to his home and tore it apart for things of value. His mattress had been moved. Jars, turned on shelves. Jewelry he had bought and specially designed was stolen. I attribute the move to being stabbed repeatedly after lighting has all but killed you. He saw the ugliest side of those who should have been there to support him. It was like losing additional people, and having everything and more taken away at the worst time in his life.

He changed the locks immediately and covered the windows in thick sheets. Heavy flower arrangements needed attention as they swallowed space. People continued to call. People tried to get in. Cards were flooding in. Everyone. Was. After. Them.

I showed up for coffee. I’m not sure how I did it, but it involved getting dressed and making that decision to answer to everything that was happening.

“I’ve always wondered about him,” a coworker warned. “Just make sure…he really had a wife. And that. She wasn’t murdered.”

I showed up early, without calling ahead, in hopes of catching the entire concept of intimidation off guard. He had removed the sheets from the windows, letting in the light. And then he let me inside.

“Hey. You look nice.”

I began feverishly locking everything behind me. It wouldn’t take him long to notice that and thank me for it. Protection. You can just feel the need for it.

“What the fuck, girl? You’re like, super early and I’ve been cleaning toilets and shit.”

All of the shapes. All of the colors. The dog, jumping up on to me, something I could cling to.

“I’ll give you the grand tour. Starting off with the master bedroom. Come on.”

I laughed. He knows he’s funny, even when he knows he isn’t joking. I was standing there in his bedroom, looking around. Very nice. I joked to myself about being possibly strangled in there, something that would blossom in to the Serial Killer Theory, but I wasn’t afraid of this poor man. This guy couldn’t kill me. Not like that. Not with death.

As he got ready I listened to the fish tank filter, a crowded bunch of rescued pond fish overwintered. I flipped through his music collection and saw photos of his step children on the floor, facing the wall. So many dramas, so many stories, I would never tell them myself – but there is a lot of pain, within them.

“Okay, well, we’re going to go over to my mothers’ so I can look at her car. She says it’s leaking fluid. Okay?”

My first visit and he just wanted me to jump in his car with his big dog and ride over to his mom’s place. Scatterbrained? Just comfortable? I couldn’t be sure but I knew it made perfect sense to him. I laughed.

“Of course.”

A little later on he received a phone call from his mother and I did not indicate that I could hear her clearly, right away, blasting out from his phone.

What kind of person just comes over to my home like that? How old is she? Danny, it’s just too soon. This is bad. Don’t bring her over to your house, this is wrong! I can feel it! You need to think about your reputation within that community!

Harlot. Jezebel. He took the call elsewhere but the impression had been made.

I was quiet for a while, after that. He asked, “What. What is it. What’s wrong.”

“Nothing.” And then, the next time he asked the same thing, “I could. Hear your mom.”

“I know you did. I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed.”

And as we moved throughout his home, talking, he showed me examples.

“Look at these ladies pushing strollers down the street. They’re looking at us.”

Sure enough, two women walked by, heads turned completely sideways, staring, scowling.

We decided to take the dog for a walk one night. Danny was running around, getting ready and I heard him yell, “’He’s bendin’ her over right now!’ That’s what they’re saying.”

When he pulled on a tee-shirt, his entire shape shifted. There’s something about him, his lines, his proportions – that are not typical. He is in good shape, is smaller, skinnier, for his age. And in certain moods, his language will slightly change, elevating, often sounding very youthful. I am always adjusting to it, and he caught me looking at his ‘Aeropostale’ shirt transformation.

“What’s wrong, why are you looking at my shirt? Is something wrong with my shirt?”

I didn’t know if I should explain, so I simplified and met his eyes, “Can I fuckin’ lookatchu?”

He shook his head and walked off in to the other room. “I know you wanna do it.”

I laughed.

Strange Days

The fifty year old gamer dropped something on me that I don’t think he expected me to feel. Normally we would find a few seconds to mess with each other and be done with it, but given my interest and his condition at the time, he told me.

He told me he’d just lost his wife.

We had known she was dying. I had seen him coming in less, coming in tired, coming in like the world had been ugly enough with something beautiful in it. Now he was displaced, ripped from things I didn’t know, bleeding things I couldn’t see. Reeling, as if any one of the faceless, nameless people around us could knock him over with the slightest graze. It made me afraid.

And I was grasping for the right answer, for that consoling bit of smart he looked like he may even believe I had to give, I was racing, racing through the file in my head and feeling so terrible…

“Well?” That damming silence.

I remember.

“You were…you worked at a…religious. School?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then…she will live forever?”

He smiled. Closed his eyes for a second.

“Yes, according to all of the books I’ve read, she will.”

We talked about her survivors. I noticed how he has a way of explaining things almost like a story, in good detail, and I am drawn to that because I do the same thing. He said he would squeeze water on to her lips so she could drink. Her family was oddly distanced, sometimes laughing in the background as he tended to her with a heavy heart. Eventually her capillaries burst and he had to sign the form to say goodbye. It was premature, it was painful, it was tragic.

After he left, I couldn’t forget it. I was holding on to everything. Trying to hold it like it could be something broken off from him. Help. Help, with the weight of the world. But what good was I, with all of this, if he had no idea?

I ran in to my office and started flipping through my paperwork. Pages and pages, turning them over looking for that black ink. And then I found it scribbled there: Danny 555-5555. Ooh. Only my mother calls me Danny.

I put him in to my phone. And waited. Because it was a question of courtesy, of what a policy would think. What a professional would think. What society would think. But somewhere along the line I said, ‘screw rules’ and after he’d brought his mother in for a visit, I texted and told him that she was very lovely.

I would continue to randomly tell him things, the fifty year old gamer in my phone, the strange man and the creepy girl who slowly began to share enough things that made them seem less strange…less creepy.

He knew about my diet regimen. I had said that Cheerios were a Godsend – they are healthy and mild enough to keep me from flipping the switch from “snack” to “binge”.

One night he called me and said there was a big box of Cheerios sitting on his table for me, if I was interested. It was simple. Sweet. My heart went out. I politely declined.

We both love coffee. We both have talked about loving coffee. One night he called, as we had been learning to talk that way, and he had a sad sound in his voice.

“You’re never coming over for coffee. Are you.”

And it was like being on the edge of something and looking out in to an ocean of probabilities. All signs point to ‘no’. You don’t do that kind of thing because it’s emotional and there are risks and life is just not that easy. No one’s heart is free like that, to just…

One night I drove out to his home. I thought I could, drive out there, see what it was like to bridge a gap between a piece in my mind and a piece in real life. But the houses started getting taller, columns, brick, topiaries, and the darkness prevented me from seeing any house numbers as I pulled around the drive.

Then I saw it. The one house on the entire street lit up like the ‘Home Alone’ mansion at Christmas time, glowing with a single light in every window, illuminated paths leading to the door. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk up that driveway. Fuck, that can’t be, but that is, I just know that is, that is. His. House.

I didn’t pause long on the street because it was the kind of place where someone might quickly call the police. Maybe I just stand guard, like I do at work. Maybe I just. Watch it from here.

“You should check it out sometime,” he texted the following morning, “I’ve worked hard. It’s really nice.”

I texted back: I know. I was just outside, last night.

On My Radar

After I noticed a fifty year old man frequenting the gaming section at my workplace, I began to observe him more closely. He would always come in well dressed and walk like he owned a piece of the world. The time he spent talking to the younger employees in gaming interested me; there was usually a gap there, with all of the commonalities missing between generations. I didn’t get the exception.

It takes an intelligent mind to appreciate the puzzles, other worlds and strategies of good gaming. I see a lot of older people shy away from that industry entirely because they’re unable to handle the ever-changing technology involved and they’ve gone ahead and judged video games to be a pure waste of time. They’d rather be buried in their work, do crossword puzzles, I dunno. So when I saw a grown, established person picking up Xbox titles I found it very interesting.

It’s too bad we never have his pre-orders right. The staff came to know him by name for all of the times he showed up to retrieve product that wasn’t ready. He’d have to wait, keyboard letters would click, people would slowly inquire back and forth over walkie talkie and the store would have to figure out what to do every time. The fifty year old gamer’s temperament was not always well received and so the staff would hide on occasion, when they saw him coming.

Something made me try to piece his life together. Why he gamed. Why he said something about going out of his way to choose the store that never had his pickup ready. Bits and pieces of relayed information about “his students”. Even inquiring about a job with us at one point in time. The shaggy dog that accompanied him in his vehicle. Mostly I think I was attracted to the expression in his eyes, the passing moments that suggested there was an entire heavy universe I knew absolutely nothing about.

“Do me a favor and call me when you guys are actually hiring. Here. Take my number down.”

One day I asked him how he was and he answered something like, “Sore, burnt out and a little depressed” as he continued on by. The realness of that stood out to me. I really liked that guy. There were some mysteries there, some concerns, but maybe that was a part of it, too. I was really, really curious.

So I googled his name. Right from CCTV surveillance, brief interviews, collected information to my own research on my own time. He was on my mind. I was trying to verify his status as a principal by finding the school website, but no matter what I did I kept stumbling on to more questions.

I found the school. The Principal’s Corner feature was being updated by some old woman, though. Was that why this guy with a master’s degree was asking us for a job? How old were his students? Did something happen? Did he buy those games for himself or someone else? Who picks out his ties? They’re really nice.

Oh, Mr. Gamer. You’re one of the smart ones, one of the good ones, aren’t you? With your pissy remarks and nice suits. If I could somehow corral you from this crowd and in to my life, I would.

Eventually I just flat-out gave the game away. There was a report on the internet about how the principal had dared the kids to exceed their reading goals with an amusing bribe.

“I heard you kissed a pig. My computer told me.”

The way he turned back around from the opening automatic door, I will never forget. That slow turn like he was almost smiling but seemed instantly worried with narrowing eyes, told me he was flattered and creeped the hell out. Of all of the times I had looked in to those eyes, trying to see him, they were finally looking back at me.

Dear Diary, or as I think sounds more sophisticated, Dear Word Press,

Naturally I’m losing. I’m losing. I’ve lost. Why not just keep doing that?

Didn’t I have a plethora of bullshit to knock the hell off and subtract?

Anything I choose to do this for vanishes so I push harder when I ought to laugh

Now I wake up, the treadmill’s right here, I cut my food… I cut my vitamin…in half.

Something happened to me recently. It felt a lot like the vague, unknown references I’ve been making over the course of the past several years – specifically, as if they suddenly had definition. And it all has to do with the odd way that my own weird world crossed over in to another one. I will try to explain it, for the first time, to the endless cyberspace in hopes that the energy created from that will somehow help me on this path.

One important lesson that I have learned during my adventures with someone else is that you have to be in love before you can grow together. There have been many moments throughout my relationship when I knew that some crucial factors were missing. With time and lots of harsh reality, my beliefs and perceptions of connectedness would twist and evolve when I decided that ideals could or could not apply to me in so many fractions. To be clearer, I have not been living the way that is best for me and I would battle, every day, talking myself out of thinking that there were different days ahead.

Things got to the point where I stopped seeing in to next week. I clung to a strict diet and would entertain the unhealthy thought of it being a means to eventually disappear. No matter how hard I worked to live in and run a house, or how much of a good person I knew my boyfriend was – no matter how many things I would find to pacify that thing growing inside, I ended up looking out of my window at my pretty garden praying to God that it wasn’t the view I would have for the rest of my life.

Please, please, please, no proposal today. I sought no intimacy from my partner.

Brad seemed so happy. Content. I could tell when we talked that he thought we were having a meeting of the minds and I would always step back within the conversations, like I could encompass his entire intellect on auto-pilot, and it left me with feelings of sadness and loneliness. Because I was always left with myself. I was not able to put everything in my heart, in to his. And even though he said everything was always for me and always mine, I did not feel right. I mastered the art of building walls between me and everyone else once I started believing in botanical vases and survival over passion.

That’s why I do this. Because no one can see me. They don’t see me. You won’t find me.

For some time now, I have been sleeping in a separate room and extending that separate universe that we were always in, anyway. My honesty would come in installments, how it stemmed a lot from my own issues within my own skin, and how it was time to face the truth. We never made any promises. We never even really went out on dates. We partnered together, tried to tackle living in the world and we have had a lot of really great times along with the bad. But the ‘great’ was no longer pushing either of us to thrive.

There was no one leading. There was no plan. It was me, helping to take care of things, lying down once in a while until I was done with having to do that, too, needing him if my tires got low, and him – loving me more.

It hurt a lot. It still hurts. Although there weren’t any promises, I know he had hope. We both hoped for a magical working of the wrong reasons being fully justified or changed to be right. Right as rain. Right as reign.

We enabled each other’s bad behavior. When I would tell him something that I wanted very much, it might not have gotten done. Just as well as when he said he wanted something very much, it was not a call to me to carry that out.

In my mind and in my garden, everything had names and secret meanings. Snap dragons were knights. Hostas represented significant references and sometimes I would bury things in the ground not knowing if I wanted them to rest or come back to life. An old idea of sappy romance, part of a model ship that I have kicking around my room – reminding me of when I had a ‘Titanic’ poster on my wall as a teenager, I could never take that little ship wheel out and bury it under the bridal spirea.

I still have it in my desk drawer.

Only one chair on the porch has a cushion and I was sitting on it like a throne within a kingdom. My flowers, my anonymity, everything I was trying to balance was my council.

The Dream Queen, a hosta I cared for very much, died the summer I put it in to the soil. There was always a war going on in my spiritual garden.

A friend asked me why I’ve been changing from how they’ve known me to be.

I said, “Autumn’s a season. It changes.” But that was just poetry.

I’ve lost fifty pounds. It wasn’t about winning – it was the weight of my soul on the track. It’s the shifts in the season that is always changing…

And the things I could never gain back.