Part IV of IV
Once it was said, Dale couldn’t take it back but at the same time… he ran into his bedroom after Sandra anyway. Leaning on the door frame he said, “I didn’t mean any of that.”
“Oh yes. Yes you did, you shit.” Sandra was smoking, calling Rick and chewing gum at the same time. Rick picked up the phone on the other end. Dale sunk down to the floor and buried his head in his hands.
“Hey, Babe.” Sandra grinned.
Cool as a cucumber she proceeded to tell him that she needed to meet him at their usual spot. It was an emergency and she needed to see him as soon as possible.
She prepared herself and took her black Chanel bag, flung it over the shoulder of her black leather jacket and then threw her gum in the trash underneath the vanity in the bedroom. Dale watched.
“I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time Dale.” She stopped and took a long deep breath. “Thank you, I love you, I hate you but most of all: Fuck you! Fuck you and your coldness. Fuck you and your pretentiousness. Fuck you and your books and your blessed fucking brilliance. Fuck. You.” Then before Dale could figure out what to say she grinned gleefully and dashed out of the house.
He was numb. All this madness that had seemed to come at him made him feel incredibly numb. But not numb in the usual way. It made him feel weak… But still, hadn’t she been waiting to say that? Hadn’t she often looked sad when he kissed her forehead as they parted? She always looked sad, come to think of it.
Was he sad too? The thought made him laugh uncontrollably. It went so far beyond that… Why even bother trying to think tiny, silly little thoughts about it right now.
Sunlight poured in through the windows in the family room. Bold, warm sunlight threw a spotlight on the dancing of dust. The sofa was soft. The walls were a clean, lovely beige. It broke him.
Because everything was just as it should be. Even the sunlight was as it should be.
But… where was he? Was he here in this room? Here in this body he looked down at? Why, just earlier today he’d mused about his aging skin and his weight. In that moment he felt present but right now… where was he? Where was he most of the time? Huh.
Sarah’s day had started out fantastically. It was pure genius.
They held hands. Patrick gave her winks every time she turned around in math class. And when some guy started teasing him about it he threatened him and the guy actually backed-off. And then, as if to spite it all, he drew two big hearts after class with their initials in them on the chalkboard. She was in awe of him. What a wonderful start…
And back in the jungle of the seventh grade Scott was also happy… enough. Having followed his sister’s advice he shunned any social points he could have gained by telling his would-be buddies what was actually the truth. Instead he told them he didn’t want to talk about it. They looked confused and accused him of being a chicken but then when he didn’t flinch they went quiet. Then one of them suggested that he must have actually gotten really drunk and in a lot of trouble. But still, he refused to comment. And oddly, in his cold indifference, they felt almost… snubbed. It was then that Scott, with his great intuition, realized how deeply insecure these guys were. And, he nearly resented them.
Sandra’s hair flew about her pretty face as she drove up to the train depot with her window down. She beamed at Rick. And there he stood, all of him, right there in front of the parking spot by the entrance to the depot. Hands in his pockets he looked both excited and dead-set. Their eyes met magically and as Sandra gracefully exited the car she looked like a mysterious ancient and beautiful creature finding her true mate.
Their words were sparse but they didn’t need many words. He did however ask her, “What made you finally change your mind?”
“I had a talk with Dale this morning and I realized how useless it is to figure certain things out. It’s never been my style anyway… I know I love you too and being with you is the only real fun I’ve had in a long time. I was waiting because I just wanted to be sure… But I’m done waiting to be sure. I’m done waiting to try to… ‘do things the right way.’ She grinned. “I just want to be fucking happy for once in my fucking life.” Her smile grew enormous.
“Well, whatever brought you to your senses is good enough for me.” Rick caressed her softly but certainly and then they got in his Jeep.
After sitting and staring at the door frame for about a half an hour Dale finally rose from his seat on the floor and decided to make a cup of coffee. Finally sipping his coffee he stood in silence and then thought how perfect it would be to read the newspaper? Except it wouldn’t.
Dale sunk slowly, feet slippery on the kitchen tile, to the kitchen floor. He stayed there for an hour…
After that Dale picked up a novel he had been intending to read and brought it to the sofa. But, instead of reading it he just sat and… stared. And stared. And stared…
Then the phone rang. It rang in the kitchen. It rang in the bedroom. It rang in a bathroom near the stairs to the basement.
Dale rose from his seat and walked to the phone in the kitchen. It was a green plastic phone and it lit up when it rang.
“Hello.” Dale quietly spoke.
It was a call from the hospital. A woman who they had determined to be his wife was losing her life. She had been in a car accident with a man who appeared to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash. He had died at the scene and she was just barely clinging to life. He needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
I wish I could say that all was well. But it wasn’t. When are things ever really… truly well? Maybe not often this side of heaven.
Still, Sarah’s new boyfriend was proving to be a God-send and helping her grieve the death of her mother… Her father had finally decided to go into counseling and start taking anti-depressants. And Scott… Well Scott was also in counseling.
What Scott said he regretted most was never really liking his mother. She was just so… cool and distant? They were just so different. So very different…
One Saturday, several months later, in a counseling session, Scott wrote his mother a letter. In the letter he apologized for not liking her enough. He felt guilty. He apologized for not being a better son. He expressed anger that she was so indifferent to him all his childhood. He said, “goodbye.” And then, as his counselor recommended, he placed the letter on her grave.
But Sarah was the most devastated. She was the most distraught.
Patrick could sense her growing despair. He could sense that the fervent and blooming spring in her heart was threatening a revolt.
And one lazy late July day when Sarah refused to answer the phone he decided to go check on her. When he got to her house she had, “gone for a walk” her father told him. So, Patrick tried to track her down.
He figured out that she had probably made her way to the river. It was near the spot where her mother had been found and Sarah was the sort of confrontational soul who needed to stare death in the eyes and ask questions.
It took about an hour before he found her standing, peering down into the river right at the edge. He could sense her deathly trance and grief-stricken state. Patrick rushed to her side.
“Sarah! What are you doing?!” He yelled at her.
She turned around and face broken by many previous tears she calmly explained: “I decided to find my mother.” He knew exactly what she meant.
“What about me though, Sarah? You can’t just leave me here.”
A look of horror crossed her face. Then she looked down at the river by her feet. She noticed the flow and where the water went, and how it danced, taking itself far, far away from her.
His desolate, pleading face genuinely shocked her when she returned to it.
“I’ve just been thinking. I feel like I’m slightly at fault in some weird, roundabout way for my mother’s death.” She pauses. “And I never got a chance to say goodbye.” She starts to cry.
Patrick knows to not touch her just yet…
“I don’t want to leave you. But at the same time I’m such a depressing person to be around.” She smiles and shrugs. “We could easily break-up someday anyway and why waste your time with my nonsense?”
“But don’t you see how selfish and… arrogant that is? It’s my choice whether or not I want to be with you. And I want to be with you.” She shudders suddenly and he continues.
“Playing with the forces of life is futile. God can’t be toyed with.”
She looks down the river again. “My mother is gone. So far away. And what if I never see her again? Or, what if it takes … nearly forever? Even if we meet in Heaven then what? I live out the next seventy years waiting to see her? The next eighty?”
“What choice do you have but to wait? She’s gone, Sarah. Don’t try to follow her.”
He picks up two leaves and throws them in the river. They separate and flow together down the same path but apart from each other. She watches.
Patrick grabs her hand, then tugs her away from the stream. “Besides, I believe in God and if you’re supposed to meet again you will.”
They head back toward the parking lot through the woods and for a moment she feels extremely sad but at peace. Then the sound of footsteps is clearly heard right behind them – breaking twigs feet away.
The laughter of a woman and man cracks the air around them. They both hear it and then turn around to look. There’s nobody there, of course.
As they keep walking onward they hear it again. This time when they turn around Sarah walks backward to investigate. She looks around and sees a wet leaf in the middle of the path. “Hello?!” She screams out into the woods. “Hello?!” But nobody answers. She walks back to her boyfriend and says, “You heard it too right?”
He nods then says without flinching. “I heard it. It was probably your mother.” He makes a wild but sweet expression. “…But… I still wouldn’t chase after her, Sarah. She is dead.”
Sarah is surprised at his words but smiles sincerely. “It’s a little bit of everything isn’t it? Life…”. But then Sarah turns around just quickly enough to utter, “Good bye then, Mom. For now, at least.”
“Just keep saying all of that until you know what you really mean.” Patrick offers.