(Recently I’ve been typing the journals I kept during the 10-week sabbatical that Richard and I took in 2008. In the back of Journal 2 I found this story that I wrote. It has nothing to do with the sabbatical, it’s just a little creative piece that may or may not have some meaning or some place to go.)
Lauren was sitting in the bath when the phone rang. Let it go to the machine she thought taking a mouthful of the wine. She was in no mood to put on the ‘be a nice girl’ façade.
The evening had started out well enough but then over coffee he mysteriously disappeared. When she returned from the Ladies Room, he simply was gone. The waiter handed her a note, “Had to go. Sorry.” It was hastily scribbled. At least he paid the bill.
She went home confused and more than a little miffed. She went for a jog to chase out the meanness in her. Yeah, it’s the City, it’s dark and rainy and I know this is not a smart thing to do. She felt like she could take on anyone right now. Go ahead, just try me. When the dark messy voices in her head finally oozed out all they had to say, she returned to her quiet home, poured a to-the-rim glass of wine, put in a Patsy Cline cd, and started the bath for a good long soak-n-sulk release session. When rivulets started down the steamed up window, she slipped in under the bubbles.
The phone ringing broke the spell of solitude, then she heard his voice on the phone’s answering machine, “Lauren, if you’re there, pick up.” There was a slight pause,“Please. I need to see you…” his plaintive voice cracked then trailed off. Pitiful.
Shit. Who’s pitiful? She hated when she could be so freaking frustrated one moment and then the next she heard a voice, imagined the smile and with that either forgiveness or forgetfulness – she can’t remember which – takes over.
“I need to see you. Can I come over?”
Resigned sigh. Make sure he hears that sigh in your answer. “You know where I live.”
“Actually, I’m outside your door right now. Can you ring me up?”
“Give me two minutes.” Take your time, let him soak in the rain a bit.
Deciding against anything provocative, she dressed in clean sweat pants and a hoodie, pulled her hair up in a clip, yanked the bathtub stopper chain and downed the last of the wine as she pushed the button for the door release and poured herself another glass of wine.
His knock on the door was tentative. Opening the door she saw what looked like a mix between a lost puppy dog and a drowned rat, which was sort of a turn-on for her. Girl, you are sick.
“Come on in. Do you want some coffee, wine…something stronger…maybe something weaker?”
“No, thanks. I just needed to be with you right now.”
His back was turned so he missed her rolling her eyes.Then he stopped, staring out her window at the City at night. She could sense that he was dealing with something. Scared? Nervous? Desperate? What? Let the irritation go, honey, let it go. Next she did what she always does, she tried to create a place of trust.
“You’re safe here.” She motioned him to sit in the big overstuffed library-style leather chair and she positioned herself on the ottoman at his knees.
Still he said nothing, so she started in a low soft storyteller’s voice. “When I was a little girl my family would go to my great-grandma’s farm and in the summertime at twilight my sisters and I played this game of hide-and-seek with our cousins. We called the game ‘Ghost’ ‘cause to us, ghosts are not only scary, but they’re real. Ooooo.”
He didn’t laugh at her attempt of humor so she continued, “Well, like most hiding games, we’d find our own hiding places all over the farmyard while one person would count to a number, before they’d shout, ‘Ready or not, here I come!’. The goal was to get to the protection of the porch without being caught. Once on the porch you proudly, yet breathlessly, proclaim, ‘Safe!’”
“Yeah, growing up I played a similar game.”
“I was the youngest in our little family clan, so I ended up being ‘it’ more often than not because I just wasn’t that fast or clever enough to avoid being caught. I know it was supposed to be fun, but it was dark and scary and I felt alone, very small, exposed, picked-upon and fragile. And in all honesty, it’s no fun if you’re ‘it’ all of the time.”
“Um-hum, well, the few times that I made it to the porch and shouted ‘Safe!’ were such an exhilarating relief that that feeling still comforts me.” Lauren tapped his knee, “I guess that why I try to find and create places where others can feel safe too. You’re safe here, you can trust me. Consider yourself ensconced on Grandma’s porch.”
For a moment Lauren was transported back to that porch where when all played-out, exhausted kids stared at the stars in the night sky, listened to the wind ripple through the rows of corn and the chirping of crickets while they ate popcorn and drank grape Nehi.
“All alone…” Their eyes locked. “The stories you tell, are they real or are you just making all of this up?” He asked.
“Does it matter?”
“They’re real. You know me, I have a story for everything — that matters.” With a teasing air, “So, what’s your story, Mister?”
“I just don’t know where to begin…”
“Then start anywhere, just talk. You’re on the porch, it’s safe.”