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The Wise Man Speaks

January 19, 2010 by · 4 comments

R. L. Burns

The elevator opened on the twelfth floor and Rose hurried out of it, glad to escape its confines as well as its emptiness. Elevators made her sad now – especially hotel elevators. She still couldn’t believe that he was not coming.  She had made this reservation some time ago – ha! It seemed like a lifetime ago. Then, he was coming to see her, finally, after all these years. He was going to come here and they would spend time together, here where they had met.  They would walk on the beach and talk and make love…NOT!

Photo: erix!

As she made her way to her room she looked out the bank of windows on her left.  Much of the resort city was spread out below her.  She stopped and looked down on the handful of tourists and locals walking along Atlantic Avenue, some window shopping, a few strolling slowly, but most of them hurrying along the windswept sidewalk.  It was just after Labor Day, and the majority of the tourists were gone, but there was a Shriner’s Convention in town as well as a few families who had come for the last “official” week of summer.  She was sorry the weather wasn’t better for their vacation here in what was once called the world’s largest resort city, but was happy for herself that it was overcast and sporadically rainy; this suited her mood much better.  Sunshine and roses would have made it all too, too unbearable.

As Rose scanned the scene below, her heart sank. She hadn’t realized that because her hotel was at the foot of 21st Street she would have a clear view of the McDonald’s restaurant they had frequented when they were teenagers. The McDonald’s where she and Renee had run after stealing Christopher and Tony’s clothes from them on the beach…the McDonald’s where she and Christopher had held hands and kissed, back in the old days. Tears began to fill her eyes, so she quickly turned away from the windows, adjusted her backpack on her shoulder, and moved down the hall. She shuddered when she realized her door was just a few feet away and that the sight of that 21st Street McDonald’s would greet her every time she left the room if she allowed her eyes to stray that way.  I just won’t look over there anymore, she thought to herself.

Liar! came the reply.  You’ll look every time you leave the room, hoping you’ll see him standing there.  Idiot!

She shook her head and fumbled in the pocket of her raincoat for the room key. Finding it, she pulled it out and hurried into the room, slamming the door behind her as if that would block out the memories looking out the windows had revived. Breathing heavily, almost as if she was being chased – and, I suppose, in essence, she was – she threw her back against the door and closed her eyes.  For a split second she felt relief, but then she opened her eyes and realized that the real horror was in front of her.  The real monsters, the real demons, the real ghosts, were right here in this room with her.  She almost left.  She almost turned around and ran – but she didn’t.  She couldn’t.  She had come because…well, she had come here to (1) prove to herself that she could handle it, and (2) because secretly, oh so secretly that she hadn’t even allowed the thought to consciously occur to her, she had hoped that somehow, magically, he would show up anyway; that he would come and tell her that he loved her and that he really couldn’t live without her and that the past thirty-two years had NOT been the lie they now seemed to have been. Of course, he wasn’t there, and he wasn’t going to show up, but some stupidly hopeful part of her heart let the small thought it’s still early – maybe he’ll come later escape into her consciousness.  Her mind laughed at her as another small piece of her heart fell away with that resounding “SNAP!” that had become so familiar of late.  There can’t be much left to break, she thought.

Photo: Cia de Foto

Rose slowly moved into the room. Seeing the beautifully turned down beds wearing white-on-white striped sheets like the thousand count sheets of her own that she had taken on visits to see him, filled her with fresh pain. She dropped her bags on the floor and stood in the middle of the room, shaking, taking it all in. This time the tears spilled onto her cheeks without restraint. The last time she had been with him had been in a hotel room that could have been this one’s twin except for the crashing of the ocean just outside the balcony doors. Nausea flooded through her and she reached for the black Wal-Mart bag she had dropped at her feet. From it’s depths she pulled a bottle of gin and two bottles of tonic water. She looked around for cups and the ice bucket. Grabbing the ice bucket, she headed for the door and the ice machine she hadn’t noticed, but knew was by the elevator.

When she returned to the room – without, I must commend her, looking at McDonald’s even once – she hurried over to the desk and made herself a very stiff gin and tonic.  She guzzled it down then looked around the room a second time.  Why am I here, again? she asked herself. 

Photo: silviadinatale©

She took off her raincoat and kicked off her shoes. Moving to her suitcase she pulled out some clothes and laid them on the bed.  She shrugged out of her work clothes and set them aside. Pulling on her jeans she realized, with some surprise, that she could nearly pull them on without unbuttoning them now. That’s odd, she thought. Hm, well, maybe there’s a benefit to depression after all, she smirked. Along with her jeans she put on a black wife-beater t-shirt. As she did so, her tattoo caught her eye and sickness swept through her again.  Then. Now. Always.  Somehow the tattoo seemed to laugh at her each time she saw it; only it laughed in HIS voice, loud and mocking. She forced herself to admire it every day, to study the fine workmanship of the artist who had labeled her forever. After admiring her tattoo she pulled on HIS black shirt and HIS hat. Then she headed toward the balcony doors, a second drink in her hand – this one stronger than the first.

Photo: pixle

With great trepidation she pulled back the curtains and undid the latch on the sliding door. The thought that perhaps staying on the twelfth floor wasn’t such a good idea after all crossed her mind. As the door slid open, the roar of the waves filled her head. Cautiously she put one foot out on the balcony. She took a sip of her drink – admit it, more than a sip; she took a huge gulp, enough to make her a little dizzy. Then she put her other foot on the deck. She stood there, feeling the wind whip around her, watching the waves crashing on the shore. The thought that he would sooo want to be out there surfing!  He would love those waves – and the wind! occurred to her before she could stop the words from forming in her head. She shrugged the thoughts away and looked out at the ocean. The sky was grey with dark, billowy cumulus clouds drifting slowly across the horizon. The waves were huge.

She moved slowly toward the railing. When she got there, she put her right hand out and shook it, testing its strength. It didn’t move a bit, although she could feel the floor of the balcony sway with the force of the wind that was gusting off the ocean.

Photo: goodsurfers2009

Rose stood at the balcony’s edge, crying (yes, again), staring at the beauty before her, when she suddenly realized another reason to be grateful for the poor weather:  there were none of those little planes flying about, dragging messages behind on a long string. If one had flown by today she was sure the message billowing out behind it would read: I JUST CAN’T BE WITH YOU ANYMORE. PLEASE LET ME GO. I AM STAYING WITH MY FAMILY.  And that would have killed her. It was bad enough that she heard those words over and over and over again in her head, woke up to them, fell asleep to them, but to see them written on the sky like that would have been just too much and she would have expired on the spot, she was sure.

She shook her head at her own stupidity and gulped down the rest of her drink. She considered making another, thought it might not be such a good idea, then said out loud to no one in particular, “Who the fuck cares? Have another one!”  Listening to her own advice, Rose went back in the room and made a third drink, stronger than either of the others she had consumed, and gulped it down quicker than either of the others, too. By then it was all she could do to stumble out onto the balcony. 

Photo: icaromoreno

Alcohol + depression + the twelfth floor of a hotel with a balcony = a Lifetime movie waiting to happen, children, she giggled to herself as she walked back out, pulled by the sound of the waves. Do Not Try This At Home! I am a professional and you are not!  She laughed out loud, startling a seagull that was flying by.

Giggling madly, Rose stared into the waves, seeing Christopher’s face in the white foam that was scurrying along the shoreline. For a moment she believed he was there on the beach and she began to yell for him. What a pathetic idiot you are, she heard somewhere in her brain. He used you. He doesn’t love you. Get over it. Or don’t. Your choice. But quit this crap. Either figure out how to go on or end it. Make up your mind.  Everyone is tired of your whining. I’M tired of your whining. Go ahead. End it. Who will care? For once in your life, don’t be a dishrag, just make a damn decision!

Slowly, Rose looked around.  The voice had been so loud and clear that she was almost surprised to find herself alone. She nodded to the voice, then leaned down and placed her cup almost daintily on the floor of the balcony, as if she didn’t want to leave a mess behind.  She reached for one of the chairs on the deck and pulled it up to the edge of the balcony. Climbing onto its seat, she held onto the railing.  She looked down to the boardwalk below and became dizzy. She hated heights, but all she could think of was ending the pain; no matter how much hitting the ground would hurt, it couldn’t possibly hurt more than the pain she felt now.

Photo: Fish Gravy

She put her hands on the railing and brought her right leg over the edge. The wind was blowing her hair into her eyes despite the hat she had on. The swaying of the building increased and she slipped, caught herself, felt her heart pounding. She repositioned herself on the chair and proceeded to put her leg over the railing again when she heard another voice. She stopped. It wasn’t HIM, wasn’t Christopher. It was her Uncle Butch. In her mind she heard the final words of the email he had sent her earlier in the day: To deprive this often bleak world of your light would be like killing a mockingbird.  Huh? She stopped, her right foot over the edge of the rail. Of all the things he could have said, he mentioned killing a mockingbird?  To Kill a Mockingbird was Christopher’s all-time favorite book because of it’s beauty, it’s imagery, it’s meaning. How did Uncle Butch know that?

“Oh, go away, Uncle Butch”, she said loudly.  “Just leave me be!” She moved again to climb over the rail, relishing the idea of the mess it would make when she hit the beautifully landscaped yard below – or maybe she would hit the bike path, that would be cool!

Her whole right leg was over the edge when she again heard her uncle’s words: He found you!  He sought you out!  For whatever – his true reasons you will probably never really know. His marriage was in trouble, he was ill, his children did not approve of his behavior, the puppy died, etc., etc. Who the fuck knows what is really going on in his world? Bottom line, he sought you out because he knew you would soothe his wounds. After he recharged and got healed, he left. His alleged reason for going back to his wife is a poor excuse. No matter. It was a decision he made without considering you or your feelings. I charge the bastard with cowardice. He is weak, self serving, and manipulative. He does not deserve your love, loyalty, or favor.

Photo: KellyB.

“No, Uncle Butch, you are wrong.  I know you’re only wrong fifteen percent of the time, but this is one of those times! He left because he loved me but I made things too difficult. I wanted too much. I should have been happy with the bits he could give me. I was too greedy. It’s all my fault!”  Rose yelled at him, standing back on the chair. “He left because his son begged him and he is a good father first and foremost…and maybe because I wasn’t good enough.” The tears were choking her now, but much of her anger was gone.

Again her uncle spoke to her: Take a step back and look at your situation as if you are watching a play or reading a book.  Disassociate yourself from the episode. Reason/think with the head not the heart.

“HOW DO I DO THAT, DAMMIT??” she screamed.

Realize who you are, what you are made of, and what your true purpose is. You are a Robin, a beautiful bird, gifted beyond your understanding of yourself. You are a sweet, caring, kind, smart, loving individual. Compassionate, inspiring, with empathy for all creatures. You inspire all you come into contact with. These are your gifts. You were hardwired from the factory to inspire others, to soothe and heal, while providing empathy to all.

Rose kneeled on the chair, sobbing, hearing her uncle’s voice go on and on in her head. Do not allow yourself to feel too badly for what is not meant to be, rather understand you simply got too involved with someone who was just too damn needy and selfish.  You stood too close to the flame. 

Photo: mariachisamurai

“But I don’t want to accept that it wasn’t meant to be, Uncle Butch!” she wailed, her voice carried off by the increasing wind.  “Can’t you understand that? Can’t anyone?”

Her uncle was relentless. The world is not so rich a place that it can get along without you. Please do not deprive the rest of us of your love.At that thought, a picture of her son’s face wavered before her eyes, and her tears flowed even faster as guilt burned through her. 

Again she heard his final words:  To deprive this often bleak world of your light would be like killing a mocking bird. I love you, stay strong.

“How can I stay strong when I’m not strong, dammit?!? I can’t do this! I…can’t…” sobs choked her.  “I…can’t….(gulp) go on…without…”  she could no longer talk. Her body was shaking, her eyes were burning, her head was pounding.

She climbed out of the chair and stumbled back into the hotel room, throwing herself onto the closest bed, in true drama queen fashion. Everything was spinning and she felt as though she was falling through space despite the softness of the mattress beneath her.  Darkness was pulling her into its vortex, the chasm of chaos was sucking her into its center. Thank you, blessed darkness.

“Okay, Uncle Butch, you win. I won’t kill the mockingbird.  What the fuck ever.” 

The darkness claimed her.

Photo: fauxto_digit

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