July 23, 2012
Donna, Donna?
Can you hear me?
Today is August, August 19th.
It’s a beautiful day outside….
Hold on…Can’t get this d*mn thing to work right. The d*mn technology nowadays, you wouldn’t believe it. They have these things called cell phones, it’s a portable telephone. Heh, hard to imagine, huh? You can take it anywhere, everywhere…
Donna, Donna? Can you hear me, these little cell phones, so hard to hear through them, I don’t think I can hear you….
Engineers made this tiny machine with video cameras, minuscule eyes that see everything, anything.
Can you see me Donna?
I don’t think you’d want to. I’m not the handsome boy that could take you out dancing ‘till the stars shined so bright they grew tired and fell asleep……
I’m not that fiery spirit, anymore.
I’m old, Donna, so very old. My skin is crinkled, weathered, worn leather. I’m that humpback of Notre Dame. I’m the old man we used to point at, the old man we used to laugh at, as we strolled free, young, happy in those sweet sweet summer days, down the crooked streets of San Francisco. I’m an old man Donna. You don’t want to see me………
It’s been so long. Where do I begin…
I married Mary Anne. In the end, she didn’t turn out to be as snobby and snooty as we made her out to be. She never went to college like the rest of our class, instead she found a sizzling Mexican boy to worship her. He worked at the gas station, fixing broken cars, repairing leaks, the typical duties. But one day, without any warning, he got up and left. No one knows where to, just here one day, gone the next. Mary Anne was heart-broken, she leaked like a faucet. For months she cried.
Then one day, I don’t quite understand why, but I decided to fix those leaks. I walked down to our spot. You remember our spot? The secret by the stream, the haven by the cool water, our hidden bend by the river….
Mary Anne was there, crying her empty heart out. I told her, I told her, I was no mechanic, but I could try to repair that broken heart of hers. We married a year later. Soon after, Mary Anne gave birth to a baby girl.
We named her Julia. She had a smile that would light the darkest winter nights. A laugh that could generate enough warmth to heat fall and turn it into a bright and colorful spring. She transformed into a gentle and caring young woman. And before I realized the reality of it all, she had slipped between my fingers, fallen through my grasps, and left home, hungry, hungry for adventure, yearning to leave her mark on the world….
And then, as I knew it would, life became the predictable mechanical sequence we saw in our parents, the cycle as children we scoffed at, the cycle we casted insults at, the cycle we rebelled against, the cycle I involuntarily, almost unintentionally, fell into. I awoke each morning, read the paper, strolled through the old neighborhoods to my office on the third floor, returned home at Four, mowed the lawn, collected the leaves from the gutters, shoveled the snow from the sidewalks, and then as the day came to a close, I would crawl into bed, tired from the day, tired from life.
Julia, after several long years, married a fine gentleman from Virginia. Together they brought joy once more to the quite hallways of Mary Anne and I’s home. Grandchildren crawled up and down the stairs; they stumbled, unsteady at first, then with short confident steps. And then as I knew they would, the visits became less frequent, then rare, then practically none at all. The house grew quite once more…
One cold November morning I woke with an ache in my back. I went to the bathroom and a stranger stared back from the mirrored wall. A stranger with graying hair. A stranger with long lines, drawn carelessly across his face. It was as if the artist’s hands had wandered. Jolted, cutting unintentional, gruesome, hideous lines, across a venerable masterpiece.
I cried, I cried for the stranger in the mirror, for years gone by with the summer breeze, gone so quickly I almost forgot they had come in the first place.
Mary Anne and I grew old together. When she discovered a lump on her breast, I held her hand when the doctor told us of the cancer; I held her hand when she died several years later. When I grew so old I couldn’t walk up and down the steps, Julia helped me sell the house and I moved to an old age home. My skin grew old, weathered, paper-like, old and worn.
You don’t want to see me Donna, I’m an old man…….
At the home I try my best to live out my years. Around me residents recall their years of joy, love, sorrow, adventure. They tell their story, their life’s story. They are complete…..
But my life feels incomplete. It feels like an undone puzzle left by two children in the streets of San Francisco. Left to gather dust and cobwebs.
I wanted to finish that puzzle.
To grin with satisfaction as we pushed the final peace into place. To gaze at the hours consumed by complicated diagram. To complete the tiresome, yet fulfilling jigsaw. Knowing, knowing, in the final moments, we had, with the final piece, discovered the true mystery….
So, here I am, Donna, calling you on this little phone, this phone with eyes, that try as I might, I can’t see you with, to tell your I’m sorry, sorry, so truly sorry, I ended our puzzle before it was finished. Sorry I ended those wonderful, dream filled summer days with a nightmare.
I was wrong to drink,
Wrong to take you driving on that 17th of August,
Wrong to end summer before winter was ready to settle in.
Donna, can you hear me?
Donna if you can hear me….
It’s a beautiful summer’s day.

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