Charles Postler

October 1, 2008
Charles Postler once was a man with blonde curly locks, the kind women would lose their balance over, with piercing ice blue eyes and a smile that never seemed to end. At his prime, he’d confidently walk into a bar, sweep a girl off her feet and whisk her away onto the dance floor, transforming the scuffed up wooden planks covered in cigarette butts and puddles of booze into a dream-like retreat from reality. His body seemed to emit a warmth when he danced. The women he swooned would breathe in his musky aura and silently wish he’d pull them in closer. His arms were protective and firm, yet gentle, as he’d spin his lucky victim around on the floor. He had this way about him, that instantly attracted others. Maybe it was his laugh, or the way his eyes lingered on yours just a few seconds too long. Whatever it was, it attracted a freckle-faced, red head named Margaret. They had the perfect whirlwind romance, which eventually evolved into marriage and then kids, a boy and a girl. Charles would hold his babies with those same ruggedly handsome arms he used to wrap around those he danced with. Today, in 2008, a ghost of what he used to be, those same arms are frail, with purplish blue veins protruding through his aged spotted skin. His breathing is now heavy, with a hint of a wheeze every now and then. His once perfect smile that used to glisten back at him in the mirror, now only reflects rotted gums holding empty spaces where a full set of teeth once lied. What teeth are left are stained yellow and chipped in all the wrong places. His smile that used to go on forever now stopped about two teeth from the center, the rest of his smile, an empty black hole. His empty mouth however, isn’t nearly as bad as his empty heart. His wife Margaret passed away a decade earlier, pronounced dead after a night of watching Casa Blanca twice in a row. She had fallen asleep wrapped up in the arms of her husband. When Charles had tried to get up the next morning by carefully removing his arm from underneath his wife, he had just assumed she was deep in sleep. She would never wake up. His children, now grown adults, had decided to bury their mother out on the farm in Ohio that she had grown up on as a child. Charles had resented his children for moving the love of his life to an area where he’d most likely never be able to visit her again. To make matters worse, the only family he had left, his two children, had become powerful businessmen and moved out to California. On a lucky year, he might receive a bland holiday card with a picture of his daughter’s family. He tried to pretend that he wasn’t just one of one hundred others on his daughter’s holiday greeting card list that probably all received the same picture with the message, ‘Season’s greetings’. He tried to pretend that when she wrote the closing, “Love,” that she meant it. He’d imagine that she sealed the card gently, knowing that her father would prop it up on his small kitchen table for years to come, studying his daughter’s smile every morning over a bowl of Cheerios.

Now living by himself in a lonesome Brooklyn apartment, Charles was nearly immobile. It was a feat for him to lift himself out of bed every morning. God forbid he had too much milk at dinner and had to get up in the middle of the night to empty his bladder. There were many nights where he never made it to the bathroom. He’d rather throw out his bedspread than risk someone seeing him at the Laundromat with urine covered sheets. How would he explain that he was once energetic, charismatic, and easy on the eyes? No one would believe that his now feeble legs had once kept a steady beat on the dance floor. His ice blue eyes that used to calm his baby boy through the flu had now turned a shade of dull gray. No one would understand, nor would they care, that he had once lived a full life. He wasn’t always just a shell of the person he used to be.

One of the few things Charles looked forward to these days was his daily trip to the apartment mailboxes. Charles would wake up early and spend a good amount of time just trying to get out of bed. After steadying himself, he’d make his way to the bathroom and shower, and then begin his grooming routine. Even when he was younger, he took pride in his appearance; not that he was vain or anything. Charles just believed that first impressions meant a lot. Today he looked at his reflection and sighed a most painful sigh. No matter how much he combed his hair, his luscious blonde locks wouldn’t grow in place of his now thin gray hair. He couldn’t seem to lift his arms high enough to squeeze into a sweater, so he decided upon a button down dress shirt. He tried bending his aching fingers to secure the first button. His shaking hands, which were once steady enough to create calligraphy Valentine’s Day cards for his wife, now made it nearly impossible to attach one side of the shirt to the other. After nearly three hours of grueling frustration, Charles could begin his walk to the elevator. He made his way out of his apartment, just in time to see the elevator doors opening. A woman with an ear piece and suitcase rushed inside the elevator. Charles motioned for her to hold the door. He could’ve sworn he made eye contact with her and smiled—for if he did, she surely would’ve held the door, wouldn’t she? Then why didn’t she? Instead, she viciously pressed the close button. ‘She must’ve been in a hurry,’ Charles reassured himself. He waited for the elevator again and made it down to the first floor.

Once there, he slicked back his hair with his hand and made sure his shirt was tucked in. This was about the time when the young waitress would come to get her mail. Surely she’d make some conversation with him. Charles didn’t have much to look forward to these days. And there she was, right on schedule, the waitress whose mailbox was right next to his. He courteously moved over so that she’d be able to obtain her mail. He tried making eye contact with her, the kind that used to make women melt. She didn’t seem to notice.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” Charles began. She looked at him, disgusted. She didn’t see the gentleman Charles knew he was. Instead, she saw a wrinkly, old man, with milky yellow bloodshot eyes. He tried to smile, not only with his mouth, but with his eyes. The waitress didn’t notice the gesture and quickly grabbed her mail and was gone.

Charles didn’t have much time to wallow in self pity. Another neighbor of his had just walked in with her little white dog. The dog ran up to Charles and he awkwardly attempted to bend over to pet the little pooch. The dog’s owner went to grab her mail and when she was finished, stood back and watched the stranger with her dog. From what she could see, the man instantly lit up as soon as the dog gave the man the attention he had been looking for.

“I’m Linda, and this is Lexi.” Her eyes were kind, and the dog’s were full of new found energy and excitement.

“I’m Charles, I live upstairs,” he began as he pet the pooch.

“I know, I’ve seen you around here before,” she went on to tell him how she’d often see him on his trips to the Laundromat. She told him that she was astounded by how much he could carry at his age. Charles didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.

She continued making small talk with him, while Lexi jumped up and down with energy that just never seemed to cease. Linda explained that she worked long hours at the deli around the block and could never find the time to walk Lexi, hence why she was so full of energy. She paused a moment to shuffle through her mail, and then looked back up at Charles, who was playing with the dog.

“She seems to like you,” Linda smiled.

Charles was thankful for that. There weren’t many people around here that gave him the time of day. Ironically, he still didn’t quite get the human attention he was seeking—the only attention he was getting was from a K9.

“Would you mind walking her for me?—If it’s not too much to ask. I mean, you’d just have to walk her once a day, and I’d gladly pay you for it.”

Charles was hesitant to answer too quickly. He knew that he had nothing better to do, but he definitely didn’t want a stranger knowing that.

After letting out an exaggerated sigh Charles answered, “I suppose I could work my day around it, for the dog’s sake.” It also couldn’t hurt for him to earn a couple of extra dollars daily, but what would he use that money for? He didn’t have to pay for extensive movie channels—Charles passed the time by listening to old records. And he certainly didn’t eat a lot—you’d have to have an active lifestyle to have an appetite. It’s not like he had any fancy dinner dates coming up that he had to save up for. Charles quickly realized that no good would come of having a stranger fork over money that he didn’t necessarily need.

“And you know what? Don’t worry about the money. Just consider it a neighborly gesture,” Charles choked out. For with that statement, he had openly admitted that he had no life, nothing to save up for, nothing to look forward to.

And with that, Charles’ daily routine had been updated. Charles would now wake up early as he always did, but now instead of slipping on his comfortable loafers, he’d securely insert his orthodics into his sneakers. He often got ready hours before Linda expected him to pick up Lexi, so Charles would pass the time by sitting at his kitchen table and tapping a tune with his finger tips. He had resorted to this even back when he was a young lad, to make time pass quicker. But these days, Charles would begin tapping a tune that he used to sing to his daughter when she’d wake him with a nightmare, but now, he found it harder and harder to remember how the tune went. It had been decades since he had sang that song out loud. This thought, intertwined with frustration- which he felt so often these days- caused his eyes to water. Over the years, Charles had started to forget what his own voice sounded like. And not just his singing voice—his regular, everyday speaking voice was used maybe twice a day. And even when he’d open his mouth to speak, it was a common occurrence for the mailman, or the mother pushing her child in a stroller, or the plumber, to cut him off with a quick excuse as to why they had to be on their way. Charles’ body began shaking. His eyes were filled with salty tears that had now streamed down his cheeks. His upper lip was covered with a light glisten of sweat, and his cheeks became flushed. He tried to suppress his crying but it only caused him to begin a most painful coughing fit.

The only thing that seemed to bring up his spirits was being able to walk Lexi. Everyday, when he’d come to pick her up, he knew he could count on her to give him numerous kisses. She was the only girl these days that appreciated his lingering stare, for she’d stare right back at him, and then open her mouth and begin panting—which Charles’ could’ve sworn would develop into a smile. They had their spots—the pink hydrant next to the tree with the initials ‘R.B’ carved into the bark, the park bench that squeaked every time Charles would sit on it, and the hot dog vendor that gave Lexi free buns. Charles knew that he could count on Lexi to listen to his stories, and Lexi knew that she could count on him to scratch that favorite spot behind her ears. It wasn’t uncommon for Charles to become a bit emotional as he walked back to his apartment building, knowing that he’d have to wait another full night before seeing his best friend again.

After a long day of walking through the park, Charles led Lexi home. As he and Lexi approached the crosswalk Charles spotted Linda on her cell phone with her back turned towards Charles. He recognized her because of a leopard printed hairclip she wore so often. He stood behind her with Lexi, not wanted to disturb her mid-conversation. He couldn’t help but overhear every word she said.

“Yeah, I just got my nails done…. No, Lexi’s with a neighbor….Yeah, he’s sort of like my dog-walker, except that I don’t pay him…. I would’ve paid him but Jen—I really don’t even need a dog walker. I just felt bad for this guy, yah know? He’s so old and he seems so lonely so I felt like being a good person and sharing my dog with him…Of course I didn’t tell him that!... No, he just thinks he’s my dog walker.”

Charles’ bottom lip began to quiver and his knees began to shake. He was overcome by a wave of anger, and then deep depression. He had been fooled into thinking that he was doing a favor for this lady, when she had only seen him as some sort of charity case. Charles headed Lexi in the opposite direction and took another walk around the block before dropping her off at home.

After Charles dropped Lexi back off with Linda, he checked for mail, and then went back to his apartment. He turned on his record player and closed his eyes, as he laid back on his bed, and imagined himself swaying on the dance floor to the beat of the trumpet. His toes curled and kept the steady beat of the saxophone, as he simultaneously hummed the beat of the drums. After silently crying, he eventually dozed off to sleep.

Charles awoke with an unstoppable itch in his throat, which caused him to violently cough. He made his hands into fists and held onto his sheets for dear life. This went on for about five minutes until Charles realized that he desperately needed water. He rocked his body back and forth, until he could muster up some strength to lift himself out of bed. It was so dark; he could barely see a thing. He slowly used his bare feet to feel the carpet, hoping it’d lead him to the tiled kitchen floor. Charles could feel where he had spilt gravy last Thanksgiving. He had spent it alone, here in his apartment. He had felt so proud of himself for preparing a hot meal, and was bringing it into his bedroom to eat on the bed while watching an old movie on AMC when he stepped on a long lost nail clipping of his and lost his balance and dropped the gravy. He couldn’t bend over far enough to clean up the spill, so it had soaked in and left his carpet feeling crusty. He knew he was heading in the right direction when he could feel the crusty carpet between his toes. He was slowly but surely making his way over to the tiled floor when a painful itch in the back of his throat caused him to hunch over and cough from the deep pockets of his lungs. He was coughing so heavily that he needed to lean on something for balance; else he was sure he’d fall over. He reached over and leaned his body towards where he thought his kitchen table was, but instead fell head first into the tiled floor.

When he finally came to, Charles couldn’t open his right eye. In fact, the entire right side of his body was in pain and couldn’t move. His coughing had ceased, but his throat had become so raw. He pathetically tried to call out for help, but he could barely make a sound. The tiled floor that he had loved so much when he picked out the apartment, now felt so cold. He could feel his right cheek pressed up on something on the floor. Was that a Cheerio? And was it just his imagination or was the room getting colder? He regretted not putting socks on before going to bed. His feet were now so cold. And why couldn’t he possibly get up from off of the floor? His arms and legs which used to benefit him so greatly back when he was young now were the reason why he couldn’t get up from off of the floor. He tried calling out for help, and although his mouth was open and he felt his lungs letting out air, he couldn’t hear himself making a sound. ‘This could possibly be the end,’ Charles thought to himself. He felt indifferent towards it. He closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep.

Charles woke up with a wet nose in his ear. Lexi had heard his cries for help. She had an intuition that something was wrong with Charles and therefore led Linda to Charles’ apartment. He heard Linda yell ‘Oh my god!’ and then felt the floor vibrate as she ran to the phone. Charles felt Lexi lick his ear as he closed his eyes and tried his hardest to fall back asleep.

When he finally woke up a reporter was in his room. She asked him all sorts of questions. She asked him what his name was, his age (Charles couldn’t remember the exact number so he guessed), how he knew Linda and Lexi, and what exactly had happened last night. Charles answered these questions with no hint of emotion what-so-ever. Charles just wanted the reporter to finish asking her questions and leave. He wanted to be left alone. He was mortified that his neighbor, who already viewed him as a sorry excuse for a human being, found him passed out in his own house. How had she gotten in? Did he forget to lock the door again? He had already done that twice this week.

‘Lexi should’ve just let me die,’ Charles thought to himself. Lexi was Charles’ best and only friend, and yet Charles felt that she had betrayed him. After all of those long walks where he secretly confided in her that he longed for independence, and that he wished people wouldn’t view him as a poor old man, Lexi had done the worst possible thing. She had saved him, and by doing that, brought attention to him. But not the good kind of attention Charles had been seeking. She had openly told the world that he was no longer able to take care of himself. He hated her. He no longer considered her a friend. She had betrayed him.

When Charles opened up the paper the next morning in his hospital bed, one article stood out to him. It read, ‘B’klyn man forever grateful to heroine Lexi the dog’. Couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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