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Autumn leaves cast dancing shadows on the walls of my dull room. A corner of my mouth turns up in a grin and a chuckle escapes my lips as I follow the silhouettes out of view. Hopping out of my navy, leather-cushioned chair I rush to the window to steal a breath of fresh air. Instead, a stale draft braces my lungs and I realize my error. I’d never moved from my chair.
If memory serves me right, though a senile butler it is, I experience this every morning. My spirit leaps to the window, though my husk remains. I did manage to move a little, though, and as a consequence my chin digs uncomfortably into my chest. Weathered and beaten nerves in my neck strain to pull my head up, like the soldiers eternally, and fruitlessly, raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi. In a frustratingly failed attempt, I try to clench and unclench my right claw, failing at yet another simple task. I sit in silence for the remaining hours of the morning, in a state of complete helplessness.
* * * * *
I heard the door swing open through the oceanic wave that my ears provide, artificially inducing a permanent swimmers ear. Slippered feet come into view as my familiar keeper shuffles toward me urgently. As my head was raised, she caught sight of the tear-rimmed eye that my ghost-limb failed to wipe quickly enough. She cooed lightly and dabbed it with the bottom of her snowy-white uniform. You may deem me overly-emotional, even given my current circumstances. I can assure you that I loathe myself for it. I know not why I weep. It is as common occurrence as the rise of the tide, and mysterious, so. Emotion rules the heartiest of men, as it does on us less protected.
Miss Anne’s hands, so soft and delicate lifted my gaze to hers. Her face was as complicated as the folds of an elegant origami flower, and rumpled so as to show the wisdom of old-age. Her aquamarine eyes serenely sang as her lava-like, star-burst iris portrayed in her a wild streak that was no less exciting than Sinatra’s own. A tousled mass of gray hair brushed my ragged face as she pressed her lips to my forehead.
“I have a special treat for you today Randy!” Her tone was more excited than anything. She never talked to me like a newborn, but with a measure of respect that was unmatched by the other care-takers. The last thing that I wanted to hear after thirty-two years of beautiful mobility was a childish tone that would unravel the ball of yarn that was my dignity. “Remember how I promised you that I would take you to the pumpkin show down in Circleville?” With every word her face betrayed the secret that I would soon hear. “Today is the day!”
Truthfully, I didn’t remember anything about a pumpkin show. Detached fingers sifted through dusty filing-cabinets and water-marked manila folders in my brain, but to no avail. It didn’t quite matter at the moment, though, the proposition thrilled me.
* * * * *
Twenty-minutes hadn’t even been wasted by the time Anne wheeled me out of the front doors of my prison, Rosary Homes. In those impatient minutes I had helped as much as I could by way of a spasmodically jerking foot, an angular jab of my meat claw, and a landslide of dribble down my poorly cropped goatee.
Now even the cool fall breeze danced across my misshapen face. Of the gentlest things in this world, only a refreshing gust could trail even a hundred meters behind my fair Anne. She spoke to me the entire sojourn to Circleville, across the uneven cement dunes in this suburban desert. Before long, after thirty minutes of allowing Miss Anne’s sweet voice wash over me, rather than actually listening to her words, a warm orange glow began to emanate from the cold buildings. The enticing scent of pumpkin: baked, basted, burned, and fried alike, lingered in my nostrils. My thick tongue rolled lazily and sloppily across my lips. Though the wet film on my lips would no doubt be dried up by the wind, I’ll still admit the feeling of embarrassment that came from the involuntary action.
Men, women, and children, in countless numbers swept the streets of this sleepy town, as if someone were giving away free golden tickets.
“This kind of celebration makes me wish that I were a little girl again,” Anne almost had to yell to match the noise from the crowd, and the noise that eternally muffled my ears. I had to agree that the festivities brought me back to shuffling through the town, tugging at my mother’s coat tail.
Mother… Who was mother? I looked around seeing the same imagined scene played out by different children. Did I have a mother? My heart leaped through my chest cavity and into my throat as I recalled an image of a fair woman of about twenty or so. She almost glowed with a certain angelic hue. One thing was certain, though, she was not my mother.
My moment of reverie was shattered by a sudden icy-cold wetness on my wrist. As if the unexpected shock wasn’t enough, a pitch equivalent to a banshees wail penetrated my skull. Twisting my head slightly, I saw the source of the resonating sound. A small, blonde-haired child thrashed around in his stroller. I tried to comfort him by flashing a wide, toothy grin, but instead it had the opposite effect. With another violent convulsion of his body, the child twisted into a fetal position, facing away from me.
With a grimace, we were both wheeled away, in our respective strollers, in opposite directions. The rest of my adventure was dulled, for the image of the boy clung to my mind as he had clung to his stroller.
Being wheeled back to my prison as the sky began to fall, I took comfort only in Anne’s voice. She came around the front of the wheelchair, just blocks from Rosary Homes, to wipe the dribble from my chin. The face of Miss Anne was replaced with a younger version of her own. Unmistakably, I recognized my wife trapped in an aging shell. The spark in my eyes must have caught something on fire within her heart. She smiled warmly and nodded in answer to my unspoken question.
Anne! My wife! Is it really you? My brain dared to scream. I could feel my nerves sluggishly sending a message to my mouth and vocal chords.
“Blenh! Aaangh..” Was all I managed to say before I stopped myself. The unintelligible jumble of words immediately struck grief into my heart. I should have known. I’ll never be able to relay my feelings.
Anne, my wife, continued to nod quietly, allowing tears well and remain in her eyes, as if they allowed her a clearer image of who I really was. In a sobbing mess we strolled through the lounge of Rosary Homes. Everyone gave us the quiet respect that they felt we deserved, and none looked surprised.
“We’ll continue this tomorrow honey, you go and get some sleep.”
Her words never rang so true. We will continue this tomorrow, and every day after that.