People At Parties

“What do you think of this new girlfriend thing?” the little boy asked her. 

There was a party going on and she was mingling. The little boy found her. She was returning to the little boys father every so often and reminding him that she was there. The little boy’s father always seemed pleased to remember and didn’t seem to be paying any attention to any of the other women in the group. He was a man’s man and the men were just as attracted to him as the women were and he seemed to prefer that recognition.

“What do you think?” the women asked the little boy in return. 

He shrugged his shoulders but had a pleasant look on his face. The woman grasped him lightly by his shoulders and jostled him just a little bit in friendliness. She could tell that the little boy liked her.

Antony was what the man called his littlest son — his name was Anthony, but that was one of the many nicknames his father used to express his grand love for the little boy.

The woman’s delight in the whole affair overcame her so she went to where the father was and jumped up to be received in his big arms. He lifted her up to be close to his face and she put both her hands on his cheeks and said, “I love you,” and then kissed him.

“I still want to see other women,” he blurted. 

She said nothing but gazed at him with soft eyes in return. She knew that she had blurted too.

All she could think to do now was to leave a little time between them so that he might see her in a different light. She retreated to fetch her coat. It seemed like a good idea to just let him be. She did love him and was tired of holding it back. If he didn’t love her, it was time to know. Clearly, the little boy wanted to know too. Her heart felt brave, if for no other reason than for the little boy’s sake — it just wasn’t fair that he was being jostled by people at parties.

Her fingers lightly crossed the little boy’s face like a feather. He was standing in the path to the exit.

“I shall have to see you another time. I must be off to the races.”

Obscure surely, but she had said some kind of adieu. 

 

Image by Prettysleepy from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

The Little Boy

The little blonde-haired boy was squatting on the bare brown dirt, digging with one stick and planting another, like he was transplanting trees. His mother and her friend stood there above him talking.

It was nice to be talking face to face and standing outside in the sun being warmed by it.

“Are you planting sticks?” His mother’s friend asked of him.

“Yes,” the little man said and planted another one in the same hole so that now there were three planted in it. He then scooted over a few feet, still on his haunches, to rake some leaves on the sidewalk with the same stick he was using for planting. Imaginary ideas about what a stick tool can do can be more expansive than what is thought to be able to be done with ones that are bought with dollars.

“I’m raking,” he added to get more attention.

“Is that fun?” the mother’s friend asked.

“Yes.” He was hopping in his squatting so that he could move the leaves around without standing.

His hair was very long and his mother was telling her friend that he had decided to chop it all off on his upcoming birthday.

“A boy cut?” the friend inquired.

“Well,” the mother cut across her chin with her hand to indicate, “about here,” she said. “His father is tired of people asking him if he is a girl. It’s because he’s so cute that everyone thinks he’s a girl but if they would watch him for a minute, they would see that his movement expresses very much being a boy.”

“He’s pretty,” the friend elaborated. “He’s so pretty. Maybe he just needs to pull his hair up in a man bun? Maybe that would work?”

“We have done that. They still ask.”

He was a very pretty little man. His features were fine and beautiful. He was definitely going to stay good looking as he grew. His nose was pointy but quite little and very pretty. He was sweet but that was because his mother treated him so sweetly. The whole family was the same way — kind and soft in their demeanor and all so happy to always be together — where one went they all did. The friend was somewhat wondering what it might have been like to have had several children. Likely hers would not have ended up so kind because her edges were a little rougher even though she always would have been kind — of that she was sure.

The family was purchasing a big swath of land — 40 acres — planning for the future so that they could all stay close together as they aged.

“Darn! I was always hoping your older girls would rent my house so that I could leave and go somewhere else.”

The little boy piped up and said, “I’ll come live with you!”

She was touched. “You wouldn’t like that,” she said, “you’d miss your girls too much.”

He was the only boy with three girls older and one younger. And, he was very much loved and they were all very sweet to each other — the older ones taking such good care of the younger ones.

His mother said, “You can come and live with us. There would be room for you to build a little something.”

Yes it was very nice to think that she had a friend like that.

“When Malcolm said he’d found some land, I told him I didn’t want to more out of town. We’re a big part of taking care of Grandma and my parents are getting older and you’re getting older.”

The little boy’s mother lowered her hand, palm up and pushed it forward as if she was sending out an offer to her friend across the table — the one who was also getting older — as they were sitting at the table now still talking but out of the afternoon sun. The little boy was shelling pistachios and eating them one by one beside them.

Corners of the older woman’s mouth went up into a soft smile as her body warmed at the thought that someone cared that she was getting older.

 

** work in progress

 

image credit: Stick Fence

Whenever They Spoke

As he was walking by, he was talking on his cell phone. She recognized the voice so she stood up to look — she was sitting out in the sun. What he was saying, she knew a little about too — he was talking about his wife, complaining, which he often did whenever they spoke.
She called out his name with an attendant hello and he waved back at her but kept on walking and talking. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks and told the person he was talking to that he needed to go.
She walked to her locked front gate which was close to where he was standing with several bags of groceries in one hand and his phone in the other. She imagined he wanted to chat but he made no indication that he wanted to come in — so she didn’t bother to ask.
He struggled to get the other party to quit, but he finally did. She waited while he finished and then he flipped his phone back closed.
She hadn’t seen him in awhile and had actually been worried. Turned out it was because he had had a seizure and was restricted from driving. She offered him a ride but he was close enough to home that he declined it. They stood there and talked for quite a little while.
He was easy to complain with and so that was how she started with her side of the conversation. As soon as she did, she remembered that she had decided to quit thinking and talking in those kinds of ways because all they do is make life more miserable and never fix a thing.
She was thinking how easy it is to get into bad patterns and how hard it is to change them once they’ve been started.
He had lived in their little town as far back as she could remember. He might even have arrived before she did. She couldn’t remember if they had ever talked about it, but they had been stopping to talk all through the years.
When she first met him, he wasn’t married but was in the same house as the one he now calls his “wife”. All along he had been saying things like, “If I wasn’t with her…,” which eventually turned into, “If I wasn’t married.” One time he slipped and said, “If you weren’t married,” even though he had known all along that she had never been.
One time she had a card left on her car window that was a handwritten excerpt of Lionel Richie’s, “Hello” song with specific verses picked out to make the card giver’s message clear — “I’ve been alone with you inside my mind and in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times. I sometimes see you pass outside my door…hello…” and then some of his own thoughts about how beautiful he thinks she is and how he will always love her. It wasn’t unusual at all for her to walk by his house as it was on her walking path.
The card sounded so very heartbroken but she never said a word to him about it. She figured if it was him and he really wanted her to know, he would say so.
She couldn’t imagine that it could have been from anyone other than him because there had never been anyone else in town who had shown even the slightest kind of interest. Well, maybe one or two, but none had been as sentimental as he had always been. It was very cryptic with little clues inserted that she believed were intended to give her leads. None of them meant anything much to her other than the excerpt itself which was the mood of his usual musings about her — whenever they stopped to talk.
He was a little man who was from New York or New Jersey and had a very New York or New Jersey dialect. He was now quite crippled and bent and was losing most of his teeth and came off as a scrappy fighter just like someone from New Jersey would be inclined to.
She didn’t think of herself as anything better — after all, she was getting quite a bit older too — but he had never been anyone she could find herself interested in and as the years had gone by, it had become clearer and clearer that they had very little in common. About all they had ever really had in common was that they were both lonely and glad to have someone to talk to.
This day was nothing different. They spoke for a while and he went on, crippled and bent and walking. He waved back after a few strides and said, “Go with God.” She shouted back, “You too.”

A Dirt Floor

Her house had been left to fall into disrepair. Social anxiety had very nearly disabled her. It was all she could do to even answer the phone or the front doorbell for fear she would have to engage with a human — someone she already knew.
She said it was easier to speak to strangers.
Going out in public was like going to war unless she was behind her camera talking to it, her audience, like she had an imaginary friend in tow.
It’s hard to hide ourselves from people who have gotten to know us some. Unless there is the distance of that camera, it’s not as easy to pretend.
It made her cry to watch Grey Gardens in fear of ending up the same as Big and Little Edie Beale — though she watched it from time to time to remind herself of what she didn’t want to become — or to consider how far she had gone.
There was something very strong about her countenance — even in her frazzled and frayed behavior, her eyes remained fully engaged.
Democracy was becoming an enemy — but an individual’s well-accrued wisdom didn’t interest her either. She was hiding from critique. What good was a consensus — she knew very well about herself. Everyone had an opinion and mostly they agreed that it would be good for her if she “Did this” or ” Did that,” — as if they knew how she was feeling in the core of who she was. After all, she was sharing loudly everything about herself. Fatigued by their votes — because, after all is said and done, only she knows how her shoes feel — she cut off comments. Everyone could watch her, but no one could reach her.
It isn’t clear if the disrepair was due to lack of funds or the emotional stamina she might need to hire a repairman. Either way, as she said, “It’s like trying to clean trash,” and that was her excuse for letting the inside go as well. She just shifted things from one side of the house to the other trying to improve the function some — but nothing ever left and she cleaned very little. She made it a point to not let anything new in. That gave her a sense that she had a measure of control over how bad her disability could become.
Humans seem to have a need to fill empty spaces.
What empty space was she really trying to fill — a hole in her soul, unsuccessful connections in her brain that had left gaps between synapses? She didn’t know. She pondered with her muted audience.
She was making lots of plans for the future — lots of projects that were exciting to think about were racing through the empty spaces in her mind. She had an income to accrue toward retirement. Even though getting dirt off of a dirt floor is impossible, sweeping it isn’t. She would keep on keeping on and as much distress as it might all seem to be, there was still something about momentum that spoke to her of hope.