Archive for December, 2011
Gene dropped her off at her house and after he drove off, but before she reached the front door, she let herself begin to sob. She dropped to her knees on the front lawn and hugged herself. She was convinced she had to start fresh, but felt helpless as she tried to muffle the cries from her throat.
She tiptoed upstairs, not wanting to wake her parents to see her tear stained face. She removed her clothes and decided to sleep in only her panties. She turned out the light and, not even one minute later, sat straight up in bed and turned the light back on. The letter. She had completely forgotten. She quietly took it out of the drawer and carefully opened the envelope.
The paper felt like fine cloth and had Emmanuel’s initials embossed in the header.
I’m not for formalities much , so rather than scripting a dense job offer, I thought this would be more personable to read. I hope you find this to be true.
As I mentioned, I am taking on an assignment, which requires me to travel for the next solid month. I have never left my house for such a long block of time. Normally, I have my housekeeper look in while I am gone. Unfortunately, for reasons I’d prefer not to go into, she will no longer be working for me.
I was taken with your maturity upon meeting you. You strike me as someone who has always been responsible. I also like that you live in the neighborhood and are familiar with its residents.
All I require, if you are to house sit, is that you live here for the next month, tend to my plants, bring in the mail, and make sure you are here to let in my aquarist. I have some valuable artwork, both monetarily and in sentiment, so I would expect you to respect the space. I am willing to pay you ten thousand dollars for this service to me. I hope you accept my offer.
Ala couldn’t help but think that Gene was still upset about Lisa. She had been his girlfriend in high school who wound up pregnant. Her parents tried to force her to get an abortion and while running out of her house, she was hit by a car.
It was a shock to the entire school. Ala was the only one Gene had told that Lisa was pregnant.
She was now paralyzed and had to be washed, clothed and fed by other people. Gene’s parents encouraged him to move on. He was so young and had his whole life ahead of him. Ala knew they weren’t trying to be cruel, but he was never the same after.
Her straw tried to make its way through the ice to collect any remaining liquid in the bottom of the glass. She ordered another. They played checkers, moving the chipped plastic pieces sloppily around the board, laughing when forgetting who was black and who was red. At one point Gene made a lewd remark to the waitress and Ala felt herself mouth “Sorry” when he wasn’t looking.
Around midnight, they ordered onion rings and Ala switched to sparkling water. The three drinks she had that day, mixing with the heat and anxiety, gave her a stomachache. Gene was remarkably sober by the time the food arrived. They ate quietly. Gene paid the bill and they left.
Walking back to his car, Gene grabbed her elbow and kissed her on the mouth. It was clean and she couldn’t smell liquor. It was nice. She kissed him back and then giggled to cut through the depth of the situation.
He rubbed his face with both hands and then folded them behind his head, leaning back in his chair.
“I know you just got back. I didn’t mean to drag you out to do this.”
“It’s fine. I mean it. How’s that deal coming along?”
Gene and his father had started a business the previous year to restore boats. Everyone in the community owned one, whether for profit or pleasure, and they thought it could be lucrative. It wasn’t the best time to start a company, but Gene was determined to not work for anyone else.
From what Ala had heard, she missed a series of ugly episodes by being in Boston. And she was grateful. She liked thinking of Gene in her own terms. Dashing, arrogant, smart and funny was what she always knew him as.
Ala ordered a whiskey sour from the waitress since, she had some catching up, to do and listened to Gene talk about his sister passing the BAR exam on her first try and his younger brother studying in Korea. She hated to admit it, but he did make her feel a lot better about what she was going through.
She said this and they both laughed. He kissed her on the cheek and her hand brushed his thigh. Normal occurrences in their social meetings.
Flynn’s was quiet and empty of the college students getting ready to return to school. Gene was at one of the bistro tables. He wore a velvet blazer and had his hair slicked back. They hugged and Ala sat next to him rather than across. He had started with scotch, which was never a good sign.
“How long did you stay at the party?”
“About a half hour.”
“How was the lady?”
“She’s attached. Forgot to mention it. Humiliating.”
Gene had drank since they were in middle school. He drank even when he had practice or when he was sick. Alcoholism didn’t run in his family. It was something he had adopted on his own.
Everyone was tight lipped about the situation until he became of age. Now, his parents and most of his friends treated him as a social drinker. Ala knew the seriousness of the situation. She didn’t need to address it. Gene knew he was sick and that someday, he would have to get help.
For now though, Ala felt she was in no position to tell anyone how they should live. She barely recognized who she was, even from a year ago. Some mid-century pop song came on and she remembered their homecoming dance freshman year. She knew Gene wanted to ask her to go with him and she purposely avoided the question. She couldn’t remember how she phrased it, only that is was clear she wanted nothing to do with being his date.
She flipped through the books, puzzled as to why she was bothering looking into this. She didn’t have a job or any savings to speak of. She would not be able to pull together this kind of money anytime soon.
She would just have to exist in the meantime. She would live among the bitter and listless. Going to work everyday, coming home, melting into the couch in front of TV shows about other people’s terrible yet entertaining lives. She would carry on just as so many others did.
She buried her head in her arms and cried. She was careful to not make any noise. She hadn’t cried since coming back. She didn’t want anyone to hear her in the house, even though it probably wouldn’t matter since he parents were never home anymore.
She heard her phone vibrating in her bag. It was Gene calling. As much as she didn’t want to talk, she answered.
“Are you all right?”
“You sound terrible.”
“I have allergies. Pollen.”
“Want to grab a drink?”
“I do actually.”
“Great. Should we meet?”
“Sure, how about Flynn’s?”
“I’ll see you there.”
Ala traipsed back to the house with the stack of awkward and very heavy books. She tossed them on her bed.
She decided not to change, but fixed her makeup. Between the heat and the scratches and bruises, she was a sight.
She would never have enough courage to kill herself. Having one serious breakup was not something new to the rest of the world. If people in other horrible circumstances had made it through, she could too.
She pulled out a navy blue book with a scuffed but otherwise plain cover. She ran her nails over the textured spine.
Opening it smelled like someone had taken it to the rainforest, buried it in the mud, left it there during rain season, dug it up, brought it to a hut where someone was cooking a meal, threw it in a suitcase and flew home with it in tow.
She opened up to a map of the main land. Triangles, representing trees, seem to flood the page, along with a few rectangular bridges, some u-shaped mountains and the temple.
She tried to imagine every being that occupied the jungle. It was no place anyone would choose to visit. There were stories about drug trafficking, tribes, poisonous plants, wild animals, hunters and people starving to death for her to consider. The journey sounded arduous, especially since she couldn’t find any writings less than twenty years old. Travel would take more than two days, with three layovers each way and airfare alone would begin at five thousand dollars. It would be difficult to find a place to stay, since she did not know anyone who knew anyone in the area. She didn’t even own a pair of hiking boots.
The main floor was quiet and she made her way up the grand staircase to the research section. She recognized the same librarian from when she used to visit as a child. He had helped her decide which series to read as a child, before the Internet. Now she had no reason or desire to speak to him. She walked swiftly passed his desk to the archives.
She threw her backpack on one of the long tables and rounded the corner to the computer area meant for research. She pushed the button to turn on the monitor and braced herself for the pornographic imagery she was sure would pop up. None did, so she began. She typed and waited. Twenty-two results came in regarding the healing temple she first heard of through Jase. She skimmed through and selected the newest book from the 1980’s about the subject. She scribbled down the catalog number and roamed the aisles until she found the section. It was apparent that no one had taken any books from these shelves in years. Who had time to read about healing temples? Who even believed in them? She found it ironic that the subject for one of Jase’s thesis papers was now what she was counting on to save herself from the broken heart she had from him.
Briefly before moving back, she had considered swallowing a handful of pills. Got as far as buying the bottle from the corner pharmacy across the street from the apartment she shared with Jase. She counted out twenty-five and let them run through her fingers. She lined them up in one straight line. She spelled her name with them. She made the outline of a fish with them. She thought of how ridiculous she was being, scooped them and dropped them back into the bottle.