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Archive for May, 2022

Misbehaving

As a new resident of Blue Ash and trying to immerse myself in all the arts and culture it was advertised to afford, I was attending a summer concert in the park across from my senior apartment.  It was swanky to be able to just walk across Kenwood from my front door and enjoy symphonic performance.

Much later, walking home with the strains of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture still ringing in my ears, I allowed myself a touch of mania.  It was all just too wonderful.  I stopped to pull a stray weed from the flowerbed at the building entrance.  This was my home even if technically a communal residence to house elders.  I felt obliged to share in its care and upkeep.  Why should I not pull weeds and pick up bits of trash that were a part of a lived-in residence?  That same thinking led to my assessment of the look of the front entrance.  Having for many years done architectural design back in California, I was ever aware of appearance, a building’s beauties vs its flaws.  We were still fighting the frustrations of Covid, and I hated all that, especially the scruffy signs posted with an eye to keeping us old people alive and contributing to a functioning economy. Sure enough, right there on the front entrance, obscuring the well-executed plate glass design of the foyer, were two identical 8½ x 11’s instructing me to wear my mask.  These were the same copies that graced the mail-room, the elevator, and the laundry.  I was so very tired of seeing them, especially in duplicate, that I ripped one off the glass and stuffed it in my pocket.  I felt an instant remorse, but what’s done is done.  At least it looked better.  Back in my apartment, I disposed of the wad of paper, the weed, and the scraps of trash I had picked up from the parking area on the way into the building.

That should have been the end of that, but it wasn’t.  The next day there was a knock on my apartment door.  When opened, it revealed an irate building manager wanting to know why I had removed a posting from her front entrance.  How did she know?  I had returned from the concert at near midnight.  There was absolutely nobody that could have witnessed my dastardly deed.  But they had.  “Why,” she pressed.

“It was a duplicate and was obscuring our lovely entrance glass,” was all I could offer as explanation.  It was honest truth.  I didn’t apologize, but promised to never again tinker with management postings.  I have kept my word, trying hard to not think of the common areas as extensions of my premises where I might entertain the lovely delusion of ownership, no matter how well-intended.  It is good to know that I live in a building that is protected by hidden cameras that can catch scurrilous intruders as well as residents in the act of rule violation.  I am a model tenant, having programmed my rent to be electronically paid on its due date and making sure to perform well for camera recording at all times in all common areas.  The thought crossed my mind that a landlord so enamored of cameras might place one or two inside my apartment, but I dismissed the concept as delusional.  Claims of perfection can’t be asserted, however, because I was once taken to task for attending a social group meeting in my stocking feet, a violation of rules.  The entire building interior is carpeted and seemed to me to be “home.”  I was in error.  Also I learned that I must be totally and completely dressed as to appear in public before exiting my domicile.  I fanaticize about the excitement of throwing on a robe to cover my L.L.Bean pj’s and dashing down the hall to move wash load to dryer.  It’s just a dream.  I’ll never do it, but its fun to titillate my fright zone.  I’m too superannuated to get evicted for improper haberdashery in my apartment residence hallway.  That would be bothersome, and it’s not fair to ask my sons and grandsons to move me yet again just because I can’t behave.

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Writer

Thea addressed her Underwood, fingering its keys but not choosing any to strike.  Glancing up she looked out the window, past the oak tree and saw a car moving round the bend, emerging slowly from beyond the fringe of willows where the bridge crossed Mill creek.  It was an old sedan, faded green, dust from the roadway etching a soft haze on the window glass.  The greybeard driver wore thick round glasses, maybe a result of cataract surgery.  In 1963 intraocular lenses had yet to be invented.  He stretched and squinted, peering over the too-tall steering wheel.  An oncoming vehicle had hesitated curbside to chat with a neighbor, and the old man was confused.   His decision wavered, and he veered to the right, off the asphalt, onto roadside gravel.  He didn’t see Melanie who had spied a pretty pink stone and reached for it.  Time slowed, then crept forward, like the old car.

Thea stared out the window, unseeing. Instead, she huddled, suddenly a snippet of thought, imagining herself safe in a crook of the oak tree, where lowermost branch met trunk.  It was a good place to be, the breeze sorting through fluttering new spring leaves.  It reminded her of her tree at Grandpa’s house, where she could swing higher and higher, pretending she was flying with the wind right into a great blue bowl of sky.  Her mind reached for the hard center of the oak tree and she mouthed, “I am here.”

“I feel you”, breathed the oak, rattling his branches.  “I know you and your three younglings.  You love them more than life.  But you aren’t seeing them.  Look! The car comes closer.  It approaches your precious girl.  Don’t deny what is real.  You think you ought to stop it, but there is nothing you can do inside this slice of time.  Nothing at all.”

“Humans are strange and wonderful creatures.  I have always known them since first I split that acorn husk.  They are good, for the most part.  But they don’t know themselves, don’t have the courage to really be who they are.  Maybe it’s because they aren’t firmly planted like me.  See my roots?  You can see how strong they are even as they dig into solid ground.  Well now, humans get to move about.  With no roots they must have a hard time knowing they belong any place at all.  Isn’t that true?” 

The old oak sighed, leaves rustling softly.  He sensed the young woman standing by the window, her eyes first wide with terror, then dead with denial.  A firm understanding with the earth was for him a source of substantial pride.  But conversely he envied the woman her ability to freely walk upon the earth, to move and act and accomplish.  “No wonder she toils at her little typing machine,” he groused.  “I wish I could write a poem, or a story.  God knows what a tale I could tell.  I’ve seen so much, felt so much, and remembered all of it.  My heart shelters hers,” he noticed, arching his branches over the spot where her soul huddled, a refugee from what had become much too real. 

“Oh Thea!” moaned the North Wind, gusting through tree’s topmost branches.  It sent chills rippling down the striations of his bark, “You know what is happening to Melanie.  You do know.  If you deny that you will be split from head to feet like a tree shattered by lightning.”  Thea shuddered, her center of knowing dancing a phosphorescent jig on the tree limb.

“I know,” she said and dived off the branch, tumbling over, and over, and over, steadying at last into a glide.  She banked to the right, side-slipped a tad to the left, willed herself up, up, just clearing the roof, and landed on the lip of an eaves-trough.  She clung to its metal edge, reeling from what she had let herself learn.  She could see her oak tree, far across the yard standing stable and still, and missed his firm center.  As she visualized the heart of the oak, she became that strength and reached for truth.

“If indeed you are strong and brave, and have good eyes, you can see all things from here”, a crisp voice beside her pontificated.  Startled, she turned to face the corner-most clapboard shingle whose edge pointed toward the road where the green sedan approached crunching roadside gravel.  The shingle gathered up his importance and nodded.  He inspected this fragment of a human, feeling xenophobic to address a consciousness so foreign, albeit just a disarticulated thought.  He brushed the edge of empathy, but skirted it.  “She wants to see,” he mused.  “Needs to, if I am correct.  But won’t allow herself to, if I am equally correct.”  He gazed past the lost thought and watched as the car rolled forward, bumper nudging the girl’s shoulder, spilling her onto the roadway.  The right front tire caught her shoulder and rolled over her head, gently crushing her skull as it passed.  “You saw,” he said.

“I saw,” Thea gasped, and pitched forward, tumbling off the eave and dropping to the walkway below.  The consciousness that was Thea spiraled and coiled, spinning into itself until it was a ball and rolled slowly down the walk, bouncing down, down, down the steps, out to where the child lay sprawled beside the road.  It nudged a small pink hand and stopped.
         
The road rumbled to the ball, “Why are you here?”  She waited for an answer, and hearing none, stretched herself from East to West, and from West to East, on around the bend and across the creek.  It felt good to stretch, since it was what she did best, extending in her mighty concrete and asphalt web from sea to shining sea. 

The road was a well-grounded entity, more in contact with the earth than even the oak tree with his venerable roots.  The road rolled over the land as far as forever.  She perceived more than any human could ever hope to see or know.  And she did even more.  She understood.  She knew why the sphere of anguish hid beneath the child’s still and cooling hand. 

In that moment she pitied the woman, frozen beside the window, having sent her soul alone to acknowledge what she herself could not.  The road smoothed her mighty lap and accepted the child as she lay ruined, her blood slowly pooling about her head while the siren from the approaching ambulance wailed louder and louder. 

The road groaned, touching the pain of the woman and the child, one of body, one of mind.  And in the touching was born an understanding shared by the woman and by the road.  Thea turned from the window and progressed—first one foot—then another—back to her writing desk.  She sank to her chair and began—began to type…

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