Sunday, July 26, 2009

Remember When It Rained

Soundtrack: Gravity, Sara Bareilles
Setting: 1940's

It was raining the night he left.
She remembered it like a painting in her mind, each brushstroke tugging at her heart. Her long hair was drenched--rivers cascading down them. Even though her chest was heaving with air, she felt she couldn't breathe, watching him disappear in the moonlight. He pulled her without touching her. For a brief moment, he turned to face her and she froze. Her hands and arms ached to hold him, to hold onto the youth and the love that his olive green uniform was taking away from him. He looked at her with a sad smile, before he turned the corner.
Never faltering, never losing his gaze, she sits down on the stoop and holds onto the banister. She doesn't hide it any longer. She isn't stable anymore-a broken china doll. She would sacrifice anything and everything, walk on glass and hot coals if it meant he could stay. Half an hour ago, he had held her in his arms, in her bed, and promised he would come back. She knew it wasn't likely. It seemed the war took only the best away, leaving only empty words and dusty photographs.
But there was love, and above all, hope. He would never make a promise he couldn't keep. She knew he had to come back because he took her heart with him. But as the piano played on on the radio inside, and the cold, dark rain enveloped her, he walked away with an even darker promise:
"But what if I don't come back?"

A year has passed. Letters are few and far between, and when they do come, they smell of sweat and sand. Specks of dirt show up like a visible perfume. She memorizes each one, sacrificing a little bit of strenth each time.

At twenty two months, there are no more letter. As she stare out the window, a familiar black military car pulls up to the house. Two men come out, head to toe in military pride, hats pulled down over their eyes. She felt her heart shatter-whatever was left of what he had taken with him. She pushed through the door before they even made it up the walk. Her hand rose to her mouth, water breaking through her eyes as she shook her head in denial.
Not today. Not after two years. Not after the night he left.
She gripped the banister again like the ghost of Christmas past. She refused to use her senses; the need to feel numb took over. She could barely feel the hand lift her up and try to console her. Her eyes manage to see the man's hat in his hands. Her choking sobs and cries of 'no' filled the air, and the world as she knew it flew off its axis as five little words were spoken softly in her ear:
"I never break a promise, love."

Kindly Unspoken

Soundtrack: Missing You, Tyler Hilton

The mail man couldn't come fast enough. His arrival would be promptly at 2:45PM, and the big hand on the clock had slowly reached 52. She wiped the sweat off her brow and clicked her fingernails on the mailbox. Never before could the little white box of a car excite her as much as it could today. She ripped the letters out of the man's hands, and left a trail of bills behind her, down the driveway like breadcrumbs to a candy house.
She looked for the one with the red stripes. The red stripes always called to her; made her heart skip a beat. And when her eyes constricted and focused on those red bands, she fought back a smile until she ran into her room and slammed the door. She traced the delicate paper package, full of promises and familiar finger print dents. Despite the excitement, she carefully tore open the seal and took out the letter. She could practically feel his presence in the room at the moment. She closed her eyes and envisioned him there, sitting beside her, his hands in hers.
How she missed him. Even though this brought him closer to her, she felt him farther away than ever.
Was it the war?
Change of address?
Career opportunity?
It was injustice. It was a crime he didn't commit. It was something that he had to get through if he was ever going to see her again soon. The only thing she could do was wait.
She held the letter in her hand but couldn't read it. She knew it would say almost exactly what the others said. Tears glossed over her eyes so there was no point. She would read it at a more appropriate time; when her emotions wouldn't get the best of her. Right now, she concentrated on the feel of the paper, its wrinkled texture, probably from the bottom of the notepad. Her fingers glided over the smudges of ink and crossed-out lines: all the things that he couldn't say or was too afraid to say. There was only hope in those invisible words. They strained to become alive, and very much did so in her mind. She heard his voice, his deep laugh when he spoke of something humorous--he always saw the light in the darkest of tunnels. She heard the sadness as well, but a deeper pride knowing that he hadn't run away from the war, even though it wasn't his battle he lost. He was the greater man, not the lesser man, even though she was the only one that could understand. For this reason, and this reason alone, he would send a letter everyday. And she would wait, by that little black box, for the letter with the red stripes.
And in return, she sent one to him. She wasn't a poet, but in her small talk and unspoken words, she knew he would read between the lines:
"I wait for your sweet return. Until then, always yours."

Father's Day

Soundtrack: Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven

There is a reoccuring dream.
A little girl cries.
Her big, brown, six year old eyes trace every line she makes with her hand. By now, she's gotten paint and crayon all over her skin. She hears footsteps down the hall, but swallows the lump in her throat and continues. She smiles when she's done, opens the door, and heads for the master bedroom. He's in there, in the dark, late afternoon splendor. She walks warily towards him, paper trembling in her hands. But with a pocketful of courage, she hands it to him.
"For you Daddy," she tells him. He looks at it for a long moment, then after an eternity, smiles. She returns the gesture and quickly leaves the room.
The next morning, as she walks outside in the cold, sweater sleeves well over her fingertips and the last bit of glitter fading from her shoes, she spots the drawing from the trash bin. She is not surprised, but the smile fades as painfully as it usually does. Silence can truly be deafening. In the spirit of a young girl, an 'I love you' not returned is as earth shattering as the beat of a butterfly's wings.

A few years have passed now, but not many. She packs her bags in silence despite the yells. She doesn't realize she is crying until the tears stain the pages of her sketchbook.
Doors slam. Furniture rattles.
In the dark of the night, a glimmer of hope remains as silence enters the house.
But this is not a home.
She goes for the front door, but stops dead when she meets his presence in the living room. She is frozen in place, but he doesn't seem to acknowledge her. But then his head slowly turns, and even in the moonshine and the eyes of the young girl, seh can see his eyes are bloodshot, poisoned with alcohol and hate.
"You are not mine. You never will be."
The butterfly flaps its wings for those nine syllables. All she can do is retreat back to her room.

A grown up girl cries.
But this is too real to be a dream.


Soundtrack: Moon River, Henry Mancini/Dear Bobbie, Yellowcard

Tulips are her favorite.

Today was her birthday, so I had to look sharp. I had to bring the flowers. She deserved it. I dressed in my best tux and began walking the short length to her home. I carried the flowers in one hand and nervously tapped my side pocket with the other.

Today was a special day.
The sun was shining, and a summer wind blew through the trees, whispering encouragement in my ears. I felt excitement in my bones--the same feeling I had every time I saw her beautiful face, her heartbreaking smile. That feeling, and that wind, told me I was the luckiest man in the world. Before I even arrived, I saw her standing there, wearing the same floral sundress she often wore. I paused and looked into her eyes, gathering up my strength. I walked the remaining distance and she smiled. The giant oak tree nearby covered us in cool shade, masking the heat in my cheeks.
"Happy birthday," I manage to stumble out. She was probably biting her lip, as she often did, trying not to laugh at my inability to be charismatic. However, I was too busy digging around in my pocket to notice this time. After awhile, I finally found it. The little black box. "I'm sorry if I'm a little late," I tell her. "I had to make sure I had everything right." I swallowed the lump in my throat, and got down on both knees. "Well, you know I'm not the best at these things, but just bear with me okay?" My hands began to sweat while I held the box. It seemed like an eternity before I could start again. I was so nervous that I couldn't even look at her. My eyes just focused on the ground in front of me. "I think I fell in love with you when I first saw you, smelling these same yellow tulips in your garden. There was just something about you that I couldn't put my finger on. At that moment, I knew I couldn't possibly love anybody else because you had completely taken my heart away from me. And I
know that I sound corny right now, especially when I'm in this monkey suit, but you were used to being completely adored. I just..."
I paused and rubbed my temples. I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the headache that was coming.
"I know I always say this, but why you chose to love me back perplexed me. Me--the bumbling fool. But you did choose me, so I didn't question it. I was grateful. I was just happy to see you and have you in my arms every single day. No one could ever possibly know how much I love you, and I..."
The ground became blurry. The tears had started to come, and there was no sense in hiding it now. I took off my glasses and wiped my face. She comforted me in her silence. Always silent. I let out a small sob.
"...and I miss you. I miss your grace, your voice, your overwhelming desire to make everyone around you happy. In all the sixty years that I loved you, I haven't thought twice about anything, regretted anything. You were the one who always told me to never look back, and so I haven't. I'm thankful for every memory you have given me."
I put the flowers down on the ground and opened the black box. Her wedding ring.
"I know you wanted to renew our vows one more time before you left. I'm sorry that we never had the chance but I'll make it up to you. Our granddaughter is getting married tomorrow, and I know that she'll take good care of it..."
I drifted off, my chest heaving, but a sad smile crept on my face as I wiped the last few tears off with my sleeve. "I miss you darling," I barely manage to whisper. A few minutes passed before I could regain my words. "I can't wait to see you again--to touch your face and smell your hair, to hold you in my arms again and tell you over and over how you
still don't know how much I love you........but....until then, take care of my heart? You never did give it back."
I stood up slowly, my old back stiff. I pressed my fingers along her name and smiled softly as I heard the sounds of my grandchildren in the background calling my name. I wiped the wet grass off my knees and straightened the flowers. Before I could walk away another wind swept through the trees and I could almost smell the lilac of her perfume. Her way of saying goodbye.

"Be seeing you...Happy birthday, sweetheart."