Wall of Windows

My blog for the NaNoWriMo Challenge. No guarantee I'll accomplish anything, but eh, why not?

Location: Baton Rouge, LA, United States

Just a Yankee transplant to the deep, deep south, blogging about life, the universe, and everything.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Chunk 2

OK. This is officially chunk 2. I added to what I wrote earlier, if you happened upon it before now. This is a lot of narration because I'm not really good at writing third person. This chunk is 1679 words, a little less than I was hoping for today, but not too bad. Oh, and I apologize for any spelling errors - apparently the spell check files in MS Office went on vacation on my computer. I didn't delete them, but Word can't find them. {sigh} Technology.

The rest of the week passed in a blur of desperation and depression. Edna went on about her life as though nothing were wrong. If she was somewhat quieter, somewhat more sullen, no one noticed. No one ever noticed her as long as she did her job adequately. And, despite knowing that she was on the verge of being homeless, she did her job adequately.

On Saturday morning, Edna awoke early and stayed in bed for a long while. As she stared at the silent tile again, she realized that she couldn’t face the fact that she should be packing her belongings to put them in storage. Instead, she decided to go to the cemetery. She always found an odd sense of belonging there, as though she were a vital part of something, rather than a vague image in the background. She sometimes thought that if she looked into the distance at just the right angle she would be able to see eternity and sense her place in it.

After dressing, she walked to the bus stop closest to her house and waited. Port Authority buses were unreliable at best on weekends. When the Kenmawr bus finally arrived, it was filled with old ladies wearing babushkas and carrying old vinyl shopping bags mended with duct tape. As nearly as Edna could tell from years of observation, these ladies never actually bought anything to put into those bags on their weekly trips into downtown; they just seemed to like the security of carrying them.

Edna found a seat in the back of the bus and sat somewhat tensely next to a rather large man wearing an unusual amount of leather. He was probably harmless, but this particular bus went through some rather nasty neighborhoods, and she didn’t want to let her guard down. She found herself staring fixedly into the distance, so as not to tick off the scary man.

The bus arrived downtown a short time later. Before trudging up Penn Avenue to catch her next bus, she stopped in the drugstore on the corner of Penn and Liberty and bought a liter bottle of water and some scraggly orange flowers. They weren’t what she would have liked, but given her limited budget and the fact that she was buying flowers in a drug store, it was the best she could do.

The next leg of her journey was considerably longer. This bus was not an express, and therefore crept through the narrow, hilly residential streets of Etna and Glenshaw before reaching the cemetery. Edna leaned her cheek against the window and watched middle-class houses with small lawns and gardens with rose bushes and statues of the Blessed Mother stream by. She was struck by how pedestrian the neighborhood was, and conflicting feelings of revulsion and longing welled up in her; she hated the sameness, yet longed for the stability it represented.

When the bus reached the intersection where the cemetery was located, she disembarked and trekked across the lumpy ground, carefully avoiding the flat bronze grave markers. This was the newer section of the cemetery, where all the markers were flush with the ground to facilitate quicker mowing. If a passing motorist didn’t know it was a cemetery, he or she would assume that it was just an empty field if not for the flags marking the graves of veterans and the occassional vase of flowers.

Edna crossed in front of a the small chapel and into the next field. She stopped at a marker that was precisely in the center of the field, marker RR46. She dropped the flowers and the water down on the ground and kneeled in front of the grave. It was covered with grass clippings, and Edna carefully and gently brushed them away. She stared at the words for a long while.




She sighed softly and pulled the vase out of the marker and slid it into its base. She poured half of the bottle of water into the vase and dropped the flowers into it. Then she poured the remainder over the marker and attempted to remove some of the dust and water spots. She never spoke to her parents while going through this ritual, not even in her head.

She sat back on her heels for a few minutes and just stared at the marker. She wanted to leave right after her caretaking was completed, but she felt guilty for not spending more time there. While she had an affinity for cemeteries, she never liked being at her parents’ grave.

When a suitable amount of time had passed, Edna wandered over to the older part of the cemetery. This area had headstones that were above ground, with intricate designs and personalized sayings. In the center of this area there was a small, white gazebo with a statue of an angel in the center. She spent a great deal of time just sitting on the steps there, thinking, writing, dreaming. Much of Tender Yesterdays was conceived in that very spot.

As she sat there that particular day, her mind was focused solely on her problems. She was faced with the very real possibility of being homeless within a week, and she was afraid that there was nothing she could do about it. She was so lost in her thougts that she didn’t hear the man approach.

“What are you looking for?” he asked. His question startled her enough to make her jump a little. She looked up and into a face she would never forget.

There was nothing remarkable about the man. He wore khaki pants and a white shirt. His face was unwhiskered and unremarkable, and his hair was a non-descript brown. He could have been anywhere between 30 and 60. He was just a generic man.

But there was something about him that was compelling. There was an air of authority that was undefined yet palpable. His eyes, though a plain brown, were penetrating, and Enda felt as though she could get lost in them. It was the same feeling she sometimes got in the cemetary, the sense of staring into eternity.

After a moment, she came back to herself, realized that he was waiting for a reply and that she had no idea what he had asked. “Excuse me?” she asked somewhat hazily.

“I asked what you are looking for.”

The rational part of Edna’s mind said that she should be afraid of this man, that she should feel threatened. But she didn’t. In fact, she felt a sense of peace that she had rarely known in her life. So she replied, “I…I don’t know. I don’t understand your question.”

He smiled gently at her and sat down on the opposite side of the steps. He said, “People who come to cemeteries are invariably looking for something. For most, it is just another moment with someone they love. But others…others come looking for more. You look like you fall into that second category.”

Edna thought for a moment then replied, “I suppose I am looking for something, but I don’t think I’ll find it here.” She tore her gaze from the man and looked down at the ground while the man spoke again.

“You may not find your answer here, but there is an answer.”

Edna snorted in derision. “There have never been any answers worth hearing in my life,” she began bitterly. “What makes now any different?”

“The difference is that now you are ready.”

She looked up into his eyes again, a small sense of hope tickling the back of her mind. “Ready for what?”

The man stood up and said, “Ready to reach out, ready to open up, ready to let people in, ready for what comes next.”

A chill ran down Edna’s back at his words. “I…I can’t do that,” she stuttered. “I d-don’t want to be hurt again.” Tears crept into her voice with those words.

“You have been alone far too long,” the man said gently. “You have to let people in. Yes, you will be taking a risk. But in the long run, it will be worth it.”

Edna didn’t have an answer. She understood the man’s words, but she was afraid to act on them. Everyone who loved her left her. Those she trusted the most had betrayed that trust. She spent a lifetime running from relationships, but now she was left with nowhere to run.

It was at that moment that she realized that this man, this timeless stranger, knew so much about her, but she didn’t even know his name. So she asked, “Who are you? Why…why me? Why are you telling me this?”

He smiled at her again, causing that tickle of hope to flare again. “As to the first, it isn’t important. And the second…well, someone had to.” He turned and began to walk away.

“Wait,” Edna called. But the man kept walking.

Enda sat on the steps of the gazebo for a while longer. She didn’t feel strong enough to stand. Her mind was such a jumble of emotions that she couldn’t tell when one stopped and another began. The stranger’s words affected her on a deep level. She was aware of an unfamiliar feeling playing in the corner of her mind, something she couldn’t name.

She stayed there long enough to watch the sun amble across the sky until it was directly overhead. She sighed, glanced down at her watch and pulled a bus schedule from her purse. The next bus wasn’t due for 45 minutes, so she wandered amongst the headstones, stopping every now and then to read a headstone. It was mind boggling to imagine that all these people had lived, loved, and died in Pittsburgh, along with hundreds of thousands of others buried in hundreds of other cemeteries. Generations upon generations, each person with his or her own story to tell. Edna contemplated how many of them must have died alone, and that familiar fear crept into her mind again.


Blogger 'Ailina said...

Nice, solid ending to this section. I really like the way you describe her stops and her bus ride, too. I've never been to that area of the country, but your descriptions give me a clear picture.

11/05/2004 1:02 AM  

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