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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Chunk 5

No, I haven't given up yet. My creativity just seemed to be waning for a while. But it is waxing again, inspired by the lack of anything productive to do at work thad doesn't involve labeling pill bottles and filling them with candy (I swear, the next time I have to get a prescription filled, I'm going to ask the pharmacist to just throw the pills in a baggie so I never have to see another amber bottle again!). Anyway, here is chunk 5. If everything goes well, chunk 6 may make it's appearance tonight as well. Oh, this is 2011 words.

Edna took her wallet out to pay for her meal, but Brad waved her off, insisting that since he did the inviting he would do the paying. She followed him to his car, and as they pulled out of the parking lot he asked, “So, do you care where we go?” Edna shook her head in response. “I thought we’d go back to the rectory at my church. The pastor spends Sunday afternoons with his family, so no one will interrupt.” Edna nodded her assent.

Their conversation halted until they reached the hill leading to the church grounds. Brad broke the silence by saying, “Well, here we are. Old St. Something Church.”

Edna didn’t need to be told the name of the church. She was quite intimately familiar with it. The current parish hall used to be her old elementary school, and she had grown up attending mass there with her grandmother. It was also where she had seen her parents and her grandmother sent to their final resting place. The place held nothing by bad memories, and Edna felt a shudder creep up her spine at the thought of spending any time there.

Brad pulled his car into the garage, and they entered the rectory through the residence door. Edna hadn’t been in that building since seventh grade, and that was a nightmare unto itself. She was glad to see that it had been redecorated since then. She didn’t think she could face the same old furniture in that living room.

She sat in a slightly battered easy chair while Brad went to the kitchen to get drinks. When he returned, he settled into a somewhat newer looking couch. Edna looked expectantly at him, but he didn’t say a word. Finally, she prompted him by saying, “So, you were going to tell me why you didn’t think I was a girl in high school.”

Brad cringed a little before saying, “OK. Remember how I told you how arrogant I was back then?”

“You didn’t need to tell me. I was there.”

“Funny. Anyway, in my arrogant, hormone crazed, denial filled, little mind. There was a distinction between girls and real people. Girls were pretty, and fun, and good to flirt with. Plus, they looked good hanging on your arm at Friday night parties. But, at that point in time, girls, to me, had no real substance. Sure they giggled at jokes, but they giggled even if the joke was lame, just to impress whoever they were with. Even the ones who were smart enough to do so never wanted to engage in any kind of intellectual discussion. They were accessories. You never fit that category. Not because you weren’t pretty, or anything like that. There was just more to you than met the microscope.”

Edna mulled over his words for a minute before responding, “OK. I can deal with that explanation. But,” she continued, as the momentary look of relief disappeared from Brad’s face, “what about boys? Most of them didn’t have any substance either.”

Brad blushed a little, and said with a wry grin, “True, but they never had…uh…an effect on me, either. I could just ignore them”

Edna rolled her eyes his statement. She was about to say something when Brad interrupted with, “OK. I answered your question. Now you have to tell me about you.”

Edna panicked. She could be good and giving half-truths and making vague statements to satisfy anyone who asked (which few ever did), but being in Brad’s presence flustered her. She didn’t know if it was the fact that he was a priest or some residual reaction to her high school crush, but she didn’t feel as confident as usual in her ability to fabricate a life that was vastly different from reality. Thinking quickly, she said, “Back in the restaurant, I said I had a few questions. You’ve only answered one.”
Brad sighed, whether in impatience, frustration, or resignation, Edna didn’t know. He gave her a look that said, “What are you waiting for?” so she continued. “OK. So tell me…whatever happened to the plans to become an aeronautical engineer?”

Brad laughed at that question before saying, “Well, the fantasy of learning to build things that fly was a far cry from the reality. Engineers take a heck of a lot of math classes. I discovered, much to my chagrin, that math is horribly boring when you are sitting in a class with 150 other people listening to a professor drone on about differential equations.”

“I could have told you that.”

“Yeah, well, some of us need to learn the hard way. OK. By my count, ‘a few’ is three. You have one question left.”

Edna thought quickly, “Did you go to the reunion this summer?” Brad nodded in response. She continued, “What was everybody’s reactions to seeing you like that?” She gestured again to his collar.

“Oh, I didn’t wear this to the reunion,” He said. Edna gave him an incredulous look. “What? Do you think these things are surgically implanted at ordination?”

“Something like that. The priests I knew as a kid always wore them.”

“Yeah, well, things have changed. Anyhow, when I told people what I did for a living, most thought I was joking at first.”

“I would have, had I not seen you in the collar first.”

“Hmm. Well, once they realized that I really and truly was a priest, most couldn’t believe it. I guess my reputation was a bigger deal than I remembered. Kristy actually had tears in her eyes.”

Edna grinned at that. “Yeah, well she always was a bit melodramatic.”

“A bit? You may take the award for understatement of the year.”

Edna smiled. She was beginning to feel relaxed in Brad’s presence, but both her smile and her sense of comfort faded quickly when he asked, “Why didn’t you go to the reunion?”

She considered using her old standby answer of, “Oh, I was busy that night,” but when she opened her mouth to say it, something entirely different came out. “Those people were never my friends, just acquaintances. Why would I want to spend $30 I don’t have to stand against the wall all night and be ignored?” She was surprised by the honesty of her outburst and by the bitterness in her voice.

Brad seemed surprised too, given her previous evasiveness. They were both silent for a moment, then he said gently, “Edna, what do you mean? Everyone wouldn’t ignore you. Mandy and Leah-”

“Mandy and Leah didn’t speak to me once after graduation.” Edna’s voice was tense with years of suppressed anger. “They didn’t even bother coming to my grandmother’s funeral.”

Brad’s eyes widened. “Your grandmother died? Edna, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“Yeah, well, they did, and they didn’t bother coming. I had to deal with…everything on my own.”

“That must have been tough.”

Edna closed her eyes. Reliving this pain was difficult enough. Doing it in the presence of someone else was nearly unbearable. “You have no idea,” she replied quietly.

“So, tell me.”

That simple statement caught Edna off guard. No one but her grandmother ever seemed interested in hearing what she had to say, what she was feeling, and when the urge to talk with someone about her problems came over her, she always held back, not wanting to burden them with having to listen to her whining. To have someone offer to listen was overwhelming.

She opened her eyes and regarded Brad. He was still sitting comfortably on the couch, but his posture had changed slightly so that he was leaning a little bit toward her, as if inviting her to speak. Edna was touched enough by this almost imperceptible gesture to consider sharing all her secrets, but something held her back. “I can’t,” she replied softly enough that her response was almost lost.


‘Because then you’ll know just exactly what a messed up loser I am and that vaunted respect you said you had for me will vanish in the blink of an eye,’ she thought. But aloud she said, “Because you don’t really want to hear.”

“Edna, if I didn’t want to hear, I wouldn’t have asked you to tell me.” He paused to allow her to respond, and when she didn’t he said, “Look, I know I haven’t always been kind to you. I know I haven’t always treated you with the respect I claim to have had. But I promise you I have changed. I can see you are hurting and I want to help. Please, let me.”

Edna began crying at his words. It wasn’t logical, and she didn’t want to, but the tears flowed nonetheless. She put her head in her hands and just let them come. Seconds later, she felt an arm encircle her shoulders, and she felt herself drawn into a hug. She had no intentional human contact beyond a handshake since her grandmother’s death, and she found that she was hungry for it. She let herself be held, and cried for a long time.

When the tears finally stopped flowing, she began to pull away from Brad a little bit. He released her, and she immediately began to apologize. Before she got further than, “I’m sorry,” he interrupted her and said, “Don’t even think about it. We all need to cry and let it all out sometimes. Seems to me you haven’t done that in quite some time.”

Edna thought back to the day when the final string was pulled, and her tenuously woven life unraveled. Was it really less than a week ago that she sat and sobbed hysterically in the middle of the living room? Was it really less than a week ago she considered ending it all? It felt like a lifetime.

It was obvious that Brad was waiting for a reply so she said, “Actually, it was just a few days ago. I was by myself then, of course, just like I have been for the past nine years.”

“Don’t you have any other family left?”

“None who bother with me,” Edna replied, the sadness in her voice almost palpable. “I tried to stay in contact, but they never bothered.” She recalled with some bitterness all the unreturned phone calls and returned mail. Sometimes she felt more like an unwanted sales solicitor than a niece or a cousin.

Brad stood up, moving stiffly. He had been crouching by Edna’s chair for quite a while. He moved to sit in the other armchair before saying, “What about friends? I know you said that you…that no one from high school stayed in touch.” Edna noted the way he changed his wording, and was touched that he actually listened to her. “What about from college?”

“I was working full time by then, and only going to school part time. I didn’t have time for friends.”

Brad looked confused. “Didn’t you have a full scholarship to somewhere…Edinboro, wasn’t it?”

Edna was impressed that Brad had remembered. “Yeah, I did. But when Grammy got sick, I had to quit and come home to take care of her.”

“Wow. That must have been a huge sacrifice.”

“In some ways. But I owed it to her. She sacrificed a lot to raise me.”

They sat in silence for a few moments until Brad asked, “Edna, I knew in high school that you lived with your grandmother, but I never knew why. Can you tell me?” His voice was gentle and his expression sincere as he asked.

Edna was torn. She had guarded the reason for her living situation fiercely in high school, not wanting to be any different than anyone else. People asked, but she, ever the master of diversion, always managed to change the subject before she was forced to answer.

But now, Brad, who seemed to barely know she was alive in high school and who had been a stranger for the past ten years asked her break the seal on that information. And she found herself desperately wanting to do so.