|posted on 29-Sep-2002 7:30:50 PM by Jiggers|
|The Beaten Path|
I walk along the old beaten path that curves behind the cemetery. I do this sometimes, walk along the dusty road making my way towards the head stones. It’s almost a ritual. I walk to the plot and pull up the ugly weeds that litter his grave. Then I just sit there staring at his name so perfectly etched into the faded stone, “Maxwell Phillip Evans.” Today I manage not to cry into the ground where he lies six feet below me.
Afterwards, I follow this beaten path; it takes me to the edge of the woods where I used to find solace during warm summer nights. He’d always be there, waiting for me with that crooked smile, the little gap showing between his two front teeth that was later fixed by braces. He never once considered that maybe tonight I wouldn’t come.
Once, when we were fifteen we were walking by the very rock where I stand so broken now. Max had this pensive look on his face and I remember thinking that I had never noticed how brightly his eyes shone in the warm sun, or the way his dark brown hair ruffled around his face when a May breeze swirled around us.
He was making me nervous so I sat on that rock, like so many other days, watching the sunset slowly over the horizon. But he was staring at me intensely. An unfamiliar wave of an emotion I’d only dreamed about suddenly crashed over my senses. As he began to walk toward me my heart stopped and at that moment when his warm hand gently cupped my face and his lips slowly covered mine in our first kiss, I could swear that the world stopped spinning and everything else disappeared.
It wasn’t like the old days, when a smile from any old boy could make me blush easily, “red as an apple” my grandfather use to say. He’d call me his little apple pie and chuckle loudly, then stop after receiving a glare from grandmother.
Sitting with him before that May afternoon I’d usually get stuck listening to Max chatter on, like the good best friend that I was, about the new girl with the perfect freckles and curly red hair. Or I’d hear about how pretty Tess Harding looked at the football game in her perfect blue and white cheerleading uniform. My sister, Maria, would remind me that I could never be that girl, I was just a little tom-boy, I’d never get breasts, or kiss a boy, I’d always be stuck with the apple face. But, after that day out on the rock, he never once looked at the red head or Tess again. He was mine, I couldn’t believe it, mine.
I start walking home, if you could call it that-- the house I grew up in, large and empty with the echoes of naive youth resounding through its walls. Maria still tells me I should leave this town like she did, this town that has brought me nothing but pain. She went to college, got married, had children, unlike myself who’d just years before been declared barren. He stayed with me then so I stay with him now. I couldn’t leave if I wanted to.
Most days I’d be working in this small bookstore on Main Street, Alien Encounter. Where the townsfolk and gossipmongers would stroll in under the guise of buying a book, only to see if I would self-destruct again. Like that day – our first anniversary since he’d been gone, the day my life really began to end.
Today reminds me of those days. I’m walking down the street slowly, every mother I pass by is watching, waiting to cover her children’s eyes if need be, or gawk and stare as if I were the newest exhibit in the small modernist zoo just off Hill Street.
It’s a small town, Roswell; I guess they haven’t much else to do besides staring at the poor woman who lost so much. The woman with dark clothing and pale skin, I see her in the mirror every morning staring back at me with soulless eyes.
For me it’s still enough to just sit on the rock where he first kissed me, and it’s enough to keep up my grandfather’s old cabin where we first made love. I still go there, grandfather left it to me when he died; he knew how much that place meant to me- to us. The old fireplace would always be burning if grandfather expected us. He would stock the fridge, start the fire, make the beds, sometimes I wonder if it were for our benefit or for his. It gave him something to do once grandmother was gone. He’d always helped his little apple pie, and he loved Max almost as much as I did.
I change my path and walk down his old street, Ash drive. The same old townsfolk are there, they watch me as if I would break at any moment. As if my heart hadn’t died those 3 years ago with the twisting of ragged metal against his flesh and bone. As if my self-inflicted scars would suddenly open and the blood would flow from my wrist. As if I’d announce to the world that today was the day I was finished with this town, this life.
I go to his mother, Diane’s house; sometimes I sit on the old squeaky white swing that hangs on the front porch I know so well. She joins me, again today, with a cup of coffee – three sugars and Irish cream just like he’d make me every morning before he left for work.
We talk about him, remembering the time he freed all the frogs in the biology lab back in 10th grade, claiming the injustice of Mrs. Hardy for assuming that the class would all want to cut into the flesh of a live frog. Max was suspended for three days for that scheme, I brought him all his homework and we would sit and laugh about Tess Harding’s shriek when a frog jumped down her new white blouse.
She and I remember his speech at graduation, the one no one authorized him to give, about how the class of 02’ would never make it in the world without just sitting and laughing about the stupid things we did in school. Principal Lester was the one with the apple face when my Max told about the time that he found him in a compromising position with the school nurse Mrs. Jenkins. I had made sure he had his diploma in his hand before he stepped up with that speech.
Diane tells me how much he loved me. How even as a child, he would look at me with bright eyes like he looked at no one else, like I was the only thing in the world. I cry and so does she, we hold each other, I’ve always loved his mother. She was much nicer than my own, who told me not to marry him, not to screw around with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He only lived two blocks away. But those two blocks were enough for my mother. She didn’t believe in love, it made me sad for her on those days that I’d see her sitting alone in father’s study silently reading an old romance novel she thought we didn’t know she owned.
I desperately cling to these memories, so as not to forget the delicate curve of his chin or the intensity of his eyes. To remember the man that no one else could ever be, and that I was unable to recreated for him. I leave her with happy memories of graduation, and I begin walking towards my only remaining destination.
Diane usually didn’t like to come to the cemetery with me. But sometimes she gives me a bundle of yellow roses – his favorite – to put on his grave for her. But not today, it’s as if she knows. Maybe it’s because I saw him before her instead of asking her to come with me.
It’s silly, I know, but I always thought we’d die together, in our sleep; so perfectly content lying in each other’s arms. Our sterling silver wedding bands lightly clicking together as we both take our last breath in the same instant.
Two minutes and he’d still be with me. If only I had insisted he eat breakfast that morning like every other morning. Two minutes that determined the course of the rest of my life, alone. That truck, the old red ford I kept begging him to get rid of, it’s the one he took that day. It stalled, like it had a tendency to do, over the tracks of the railroad. The train was coming so fast they tell me, too fast. The old door must have rusted shut from the heavy rain the night before. The windows never worked and they tell me he tried to get out, but I wonder how they really know?
I walk back along the walls of the elementary school, where our beaten path begins. I lie on the ground by the tree where he first took my hand when we where just in third grade and I was new to this small town. Maria had deserted me for an older boy and I was alone by the tree, until he came to me. I remember that day like it was yesterday.
I lie there and drift slowly, swallowing the contents of the prescription Doc gave me to help me sleep. After a while my body and mind slide into unconsciousness. My heart start to slow, and my lungs frantically gasp to take just one more breath.
Finally. I’m on my way to meet him – somewhere along our beaten path.
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Sep-2002 10:55:23 PM ]