Happy Friday, readers. :) No apologies, no worries, no picking and no fretting. I have to tell this story as it comes.
I had a mini nervous breakdown yesterday worried that I had taken a turn folks didn't like. Then I realized, the story is what it is. I hope you're still along for the ride! Now I must row off to take the eldest to school. Having a bit of rain here today! Eep!
p.s. I will do my best to post this weekend, but no promises. It's looking manic.
by Sommer Marsden
He really wasn’t playing fair with me. He sent me back past the kitchen, down a small hall paneled in wood to a small bathroom. But the shower worked and the water was hot and the shampoo in there smelled sweet.
“Putting clothes on the toilet,” he said from the doorway.
“Why don’t you come in?” I poked my head out. He looked tired and after his reveal, he looked a bit hollow.
“Maybe in the morning, for right now enjoy. I’ll make us some food.”
I tried not to let my feelings be hurt. I failed. “He’s human, Really. He told you something big and now it’s in his head. Let it go.”
I finished up, dressed in a pair of his sweats, rolled at the ankle and cinched to the max, the black sweater—I started this whole journey in—and some socks. I found him in the little kitchen.
“You look cute,” he said and I heard a touch of the alcohol in his voice. He was buzzed.
“I look like a hobo,” I snorted. “Seriously, dude, I need clothes.”
Johnny nodded, his eyes shiny. Tears or booze? “Done. We’ll go early.”
I picked at the plate of food he’d made. Torn chunks of bread, olive oil for dipping, olives, salami, cheese, apple slices. “Nice. There’s more to you than meets the eye, eh? Nice pick platter.”
“Pick platter?” He poured out wine and I almost asked him if he should have any. But I shut up. Johnny Rose was a big boy. He didn’t need me analyzing his alcohol intake.
“It’s what my mother always called it.” The lump that always showed up in my throat when I spoke of her made an appearance. “A pick platter. You pick at it before dinner or at a party.”
“Called it?” he asked, softly.
“She died a few years ago. I miss her.” That was all.
“I’m sure,” he said, but said no more. He didn’t commiserate or open up or any of the things he would have done had this been a movie. “Hey!” he said. “Guess what’s on?”
“The Godfather. Want to watch?”
The fire was still going but it had died down a bit. It had a beautiful hellish quality to it. I let him tug me to the sofa, balancing the platter in one hand. I snagged a chunk of bread and a piece of cheese and then curled against him at his urging. Marlon Brando talked about favors and family and I nibbled while Johnny drank.
Somewhere in there, I fell asleep, my eyes too heavy from the travel, the worry and the ta-kill-ya. Pressing my face to his chest and listening to a mix of soundtrack and his pulse, I let myself slip into sleep. For the first time in ages, I actually embraced slumber.
I barely woke to the sound of thunder—odd in the winter in these parts—and then heavy rain. He was doing that fireman’s carry again, but this time we were going to the loft. I don’t know why it, but I feigned sleep. Not letting on that the movement had wakened me. He was a bit weavy as we traveled up and I realized he was drunk.
Drunk or not, he put me on the bed gently, like I was made of glass. My heart twisted at the recognition of tenderness from big bad Johnny Rose. He smoothed my hair and tucked me under the blankets before pulling them up and over my shoulder.
I waited for him to climb in next to me. Expecting him to. It would be silly for him—after all we’d been through—to sleep elsewhere. But he turned his back to me, sat on the edge of the bed and did nothing.
I waited, watching him, and then I realized I was moving just a bit. A tiny shake and shimmy of the bed and when I focused my eyes in the darkness, really struggled to see, I could see the nearly imperceptible shake of his shoulders.
He was crying.
Frozen, I barely breathed. What did I do? What did a person do when someone so big and strong and seemingly invincible came unlaced. And in such a silent, private way. Did I go back to sleep? Did I just pretend to be unconscious and wait? Letting him suffer alone seemed so cruel, and yet he had damn near forbidden me to even express sympathy.
There was a hollowness in the pit of my stomach that ached like a sickness. After a few seconds, it became unbearable. The close proximity of his pain, seeing someone who was so fucking impenetrable be so beaten down was stifling.
I put my hand on his back. Just that. I pressed my palm to the middle of his back and tried to let him feel that I was sorry at the very least.
He stopped, his breath hitching for a second. Then he cleared his throat and said simply “Sorry.”
“For waking you.”
“It’s okay.” I wanted to tell him I was sorry for him, for how he felt, but I bit my tongue and waited.
He went stiff and I could tell he was trying to push it all way. There was a tone of urgency about him, as if he thought he could tuck his pain back in its secret hiding place and make himself presentable for me.
I crawled to him, got up on my knees behind him, pressing my chest to his back and wrapping my arms around his. I put my chin on his shoulder and just stayed that way, the rain pounding out an angry rhythm on the cabin’s roof. The roof was so close I expected to get wet. But the sound was nice, comforting in an acoustic way.
“Tell me,” I said.
He would or he wouldn’t.
“It was my fault,” he said. I felt a tremble work through all of him. “And I can usually keep it…away,” he continued, his already deep voice thick with emotion. “But sometimes…” He shook his head angrily.
“Sometimes you’re human?”
“Sometimes I’m weak.”
“If I were crying for my mother, would you call me weak?” I whispered.
“Of course not.”
“So you’re the only one who is not allowed your pain and grief.”
“I don’t get to grieve him,” he said, his voice dropping lower. A coldness in it that set my teeth on edge. But I held onto him anyway, I was not letting him go.
I got cocky in my ability to help and listen. Ballsy in my self-appointed roll as confessor and therapist. “Oh yeah? And why not?”
“Because it’s my fault he’s dead, Really.” Another small sound—some broken sound—slipped out of him then and that tremble took up all through him. A mountain of a man suffering an earthquake of emotion.
“When you lose a child, when you lose anyone, it’s natural to want to blame yourse—“
He turned on me, grabbing my upper arms in a death grip, setting me back from him a bit. His face was hard, his voice harder. “No, Really. I don’t just blame myself because I feel bad. I blame myself because it is my fault. I killed my son.”