Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Home -- A Fragment

     Just a short fragment that came out of a couple of mornings of scribbling a while back.  One of these eons I may actually find a place for it, as is or reworked, in a longer piece.  But I don't think it reads too badly on its own, so until I find that other place for it...


     You know how it is when you find some place that is so right for you that it whispers "Home," whispers it so deep inside that you feel it rather than hear it, and maybe the place doesn't say it to anyone else, just you.
     Maybe it whispers to you but not to your wife, and eventually she leaves, and maybe you go with her but maybe you don't because here in this place you're finally home, where you were always meant to be.  Or maybe you're twelve and it whispers to you but not to your parents and they move and of course you have to move with them and you never really forget that and even if you don't talk about it later it rubs at you for years.  But it isn't only places that whisper that way.  It isn't only place that is home.  Sometimes you meet someone or just see somebody for a moment in passing and inside you is that sudden voice saying, "Home."  Or you find the work you were meant to do, something that’s so right that you can’t imagine doing anything else, something that’s more to you than just a way to pay the bills.
     You see thousands of people going by in the street every day and maybe you wonder how many of them are just marking time, listening for that whisper, how many of them will die without ever hearing it and never thinking about what they might have missed, how many of them heard it once and missed their chance at it and dream of little else other than hearing it again.

     He was nineteen and it was a warm day in mid-June, cloudless and not too windy.  He got off the bus at the corner of Michigan and Chicago on his way to Stuart Brent's book store, and he saw her for a moment as she boarded that same bus.  Tall and slim and brunette, and her eyes met his, just for an instant, and deep inside him: "Home."  But he had stepped off the bus and the doors closed and the moment passed and the bus pulled away, and he knew that he could catch it again at the next stop if he ran because he could still run when he was nineteen, but the light changed in his moment of hesitation and before it changed back the bus was two blocks ahead of him and he'd never catch it now.
     For the next three weeks, he made it a point to be at that bus stop every morning around that time, but he did not see her again.
     That year at college, he met a lovely girl, also tall and slim and brunette, who reminded him a great deal of the girl he'd seen boarding the Michigan Avenue bus, and during that year he fell in love with her and she with him, and after graduation they married and had four children, and like any married couple they had their ups and downs but for the most part they lived happily ever after, and one reason they lived happily ever after was that they were smart enough to avoid dark places.
     So when she had the feeling that there was something in him that he kept locked securely away, she left it alone and did not press him to reveal anything he did not choose to reveal.  And when he allowed himself his two-in-the-morning reflections on the state of his life, and found himself thinking of a girl getting on the Michigan Avenue bus one June morning, and remembering that voice saying, "Home," a voice he had not heard again since that morning, he kept those reflections to himself.
     For her part, she had heard that voice several times, but never in connection with another person.  For her it had been associated with places.  The summer when she was fourteen, the family had taken her mother's dream vacation and spent a month visiting England and France, renting cars or taking the trains to get around, and renting cottages or staying at local bed-and-breakfasts rather than hotels.  In a few of the cottages, she'd heard that voice and she knew that one day she'd live in rooms like these.  After she married, she didn't live in an English cottage, but she did what she could to recreate some of the feel of one in the apartments and later the house they lived in.  Sometimes in her own two-in-the-morning reflections she thought about that fourteenth summer and wondered what life might have been like if she'd chosen a course that took her out of the midwest and back to Europe, back to England, and if she might have been able to find a place where that voice was always there for her, rather than hoping to hear it in the imitation she had made.
     And so their days passed, and their months, and their years, and they told themselves that they were happy with the way things had turned out, and if sometimes they felt that they had really been meant to be with someone else or in some other place, well, who didn't feel that way now and then?
     One evening he read a magazine article that discussed the ever-more-mobile population, all the people changing jobs, moving to other cities or other states or even other countries, and he wondered how many of them were really looking for a girl they'd seen getting on the Michigan Avenue bus or getting off the elevator or passing by a restaurant window.  He wondered how many of them were really straining to hear that voice.
     One afternoon as she pulled some weeds in a corner of her garden, she wondered if trying to achieve some semblance of those wonderful fourteenth-summer places was only inviting dissatisfaction with the place she had actually made for herself.  She had a pleasant house, a husband and children she loved, and while she'd had the occasional fleeting thought of walking away from all of it and getting on a plane and finding a place where that voice might whisper to her again, she did not give serious thought to leaving.  Perfection, after all, was unattainable.
     They both lived into their eighties and they died within six months of each other, with their children close by, and neither of them said a word to the other, ever, about the idea that they had been meant to be with different people in different places.  That was something they kept locked away, well out of sight, because having that out in the open could only bring trouble, and because perfection, after all, was unattainable.

     Anyway, that's how it was for them.  How it is for you, only you can say.  As for me -- well, I'm a stranger here myself.


copyright 2016 by Anthony J. Rabig

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