I’ve been feeling a bit on the strange side lately. I looked at my friend Tom. We were platonic friends, for the past, I don’t know, six months? Has it really been six months? Maybe it’s been a year, or two? It’s been a little while, that’s for sure. Anyway, I looked at Tom. He looks a lot like my son, only older. I think that’s why I like him. My son is still in college, though and lives across the country. He lives in Virginia, can you imagine that? I’m all the way over here in California, and he moved practically to the east coast to go to college. I’ve been writing him letters because I just can’t get into the new email thing. I expect him to write me back when his time frees up. Maybe I should give him a call tonight.
Anyway, Tom keeps me company once in a while and I’m just ecstatic that he’s my friend. Tom is in his forties – I think that’s what he said. And, if I can recall correctly, he just had a birthday. Well, while I was waiting for Tom that morning, I couldn’t help but feel like part of me was changing. I felt like I was a piece of Swiss cheese. It was as if I had holes throughout unreachable parts of my body, and it made me sense I weighed less and gave me a case of dizziness. Don’t worry about me, though; I didn’t pass out or anything. I’m way to strong minded to let a little wooziness throw me off. Plus, Tom had an aura about him that seemed to soothe the strangeness I felt inside. Even though I had an appointment to see the doctor next week, the familiarity of Tom’s face and voice help me relax. It’s probably just nerves. With Tom around though, like I said, I feel at ease, and I think he knows that, although I’ve never told him. He leaned over and gave me a long hug. It’s been a while since I had a hug like that. It was nice.
There was music playing and I sat comfortably on a couch. Tom was telling me about his daughter. I joked with him and told him he must be getting forgetful because he already told me she started high school last week. He smiled and apologized. I grabbed his hand and told him how wonderful it is to hear about his daughter anyways and asked him to bring her sometime. He showed me a picture of her again and I told him how adorable she was. He told me she was thirteen in that picture, but she’s fourteen now. He also told me she’s quite the gymnast and her grandmother inspired her to get into it. I told him that was funny because I used to know a great gymnast when I was younger. Her name escapes me, but she won a lot of awards and I was honored to know her.
Tom put the picture away. He glanced at his watch and said, “It’s nearly lunch time. Are you hungry?” I took a moment to think about it, and then I told him I was. I stood myself up and when I looked around, Tom was gone. I assumed he got a head start and I’m a bit slow. That’s alright. I made my way to the dining room, and then sat down. I felt alone for a bit and started to feel the room spin. My head was a little sore, so I figured I just needed an aspirin. I looked around and noticed Tom out of the corner of my eye and called politely for him. When he approached me I told him I had a bit of a headache and might need to lie down. He suggested that some pain medication and a hot tea might be a good remedy. I agreed and he seemed to already have it ready for me. I sipped the tea and swallowed the aspirins.
Before I could finish another sip of my tea, Tom brought some snacks out for us. Bagels with cream cheese, lox, capers, diced green onions, tomato slices and thinly cut red onion. The display was so lovely that I didn’t want to eat it. I knew Tom had worked hard to prepare it and I felt like part of his essence was encapsulated in that moment of a perfect tray of food. If it was damaged then Tom might get damaged; and, I couldn’t bear to remember him that way. I lost my appetite. At the risk of being rude, I graciously explained to him that my headache was too much and I simply wasn’t hungry anymore. He sighed, but his unending patience won him over and he helped me back to the couch.
I decided to be quiet, to give Tom some time to think. I didn’t want to annoy him any further. When I was younger, I used to people watch at cafés with my husband. It was always entertaining to see what people did when they thought no one was looking. Thinking of that reminded me that my husband should be home soon. The only thing I mentioned to Tom was that when my hubby returns, I will likely feel good enough to eat. Tom glanced at me, but remained quiet. I hope I had not offended him. Several moments passed before Tom decided to tell me something. He said if I was feeling out of sorts, to check my pockets. He then gave me another hug. I felt so warm inside when he hugged me.
I heard a noise across the room and I turned my head for a moment. When I looked back, Tom was gone again. He had a knack for doing that. One moment he was there, talking to me, and the next moment, he vanishes. It’s like he has a secret girlfriend he’s running off to go see. I miss him when he leaves, but every time I think about him, I just want him to be happy. It’s like a reflex that triggers and I long for happiness for him and he deserves it. Maybe I have a kind soul, if that’s what you want to call it. I noticed across the room, an unfamiliar face. If Tom invited some company over, my husband might get upset, but I can deal with that when I see him.
With Tom gone, and a strange man looking at me from across the room, I was getting antsy. I briefly recalled what he suggested I do, so I did. I reached in my pocket and found a folded piece of paper. I unfolded it and put my glasses on to read it. What a peculiar note. It read:
“Mom, I know your memory is fading, but hang on to this so you can remember. I had a wonderful visit for my birthday. I am now 45, can you believe it? I will pay a visit to Dad before I head back to Virginia to be with my wife, Emily, and your granddaughter, Hannah. I left you a picture of the three of us on the coffee table to help you remember. I will give you a call tomorrow after I get home.
With lots of love,
I sat and thought for a moment. I couldn’t recall how this paper got here. I must have picked it up on accident at the grocery store. Some poor mother is out there without a lovely note from her son. There was no phone number on this, so I had to just throw it away. What a waste. It was so beautifully written, too. I crumpled the note and set it on the table in front of me. I’d remember to throw it away when I got up. For the moment, I wanted to just relax. I started to wonder if my friend Tom might show up today for a visit. Did I mention he has a daughter? I forget how old she is, but last time he was here, I think he showed me a picture and she was adorable.
I was inspired to write this story based off of two things. One: the state that one of my family members is in; and two, another short story hub I read with a similar theme that was quite moving. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave feedback.
Update: 8/4/2011: made some minor grammatical fixes and style edits that I meant to do a few weeks ago.
More by this Author
So, you wanna ditch some friends, eh? Most people enjoy having giant social circles, but they aren’t always for everyone. Sometimes it’s too stressful and overwhelming to constantly keep up with so many...