Conversation Pieces VI: Despair
By: Wayne Brown
(Writer's Note: I dedicate this story to "SilverGenes" who inspired me to write more about the character that I had portrayed in "Conversation Pieces IV: Homeless". She wanted to know more of the person. At the minute that I read her request, I realized that I indeed did know more about him and how he got where he was. I was compelled to share that story. Thank you, Alexandra! WB)
It rained again last night. I can tell ‘cause the cardboard that I covered myself up with to sleep is damp. I guess I slept right on through it. Hell, who am I kidding. I didn’t sleep through it, I was passed out. That’s about the soundest sleep you can get if you are in the right place when the unconsciousness comes on you. Luckily, I pretty much stay in one spot after I get my whiskey for the night and so I got it all worked out. Sometimes I wait a little too long and end up waking up cold with nothing covering me. Sometimes, some of the boys that stay here in the alley will cover me up after I have gone out. We try to look out for each other even though we are all selfish about certain things like our booze.
Well it’s time to roll out and get movin’ around for another day. I don’t much have to plan it like some people. My days are pretty well mapped out. I forage a bit for some food and water then as the day goes on I start lookin’ for ways to get my whiskey fix. That might sound pretty boring and repetitious to some folks but it’s alright by me. I don’t need much like some people and I don’t take more than I need. Lots of people work for different things in life. They have careers or they are saving money for a big house or vacations…things like that. Me, I don’t do none of that so I don’t need much. I just need to keep my demons quiet and a little whiskey on a daily basis does that most of the time.
I guess you think I must have always been this way. How could not think that when you look at me wearin’ these old clothes and these rundown shoes of mine? How could not think that way? Well, you are wrong. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time way back when that I was just like you and most of the other folks around. I had a job and a family. We had a home. We pretty much had all the things that we wanted. Of course, we were not rich, far from it but we were pretty happy with what we had. My wife and I had two little daughters. They were identical twins born on the 1st day of July. They were the center of our lives. Such beautiful little babies. They gave my wife, Anna, and me a reason to live; to get up in the morning. They were our world. Anna and the twins, Julia and Jenna, were my world; the three most important things in my life.
But you see, that’s not enough. It’s not enough that you know what makes up your world and you know what is the most important thing to you. It’s not enough to know that, no, you have know and protect it constantly. Every single day of your life and theirs or someone might take it away from you just at that movement when you let your guard down for just a second. You see, most people just don’t know that. They have to learn it. They have to lose something to learn it just the way I learned it. One minute your world is perfect and a beautiful place and then in the blink of an eye, it all changes, permanently changes and you lose all that made your world perfect; all that made you happy is gone.
Julia and Jenna were having their third birthday. Anna wanted to take them to see her mother who lived about an hour east of here just to spend the afternoon and to let them celebrate with their grandmother. Anna’s mama had been getting on in years and she could not get far from the house anymore so Anna always had to go see her. So she and the girls loaded into Anna’s car and drove over to her mother’s one morning right after I headed out to my job. They were going to be back in the late afternoon and we were all going to celebrate with a cake and ice cream at home. My job was to pick up the cake and ice cream and have it there when Anna returned. True to form, I did my job and had that ice cream in the freezer and the cake all decorated with candles waiting for them to return.
Anna called about six o’clock to say they were on their way. The sun was just setting and it was beginning to get dark. An hour went by and they did not arrive. I got worried and called Anna’s mother. She confirmed that they had left right after talking to me and that they should be arriving any minute unless they had car trouble. I didn’t want to think about that not with dark coming on. I would hope for the best. Anna should be here any minute I told myself. After another hour, I was really worried. There must be car trouble. I decided to get in the car and start driving toward Anna’s mothers. Maybe I could locate them and help. Just then, the front door bell rang. I rushed to the door and opened it to find two sheriff’s deputies standing there. What happened then is now a blur. I can hardly remember the conversation except that there had been an accident. Anna’s car had a flat tire and she had pulled to the side of the road they thought. She must have been out of the car attempting to do something about the flat. A semi-tractor came over the hill and did not see them. There were no survivors.
I don’t remember much of anything after that. Oh, sure there were funerals and such. Friends were there to comfort me as was both mine and Anna’s family. But it was like it all was going on in a wind tunnel. There were sounds but I couldn’t hear them. Words were spoken but not understood. From the time the deputy told me there were no survivors, I didn’t hear anything else anyone had to say.
After things settled down, I realized that I was still numb and probably in shock. There had been no tears yet for me. I couldn’t not find a way to cry. I just had this roaring sound in my head like air rushing out of my body. I was numb. The thought of attempting to go on with life was beyond me. I tried to go back to work but I could not think about those things. There was nothing of the life I knew left for me. There was nothing left to do but forget that life, change, and move on. A part of me knew that I needed to do that but the rest of me would not allow it. I could not move on.
Then the thought occurred to me that this entire tragedy was my fault. Had I taken a day off and gone with Anna to see her mother, maybe I could have prevent all of this; maybe it would have been different. You see, I let my guard down for that moment and I lost everything and it could only be my fault. There was no one else to blame. Day after day, I rolled these thoughts over in my head without coming to terms with them. They slowly became my demons as I saw the pretty faces of my little girls when I closed my eyes at night. There was a part of me that knew that I was going crazy and another part of me that could not stop it.
One morning, I awoke from a night of fitful sleep. I got out of bed and dressed myself. I had not been to work in over a week and had no intentions of returning. I put on a white shirt and my suit without a tie and my best dress shoes. I walked out of the house and down the street toward the liquor store. I stopped there long enough to put a fifth of whiskey into each of the pockets of my suit coat. I returned to the street and started walking occasionally stopping to sip a bit of the whiskey. After a while, I felt better, probably because of the whiskey but I could not bring myself to return to the house. I walked for a while longer until I came to an alley between some tall buildings. I guess by this time I had walked all the way downtown. I had no idea. I didn’t know where I was going. I walked down the alley, sat down on an old apple crate and took out a bottle of my whiskey. I took a long pull on that bottle and then another. Then I began to cry. I didn’t just cry, no, I sob and screamed beating my fists against the brick walls of the alley in the futility of my predicament. This went on until I passed out from the drinking and slept the night in the alley.
So, I suppose if you are asking how I got here that would be the story. I don’t like remembering it and I don’t like telling it. It’s easy to just tell folks that it ain’t none of their damn business how I got here and that I want to just be left alone. I have accepted the death of my wife and children for no other reason than I have no choice. I have not forgiven myself for letting them die out there on that dark highway. I will probably never forgive myself for that. Would you?
I need to be getting’ along now. The sun is climbin’ up the sky and I need to scrounge for a bit of food to stop my stomach from growling and hurting. After that, I am going down there by the Wal-Mart to see if I can panhandle a little money for my whiskey trip tonight. As you can see, I have a pretty full day so if you will kindly excuse me, I’ll just be getting along about my business. Of course, if you could spare a little change before I leave, I would sure appreciate it. I can always use a little change.
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