The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Eighteen
Yes, We Are Back
Hey, as long as Max and Katie talk to me, I’ll keep writing their story.
When I left you last, Max had just quit his job, and was having some issues regarding his PTSD. Luckily, he is surrounded by support and love, so he’s right where he belongs.
Let’s see what else is happening in this wounded family.
It had been a couple weeks since I quit my job down on the docks. I spent a lot of time working around my childhood home, doing some repairs, just handyman stuff to stay busy and keep my head on as straight as possible. Idleness is not good. It tends to foster far too much thinking, reflecting, wrestling with the skeletons, and that’s one wrestling match we are all bound to lose. The Zoloft could only do so much.
My sister Jeannie had the day off from her barista job. Dad was at work, Mom was volunteering, and Katie was working. It was just me and my little Sis, banging around the house, doing odds and ends. Jeannie, twenty-five years old, fifteen when I left home, ten years to catch up on, ten years of feelings to sort through. Not all aspects of a homecoming are pleasant, and you can take that to the bank.
Jeannie is a beauty. Always has been. Guys were heated up over her back when she was in high school. I had no doubt they still were. Made me wonder why she wasn’t dating. Hell, I was a bit curious why she wasn’t married. We hadn’t had a chance to really talk since I got home, so I figured might as well kill some time catching up on those ten years.
“How come you’re still home, Jeannie?” I asked her as we worked on cleaning up the kitchen. “I figured you’d be married to some guy by now, living the high life, instead of banging around this old wreck of a home.”
She was quiet for a decent amount of time, the clock on the mantel the only sound as she pondered my question. Finally, though, it began spilling out.
“You have no idea, Max, damn it all to hell. You just have no idea.” She stopped with what she was doing and faced me. “Mom and Dad were devastated by your disappearance. Dad went into a deep depression, holed himself up in the den each night, drinking beers and watching game shows, for God’s sake. Mom? She used to have maybe one drink a month, with her girls’ group, but she started having one after each dinner, and then she’d need one before bed, and suddenly she needed valium to calm her nerves, and what was I supposed to do, Max, just take off with some guy and leave our parents to wallow in their pain? WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO, MAX!”
She threw a spoon against the far wall and started crying.
The Pain Releases
It was pretty quiet there for awhile. Tears don’t make a sound as they hit the kitchen floor, but they should. Tears should make all the sounds associated with their cause. It should be a damned symphony of pain playing in the background, horns and bass drums, a funeral dirge of raw emotion. That’s what I witnessed that day, and the tune they all played was for me.
I started towards her, but her hand shot up.
“STOP! Don’t you dare hold me and tell me everything will be all right. Do you know how much I looked up to you growing up? I idolized you, Max, my big, strong, brave brother who could do no wrong. I loved that I was Max’s little sister. It was something solid to be proud of, you know? I could walk down the same halls in school you had walked, and take classes from the same teachers you had, and I was treated with just a bit more respect because of it. And you couldn’t find it in your heart to make one damned phone call? You knew how much we loved you. What in the hell were you thinking, Max? You had no right to be so selfish! And then you have the gall to ask me why I’m not married? How dare you! I couldn’t desert our parents the way you did, Max.”
She ran off to her bedroom after the outburst, leaving me to ponder the aftermath of selfishness. Self-reflection is a pastime best reserved for the strong and self-assured, neither of which described me at that time, but there seemed to be no choice. I grabbed my coat from the coat tree, pulled a stocking cap over my head, and headed out into the Seattle downpour.
Everything my little sister said was true, and that just made the walk all the more miserable. I followed Aurora Avenue north, past the Locks, the strip malls, the pawn shops and the auto wrecker. After an hour or so, Woodland Park Zoo appeared on my right, and I spotted Green Lake through the trees in the distance. I walked into the Zoo parking lot, paid the admittance fee, and made my way through the exhibitions, the monkeys, the penguins, and then the big cats, so strong, so proud, so powerful, all caged, all defeated by a larger foe, now sentenced to live their lives in a cell, bars and locks preventing them from enjoying freedom, preventing them from running free as they once had, leaving them as shadows of their former selves. They paced in their enclosure, keeping an eye on those eying them, and the loathing was apparent, the frustrations were apparent, but something else . . . there was a sadness on their faces, a sadness born from the realization that life would never be any better than what it was at that moment.
I was back home by three, making sure to return before my parents or Katie. From a block away I could see Jeannie, swinging on the front porch swing, and I knew she was watching out for me, and I found myself running in her direction, the raindrops mixing with the tears, the winds whipping, cleansing, scouring me of shame, and my Lil Sis met me on the lawn, met me in the most beautiful hug, and there we stood, the rains a deluge, looking like two drowned rats, brother and sister, doing what brothers and sisters have always done.
We exchanged gifts that afternoon. She gave me the gift of forgiveness, an invaluable gift, a gift that can only be purchased with love, and I gave her the freedom to release her sorrow and blame, with no recriminations, no excuses, no hollow words of bullshit, and when our gifts were given, when the last words necessary were spoken, I unlocked the cage door. I looked at that majestic beast, our eyes met, and without saying a word he understood. I swung the door wide open and he tentatively took a step, then another, and finally bounded from that cage, free at last, and the sorrow on his face disappeared, the sorrow ten years in the making, and it was replaced with . . . hope!
I’ll be back with another chapter when Max and Katie speak to me. Until then, may love always guide you during this magical mystery tour called life.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)