Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yesteryou Chapter 10

            Meanwhile, the friendship between George and Beth was an embarrassment to them both, at times, because of its intensity and breadth.  People assumed, even though the two would have made an odd couple, that they had been secretly physically intimate, or if not, that it was inevitable.  That may have been a natural assumption to make (though inarguably prurient), because it wan an obvious fact that George was in love with Beth.  George and Beth both knew it, but unrequited love was the most natural kind for the asexual George to give, as well as the most natural kind for Beth, arrested developmentally at the emotional age of 12, to receive.  But the truths is that they were friends.  When in his last days she would be comfortable enough with him dozing off and on throughout the day on her couch to walk around the apartment naked when she found it necessary, like when she'd been putting on her underwear in her bedroom for instance but then remembered she'd left the only bra she owned on the floor of the living room and she had to go get it -- George didn't feel a sexual charge seeing her bare breasts but instead, or at least mostly, gratefulness towards her for finally allowing him so completely into her private world.

            The day after he met her, he went back to the library to see her again, and brought her a copy of a book of poems about cats.  She already owned the book, but was pleased by the gift anyway, because she liked owning things.  "Where did you get this book from?" she'd asked him, "It's a first edition, isn't it?"
            "Mmm hmm, I bought it as part of an estate.  An old English fellow passed away last week in Pasadena, and his wife is a customer in my store; I own a used bookstore.  She let me have first pick at his book collection, which turned out to be amazing.  Really wonderful stuff. If you're interested, I could show you what I got from that estate.  Maybe there's something you want."  They would soon share routines, habits and traditions, especially once she divorced Richard.  Every Boxing Day, for instance, which is a holiday celebrated in England on the day after Christmas, they exchanged one wild-card gift each, a present that hadn't appeared on the meticulous wish list of gifts they traded each December 1st.  Every year for his birthday one of her gifts to him was a bag of assorted candy, but she put the bag together from several bags of candy, and he had to figure out the theme, like one year, an easy year, all the candy in the bag was red (red Jolly Ranchers, red Wax Lips, Red Hots), but one year it was more challenging, all the candies had the names of locations in them:  Boston Baked Beans and Charleston Chews.  They had annual two-person Oscars parties that always included a spread of Pub Cheese and frois grois:  the person with the least correct Oscar predictions had to do the dishes left over from all the snacks they ate that night.  Every Easter they went to the Griffith Park Observatory, which was one of the main locations in “Rebel Without a Cause,” simply because Christ reminded Beth of James Dean.  When Molly was still a child, and came to visit Beth on the weekends, there was the excuse of laying a groundwork of beautiful images in Molly's memory to add a flourish to everything the two grownups planned, and they developed traditions they would abandon later when Molly grew up, like going to the temporary carnival in downtown that was set up every year for Chinese New Year, or burying the small rodents one of Beth's cats always dragged back to the apartment with funerary rites and solemn ceremony. 
            Beth had been so proud of herself for catching the interest of a classy and handsome man like Richard, and through that pinhole of pride, some love escaped, made its way to Richard.  But only some.  She didn't fully accept the fact that he was a person, that he continued to walk and breathe when out of her sight.  And there was her endless amazement that she'd made Molly.  But these two people, huge as their impact was on her, made her uncomfortable to be around; she dropped more things than usual when Molly was in the kitchen, and her best hair days all occurred on days in which Richard didn't see her.  It was only George with whom she didn't stutter or say unduly obnoxious things she didn't mean.  And when she moved to Arizona, it was because, in the first blush of forty, Beth realized anew that she was young, pretty and doomed, and wanted a fresh start.
            On a hot summer day in 2007, Beth, who'd learned to drive in exchange for becoming less adept at all the other adult skills she'd once taken pains to learn, like a baby attempting language, was driving on the freeway.  At this point in her life, her nineteen-year-old daughter was mostly incommunicado.  She spoke on the phone to her best friend George almost everyday.  She hadn't been working a regular job for two years, because she'd suffered debilitating panic attacks at her last job, and now she was crazy enough to qualify for Social Security Insurance.  She craved sex, pills and popcorn, all the time.  Keeping pace alongside her fragile Datsun on the freeway, a young man was riding what looked like little more than a motorized bicycle.  That the boy should not have gotten on the freeway on this contraption was obvious, because it could hardly take his weight, it wobbled and sputtered noxious clouds of gas.  The rider was wearing those canvas high-top sneakers Molly used to love to wear when she called herself a punk-rocker, a pair of cut-off shorts and a t-shirt that had “Satan’s Little Angels” printed on it in red Old English lettering.  This shirt would become a heartbreaking detail to her because of the way it so flippantly alluded to the afterlife.  He wore his hair in a pompadour.  She could see the sweat on his face and even though it would sound later like an unbelievable exaggeration, she could see the areas of skin that stretch across his knuckles made pale from how tightly he grasped the handlebars.  It was rare, to have an opportunity like this to watch a handsome, weary, nearby man careen through various levels of fear.  She imagined this must have been his first time in a situation which necessitated taking this contraption, a Honda Rebel, on the freeway, and she wondered where he was headed, and if he wished he had worn tougher clothes in case the bike tipped over – there was nothing covering his legs or arms and it would hurt awfully if he took a spill.  Then without even looking behind or beside him, he sped in front of Beth’s car, and she killed him.  Poetic irony being the common fate of poets, which Beth was, the father of the young man had been killed in a freeway accident as well. 

            The young man, whose rock band had been called “Satan’s Little Angels,” had been living with his girlfriend, Lorena, when Beth ran him over, and the young woman briefly entertained the notion of suing Beth for vehicular manslaughter, but a therapist convinced her to try to move on from the accident, and Lorena tried her hardest.  Beth disappeared, first sending this letter to Richard:
            “Richard, please just let me explain myself someday.  In the meantime, please take over.”
And that was all it said.

No comments:

Post a Comment