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Giving Down

by Michael Nash 7 months ago in humanity
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Lily’s Gift

I don’t know how I got to this place. I guess you could say it took a lifetime. A lifetime. A lifetime of pain, tears, oh so many tears. Tears that ran from rivers of sadness from as far back as I can remember. The old engine sputters as I contemplate this place, this dark and lonely place. Pictures of my beautiful girls line the dashboard as my pen shakes against this page. I’m going to miss them. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just blend with the nothing that doesn’t exist anymore. Their youthful faces glow and smiling eyes caught in a glimpse of innocence and naivety. They don’t know what’s to come. They have no idea. If they only knew how hard this world can be on the innocent. It’s like everything around us is designed to sniff out the good, the hopeful, the genuine and corrupt it. Pollute it. Defile and degrade it. To bring it to its knees and finish it with the cold blade of unfettered guilt.

Baby it’s cold outside, I whisper along with the song on the radio. And no doubt it is. The snow had fallen earlier that morning and they say more is to come this afternoon. This garage though, is quite cozy, almost like home. I wonder when they will find me?

I take a long drag on my menthol cigarette as I stare at the crack on my windshield. I never did get that fixed. Just one of a long list of a thousand unfulfilled promises I made. Like my wedding vows. Like all my “I’ll always be here for you’s”, that I told my beauties a hundred times. Daddy just couldn’t get it right, I’m sorry. Daddy is so so sorry. My mind flashes to the happy times, the Christmas mornings and birthday parties. The walks to the rope swing and cheering from the sidelines or the back of the auditorium. You were my sunshine, my only sunshine, you made me happy when skies were gray. But now that all seems so far away. So distant. Mom and I just couldn’t make it work. She had always been too good for me, I never could quite understand how she ever said “yes” to begin with. You drank the poison she fed you about me. You chose sides and I can’t blame you. She’s a good Mommy, listen to her advise and please take care of her. It breaks my heart to see how sad you are when you have to come with me. I find peace knowing I won’t have to see you cry anymore. Or maybe I will. Maybe hell is watching reruns of crumby talk shows and seeing your children cry forever. God I hope not. I’ll take a lake of fire any day over that.

The engine roars deeply as I hit the gas. As if this old car was hungry and wanting meat. The smoke from the muffler envelops her like a cocoon. She is tired she is old but she is not giving up. She has 210000 miles but a lot of life left. I laugh as I take another lung full of smoke. How ironic.

I go through the checklist in my head. Letters written. Bills paid. Funds transferred. What little funds there are. I lay my aching mind back against the head rest. I close my weary eyes. Streams of tears weave their way through my beard and drip like a runny faucet from my chin. The runny faucet. Another project not completed. My oldest daughter told me about that faucet the last time she was with me. She had just taken a shower and said that the faucet won’t stop dripping. I said I’d fix it. Another promise. Another lie. My eyes are heavy. Im tired. I feel nauseous but not afraid. I feel lonely but for once ok. I just want to sleep. The fog around me gets thicker and surrounds me on every side. Every molecule of it toxic and stealing away my last breaths of life. I laugh to myself again, so much like this world, the irony is so fitting. I peek out from my heavy eyelids. I want to see them one more time. I wish I could hold them. I wish I could assure them that everything will be alright. But I can’t, how could I when I stopped believing in that Santa Claus years ago. Maybe it was when my Daddy left me. Or when my brother beat me senseless over and over and over again. Or maybe it was after I was molested, or in the years I found solace in alcohol and drugs. Or maybe it was everything, chipping away at my innocence piece by piece, bit by bit, chunk by chunk until there was nothing left of me. Whatever it was, i hate it, I hate it so much.

I didn’t realize my eyes had closed again. So this is it? This is what all the fuss is over? This is what all of creation has been petrified of since life began? There’s a new song on the radio and I hadn’t noticed the other song ended, or how many songs had played since “Baby it’s cold outside”. I’m sorry Momma. You did your best. I was just a bad egg. I was unreachable. You taught me right from wrong and gave up all your dreams to help me achieve mine. That day they pinned that badge on my chest, I saw you in that sea of smiling faces. No one cheered louder or smiled more. Then I lost it all. Now your baby who you were so proud of is nothing more than a reject, a loser, a bum. I’m sorry, I’m so very sorry.

I feel the blood leaving my face and bitterness fills my mouth. I think it’s time. I feel a slight anxiety as my entire body feels like pins and needles. God please forgive me. I feel a vibration as if the car were riding on those rumble strips along the parkway. I push myself to open my eyes. I see the dim light of my phone on the passenger seat through the lustful fog that has since obscured my children’s pictures. I reach for the light and feel my phone vibrating in my hand. I lift it robotically up to my face and strain to see the number. I blink once then again. It’s an unknown number. Geez Louise, a telemarketer at this time? Really God? You couldn’t have my daughter or Momma or a friend call? I laugh out loud at the thought of how this all ends. I guess in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hit the green button and say “hello”. “Mike are you there?” The female voice on the other end was recognizable but not too familiar. “Um kinda” I chuckled, “who is this?” “Its Hope, Hope Givens. I am Lily Givens’ daughter”. Lily Givens? My crowded mind was struggling to recall the name. Then it cleared. Lily was my elderly neighbor who lived alone since her husband passed away three years ago. She was the first person to greet me when I moved here and always made a habit of coming over to the fence to say hello when I was in the yard. I had met Hope about a week later and we exchanged numbers in case she ever needed anything. And of course now she does! Oh the irony, I mused. “Hi, how are you doing? How’s your Mom?” I responded, after a clear delay that screamed “I dont want to be bothered right now!” “I’m ok, and I’m sorry for bothering you” she said sincerely, “but I was wondering if you could do me a huge favor and check on my Mom for me. I couldn’t make it down there this week and she isn’t answering her phone. I’m getting worried. That is if your not too busy”. Too busy? I pondered that for a moment. I guess this could be interpreted as so many things, but I’m not sure “busy” is one of them. Without thinking another thought, I heard my voice respond “no I’m not busy at all, I’ll go check on her, no problem”. Wait… What did I just say? Hope quickly began thanking me emphatically as if to cement my answer before I could worm my way out of it. I said I’d call her back as soon as I made contact and hung up the phone. I opened the car door and stepped out into the dense exhaust. Exhaust… oh the irony I thought to myself again as I felt my way through the fog to the side door of the garage. As I opened the door and stepped out into the snow, I realized that I had not strained to breathe until now. My lungs sucked at the cold fresh air and I started to cough uncontrollably. I never realized how fresh fresh air was until this moment. I felt dizzy. I felt sick. I felt frustrated and annoyed and used. “Let’s get this over with and get on with it”, I said out loud as I walked half dazed through the unforgiving snow to Lily’s house.

The sky was a blue gray and flecks of white dandruff fell from the Angels shoulders. As I reached Lily’s gate I could see that the tv was on and there was steam flowing from the roof vent. “Good sign”, I thought as I made my way to the front door. I knocked loudly, half annoyed that I was assigned this mundane task at this time, at this moment, but also because Lily could not hear so well. After a minute which seemed like forever, I heard the door unlock and Lily appeared behind the glass storm door. Her eyes were bright and her smile authentic. Like Mommas at my graduation. She seemed surprised and yet overjoyed to see me. “Michael! Are you ok? Come in come in!” She graciously exclaimed. I stepped inside and explained that her daughter was trying to call her but couldn’t get through. Lily turned quickly and walked to the endtable where her phone was resting. She picked it up and looked at it but then handed it to me. “I’m sorry I don’t have my glasses in”, she said. I assumed she meant “glasses on” and smiled at how adorable old people can be at times. I looked at the phone and said “I found your problem! Your phone is turned off!” She laughed, and slapped my arm lovingly like an old friend would and she said she barely knows how to use “that thing”. We both laughed at not necessarily what she said but the youthful innocent way she said it. I powered the phone on and explained that she had 12 missed calls. She asked me to see who they were from, and I guessed out loud that they would all be from Hope. I opened the missed calls, and confirmed to Lily, “I was right! Twelve missed calls from Hope!”, then I added as if it were a casual afterthought, “She must love you so much!" Lily looked at me as if what she was about to say held every secret the world had ever wondered. Her eyes were filled with warm loving blue embers and her words pierced the momentary silence as if they were birthed in her very soul and not her conscience mind. "She certainly does Michael" she said, "there is no life without love". Her words hit me like a thousand droplets of soothing rain on an arid tongue. In that moment, I realized that all my "i love yous" that i had ever spoken, werent worth one of Lilys or Hopes. These werent just words spoken, but loved lived out between two people who share the ability to exist for something greater than themselves. To proceed for something stronger than their hurts and fears and pain. I felt sick. I felt selfish. I felt ashamed. I was willing to leave life and my children alone, just because I was too much of a coward to love them in it.

Lily called her daughter and as they said their hellos and were playfully bantering back and forth about Hope "worrying too much" and Lily’s lack of knowledge regarding modern technology, I turned to walk out the door. "Michael where are you going?" Lily’s voice called out from behind me with genuine wonder. I said I needed to get back home. She asked if I wanted something hot to drink before I left. I shook my head appreciatively and said "no thank you Lily. Im glad everything is okay". Then I looked at her as if my next words contained every secret the world had ever wondered. "I need to go fix a leaky pipe", I said as I stepped out into the graceful snow.


About the author

Michael Nash

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