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No one likes daytime television

By Tyler Ridge Published 2 years ago 8 min read

Fall has always been a time of comfort for me. Absent-mindedly spending my days sipping on pumpkin or apple-flavored coffee, waking up to the crisp air, and the onset of the holiday season beats muddled lines at the water park during the peak of the dog days and the evaporating sunlight and biting cold temperatures common of Winter. My favorite thing about the late months of the year is the changing nature and eventual shedding of the leaves. Seeing the mighty natural skyscrapers that populate the forest become naked in an effort to conserve what’s left of their behemoth lifespan never ceases to fill me with a feeling of existential appreciation. A deeply-human expression of our own mortality played out in the world of nature.

Trees strikingly resemble the lives of their human counterparts. Their journeys play out over the course of many lifespans, but they blossom, die, and decay over a puny calendar year hundreds of time’s during their lives. A tree in the dead of Winter is not too dissimilar to an elderly man in hospice. The only difference being that the tree will soon catapult back into the world of living with the promise of warmer weather. We over-evolved monkeys sadly, do not have that pleasure. When our bodies become bare of nutrients, we do not have the luxury of replenishment brought about by being the biggest supporter of a soon-to-be thriving ecosystem. Instead, we make a last-ditch effort for comfort by artificially providing life and spending our last days in the warm embrace of a bed, either our own or one provided by a hospital, until we pass.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was marveling upon the beauty of red and orange leaves. These days my only window to the outside world faces a massive concrete parking lot, devoid of any life other than those of the people in the passing cars as they make their way up and down the interstate immediately flanking the lot. There’s not much to do in my present circumstances. I am provided with an unending stream of daytime television game shows and soap operas, and a seemingly infinite supply of Sodoku and cross-word puzzles. Those were fine sources of entertainment, for the first few months.

Humans are a formulaic species. There are only so many ways a contestant can spin the wheel on The Price is Right, or dramatically betray their lovers on soaps like Days of Our Lives, and The Young and the Restless. I can even play Soduku blindfolded at this point. I often wonder how I ended up here and how things could’ve gone differently. I have also spent a lot of time pondering if I’ve unwittingly been banished to Hell. I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one. What I am sure of though however, is that I’m certainly not living.

My mind is constantly racing. Not at the speed, it used to, it’s more of a brisk walk instead of a sprint at this point. In spite of my old age and over-encumbered brain, I am easily able to recall many memories. I’ve got no luck at forming new ones. I still haven’t caught onto the nurse’s name or what day of the week it is, but I’m damn fine at remembering the good stuff. I keep one memory tucked away in my pocket. Whenever I’m feeling down, or just can’t watch another contestant fail to guess the price of a washing machine, I always mull over that one in particular. It’s comforting. Similar to the feeling you get while rummaging through ancient photo albums. Except with this I can almost reach out and touch it.

Whenever I conjure up my special little memory, it always starts at the same place. I find myself sitting at a smoky bar, twiddling my spry thumbs, taking shallow swigs of an old-fashioned I ordered just to appear like a grownup, and letting the song on the jukebox flow through me. That particular night, I had stolen my father’s Caddilac for the first time. Feeling the power of the car slowly move from the engine compartment up to the wheel and into my hands was magical. I was always a good kid, never talked back, and certainly never was one to steal the family automobile, but something about the air that night washed over me. Nowadays, I look back on it as a sign from some higher power, but back then I just knew I needed to getaway.

After successfully making off with the vehicle, I pointed its nose north, pressed on the gas, and didn’t let off for over 200 miles. By the time I was able to putter into a service station off the fumes of a near-empty tank, I was further from home than I had ever been. I had no map, no plans, and certainly no explanation for my sudden shift into a life of carjacking.

Rather than coming back to reality by turning south and heading right back home before my father woke up, I filled the tank and asked the attendant to point me in the direction of a local watering hole. I had already made it that far. Why not have some fun before the consequences settle in?

After being at the bar for no more than an hour or two, nursing the drink I couldn’t afford, and avoiding eye contact with anyone who would recognize my age, I heard the familiar ring of the bell fixed atop the door. An unwavering sign that a new patron had entered the establishment. I’d heard the noise a few times during my time at the bar, but it had only introduced more stragglers like myself into the scene. This ring, however, welcomed the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. A young lady who would become the person I loved and eventually, my wife, and the mother of my children.

When she appeared at the bar, I had a hard time making sense of why a lady like her would spend her time at a bar like this. The clientele here weren’t the most righteous of men, and the apparent lack of a girls restroom indicated that they don’t see much of her kind around here. Her hair was dark brown, shoulder-length, and fashioned into a beehive, which was the style at the time. Her oceanic blue eyes were holding the appearance of worry. She quickly made her existence known to the patrons by loudly exclaiming her need for help. The idling room soon became filled with laughter from all corners. I wasn’t wrong about the customers, these men were not in the business of helping anyone, not even a beautiful young lady, for free. They were more interested in returning to their idle chit-chat and watered-down drinks.

I used the rude nature of my bar-peers to my advantage, immediately volunteering to help the young lady with whatever problem she had. We quickly introduced ourselves as we left the bar. Her name was Sharon and she was from Laredo. She filled me in on what had happened to her in order to necessitate such a desperate need for help. She was making her way up the highway when her tire gave out. Rather than immediately pulling over on the side of the road, she attempted to make her way to a service station on the next corner, coincidentally, the same one I had filled up at. Sharon failed to make it to her destination and instead ended up in a ditch right off the road. A popped tire, and most likely totaled car, was definitely a good reason to walk blindly into an unknown bar.

By the time we made it to her travesty of a vehicle, we were making conversation like old school friends. We spent the walk cutting up, getting to know each other, and making fantastical guesses about what was wrong with the car. One quip about, “The car just needs a simple patch and buff out!” made me crack up for longer than I’m willing to admit. As I laid my eyes on the mangled car I snapped back into the whole reason I came out here in the first place, to help. I knew nothing about cars, and even less about pulling them out of ditches.

I made a good effort for her. I spent half an hour skidding the tires in the mud, and another hour or two walking in the town looking for enough money to call a tow truck. It was late November and all the truck drivers and mechanics were off for the holidays. I felt like a failure. I liked Sharon by that point and I couldn’t do her any good. She was constantly assuring me that even trying to help was good enough and she appreciated it. Eventually, she got someone from a few towns over on the horn and they agreed to come to help us out once the sun came up.

By that time, I already knew I wasn’t making it home in the car before Father woke up. I continued my risktaking and told Sharon I’d wait with her. We sat on the hood of her broken-down car, looking up at the stars and talking for hours. I learned everything I could about her. Where she lived, where she worked, what her family was like, and who she was as a person. During our conversation, I found myself falling in love. This girl was perfect and I knew I wanted to spend more time with her.

I grabbed her hand and led her into the woods just as the sun was rising. We sat on the decaying leaves, admiring the beautiful colors of the trees that contrasted perfectly with the hue of the sky. We felt the leaves rain down on us, and as gently as they fell, I placed a kiss right on Sharon’s lips.

I lost my Sharon a few years back at this point. All I have left now are the countless memories just like that. I remember her so well. I remember how much she loved making breakfast for the kids every morning, I remember how she never let me live down my embarrassing moments, and I remember how strong she was right before she passed. I sit in this soulless hospice awaiting the same fate. I wish I had more than memories, I wish she could tell me that everything is going to be okay. I should’ve died months ago, but here I am, still kicking. I wonder what she’s gonna say about how late I am.

It’s the fall again. You can’t really tell from my window. Concrete doesn’t change colors. The only reason I even know it’s my favorite time of year is that the people on the evening news are wearing thick jackets rather than sport coats while they’re on correspondence. Sometime soon, I will be gone, along with the leaves. If there’s one thing I wish I had done, it would be to plant some trees along that highway.


About the Creator

Tyler Ridge

Writer in your computer. Please set me free.

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