In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

NEIGHBORS


Written: December 2009


This short story is based on a dream I had.

Seattle, Washington
It was mid afternoon and Heather should have been at work. Getting a mid day list of items to finish for her boss to be ready for tomorrow was the most she accomplished. She worked at an archives agency and spent most the day filing, organizing and sitting at a computer. Three times a week she went to the gym during her lunch break. Once in a while she would go for a jog after work around her Seattle neighborhood. Dogs would bark, crows would crow and the seagulls would squawk. It was very relaxing a beautiful. She loved to jog until she came around and saw her home. Her home was recently famous. A picture of her house had been taken from that very street corner by a reporter nine months ago, and plastered all over the papers. Her husband had lived here. And the arrest took place just on the sidewalk in front of the home. “How could he of done that?” she thought. She discovered after moving here with him that she was his 8th wife. That he wasn’t who he said he was. He was a liar. She didn’t know him after two years of marriage- she didn’t know him at all. She was living a lie, a player in play, and he was the director. Her identity was kept secrete but most people recognized her name. “Hey are you that lady…?” NO! I mean, not me. Just a strange coincidence. But that poor woman right?” “Oh ya – If that was me I would of beat the man to death I’m telling you! Eight wives!? I mean what the hell right?” *sigh*
And so it was. His identify was false, and now she told everyone that she was not the person whom she really was. Everything was upside down and backwards. But at least she got to keep the house. It was a fun little house nestled amongst the trees with a short little path to the front door. It used to make her feel happy to pull up in front of it. But lately it was just this strange BLANK. No feelings. No emotion. She stopped going to the bars with friends from work. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to the gym at all. The run was the best thing, and attending the local theater.
At least you know when you go to a play that you are entering a reality that is based on people pretending to be other people. It says so right on the ticket: “These people will be pretending to be these people tonight. Pretend costumes by this person and the pretend world was created by those people. Hope you enjoy it! Best play of the year!” So with eyes wide open she would enter the small theater and hope that the broken down walls and ceiling would somehow keep her in check. That the acting no matter how well it was that night would not transport her completely into another reality, but with a simple glance up at the water stained tile, she could be brought back to reality and breath a sigh of relief. Ahhh this is just a show and I’m really not in Kansas.
This is the condition that we find our Heather. Staying close to the ground, trying to find her feet again. Appreciating the support of friends and the city provided therapist, but somehow knowing that Heather will have to fix Heather. …Am I really broken? Did he break me? Perhaps I’m just in shock and all these feelings will go away soon. Melting like a lemon drop in your mouth. “It’s important to know that he was wrong. That it wasn’t my fault.” She would think to herself. And then just keep on jogging.

Jogging around the corner, and this time instead of looking at her home like a newspaper photographer, her eye was drawn to the street corner. She noticed a man on the corner… starring at her. He had that look like he wanted to ask her something. “Just keep jogging Heather. He’s not there”
“Excuse me...’”
Jogging in place “Yes?” She looked at him and it was as if for a brief moment he was lighting up the whole block. Shake it off girl. He just wants to ask directions.
“Yes what?”
“Hi. I’m new here and got lost. How do I get back to Magnolia?”
“Magnolia?! Magnolia. Well just turn left at any of these streets.”
“Any Street?”
“Yes. It’s the main street that runs parallel with the water. You know THAT water. (Using her head in a jerk to point to Puget Sound) Magnolia is the main drive on the water.”
“Oh yes. I was just a bit direction turned. So I could turn left here…”
“Yep- on Dravus.”
“Dravus. Ok. Thanks.”

“So this was the first time you met him?”
Her therapists sat there trying to show no emotion, but Heather could tell she was concerned.
“Yes, it was fall; lots of leaves on the ground. So perhaps October?”
“What was your first impression?”
She thought about that moment. How his faced shined in the light. How alive and happy he looked. How incredibly inviting of a man he was. Dressed nicely, clean, friendly; and just for a second her heart jumped.
“Well he was like just a guy on the street. Perhaps a guest staying with a neighbor somewhere… that got lost. or something.”
“Tell me about the second time you met.”
“I was downtown at the public library getting some micro files for a client. And I noticed him. Then I was at the market and we met at the same booth. Then I saw him next at a fund raiser for the theater.”
“Had you seen him before?”
“No. It was like he had just moved to the neighborhood. We talked that night. And he told me, “I’ve just moved here and can’t help how I keep bumping into you. What’s your name?”
“Was that the night you first started to have an affair with him?”
“An affair? I’m not…really married remember.”
“Oh I’m sorry Heather, I mean did your physical relationship start that evening? I’m just trying to establish a time line.”
Time line? Are you working with the police? Because I thought we had a confidentiality agreement. What are you trying to pull?
She looked to the ceiling to take her out of this horrible play.
“No worries Heather. I’m just trying to figure out what happened. I’m a little confused. We’ve been working for months to help you establish safe boundaries with others, and yet this man who you’ve only met twice…”
“Four times...”
“Ok, Four times just seems to walk into your life and completely seduce you. Much like you husband.”
“He was never my husband.”
“Right. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just I thought we were making progress here. This stranger could have hurt you. And honestly I’m not sure WHAT he did to you. As soon as he’s found, perhaps we’ll get more information from him.”
“You’ll never find him.”

The therapists looked at Heather, over her glasses. Wondering how such a gullible little girl of a woman has ever made it this far. Again hiding her true feelings, the therapist’s started to concentrate… Heather is a very pretty woman- with or without make-up. She’s a trophy wife, no brains, just a body to hang on someone’s elbow. And yet a bit of a square. How can I help someone who isn’t even a real person? Someone who is this shallow?
“Why won’t the police find him Heather?”
“Because he’s gone home.”
“You said he lived in your neighborhood.”
“Well… I really don’t know where he’s from. Mt Olympus maybe?”
“Mt Olympus? You mean like the Olympic Mountains? Like in Port Angeles? Or are you talking Greece?”



Heather looked out the office window, and saw the Olympic mountain range in all its glory. Snow covered and the sun shinning on it. She was done. This woman would never understand what she went through; this was a waste of time. Somehow she knew she didn’t need her anymore. That Dravus cured her of her broken heart and healed her mind of anxiety over meeting new people. He helped her. But what did she do for him? …A smile crawled up her face and her feet twitched a bit.
“Thank you very much for your time. I’ve been very grateful for your help. But I think we’re done here.”
“Wha..? Heather wait we’ve just scratched the surface. You still need much more therapy.”
“Sorry, I don’t think so. I’m done with the pills, sleepless nights. You did help me to figure things out. And I’m ok now. Really.”
“Well the mandatory visits by the state ended 2 months ago. Of course you can leave at any time. I can’t force you to come here. But Heather, you need to look out for yourself and protect your inner space. Remember not just anyone can come in there, right. Call me anytime if you need to talk alright.”
“Ok”
“Protect yourself”
“Alright”
“Please- oh the police are meeting with you on Thursday. Would you like for me to come with you?”
“Ummm… sure. That would be fine. Perhaps we could have lunch afterwards? Don’t worry, I wont let you into my space.” –she laughs. “I’ll see you Thursday then.
Yes Thursday.”
Heather leaves. The therapist walks over to her desk and pushes a button.
“Stacey?”
“Yes?”
“Please open my schedule for Thursday morning. And get Josh from channel 5 on the phone please.”
“Yes.”
She sits down in her chair, swings around to her view of the mountains and scratches her head.
…How could one man, change a woman THAT much?

***


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