I cant help but notice the shadows fall across his face, hiding his mouth as he speaks. For a brief moment it allows me to see him as he wants to be seen. Strong, self-reliant, the kind of person people go to. Never someone who allows himself to be laughed at and never even notice it. His innocence can hurt me.
I want to be a writer. That's all I've ever wanted. Ever. I never dreamed of becoming a weather girl or a doctor. I just wanted to write. I wrote a short story in second grade once. It was about a giant who could never find a friend to play with. He was different and no one would speak to him. I gave it to my teacher and waited a week for her to read it. I was so excited. I just knew that she had to like it. She had to think it was good. When she finally read it, I remember bouncing on my heels while standing in front of her, awaiting her judgments.
She didn't like it. She wanted to know why I never gave the giant a friend. Why he never ended up happy. Even at that age, I knew that not everyone is able to ride off into the sunset with a friend by their side. At that time, I was able to pop out a new story every day. I never bothered with plots or common sense. I just wrote. I haven't been able to do that for years and I don't know when I lost it.
I'm reading at the senior citizens center today. I volunteer three times a week to read. It's become my favorite thing in the world. They never care what I read, most of them are just so content with having someone sit at their side. Water's become thicker than blood.
I pull at the hem of my shirt and keep my head lowered while I try to get by the nurses desk undetected. Nurse Holland is on shift and I can't stand that little knat. She likes to think she means well. I'm not stupid and I fear she is. Almost there.
"Oh hello Wendy!"
Almost is never enough.
"Hey." I don't attempt to hide my flat voice and I know she can tell that I'm not in the mood.
"You here to see your mom?"
"Yeah, I'm reading and she's on my list. I'm late." I don't say anything else and quickly leave before Holland can get anything else in. She shoves herself into everyone's personal affairs and than offers advice. If I wanted a fucking therapist I would still be seeing mine.
I slowly push the door open while rapping lightly with my knuckles. I look around even though I know she's in her bed. I'm still waiting for that one day when I'll come in to find her dressed and ready to go home with me. I walk in and her eyes dart over to focus on me.
"…Hello…can I help you?"
Every time. Ever single time and I still hesitate.
"I'm here to read to you. I'm Wendy….Wendy." I don't know why I repeat my name, like saying it a second time will shock her back. Every single time I say twice. I was never the type to learn from my mistakes.
"Wendy…like Wendy and Peter. Such a pretty name."
This kills me. She always says it and it's always true. It's the reason why she gave me this name. She used to tell me stories of her childhood, about how she was so convinced that Peter Pan was real. That at any minute he could have blown open her bedroom window and saved her. For years as a child she hated her mother for not naming her Wendy, as if that was the sole reason why Peter Pan never came to her. Never took her small hand in his and flew her to Neverland. She always wanted to be a Wendy. She thought that everything would have been magically fixed. Peter Pan is the only thing she carries with her from morning to morning. Some part of her just wouldn't let it go. Everything else was fading, and Neverland was the only thing that mattered.
She was never happy and none of us could have done anything differently to help. I've come to terms with that now. My dad never has.
"Well sit down dear, what are you reading?" The corners of her eyes crinkle as she smiles up at me and I feel like crying. She looks so happy. She looks so happy staring up at me. I wish it was for different reasons. I never saw her smile like this before. Now that I see it every week, it's not for her daughter. It's for the girl who shows up with a copy of Peter Pan. I can at least make her happy this way. Even if she doesn't know why. I hope that this is a good day for her.
She named me Wendy for herself. Afterwards, she resented me for having a name that she always wanted. Towards the end, she'd spit my name out like it pained her. After I hit my teens, she rarely called me by name.
604. Today's reading is number 604.
Three people later and a short cab ride, I'm back to my apartment that my father pays for. I never told him that I dropped out of college, the sole reason why he's paying for the apartment. I dropped out after taking some writing and history classes. My mom would be so disappointed…if she knew who I was. My dad sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear. For him, I'm going to be graduating in a few short months and his wife will be fine in a week. He likes where he is. It's been a long week.
I try to call my dad every week at least twice. It lessens the guilt I feel for never visiting him. For never allowing him to visit me. He doesn't need to see this place. I don't have a couch. Where would he sit if I don't have a couch? The floor? My dad doesn't sit on the floor. My dad was a great man. One of those guys who would always get inside the bar fight to break it up. He never cared if he got hit in the process. But no one started a fight with him. He may not have liked violence between others, but he was completely fine with it when it concerned himself.
I can't visit him now. The last time I went to see him was when it was the anniversary of the day my mother forgot everything. Alzheimer's had been creeping around for years. One day, it all disappeared. I went to see him and I've never been back. That was five years ago.
I remember everything. I can see him in my mind. I close my eyes and I see him. He was wearing my mother's old bathrobe. The red one with purple flowers. He had it wrapped tightly around him, the belt knotted. He hadn't shaved in days. His hair was cut short. He told me the night before that he didn't want hair anymore. Later on I would find clumps of stringy brown hair covering the white bathroom floor that my mother mopped everyday.
It was three in the afternoon and he hadn't gotten dressed. Wearing my mother's old bathrobe and barefoot.
He sits in front of the fireplace, arms at his sides, bracing his body. A soft glow at his back, shrouding his front in shadow. How glorious his red back must be. His head is dipped forward. Soft mumblings spilling from his cracked lips. Than nothing, silence. The fire is sputtering and his back is growing darker. He's fallen asleep and the fire's died.
Author's Note: Just something short that I wrote while bored. There probably won't be anymore after this, but I may decide to add to it if the desire strikes.