Changing his Status Quo

By Da Vinci at Work

14. She lost her keys

She had lost her keys, he related to me afterwards on the phone. The silence in between his words were filled with careful treading. Careful, hesitant, he did not know what to expect of me. Careful, hesitant, he did not want to hurt me.

She couldn't get into her house, Senya. Locked out in the rain. In the rain.



Did I mention that it was raining?

And it was cold.

It was cold?

Oh yes. God, it was cold. As cold as if hell froze over for a second or third time.

I was relieved about this until I realized what he meant by the statement she had lost her keys. The notion struck a foul chord inside.

I felt sick with apprehension, with a feeling I could not shake off.

Eileen had lost her keys, and she called none other than her ex-sweetheart Finleigh for the spare set. Although I felt like a prissy for it, the idea somehow bludgeoned my insides out. After all, wasn't there something wrong with that picture? Wasn't it just a bit off? They were high school students after all, and to carry a spare set of each other's keys? How close had they been before for him to even have a spare set of her house keys? The thought sent chills traversing up and down my spine, the thought that their love had been that great for each other, their trust so openly seen by this one simple act. Suddenly, I was no longer feeling as relieved as I had been. The little green monster of jealousy had torn its way right through me, exposed this pusillanimous, resentful child for the world to see. It was my terrible ugliness, and nothing I could do or think about could prevent it from its self-damning path, and I hated every ounce of myself for letting it ravage away at me.

I began tapping my feet as he talked. As he recited the lines that he had rehearsed countless times before going on the phone with me.

I knew.

I knew a lot of things.

Eleven times. Then three. Then eleven. Three again.

Tap tap tap.

I bit my nails, chipping away at them with my chattering teeth. My OCD was setting in, uncontrollable. I held my throbbing, spinning head. This wasn't happening.

I tried to concentrate on what Finleigh was saying. My head hurt more.

Eileen had lost her keys, and when she had gotten home, her mother had locked her out of the house and refused to let her little girl inside. Flat out refused. She locked every door, every window; the mad woman locked herself inside and her daughter out.

It had been the alcohol, he related to me, a look of worry etched nowhere else but in his eyes, those hauntingly beautiful, dark, piercing eyes in my imagination as I heard nothing but his voice. I could not tell how he was really feeling, his voice the only possible hint to spur on my imagination. It seems ironic to me now that we had then already been separated by the distance of that phone line. Eileen's mother had overworked, overexerted herself, he told me, his voice controlled and steady, although I felt with a certainty I knew not where it came from that he was feeling anything but controlled and steady. Apparently her husband's affair and their not-so-clean divorce had struck the poor woman callously and in all the wrong places. A screaming session had ensued between mother and daughter, with mother behind locked doors and daughter crying outside in the dark, in the pouring rain. In the cold. It was cold, remember.

It was raining, too. Remember? It was raining?

For a moment, I felt the urge to cry when he told me this, but soon, the feeling of sympathy (or was it guileless pity?) that had so strongly overtaken me ebbed away like the tides. It left something (so much as nothing) hollow inside, as if the contents of my interior had been rinsed clean of all thoughts and feelings and solid organs. I could hear my insides echoing to the emptiness. The lonely emptiness.

I continued to bite my nails.

Tap tap tap.

Chip chip chip.

Bloody heavens, I was bleeding. Red water.

Drip drip drip.

Whether or not my acting skills had improved since I first met him or he pretended not to take it to heart, Finleigh didn't notice. Perhaps, I later wondered, it was his own chaotic mind that blinded him from my obvious sadness.

He didn't notice.

Didn't notice.

It was all happy for me, if you could call such an instance happy, because I would have felt awful, even worse than I was yet feeling, if he had let on that he knew how I felt. But I didn't. And he didn't know as far as I was concerned.

Didn't know.

I knew.

I knew a lot of things.

And then that's probably were it all started falling apart. If I could pinpoint an exact moment, it would be that phone call. We were separated by the distance of the phone lines, such a wide distance that we were unable to bridge, an ever widening gap set between us from the beginning.

Of course Finleigh made up afterwards and invited me to the movies as the other half of our semi-date that had flushed down the toilet. It was almost too sweet of him.

It was his way of saying (so long), and thanks for all the fish, although the so long part had not occurred to him yet.

His signature mohawk was shaded a hot flamingo pink the day I met him outside the theater for the second time. Recall, the first time that it had happened, we had been chased down by a motley crew of angry boys threatening the life out of us. Something of the name Davidson surfaced to my mind.

"Hey," Finleigh Genevieve said.

"Hi." It was an awkward feeling, standing there next to him, until I realized that I wasn't there alone standing with him as I had initially anticipated. There, behind him, walking out of the theater was Eileen.

Then, it just got even more awkward.

"Hey, Senya," she said brightly, the shadows under her pretty eyes quite visible.

I couldn't match her happy pristine tone, so I smiled. Suddenly, I was wondering why I had thought alone time would be possible with Finleigh when Eileen was in her terrible state of mind. And sure enough, the guilt creeped up behind me and ensnared me by the toes of my feet. I felt like such an ugly, selfish friend.

I fought the urge to tap my feet and bite my nails.

I was strong.

I think.

"Will you give us a sec?" Finleigh said suddenly.

"Me?" I said in that small unsure little voice of mine.


My voice was drowned out by Eileen's firm one. With a nod, Finleigh grabbed my wrist and walked me inside the theater, Eileen trailing at a distance to get away from the cold.

"I'm sorry," said Finleigh, looking sorry.

"For what?" In spite of myself, I felt the burning urge to hurt him with my words. My head spun with the lack of compulsion.

"For, you know...I hope you can understand. She's having a pretty rough time, and I can't leave her alone like that, as a friend." He added the last part as if he understood what I was feeling. He could see through me.

As a friend. The words rang out in my mind, and it occurred to me that I was indeed wavering upon Finleigh's loyalty. I was overwhelmed with a ceaseless guilt once again. I was about to give him a good retort, but I bit back at the last second. Instead, I nodded ascent, and the matter was forgotten, archived in the back of our minds, forever there, gnawing away, slowly but steadily gnawing away at us, at him and me.

During the movie, I couldn't help noticing that Finleigh sat between Eileen and me. He was constantly glimpsing Eileen's way when he thought no one was looking, as if frightened a time bomb was about to set off.

Halfway through the movie, he placed his hand on mine.

And it occurred to me then as it occurs to the bitter me now. Here we were together, Finleigh and me, no longer separated by the distance of a phone line, but by a widening chasm of muddled feelings, a maelstrom of unanswered feelings.

I'm so sorry.


After the movie was over, I said a curt good-bye to Finleigh and Eileen. I wasn't in the mood to be nice, and while I was at it, my obsessive-compulsiveness was setting in. I felt the urge to be somewhere else, without Finleigh or Eileen or the thought of them.

A restless urge.

No, I did not need a ride back home, thanks, Finleigh Genevieve. I had some groceries to do, I lied counting to three, then to eleven to repent for the lie, and a few personal things (here I stressed the word personal, and again I counted to three, then to eleven) to pick up downtown.

Was I sure?


Yes, yes, I was sure. (And exasperated.)

One, two, three. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

"It's cold out, you know."

Yes, I know.

"Are you really sure?"

Definitely. Mhm.

One, two, three. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

"Okay, then…don't catch a cold, 'kay?"

I won't.

One, two, three. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

The last words that he didn't say, that he should have said, but didn't: Love you.

I'm so sorry.


When I got home, I found Erika sitting alone on a stool in the kitchen island, hunched over in silence.

"I'm home."

She made no effort to reply. Was she asleep?

"Erika, you can't sleep there. You'll catch a cold on your chin. Come on, get up."

"Go away."

"What? Come on. You'll catch a fever, and Mom won't be happy."

"Leave me alone."

"Isn't your neck hurting?"


"What's wrong?"


As I got closer, I discovered the unmistakable signs of crying. The shaking shoulders, the watery countertop, the wet sleeves.

When asked why, she sent me a glare that shot like pure venom and threw the sheet of paper that she had balled up in her fists at me.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why?!" The franticness in her voice startled me. What had I done now? Dread plummeted to rock bottom of my stomach at the thought of my folly, whatever it could have been.

Unrolling the crinkled paper she had thrown at me, I discovered my father's neat, concise, business-like script. I didn't even have to read to know what this was about, but I did anyways. Each word filled my insides with emptiness, and by the time I was finished with the letter, the emptiness weighed heavily around me. It pervaded the air as thick as rain.

Remember, it was raining?

"You knew all along, yet you didn't say a word. I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" the mess before me screeched.

I didn't know what to say, so I let her go on.

"Why? Why didn't you tell us? God, why'd you hold it all in? Why is he taking you away from us? Why?" she sobbed.

"Erika, listen to me. I can explain." My hands trembled, and my voice quivered.

I knew. I knew a lot of things, but I didn't know what to tell my baby sister.

"Explain? Explain what? What's there to explain?"

"Listen to me, please, Erika."

"How long have you been keeping this away from us, from me and Mom?"

"Erika, please…"

"How long?! Why?"

"Oh, Erika! Will you listen to me?! I will never leave you, you know that, not even if that man knew the answer to all of our stupid problems. You know that full well! Now, stop being a fool and go clean yourself up. I love this family too much to leave with that foul man even if he promised me the world."

With that, I pushed her to the sink, and got her wiped up.

"You won't leave?"

"No," I was exasperated. I was tired. That restless urge, eating away at me. "I won't go, you know that full well, Erika. I promise I won't go. I promise you." I promise us.

Forever I would hate myself for those unretractable words. Forever and ever.

I knew. I knew a lot of things, but I didn't know this.

Because in the end, despite the fact that I had promised her, despite the fact that I had promised myself, I never kept my promise.

I'm so sorry.


The stage is set, and my time has come.

At last.

I take three deep breaths and count backwards from eleven to one, three times. Old habits still die hard.

The first step I take out onto the stage is a loud one, ringing, silencing the hall, alone. I look out at the vast audience, at that panoramic view that only the performer could see, could feel, and for a second, a schism of a second, I am slightly intimidated. It is the feeling that one gets in the circus when the little, bald-headed man dressed in a gaudy tuxedo commands the ferocious lion. It is startling. It is exhilarating. The lights are blinding; the faces are not distinguishable, but a whole entity combined into one. Together, a massive body, a whole being. My heart flutters at the thought of the voice I will soon give to this lonely, waiting silence. The ringing magic that will echo throughout this vast, empty silence.

I am the tamer, and the audience the lion.

I do not know how long I have waited for this moment, the moment that I finally command the most magnificent stage in the world. The audacity of heart strikes me as a beautiful, beautiful feeling. For a moment, this one moment, I hope to remember all my life. For this one sparing little moment, after the first resounding of my footfall to the dying ring of the last clap in the audience, for this moment, I am somebody. I feel like I can do anything, a silly thought that adulthood has managed to crush into unrecognizable little fragments, sharp and stinging. For this one moment, I am whole again.

And then, I am ready, ready as I have ever been. My last, final breath before I begin. My last, my final glance at what lays before me.

Then, gently, soundlessly I place my bow delicately on to the string. Like Cinderella slipping into her glass slipper. Like the Sleeping Beauty awakening from her century of slumber. Like Snow White's Prince Charming finally found.

The perfect match.


Thoughts swirl like mist around my head, gathering momentum. My mind is galloping like a stallion, faster and faster after something I know not what it is. Then all is blank, and I begin to paint my story. The sound grows like a being out of nowhere into the great hall, filling the air with swirling mists of beautiful sound, of a story of longing. Faster and faster my bow dances, weaving across the four delicate strings. Fingers fly in a blur, and I am lost, lost to the infinite beauty of it all.

The sound grows more and more powerful, and I reach that final epitome. A climax, hauntingly tragic.

Out of nowhere, my thoughts begin to stray. The light dims just a bit, and I am reminded once more of that strange and exhilarating feeling which he had presented to me with wide open arms, the feeling that only youth can convey with a magnificent spectrum that magnifies the strangely understanding world that is out there.

The haunting memories of my past creep upon me from behind, driving forth like the wind. In a moment, a millisecond, it all comes Humpty Dumpty crashing down. That happiness that seems to only exist in my past, coupled with the mists of sad mourning, fogged at my vision. His figure was all I could see.


Remember, it was raining?

I knew. I knew a lot of things.

She was a friend, just a friend.

A million stars fallen from the sky.

I hear a clatter echo in the great hall and realize that my bow has fallen to the ground.

Clank clank. It makes a hollow noise in the hall.

Clank clank, the hall echoes.

Clank clank. There goes my bow. There goes my dream. There goes my everything.

Clank clank.

There goes me.

"I'm sorry," I say to my lion.

The people are dazed.

"I'm sorry," I say, my voice smaller than it has ever been. I'm so sorry.

Lion, I cannot tame you.

And I flee from the place that my dream had been.

I flee for I can not go on like this.

Oh, Finleigh, where did you go?

Oh, Finleigh, where did I go?