Sunday, January 8, 2012
The call had come in the middle of the night. No sleep since then. No amount of coffee could clear his thoughts. They really had been found. Had he taken a shower? Hair is wet. He must have. Clothing came to life and found its way on to his body. The echo of what the social worker had said seemed to reverberate throughout the room. What was her name? Harris? She asked if he had anyone that could be with him. No. He came here to get away from people. Away from the accusations and pain. He thought he was healing, but now the scabs were going to get ripped off again.
Drifting from room to room, he found the few mementos that had survived. A small toy bear. The truck that he used trip over at night. The only icons left. He was surprised, when they let him keep those. Cops, jail, court and freedom all mixed up. They disappeared into the night about halfway through the proceedings. There was suspicion he had been behind that, too. That he had killed them all and buried them in the marsh. The searches went on for a month before the authorities made contact with the bitch. The charges were dropped and a warrant was issued for her arrest for a false report.
He was advised to start his life over and forget them. But he couldn’t. What had he done to lose them? It was all such a blur. The accusations never go away. Acquittal was not forgiveness.
Time floats and wanders. A bowl of oatmeal slowly appears. Chicago. How had they gotten there? The last call, she was in Kentucky with some biker pot grower. Either he sends money, or there would be another warrant. She’d never signed the final papers and until she did, he didn’t owe crap. She ranted about him never seeing them alive. The call had been recorded. She didn’t know that.
At least it was Saturday and he wouldn’t miss work. More coffee. Dead oranges on the lawn brought the memories back. Rotten and bitter, like her. He thought about cutting the tree down. But he never could bring himself to. The tree smelled the kids in the spring. Isn’t that the way it has always been?
Tears. Where did they come from? Semoran Boulevard. That would be the fastest way. Passing the pink Insurance office, he mused on how different Winter Park was from home. Everything painted in violent hues. The pea green apartment building next to the mustard laundry which is next to the purple wrecking yard. Everything clashing and hurting the eyes. He misses the marsh. Puddle of Mudd interspersed with commercials for a Synagogue on his radio. Nothing ever has made sense here.
The flight was due in at 2:00. Light ahead changes. His car begins to vibrate. A guy in an Escalade had the sound up to 11. Looking straight ahead, his head begins to ache. Don’t turn the head. What if the guy has a gun? Everyone was so touchy these days. He could almost feel the danger through the windows. Green light. The car turns off, but the danger level is still there.
Crossing over Colonial Avenue, a small plane passes low over his car. Is this a trap? The image of a plane crash flashes. But that wasn’t the plane he was looking for. Focus. Was this a connecting flight from somewhere else? No, Ms. Harris said she was based in Naperville, right outside the city. They had had been found in an old motel. She didn’t say how or in what condition they were in. Just that it was important that he be there for their arrival.
The miles and traffic lights go by. His temples pulse in time with the music on the radio. He can feel his heart against his chest. The sewage plant doesn’t smell so bad today. A small sailboat is tacking in circles around Cedar Lake. Very much like his life. He sees the 528 overpass. 1:18. there is plenty of time. Plenty of time to drive to the beach and keep going. To not face the truth. But the memory calls. He must answer it. He crosses the bridge and heads towards the decks
As if it were preplanned, a space right is available next to the Arrivals lane. A pain like a stake goes through his eyes. He crosses over to the terminal. It feels like a circus with the noise and lights. The tourists stream out the doors towards the rental cars and taxi stands where the boat people have settled. Broken patois of dark drivers beckon them. “Avec nous, mes ami. Over here! Cheapest rate to I Drive and Kingdom!” Sound the hustle to the naïve. Come let me run up the meter and take your money. The brightly dressed robots ignore them and natter on about being here. About laying out at the pool and how they have come to worship the mouse. So self absorbed that nothing around them matters. Especially not a loser like him shuffling in to meet a plane.
There is no hurry, but sill he moves quickly to the baggage. He hears a soft buzzing in his ears. Like a fly that just won’t go away. A flight attendant bumps into him crossing over to the exit doors. He mutters a pardon and walks on further. The floor is beginning to swim. A small, professionally dressed woman is holding a sign with his name. Ms. Harris. Sweat is pouring off his face and his legs are rubbery. She asks if he is alright. He nods. The document is offered and he is escorted to the van. The kids have come home.
The caskets are sealed. The vessel in his head lets go and he sinks to the ground next to them, no longer breathing. They are home.