day 46

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Day 46  SOLD

Day 46/50 • "Fiction Friday"

You can read the story below or listen while I read it in the video. If you want to hear me discuss the inspiration/meaning of the story, you can skip ahead to 6:25.

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I can still feel the rounded edges of the big steel beam I was sitting on when I saw my brother fly for the last time. If I’d known, I would have pushed off, too, and done everything I could to catch up to him in midair, pull him back up, or at least whisper in his ear on the way down, “Don’t leave me.”

 

But of course I couldn’t do that. I was left sitting on the rail to think nothing would change. He’d land in the water with his friends, they would climb back up to the bridge, and water would drip from their hair while I sat there and kept quiet. We’d walk to the park where Mom would pick us up. She’d ask how things went, and we’d sit in the back seats eating snacks she brought from home.

 

And for the rest of that day and half of the next, nothing did change. 

 

That was twenty-six years ago, and in many ways I’m still sitting on that rail. I’ve been up there watching my life happen without ever really putting my feet on the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever gained purchase on my own life. It just seems to have rolled out in front of me while I do my best to keep from participating.

 

But lately I’ve been feeling something. Like that tingling when your leg starts to go to sleep. 

 

The other day I was in a meeting, and a woman looked at me while I was talking. You’d think I was her long-dead grandmother or something. I mean, I’ve done a pretty good job of being able to block the eyes of people wanting to see closer than the tip of my nose, but this woman had a hold on me. She went in deep. 

 

I was talking about a stupid spreadsheet, and she was inside me cooking dinner and telling me to come set the table. And I felt it, the pain shot down my leg. I had to get up and leave. I made up some silly excuse about a phone call, got up, and left the meeting. I hit my elbow on the door jamb on my way out, but all I could feel was the jolt down my leg.

 

Another time I was hanging out at home and noticed something across the street. The side of my neighbor’s house looked like a movie was playing across it. The setting sun was casting through the trees, and the section of house between their big window and front door was lit up like water. As if the surface of a lake was projected onto the side of their house while kids sat in the yard in their inner tubes watching it and eating popcorn. 

 

That’s when it happened. My leg started tingling again. It’s not comfortable. It hurts a little. Everytime I feel it I have to get up and walk around. 

 

Usually it will go away pretty quickly. But while I’m walking my mind always returns to that damn day. I don’t typically think about it even though it’s more a part of who I am, why I am, and what I do than anything. More than the clicking noise my jaw makes when I’m talking. More than the way my chest caves in slightly on my left side. And my accent. Oh, and that cowlick on the crown of my head. All of those things are a part of who I am, but the memory of that day made its way into my bloodstream, way deeper than those things you see on the outside. This has the power to steer me. To tighten and catch my breath. And for some reason now it's making my leg go to sleep.

 

I’m not used to it. I’ve enjoyed the coasting. Really, I’m fine with being a pinball batted around with little more than a gentle slope guiding my way. College was decided by where my best friends were going. I chose a career with a shrug in the counselor’s office, and the first corporate job I took was because it had a cafeteria. A freaking cafeteria. As if the thought of planning lunches five days a week was just too much. 

 

Dating has always been easy. I find people generally get what they ask for. And I’ve been able to deliver, get the signature, and move on. No harm, no foul. 

 

But here I am. After all this time, something is changing. I’m beginning to wonder if sitting on the rail of a memory long enough can make your legs go to sleep. Wondering if it’s wrong to sit alone. 

 

Doesn’t a body slowly fill the holes left twenty-six years ago with erosion and runoff? I would have expected the pits of that landscape to have leveled off by now. I thought I had groomed the surface with a certain amount of pride and respect for those who would happen to cross it. But I guess cemeteries should expect graves to settle eventually.

 

To be honest, I like the idea of what this could mean. If the thing waking in me is stirred by the eyes of a woman across the table or the sight of water dancing on the side of my neighbor’s house, I’m in.