Hi WeTheCompass - long time reader, first time poster.
Introductions are very daunting, don’t you think? I’ve met a few of you and I know James really well, but I feel like a bit of an intruder here. So let’s just skip the awkward part and get to the good stuff.
For instance, I have a blueberry pie baking in my oven right now. For those of you not familiar with the fragrances that accompany a baking blueberry pie, it’s sweet and buttery. It reminds me that summer is fast approaching and I can say goodbye to the heavy, time consuming baking projects of the winter months and gear up for the more relaxed creations of the summertime. Blueberry pie is a snap, as are chocolate chip cookies and three bean salads. In the winter, I devote more time to laborious kitchen projects that keep me entertained while I’m trapped in the house - I loath the cold. But in the summertime, I want to be outside! So I want to get in and out of the kitchen quickly. It’s a time for throwing all of your ingredients in a bowl, transferring to an appropriate vessel and letting it transform into a final product. It’s the season of the Popsicle, Jello and Blueberry pie.
After reading Paul’s Trailhead this week, I was reminded of a story that I was working on a few years ago. I don’t think it was ever truly finished - but in the writing world, what is? So here is the most recent incarnation for your enjoyment. Looking forward to blogging with you all!
Somehow, We Get There
Justin could feel the tiny beads of perspiration forming on his brow, merging together and gaining momentum as gravity tugged at them. He found it ironic; how keen his senses had become and how powerful certain forces seemed as his body progressed in its deterioration. He knew that this phenomenon was not unique to him. It was more a matter of the speed with which the illness had taken over.
After listening to one diagnosis after another, all ending with the same conclusion, he abandoned any attempt to stave off the natural progression of the disease. It was little surprise to Justin when he found himself sinking down into the heart of the New York City subway system. Searching for the 7 train to Queens, he thought about his last time in these tunnels nearly ten years earlier and how much had changed since then. For a moment, he thought about how cruel this homecoming would be. How selfish to seek reconciliation in these last days.
Stepping through the doors at the last moment, Justin wrapped his fingers around the nearest subway pole to steady himself as they pulled away from the station. No longer concerned with the unsanitary nature of public transportation, Justin felt himself absorbing the stale sweat underneath his hand and welcomed the bond with all of the other hands that had touched that same piece of the world.
He remembered the last time he had been on this train, although he had been heading in the opposite direction - away. 19-years-old, just beginning summer vacation after his first year of college. He arrived home, unprepared for the news that waited for him there. By the end of that summer, he would be a brother. But the child would come from a woman he had never met. Someone his father had only just started dating after Justin had left for school the previous year. His stomach was overcome with nausea as he thought of his mother, not yet two year in the ground.
He remembered this fear so clearly, reflecting on how prevalent the sensation had been throughout his short life. Where was that fear now, he wondered. Had he finally overcome it? Or had it become so much a part of him that he could no longer sense it?
As the train slowed, approaching his stop, Justin swallowed with a ragged effort. The general discomfort he had learned to tolerate in the previous few weeks was tumbling steadily forward, threatening to become unbearable. But he willed himself on, knowing how important this part of his journey was.
The walk from the subway platform to the front steps of his father’s home was exhilarating. Young men and women on road bikes sped past, coming within inches of his broken body. He could feel their force as they drove by, the wind from each one nearly knocking him down. He felt a profound melancoly when he garnered a look of pity from a homeless man who stopped rattling his change as Justin walked by.
Then he saw it. The old brick building that was his childhood home. The side wall still bore the evidence of the spray paint he had bought with a friend while they were in middle school. He wondered if his father knew that it had been him who vandalized their home in this way. He thought for a few steps about telling him now. Less significant confessions might be easier to start with.
Justin’s body was weary - more so than he could remember for the short journey from subway to front steps. He was glad to still be considering his current state foreign and abnormal. He wondered how much longer that would last. Lifting each foot, he climbed the half story leading up to the doorbell. And without hesitation, as if the wall of resentment had already been torn down, Justin rang the bell. He stood for a few minutes, realizing that he had been waiting much longer than he had expected, then glanced down at his wrist watch. It was just after two on a weekday, of course no one was home.
So he lowered himself down to the pavement that had been warmed by the sun of the first pleasant Spring day New York had seen that year. Leaning against the concrete, he closed his eyes to rest while he waited.
“Excuse me? Sir?”
The small, uncertain voice eased him awake, but he struggled to open his eyes. He could see a tiny figure standing beside him, silhouetted by the intensity of the blazing sun. He tried to speak to her, but was far too tired. So he gave a smile, hoping that she would understand.
The child sat down next to him, immediately interested and taken in by his somehow familiar face. She knew that he was a stranger and she should find a safe place to wait until her parents came home, but she could not bring herself to leave, so she took his hand and waited. And it was only a few short moments later that Justin’s breathing slowed and vanished.
The scene was only quiet for a few more minutes. Her parents returned, followed by many people she did not know including a police officer. She was brought to a friend’s house that night, where she stayed for several days not knowing where her parents had gone or what they were doing. No one would ever tell the young girl that it was her brother she had seen die that day. But even without knowing the truth, it was a moment so powerful that it would stay with her until she died many, many years later.