He marveled at how it was that she had come to him. He marveled that anyone as beautiful of mind, body, and soul could find such grace in him. He marveled at one woman’s power of redemption and how he could ever be worthy of its recuperative salvation. He marveled at what a woman like her saw in a man like him.
He turned his head back up to return her intent gaze. She was closer to him than he had anticipated, and it made him momentarily uneasy, “Would you divorce me if I decide that I am unable or unwilling to have a child with you?” He held his breath in anticipation of the blow, like a prizefighter who knows the knockout punch is coming.
The blow, however, never came. After a brief silence, she replied, “No, Jacob, I wouldn’t.” She let out a brief “humph” of exasperation. She had not intended to disclose so much. It left her feeling vulnerable, as if her final card had been played, and all she could do now was sit back and see how the hand unfolded. “So is that, I take it, your final answer?”
Jacob could not take his eyes off of her. In her moment of ultimate sacrifice, she appeared more radiant to him than she ever had before. Amidst all the pain and misery the world could dredge up, here was a woman who proved that there was indeed some salvageable sanctity left in it also. Here was a woman willing to forsake her own aspirations and needs in order to satisfy his. Here was a woman who had pledged to never leave him and meant to see it through.
Again, he longed to placate her fears, not merely tell her what she wanted to hear, but to assure her that they would have a child together and that it would grow up to be strong and healthy and good. He wanted so very much to be capable of the same type of sacrifice that she was willing to make for him. Even more so, he wished that he could really believe that their child could grow up to be happy.
Uncle Charles’s Compassion
From the time she was twelve, Faith would spend most of her summer vacations riding the orange line Metro to Union Station where she would then walk the remaining five blocks to Uncle Charles’s salon. While she had gone under the auspices of gainful employment, Uncle Charles imploring Sam to let him hire his favorite “niece” to assist with the bookkeeping and general cleaning duties, for Faith it had really served as an escape from spending her summer at a home that had become increasingly unbearable…..
On an early morning soon after she started working there, Faith was taking a bag of trash out to the bin located in the alley behind the salon. As she opened the door that led from the office into the alley and stepped beyond the threshold, her foot sunk into what she feared was a mushy pile of dog crap from one of the strays of the neighborhood. What she discovered, however, was a bowl of cat food neatly placed on the left side of the entrance beside a matching bowl of milk. Saying nothing, Faith merely transposed the bowls to the right side of the entrance. The next day, she noted that they had been re-filled and put back in their former position, so she moved them back to the right. Sure enough, the next day, they were re-filled and back on the left. When she finally confronted Uncle Charles about his clandestine feline feeding, he confessed to her that he had been doing this since he first moved into the salon and saw the homeless cats that wandered the alley. In Savannah, cats had a home; someone took care of them. From that day forward, there were two bowls of cat food and two bowls of milk outside the back door. None of the other employees ever knew about the two nuts who fed the neighborhood alley cats.
The Upright, Snooty Brit
Ms. Haverford, or Betsy to the rare few who knew her well enough to call her so, was the type of uptight, snooty Brit that fueled the unfair stereotype of the sexually repressed Anglo. Her thin, wiry hair, speckled with gray and a diminishing presence of light browns, was drawn back into a bun pulled so tight that it must have exerted enough force to serve, if correctly harnessed, as propulsion for a miniature sailing vessel set upon a parkside lake. Ms. Haverford’s figure was small and compact; her skin seemed stretched as though it were holding in the massive tension that kept her so tightly wound. Her glasses lay at the end of her sharply-sloping nose, affording her the possibility of literally looking down at everything she saw. The lines of her face were pronounced and declared the verdict of her age and stress.
There had been a time when Betsy Haverford might have even considered herself to be easy-going, to proclaim that she was “happy”. This, however, would have been quite some time ago, before she walked in upon the one love of her life, Mr. Stanley Haverford, mercilessly and furiously penetrating her sister, Ethel. Shocked by the rawness and passion of the act as performed in this manner and unable to comprehend why her husband may prefer this to her own bland and benign brand of sexuality, she divorced him (keeping his name) and disavowed all forms of sexuality except for her increasingly infrequent trysts with her straightforward, white dildo. Now, as Uncle Charles pointed his figure skeptically towards her, just long enough to avoid being discovered, Ms. Haverford, in her overly-starched, bright blue guide’s uniform, looked like a small parrot perched on a high branch straining out for the calls of her fellow birds.
He thought that he would have liked to have heard her voice one last time, to ask her, simply, “Why?” Perhaps she could provide insight into the subtle yet perceptible character flaws that left him perpetually alone. But he thought of that question much like he thought of the dirt flying off the back of the rented U-Haul he envisioned her driving across the dustbowls of Oklahoma, dirt that whirled around in the air, only to settle silently on the receptive pavement.
Meanwhile, in the lower section above the first base dugout sat Faith and Gary. As Cal Ripken had come to the plate, Faith had started to rummage through her purse in order to find enough singles to buy each of them one last beer. Ah, but the winds of fate are fickle and precocious. If Cal Ripken’s timing had been a bit better, if Jacob had not been able to hang on to the stinging fly ball, had the beer vendor come but a few minutes earlier, had Gary not been eyeing the giant screen in order to point out egregious fashion faux pas to Faith, the world as they eventually came to know it, the life to which they became accustomed without ever thinking of how it almost never came to be, all of this simply would not have existed, for better or for worse.
Because Faith had, in fact, written Jacob off. As it was, however, Gary grabbed her thin, bony arm and pointed excitedly. “Hey, isn’t that your boy from the bar up there?”
At first only casually interested, she looked up and noted, “Yes, I think it is.”
Then she saw the unsolicited gesture, and something awoke inside of her like the bright blooms of spring coming to life. She knew that her first impression had been right.
“Maybe he’s not a douche bag after all,” said Gary.
His Hopeless Optimism
Dr. Thompson ate lunch with them and explained the various group therapies and treatments the Institute was employing with Elizabeth. All the while, she sat to his side, openly mocking and deriding him with childish facial gestures and a frequent grandiose rolling of her eyes. While Faith found Dr. Thompson to be a dedicated and competent professional, she could not help but smirk at Elizabeth. Through all of the sadness and pain, she still saw in Elizabeth a glimmer of vitality-a child still wanting to be rescued from the suffering so that she could run and laugh and play with all of the other innocent, naive children around her.
It was this streak that also ran through Jacob. She knew that beneath the crusty, exterior layer of chiseled disappointment created by a lifetime of too much suffering lay a little boy who yearned to believe once more, to be taken away from the grief and bathed in the hopeful optimism that the world could be a better place. She realized now that she needed to tap into this if she was to push beyond his wall of fear and disillusionment. She must help him to envision his own happiness amid a lifetime of sorrow. Only then could he see all he had to offer to the creation of the life of another. Only then would he recognize the joy of the cycle of rebirth.
The Center and Composition of Their Own Universe
At this moment, he wanted to express to her, without words, the way their lives were enmeshed, intricately tied together. He wanted her to feel his heartbeat pulsating through his hand and into hers to form a unified, congruous rhythm. He squeezed ever so slightly and looked at her only to find her smiling back at him with a thin ray of light in her eye that suggested an appreciative cognizance of the symbiotic relationship that had developed between them. For a moment, the whole world around them dissolved into nothingness and all that was left was the two of them, the center and composition of their own universe.
And then the entire world around them reemerged and came crashing down upon them.
Don’t Ruin it Now by Talking
She turned back to look at him and began to weep lightly. As she kissed him and heaved uncontrollably, he could taste her warm, salty tears in his mouth, and they were good. They warmed him and shielded him from the cold chill of the winter evening.
She pushed him back towards the blankets he had laid out and eased him down on top of them. As she came to rest on top of him, she pulled the top blanket over them like she were closing the door behind her as she left on a trip from which she never planned to return. She shivered intermittently as she desperately struggled to remove his clothes.
Concerned, he whispered to her, “We don’t have to do this. I swear it was not part of the plan. You’re obviously freezing.”
“Shut up, Jacob. You’ve done everything perfectly up to this point. Don’t ruin it now by talking.”