A man who continues to be forgotten, searches for belonging.
|Darryl struggled down the basement stairs. The dive bag was still wet from the morning trip. The extra moisture compounded the normal weight of the fins, mask, BC, regulator and dry suit. Not to mention the weight belt. He hit the last step just as the anti-fog gel slipped from the pouch and the phone began to ring.|
No need to rush to answer it, he rarely received calls. Actually that is not true, he received several calls weekly from telemarketers, political pollsters and of course that customer satisfaction representative every time his took his car to the dealer for maintenance. Darryl didn’t however receive calls from anyone he could or would like to talk to. He heard the answering machine message click on and continued through the basement.
He placed the SCUBA equipment on the far wall next to the wooden easel and half finished canvases, sitting next to his racquetball bag. This wall spanned the entire length of the house. He referred to it as his Boulevard of Broken Dreams because it was lined with the hobbies, crafts, sports and overall activities that he spent half of his life trying while he spent the other half forgetting about them. He glanced down the hall, eyeing the sparring gloves and the kayak held from the ceiling by bungie cords. He felt an emptiness but still no one could say he wasn’t trying. Each activity offered the promise, the hope of being part of the team. Oh the karate lessons started off right, his first night a member of a 6 guy group, all ages and shapes. He learned the moves and practiced the yells. After two weeks, the uniform was placed on the boulevard as he relived watching 5 guys going out for a beer after class. Watercolor classes followed. He painted next to that skinny, friendly blonde, who brought hopes of even more. But soon he carried down the easel as he wondered why she never returned for a 3rd lesson after he asked to go for coffee some time soon.
On his way up the stairs the phone rang again. He reached the top to hear his sister’s voice on the machine and sprinted to grab the phone before she hung up. He hadn’t heard from either of his sisters in years. The occasional Christmas card, and that treasured FaceBook invite 7 years ago when Peggy was trying to gain “friends” but no birthday parties, no nephew’s games, no just calling to say HI. Why should he be surprised? It was always Peggy and MaryBeth who got along so seamlessly, who were favored by their parents and took precedence over Darryl. MaryBeth the adorable baby and Peggy the oldest super achiever. There was no place for him.
Peggy told Darryl that dad passed away last night. It happened around 7pm. Why the call now at noon the next day? Peggy and MaryBeth didn’t think to call last night. Didn’t think to let Darryl know that dad was that bad. It wasn’t Darryl’s nature to provoke his sister by questioning her actions. Years ago, he didn’t ask her why she didn’t call to tell him her first ciild was born. Instead he found out through Face Book and sent a card and check. He never asked why his sister failed to pick him up from varsity basketball practice the night of that tornado, even though the whole family had made it into the basement and barely looked relieved when the coach brought him home the next morning. It wasn’t his way.
Dad is dead. Darryl wanted to do a eulogy but Peggy and MaryBeth had already accounted for the funeral logistics, including lecturer and speakers. They had planned everything from the wake to the breakfast for friends. He should be thankful. Inclusion is harder. Besides what could he say? His father rarely had time for him. Dad went to the girl’s dance recitals, built doll houses and interrogated potential suitors. There was no time left, or maybe no interest. He wasn’t mean or violent. Dad was a strong provider who paid for a beautiful home, vacations at Disney and college for all three kids. What more could a son ask for without being selfish?
It is so final. Dad is gone. Darryl hung up the phone and went back to the basement. He searched the boulevard and found exactly what he was looking for: that Polaroid camera hidden among the older, possibly more valuable cameras. He had really enjoyed photography and came closest to finding a fit, a place, a home through his works. It could even be said he was good. He focused on people. Groups, together with no discernable reason. However, it became too painful to see all that togetherness and then go home to a meal for one.
Darryl gently carried the camera upstairs. He found some old rags, even a toothbrush and started to clean. Meticulous in his efforts, the camera was spotless and in excellent working order. He turned it toward him, outstretched his arm and smiled. A slight flash and the paper began to come out. He shook it for the full 3 minutes, waiting to see the image, yet irrationally afraid that no image would appear. At last he is looking at himself. Not necessarily a handsome man, too small of a chin and too large of a nose. But he is real. Darryl is here. Without much thought he placed the photo on the mirror of his dresser . They will not forgot.
He then went to his computer and search for a new hope, contemplating the next future entry to his Boulevard of Broken Dreams.