Contest entry. A young girl has an experience that may turn her life around.
|Tammy’s Winter Experience
There was no mistaking the fact that Tammy’s neighborhood was in the throes of winter. Before she went to bed that night her mother told her that she would need to go to the community college in triple layers instead of double. The shy 18-year-old yawned and nodded her head that she heard her mother and would consider it.
She could feel the cooling of her room as mother turned down the thermostat to conserve the temperature. Money was scarce since her mother was laid off her second job. The reason? She fell asleep one time. And the boss caught her on a couch in the employee's lounge. No excuses, no sleeping, meant no job.
Tammy tried to dream of winning the lottery or of her deadbeat dad catching up on back payments for child support. The only thing she could dream of was of birds flying over her and dropping envelopes that contained notices of more bills that had not been paid. She soon began to fear birds in daytime.
It seemed that she had just closed her eyes and relaxed when the alarm went off. She cursed the stupid alarm sound under her breath as she got dressed and ran into the kitchen for a bottle of instant breakfast. Her best friend Tula was on a diet, so she gave Tammy her sandwich and told her mother that lunch was delicious. Tula’s mother could really make sandwiches to die for.
Tammy headed out of the apartment building and carefully went down the slippery steps. There was no need to add a broken leg or arm to her mother’s list of bills. She stopped to see who else was out braving the wonderful world of winter land. To her surprise there was no one. Nothing was moving except the smallest flakes of snow that she had ever seen.
She stopped walking as if she had been frozen in time and place. There were no cars moving. No people were hurrying to catch a bus or taxi. There were no ambulances or police cars. She saw no footprints in the snow. Tammy heard no sounds of vehicles. Nothing!
There was only white snow on everything. Just white on the leafless trees and a formerly trashy one-way street. The snow seemed to go on for miles. The sky looked white. She had a hard time thinking that she was even in New York, the place where she was born and grew up in.
Tammy tried to turn around and go back inside to tell her mother what she saw but then, she could not find her own apartment building. It was a bizarre feeling like one of those episodes on the old TV series "The Twilight Zone," she thought.
So, Tammy thought that if she screamed, someone might want to help her. “I might see someone at an apartment window that would show me that I was not crazy,” was her next thought. "Help!"
"Can anyone help me?" Tammy yelled even louder than before. She waited for a response. She began to shiver and feel colder. She saw no one anywhere.
Then Tammy thought that she would retrace her footprints and go back home. Unfortunately, snow had covered her steps. Snow was even on the building numbers. She only saw snow. She reached into her pocket for her cell phone. It wasn’t there. “I must have left it on the charger in the bedroom.” She recalled irked at herself. Tears had formed at the corner of her eyes and then started to freeze.
Tammy thought that walking into any building, she would be able to find someone to help her, but she felt that her legs could not move. She started to feel weak. This was not good. Tammy’s teachers at school warned her class of this danger when anyone was out in the cold too long.
Tammy grabbed onto a rail for the steps, her hand could not hold it. She just could not go on. Her breathing slowed down.
"Tammy! Get up, you lazy bones!" shouted her mother.
"What. Mother?" Tammy responded.
"You turned off your alarm clock and slept another 15 minutes." her mother said angrily. "You have got to go now or you will be late for class."
Tammy jumped out of bed like she was shot out of a canon. She dropped her pajamas on the floor and grabbed clothes.
"And remember that it is very cold outside. Layers! Layers! Layers!" her mother ordered as she ran into kitchen to grab her lunch.
The only answer Tammy got was a slam of the door as her mother left.
"I guess I'm on my own." Tammy remarked as she grabbed the cell phone off the charger.
Tammy peeked out the window. It had snowed last night but this time, outside, vehicles were moving slowly. This was the world that she could live with.
She put on her thick coat that her mother had got at a second had store. It was blue, her favorite color. Winter was not her favorite season and New York was a very cold place.
She put her hand in the left side pocket to dump her phone in. But as she was withdrawing her hand, she felt the certification notice which meant that she will have to stop by the post office on her way home. Her mother signed it and gave her a note if the postal worker did not believe that Tammy was getting it for her.
Tammy rushed to the subway car and sat down. The smell of the inside of the car was one of human body odors and old food that was left under a seat. There may have even been a bottle of beer on the floor.
A man sat down on the place next to her from the stop after she got on. No kidding, but his last shave might have been a week ago. And his last bath might have been longer than that.
Tammy politely coughed and stood up at the exit door. She might have a small walk, but to get away from this man was worth it. She knew her route to school. There was one nice shortcut that she would try.
She looked at her former seat and saw that the place was empty. Standing behind her was the stinky bachelor of the month. He seemed to be shuffling his feet so close to her that she almost wanted to retch. The door opened and she literally jumped out. She went up the nearest stairway that she could see.
The stranger exited but took his time. Tammy felt that his eyes were watching her as she hurried upstairs and away. She walked fast and found a store that she knew she could wander through. The man stopped at the store’s window as if he was peering. A policeman stopped by to ask him a few questions. He told him to go on. The man looked inside again and then walked away.
Tammy could not tell you how she made it to her classroom at school. Her legs felt rubbery. She never felt so vulnerable in all her life.
She looked at her watch and saw that it was 5 minutes past time for class to begin. Mr. Dennis was a stickler for following policy and closed the door at 10 minutes past the time. She thought that she could just make it. When Tammy rounded the corner, she saw a white piece of paper on the door.
It read: Due to my illness I am giving you all a bye. Please sign the paper for extra points and go home. See you after the New Year.
She was so excited that she felt that this was a good change in her luck. She was going home to take a long nap.
Tammy was turning around to start home when she remembered to call Tula. She could use a little good news too. But as Tammy was digging for her phone, she touched the certified letter notice. Tammy made a plan to call Tula and then go to the post office. It was down the street from a modern dress shop. It was there her dream dress was on sale. What luck!
Time meant nothing to Tammy. She almost floated. It took her an extra 20 minutes, but she got there and into line. It was holiday time and people had lots of mail and packages. After a short while, a postal worker came out of the back and said that she wanted one line for registered and certified mail. Tammy almost knocked down a man on a cane but was number two in line to get her mother’s certified letter.
The worker took her paper and mother’s note. She gave Tammy the “What now?” look. If it wasn’t for their postman coming in from his route, Tammy would probably be in line after New Year’s Day. Tammy got her letter for mother and hurried towards home. The snow was starting to fall again. She did not want to be wondering where she lived like the experience she had earlier that day.
This time the snow looked lovely to Tammy. There were no strange feelings or visions. It was winter. And she was in good spirits.
As Tammy walked home, she had to use the subway going home. She watched a young couple holding hands. On the seat across from her was a handicapped person with a service dog. She envisioned going to a library to do research for a project. She dropped her class book and reached down to pick it up. But someone beat her to it.
Handing her the book was the stinky man. Tammy started to get up to run again but he said something that made her freeze.
“No. Wait, Tam-Tam!”
Her heart seemed to stop. That was the nickname that her father used to call her when they walked to the park. The voice was a little different.
“No. It can’t be!” she whispered as she started to move.
How could this be! She thought that he was remarried. Here was a man that was away from her for 4 years. He was skinny, dirty and looked abhorrent. His face had a few scars. The hair was down to his shoulders and pulled back into a ponytail. He also had a small limp.
“Let me explain.” he paused.
“I was a fool. Our marriage was really rocky.” he looked as if he wanted to cry. “I walked out. I met this woman who made me feel important.” Tammy turned to go but heard a weak, “Please listen to me.”
“The other woman was just going to use me. And…and my pride got in the way of my coming back.”
“But you left me too.” Tammy shot back at him. “Didn’t you care about me?”
“I wanted to never let you see me like this.” he said as he looked at his hands.
Tammy started to feel angry, but she held back.
“I am sorry what I did.” Her father admitted.
“I am going to a place to clean myself up.” He stood straight. He voice was firm. “I am going to a VA center for alcoholics and try to be a better person for our family if your mother will let me back.
“You will have to ask her.” responded Tammy. “You hurt her first.”
“Yes, I did. And that is why I got some money from a friend to help you both out. I sent it in a certified letter.”
Tammy felt the letter in her coat’s big pocket.
“Will you tell your mother that I will call her after I get out of the center?” his eyes were pleading.
“Ok. But no drinking!” Tammy demanded.
He nodded and left. The last thing she saw was her father walking away in the white snow.