Monday, April 12, 2010

Harter Union: Part Three, Chapter 4

Today was Chris’ last day. Chris had signed up to go into the Army and his Basic Training was starting after the weekend. We had a small farewell party for him but after everybody left, Chris and I sat in my office and talked. “I was never one for the military but if I had to choose I would’ve gone with the Air Force,” I said.

“One of my friends went into that. He’s going to be a mechanic. Military is kind of in my blood since my dad was in the Marines and my grandpa in the Navy,” Chris explained.

“I seriously thought about enlisting during my senior year of high school. An enlistment officer for the Air Force came to the school and I was really impressed and started filling out the paperwork.”

“So what happened?”

“My family. I try very hard not to have them influence my life at all but they actually held an intervention and were able to guilt their way into making me stay. After that, my family has absolutely no influence on my personal life whatsoever which is why I have two of the most useless degrees ever created.”

“Which ones?” Chris asked.

“I have a major in English and a minor in Communications,” I chuckled. “Another few years and I could’ve been a teacher.”

“So what are you doing here?”

“Besides wallowing in my own crapulence? I was on my way to New York to edit books for Manhattan-Rooks Publishing but ended up stranded here.”

“That’s kind of depressing,” Chris smiled.

“Tell me about it. Look, you need to go and so do I. Get out of here and…be careful,” I said, concerned.

“Okay, Jeff, I will. See you around,” Chris got up out of the chair and left. I leaned back and sighed.

I never had any true friends. Whenever I actually got close to a friend, someone either moved away or was hit by a car. When I was twelve, I had three best friends, Alex, Aaron, and Brandon, and we even had a club called the Cat Rangers. Why? Well, first of all, we were twelve; and secondly, we all liked cats. It was kind of a superhero team and we mainly hung out at a small creek in Lawrence near the Jesus Tree.

The Jesus Tree was a normal tree that was wide at the bottom and narrowed as it went up. It had no branches and was noticeably dead. Aaron described the tree best as Jesus Christ holding up his arm up in the air and giving you the finger. We also hung out at a small quarry nearby.

Everything is gone now. The Tree’s been cut down and a housing subdivision now surrounds the creek and a state highway runs about a half-mile south of it all. I can still picture everything perfectly but what made the land ours is all gone.

When I arrived home, I saw Melissa sitting on the stairs leading to my apartment. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “It’s almost midnight.”

“I can tell time. I’ve been sitting here for the last couple of hours or so. Pretty boring out there,” Melissa pointed out the window that looked out toward Washington Street and the horse farm.

I glanced out and saw a white horse just standing there in the darkness. “Yeah, Sofie doesn’t do much but I love her anyways.”

“And you call her Sofie despite the fact that she is obviously male?” Melissa noted.

“It was about two weeks later before I found out she was a he. But you aren’t here to debate the gender of a horse with me so why are you here?”

“I just wanted to talk to you. We’ve worked together for eight months now and we have yet to have a conversation that doesn’t end in you giving me an evil scowl,” Melissa explained.

“Hmm, I wonder why...?” I questioned, stroking my chin.

“Look, I know I hurt you and I’m sorry but I had my reasons for breaking up with you.”

“Fine, then give me a reason. I’ll accept any you can dish out,” I said.

“Why live in the past? You’re with Maggie now and from what I can tell, you are also happy. Haven’t you wondered why I’m here? Why I’m in this small town working at Baker with you?”

“I figured I was a bad person in a previous life…”

“I wanted to find you so I could tell you that I still love you but when I saw you, I had to be around you. I still love you, Jeff.”

I looked away from her and said nothing. “Listen, I don’t feel like yelling at you and waking up my neighbors so maybe you should leave now.”

Melissa sighed and got off the step. She headed down the hallway toward the door to the parking lot and left the building. I headed upstairs to my apartment, shut the door and saw Heather on the couch, reading. “I hate my life!” I shouted.

“Don’t blame you. What’d Melissa want?” she asked.

“You knew she was here?”

“She knocked on the door. I told her to wait downstairs. That was about three hours ago. I can’t believe she actually waited,” Heather chucked and stood up. “So do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Love her, you idiot!”

“I’m not sure. A part of me hates her guts and doesn’t ever want to see her face again but the other part wants to run after her and embrace her in my arms and have our lips meet once again.”

“Hmm,” Heather said as she walked past me and patted my shoulder. “You’re a real complicated person, Jeff.”

“I know,” I moaned. “I never used to be this way!”

Something bad happens to Wendy and Jeff comes to her rescue while Nathan, Alyson, Jason and Chrissy bond.