Thanksgiving

Man’s POV

It was afternoon on Thanksgiving Day and I was walking through the Central Park with Lydia, my girlfriend of ten years. It was cold but the sky was light and sun was doing its best to warm us. It was sort of a tradition to take a walk before the dinner. One year with my side of family, the next with Lydia’s.

This year, we would celebrate alone as we have recently moved to New York and our families stayed behind in Ohio. We were barely getting by and couldn’t afford the plane tickets home. The dinner was to be a small roasted chicken with potatoes and cranberry sauce. You can’t forget the cranberry sauce no matter what you pour it over.

We walked slowly, her arm linked with mine. The silence between us was stretching uncomfortably. When did it so awkward to be together? We met in my final year at college. She was a freshman and stumbled upon me the very first day. She was like a bright star shining upon me whenever she walked by and I knew I had to have her by my side. We held it together through my first job and her studies, through her first job and my second and third, through the tough times our families gave us.

And then one day, I noticed the small changes. We weren’t talking as much anymore, we hardly ate together and she was looking so tired and sad. I tried to ask her few times, but she always just shrugged and left the room. I knew something was up, but didn’t insist on finding out. I was stupid.

That day, I suggested we’d go for a walk like we used to back in Ohio and she agreed. But even as we started out, I felt more chill coming from her than from the weather. She kept quiet from the moment we stepped outside and I couldn’t help but think: This is it, we’re finished.

She was just about to say something when I spotted her. An elder woman was sitting on a bench near the pool. She had a pair of knitting needles in her hands and a mass of redness on her lap. She stopped for a moment and flexed her fingers. No doubt they were frozen in this weather and without her wearing any gloves. She pushed the glasses up her nose and brushed few strands of grey hair from her face.

“Nan…” I whispered and couldn’t help the pang of pain stabbing my heart. Something about the woman reminded me of my grandmother and I suddenly wished I was twelve again. I let go off of Lydia’s arm and slowly walked towards the woman. I heard Lydia call my name, but ignored her. My mind was back when I was twelve and my mother took off with her lover, leaving me with nan to take care of me until my dad got back from his service overseas.

Woman’s POV

“Paul…? Paul!” I tried to call my boyfriend several times but he wouldn’t listen. I watched him as he approached some old woman. I have never seen him behave like this. Paul was always a little distant. When I first met him, he was such an airhead. He walked right into me on my very first day of college, his nose buried in a book, headphones in his ears and glasses askew on the bridge of his nose.

When we collided, the book fell from his hand and I read the title: “Little women”. I remember I laughed and asked if it wasn’t early for doing homework for literature. His expression was priceless as he blushed deeply and said he wasn’t taking literature lessons this year. He genuinely liked the book. When he fumbled with his headphones, he accidentally pulled them out and the phone blared to the whole world Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I instantly fell in love.

The three years of college after he left it were hard, but he visited as often as he could and we spent as many holidays together as we could. Eventually, I moved in with him after I graduated and gotten my first job. Back then, we still lived in Ohio and life was simple. We enjoyed the little things together, had friends and family around us.

That summer, Paul was offered a job in one of New York’s most prestigious labs. It was an opportunity he cannot let pass. And I knew it, so I quit my job and followed him here to support him on his journey to become the researcher he wanted to be. But after moving here, he was told he was going to work as an intern for no pay but experience for at least half a year. I have gotten a job as a junior manager in travel agency and we were barely scraping by.

Paul was always at work and I tried to make as many overtime as I could get away with to earn more. We hadn’t had a proper talk in weeks and I felt like he was pulling away from me. And to that all, a pregnancy test came positive for me. We lived in small studio with hardly enough room for the two of us. We couldn’t fit in a bird cage, let alone a baby. Not to mention that we were relaying completely on my salary and I couldn’t afford even one sick day off. I hadn’t told Paul about the baby yet. I was trying to decide what would be the best.

“Nan…” He whispered and talked towards the woman. What did he mean by that? His grandmother died when he was twelve and he was really broken up about it. He would tell me stories about her for weeks every year the anniversary of her death came up. Even till now, he visited her grave at least twice every year. Whatever he felt when he saw that woman, it must have been hard on him.

I automatically reached for his shoulder and squeezed it. He needed my support and I knew I’d always give it to him no matter what.

“Lydie…” He turned to me, calling me by the name only he could use, tears streaming from his eyes. “She looks just like nan did before she died. She was knitting a red sweater when she had the stroke.” His voice was sad and broken.

Old woman’s POV

I don’t know how long I have been sitting in the Park. Long enough to feel the cold biting my fingers. I came to the Park often to knit ever since my partner of forty years died and it just felt too lonely and stuffy in our big house. We could never raise a child and without her, my life was empty.

When Rebecca was still alive, we would often come to the Central Park to feed the birds and watch young couples having picnic with their children. We would just walk around before stopping at a cafe for a one cup and a slice of their famous cheesecake. Oh, how we loved the cheesecake! The café closed that summer though and a club was opened there. Nowadays, young people were standing around at all hours, drunk and worse.

A young couple was walking nearby and I took a look at them as I straightened my glasses. The man was tall, wrapped in a cloak, had glasses that were broken and then repaired with tape. The woman was shorter, with long brown hair. She had big brown jacket, bigger than she needed really and I remember thinking it must have been the man’s.

The man stopped and looked directly at me. I looked quickly away, hoping he hasn’t noticed my stare. He continued looking at me though and then started to walk towards me. His wife, or girlfriend called him but he hasn’t stopped and just continued towards me. I looked up and saw tears in his eyes. I was shocked. What have I ever done to this poor lad?

“Nan…” He spoke the word and I shook my head. “I’m sorry, dear, but I’m afraid you are mistaken.” He nodded and smiled. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you just remind me of my grandmother very much.” I noticed an accent, Midwest maybe?

“That sweater you’re knitting…” His eyes fell on the needles and red wool I had on my lap.

“Oh, this?” I smiled and stroked the soft threads. “It’s for the local orphanage. The kids there are growing ever so fast!” I remembered how just the day before one of the kids asked me to make him a red sweater. “I was going to give it to them before Thanksgiving, but I guess my hands aren’t as quick as they used to be.

The man looked lost for some time. His girlfriend, Lydie he called her, came to him and I could see a genuine concern on her face. She started to apologize to me for intruding. I couldn’t help but smile and said it was alright, after all, I had nothing better to do anyways.

After that, they invited me for a coffee to warm up. We have talked for a bit and at the end of the day, they invited me to share the Thanksgiving dinner with them. I watched them, the warmth the woman had in her eyes when she spoke to him, the way he looked at her when she wasn’t paying attention. There was so much love between them, though they seemed to have forgotten it.

We met few more times after that. It was good to have company after so long. Eventually, Lydia told me she was pregnant and both she and Paul had decided to keep the baby. Paul had finally finished his six months as an intern and was quickly promoted to researcher.

I have thought about it for some time and finally decided my house was too large for me alone and offered them to move in with me. Most of the house is theirs to use now. Lydia had twin daughters since they moved in and I often substitute for a grandmother / nanny now that she had to go back to work.

God has sent the two of them to me just as they sent me to them. Life is good. And now it’s time to put the turkey in the oven and prepare the Thanksgiving table once again…

Street

Imagine a street in old town centre. It’s steep, the angle is somewhere around seventy degrees. A line of houses is on one side. The houses are three or four stories high, each of different colour and all built before World War II. The ceilings are high in these buildings; tall windows let in sunlight from the street. On the other side is a fenced park. It remembers generations walking through it, children playing their games. Homeless people and junkies are occupying it now. Ivy is covering the fence in patches in hopeless struggle to cover the trash that people throw over the fence.

Along both sides of the street are trees planted in regular intervals of ten meters, casting shade in hot days. The fall is showing on them now as the leaves cover the pavement, more flying off with each gust of wind. The street is not from the concrete as the new roads are now. The cars drive over the catheads as they are called here, a small stone cubes set together in a kind of mosaic. The pavements are from similarly small stones, grass and moss is growing through the cracks here and there.

A child is riding a bike down the street, trying to avoid the passers-by. There’s an intersection, a dog’s shit pile is on a corner. An old woman is dragging the wheeled-bag with groceries. A student wants to walk past her just like everybody else but stops and asks if she needs help. She refuses but smiles and a new spring pours into her step. On the other side, old man is walking with his dog towards the park, leaning on his cane heavily. Both he and the dog must have been companions for a long time. A mother of two is pushing the pram up the hill with one hand, the other holding a tree-years-old that doesn’t want to continue walking, throwing a tantrum. A group of young people pass her, laughing. She just looks after them, maybe remembering what it was like before or silently telling them to wait till they grow up.

People keep passing the street up and down, to the park, to one of the houses. Do they see it all though? Or do they just see the piece of the street that they are walking on, focusing only on their destinations and how to reach it.

Challenge

“So, boss, what was so urgent to call a meeting half an hour before going home?”

“I just came from a meeting with a director and there are going to be some changes that we need to discuss.”

“Couldn’t it wait till tomorrow when we are all fresh and ready to ponder over it during the weekend?”

“Shut it, Jake. Geez, we could have been half way through the meeting already!”

“Okay, okay, you’re the boss now.”

“…”

“What?! I’m keeping quiet!”

“Just save it, okay?”

“Hey, I was keeping quiet right now? Didn’t you say we could have been half way through the meeting? Who’s delaying it now, huh?”

“Shut up for a moment, will you?”

“Then start telling us about the changes already. Please.”

“Very well. It was decided that starting next week, the Purchasing Department takes over the responsibility for dealing with the suppliers regarding the Quality Agreements.”

“But that’s our job…”

“Yeah, but it’s a shitty job and it takes us too long to close every damn paper.”

“So… What? They’re gonna prepare it? They don’t know shit about quality and customer requirements!”

“No, no, they won’t prepare it, we will.”

“But you just said that they will take over the responsibility…”

“Yes. No. Just let me finish, damn it!”

“Fine, fine, keeping quiet now…”

“We will prepare the agreements as we did until now and then we hand it over to the Purchasing, who will send it to the supplier and get them to sign the paper.”

“And if the supplier has any issue with it? As they always do?”

“Then it will be up to Purchasing to communicate these changes with Project Quality, Development or Engineering.”

“So we’ll make a document, stay responsible for it but we’ll be cut out from the communication regarding any changes? Who’s brilliant idea was that?”

“Mine.”

“Why? Why would you do something like that?”

“I already told you why. It’s a shitty work and we’re always in the middle.”

“I agree it’s a shitty piece of paper that we don’t really need, but shouldn’t we try to get rid of it altogether? Or at least push the creation of it on those that actually use the paper and have always the most comments about how badly we prepared it in first place?”

“Yes, but Incoming Inspection doesn’t want to do it right now.”

“Then they should stay the hell out of it!”

“Jake, we’ve talked about this. Now shut it.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it! Do we’re just going to be someone’s secretaries while still having to present it at the audits?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Great, just great! Just when I thought this job couldn’t get any worse!”

“Oh, Jake, one more thing.”

“I’m going home.”

“I need you to prepare an overview of the suppliers and why they haven’t send the sampling yet on your B8 project. Tomorrow by nine.”

“Huh? I’m not responsible for sampling. That’s somebody else’ job and I am sure they can make you an overview real fast.”

“I want you to do it,”

“No.”

“Jake, you have to do it. Just this once.”

“Hell no! If I do it now, I’ll have to keep a track of it and then somebody else will come and want it for other projects too. I’m not gonna create a precedence.”

“It’s not going to be like that. But my boss wants it to be done by this team, so you’re doing it.”

“Tell him no.”

“We’re not going to argue about that. Nine o’clock tomorrow. Take it as a challenge.”

“…”

“Now you’re finally laughing! I knew you’re gonna take that bait.”

“I still hate you though.”


I wish I could say it was a pure fiction, but I must say this was pretty much word from word my conversation with my boss. Now that I think about it, I must be a terrible employee. 😀 Well, the ending was a bit fictional as it’s usually me talking about challenges and how we could really do something.

Doctor

When I made an appointment with Doctor Price for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous and as socially awkward person as I am, I was afraid of saying something I would regret later on. I arrived ten minutes early and was seated in a small room by the nurse. The room itself consisted of two older armchairs and small table between them. The walls were covered by photographs, postcards and children’s paintings. Overall, it looked like a waiting room in a comfy home-style way.

I tried not to fidget while I was watching the clock on the wall, ticking away. I kept thinking about why I was there, what I wanted to say and all the while, I tried not to think of the consequences.

The door the room opened and I expected to see the nurse, announcing I was to come to the doctor’s office. Instead, a woman came in with a warm and genuine smile. She introduced herself and sat on the other chair, facing me. That’s when I realized this was the actual office and relaxed a little. I have irrational fear of doctors, especially of the offices that all usually look sterile, with while or grey furniture, doctors sitting behind their desk and facing a computer, clicking away as you try to explain why you’re there.

Doctor Price surprised me by her outfit more than anything. She wore old jeans, shirt and blue jumper and a pair of dark blue tennis shoes. Her hair was loose and framed her smiling face. I knew she was around my mother’s age, so around fifty but she looked younger and vital. She immediately reminded me of my grandmother, though younger. She sat in the armchair with legs crossed, in relaxes position that made me feel like sitting in her living room, talking about today’s weather.

I have seen few forced smiles in my life, so when she smiled, I looked for the signs automatically. All that I could see were the small wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and the shine in her eyes that suggested care and interest in her new patient.

Just about ten minutes in, I had a feeling we have known each other for a long time and all my nervousness and awkwardness dissipated as if waved away by magic wand. We kept talking for another forty minutes and when I was leaving I had a feeling that everything is going to be fine from now on.

Work of part fiction, part my experience. Name was changed of course.

Letter

It was Monday morning and as usually, Jane arrived ahead of her boss. She put all her things in order and switched on the coffee machine. She checked the schedule for the day and read through the emails. Jane was fifty-something, a little on the heavier side and worked as a personal secretary for Mr Shaw for the past fifteen years. Mr Shaw’s law firm counted fifty employers.

Jane made her way to the printing machine and hit the button “Start”. Nothing happened. She tried it few more times, but the machine wouldn’t start. She checked the screen and sighed. A paper was stuck in it. That was the third time just this month. She made a mental note to call the serviceman later that day.

Jane opened the machine and quickly scanned the rolls for the stuck paper. She found it on the last one, near the exit. She pulled it out and the copy machine started finally.

Out of habit, she started to read what was on the paper to check if it belonged to Mr Shaw.

Dear John,

After last night, neither I nor your mother could sleep. We were shocked to hear you say you are gay. It was such a surprise to us which I suppose you guessed by our expression.

What shocked us even more though, was your apparent conviction that we would reject you. Your mother and I were up all night, trying to see where we failed you as parents for no child should ever feel unwanted or rejected.

When you left yesterday, we didn’t stop you, because we didn’t know how to react. And I apologize for that.

Please come back home.

Love,

Dad

PS: We would love to meet Peter, so if it’s alright, invite him for Sunday lunch.

Jane read the letter again and couldn’t help tears shine in her eyes. She wished she could return the letter to whomever it wrote, but there was a little to go on and the copy machine was used by all employees. Instead, she went back to her desk and dialled her daughter’s number. “Hello, sweetheart, would you like to come over some time?”

Loss is never simple – Post 1/3

Wow, fourth writing challenge and it’s this, huh? I have spent good three hours avoiding the subject and I seriously considered skipping on this one. Well, I have finally persuaded myself to do this, because one cannot become a good writer if he can’t write about emotions too, right? So, here goes probably the longest of my posts yet…

My parents separated when I was fourteen and divorced a month before my fifteenth birthday. Since neither I, nor my brother or sister wanted to live with our mother, we automatically stayed with dad. My relationship with my mother was always one that I considered bad at the very least. But the fact that she never expressed the slightest wish to take care of us or fight for us, it left a scar that will never be healed no matter what. But my parents’ divorce isn’t something to be mourned. If anything, it was a blessing upon all of us.

Since my early years, the most important person in my life was my grandmother. Ever since I can remember, I would spend most of my time with her as both my parents worked a lot. My younger brother had a very serious asthma since he was born and until about four years, he was hospitalized often and my parents had to rush to hospital during the nights, leaving me alone till my grandma showed and stayed till morning, taking me to nursery and picking me up. There are many memories I have from that time. I still see the houses and small gardens we passed on the way. I especially remember one dog. It was a basset hound, and I never learned its name, who would run along the fence, greeting us with a bark as we passed by every morning. My grandmother had a poster of a basset hound lying amidst a field of dandelions at that time. She had this poster on the inside of toilet door for some reason. Remembering that still makes me smile.

When my parents divorced, my grandma became ever much bigger part of my life. She was like my mother, best friend, mentor and role model. She had raised my father alone in the deep socialism when it wasn’t simply agreeable for a woman to divorce and behave the way my grandma did. She was a rebel, an inspiration, a beacon. When she was telling the stories of her adventures when she was younger, I could barely believe her. But both her mother and my father confirmed them to be true. She was always like a raw natural force. And in a good way. She was opened-minded, bold, outspoken and always hungry for new things to learn.

Seven years ago, in July 2007, I was 22 and living with my grandma after returning from 2 years in England. We lived together in her country house for a year when my father called me at work that she has collapsed and the paramedics are trying to revive her as we speak. I rushed to the hospital and watched as they stabilized her in an ambulance. She underwent a brain surgery that very night but remained in a coma.

Three weeks later, after several hospital visits where everything started to look better and more optimistic, I received another call. My grandmother died during the night. There was nothing they could do. I don’t quite remember how I responded or how I put down the phone. I remember my dog’s wet nose poking my face and me realizing I’m sitting on the floor. I gathered everything and drove to the city where the hospital was and where my father lived. Someone had to tell him that his last living relative, not counting my siblings and me, was gone.

I arrived to his flat where he was talking with my siblings in a good mood. He hasn’t seen grandma since her collapse and he was finally getting ready to visit her now that she was getting better. I stood in the door to the living room, watching them for few minutes before letting them know I was there. “Grandma died.” Those two words were the only thing I could get past my throat in that moment and saying that meant acknowledging it. As my world started to shatter into pieces, I watched my father having his own world smashed. I left.

I went to the hospital to sign the paperwork and collect a small bag of things. Some clothes I think, I don’t really remember. I know it remained closed for a long time and when I did open it, I threw it away anyway. Too many memories. I don’t remember the road back home, nor the next few weeks in which I organized the funeral, legal things, sorted her things out in the house and packed them away. There are pieces of that time, like shards of a mirror. One time, I remember going to the barn where I left the boxes and bags with her clothes, and I remember pulling one sweater out, bringing it back home with me. I had that sweater for years. I never wore it of course, but I just moved everywhere with it and I was unwilling to part with it in irrational fear that if I let go, I’ll loose her forever.

Seven years later, I still can’t think straight when it comes to my grandmother. I often catch myself thinking what she would say to me, what she would do. And every time I do, I remember the grief and pain it brought me.

I tried to write about it on my other blog and no matter how I look at it, I still can’t write it right. Maybe because there is no right here. But yes, this is my first post in the trilogy and I sincerely hope, that the next two will be on a lighter note. Now, I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and I am going to reminisce about the past.

Effects of the Music

For today’s challenge, we are asked to write about three songs that are significant for us. I tried to empty my mind and find the three songs that would have that meaning for me. Now, half an hour later, I still can’t find them. It’s not that I don’t listen to the music; it’s the fact that I listen to it every day, to various genre, that I can’t pick just three. If I wrote about the three that I like the most at this very moment, it would be influenced by my current mood, the playlist in my headphones and what I am doing lately on day to day basis.

I cannot pick three songs, or even three bands or singers. First, it wouldn’t be fair to the others; and second, I just don’t want to. Instead, I want to write how the music influences me and what kind of music I seek when I am in a particular mood.

From ever since I can remember, there were two types of music that I heard all the time. First, country. Well, it’s not the usual American country music that you probably associate with the title, but something between folk and country with a Czech twist. It’s difficult to explain but despite this particular genre becoming one of those I don’t listen to anymore, I still remember most of the texts and upon hearing them, I cannot help myself but sing along. It’s those types you would sing with friends around a fireplace – catchy, simple-melody, familiar. To hear that triggers the memory of my dad working home, humming to the songs from his drawing table.

The second is classics. My dad loved both country and classics and our home was always filled with one or the other. Whereas my father loves most of the Czech composers like Dvorak and Smetana, I came to prefer Vivaldi and Bach. Don’t get me wrong, I love them all, but if I am in a mood for some classics, I will always pick Vivaldi. What I associate most with this music are somehow the better days of my life. My great grandma used to listen only to that and when I hear some of the compositions, I remember her small flat and the smell it had, the sofa and where the radio was from which we would listen to the Vltava radio that played classics. I would remember the time I spent there, the walks to the grocery, our talks, everything. I also remember my time in England, when I was alone and everyone dear to me was far away. I used to listen to Classics FM, an English radio that played classics all the time. They introduced me to all kinds of new composers and styles within the classics.

When I feel angry or frustrated, I listen to rock, metal, rap. Something loud with texts that fit my mood. Strangely enough, it helps me calm down. Something about the fast rhythm, swearing singers / rappers and thumping bass in my head makes me see everything in larger picture. It channels my anger and let it fade into the music. In moments like these, I reach for Eminem, Greenday, Nightwish or Basshunter. Usually even in this particular order.

I wrote before that certain music gets me into certain mood and that is why I cannot choose three songs. Sure, there are very specific songs that I associate with very specific event and that triggers very specific emotion. Like Ave Maria. When I was fifteen, my great grandma died and among other songs they played at the funeral, Ave Maria was played when the casket was leaving. When I hear that song now, I remember the raw feeling of loss; I hear the soft sobbing of my grandmother and how it made me feel; and that is why I deleted it forever from my playlist. There are such songs for everyone, I guess. Songs that we associate with certain events, be it sad or happy ones. But that could be a subject to other post.