THE GEORGETOWN INDEPENDENT

Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

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©2017 BY THE GEORGETOWN INDEPENDENT. PROUDLY CREATED WITH WIX.COM

Seven Episodes

February 6, 2017

It was Wednesday evening when I walked out of the theater and saw her. Dressed in that favorite white outfit of hers, she looked radiant in the moonlight, an ethereal quality adorning her features in the presence of the nighttime glow. Early January had not been good to my features, and I was embarrassed to face her with my wind-whipped face, crumbling flakes of skin peeling from my cheeks and nose. She, as always, was flawless.

“Good to see you.”

“Likewise. Wonderful weather, huh?”

“I can tell just by looking at you. Did you catch the movie?”

“I did.”

“What did you think?”

“I loved it. Much better than the last one. It reminded me of you, especially at the end.”

“You flatter me. All of it was computer, you know.”

I grinned. She was quick to deflect praise. I walked alongside her, the alleys and streets twisting and turning in the glare of oncoming headlights and standing stoplights. I didn’t really know where I was headed; my apartment was somewhere to the east but I wasn’t really paying much attention to my surroundings. I was mostly looking at her.

“How many times have you seen it?”

“This was my fourth viewing.”

“Your fourth?! Jesus, are you going to start attending conventions now?”

“I’m a victim of circumstance. The first time was the premiere. The second was with my parents. The third-”

“Stop it. You’re just making excuses. Embrace it. You liked it. There’s no shame in that.”

“I guess not.”

“I better go.”

“When will I see you again?”

“Hell, I don’t know. I just got here.”

And with that, she was gone. A transport picked her up in that instant, a capsule that took her from that spot in space and time and took her to her next destination. I whipped out my phone and called an Uber.

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I woke up late Thursday morning and raced to the airport to catch my flight. I had just rushed past the TSA checkpoint and made it to my gate when they announced that there was a two-hour delay, of course. I called my mom to explain; the call rang forever before she told me she was busy at a meeting. I landed in the afternoon and waited for what felt like sixteen years before my luggage finally came out of the carousel.

Dad picked me up. He had just left work; his jeans were caked in sheetrock and his brown jacket was dusty.

“How was Florida?”

“It was good! We stayed at Uncle Joe’s, as always.”

“And Grandpa?”

“He’s… not good. We visited him before Christmas. He couldn’t recognize your mother- ‘Who is that lady?’, those were his words when we entered his room.”

“Jesus. Alzheimer’s?”

“I’m afraid so. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night and starts yelling, asking for help. When they get to him he says he doesn’t know where he is. It’s a matter of time, kid.”

“Is he ever lucid?”

“Yeah. It comes and goes in waves. He transports in time- the other day he asked me where Grandma was. I looked into his eyes and told him she passed away four years ago.”

“And what did he say?”

“He stared at me for the longest time before saying, ‘Why couldn’t she take me with her, then?!’”

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Waking up late is always nice, but waking up late on a Friday afternoon with nary a care in the world is even better. I gorged myself on freshly baked bread and mom’s pork roast before trying to get the old swingset in the backyard working again. The thing had been built by Dad back when I was in middle school. I remember helping him build it- holding the leveling staff in place, passing him the right hammer, and painting the wooden beams. What was once bright red, yellow, and blue was now a weird mixture of chipped off paint and rotting wood, giving everything a moldy green hue. I sat on the swingset and pushed off, lunging powerfully into the air. It was fun for about six seconds before I noticed that the foundation was shifting in each direction I was swinging. I got off and ran back to the house.

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Saturday came and went, but not before I saw some old friends from high school. Getting dinner at the usual BBQ joint we always went to and catching up on what we were up to these days was an exercise in nostalgia. We split the checks and as went outside to the car, I caught a glimpse of her. I double-taked as she rounded the corner to sit at the bench in the courtyard adjacent to the restaurant. I told my friends to wait a second and ran after her. She was wearing a vest and matching olive green pants; her expression was of feigned surprise.

“Fancy seeing you here.’

“What are you doing here? Weren’t you supposed to be in California?”

She flashed that knock-out smile and replied. “I needed a break. It’s a little dreary right now over there, as you might expect.”

“There’s no water, so people are making up the drought with their tears.”

“No need for your sarcasm, kid. We’ve had storms for days all across the state.”

“So what are you doing here?”

“I suppose I wanted to see you. I feel there’s something biting at you.”

“No, I’m good. I’m going back to school in a few days.”

“So are a lot of kids your age. But something is off with you, I felt it the other day. Do you feel guilty?”

“Guilty about what?”

“About running away.”

“I did not run away. That choice was taken away from me, a long time ago…”

“The moment still eats at you. You crossed through one door and closed an infinite amount of other doors. You will never know what could have been.”

“Why say what is already on my mind?”

“They say saying it out loud helps you get through it. A kind of affirmation.”

“I didn’t take you for a therapist.”

“And I didn’t take you for a cynic.”

“You should not have come back.”

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard that. But it is the first time I heard that from someone other than myself. I guess I should get going, then.”

She stood up and wordlessly walked further along the courtyard before her profile became a shadow, then a point, then a memory. I returned to my friends and had them drop me off at my place.

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I took the opportunity on Sunday to sit down with my mom and go over some final errands before I left for school the next day. She asked about my other grandma, my birth father’s mother, whom I had seen on my visit to Peru this winter holiday.

“She’s good, but she’s dying. Her hearing is going and she has perpetual gastritis.”

“That’s so sad. She was always a suffering woman.”

“She was so happy to see me. We walked to the park, you know the one with the shrine of the Virgin Mary?”

“Yeah.”

“She sat me down and gave me some advice. The usual stuff of not giving up God and finding the right woman to marry. I took a picture of her in front of the shrine, she loved it. The courtyard was full of daisies, summer over there was better than I thought.”

“That’s great, dear. Can you imagine what it would have been like if we had stayed over there?”

“...I know. Why do you always ask me that? We would have been poor. I would not have gone to Georgetown, not even in my dreams.”

“Why do you say it like that?”

“I never got to know them. That side of the family. They send money every month and we speak on birthdays. That’s it.”

“I did it to secure a better life for you, for us. Don’t you agree?”

“I know. And I’m grateful. But it still hurts- don’t you see that?”

“I really don’t. Your father’s family is full of tragedy. You were the new hope. But your father’s lashes were too much.”

“I know, I know. He is suffering from his past hubris. I did learn something new on this trip though.”

“And what’s that?”

“They don’t know how to smile. In pictures… they have this sort of pained grimace thing going on. I got my ability to smile from you.”

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My flight on Monday evening was canceled. The South cannot handle even an inch of snow, it seems. I took the opportunity to have second servings of my mom’s pork roast and watch Netflix with my brother. He’s a good kid, but growing so fast. He’s almost my height now, but a good 90 pounds lighter. He makes me feel old; I don’t know if it is his youthful exuberance, typical of his age, or my growing weariness. I need to sleep more.

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I arrived Tuesday afternoon. I unpacked quickly and went to see friends who were already on campus. We shot the shit, exchanged break stories, made plans to get dinner sometime soon. I expect half of those plans to fall through, one quarter to be rescheduled and the remaining quarter to go exactly as planned. Plans these days aren’t really actual scheduled outings; they are ways to validate our relationships, to remind ourselves that we have friends, that there are places we want to see, just not alone.

Walking back to my apartment late that night, I saw her again. This time she was back to her favorite white outfit, but with a matching white jacket to boot. These days, D.C. has some vicious winters. She was walking on the sidewalk next to the side road behind the main campus. I couldn't avoid her.

“Good to see you.”

“I thought you wouldn’t say that. Welcome back.”

“Thanks. It’s going to be a busy semester.”

“I know. But you can handle it.”

“130 days, can you believe it? I’m almost outta here.”

“Just need to keep a clear head.”

“I spoke to my mom. We didn’t really get anywhere. But you were right, it felt good to let it out.”

“I told you. I’m glad you did. It will be good for you.”

“Thank you.”

“I need to be going soon. I don’t think you’ll see me again. Well, not for a long time at least.”

“I know. I’ll miss you. We all miss you.”

“Come on, don’t be like that.”

“What’s that saying? ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened?’”

“What a load of crap. Take care of yourself, kid.”

“I’ll try.”

And with that, Carrie Fisher turned around, glanced back one more time, and walked away, to be swallowed by the benign darkness.

 

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