The Note - part 2
Ten years go by. Faster than you think they will.
I find myself walking home from work in the first flurries of a light snowfall. It's evening, and a golden sky leaves its touch on the snow. I wind the scarf one more time around my neck, pull the hat down over my ears, but the cold seems to find its way in all the same. It's been a long day, but I hum to myself anywat. Life is odd. But it has its moments.
I'm waiting at the bus stop, when someone comes along and sits beside me. We're silent for a few minutes, but I can't help thinking that he's looking at me. When I turn, I recognise Logan Wellford. Ten years have turned him from a weedy, long-haired kid into a bit of a looker. He wears glasses now, which suits his face, and he's filled out, shot up, cut his hair in a tidy medium length.
“You catch this bus?” he asks me.
“Waiting on Dad?” I reply.
“No. Gave up waiting on Dad a long time ago.”
I've stepped somewhere sharp without meaning to, and I back off, offering my hand: “Marissa
Stephens, I guess you remember me?”
“Sure. Of course. With something of a cringe.”
“No offence. On account of that note I left you.”
“Oh, well its kind of cute now.”
“'Sweet', you said at the time.”
“Yeah. I wasn't sure if you were mocking me or not.”
“And I'm pretty sure you kept your word. I wasn't the laughing stock of the whole school.”
He's an art student. Or so he tells me as we wait for the bus to arrive. And he shows me some of his work. I'm impressed to see what he can do: thinking back, it would never have occurred to me to think of him as an arty type. Being honest, after that day, I haven't given him that much thought at all. He's never followed up on that note, or our brief conversation, and nor have I. I've always supposed he'd gone on with his life, just like I'd gone on with mine.
His drawings tap into a rich fantasy life; they're renditions of extraordinary creatures like dragons and unicorns, like things right out of a D&D Monster Manual. Things that have never appeared in the Monster Manual, that are so glorious and so far-fetched that I don't know how many people could have come up with them. The anthropomorphic ones really stick with me, the elves and mermaids; the bird people of some description whose wings are both melted and burning: Daedulas, having strayed too close to the sun.
He shows me a drawing that's both startling and genuinely unnerving, something dark and dark red, monstrous and practically leaping off the page, with a human element so insidiously woven in there that I only see it after looking for several seconds, and then can't stop seeing it.
He blushes a little bit. “You like that one?”
I notice that it's entitled – in a tiny corner at the bottom: “Dad.”
“Wow.” Again. And: “You show this to many people?”
Logan shrugs. “Some. I know it seems kinda personal. But artists need to expose their souls sometimes. Or so I've been told.”
I re-look at him, seeing him up and down, sideways. There's always been more in there than I've realised. “You must be, what, twenty-one or so now? You're still drawing pictures of your Dad as the bogeyman. Something must have been bad.”
“It's not his fault. His mind's broken.”
Like Cameron. Poor Cameron. So I get it, I know what he's saying.
“It's the drink. With a few prescription drugs thrown in for good measure. He's been like that as long I can remember. He's scared me for just as long. I was okay though. I mean, I wasn't getting beaten up every night, or bones being broken or anything.”
You learn. You learn the spots not to touch, the traps not to trigger. You have to.
Fair is fair. I tell him: “My brother isn't so different. He's mentally unstable. And he met the wrong people on top of that, he kinda went down hill from then on. He's still trying to hike back up, but it doesn't come easily. He's not... strong. He can't help it.”
“I didn't know.”
“I didn't know about your Dad.”
“Forgive and go on right?”
It isn't real kinship. It's just a coincidence of the moment, but there's something a little bit cathartic about sharing it. We sit on the bus together, talking about old times: times we only shared on the periphery, about broken loved ones we've had to learn a new way of loving: separate stories around the same theme. I'm probably never going to see him again.
“Good luck,” he says when we get to my stop. My mother's house, just down the road, snow starting to settle on the roof.
“Hey, you too.” I turn around before walking way. “Hey, how long did you wait on your Dad back then?” I can picture him vividly, sitting on that see-saw, looking lost, the evening darkening around him with a nuance of threat.
“Forever,” he says lightly. “I waited two hours before I just walked home.”
“Forgive and go on?”
“What else can you do, right?”