LET IT OUT

It’s been 12 years but I can remember everything about that night. 

We were out to dinner with our friends Lily, Carl, Karen and Rob at a busy upscale restaurant. It was three months since my husband’s heart attack and the beginning of my spiral into depression and anxiety brought on by stress, worry and the debilitating pain of arthritis. 

I was nervous the whole day but figured I’d be fine at dinner – after all, these were people I knew and loved and who knew and loved me. Sitting at the table I was uneasy but hoped the feeling would subside. 

It didn’t. It continued to build as I sat surrounded by a room full of seemingly stress-free people laughing and enjoying themselves while I was ready to bolt. I was with friends I’ve known for years and I was freaking out, convinced everyone knew something was wrong.

There I was, not only stressing over life in general but stressing over the fact that I was stressing and everyone knew it and they were just waiting for me to explode. My choices: fake it, breakdown, leave or tell my friends how I was feeling. I chose the latter. Apprehensively I told them I was having a panic attack. No one had a clue. 

What happened next was incredible. By exposing myself, by admitting my fear and vulnerability, everyone embraced me  – not physically, of course; that would have been weird – but they all let me know it was ok. Whatever I wanted to do was ok. 

I exhaled for the first time that night and I chose to stay. That was when Karen reached into her purse, handed me the business card of her psychologist and said “Call her”. Lily told me she also went to the same psychologist and quietly poured out her heart to me, unburdening herself while simultaneously letting me know I wasn’t alone. I didn’t even realize I had eaten my dinner and people were ordering dessert. The evening actually wasn’t a disaster. 

The next day Karen called to check on me. I’ll never forget what she said: “You know, I was sitting right there and I didn’t notice your anxiety. You looked perfectly fine and if you hadn’t said anything we never would have known.”

Wow! Talk about obsessing! No one noticed the ticking time bomb at the table. 

What a huge eye-opener that was. It made me realize that how I perceive myself is not necessarily how others perceive me. It made me realize that being stoic and trying to hide my anxiety isn’t always helpful. In fact, it could make things worse. Opening myself up and showing my vulnerability may not have saved my life that night but it showed me it’s ok to let others know “Hey, I’m freaking out right now and I need help.” 

I grew stronger that night by revealing my weakness. And I learned a valuable life lesson: Let it out and let someone in. 

NAR © 2019

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

The scream of the alarm clock jolted Tia from a deep sleep. With eyes closed, she reached over and smacked the off button. Slowly rolling her head, she glanced at her dozing boyfriend Andrew. 

Feeling her eyes on him, Andrew peeked at Tia and whispered a groggy “morning already?” 

“Uh-hum. 6:15” Tia murmured as she snuggled closer. “Plenty of time to…….” 

Fuck!!” yelled Andrew as he bolted from their bed. “I’ve got a 7:00 Caesarian and patients all day!” 

Disappointed, Tia went into the kitchen to brew some coffee. When she returned to the bedroom, Andrew was dressed and ready to go. He rushed by her, not even stopping to take the coffee and muffin she prepared for him.

Gotta run, T” Andrew called over his shoulder. “Catch ya later!” And he was gone. Tia picked at a muffin thinking how mornings like this were becoming more and more frequent. 

They met in college and fell in love, sharing their dreams – she becoming a fashion designer and he a doctor. Tia had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Paris but Andrew begged her not to go until he was in med school. She agreed with the idea and found work dressing bridal shop windows. The job was ok but it was unfulfilling and every time she mentioned studying in Paris, Andrew reminded her of their plans. Now he was a busy doctor and she was still at the bridal salon. 

On the way to work she heard that George Harrison song with the line “And if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. She couldn’t get that line out of her head and the road not taken – the road to Paris. She truly loved Andrew and made many sacrifices for his career. Now it was her turn. 

That evening when Andrew got home from work Tia told him they needed to talk. “Let me grab a shower first and I’m all yours” he replied. 

When Andrew returned he went to the fridge and poured them both a glass of wine. “Listen T, I known you want to talk but I have something to say. Can I go first?” Tia nodded. 

“After all our plans and promises, our dreams have finally come true but there’s still something missing in my life. I love you, Tia. Marry me. 

Tia was floored. “Drew, I love you, too, and want to marry you but there’s something missing in my life. What about my dream to be a designer? What about Paris?” 

Paris!? Not that foolishness again! T, forget that road, stay here and marry me.” 

“Foolishness, Drew? Foolishness!? You begged me to wait for you while you pursued your dream. If you truly love me you’ll wait while I follow my dream.” 

As they stared at each other, Andrew’s pager beeped. He glanced at it. “My patient’s in labor. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” 

But Tia already knew which road she had to take. 

NAR © 2019

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SEW

“Grundy, you old son of a bitch! What the hell are you doing here?” exclaimed Ian Simms.

“Same as you, Ian, and your brother, Carter. Attending the reading of your father’s will. May he rest in peace. 

“Carter, look who’s here!” declared Ian to his twin. “It’s the one and only Grundy!”

It’s been a while, Grundy. I can’t even recall the last time I saw you” remarked Carter. 

“I believe it was your sixteenth birthday – the day before your mother deserted your father and shipped both of you off to military school.” 

“You know, Grundy, there was a time when you showed a bit more respect to me and my brother. You used to call me ‘Master Carter’ and my brother ‘Master Ian’ – back when you were my father’s lowly valet.” 

“Yes indeed – when you behaved like the spoiled crowned princes of Palm Springs. I’d say we’re on equal footing now, Carter.” 

“Watch your mouth, old man” snarled Carter. “Remember you were just a servant!” 

Were being the operative word. Here’s your father’s attorney now. Let’s get on with this, shall we?” 

“Good afternoon, everyone. Please be seated. I’m Lester Garrison, Mr. Simms’ attorney, and we’re gathered here today for the reading of his will. All right then, let’s begin.” Garrison cleared his throat: 

• “I, Franklin Theodore Simms, being of sound mind and body declare this to be my last will and testament.

• To my former wife, Gloria Morrow Simms, I leave a dildo so she can go fuck herself. I’m sure she didn’t have the decency to attend today but there was never anything decent about her. 

• To my sons Carter and Ian I leave both the amount of $19.79 which represents the year you were born. Perhaps if you had bothered to call or visit me just one time in the past 24 years the amount would be substantially higher; however that is not the case. You reap what you sow, boys. 

• To the San Diego Zoo I leave $2.5 million dollars because animals are infinitely nicer than humans. 

• The remainder of my estate, all my worldly possessions and $18.5 million dollars I leave to my one true friend – Samuel Grundy. Sam, you were never just my valet; you were my brother. You were the only one who remained when my family abandoned me. And when I became sick, you cared for me, refusing any income. We spent many hours in the garden by the weeping willow tree playing chess, sharing memories, baring our souls. 

• A note to my sons: if you hadn’t been so self-centered you would have known Mr. Grundy’s first name. Instead you treated him like chattel and called him simply ‘Grundy’. Shame on you both! 

• My lawyer already knows that I don’t want a funeral. I’m to be cremated and my ashes buried under the old willow tree where I spent my final days with Samuel Grundy.

• See you at the tree, Sam. The rest of you ingrates can go to hell.”

NAR © 2019

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC)of 24 September 2022, spite

THE BENCH

Grundy sat in his favorite spot: a dilapidated bench on the boardwalk at Coney Island overlooking Brighton Beach. He was celebrating the sixteenth anniversary of his divorce from Cathy, the “Crowned Cunt of Canarsie” as he called her. And he was getting drunk as he did every night. 

His routine never changed. After his shift at McDonald’s, he’d grab a Big Mac, walk across the street to the Liquor Loft, buy a $7.49 bottle of Old Crow Kentucky Bourbon and a pack of Camel cigarettes, then stroll over to his bench and settle in. 

Grundy’s Bench … his home away from home. Well, not literally. Thanks to his cousin Marcy and her husband Phil, he had an actual roof over his head. Grundy was real close to Marcy, growing up together and all, and Phil was as nice as they come, humble but with the bearing of a prince. Grundy lived with them and their three kids and all Marcy asked was for Grundy to cook Sunday dinner for the family. Hell, he’d cook dinner every night for those precious people if he wasn’t always shit-faced after work.   

“Pretty sweet deal” Grundy thought as he took a swig of his Old Crow. “I’m a freaking loser, an embarrassment, yet they treat me with a love I don’t deserve.” He had his own room, a TV and Marcy did his laundry. He mostly kept to himself, getting home late. He had the day shift, breakfast and lunch included. The pay was lousy and so was the food but it beat a blank. 

How the fuck did he end up here? Carl Grundy, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, working in some of the finest restaurants in the world … once one of the best chefs in New York … now a burger flipping drunk in Brooklyn. 

So what happened? Bourbon happened. He wasn’t much of a drinker – an occasional beer – but one night after a particularly ugly argument with Cathy, he surreptitiously chugged a shot of the restaurant’s finest bourbon. It was ambrosia and he had another. Before long it became a ritual, then a habit and finally an addiction. He got caught, fired and the cycle began. Land a new gig, drink their booze, get sacked. Eventually the only job he could get was at Mickey D’s and Old Crow was all he could afford. 

Out of nowhere he recalled the words of some televangelist his mother used to watch: “Your decisions cause your circumstances”. Damn straight! He didn’t even realize he was crying. Well, enough reminiscing for one night. 

Grundy gave his beloved bench a pat and stood up to begin his walk to Phil and Marcy’s. Suddenly he felt a searing pain in his chest and crumbled to the ground.

“Oh, Lord! I’ve made a fine mess of things” Grundy gasped. “I’m hurting and I want to go home. Mom and Dad are waiting for me.”

He died alone that night, his hands still clutching an empty bottle.

NAR © 2019