Bewildered and drained couldn't begin to tell of every morning that I fought myself to keep from waking up. Ada had been gone 30 days and each day hadn't become any easier. It was as though her pomegranate perfume permeated each room of the house, but I knew realistically that the scent would have deteriorated by then. I was more than glad to let my brain lie to me. With my eyes closed, it still felt like Ada was right by me, but after enough time passing, the pomegranate drifted away and the smell of morning dew and marred leaves on the ground wafted through the open window, reminding me of the lonely Autumn existing. At what point was I to write off such a dying love? I couldn't conclusively determine if our love would ever flourish in the near or distant future. The love could have still been there without ever seeing each other again for the rest of our days. I felt trapped in that bed. It was about time that I forced myself through the front door and allow the gloomy grey heavens to collapse upon me.
The traffic along Lincoln was eager that day, using the popular residential road as a bustling highway. I could dance my way into oncoming traffic and not one mindless driver would have the proper forethought to lay a foot upon the brakes.
Hazel, gold and wine colored leaves awaited their turn to fall from trees, framing the overcast beauty of the sky. My feet shuffled through the leaves that patiently lived till it was their turn to meet the cement, asphalt, and grass of the town. The sound was a mixture of course bristliness rubbing together and crunching that brought a strange stress relief.
Aside from the Autumn foliage, I always admired the glorious architecture of St. Luke's church and pre-school. I have memories of attending the pre-school, but I only encrypted the inside details of the building, having no recollection of the exterior. Every time, when I walked by the beauty of it, I noticed two benches that sat far into the lawn that faced Second Street. An urge to rest there often came upon me, but my lack of faith made me feel like an intruder. One day, I would enjoy what the seasons have to offer from the taunting benches that seem so lonesome upon the manicured lawn of St. Luke's.
My cutoff point came when I approached Third Street where diagonally from me on the corner of Lincoln and Third, I could see the Mexican corner mart called El Saguaro. The name was completely fitting since the street side perimeters of the building were covered with saguaro cactuses. Saguaros are the stereotypical tree-like cactuses that most people would envision when trying to conjure an image of those rugged and spiny plants. There was the stalk of the cactus that beamed up in its own skyscraper manner and a varied assortment of branches would grasp about through the air. I had always thought of the crowded cactuses as an attempt of a partial moat or natural barbwire, unconsciously protecting from the menaces that the streets offered.
I never walked along the store side or the store front, only admiring and mystifying the building from a close distance. I would love to, one day, make my way to that corner and allow my hands to gently run along the mass of saguaros, letting the spines ignite all the nerves on the bottom side of my hand.
As I stood on the Southwest corner of Lincoln and Third, my shoulders slacked back and my hands resting in the warmth of my pants pockets, a lanky woman in a matte green dress with faint waves of brown hair meeting her shoulders wandered out of El Saguaro. One hand free and the other holding a tan canvas bag, she gazed about the street and swiftly left towards the other direction, disappearing into the North side of town. My almost grounded reality was halted by her apparition-like appearance, making me question what I had seen. To move on, I told myself there was a woman in a green dress. That was all
I awoke to the smell of pomegranate and damp leaves and the taste of alcohol in the back of my throat. I kept my eyes closed and pretended that my little Lovelace was lying right next to me in bed. I had never met anyone named Ada before and all I could think of was the famous mathematician, Ada Lovelace, who made the first algorithm meant for a machine, making her the most probable first computer programmer. Ada never really cared for science or anything of that relation, but she found the name endearing and smiled every time I called her my little Lovelace.
I needed to rid myself of the metallic alcohol taste in my throat, so I rolled off the bed and walked over to the kitchen sink. Not much could be seen out the window above the faucet. Only decaying leaves awaited their turns to leave their mother, to never be fixed in one place of the lower atmosphere. Only hopes of the wind briefly ascending their fragile bodies. My eyes said goodbye to the leaves and I drifted my head down in the sink to lap up cold water.
Finding clothes to wear was hardly a problem, since as of then, I fell asleep fully clothed and went about the first half of my next day in what I had slept in, eventually changing into something else as the Sun was in its mid-day position.
Walking out the door, a neighbor to the left said hello to me. I only gave him a slight smirk and a struggling wave of the hand. My fear was that if I said something in return, it would have led to future conversations. I left my voice a mystery in a consistent conscious effort.
My feet scampered me away from any other potential conversations around my house and soon enough, I was giving my salutations to the two benches at St. Luke's. One more block up, I would be greeted by El Saguaro.
I sat down on the curb looking at all the saguaro cactuses reaching for the sky and I hugged my knees, resting my chin upon my arms and stared off with an infatuation of wonder. I would watch customers go in empty handed and watch those same customers depart with arms weighted down by full bags of commerce. After ten minutes or so, the same lady with brown wavy hair to her shoulders came out, but in a red dress this time. The red shimmered whatever sunlight that struggled to fight through the saturated clouds and bushelled trees of dead leaves. The peculiarity of someone dressed like her two days in a row drew me in. There was also an unknown allure to her that drew me in even further. When she gazed towards my direction, I kept my head resting on my arms, smiled and raised two fingers at her. She smiled back and headed North.
The smell of wet decaying leaves was more prominent than Ada's distant fragrance of pomegranate perfume. The bed was starting to feel like my own solitary and quaint space, relieving any potential possessive "our." Though, I wish I could roll over and lay my arm around her, the heat of her body gently toasting the skin on my arm and shooting tingles throughout my extremities. What use was it to fantasize what is never going to happen again? I haven't fully given up due to the world we live in of endless possibilities and probability or it could be a matter of delusion.
The shirt I had on from the previous day wreaked of a musty residue, so I decided to throw on a sweatshirt to shield any distasteful pheromones from wandering the world.
I walked over to the dresser and looked at a turned over picture that laid pressed against the wood. I reached for the frame and my arm immediately retracted, telling me to leave it alone. I fought the urge to let it be and bobbed my hand back and forth a couple times and finally reached out and grasped the frame. Slyly, I leaned the picture upward as though I was sitting at a blackjack table in a casino, not allowing anyone to see what damning or ceremonious hand I would eventually reveal. No one was around to see any of my shame but me and the audience of me and that me was ready to kill and scrutinize. Two smiling faces mocked me as the picture saw more light and I felt every muscle in my face succumb to paralysis and the picture slipped from my fingers. That day was no day to be a day, nor any day that would come.
Autumn would have to wait for my presence till tomorrow. The Sun, clouds and sky would not greet me for a while. The lady of El Saguaro would have to wait, as well. I strangely felt that I might disappoint her, but who's to say she even remembered my sad-self sitting upon the street side of Lincoln and Third?
The bathroom floor was cold against my bare feet and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn't care enough to know what I looked like anymore. Disgrace filled every attempt at sympathy for myself.
Reaching into the shower, I turned on the water and allowed some warmness to build up, still showing some respect for my body's comfort. I took off all my clothes and masochistically basked in my current state of vulnerability. This form of self-humiliation felt somewhat redeeming, but it would only last till the water was just right.
My hand reached into the shower with a spearing motion to gauge the temperature and it was well enough that no medical damage would be done to my worthless body. I slowly creeped into the shower, the water repulsively streaming down my skin and I lay down in the white tub, resting my head on the back lip. I pushed the flimsy curtain open and noticed a half drank bottle of beer on the bathroom floor next to the tub. I couldn't remember when I had a beer in there last. Without much care, I swiftly grabbed the bottle, stared at it for a moment and tossed back a swig. As soon as the flat syrupy liquid registered its existence on my tongue, I spit everything out of my mouth, covering my body and the shower with the old and grotesque beer, happily watching it all wash away. I must still have had a shred of self-respect that lingered.
The sound of a car honking woke me and the wails came almost systematically every ten seconds like a machine on a timer. I impatiently waited for it to stop, hoping after each beep that it would be the last, but it never ended. Finally, I jolted out of bed and went to the living room to look out the blinds and it was someone in a green station wagon across the street looking at the house across from me with a hand resting on the steering wheel. The impulsive and slothful man pressed the horn again. I walked over to the table where my car keys rested, waiting for me to use them for the first time in many days. Bringing the car keys over to the window, I watched the man and when he honked his horn, I pressed the lock button three times on my key bob, so the horn of my car would wail in response. He confusingly looked around and immediately went back to his horn. I pressed the lock button three times again and the man had a face of disgust. This time, I anticipated him honking the horn and before he did it, I pressed the lock button three times. The man angrily looked at me while I glared back at him through my blinds. A person from the house came out and waved at the man in the car, saying, "I am coming. I am coming." The lazy man looked at his friend and then shot another look of death right at me and I pushed the lock button three times again. He shook his head and drove off.
The last time I smiled was when I last saw the lady from El Saguaro. This made me think of when was the last time I ever smiled with Ada. I remember smiling with her, but the memories were so distant, struggling to even piece any timeline together. The smile with Ada had its own half-life, decaying with each passing moment of each passing day. The smile became elusive, rarely seeing the light of day. The smile eventually ceased to exist.
I missed the world looming over me, covering me with metaphorical warmth and comfort like a blanket. I missed the Sun, clouds and sky. That day, I would allow them all to swallow me.
Each step seemed to have a purpose, as my heel first pressed against the concrete and my toes soon followed, I yearned for something, but something that didn't seem translatable, a mystery that would be solved by whim or chance, not direct intentional purpose. I barely looked up and watched out of my peripherals for cars and other hazards of the road. Pacing each step, I made a conscious effort to never step on the lines that divided each measured segment of the sidewalk.
I donned a smirk of salutation to St. Luke's and briefly admired the two benches that sat tucked away in the small patch of grass and I made my way down to Lincoln and Third.
The curb was cold to the touch and when I sat down, the coolness of the concrete soothed the skin through my pants. I let my left arm dangle to the side and my right arm was propped on my right knee, creating a pedestal for my chin to rest in the palm of my hand. Waiting and waiting, I saw many people go in and out of El Saguaro, but no sign of the lady. About ten minutes passed and I lay back on the sidewalk. I watched the low elevation clouds drift by, watching their shapes change drastically and the Sun would periodically shine on me in between the passing of those enormous puffs of white. My eyes fluttered and my consciousness would intermittently doze off, but I wouldn't allow myself to completely fall asleep on the sidewalk. I decided to sit up and right at the corner of El Saguaro, the lady stood in a blue dress looking right at me and started walking across the street towards me. Every rational and coping trait in me disintegrated and I panicked to the point of pushing myself up from the curb, stood up in the gutter and turned to run back home, but my feet caught the edge of the curb, sending my whole body like a massive redwood being cut down smashing to the ground. Pushing myself up from the ground again, I briskly jogged away while hearing a faint female voice from behind. I dabbed my hand at my face a few times and each time, there was more and more blood that accumulated in the palm of my hand. I wished the Sun, clouds and sky would have literally swallowed me whole.
When I woke up, I could not smell the old and fresh fallen leaves of Autumn, nor the actual or faded memories of Ada's pomegranate perfume. The only service that my nose could offer me was constantly reminding me of how sore and damaged it was. A gentle brush of my finger against any surface of my nose made me grimace and wince. I wanted to damn the lady of El Saguaro, but I knew very well this was my own foolish doing. My own awkward social limitations quarreled against me. I couldn't figure out which me won.
I wanted to wipe my nose with my hand, a tissue or something, because I could feel the build-up of dry blood in both of my nostrils. Gently, I would blow whiffs of air out my nose, hoping to dislodge some of the dry blood. It felt useless and painful. I am sure from a microscopic standpoint; some particles of blood were being released, but nothing noticeable to me.
I walked to the bathroom and forced myself to look into the mirror and gauge the morning after damage to my nose. Cocking my head back, I tried to look up my nostrils, but everything looked like a red and puffy cataclysm. Since human contact to my nose would have my neurons yelling at me and my eyes blurry with tears, I turned on the faucet, cupped my hands with water and delicately splashed the solvent against the tender area. The water was warm and felt more than desirable. After a couple splashes, I looked up towards the mirror and saw streams of scarlet red running down from my nose. I couldn't have been happier by the relief and managed to mold another smile and watched my teeth become coated with blood. I grabbed another handful of water and splashed it against my face. I pressed my hands against the sides of the sink and patiently watched my nose clear up, letting me eventually smell the splendors of the day.
As much as my nose started to feel slightly better and useful, my brief motivation to explore anything past the front door waned and I sat at the kitchen table, staring out the window and watched the variance of movements that filled Lincoln Avenue. There was a homeless-like woman that was pushing a shopping cart full of empty beer bottles wagging her finger in the air as though she was reprimanding a non-existent person's wrong-doing. All sorts of cars sped down the street at 10 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, even the police. The probability of seeing the lady from El Saguaro passing by my house, at best, seemed less than likely, but false hope filled every square inch of my mind.
I imagined for a moment what I would do if I saw Ada make her way up the walkway towards the house. Would I scream and yell, exiling her to somewhere far beyond my understanding or welcome her with pitiful opened arms. My days of unrequited love would be over by my own arbitrary standards soon enough. For then, a drink would do, to suspend my griefs in a state of purgatory and rest my weary nose and consciousness upon my pillow, desperately awaiting the aroma of Autumn to flood my ruined nasal caverns.
It is because of the love and fascination I had for Ada that I have an elementary understanding of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of famed poet, Lord Byron. A key synchrony between the father and daughter that has been stuck in my head for years is that they both died at the age of 36. With a nonsensical link to Lord Byron's romanticism, I decided that my heartache would die on the 36th day and since it was 36 days after Ada had left me, I felt that my pain and suffering would end that day or the next or I would wake up and still live each miserable day that I had endured so far.
The pain of my nose was no longer the front runner of any feeling in my body. The throbbing and pulsating had subsided and the aching only existed like a fly pestering someone sitting in a chair, swatting away the annoyance every few seconds. A dewy smell crawled into my nostrils and the edges of my mouth slowly sneaked up towards the corners of my ears.
I threw my feet over the side of the bed and stood up, pondering if I should take a walk up the street. I walked over to the dresser and stared at the faced down frame of Ada and I and then reached down on the floor for a sweater. A comfort washed over me as I slipped an arm through each sleeve, a warmness filling me like settling into a cold bed during an icy Winter night and grappling the covers over a body that was confused over which temperature was more reassuring and pleasurable. I reached up and gave the tip of my nose a tap and the level of excruciation didn't reach so high, so I decided to give the outside world my vulnerable presence and set free into the wilderness.
Not sure if delusion set in, but I felt oddly optimistic and looked up to the clouds, squinting as each one showed the Sun and my eyes eased open as another covered the essential glare of human existence. My hands rested in the pockets of my sweatshirt and my gait swung with a peculiar casualness and entitlement as though I owned the day ahead of me.
I passed the two benches at St. Luke's and made my way down to the corner of Lincoln and Third to see if the mysterious lady of El Saguaro would make an appearance. I found my usual spot on the curb and sat waiting with my arms laid upon my knees and my chin resting on the piled hands.
A half hour must have passed and my body ached from slouching over on the curb. A day seeming so splendid and divine turned out to be another average day of Autumn. A distant voice, almost inaudible, laughed in the back of my head.
I stood up and made my way back where I came from. When I reached Lincoln and Second, I paused and gazed up at the sunken-in statue of St. Luke that stood atop the doorway of the church and then turned my eyes to the two vacant benches that faced Second Street. There was almost a sense of debauchery or treacherous act about to happen if I set forth towards the bench like I was breaking a universal code that everyone had abided by but me. My foot crossed the invisible boundary and I stood for a moment to see if anything would come about from my perceived trespassing. Nothing happened, the birds continued to sing and flutter and the cars violently passed East and West on Lincoln Avenue.
One bench was angled slightly towards Southwest and the other, Northwest. I chose the Southwest direction to distance myself from the impatient meanderings of Lincoln Avenue. Sitting upon the Southwest facing bench, I admired what Second Street had to offer, all of the decaying foliage and houses with steps that led to welcoming porches. Even though the day hadn't panned out quite like I capriciously planned, I broke new ground and strayed from the routine, a sense of venture and wander flourished through me. After taking in the wonders from this newly conquered vantage point, I closed my eyes and lay my head back upon the mantle of the bench. A dream-like vision twirled all the beauties of the Autumn day like a kaleidoscope, weaving the elegant shapes. Amid the figures dancing behind my eyelids, I heard a gentle and alluring voice say, "Hello." I opened my eyes and saw the lady from El Saguaro glowing in her matte green dress.
-Bradley S. Cristler