Pondering the next step, well, I decided on the next – step.
Not sure where the idea came from, but I found if I could insert the paper into the upside down punch and hold it firmly enough to flip, I could place it on the floor… and… step on it.
After about 200 of those couch slouch sitting, toe touch bends and leg lift/lowers, my heel got a little sore.
So, I switched. I guess being right-handed’s akin to being right-footed. The left foot was adequate, but the right foot had the rhythm, and later the blues and purple-ish greenies, too..
Tender, bruised heels = my second documented suffering for art. The first suffrage had to do with a v-shaped linoleum cutter across three tips of three fingers leading to the post-healing inability to feel the strings on the electric Yamaha folk guitar I’d won from WINE Radio. Lessons were dropped.
Sure, there’ve been nicks and nail splits, Mod Podge in the eye, hot glue gun burns and other unique displays of self-damage along the way, since then. (Wrong tools/wrong sitting position, mostly.)
I have an absolutely adored hideous collection of paint splattered, glue stuck, ripped clothing. The kind your mother warned you that you wouldn’t want to be wearing if you were ever involved in a car accident. Only outdone by the sage advice that you should always have pristine underwear for the same reason.
Many an undergarment went into the laundry basket on wash day and never returned. I did make every effort to rescue perfectly-worn jeans from the same motherial fate, I succeeded a number of times. I do occasionally dispose of one. Very occasionally. Only if I have a back-up to my back-up.
Anyway, in the middle of semi-concentration required stompage, it occurred to me that I could be pretty specific, if I wanted to. By this point I pretty much assumed I wasn’t going to be making my Sunday afternoon drop.
And, there you go. Add another level of dafter-crafter. Might as well.
So, after stomping enough to cover 34 cards, plus extra because some were bound to be ugly, I spent some time pouring out unnatural leaf shades for known preferences: Purple, Blue, Green, Rainbow. (You know who you are. 😉 ) Drying time required.
Plucking my little punches neatly into smart piles, wasn’t all that easy, either. I mean I made about 275 grouping decisions determining which color dominated the petite pieces of paper. Took a bit of patience and as good bit of time because I got side tracked by, “Oh, I love this one!” and “Oh, I should frame these three,” and “Oh, I saw one just like this a moment ago… wonder which pile I put it in? Orange or Yellow?”
The ‘Easy Horizon’ was in view, at last. All I needed to do was plop 7 or 8 glue-dotted paint chips to each card.
I faltered at the first leaf. Should the one dedicated to the top of the barren tree be hanging down, barely holding on? Should it be lifted up by a strong wind or just standing signifying the season?
For once, I decided not to decide. Sort of. It depended on the randomly selected leaf pattern. Some looked better dangling; others were perkier upped.
As for the other fallen additions, I tried to assembly-line stagger their positions into something resembling a true pile. That’s about as almost-random as this particular run of salutations got.
37 printed, cut, glued and commented seasonal message inserts later, it was time to sticker the backs, stuff & seal, address, lick stamps and apply return addresses to envelopes. Yep, I had enough matter for a solid three more mastered works.
28 dedicated hours later, I can proudly say, I drove off to the mailbox in a daring 5:10 PM dusk, and made it back home before the streetlights even flickered. Easy.
The first question was whether or not I had told Jeff’s dad.
I had not called Jeff’s father. Nor had I called Jeff’s sister.
Partial cowardice, partial propriety. I couldn’t.
I could not do that. Tell him. Tell her. Not on the telephone
I don’t know if my explanation was taken as a request or if it was realized that none of them would be able to make those particular calls, either. The news was delivered to each by the trio, in-person.
I can’t put a time on how long they hovered, statued in their spots. Where the entryway linoleum met the carpet, loomed a gap none of us would breach. I maintained my seat, way more than arm’s length away. As if being in closer proximity might alter the containment each of us were fighting for.
If any conversation of action took place with or without my participation, I have no recall.
In exactly the same way they appeared, the three men were gone.
The next bit, I recall standing outside of our bedroom telling Jeff’s sister, “No.”
“I want to see him,” she’d said.
But he was near-naked and undignified, and I unexplainably felt strongly compelled to stop her. It flashed through my mind so quickly, I’m not sure the thought was my own. He does not want her to see him that way; to have that final picture stuck in her mind.
Much in the same way, I don’t remember anything else about her being there; her coming or going, who came with her or anything.
The next piece, I see myself sitting on the other end of the couch nearby Jeff’s Aunt on an out-of-place chair and a cousin sitting on the floor. I don’t remember them coming or going, either – just that snapshot.
Sadie was doing her best to make people happy, eagerly seeking out the sad and dropping her ball for distraction.
Over the years, in my tragicomedy approach to healing, I sometimes emphasized the on-the-verge-of-inappropriate, near-comedic aspect of that moment.
Other times, I’ve grumbled outwardly about the monkey-wrench that almost reset the officer’s overdose suspicion back to square one.
I think back on it now in wonder.
To pass by two ambulances, two police cars, a parade of neighbors outside and in and still have the hopeful faith that what I said wasn’t what I meant, is perhaps a gift from God. One that got her from one point to another safely, and positioned her to tell the story in a way that I could not.
I don’t know how long I sat there on the couch, on the section closest to the front door.
But, that’s where I was at the moment it became real.
The moment when the heartbreak became a ripple and the ripple was absorbed.
I don’t know how they got there. It seemed they just appeared, each hovering one step inside the door. A three-man row of grief and disbelief. I recognized the vacancy.
These were the first three people to share my grief; the first intimate ones I had faced.
The ones I knew were at least where I was, and were perhaps even deeper.
The ones who’d had him way longer than I; the catalysts of tears.
I had no words. Even if I had, speaking and crying is a complicated gift I have always lacked. Unconquerable, it’s either one or the other. Right then, it was the flow and terror.
In many ways the police and the emergency personnel were impartial. They were interested in facts.
Facts were an eerily calm surface; I dreaded the questions barely beneath. At some point, they would rise, buoyed by ripples, pushed upward as expelling gulps of grief. How could I explain why I wasn’t where I was supposed to be; where I usually was; where, for just this one time I wasn’t.