Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Life So Long

I used to walk five miles just to stand outside your house, every night for a year. And you never knew. This was back when we were kids, you understand. It's not like I'm like that now, not like I'd do that now. Because I'm not, I wouldn't. Believe me, I've learned my lesson. That's all in the past. But back when we were kids I used to walk to your house after dinner, from my side of town to yours. Past the Texaco, across the river, along the train tracks, through the greenhouses. To your house, standing there.
     What I ended up seeing most of the time was your grandfather, sitting in his wheelchair in the living room. I'd watch from across the street as he'd sit there spitting out pieces of his lung into a nearby plastic pail, parked alone in front of the TV. The TV was always on in your house. He'd stare at the weathermen when the news was over. He'd stare at Johnny Carson. He'd stare at old episodes of "Gunsmoke" and "Columbo." Except for the spitting he never moved, he never said a word. Nobody there for him to speak to. He was wrapped up completely in a green plaid blanket, except for his dry little feet at the bottom and his shrunken  little apple of a head at the top. His ears stuck out. His hair was matted down. His teeth were gone and his face collapsed in around his mouth.
     He'd fall asleep in his wheelchair eventually and eventually you'd come in to wheel him away, I could never see where you took him. You always left the television running. I'd wait there across the street, waiting for you to reappear, but you never did. Just an empty room with the TV running, and after a while I'd start the walk back home. You told me once that he'd been in the First World War, that he had fought in France and was some kind of hero. You told me that he always told the same stories and that all his stories were all lies. And I couldn't imagine being that old, of willing myself to live a life so long, unless you were living it with me. And you never even knew.


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