One’s most cherished beliefs are continually tested and eventually become exhausted. These beliefs often take one nowhere – motion without movement. This is where we find Henry, finally free of everything but his beliefs. One of them resembles the lyric, “it’s no better to be safe than sorry”. Henry would no longer play it safe and he was already sorry and yet he could not make himself unafraid and he decided to leave a note. Just in case. To whom it may concern. His obituary might start with, “A guy goes into a bar…”.
When you have gone where you were never told you could go, will you ever find your way back? The lost have no yellow crumbs to follow…but move, faking it, as they feel they must. One’s old belief map, annotated with supplied destinations but without compass, etched with strict instructions but smeared by ignorance’s trappings and fear’s perspiration, but having essential clues which have escaped into the yawning holes created by anxious re-referencing, is useless. You’ll get there, but via the path of least resistance. Things will get better, but not before they get a lot worse. The experience will make you stronger, if it doesn’t kill you. Change always appeals in the abstract. She fails to inform you of the initial pain. The harsh reality of nurturing the new, in an environment favoring the old, where old can scorch, drown or simply ignore you and leave you stranded. Sounds like fun.
He thought, Henry Peck thought: a secret meeting, at an unknown location, with a mysterious stranger – a Princess from Pandora – now that’s excitement…but something is missing – good sense.
Suffice it to say that getting screwed was better than being screwed, even if this might include a pinch of humiliation. Being manipulated sexually, if that is what is actually happening, has to be the best kind of manipulation. This guy has really thought this through. Wouldn’t a torrid one-night-stand avenge the decades of subservience and accommodation? A jumbo storage unit can always make room for one more ill-advised acquisition.
Henry Peck held the manila beer tab adventure map out the car’s window, between his thumb and forefinger, under the dieing yellow light and tried to make out the smeared numbers on the distorted surface as in flopped in the growing night wind.
8D Pete Street. Got it. Never been there but I know about where it was, 0ver in Badsoden in the decaying end of nowhere. It was near the reservoir named after the swamp that fed the mills that once gave life to this town. The meandering drive seemed to take longer than anticipated but that’s the way with unfamiliar places. And he was taking the shortcut. We’re heeeeere…I guess.
The four story walk-up loomed, among a legion of identical run down tenements and back lighted by a broken down school bus horizon and embroidered with the shapes of the small town’s still sunken warehouses and silent sulking machinery. Each of the devolving apartments in this man-made evil forest, faced front with no access and no expression and all entrances in the shadows behind. Each apartment displayed it’s number tacked under an identical porch light by an identical door. One by one each glowed respectable amber. Level four, 8D Pete, was indistinguishable. Not seeing a red light up above, Henry Peck descended his Hyundai Accent and began his ascent.
Henry noticed details as he moved. The muddy ground was heavily trafficked, both vehicle and other. A good thing? Animals, maybe cats and dogs, also good…and then some other beasts, bigger cats and dogs? He stopped and looked about.
I’m no authority on animal tracks, or feces, but…
Climbing the winding wooden steps and landings would be a workout for anyone other than a world class stair climber and add age, conditioning and eager anticipation and you might have a cardiac case. And what’s this stuff? The railing’s flaking yellow lead paint forbade Henry from holding on for safety and the bite of curled paint chips gnashing at his hand like neglected teeth. Each cluttered landing identical, each muddled porch distinguished by a potted plant or a rotted coach or a mottled Tom…except 8D, distinguished by nothing.
Sheena stood in the darkened doorway, invisible in of its depth. She was a 10 tonight, no detail left unattended. Henry did not see but sensed her, as she had hoped. He double checked the address and stepped forward toward her threshold. He stopped abruptly when she emerged, possibly stunned by the flash of her alluring smile and the pierce of her intent eyes.
“I wasn’t sure you would come” began Sheena.
“Neither, was I” replied Henry weakly.
“Oh, why is that?”
“You, first” countered Henry.
“I thought you would, pock, pock, pock, chicken out” Sheena teased.
“I shouldn’t be here” came Henry’s obligatory explanation.
Sheena caught herself, furtively, then replied, “We’ll see about that”.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
“Let’s go get a bite”.
“I don’t know the area. I was hoping I could take you to a place you’ve never been”.
She smiled, that different smile.
“There is no ‘area’ here, but I have just the place for you…for us, I mean”.