Parkland: The Chair

November 19th

8:03am

Parkland, IN

 

 

A cold yet light breezed rushed over Oscar as he sat down in the old wooden chair. It wasn’t meant to be comfortable, but when he bought it, he wasn’t thinking about leisure time, he was only thinking about time spent at Rebecca’s grave. It was a clear morning as he the sun broke through the many bare trees that surrounded the cemetery. The slim beams of sunshine were war against the bare skin of Oscar’s hands as he nervously cracked his knuckles, not wanting to have the conversation he was about to have. For more years than he would like to admit, he would come and sit in the chair and sit silently at the grave of an old friend. A Friend that he loved with more and more as the days stretched into years.

 

“Hello.” He said.

 

He didn’t always talk to the headstone that lay in front of him. When he did, he did so with gusto. Over the years, he had learned to not care when others would see him talking to a piece of granite that didn’t talk back as they carried on with their fulfilling lives as he sat motionless waiting for his to end.

 

“I had a good week this…week.”

 

Oscar didn’t know exactly what he wanted to say but, he knew that he had to get through this talk if he was going to move on, if he could move on. He didn’t know whether or not he was doing the right thing, but he knew that he was slowly, agonizingly, going nowhere and he wasn’t getting any younger. Oscar was forty years old, pale, almost penniless and physically weaker than a man his age should be. He didn’t have much in the way of friends or family. Most of them echoed the same sentiment to him; they could watch him slowly commit suicide by not living his life, and Oscar had recently realized how tired he was. Every movement he took, be it walking to the grocery store or eating dinner when he could afford it, felt as if he had a twenty pound weight tied to each limb. When he breathed in, it felt as if someone were reaching in him and physically pulling on his lungs. And when he would exhale, every breath felt as if that someone sharply twisted them.

 

“I made it to work every day this week, and I ate almost three meals every day.”

 

Oscar smiled nervously.

 

“I ate a lot of top ramen.”

 

The whole time he was talking to the tombstone, as he tapped his left foot, he forced himself not to it. If he had, if he saw her name…well, he didn’t know if he would be able to get through the day. Oscar reached into his pocket and shifted his weight in the wooden chair as the first slight pang of pain shot his right buttock. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. He quickly glossed over the words, hoping that he didn’t grab the wrong one, like another past due electric bill.

 

He spent hours last night trying to write the perfect letter to Rebecca. One that would explain his point of view, while at the same time, give Rebecca peace of mind on the off chance that she were actually listening. Even though he knew she wasn’t. She never had listened before, and she wasn’t going to start now. Not after twenty one years of sitting in the chair and talking to her.

 

Oscar cleared his throat, and began to read.

 

“Rebecca. I met you when I was nine years old. I was on the swings outside the apartment I grew up in, back when it was called “Deer Run” Apartments. Looking back, I always loved the “U” shape of the building.”

 

Oscar chuckled, nervously, not knowing why he wrote that part. Rebecca already knew the shaped of the building they grew up in. She was there. Maybe he wrote it because when he thought of the sha[e of the building, he  remembered that Rebecca had lived in the apartment directly across from him, and when they were teenagers, and it was warm outside, they would sit on their balconies and look at each other while they were talking on the phone, and it would seem to them like they were sitting next to each other. Maybe Oscar was hoping that she would think of that to.

 

He continued reading.

 

“You asked me if you could use the swing next to me and I said “sure”. Still to this day, I can’t tell you why, but we just started talking and playing together, and the best part of it was that you were the first girl to talk to me outside of school, and I didn’t think you were gross.  But we started sitting next to each other on the bus to school, we ate lunch together and played football in the courtyard of our apartment building.”

 

Oscar had to stop reading for a moment to stifle a whimper and keep a tear from falling down his face. He was thinking about how shiny her black hair was, and how it looked compared to her green eyes. Her eyes were so vibrant; they looked like the lush green of the forest that surrounded their childhood home.

 

“As we grew older, we spent more time together. You would eat dinner with me and my mom. I would go to church with you on Sundays. We used to steal cigarettes from your father’s car once a week and not smoke them. We would just hold them in the hopes of them magically making us cool.  And then one day, everything changed. I kissed you, and you kissed me back. We were twelve when I first fell for you.”

Oscar couldn’t hold in the tear any more. It betrayed him as it fell from his cheek and landed on his leg. He could feel the warmth of the tear as it seeped into the denim of his jeans. Then his hands started to shake as he looked at the name on the tombstone:

 

Rebecca Mona Valenti

Beloved Daughter

January 2nd, 1979 – July 6th, 1997

 

 

It all rushed back to him.

The way it always did when he saw her name. The smell of her hair, the weight of her hand on his; the way she would gaze into his eyes, as if they were the only ones in the world that mattered. Her laugh, how tightly she would hug him every morning before school and the way she would say goodnight just before they hung up the phone at night. It all came back, harder this time than it had before. The chair creaked beneath Oscar as she shifted his weight for the hundredth time.

He bolted up and stood over Rebecca’s grave, crushing the letter and shoving it in his pocket, ignoring the many hours he stressed over the right words to use. It didn’t matter now. The right words wouldn’t change anything. Nothing changes, it just moves forward.

“I’m sorry Rebecca, but I can’t do this anymore. I have been coming here and sitting with you for over twenty years. I have been at your grave almost every day for over half my life. Jesus, I’ve mourned you longer than I ever knew you.”

Oscar balled up his fists and actively tried to control their shaking as he opening wept, but tried to keep his voice from cracking.

“I have had a relationship with this chair longer than I had with you. My own mother won’t talk to me anymore because she says she can’t look at me give up on life. She can’t stand to see her son sit here and wait to die. And I can’t either.”

He sat back down and plunged his head into his hands. Exhaustion stabbed at his spine and guilt turned his stomach, but Oscar forced himself to continue, speaking almost as softly as he could.

“You were the only person I have ever loved. And I am so sorry that I’m the reason that you’re not alive anymore. I’ll never know what could have happened between us. If I had been there, when I said I would, you wouldn’t have had to walk home and you and I would probably be together right now.”

Oscar wiped his eyes and looked up to the sky, stretching his neck and noticed that the clouds had parted and the sky was wide open and full of blue hope . He hoped that Rebecca was listening.

“But I wasn’t there. You had to walk home alone, and now you’ve been gone for a very long time. And now it’s time for me to leave to. You have no idea what this guilt has done to me. I look too old to only be forty. I hurt every morning because I see you lying next to me. I can’t sleep at night because I dream of the children we may have had.”

Oscar’s hands finally stopped shaking and he looked at Rebecca’s tombstone and felt a surge of energy the likes of which he hadn’t known for quite some time.

“I won’t do it anymore ‘Becca. I can’t let my guilt rule my life anymore. I’m leaving. I don’t know where I’m going to go, but I have to leave if I’m going to have any kind of life.”

He knelt down in front of Rebecca’s grave and closed his eyes and placed a hand on his heart.

“You will always be here. After all this time, there is no way for that to change. I just want you to know that I will always love…”

Suddenly, a boney, sinewy hand grabbed him by the wrist. The hand shot out from under the ground that was Rebecca’s grave. The dirt and grass before him fell away as Rebecca’s decayed and repulsive corpse began to climb out of the earth. Patches of hair and skin were missing. Her face was mostly bone but her engaging green eyes that reminded Oscar of home were still intact somehow, after all these years.  Oscar tried rearing back but found it impossible to wrench his hand free from Rebecca’s icy vice-like grip. With her free hand, she grabbed the back of Oscar’s neck and began pulling him into the ground. He struggled but found himself lost in her gaze.

“Oscar,” Rebecca said, “Don’t leave me!”

As soon as it happened, he was gone. The earth and grass were undisturbed in front of the headstone.

And an empty wooden chair sat before it.

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