Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mr. Boot

Have you ever been having a lovely time socializing when someone booted you into a tailspin? If so, while you were spiraling downward, did you catch yourself midair and realize that the object sticking out of your behind was actually a soft leather moccasin, so you asked for the other?

At May’s end, we threw a high-school graduation party for my daughter to celebrate the end of an epoch, the beginning of another—for Ivy as well as me. I’d looked forward to this day all Ivy’s life. We were blessed with good food, wonderful friends, an ex-husband, and Mr. Boot.

Mr. Boot is of failing health and aiming at gene therapy for his fix. A cigarette smoker since about 1961 and recent cigarillo puffer, his congestive heart failure and peripheral artery disease has steadily worsened. In years past, his lying-embedded-in-soft-skin Device that Injects a Cardio Kick (lessDICK) has on three different occasions shocked him as he fell toward the asphalt during tennis matches, scaring other players into the hospital.

For decades Mr. Boot has also enjoyed pot, made easier these days via marijuana’s legal, more lethal form that turns a cough into a lung-reversal procedure. But a deep inhale after lung expulsion draws them back into the chest cavity. (Another friend who smokes legal MMJ promised me he would quit after I mentioned his painful cough.)

So back to Mr. Boot. He seemed to be having a quiet, conversational time at the party talking with my ex, his former classmate, and meeting others. Eventually, though, I saw him move into the corner of the sofa, perhaps hoping he’d slip into the cracks. Soon after when I left the room, Mr. Boot slipped out of the house without a cough.

Upon my return and seeing neither him nor his car, I wondered if his premature ejection meant he had fallen ill—or worse. He could be going to play tennis. Researching, I didn’t find him between the sofa cushions, and his car hadn’t careened into the bush. My daughter said she saw him go outside to have a cigarette.

I immediately rang his number. No answer. I left a message for him to call me.

For four days, no call. No announcements in the obituaries. No word from his relatives. Had he really become debilitated or was he playing dead again? A couple weeks prior, he’d said, “Your number didn’t register on my iPhone.”

The more I stayed awake nights contemplating his vanishing act, the more memories I choked up, never swallowing again. In the 13 years of our acquaintance, he wouldn’t tell his longer-term galfriend that he spent time with me on Friday nights. I was treated like the paramour—by a single man. He’d toss chewed gum and lit cigarette butts out his car window. He could only perform on his guitar.

So on that fourth day I awakened rested, ready to tackle a procrastinated project: fixing my very large window blinds. This five-hour task was in the category of performing one’s own surgery without anesthesia, so when a friend of 25 years called to ask if I’d like to stroll around the Broadmoor Lake, I said yes, as long as he’d help me snap the blinds into place.

Within an hour, I was seeking solace, opening my guts to Ed about Mr. Boot. “He’s got you where he wants you,” Ed stated matter-of-factly.

“Where’s that?” I asked.

“He’s got you thinking about him. He’s got your attention,” without actually having to talk, I thought.

I realized that playing dead seemed most viable as Boot’s game of choice. He was really a zombie (pictured below). And just as Ed and I sat down in the hot sun to enjoy a cold brew, the clouds opened and a hailstorm of beeps pummeled my mobile phone—nine texts, six calls, plus two more at home, I later counted.

The departed’s feeble fingers finally pushed, pressed, and punished. Suddenly I became the only person Mr. Zombie wanted to talk to, and just when I was enjoying his silence. Why is it when someone wants to talk, he expects you to be ready and willing?

“Good beer! Refreshing. Lovely view.” I thanked Ed for being nonjudgmental through 25 years of friendship and my two marriages—one legal, one lethal.

At five o’clock we headed home, where Ed checkmated me three times. I steered him where I could win, outside into my backyard’s silence. Eyes closed, relaxed, I sensed a peeping presence. As I opened my eyes, there stood Mr. Zombie back from the dead, gazing accusingly, if not defeated in a small, weak way.

He was ready to talk but obviously not to listen. He coughed.

After realizing that the friend sitting with me was alive, Zombie man spewed pieces of his hardened heart toward me, missing every time, then he stomped to the front of my house and happened upon my daughter returning home. Blessed with a receptive audience, Zombie retched chunks of vile about all of my qualities from his dead perspective. She, in her teenage emotional tumult, swallowed his entire vomitous mass.

Feeling empowered because Zombie man had become her hate buddy and they shared a common enemy, she moved into her dad’s house and I haven’t seen her since.

Every opening creates space for something to take its place, hopefully something better. I love my daughter more than anyone and have given her 19 years of education, support, safety, love, and my life. She, I miss.

Filling the space left empty are focus, stability, peace, and people I’ve not seen nor really known well in my 26 Colorado years. I’m growing, sewing, reading, writing, and enjoying an adult life.

The morals of this story:

• If a person sees an imperfection and criticizes you, especially to your children, waste no time and excuse him or her from your presence.

• Enjoy life with those who like you.

God is good. There are plenty of wonderful people to share time and a cold beer with on a hot day. Ahh.

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