A Loner's Memories

Lionel

I slowly filtered the disappointment out of me as Claudia
calmed herself down. I knew it was her first real boyfriend, but crying over
Daniel was like mourning the loss of a fly. Nonetheless, I understood this
mannerism perfectly, and experienced it myself. It’s not fun when the first
person you get involved in a lot with throws you in the trash one day. All you
can feel as some nagging thought of you being useless to everyone in the world
and undesirable.

 Daniel left shortly after making out with who I was
guessing was his new girlfriend. He had done nothing but piss me off tonight.
All of his friends weren’t as they usual were around me, and actually seemed
more hostile. The reason why? Probably a set-up. Daniel arrived before me and
must have mentioned our troubled relationship to someone, and me being new to
the group, they gave Daniel the benefit of the doubt and decided to ruin all of
my enjoyment I had planned.

 We played paintball, and I couldn’t do well. Aiming a gun
wasn’t a strong point of mine. It was Daniel’s revenge I guess; turn everyone
against me. Well, he hasn’t seen how personal I can get yet, and I can still
beat him up and down the block when on the court. The next time he wants to go
tombstone, I’ll be ready with an improved aim and a loaded gun. Airsoft, of
course, a much more deadly tool then the conventional paintball gun.

 I had drifted off so deep into thought I barely heard
Claudia’s words. “Lionel, there’s somewhere I want to show you”. All it did was
give my overly imaginative mind more things to think about.

 Looking at her curiously, I was only able to utter the
one important question. “Well… it’s late… eh, who cares. Where is it?”

 There was a different glint in her eyes now. Remembrance,
and maybe sadness. She was recalling something. “You should know, Lionel… but I
guess not. It was a while ago but… maybe you’ll be able to find it in your
memories…” Her voice trailed off to allow me to wonder of the possibilities.

 When Daniel left, we hung out together. That was a
complete understatement; we stuck to each other like a magnet. The only thing
that could pull us apart were the boxes… and why they came I’m still unsure.
Every day was something new in our world, but I was unable to pinpoint one
specific moment that would be so pivotal in both of our lives.

 There was the time that we held a fake wedding… but that
was in her backyard. What would be the use of traveling back there? We got ice
cream the one day after trekking down to a really famous shop. Ha… that took us
the whole day just to get down there. Claudia forgot the directions, and I was
scrambling around… as fun as that was, it couldn’t be that. I loved
regurgitating these memories though… it was a wonderful feeling, analyzing the
great moments in my lifetime, and knowing that now we were a pair that those
moments would reappear, and fresh ones would pop up as well.

 I gestured to my car, opening the door for her, the car
which I outfitted for her wheelchair needs. Her therapy had shown improvement,
but I was still careful. I never did that for Samantha, stuff like that…
something about Claudia really wanted you to impress her, and it wasn’t the
looks, no; it was the personality. The bright, sunny, cheerful nature that lit
up my world every time I was around her.

 I took my position at the wheel and glanced over at her.
She was still looking odd about this whole ordeal. “So, you’re going to have to
dish out the coordination’s, captain” I replied in a half-jokingly manner.

She offered a little laugh. At least I was starting to
brighten her mood up. “It’s not far away from my house. Just go towards my
place, but take a right instead of a left. That’s basically it I think…
hopefully we won’t get lost”.

 I waved my hands. “As we usually do”. This was sarcastic
of course, but it also had a nugget of truth buried in it reinforced by the ice
cream memory.

 I started the car up, a personal joy. Listening to the
engine made me know I was on my way to freedom on wheels. Pulling out of the
neighborhood, I turned on the radio, looking through the multitude of CDs I had
stored in it over the years. Selecting one with a lot of burned tracks on it, I
turned up the volume and looked at her expectantly.

 When the opening piano of Take On Me sounded through the
speakers, she smiled at me. It was one of her favorite songs, and she knew that
I very well had knowledge of this fact. Before we knew it, the two of us were
singing along as we cruised through the county. I loved singing, and especially
when it was a song that anyone, everywhere, no matter what their mood was,
could sing along to.

 We were so caught up in this that a giggling Claudia
nearly forgot about the turn I had to make coming up, but we didn’t mind too
much. Nobody was out on the road, and it was just us. The song slowly faded
away as I continued down a straight-away road.

 All was quiet now as we recovered from all of our
hysterical laughing. Claudia appeared to be all business as she became
completely silent. In a dramatic manner, she pointed ahead of us to an upcoming
left turn into what looked to be a public park.

 Before I could ask her why she decided to choose this
particular location out of all of the other choices we had, I observed the park
closely. Familiar details erupted before my eyes as I slowly recognized the big
yellow slide, the maroon platforms, the orange monkey-bars, the retired
see-saw… even the old, rusty basketball hoop with no net. The court with the
faded decals, the sky blue decorations… I could go on and on describing the
things I saw, but I didn’t have to. My memory filled in the blanks. I had been
here before… many, many times before.

 It wasn’t any ordinary park that we were on our way to,
no. It was the very same park where the three of us met, all in the beginning
when we were kids. The lot had been our old stomping grounds before all the
moving craze took place and wreaked havoc on our lives. Thankfully, we could
get past those terrible times where we were all alone and regroup when we were
together. Well, it was just two now. The third one proved to be unwanted and
unneeded in our company.

 The same old trees we used to scale loomed over the
parking lot I drove into. I could have sworn that they had gotten bigger since
the last time I saw them. They were dimly lit by the streetlights strewn about,
revealing that they were in full bloom, the bulk of their beauty hidden by the
darkness of the night. In the day, I bet they would look amazing. I assumed
that the increased weight that came with my age would disallow me from going
back up those trees, but I wasn’t going to give up on that. Maybe I’ll try
later… or today. Is that what Claudia wants, maybe? I was still unsure.

 She smiled as she started remembering the same things as
me, most likely. This was a place full of memorable instants, and the park had
that atmosphere that a holy place gives off; a signal to you so that you can
tell that something incredible was born here. Now, it was returning. It wasn’t
impossible to sit in this car all day and continue to recall those moments, but
we were here for some reason, so it became impossible, at that time at least.

 Claudia took a deep breath and opened up the car door. I
kicked open mine and helped her out the other side. She took in the sweet
evening air and looked up at me. “This is it. You know what this is, don’t
you?”

 There was no way I could disagree with this. I nodded
slowly, still taking in all of the details that my wandering eyes picked up.
“Claudia… I couldn’t forget. It was all started here… all those years ago,
something brilliant began”. I shrugged. “Who cares what Daniel’s like now?
Those days can’t be tainted… they’re golden”.

 She took a second to digest my statement, then did
something completely unexpected. Slowly, but surely, she began to stand. In
therapy, she was practicing it, but doing so outside of that room was
dangerous. Instantly alert, I ran over and assisted her up, but surprisingly
she refused this help and got up all on her own. She faltered, but positioned herself
up anyway. Suddenly, she fell over, but before she could land face-first on the
pavement, I caught her and brought her back up to her feet. Just for a second,
or faces were so close to each other they were almost touching. We both smiled,
gazing into the others eyes and taking in their presence.

 “I can’t be in this darn thing” she said, glaring at the
wheelchair. “I’ll walk. I don’t even care if you help me… I’m staying on the
two feet I was born with”. I guess it made since, but that didn’t change the fact
that this was very risky, and more than she thought.

 “I care if I help you, because you’re not getting
anywhere without it, whether you need it or not. I’m here for you, and I always
was there”. This was my reply, and it was the spot-on truth. I was never going
to abandon her, even if this relationship didn’t work out in the end.

 She looked up ahead to one particular blue platform that
stood all by itself, and it looked to have no purpose except to take up space.
It had no way up to it that I could see, excluding the broken ladder that
Claudia would have no chance climbing. “Let’s go over there” she requested. I
was curious as to why that location out of all of the other possibilities, but
I wasn’t going to question her. This was her choice, so it must mean something.
Against my better judgment, I led her to the structure.

 The closer we came to the platform, the more I started to
think about its purpose. It didn’t take long before I pulled a file out of my
inner-brain cabinet and located the memory I think Claudia was trying to
trigger. It was definitely one of the more important moments in my life, though
I almost forgot it to the point of believing that it never really happened.

 It was the day of the move. Claudia was alerted the that
day that they were moving in the afternoon. The whole ordeal of her moving away
wasn’t a complete secret, and we had known for a day or two. We didn’t,
however, know it was approaching so fast,

 There was only one thing to do that day. The two of us
both realized that our time was limited, so as soon as I jumped out of bed that
morning I rushed to her house where she had already been waiting for me to
come. We had a nervous smile shared between us as we both knew that this was
our last day, and we were both thinking of things to do.

 The dialogue started reappearing in my mind. “We could
always go back in the woods for a while. Run around and stuff”. This was
Claudia, whose every idea was to get her away from her parents as far away as
possible. I didn’t blame her; she didn’t like them at the moment for the move.

 “I know you” I said with a little laugh. “You’d never
want to come back”. After a second of silence, I went on. “Actually… I don’t
think I would mind… too… much…” That was back when I wasn’t able to speak nearly
as much as I used to. I smiled, recalling just how much I had changed over the
years.

 She shrugged. It was obvious that she just wanted to go
somewhere. The sewer would be an option simply because I would be there with
her. “We’ve got to go somewhere”. There was a pause left for us to ponder.

 I clapped my hands, a broad smile on my face. I pointed
down the road. “I know! Let’s go back to the park”. It was the best idea I was
able to devise at that stage.

 We were both able to agree on this, so we set out for the
park. It was a slow walk; we wanted to treasure every moment and do whatever we
wanted along the way. It didn’t take too long to reach the park anyways, as it
was just a few blocks down the road. When we got there, we were pretty shocked
to see a very unusual sight. The swing sets were all empty, the platforms
abandoned, the slides not causing screams of delight. Silence was abound in the
park grounds… and no one else was around. We weren’t going to let this
puzzlement bother us for too long.

 Now that we were older, running on the platforms wasn’t
what we strived for anymore. What we did now, however, was climb on top of
whatever we could. We sat on top of the roof of one of the platforms, holding
hands. The sun wasn’t there that day. It was cloudy, with a large chance of
precipitation. Regardless, we ventured outdoors. We didn’t care… it was us.
Just us.

 “I wish the sun would come out today, you know? It’s all
doom and gloom out here…” Claudia’s voice trailed off as she realized this as I
did; a subliminal message. It was dark because she was leaving. It was going to
rain because of the tears we would inevitably let go when the parents finally
tore us apart. They’d need a crowbar to pull that off.

 “You know… I could sit here forever” I said, my voice
sounding oddly dreamy. Such a bad day had a mystical feeling to it. I turned to
look at her, and she looked back. “Would you want to stay with me?” It was a
shy question that really didn’t need an answer.

 “They’ll have to burn the park down if they want us to
leave” she responded, her voice slightly shaky. I squeezed her hand, a secret
message of ‘don’t cry just yet. I’m still here’. She found comfort in this and
leaned back on the roof.

 That was all we did for the rest of the day. It was just
Claudia and I up on the roof of this blue platform, gazing around, her trying
to take last-looks for fear she may never see me or this environment ever
again. We said little, as there was nothing to say. We were there for each
other, and they weren’t going to do this to us.

 The day was dwindling away in the distance quickly. The
parents had not yet come, but that didn’t bother us one bit. We sat for as long
as we could. Soon, it had gotten too late though. The sky remained dark and
foreboding of the coming events that would soon define the pain I felt all of
those years she had left me by myself.

 Then I saw something else happen. It was that blue
platform, the lonely one with the broken ladder. It was still broken back then,
too. Being adventurous as we were, we jumped from the roof and on to this
platform. Claudia almost slipped, but I was there to keep her on her feet. As
always.

 We stood there now, looking into each other. It was time
for us to go, we knew that. We also knew that once we left, we’d never see each
other again. We heard a clap of thunder in the distance, and we snapped our
heads skyward. Lightning was flashing in the distance. I guess the storm was
finally coming, and right on cue. Mother Nature can be a real pain in moments
like these.

 I was brought out of my mind and back into reality. I was
able to lead Claudia onto the blue platform, the same one I was on in my
memories. It was the two of us again, on this one platform, the only difference
being that we weren’t leaving, and rather staying together.

 Back in my mind, I saw myself leaning closer to her, and
she was leaning closer to me. The first raindrops hit the ground. There was a
second of hesitation; more rain pounded on the ground. She made the first move,
bringing me into a strong, forceful, beautiful kiss.

 In the present, the same thing was happening, just there
was no malicious weather. The kiss was wonderful, and if I had any doubts about
her, they were obliterated. This was out moment, our time, and it was an
amazing, indescribable feeling.

 My brain showed the two of us running of in our separate
ways as the rain was brought down upon us. That was when the memory ended, like
if you were watching a movie and it suddenly turned off. The lightning flashed
in my eyes, but cleared away to show Claudia standing before me, smiling.

  The present was
now, and it was great. This was life when it was good, when people were nice
and accepting. This was life when you finally found the love of your life.
Nothing made me feel better than knowing that she had taken in my caring.

 Soon, we were back in the car. We were in love, simple as
that. We looked at each other and smiled. Today was worth it. The party wasn’t
that good, sure, Daniel was a jerk, sure, but this whole scene at the park
couldn’t have been better. It was a journey down memory lane, and the beginning
of a new chapter. It all began in that park, I mentioned that before… and it
wasn’t ending there, no. It was just restarting. I turned on the engine and
pulled out of the parking lot.

 I could have sworn I heard a raindrop hit the windshield.

The End

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