Saturday, December 28, 2013

I'm Not Going Away

Greenwich Village, 1958.

She was a wall of pain and I knew it. She tried so hard to hide it but I could tell. We were in art class together and I thought we had the same sensibilities. Macabre, dark, a little more skewed than everyone else was. The difference was that I had a family and she didn’t. I think they split her up from her brother and by the time we were in high school, they were in different places. I think that killed her. And all she wanted was to get out.

I tried really hard, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her. For one thing, she was beautiful, and another and another. Invited her to a family picnic when we were 15. She barely ate, talked mostly with my dad and two kid brothers. Mom was watching her like a hawk. You ever notice how middle-aged women look at younger ones? Combination of fear and longing.

Nell was always beautiful. Long, wavy hair, blonde and brown cascading over each other. Taller than the other girls with a long neck like a swan. She had a burgundy colored sweater she wore a lot in fall. I was crazy about her.

Both of us were a little different than the other kids in Sheboygan. I wasn’t interested in sports and the bullies went after me. Started drawing to get away from it, then painting. Came from a theater family, though they were all amateurs. Mom was in all the Sheboygan community theater plays and dad directed them.

Nell came to the plays sometimes with her foster parents. She looked bored but was always polite. I asked her out a few times but she made it clear she only wanted to be friends. I tried hard to forget about her and even had another girl for a couple of years; Maisie, with red hair and freckles. Mom liked her a lot better and Maisie was a happy soul. But when Nell started talking about New York, I started thinking about it.

I’d been thinking a while about leaving Wisconsin, going to the Cities maybe. New York, with its siren song of artists, started to appeal to me. I thought I had a good eye, and it seemed to me I could find good artists and put something together, maybe a gallery. I was always good with people, I just like them and know how to sell to them. And if Nell was going to New York, wouldn’t she need a gallery?

My mom and dad supported the idea of me going, though Maisie cried buckets when I told her I was going alone. I relented after a while and said she was welcome if she wanted to. But we got into a fight in Ohio and she went back home. Just as well, really. I needed to move past Maisie and I think she knew it, too.

I had no idea the whole gallery thing would take off, but it did. Had no idea Nell would find Gary and start a family with him, either, but that’s how it goes. I thought she was finally getting happy but it turned out not to be. And now, for some crazy reason, she’s turning to me. I know the kids may not like it but I’m not letting that stop me. I’ve loved her all my life and I’m not going to turn her down now.

That Gary didn’t treat her like he should have and now he’s lost her. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and it’s his tough luck. I’m never going to do anything to make her want to leave me. I’m going to make her happy and her kids will just have to deal with it.

I’m not going away.

Chaz D. Springer

Chaz photo: Guido Strotheide

Art Gallery: rafeejewell