Memories of Al

I knew of him for several years before we officially met. I was just a kid, really. He seemed so exotic and worldly back then. We had just one class together in high school but neither of us paid much attention to one another. Our relationship didn’t get serious until college, when I found him in several of my classes. Truth be told, I sought him out, choosing at least one class each quarter where I knew we could spend time together. His mysterious complexity intrigued me, such a contrast to my youthful innocence.

One would think that we’d be friends after all the time we’ve spent together over the decades, but he’s become my nemesis. Each time we’re together, all the old hard feelings are set aside as we begin to get to know each other again. A month or two passes and it seems like things will really work out this time. I try hard, investing time and energy. The more I try, the more distant he becomes. It seems unnecessarily complicated. Next come the misunderstandings, hurt, and confusion. Frustrations build. I don’t know what to do, so I try everything. It’s too much. Everything’s wrong. Eventually we part with feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. Each time, the same. As time passes, the scars fade. We reconnect, continuing the cycle. I see it. I know it. Yet I keep going back.

We’ve been apart for several years this time, but I know he hasn’t really gone anywhere and neither have I. I tell myself that I can get along without him. I am strong and independent and resourceful and clever. My life without Al is peaceful and satisfying. I don’t need the stress, tears, and self-doubt that our encounters create.

Truthfully, I hate him. I also need him. While I have attended several colleges and have accumulated more than enough credits, I have never asked any of them for a degree. They have each accommodated me by not providing one. The single remaining obstacle to completing the college degree I began all those years ago is Al G. Bra. Until we reach an understanding, Al and I, there will always be that bit of unfinished business. I must reluctantly admit that we’ll likely meet again someday, continuing the familiar, tragic cycle.

Author’s Note:

Here’s another little story for the Geist Postcard contest. I just can’t seem to keep myself from submitting. Surely, they’ll cut me off soon.

This was actually a very hard story for me to write because it has been a sensitive topic for me for many years. The story is simple enough, but there was a lot of real emotion to get through as the words appeared on the page.

I found this photo on the Mental Floss website. This was the caption:

Getty Images

1955: A student leafs through a book in the Bennet Library at the Wyoming Seminary, a prep school in Northern Pennsylvania.

Blood Moon

Finally relaxing into the sofa cushions, wine glass rising toward my lips, my gaze floated across the clock on the mantle. “Shit!” I leaped up and ran the three short steps to look out the living room window.

“What?” he wondered, turning to look. “That full moon is tonight. Do you think we missed it?” We had heard about the upcoming meteorological event on the news for several days. It was supposed to be the coolest thing ever. Blue moon, full moon, blood moon, harvest moon, and eclipse all wrapped into one amazing event. This happens infrequently, just once every 20 years or so.

He sprang into action, pulling on shoes and running out to stare up into the night sky. Although it was a clear night, the moon was hiding from us. Maybe we should drive around looking for it. We had both been looking forward to seeing this, so it was worth trying to catch the end of it.

I turned off the oven, leaving the chicken pot pies inside, as he took the dog out. We left the lights and the TV on as we dashed out the door wondering where we should go to see this marvel. We live on a hill, but there are houses and street lights all around. I had an idea that we could park at the community center on the next hill over. The large parking lot would be deserted this time of night and we would have a clear view in several directions.

We pulled out of the driveway and headed down the street; he drove while I swiveled my head, searching. Almost immediately, I spotted it. It was so low on the horizon that the house next to ours must have blocked the view from our yard.

We weren’t too late, after all! We raced up the hill and pulled into the empty community center, parking sideways across two spots for the best view. And what a view it was. Several shades of orange competed for space on the enormous, slowly disappearing disk.

As we watched, another car pulled into the lot, clearly doing the same thing as us. A man got out and took some photos. This was a perfect spot to view it from and we were surprised more people weren’t there. Minutes passed and the eclipse progressed. We felt lucky to have caught it. He turned on the radio and we both took some pictures with our phones, although we couldn’t capture the enormity of what was happening. We sat quietly and watched.

The other car drove off while we watched and waited. The moon was still there in all its reddish-orange glory. Still big. Still eclipsing. As I was witnessing this rare, spectacular, beautiful event, I was horrified to find myself hungry and bored.

“Want to go?” he asked. “Yeah, I’m done. Let’s have dinner.”

The moon, looming vibrantly overhead, watched us go.

Author’s Note:

This happened on September 28, 2015. In writing the story, I hoped to convey the urgency, the frantic search, the subsequent joy, and the ultimate boredom. At least we aren’t the only people unable to appreciate nature’s beauty for more than 15 minutes at a time.

My current favorite contest (Geist Postcard) extended their deadline so I wrote up one last story to enter. The maximum word count was 500, so this just fits.  I’m sad to admit that there is some satisfaction in knowing that all these stories will be read by a professional in the writing business. As contest entries, they are no longer just letters on a page, they have evolved into shared stories. No, it really doesn’t take much to please me.