Reads: 10

Hurray for the Revolution

 

 

Lena relistened to Tom's message again. Some of her college friends were meeting at his house on Long Island. They were "the gang," the closest friends she had during school, and who she had hung out with during her undergraduate years. She hadn't seen most of them for a while, but she had no idea why they had become estranged from each other. Such is life, after all, thought Lena. Close friends grow apart; everyone gets busy chasing their happiness. The work search had spread them over the state and across the whole country. Right after graduation, they had maintained contact but gradually had floated apart. Part of the reason was her husband, who didn’t like her much to meet her old friends.

Lena would be happy to meet them again. It would be interesting to see how they had changed. In ten years, everyone changes, in small ways and large. A gray hair here and there, a pound more or less doesn't make much of a difference. What life inevitably, irrevocably alters is the very soul. That's what changes without any outside sign until the very fabric of a person transforms.

Lena's thoughts were interrupted by her girls’ screams - Kate and Sarah’s happy hubbub livened up the house. Lena met them, then helped them with their homework. Later, Lena’s husband, Charles, arrived home tired from work. He was a rheumatologist in the nearby hospital, where Lena also worked in administration. Limping a little from old trauma, as if he suffered from some disease from his specialty, Charles came in the house, kissed the kids, and then her. Throughout making dinner and caring for the kids, Lena forgot about Tom's message.

Later, when she was brushing her teeth in preparation for bed, she remembered. That made her look at herself in the mirror. Had she changed a lot from who she was ten years ago? Lena was a petite blonde with a beautiful face and green cat eyes. She smiled. Her look, still youthful, showed some of the signs of aging—her skin was not as elastic, small wrinkles appeared at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Lena had also put on a pound or two. The only thing that had not changed was her eyes. They glistened as they had when she was her daughters’ age. The eyes, the window to her soul. How had her soul changed in those ten years? Had she become more callous like others her age?

She went to the bedroom. Charles was reading a newspaper in bed. She lay on her stomach on her side of the bed and smiled up at him.

"My college friend Tom called and invited us to a gathering of some old friends from college next Saturday," Lina said, expecting that she will have to fight with her husband for permission to go.

"Where is it?"

"It's on Long Island. An hour away from here. We can drop the girls with my parents and have a good time. I haven't seen some of my college friends for a long time. It'd be good to catch up. Let's go, can we?"

"Of course," Charles said, surprising her, just shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly.

 

***

 

Tom's house was on a small hill. The yard was nicely maintained, with bushes and flowers planted on both sides of the path and stairs leading to the house. The pungent smell of summer flowers saturated the air. Lena and Charles climbed the stairs to the place and rang the bell. Tom opened the door—an African American man, average in height and build. He had put on an apron and something resembling a chef's hat.

"Come on, you two. You were supposed to be here at noon, weren't you?" Tom said, smiling widely.

"I am sorry. Do you know how bad the traffic is until you get out of New Jersey?"

Tom hugged Lena and then shook hands with Charles. They entered the house. The guests followed Tom in a zigzag around the house.

In the backyard were Katherine and her husband, Fred.

"Hey, you two!" waved Katherine when she saw them. She hurried close and hugged Lena tightly. "Hi, Lena. I am so glad that you are here. Hello, Charlie," said Kate and shook hands with Charles in a familiar way.

"Hi, Kate. Fred." Lena said and shook Fred's hand.

In her freshman year in college, Kate had been Lena's closest friend. Later, they had become a little estranged. Lena didn't like how Kate used men. She had married well in the end, though. Fred was, from what Lena had heard, a prosperous businessman. Well, maybe he wasn't a beauty with his crooked nose and a face with an air of constant suspicion, but as long Kate liked him, that was the important thing. She looked great. Lena poked Charles in the ribs when she felt that he was staring too much at her old friend.

"Where are the others?" Lena asked.

"Oli will be here in ten minutes. Roger at about that time, too. He is taking the bus. I should go pick him up from the station, but I am a little tipsy. I will call him and tell him to take a cab." Tom said.

"It's all right. I will go to pick Roge up," Lena said. Charles looked at her disapprovingly. She shrugged apologetically. "That way, you will have some time to get to know each other."

Lena didn't wait for an answer and ran into the house through the open French doors. From behind, her husband’s voice reached her.

"Wait! You don't even know where the station is!"

"I will find it in the GPS!" she shouted over her shoulder.

Once she arrived at the station, Lena had to wait ten minutes for the bus to arrive. She bought coffee from a diner in the building. The coffee from bus station diners always tastes stale and burned, she thought. It didn't matter, though. She needed to gulp something hot. She felt happy and couldn't say precisely why, but instead of trying to figure it out, she just smiled and let the feeling embrace her. Lena was surprised when she realized that she had not seen Roge for about six years - since he got married. The two of them had been best friends during college. Roge was always next to her in challenging moments. He was the one who organized the group to meet up after college. Lena felt uncomfortable when she thought that she had never arranged any meetings, and gradually Roge called her less and less often until he had stopped completely. "How could I have allowed that, for us just not to talk anymore?" she wondered. Her family, her career, her house were some of her excuses.

The bus arrived at the station and the doors opened with a hiss. Roger didn't show up with the first passengers. Lena thought that he was probably sitting on his seat, waiting for the rest of the people to pass him by. It was a typical Roge. He would cede the way to an ant. At the end of the line of people, Lena realized with surprise that he wouldn't get off the bus after all. He didn't pick up his phone when she called him, either. Lena drove back to Tom's house. A brand new black Mercedes glistened in front of the garage.

Lena stepped into the backyard of the house. There Oliver, another friend of hers, had joined Tom, Katherine, and Fred. Oliver was the first date she had ever had. He was the "ladies' man" of their group.

"Hello, Doctor York," Lena said when she saw him, hurrying over to hug him. "The expensive car outside must be yours, I guess?"

Oliver laughed heartily. "Yes, I put the first payment down with my first paycheck, right after I finished my residency. Besides, I caught up with Charles while you were away. Nice guy," he said, leaning close to her ear. "So how are you?"

Lena spread her arms. "I am fine. You know—two daughters, seven and nine years old. Besides, I am aging."

"Do you still work at the hospital?"

"Yes, I do, but now I'm in administration." She looked around. "Roger didn't show up at the bus station. I thought that maybe I'd missed him and he took a cab?"

Oliver shrugged his shoulders. Tom had heard and approached them.

"Our pal Rog is not coming."

"Why?" Lena asked. Suddenly, her good mood disappeared.

"He is apparently in jail since the other day."

"He’s in jail? What the hell for?"

"DWI. His sister called just now to tell me."

"But how is that possible?" Lena was perplexed. Charles came up next to her and embraced her shoulders.

"It's possible. Everything's possible where Roge is concerned. He has always been like this, doing silly things," Oliver said.

"I hope he gets out fast," Lena whispered.

Charles asked Tom, "Who is this Roger?"

"Another friend of ours."

"I think you might have met him at our wedding," Kate said. "A tall man. He wore a brown suit."

"Oh, I think I remember him. Dear, didn’t he ride with us from the church to the restaurant?" Charles asked. Without waiting for an answer, he turned to the others. "On our way, a cab stopped next to our car at a streetlight - I think the company was called Star Taxi. They have a red star logo painted on the front of their cars."

"I know them. It’s a popular company in the city," Fred said.

Charles nodded to acknowledge the other man and then continued, "Well, that dude opened the car window and started shouting: "Hurray, the Revolution's begun! Long live the Revolution!" People around us looked as if we were the crazy ones."

Everyone but Lena laughed.

"Yes, that must have been Roger. It sounds like him. He sometimes does crazy stuff like that," Oliver said, then turned to Tom and Lena. "What is he doing now? You guys were best friends in college."

Charles looked at Lena in surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I haven't heard him for so long. Since he married, what was his wife's name?"

"Emily," Tom offered cheerfully. "They got divorced a couple of years ago. Roger got thrown into jail for a short time again. Someone saw him urinating in the center of town. He was drunk, of course. I think since then, since his divorce, at least, he lost his way. You know, started chasing his tail."

"Well said - chasing his tail. He's been chasing his tail forever. How many professions did he go through? He was a photographer; then he tried to start a newspaper, then he was a cab driver..."

"Maybe he just hasn't found anything that fits him," Kate attempted to interrupt.

"…then he started a second Bachelors," Oliver continued. "I don't think that he is looking for something that fits him. He just lacks the patience to finish the things that he starts."

"You mean like you do?" Lena asked a bit pointedly.

Oliver shrugged shoulders and smiled. "More like all the rest of us do. Each of us has a solid career except Roge. I am agitated that such a talented person is throwing his life away. Wait, let me show you something."

Oliver took out his phone, and after a short fiddle with it, said, "This is Roge's post on Facebook from last week." He cleared his throat and started reading aloud, ‘Once Mom left the French window open, and a mouse entered the house. It made it to my room. All night long, it was nibbling something. In the morning, there were fragments on the floor next to the door frame. The mouse had chewed a small hole in it. We put a trap out to catch it. I heard the trap close shut the next night. At daylight, I took it to the backyard and found a small gray mouse in it. I showed it to my Mom, Dad, and Sis. I also wanted to show it to my friend Joe, but he wasn't at home. I forgot about the mouse in the trap until the next day when Joe came back. Then we went to the backyard to see the mouse. It had died. I wondered then how it was possible that the small mouse had chewed a hole in the door frame in one night but died after just one day in the trap?"

The group was silent for a moment, then Oliver, Fred, and Charles burst into laughter.

"I like it," Tom said quietly.

"So do I." Kate joined him.

"I don't know. Quite an unusual post," Oliver said. "You are right, Charles. It's not just you who thinks that Roge is a weird one. Anyway, let's drink to his health, to his getting out and staying out of jail. For our weirdo, Roge!" Everyone clinked their glasses and drank a toast to Roger’s health.

The afternoon continued in conversations until it got late, and it was time to part. Lena said her goodbyes and sat next to Charles in the car. She had drunk more than a couple, so he was driving.

After fifteen minutes of riding in silence, Charles said, "I didn't know that you were so close with Roger. You care about him?"

Lena thought for a while and then responded carefully. "Yes, we're close. He was maybe my best friend in college."

"Pretty weird dude...at least from what I remember from Fred's and Kate's wedding. Somehow, I didn't imagine you hanging out with people like him. You never mentioned him anyway."

Lena looked at him and smiled bitterly. Suddenly she had gotten sad. A lump was rising in her throat. They fell silent for a while.

"Have you two ever dated?" Charles asked her.

She looked at him, shocked.

"No! Why would you ask that?"

"I don't know, but it's obvious that you care a great deal about him...especially considering he’s such a loser."

Lena didn't answer. She tried to stifle her tears but couldn't. She didn't know why she was so hurt, didn’t understand why she was crying. Maybe it was the alcohol talking. Or perhaps it was because she imagined the poor mouse, forgotten in the trap, without anyone coming to let it out. Charles looked at her, utterly baffled.

On Washington Bridge, they passed a cab with a red star painted on the front. Underneath were the words Star Taxi. Lena looked at it and laughed. She lowered the car window and put her head through it.

Charles was stunned. "What are you doing?!? Come back inside!"

"Mind your own business!" she said to him. Then she turned to the cab in the next lane and waved a hand clenched into a fist.

"Long live the Revolution! Hurray for the Revolution!" she shouted. The cab driver looked at her, confused. She smiled at him and lowered her body back into the car; then she turned to Charles.

"It doesn't matter if he is a loser. And you know, tomorrow I will go to see him." She paused to take a deep breath and then continued. "When you realize that there is no way out, then you die. But there is always a way out. You just need someone to remind you of that."

"What are you talking about?"

Lena didn't answer. She wasn't feeling sad anymore.


Submitted: May 20, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robert Ratman. All rights reserved.

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