The Epidemic of Loneliness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A fictional narrative of a women reflecting back on the past.

Submitted: October 08, 2018

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Submitted: October 08, 2018

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Lena was about 150 years old, or at least that is how she seemed to me at 8 years old. Grandma would send me over to Lena’s with chicken soup and pie from time to time. Setting out of my grandmother’s front door, I would look down at my black and white saddle shoes while the chicken soup sloshed about . The sweet aroma of the pie was almost too hard to resist. I thought I wouldn’t make it across the street without sneaking a bite, but I always did.

 

 Lena lived in white cape cod, bigger than the other houses on the street, but it was just Lena in that big house. Pete had died a few years ago and she was all alone. She would tell me about her aches and pains and how terrible it was to get old. “Look here”, she said as she opened the cupboard, “all my pills”. There was row after row of prescription bottles with tiny printed labels on the front. I would make up excuses to leave, but somehow, I always left feeling sad and prematurely worried about old age.

 

I was thirteen and he was sixteen. Anthony was popular and went to the only public high school in the city that you had to test into. He was smart, and he knew it; an Italian kid from ‘the Hill’, who always had the best clothes. He worked at the deli and everyone knew him. He was still in love with Shannon McCormick, but I pretended not to care. Her family hated him and now I know why.

 

I fell hard and fast. So hard that I forgot to eat for three days and my best friend, Lee came over and made me eat three microwaved hot dogs, one for each day I missed a meal. “Do you think he likes me?”, I asked.

 

“Yes!”, Lee answered.

 

“He said when he gets a car I have to sit in the backseat because he is saving the front seat for Shannon”.

 

“Umm. What a jerk!”

 

I laughed even though I knew she was right.

 

It didn’t occur to me that I was being abused while it was happening. Anthony made me think I was nothing short of lucky that he would even talk to the likes of me, let alone want to take my virginity. I didn’t know anything about sex. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you everything you need to know”.  He kissed me, my eyes wide open, every muscle in my body was tense.  I was nervous. I felt sick. A weight plunged into my stomach. My heart was beating so fast and so loud, I was sure he could hear it. I felt like I was coming out of my body. I wanted to run.

 

 “But, I don’t really want to do it”, I pleaded.

 

“If you don’t lay back down and let me do this, I’m going to tell everybody that you are a slut”.

 

It was November.

 

The air was brisk . I loved the campus in the fall. I loved to walk through the tree lined paths and hidden behind the brush just before the statue of St. Anthony, venture up the little mountain, a hill really, but I liked to imagine. I dreamed of attending college there and majoring in education. At thirteen, it felt like a little piece of heaven- but he would take that too.

 

We were up the little mountain and I was laying down. It was cold, the ground was relentlessly hard. My head was in the dirt and I could feel the leaves getting tangled up in my hair. I looked up at the sky, it was clear, but dark; a few stars dotted the blackness. I just wanted it to end.

 

It happened three times.

 

I was destroyed. It still lingers.

 

This would set the precedence for every relationship I would ever have with a man from that point forward.

 

 

Grandma moved away to Florida, for most of the year after my grandfather died. “Snowbirds, they call us”, she said in a proud voice. Grandma was strong. She had to be. Her mother died when she was five of tuberculous and her father was in his seventies, unable and unprepared to care for her and her siblings.  

 

Grandma also had tuberculosis when she was in her early twenties and had to stay in the sanatorium with all of the other girls who were sick. She and Pat Tabella snuck out one night and got on an old boat out behind the hospital and pretended be Columbus discovering America. She and Pat remained friends until Pat died of cancer years later. Ironically, Pat’s son had died five years earlier of cancer. After his death, Pat told me she knew what the meaning of life was, but that I’d have to find it on my own. I believed her because after all that she endured, Pat never seemed lonely.

 

After their mother died, my grandmother and her sister went to live with their aunt but were out on their own by sixteen. They would sneak ice cream over the fence at the orphanage to their younger brother and sister and go to the dances at the pier to meet the navy men. That’s where she met my grandfather- the handsome son of Scottish immigrants, who had set sail traveling the world with the U.S. Navy and had fortuitously landed in Louisiana.

 

He was a good man, but inherently lonely. No one knew why. Turning to alcohol, he spent many nights on a cot at the bottom of the basement stairs. He was seemly banished from the rest of the house by my grandmother, except to drink his morning coffee. I would sit up at the counter on a bar stool, but I was just about eye level with the orange and beige tiles on the countertop. I studied those tiles. I could tell you each crack, each chip, each line in them. I would watch him sip his coffee, peaking over curiously. My grandmother would serve me a teacup of milk and sugar, so I could sit with him.

 

I woke one night to see my grandmother talking to a police office in the hall- it seemed my grandfather’s loneliness had finally caught up to him. So, unbearable it must have been, they found his body in his car and his gun in hand.

 

Matt sat next to me in Spanish class. It was seventh grade, life was hard enough. Matt was perpetually teased by Justin Briggs who sat behind me and unfortunately for me, Justin also sat behind me in social studies. When I would stick up for Matt, Justin would throw his text book at me. The teachers never seemed to care. It was an inner-city school, with inner- city kids, so if a bottle rocket wasn’t lit in the hallway after lunch period, it was a good day.

I saw Matt walking home every afternoon. I could have walked with him, but I didn’t. One Wednesday in the lunchroom, Justin took it upon himself to put smashed up tater tots in Matt’s hair. I recently had a similar experience in the girl’s locker room where some older girls put  gum in my hair and my science teacher had to cut it out.

 

Maybe if my parents didn’t have season tickets to the Bruins, they would have been home and I wouldn’t have been alone with Anthony. Maybe if Lena had any family, they should have checked in on her after Pete died. Maybe if I had walked home with Matt, his seventh-grade year wouldn’t have been defined by a school bully. Maybe if someone asked my grandfather to get help, he would have. Or maybe Pat really knew something we didn’t.  


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