Says Laura Boggess:
I started this little story as I waited for Maureen Doallas’s Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems. I had been so looking forward to the release of the book, had ordered it the second I heard it was available–and then was frustrated by what seemed like a terribly long delivery (it was only a few days, but felt much longer). It was very windy that week–I watched religiously for the mailman each day amidst flying little bits of this world–leaves, papers, my neighbor’s flag. As I waited, I entertained myself with the story of Amy Pinkleberry–a young divorcee who struggles with depression. Amy’s depression is characterized by auditory hallucinations–destructive voices that prevent her from finding the happiness she so longs for. Only one thing stops the voices and that is…well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs
“Do you want to move in with us?”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and flashed her a crooked smile.
“It was Justine’s idea. She thought it might be a way we could help each other out. Right now, she is unable to do so much for Alice. Alice is alone so much these days. She adores you, Amy. We just thought…until you get back on your feet…and since you aren’t working right now…”
“That I would have nothing better to do?”
The watchers started laughing in her head and she put her fingers to her temples. The anger was their trademark and she fought hard to control her emotions. Oliver looked stunned.
“No, Amy. That’s not what I meant. Justine mentioned you are having some financial concerns. She said she thought you needed some healing time before going back to work full time. She only wants to help. And it would be invaluable help to us. Of course, we would pay you very well, I know we’re asking you to give up a lot…”
Amy stood up and grabbed the book off the table.
“I have to go.”
Oliver stood up beside her.
She moved toward the door. He followed.
“At least let me walk you home, I feel so horrible. This didn’t go the way I planned…”
“I’m fine. I know my way home.”
He put his hand on her arm and she shrugged it off, whirling around to face him.
“Look, Oliver, I’m not for sale. Nor am I some kind of social project to entertain your family. I am a woman who is trying to put her life back together. This may be hard for you to believe, but at one time, I was quite successful. I’m very good at what I do. I just haven’t found the right opportunity, I just…”
She was shaking. He put his hand back on her arm.
“I know all this, Amy. Did you forget I’ve seen your vitae? I had never been more impressed by a candidate before you came into my office. Justine just thought you need some time…”
“I’m fine! Would you please tell Justine to mind her own business? I need a real job to pick up the pieces of my life, not some glorified babysitting position.”
She saw the words hit him and he flinched. Even as she said them, she knew she didn’t mean them. She had grown to love Justine and Alice. The hurtful words came from the watchers.
They stared at each other, her icy blue locked with his steel gray. Finally, he looked down.
“I guess there’s nothing more to say then.”
She cried on the short walk home, berating the voices in her head, berating herself.
“Why? Why did I say those things?”
She stumbled into her apartment and dropped onto the couch. She stared at the ceiling, tears leaking out the corners of her eyes leaving wet tracks down her cheeks.
“Why do I always ruin everything?”
She must have fallen asleep because the pounding came at 3 am to wake her.
“What?” she mumbled in her half sleep. She could hear someone pounding on the door. Really? Was someone pounding on her door at 3 am? She sat bolt upright. Fear seized her and she crept through the hallway to the front of the small living quarters. She peeked through the sidelight.
It was Oliver.
She flung the door open.
“Oliver, what in the world?”
“I’m sorry to come at this hour. I wouldn’t, you know I wouldn’t. It’s Justine. She’s had a seizure. She’s in terrible pain. She won’t let me take her to the hospital, Amy. She’s asking for you. And that damn book. I don’t know what to do. She’s in terrible pain…”
The panic and helplessness in his voice shed any remnant of sleep left in her body. She ran into the living room and grabbed Neruda’s Memoirs off the couch and flew back to him and out the door.
She could hear her loud moans as soon as they walked through the door. She ran to her, clutching Neruda’s Memoirs tightly to her breast. Alice was at her grandmother’s side, face streaked and pinched.
“Alice, what are you doing out of bed?”
Oliver’s voice was filled with agony.
“Daddy? Daddy, please help her! I can’t help her, Daddy. I’ve tried everything.”
He went to her and wrapped his arms around her. Alice sobbed into his chest.
Amy cautiously approached the bedside. Justine’s body arched in pain and she cried out. Her whole body shook with sobs.
“Oh, God, make it stop! Oh, God, oh, God, oh God…”
Amy recognized a prayer in Justine’s pleas. She said nothing by way of greeting; just fell right into the words.
Only yesterday did earth redress
its layers of browned forgotten bloom
shedding its sheath for winter with the pace
of an old man making do with a gimp left leg…”
Justine turned empty eyes on Amy. She squinted in concentration, vacancy flickered.
Amy leaned over the bed and grasped Justine’s hand.
“Yes, it’s me. I’m here, Justine. I’m here.”
A pain gripped the old woman and her back arched again in response to the violent conversation taking place in her body. She screamed.
“Oh, God. “
She searched Amy’s face, struggling to maintain recognition.
Amy reached up and smoothed her friend’s brow. Over and over she caressed her face and hair.
“Shhhh. It’s ok. I’m here. I’m not leaving.”
Amy scrambled to open the book again.
Spring starts up
a widespread yellow operation
braced for the challenge,
armed with emerald swords…”
She read on. She was vaguely conscious of Oliver and Alice shifting noiselessly on the settee. She paid no mind. Only read the words until Justine’s body was still and quiet. Finally giving in to the magic of poetry.
To be continued…
Story by Laura Boggess. Reprinted with permission.
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