McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

THE END

 “We are all only one step away from insanity.”

Morgaine Eucalyptus Freeman, Death Row Inmate, Mississippi State Penitentiary

 

I sensed something wasn’t right that day.  Although all the windows were open the air was too still.  It felt like it does when you walk into a house that’s been closed up for months. So I wandered outside to the front porch with my coffee to see if I could catch a breeze.

John had gotten up hours ago and was off on an errand of some kind.  He was always busy although it seemed nothing ever came of all his activity.  My mother would have called it “puttering” although that was a term usually applied to much older men than John.

I heard a noise from the barn and saw a flock of sparrows fly up into the trees.   We called it a barn, and I suppose it was once, but now it was just a dilapidated out-building used for nothing but storing the remains of projects John had set aside each time something more intriguing came along.  John had big plans to repair it when we first bought the property but, as with many things, the plans never became a reality.

I heard another noise.  I couldn’t quite place the sound so I got up from the porch and wandered out to see what it was.  Probably a small animal had gotten itself trapped in there somehow.   Hopefully not a possum.  We’d had a possum live under our porch for a while and they were mean creatures.

As I neared the barn door the noise became clearer and, although I didn’t want to believe what my brain was telling me, it was moaning.   The long, low moaning of a woman in the throws of sexual pleasure.   I walked in to see my neighbor Tessie, up against the wall, dress thrown up around her waist, her legs spread wide.  A man was kneeling before her with his head in her crotch.  I knew the back of that head and those broad shoulders intimately.  I recognized the jeans I had just washed, folded and put away in his dresser the previous night.

I picked up the closest thing to me, which was an old shovel leaning against the wall, and I swung it at his head.  He fell aside and I swung at her knocking her down. And then I just kept swinging until there was blood everywhere and I had no more strength.

My name is Evelyn Moore and I now reside in Salem, Oregon.  I’m an inmate at the Oregon State Prison.  That’s where you go when you beat two people to death with a shovel and then call 911 to tell them you think some people are dead.  This is the end of my story and every day now I wonder when my story took a turn towards this ending.   Had I always had that violence in me?  Had I wanted John dead for a long time like the District Attorney said I did?   Was that always somewhere deep inside me, only to come out that day?  Where did it begin?

I have very few memories from my early childhood.  The shrinks here all have different theories about why this is.  Perhaps nothing too memorable happened, or perhaps horrible things happened and not remembering them is my minds way of protecting me.  We will never know.  My first vivid memory is when I was about five years old.

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WHY?

In a writing class I’m taking one woman repeatedly asked the same question over and over again one night.  Her question was “Why?”  What she wanted to know was, “Why would anyone want to read what I have to write?”   When asked why she reads, she replied, “I don’t really.   I don’t have time.  I’m basically illiterate?”  You might think in a class of writers that we would take offense to someone who doesn’t read but I sensed nothing of the sort among us.  I can’t answer for everyone but I suspect that most of us write for the same reason we read, and for the same reason I’d like to read her stories, and it’s because I’m continually asking the same question she is, “Why?”

I began writing as soon as I learned to hold a pen and I’ve always been an incessant reader.   Put me in a room with nothing to read and I’ll find a poster on the wall or directions on how to use the microwave and I’ll start reading.   Reading and writing have always been a means for me to try and understand “Why?”  The heading on my blog remains “One woman’s quest for greater understanding through freedom of self-expression”.

Since I was born I’ve been trying to figure out why people act the way they do?  Why was I put on the planet and is any of it supposed to make any sense?  Why do we respond the way we do in situations? Why is one person considered successful and another not?  Why are parents, who are the people children rely on to keep them safe, often the ones who harm children the most?  Why did Michael O’Brien love his baseball cap more than me?  Why did my brother cut off all my dolly’s hair?  Why did my sister wear seven pairs of socks and take one off each day so it would look like she had clean one’s on?  Why are people attracted to each other?  Why didn’t my Daddy love me?  Or, if he did, why couldn’t he show it?  Why does the one male director in my Agency seem to not have to follow any rules of norm?   Why have I failed to find a lasting partner while my best friends are happily ensconced in a long-term love affair with each other that’s lasted 30 years?  Why? Why? Why?   I’m like a three year old who never got past the questioning phase.  Everything about human behavior is interesting to me and I want to know more about it.

Currently one of the most popular TV programs on the air is NBC’s number 1 rated “This Is Us”.   According to Forbes Online, the trailer for the second season of this show got a whopping 105 million views.  What’s the show about?   A family.  A mother, a father, and three kids.  Regular parents with a relatively regular family.  Two twins, a boy and a girl, and an adopted brother born on the same day.   The children are adults when the show takes place with weekly flashbacks into their lives growing up.

Why is it so popular?   I think it’s because we all want to know the answer to “why”?    Why is one twin a normal weight while the other is morbidly obese?  Why did the parents choose not to tell the adopted son about his birth parents?   Why were the parents attracted to each other?  Was their style of parenting like ours?  Like our parents? Is it better?  Is it worse?  Did it work?

We all read and watch and write in order to be entertained, certainly.  But why is it entertaining?   It entertains us because it’s a way of trying to understand the world around us and the life we find ourselves living.  If next season finds that Chrissy Metz, who plays the twin sister Kate, is suddenly able to drop 100 pounds and find solace in something other than food I will be on the edge of my seat hoping she has finally solved the riddle of why so many of us have this love/hate struggle with food.  Why do we struggle when so many others don’t?  Why is this our particular cross to bear?

So I continue to ask the question, “Why?”, and in response to my fellow classmate I want to read your story because I’m fascinated by human behavior and still desperate to know:  Why were you in the dorm room to begin with, why was your hand on that suitcase so ready to flee, why were you still in the room when the roommate and her mother finally appeared, what happened next and ….why?…why?….why???

The Red Sofa

The email attachment downloaded slowly and the first photo finally opened up in full screen.  My eyes were immediately drawn front and center to the remains of what had once been my beautiful, red leather sofa.  That sofa had been my first solo purchase after leaving my beige husband of 20 years and had symbolized freedom to me.   It wasn’t the wine red or dull maroon of the overstuffed sofas you most frequently saw in furniture stores.   It was a glistening cherry red reminiscent of bright, sugary, cherry pie and small in stature as if tailor made to fit my 5’3” frame perfectly.

Bits of red, no longer bright, were still visible amidst the soot and smoke surrounded by water saturated split open boxes, the contents spilling out everywhere.  Here lay my personal history strewn randomly across the prairie:  melted photo albums; half a painting bought in a small shop in Aspen; a shattered tea set I picked up in London; what appeared to be a piece of the hand-made lamp I’d purchased in Connecticut.   Smoke and smoldering fire were apparent in the background and on the very edge of the photo stood a firefighter in full gear water gushing out of the hose he held pouring over the piles of burning goods and grassy Wyoming prairie.   Next to him the remains of what had been a shiny, new 18-wheeler now partially melted like a cheap plastic toy that was left too long in the August sun.

I sat at my desk in my new office and stared out the window at the park and the river beyond.  I wasn’t certain I wanted to see the rest of the attached photos.  It was my boss’ idea to have our business lawyer contact the only Attorney’s office in the small town in Wyoming outside of which the moving van carrying all my belongings had caught on fire  eventually destroying four families possessions and 500 acres of prairie land.  The moving van had been on its way to meet me in New York City where I had begun my new job as CFO for an international not-for-profit a week earlier working out of the God Box, the tongue in cheek nickname for The Interchurch Center building located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The attorney already knew about the fire.  In a town with a population of 9,500, most of whom were dispersed far outside the 2.95 square miles that comprised the town limits, this was the biggest thing to happen for some time.  He immediately sent someone out to photograph the wreckage and clean-up and multiple photos of the site were now awaiting my review.

It was difficult to even believe that it was only a few hours ago I’d received my very first phone call at my new job.  The administrative assistant came in to my office to let me know I had a call.  “Someone asked for me by name?” I’d asked her.  “Who even knows I work here yet?”

I picked up the phone to hear, “This is (a name I don’t remember) from (a Van Line I will not name).   The moving van carrying your items has caught on fire. Nothing is salvageable.”

Since I had just gone through the process of pairing down everything I owned from a three bedroom house allowing myself to only keep enough to fill two rooms; what was left in that van were only items that were completely necessary or that truly brought me joy.  To think that none of my precious belongings could be saved was hard for me to believe so I forged ahead and looked at multiple pictures of the decimation of my material goods.  I had come to New York with my dog, Petunia the Pitt Bull, and one carry-on suitcase of casual clothes.  I had mailed myself a blow up bed, sheets and towels that were delivered the day I arrived.  From the looks of these pictures I’d be sleeping on a blow-up bed for some time to come.

This was my thirtieth move, including several cross-country and one international, so I knew quite a bit about moving in general.  I could pack up a three bedroom house into sealed stackable boxes in 24 hours flat.  I was an expert at when to use bubble wrap, saran wrap and packaging tape; when to use a box, when to use a bag and when to throw the item away and buy a new one when you arrive.  Within all my experience there was nothing to tell me how to handle this type of loss.

It was my boss, again, who came up with the idea that helped me move forward.  She said, “Think of it as an opportunity.  You were going to make items you’d purchased for a three bedroom home fit somehow into your new apartment.  Now you have a fresh slate.  Hire a designer and make your new apartment a showcase with items purchased specifically for it.”

A designer?  Me?  Seriously?

I had been born into poverty.  Through hard work and education I worked my way up to a solid, resolute working class existence.  The idea of something as extravagant as paying someone else for their opinion on how my home should look was a hard one for me to digest but what I knew for sure was that I was in no emotional state to be making decisions alone.   It was completely possible that if left to my own I might purchase the first items I saw with no regard for anything but filling my empty space.  I could wake up from my emotional daze in a few months broke and living in the apartment version of a government office; functional, dark and unattractive.

Luckily, I had been insured both through the van line and through my home owner’s policy.  What I learned about property insurance, loss, damage and the depreciated value of goods could fill another book but in a few weeks I would be receiving a check.   So I called up a designer recommended by one of my new office mates.  Upon hearing I had a budget of $30,000 to furnish a two room apartment, an amount that I thought was extremely generous, my designer commented, “Oye, we’ll have to shop retail!”

And then, almost before I knew what happened we were off and shopping.  First stop the largest Crate and Barrel store I’d ever been in; a two- story extravaganza on Madison Avenue.  I don’t know how most designers work but this particular one worked from the ground up.  The first thing she wanted me to choose were my rugs.  From this she got an idea of the colors I liked and the rest fell into place from there.

For the living room I chose a striped wool rug with deep fall tones of red, orange, gold, green, and brown and out of that simple choice grew a room with a red accent wall, a soft green sofa and chair, with bright red and orange pillows and unique one of a kind lamps.

The bedroom became a softer space with a place for sleep and a place for work and study.  The room came alive with a pale green rug on the floor and a matching accent wall, a Caribbean-style bed and armoire with wicker insets, a gold wicker chair at the desk and a mock sea chest as my bedside table.

The three feet of counter space that served as my kitchen needed some bar stools and, you guessed it, cherry red leather seemed the perfect choice!  We then spent weeks in small shops throughout New York City purchasing the perfect accessories.

The planning and shopping with my designer were interesting and enjoyable and a beautiful apartment home was realized.   My designer’s knowledge of the city and her emotional support during this process were invaluable.  I learned from her that large items like sofas, chairs and expensive bed covers should be neutral in palette.  Your color comes from painted walls, pillows and other smaller accessories that can be more easily and inexpensively replaced to create a completely new look when you’re ready for a change.

I will never have the same emotional attachment to these new belongs that I had to my old.  My New York apartment was put together in matter of weeks out of necessity.  The items I had lost were gathered over the course of thirty years of living. They had memories attached to them that evoked different people, different parts of the world, and valued life experiences.   Still they were only things and things can be replaced.  Along with everything else I lost in the fire I also seem to have lost my emotional attachment to things.  There will never be another red sofa in my life…literally or figuratively.

Beware the Oregon Deli!

I’m such a slow learner.  I’ve been living in Oregon now for six years (this time) and still when I see the word “Deli” displayed on the outside of a building I believe it’s a place where I can get a good, freshly made sandwich.  For those of you who, like me, believe “Deli” to be an abbreviation of the word “Delicatessen” you may be suffering from the same illusion.

Wikipedia states:  “Delicatessen is a German loanword which first appeared in English in 1889 and is the plural of Delikatesse. In German it was originally a French loanword, délicatesse, meaning “delicious things (to eat)”. Its root word is the Latin adjective delicatus, meaning “giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing”. The first Americanized short version of this word, deli, came into existence c. 1954.”

In other parts of the United States it has come to mean a deliciously fresh, diverse menu with sandwiches made to order.  Rarely will you find fried foods, or use of a fryer, with the possible exception of some eat-in delis that serve French fries.

In Oregon, however, beware.  The word “Deli” here usually describes a tiny, warn, space with a three or four booths or tables for seating; a minimal menu consisting of a few deli meats but mostly of items that can be quickly pulled out of the freezer and deep fried, and ; a room partitioned off, with saloon doors and no windows, where you can hear the click, click, click and occasional celebratory music as someone on the other side of that wall wins three dollars on a video lottery game.

Apparently slot machines, or video lottery games,  have become the second biggest revenue earner for Oregon, after state taxes.   According to State Law a business cannot make lottery games their only or dominant purpose.  Hence, the cropping up of “delis” serving nothing eatable but allowing gambling all around the state.   Were any of these establishments audited one would most certainly find that their dominant activity is gambling but as with all things government…money rules…and the money pouring in to state coffers from this activity provides little incentive to enforce the gambling law and limit these type of businesses.

Some believe that making these lottery game machines available in every local mall is creating a social issue by providing easy access to potential gambling addicts.  I don’t know how I feel about that since from what I’ve learned an addict will find a way to his or her pleasure regardless of difficulties or consequences.

What I do believe, however, is that one cannot get a decent deli sandwich in Oregon and that should be a crime.

 

The Front Line is Wherever You Are

I have been in an inconsolable depression since the election.  I don’t mean in a slump.  I mean in a black spiral falling deeper and deeper into a hole that appears to have no bottom.  I am not a partisan person.  It has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans.  I’m pretty much a free thinker and I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone who believes in exactly the things I do.

One thing I do believe in is the struggle between good and evil. It takes place in each of us every day as we consider whether or not to do what is right, or what is usually easier.    Right now my fear is that evil has a grip on our country in a way I’ve never before seen in my lifetime.  My depression stems from fear.   Fear that we may see the type of pure evil again that many of our parents lived through in the Second World War

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. There is contention about who should be attributed with these words; Edmond Burke, Charles F. Aked, John F. Kennedy, but in the end it really doesn’t matter who first spoke this truth.  It only matters that it is a truth.  Today, some good men and women in all parts of the political spectrum are standing back and letting what they know is evil take place.  I can’t begin to imagine or pretend to know their motives.  I think many of them are just in denial and don’t want to admit how badly they erred in judging our new President’s character.

What I do know is that for me, I think the only way out of my spiraling depression is to stand.  Stand up for something again and don’t back down.  Stand up for what I believe is right.  Stand up tall and strong with others who are as frightened as I am about what is happening in this country and say “no, not here, not on our watch.  We won’t let it happen.  We want our country to continue to stand for freedom, inclusion and social justice.  We want a kind country with arms reaching out to embrace those in need.  We will not close our borders.  We will not run in fear.  We will continue to fight for human rights for all people.”

At first I felt the need to rush back to DC.  I thought that’s where the front line was.  That’s where the real fight was happening.  I should be back there with my old friends and colleagues fighting the good fight.  But after a bit of thinking I realized that’s not the case.  The real front line is in whatever country, whatever state, whatever town, whatever room we find ourselves in.  The fight is everywhere and holding the line is as simple as not laughing at the racist joke at work; greeting each person we meet with compassion; not allowing bigoted behavior to go unchallenged in any form.  Holding the line is simply living your beliefs wherever you find yourself and speaking up whenever you see injustice taking hold. 

Realizing once again that each of us can make a difference has helped me to climb to the top of the pit.  I’m not out of the dark hole yet, but I can see light above.  A light that grows brighter each time I see someone standing up and holding the line.

61

There is a gaping hole inside of me

Which nightly I try to fill up

With mounds and mounds of food

And sometimes sex with inappropriate men who like fat girls

It is a gaping hole which by now is the size of a basketball

A small hole that was ripped larger and larger by

my alcoholic father and crazy brother

Made bigger with each failed marriage

That grew to make room for the babies I could never have

And is currently being fed by fear of the spot on my liver

Fear of joining my cancer-ridden siblings in death

At night I feed it with pound cake and chips and red wine

During the day I feed it with professionalism

as I try to do one thing in life well

and sometimes with screaming unprofessionalism

as I fail to succeed in a dysfunctional workplace

At times, like this morning, when I am too exhausted to

stand up straight and carry on in the morning light

At times like this when I stop for a moment and sit very still

Alone with my thoughts

I simply sob until I have no more tears

And then I get up and get on with my day

Wondering if I will ever be able to heal this gaping hole

Or if it’s too late for a full recovery

perhaps just something to shore it up and keep it from engulfing me.

Renewal

It all began with a good-bye kiss.

It still lingers on my lips.

He loved me, he said.

But it was not the ‘big’ love.

Thus began my journey of renewal.

To love myself regardless.

To respect that I am worthy.

To find joy in each day.

The world is my ‘big’ love

and he is but a memory.

The Easy Chair

Oh how I wish I could write like Barbara Kingsolver.  All I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember is to be able to write in a way that elicits emotions from people.  Sometimes emotions they don’t even know they have.  To write something with a kernel of profound truth that people can relate to and say, “that’s it…that’s just how that feels”.

In Kingsolver’s “Pigs in Heaven” her first six paragraphs describe exactly how if feels to be in a relationship after a certain age.  Those sentences resonate with everything I’ve been feeling of late.  As I get older my world is becoming smaller and smaller, my desire for things less and less, and my desire for intimate conversation greater and greater, while at exactly the same moment in time the average man seems to have used up his lifetime allotment of words.

The middle aged man spending his days in his easy chair couldn’t have become a cliche unless there was some truth in it.  Kingsolver’s descripton, “his Naugahyde recliner confronts her, smug as a catcher’s mitt, with a long, deep impression of Harland running  down it’s center” describes it better than I’ve ever heard or read it described.  I’ve seen that same impression in more men’s chairs than I’d care to admit.

The easy chair has always made me sad.  Not because it eludes to TV watching.  I can be the Queen of Netflix marathons myself.  I thinks it’s the singleness of the chair.  Where I would prefer to snuggle up and share my experience with someone (one of my fondest memories is spending an entire day with my God daughter on the sofa watching episode after episode of “Cake Boss” together until someone had to come and force us to shut it off) the easy chair sits alone and seems to say “there’s no room for anyone but me here…leave me alone”.

I have a single, male friend whose living room is set up with the requisite enormous flat screen TV with his comfortable easy chair right smack dab in the center of the room and a sofa pushed back against one wall.  Even when told he doesn’t see that this set up says to all who enter, “it’s all about my comfort…you sit over there against the wall and don’t bother me.”

I am a middle-aged woman, and one on the down hill side of that bell curve.  I am beginning to understand that the chances of meeting a man my age who has a serious desire for emotional and intellectual intimacy is slightly less than the chance of me ever fitting into my original size 6 wedding dress again.  Even if the intimacy were to be there to couple lifestyles at such an age would likely be as uncomfortable of a fit as that dress.

I guess the moral of this story is that I will now have plenty of time to devote to improving my writing skills.

 

 

 

The Affair

He was forty and growing restless in his marriage. She was twenty-eight. Beautiful and vibrant in a way that only those who live life fully can be. They met completely by accident. This may be difficult for some to even imagine in our current world of online profiles, emails and texting, but at one time people used to bump into each other in public and strike up random, friendly conversations with one another.

She dropped a package on the street while trying to open the door to the book store with her elbow. He picked up her package and got the door for her. Neither were there for the books as it turned out, but rather for the coffee shop in the rear as a respite from the crowds of holiday shoppers. They chatted as they stood in line waiting to order. As it turned out, once they got their drinks there was only one table left available and they sat down and shared a warm beverage together.

He did not lie or act coy about the fact of his wife and children. In fact, he spoke of them lovingly and with pride. Oddly, this made him more attractive to her. She knew it was wrong to feel the tug of emotion while they spoke. She forced herself not to reach across the table and touch his hand as she so wanted to do.

He knew it was wrong to ask her to join him for dinner. He rationalized it in his mind that it was only a meal. She rationalized it the same way when she smiled and said “yes”.  This is how it began. Neither one wanting to investigate their behavior more fully. To do so would surely have meant they would have walked away from each other and remained strangers.

He thought, at first, that he could compartmentalize his life. That she would simply be a bit of enjoyment that he carved out for himself. She would not impact the rest of his life. But, as it turned out, she was not a woman who could be kept in a box. She was too full of life and his need to speak with her and be with her would not contain itself to a few hours a week.

She had a very full life before she met him. With him in her life her schedule began to overflow. If you had asked her prior to meeting him if she would ever consider seeing a married man she would have been insulted and answered a resounding “of course NOT”. Now here she was, making up last minute excuses why she couldn’t make her usual volunteer night at the hospital or meet her best friend for drinks or dinner so she could accommodate him when he could get away.

She told no one. Not her sister, her best friend, not even her hairdresser. The volunteer organizations thought her work responsibilities had increased, her friends thought she was volunteering more and should take more time for herself, her staff was grateful that she seemed to be finding a better balance between work and the rest of her life. Only she was aware of the reality of her situation.

He was amazed at how well his business continued to run without his complete focus on it twenty-four seven. Perhaps he could have gotten away in prior years to take his family on those vacations he had assured them were impossible? His wife was beginning to pressure him to spend more time at home and he began to slowly realize that there was no way this could not affect his marriage and his family.

After almost a year of seeing each other they had finally admitted to themselves and each other that this was about more than the convenience of lust. They had strong and caring feelings for each other. Feelings that came with as much pain as joy.   As he began to realize the effect the affair was having on his family, she began to realize she did not want to celebrate another Christmas in a hotel room a week after ringing in the New Year alone.

This is why tonight, almost a year since their first meeting, she found herself sitting alone in the coffee shop where they first met waiting to see if he would join her. If he showed up, this meant he had told his wife about her and had chosen a new life with her. If not, the crazy, titillating roller coaster ride of the last year had reached its end.

She did not know which life he would choose. She was well aware of the schism the affair had caused in his emotions and his life. She also believed his love for his wife was still very real. Part of her hoped that he would choose to remain with his family thereby proving to be the man she thought he was on the day they met. No part of her wanted to be the person that caused upheaval and pain for others. The other part of her, the selfish part, the part that found such happiness in his presence, was holding her breath and hoping to catch sight of him walking down the aisle of books toward their table.

As she sat and waited she realized that no matter what his decision her life would be irrevocably changed after tonight.

The Rain

She walked down the cobble stone street toward the café. She wanted to put down her umbrella and feel the rain on her face but she knew it would draw the odd looks from passersby and that Rafael would be concerned about her wet hair and clothing when she arrived. She missed her home town so much. It rained a great deal in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There was precipitation of some kind more than half the year. Most people walked about without umbrellas and never let the wet climate slow them down.

She knew that for most people living in Paris was something they dreamed about their entire lives but it was never her dream.   She was tired of feeling guilty about being a small town girl who preferred her small town. She missed the rain, the wind, the coastline, the comfort of everyone in town knowing who she and her family were. As a child everyone in town watched out for you. There were no secrets. Nothing you did went unnoticed or unreported to your parents. Many found it stifling and couldn’t wait to get out of town after High School graduation. She found it comforting and she missed the town and its people terribly that first year away at college.

That was where she met Rafael. She was drawn to his good looks, strong ethics, and his thirst to make social justice a reality for everyone around the world. He was a leader of people. That was evident from the first time she saw him speaking at a rally outside the student union. He asked for her support…and he got it. He asked for a date…and he got that too. From that first date on the two of them were never very far apart. They were known at college as the couple who was trying to change the world…and the ones who just might succeed.

She was not comfortable here in Paris. She could speak French fluently now, and she didn’t dislike Paris in any way, she just longed for something simpler. She hadn’t felt at home in Sao Paulo or Amsterdam either, not even by the end of their five year stints there.

Today she would tell him. Today she would be completely honest and let him know that she had to go home. That she couldn’t spend her life away from the rain and the sea and her familiar surroundings any longer. She would tell him she could not take on another assignment to another foreign city. She had to go home.

As she drew closer to the café she could see him sitting near the window waiting for her. He had already ordered the fizzy water he knew she would want. He would wait until she sat down to order any further. Even though he knew her well enough to know exactly what she would want to eat he never presumed and always waited for her. He was studying papers in front of him, always working, always thinking of what his next step would be, how he could best make a difference.

He looked up and his face lit up as it did whenever he saw her even after all these years. He smiled and waved at her, appearing excited to see her, even though she’d kissed him good-bye at the front door just a few hours ago. He stood when she entered and leaned down to kiss her cheeks. And then she looked into those eyes again and knew…she would not tell him. She would never tell him. She would stay by his side for the next tour and be content with an annual visit to her home town each year. They sat and ate and talked of many things but not of America or homesickness.

When they said good-bye outside and turned their backs to each other to walk back to their offices it was still raining. Just a slow drizzle now. He opened his umbrella as he left but she did not open hers. Rather she walked with her face turned up toward the clouds feeling the water on her face and remembering the cool Oregon rain.

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