Coursing lightly through the air, a bee came to a rest on the porch balcony. The soft night air was disturbed by this unusual sight. Buzzing from this railing to that, it seemed to mock Edgar as he took another drink. He brushed it away and it flew off momentarily. As it came back, Edgar hesitated before looking out into the temperate spring night of croaking frogs and flickering bugs. He took another drink. The out-of-place bee returned and edged along the banister before Edgar.
This time Edgar, wide-eyed, pulled back his hand ready to strike. Just as he went to do so, he stopped. Alone, he realized, this was the only returning company he’d had for a while. Sure he had two college buddies from his college days visit. But that was already over two months ago.
He adjusted his watch back along his wrist as he drank the last sip of rye. “I can’t believe that was already five years ago,” Edgar muttered to himself. He thought back.
His college experience was both typical and extraordinary. Extraordinary in the sense that it was unlike the average student’s. It was hardly the most exciting or invigorating experience of his life. It was remarkable however.
He was a studious lad then. Most of his time was spent studying or perfecting this word or that. Edgar kept to himself mostly. But, in his own right, he had a way about his social life that still enabled connections to be made with people on some level. Whatever, it was still the case that Edgar had ways of keeping to himself even in those moments of socializing. A sort of detachment existed but was profoundly suppressed and unapparent to most, even during any chance encounter.
Even so, when he wasn’t studying or quasi-socializing, Edgar had certain peculiar habits that no one really took notice of. He read the news daily and spent hours poring over obscure articles about ancient philosophers and historical anecdotes. From time to time, he would slip away from his books and studying. No one knew where he went exactly during such times.
It was rumored that he was part of some local cult that organized spur-of-the-moment meetings. Some said he was off somewhere in the cavernous library studying even more. Or if it was past library hours, he must’ve been downtown someplace—probably finding somewhere to sit and read under a streetlamp. His best friend knew that he played the piano and always thought he had went to practice somewhere in the music hall. He actually only did the latter on rare occasions, and it was typically in the morning.
On one particular evening, as the campus bells chimed seven times to signal the hour, Edgar threw off doing homework and disappeared for the night. He put on his windbreaker and stepped out into the chilly autumn weather, bracing himself for the torturous gusts that tore across the harvested flatlands of Ohio. Gathering his wits, he checked his watch: two minutes past seven. Plenty of time.
A white sedan drove up. Edgar stepped off the curb and ducked in the backseat. He took the cab downtown.
Traffic was light and the city streets were quite quiet as he arrived. It was a Tuesday night after all. He liked it quiet nonetheless.
Edgar started down Harrison Street past the several main bars and restaurants. He came to one that he frequented and liked very much, the Irish Pub. Finding his spot in the corner bordering the door-side wall, he signaled the approaching owner to get him his regular.
Edgar reached down for his backpack and pulled out his notebook. Picking up where he left off, he found his way through to ending a verse:
“Home, what a harmonious sounding word . . . the refreshing breeze of mountain springtime, the fluttering and dashing of wildlife—the hums of hummingbirds, the hops of bunnies and graceful hurdles of the white-glistening fawn . . . memories so fond—and yet, so fleeting such as these, provoke much promise, but somberness and graveness too. Strange is life and only so is this true as long as life is followed . . . by Death.”
Writing, Edgar had become so absorbed that he didn’t even notice his drink had come. The rush of words had left him unaware too of the chill that had rushed in, which was the result of a man tripping out the door as his wife prevented it from swinging back. Edgar caught a small glimpse of the woman helping her husband gather himself, and then he promptly took up the stiff drink set before him.
Warm now, he turned his attention back to his verse and made a few revisions:
“. . . the hums of the hummingbirds, the buzz of the bumblebees . . . memories so fleeting such as these, provoke much liveliness and adventuring promise. . . .”
After another swig, he started composing anew but got only a few lines in:
“Like one petal in the gardens of Versailles,
Like one face in the masses at Ellis Isle”
The creative outflow having waned, Edgar prepared to go leaving his drink unfinished. Turning toward the door, his knee buckled and he took a fair bit of a tumble. He got up quickly, looking behind and around to see if anyone noticed. The owner had already left the cash register and went into the kitchen. To his relief, it seemed none of the customers saw this curious episode either.
Arriving much earlier than usual, Edgar entered his dorm feeling a slight bit buzzed. He found his roommate working abnormally hard to master an unrecognized game. Crashing on his bunk, Edgar resisted the desire to fall asleep. He still had homework: biology. He detested that class. The thought of it made him want to sleep forever and never awake.
It was his friend—best friend in fact. A.J. had just walked in and peered around the large wardrobe before scaring both Edgar and his roommate to high heavens with the yell. Like Edgar, A.J. had a certain charismatic streak to his personality that tended to lay dormant under a generally gregarious manner. The latter was more outward in A.J. however.
“Wanna go to the concert tonight?!”
“What concert?” Edgar replied.
“The one they told everyone about in the campus message!” A.J. jokingly said. Edgar wasn’t the type to stay up-to-date on the latest Christianese happenings . . . and A.J. knew that.
“Oh, ok I’ll go,” he submitted with little emotion.
“C’mon it’ll be a good time . . . and good for the soul,” A.J. remarked cheerily.
They made their way out from the dorm and cut through the parking lots and grass-beds lining the road, the main stretch of campus, and got to the chapel. Walking in, they chanced to meet a mutual acquaintance from their sister hall. They each had shared a class with her—albeit the previous semester for Edgar. She was there with her friend Hannah Julian.
Pleasantries, small talk, and the overall surprise brought to a conclusion, they all decided to find seats together near the back of the assembly center on the ground-level.
The concert lasted over an hour. It interested Edgar and held his attention for the most part, but the standing and emotional displays got to be a bit too much. He finally had to sit down halfway through the performance.
By concert’s end, it was getting on near 10:30. Edgar had dozed off several times, and he was glad to not have been sitting near their mutual acquaintance or her friend because of it. He hated awkwardness. After all, he felt he lived an awkward enough existence. No need to push the packet any further.
Part of him was well ready to retire from people for the night and decompress. Then again, he enjoyed his present company.
“Hey, anyone wanna get ice cream?” he interjected as they stood in the kind of circle that people half-heartedly stand in as they try to leave.
“Eh, that sounds great!” our fellow classmate trailed off. “But it’s getting kinda late . . . and we didn’t drive over here,” her blue-grey eyes looking at Hannah’s.
“I left my car over here earlier,” A.J. interjected. “But yeah, I am kinda tired . . . got some reading to do—but, I’d be down for some ice cream.”
Hannah acquiesced and so we piled into A.J.’s car. The sound of slurps of ice cream soon filled the air. Edgar and A.J.’s fellow classmate ordered a German Chocolate Tornado and Edgar got a Banana Cookie flavored one. The conversation was fun and jovial. She and Hannah talked and laughed together in the backseat once the ice cream came through the window.
When the laughter got loud and distracted each of them, A.J. turned to me and said, soto voce, “You should ask her out.”
The comment sounded much louder to Edgar than it actually was, but getting past his initial surprise, he grinned while subtly suggesting the negative with a nod.
Edgar was not only surprised by A.J.’s comment because of its nature and timing but also perplexed because he suspected A.J. was himself interested. It seemed that he was the one who had feelings for her. And, by all appearances, Edgar had sensed those feelings were mutual between the two.
Two months later, A.J. asked her out. Intuition led Edgar to believe that he must have been correct in assuming A.J. was the one who had feelings for her.
He tried to make sense of it all. The thought that he may be wrong troubled him—greatly. He hadn’t touched his writing since that evening at his spot. Late one night, he awoke and attempted to pick up where he left off, but it wouldn’t come to him beside just one new line:
“. . . Like one face in the masses at Ellis Isle,
Like one passing snowflake that touches, before a blizzard, lie—
The verse was all but lost on him until five years later when he was reminiscing there on the back porch balcony, where he was last seen drinking up the last drop of rye. The taste wasn’t as stiff as it once was, but it still sated his senses. For a short while anyways.
He started back inside and combed through his old journal. Finally, he found the unfinished verse. It was as if the years of stoic and austere character were suddenly supplied with their antidote. And the emotions poured forth:
“. . . Like one passing snowflake that touches, before a blizzard, lie,
Like one empty minute, of great things unsaid, and of millions unreturned,
I too am lost to the winds of time, the sea of souls, and the unrequited warmth upon this frosting ground . . .
Dissolving, dissolving until these mountains came down
And broke through the silent.”
Coming back to reality and his surroundings in the small flat, Edgar walked over to the cupboard and reached way back for a new bottle of whisky—this time Scotch.
The warmth was like an enveloping mystery. He stepped out again for some fresh air. God knows he needed it.
He emptied the glass in two swigs. Despite it, he got a chill suddenly. Edgar kicked back the glass once more for the last drop. But to no avail. Nothing.
Coursing lightly through the air, a bee came to a rest on the porch balcony, somewhat startling Edgar. His glass came down fast and hard.
*Originally submitted on fresh.ink