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Teens & Young Adult Friendship Speculative

This story contains sensitive content

***Contains some minor use of adult language

MIRANDA’S PERSPECTIVE:

    “BLOOD! Blood! Mommy, it’s blood!”

    In a panic, the (on the end of its life-span, bristles turned yellow, while starting to smell of mildew) dish-scrubber escaped my hand and plopped into the soapy ocean below (well, more like a murky, disease ridden river), where bits of macaroni and cheese and old milk floated amongst an army of plastic nipples, metal straws, spoons, and a pan with last night’s dinner glued to the edges. 

    It was a bungled run as I slipped on some water below, because nothing in this Goddamn house works properly. Shit, I’ve really gotta call the plumber and get them out here to fix this sink. And the upstairs toilet. And the bathtub drain. I wonder if they could take a look at my car? Maybe they know someone with a brand-new, (completely free, no strings attached) washer and dryer combo? That way I don’t have to lug what feels like a whole dead body’s worth of weight in clothes down to the laundromat anymore. 

    And of course I have to go to the one all the way across town, and I can’t even go to the one that is conveniently located down the street from my house anymore, because the last TWO times I’ve washed our clothes there, I’ve caught the SAME old geezer (do people still say geezer?) rummaging through my clothes as they finished tumbling.

    I’m still irritated and equally confused that till this day my favorite period underwear are nowhere to be found. It had to have been him, right? He totally snatched those. Gross! But also, I’m flattered? Well, more so just lonely and disgusted with my image. So, therefore, a homeless man stealing my stained undergarments feels like a compliment.

    I slid into the living room, making sure that of course I fumbled over some toy cars, yanno, for dramatic effect, while exclaiming for an explanation, as my eyes danced around trying to analyze the situation. 

    “Blood!? What? Where?! Are you okay? What happened?!”

    Tawny proudly showcased his crimson palms. His giggle dizzied me. I soon realized he wasn’t hurt at all. But instead he had ripped into an old box of Halloween makeup. I grew nauseous as I took inventory of all the scrubbing and washing and crying that was to soon ensue. And even after all of that, there’s a guarantee that I’ll have to permanently flip the one couch cushion over. Which is great, considering I’VE ALREADY HAD TO DO THAT, because the other side of the cushion had a battle against the dog and a bowl of spaghetti, and sorry to spoil this, but our light beige sofa abso-fucking-lutely lost.

    So, I suppose, I should just throw a blanket over it. Or just dispose of the whole couch, and we’ll just sit on throw pillows until both kids grow up and move out. Sigh. I’d scream. I’d scold. But I don’t even have it in me. He’s just experimenting and bored. And I’m just so Goddamn tired.

    “Come on, little dude, let’s get you in the bath.” 

ANGELA’S PERSPECTIVE:

    “So what exactly are you doing again?”

    “Erica…I’ve explained it a billion times already.”

    “So one more time shouldn’t hurt!”

    I bellowed a sarcastic laugh while a film of smoke decorated the room.

    “I’m doing a self-fulfillment project. Or whatever.  I’m gonna call random strangers and wish them a good day. I’m not gonna eat meat anymore and I’m gonna stay single for a while. I’m just gonna try and pay it forward whenever I can. Just try and focus on finding happiness for myself, by being good to others. And I don’t know. Stuff like that!”

    “Awee. Well, that’s cute! Where are you gunna start?”

    “I was thinking I could drop these little notes off in mailboxes throughout the neighborhood.”

    “Is that illegal?”

    “I..I don’t think so? That’d be fucking dumb! Hey officer, please don’t arrest me, I was just putting this Live, Laugh, Love note in this person’s mail!”

    We giggled in unison.

    “Now help me write these up! I’m really excited to get these out there. Help people. Make them feel good.”

    “You mean make yourself feel good.”

    “No! Well…a little. It’s a mutual transaction. Now get your inspiration on!”

MIRANDA’S PERSPECTIVE:

    Good thing this bath doesn’t drain properly, ‘cause then all of this cosmetic blood would just smoothly go down, instead of just clinging to the walls of the tub, creating its own separate endeavor of stain fighting. That would be too easy. That would make life too forgiving! 

    I tried to take deep breaths, remembering what I had been trying to teach my wobbly and wild toddler when their emotions become too overwhelming, but I was interrupted with cries from the 8 month old who had woken up from their nap.

    “Mommy will be right back, okay?”

    I shuffled into the nursery, attempting to soothe Eliza’s cries. “Shh Shh Shh, it’s okay, yeah, I know, you’re hungry, huh!? Mommy’s gonna make your bottle, baby.”

    I changed her diaper, my hands moving so quickly they appeared blurry, because this crying was the last bit of stimulation my brain needed, and the faster that bottle went in, the sooner I could start to come back down to Earth. 

   “Mommy! Mooommmmyyyyy. Mom! Mom! I’m ready for you! Now, mommy! Please now! Please!!” a small voice hollered. Demanded. Plead. All at once.

    “Yes, baby, I know, just, uh, hold on, I…I…ugh!”

    I sat Eliza down in her crib while I scurried back into the bathroom to tend to Tawny. I whipped the towel down from the rack, opened it widely, inviting him to wrap himself up in its warmth. He remained sitting amongst his toys and bubbles and joyfully said, “Play with me mommy! I’m a water buffalo and you’re a catfish.”

    Frustration and guilt simultaneously colored my core. “Oh, honey, I..I can’t right now. We can play later, okay? Also, I thought you said you were done with bath time? Ugh. You see, you hear that? Okay, right now, your sister really needs me, okay? I-“

    An emotional yell bursted from his lungs, “*I* need you! I need you to play with me!”

    As hungry cries painted the background I tried to reason with a 3 year old, which as anyone well knows, is completely idiotic, pointless, and obtuse. But I tried my hand at it anyway. I spoke calmly. I tried to compromise. Sympathize. Bargain. I made sure to get on his level. 

    He scowled and spit bubbles at me. His temper grew. He was angry with me. Doesn’t he know that I am only one person? No, of course he doesn’t. He just wants to play with me. It seems so simple to him. And yet it is the end of the world. And I feel that way too. But the baby, oh my God, the baby won’t stop crying and she needs fed, and I just really need him out of here. I’m only one person. I am trying my best. I am only me! 

    “GET OUT OF THE GOD DAMN TUB! NOW!”, I roared, and felt relieved, then immediately ashamed. But still, I continued to scream. That scream where tears wallow up in your eyes so quickly and heavily that you can’t see. And you can feel the heat radiating off of your face. And you just know your cheeks and ears are bright red. 

    “I HATE you, mommy! You’re a BAD mommy!”, he spewed these words at me, and like a military grade weapon, they successfully hit their target, but I was out of ammunition. White flag was risen. And all I could return was a broken, “Yeah? Well I don’t care. Now get out of the tub.”

ANGELA’S PERSPECTIVE:

    Erica helped me finish up the last of my messages, then she left for volleyball practice. I hummed while walking through town, slipping individual notes into mailboxes, sticking envelopes onto doors, and sliding them under welcome mats that dressed each suburban porch.

    I didn’t really have a system. I chose some houses because I liked their potted flowers out front. Some because they had children’s bikes in the yard. A couple because their trash was overflowing on the side, and their cars looked run down. I was down to my last envelope when I saw an older man sitting in a wheelchair on his front lawn, appearing to soak up the sun in silence like a house cat would. I felt drawn to him. He looked so content. And together.

    I gravitated towards him, and muttered quietly like a small mouse, “H-Hello, sir. How are you today?”

   I think he processed my greeting slowly, because it was a few seconds before he finally looked up, acknowledging my presence, and responded with slight confusion, “Oh, hello. Do you need something?”

    “No, no, actually, I just wanted to say hi. Hello! I’m Angela. I just…I don’t know. I’m weird. Uh, just thought I’d come over! See how your day is going…uhm, and I don’t know, I feel compelled to ask…uhm, are…you…are you…happy?”

     He laughed from his belly. Deep and wholesome. “Bit of a bold question, for such a youngin’ as yourself. Happy? What do you define as happy?”

    I felt my face become flushed with embarrassment. 

    “I guess that was kind of silly. I…I just. I don’t know! I’m just…I guess myself, trying to figure that out. Find it. If it does indeed exist. Happiness. Find it through helping others seems like a good place to start. And you have this, aura about you, I see it’s kind of weird though, to ask a stranger that.” 

    It was quiet for a moment. The breeze created a soft and mellow soundtrack to this weirdly intimate moment I was having with some random man. 

    “Today, is my wife and I’s anniversary.”

    “Awe! Congratulations! How many years have you been together?”

    “Fifty-five years. Fifty-five. She passed away almost nine years ago now. But I still count our years together, each anniversary. Every year. Every year that passes by, I choose her, and I know she chooses me.”

    “I really think that’s beautiful and all, and I mean no disrespect, but how do you know? How do you know she chooses you? Even with being in…er…another realm. Or state. Heaven? How, how do you know?”

    He smiled sweetly. His fragile hands reached out for mine, and he simply said, “Because she speaks to me. Through the wind. The stars. The radio. People.” He leaned back, gently releasing my hands and continued, “You’re a lot like her. I can see her curiosity in you. She always asked questions. Even after the internet was invented, she’d still ask me a million questions, as if *I* knew the answer! She trusted my opinion, I guess. Though she probably just humored me. She was far smarter than I could ever dream to be. Even if she knew deep down I was just guessing, she’d still ask me. Always with her questions. She couldn’t help herself but wonder constantly about everything. It’s a beautiful thing. To wonder. To question. To explore. To try and understand.”

    I was so dazzled and dazed that I had forgotten why I even approached this owl of a man. My eyes ignited. I held out my last envelope. “I want you to have this. It’s…it’s silly, really. But, it’s just…just a little something to…I’m just trying to spread happiness. Or…I don’t know. Give little gifts or reminders. Uhm, I guess to myself as well. I’d like for you to have my last envelope. I don’t know what this one says. But, it just, it’s supposed to be a light-hearted message inside. A gift.”

    He grabbed the envelope with shaky hands, and investigated it slowly, while he contemplated. “I simply cannot accept two presents.”

    “Two?” I asked, puzzled.

    “Yes, two. This envelope, being the second gift. And you, being the first.”

    I sat in stillness while he spoke.

    “My wife. She sent you to me. And for me, that is enough. That is my gift. You asked me… Am I happy? It is an everyday challenge. Sometimes you have to choose to be happy. And sometimes it chooses you. And I believe it finds you when you need it most. Now…”

    He held the envelope up with translucent fingers.

    “I hope this message finds who it is looking for.”

    He then released the envelope from his fragile hand, and swiftly it was swept up by the wind, and carried along by an eager current, quickly from our sight.

    “May it choose wisely.”

MIRANDA’S PERSPECTIVE:

    I have failed today. An F Minus for mom, hooray! After a half-assed attempt to come back from the war raging inside of my home, called parenthood, I finally admitted defeat and just chalked today up as a loss. I’ve submitted to sadness and exhaustion today. Eliza is in her swing, and Tawny is sulking on the couch, watching what just has to be considered unhealthy and brain-rotting content. I’ve retired to the bottom step of stairs coming off of my porch. There is still thick, red goo in my living room. I didn’t finish those dishes. I still haven’t even planned what dinner will be tonight. 

    All I want to do is sleep or run away. I’m so wired and subdued at the same time. I’ve even broken into my emergency pack of cigarettes. It’s been a good six months since I’ve smoked. But today just…I feel defeated. I feel like I can’t keep up. My shoulders feel so heavy, and my soul aches. Can you feel your soul physically? Is that even a real question? My brain feels like mashed potatoes. I just want to do better. Feel better. Be better. But I don’t know. I just don’t know how. 

   The cement is warm beneath my bare feet. The wind is strong today.  The traffic in my mind is cut off by a light graze along my ankle. “What the hell?” An envelope. There’s no address on it. Nothing indicating ownership. I look up, trying to seek its person out. But, nothing. Nobody. Just me, this cigarette, and this envelope. 

    I impulsively rip it open, and inside is a small, folded up piece of notebook paper, neatly ripped right along its perforated edge. I open it up, and on the paper are some simple, neatly written words. 

    I stare at it. For a long time. And before I can even really understand what I am experiencing, I begin to sob. I hold the piece of paper tightly against my chest. As if it’s an old friend I haven’t seen in years. A family member. A mother. I hold it tight. For a long time. Then, I let it go. I wipe my eyes. I go inside. And I play with my son. 

July 01, 2022 14:18

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2 comments

Erika Seshadri
15:27 Jul 08, 2022

I liked this sweet story with perspectives of both paying it forward and being on the receiving end of such acts. The bit about the elderly man in the wheelchair was fantastic. The only thing that threw me was when Angela first showed up and I had no idea who she was, or why she was there. It comes full circle at the end, which is fun, but I was so distracted by trying to figure out what Angela had to do with the story of Miranda, that it affected my ability to fully enjoy the story. Perhaps an introductory paragraph about never knowing...

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Castle Marie
22:04 Jul 11, 2022

Thank you very much! And I greatly appreciate that, I was worried it might cause slight confusion. Great pointer! Thank you for taking the time to read it :)

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