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Contributed by poet_in_waiting on Tuesday, 28th November 2006 @ 03:31:43 PM AEST
Topic: short

You are in the cellar. That’s what dad called it anyway. More of a closet in the far back corner of the rec-room. You’re drawing pictures again, pictures of a magical place where nine-year-old boys ride on friendly, flying mythical beasts. This one looks like a fluffy dragon with a bunny tail and the wings of a red tailed hawk. The boy on the creature’s back is smiling as they fly over sparkling sapphire waves that lap onto tropical rain forest shores. This picture is a far cry from the first stickman figures you drew your first night here three years ago. Three or four hours a night locked in self-induced solitude gave you ample time to perfect your art. In the back of your mind you hear dad stumbling down the stairs.

* * *

The knock on his office door brought Ben almost all the way back. Caffeine, Advil and shockingly bright fluorescent light have become less effective in returning him to the present. Realization slowly sets in again. Sitting in his leather, high back chair, a large black coffee steaming on the solid oak desk, he smiles as he surveys the corner office. The view is spectacular, but not always comforting. Through the tall oaks and evergreens that gives the plush park shade, the river glimmers. Reflected light reaches through cracks in the greenery taking the air from his lungs. Blinds now closed, breath returned and work thankfully beckoned.

* * *

I stood at his office door waiting patiently as he transformed into the driven man I’d come to respect, once more. This routine had been going on as long as I could remember working here. Lately it had been worse, and I knew that Ben had even spent some nights in his office on the couch. When he wasn’t working, Ben was alone. He said he liked it that way when anyone asked, and he continually said it to himself in an attempt to make himself believe it. I had spent a lot of time with him of late, sometimes thinking that perhaps there was potential for a relationship. Oddly, he never did anything overtly romantic beyond a less than intimate touch after a few manhattans at Alexander’s, his favourite after work hide out. He would make small talk with lawyers, doctors, and other important types that kept him on the good side of what he called the rumour mill.

We had been out socially twenty plus times over the last three years, and I barely knew anything about my frustratingly enigmatic boss. This had to change or I would have to abandon my dreams of a meaningful life with him. I decided that this week’s night out I would take measures that would shed light on a potential relationship and possible future. More importantly, I would finally find out what was inside Benjamin T. Kane besides a brilliant Advertising executive, and if he felt even remotely the same way about me as I did him.

* * *

What do your parents do each night? Don’t they miss you when you’re tucked away in here night after night? You hear your dad descend the stairs; he crosses the rec-room floor and you ready yourself for one of those incoherent talks about nothing. The chats where you could smile blankly nodding your head, and not even leave whatever world you had just created in a drawing and your mind. Tonight night however, your dad stops short, and you hear the springs of the old rec-room couch creak and give way as he flopped and began sobbing. Not his usual way to end an evening. In the distance you hear the back door slam. Somehow you know that mom was gone forever.

* * *

I sit strategically with my back against the wall, with Ben directly across so all he can see is me and the hand sketched cartoon of Alexander the Great at the Parthenon on the wall behind me. After twenty minutes of idle chitchat about work and weather he casually touch of my hand that rested on the table, and before he could move it away I clutched it in my own hand with gentle authority. My plan was afoot, and I knew I had to act quickly. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably as if preparing for an interrogation, but he held his eyes to mine as if pleading. He was ready.
“What do you really think about me?” I started
“You are by far the most dedicated and conscientious worker …”
“You know what I mean Ben!”
Squirming once again, his eyes never left mine. I thought I saw the glint of a smile in there too. “Honestly Erin, sometimes you’re all I can think about. All I want to think about. Lately work hasn’t been enough, but I didn’t want to subject you to my world.”
“Your world?” I asked, somewhat bemused and equally amazed that we were suddenly talking. “What is it about your world that you think I can’t handle.”
“It’s what I can’t handle Erin. I’ve lived in the past so long… working and drinking are all that I really do in the present. There’s just too much … it wouldn’t be … fair.” His eyes left mine as he redirected his gaze to the faux marble tabletop. He made a half hearted attempt at pulling his hand away, but tried I wouldn’t relinquish my grip on his hand as it seemed to be the connection I had never been able to make with Ben, and if I lost the connection now I wasn’t sure I could get it back. Hi didn’t fight it very hard. Then his eyes caught mine again.

“What wouldn’t be fair Ben? What is so bad that you can’t share it with someone… share it with me? Why do you keep yourself behind walls that nobody can break through? And what scares you so much about that beautiful view in your office?” I knew right away that was too many questions too soon. This time I averted my eyes from his surprised stare and tried to pull away realizing I’d gone to far, but Ben held fast. I turned back slowly, and before I could speak Ben started talking.
“The view is spectacular from my office, isn’t it?” He paused, turned his head. It was like he was looking out the window now. His face tightened and his eyes closed briefly as if in pain, then he turned to me. “Have you ever noticed the river through the trees in the park? Well, if you floated down that river twenty miles or so you’d find the house I grew up in.”

* * *

In your picture the boy stands atop the majestic peak smiling and surveying the vast expanse below. The brilliants greens of the forest, and the glistening azure hue of the river that winds off into the distance disappearing at the horizon where storm clouds converge. This spectacular vista easily distracts you from the scene at the dinner table earlier where you ate in silence as dad, with glossed over red eyes, stared as if right through you. You’re sure he didn’t even notice when you left the table to return to your fortress. The boy in the pictures smiles again, resting against his trusty rabbit dragon as the sun sets in the distance behind the storms far away.

* * *

That night at the bar I learned more than had ever planned. I learned of his solitary childhood at home and school. Night after night locking himself in solitude while his parents relationship disintegrated beyond repair. His mother left, father may never recovered from the failed marriage, delving deeper into his alcoholic solitude. I learned that Ben never let himself get close to anyone because the only relationships he knew were poisoned and resulted in guilt and abandonment. We began spending more and more time together after that, all by his request and my delight. It was like all he wanted to was talk about his life, and after every time we were together he shared more and more. The changes in him were more than apparent as healing began, and the sharp witted, creative man that had been hiding emerged. People at work were talking as people in the office do, “What’s up with Ben, he must be getting laid. He is way too perky lately.” Well that may have been true, as Ben and I had definitely moved beyond hand holding in a bar to regular overnight visits, however, the changes in him came from a different place. The walls around became less apparent after each of our intimate talks. He still woke from dreams of his child hood, but even that had become less frequent.

I was glad I’d never listened to friends and family who told me to move on. “Damaged goods,” they’d say, but I saw beyond that. I had dreams of my own before I ever heard of Ben’s dreams. Dreams where Ben and I sat in comfy chairs in our back yard watching our children play. Dreams where Ben thanked for not giving up on him. Of course I realized it was just a dream, but I had been raised to believe that if you worked hard enough you could make your dreams come true.

* * *

Flying through the air again, the boy in the picture grips the furry mane of the dragon beast while his other hand shields his eyes as if searching for unknown treasures. Still no grown-ups in your pictures, just happy solitary children. Exactly like your world, except for the happy part. I wish I’d told you to plug your ears and run away, go deeper into that wonderful world in your drawings. I know you don’t understand all they said right now, but the words will stick with you and you will understand them when you older and the pain they cause will often be unbearable. You won’t be able to figure out which came first, you mother leaving or dad being drunk. Mom will never return, and this will always hurt somewhere deep inside. One day you’ll have to leave the protection of the cellar and replace it’s seclusion with invisible walls. I wish I could tell you that one day these defences won’t be enough, and that the barricades and the drink will not be enough to protect you. Don’t give up the search for the one she is out there. You’ll know it’s her because her touch will make your fortress walls crumble. Each time they fall you’ll find you don’t have to build them as high until they are almost gone completely. When you find her you will know One can undo what two have done to a youthful soul.

Copyright © poet_in_waiting ... [2006-11-2803:31:43]
(Date/Time posted on site)

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Re: One (User Rating: 1)
by sju on Tuesday, 26th December 2006 @ 10:34:22 AM AEST
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Great read, I love the way this story moves around. I enjoyed reading this, and aside from a few editing errors found it to be quite well written. Keep up the good work. :)

Re: One (User Rating: 1)
by darkangeleyes57 on Tuesday, 8th May 2007 @ 04:07:19 AM AEST
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Good Story.. I liked how you switched around the perspectives throughout the story it made it very creative.. Well done.. Good work..

Take care

Re: One (User Rating: 1)
by Personifyinthepoeticdream on Tuesday, 12th August 2008 @ 05:57:00 PM AEST
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Great story the different perspectives were hot.

Re: One (User Rating: 1)
by anonomys on Monday, 30th August 2010 @ 05:58:07 PM AEST
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good story loved it

Re: One (User Rating: 1)
by zukunftmorder on Sunday, 15th April 2012 @ 01:05:51 PM AEST
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Very creative! :D I really liked it, the neverending story kept going through my head.

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