Beyond...



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It is not down in any map; true places never are — Herman Melville
This continues Nan's story from The Voice

Nan seemed almost inconsolable. Her life felt like a travel program. At first her life felt wrong, but each choice that brought her closer to ‘right’ was met with, “Is this trip really necessary?” Once she made the final decision to have her surgery, it was anything but “Getting there is half the fun.” She found out, like so many of us, that her life and her choices met fulfillment every single day; that like the title of a favorite author of hers, the journey truly was the destination.


 

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“Honey, can I get you anything before I head off to work?” Linda had stopped by Nan’s apartment. She had struggled with her contact with her best friend. At one point she felt that her frequent visits seemed to enable Nan to stay in her funk, and she reluctantly backed off. But she discovered much to her own distress and too relatively little surprise that she needed Nan just as much as Nan needed her.

“No, I’m set. I’ve got a two o’clock appointment with Kris.” She said from the bathroom. Linda walked down the hall and leaned on the door.

“I’ll give you a call at four or so, just in case?” What was it that drew her so close to her best friend? Why was it that she couldn’t say or do something that was not so obvious as to reveal her true feelings yet that would open Nan’s eyes to the possibilities? Was she beyond consolation? It certainly didn’t help that Jerry had been coming around again. Just enough to keep things going and not enough to nurture. Selfish Pig!

“Okay. You know that Jerry called me again yesterday. He was so sweet.” Nan said as Linda pulled back from the door. She faced Linda and the girl turned away, wanting to keep from getting angry. She weighed her options and decided to be ‘Understanding Linda,’ since ‘Majorly Pissed Off Linda’ had failed to convince Nat of the imprudence of renewing a relationship with someone who only cared about himself.

“That’s great, hon! Anyway, I’ve gotta run. Like I said, I’ll call you later, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer and hurried quickly out the front door.

* * *

What will be our last thought?
Do you think it's coming soon?
Will it be a comfort
Or the pain of a burning wound?

“I suppose you want an apology. Okay. I’m sorry…” Jerry sat on the couch while Nan scurried about to get things ready for dinner. He looked around the apartment, wondering just how he could have missed things so badly. Still, she was a good lay, no matter what, and none of his friends needed to know about how she got her equipment. He walked into the dining room and came up behind her, nuzzling her neck.

“No, Jer…I’ve got dinner…no…ohhh…”

Several minutes later, Nan lay in bed, her back to Jerry. She was crying softly. He rolled out of bed and pulled on his pants.

“I got someplace I have to be….” The lie trailed off. Nan didn’t even care about the dinner at that point. What was Chicken Cacciatore’ when compared to a broken heart. She heard his footsteps fade down the hallway until the sound of the front door opening and closing finally brought a chapter of her life to an end. She thought it was over; that the rejection was the penultimate moment that would be followed by a very long chapter of hopelessness, in a way. She buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep.

* * *

“Nan? Nan?” Linda looked at the table set for dinner, shaking her head. A quick glance into the kitchen revealed an untouched casserole sitting on top of the stove. She shuddered and shook her head once again, feeling what would be her own estimation of what the worst was. No answer at all had met her call, so she decided the best thing to do was beat a hasty if regretful retreat until she noticed the darkened hallway lit by a sliver of light coming from the bedroom. Walking slowly, she looked upward and spoke silently. Never a very religious person, she nonetheless held a faith that included prayer and trust. Something needed to open the girl’s eyes, she felt, and she had given up trying to accomplish that task on her own.

Linda knocked softly on the door and spoke in an even quieter tone.

“Nan, sweetie?” The open door already told her what she feared, and she peeked inside, only to see Nan sprawled on top of the covers, barely clothed. She walked slowly to the bed and lifted a comforter from atop the cedar chest and covered Nan. Much…maybe even almost all of her wanted to take the girl in her arms; a comforter of a different kind who needed solace almost as much as the sleeping girl. She leaned close and kissed Nan on the cheek. The girl stirred once, murmuring a weepy coo before falling back into a deep sleep. Linda touched her fingers to her lips and blew Nan a kiss before walking away quietly, her own tears matching perhaps the sobbing the sleeping girl must be crying in the depths of dreams.

* * *

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“You feel? Try to stay with the feelings in your body, Nan, okay? What is your body telling you about the shame?” Kris leaned only a bit closer and lowered her glasses on her nose, revealing gold like green hue that was both intense and welcoming.

“My throat feels tight…I feel so weak.” Nan choked back some tears.

“It’s okay, Nan…stay with it. You’re doing great. Your feeling in your throat…like you can hardly speak?”

“I feel like I don’t have…..” She put her head down and began to cry softly.

“Like you don’t have a right to speak?” It wasn’t rocket science, Kris would remind her charges; they needed to know that nothing was uncommon when it came to guilt and shame; especially since most if not nearly all of it was misplaced.

“He…” She stopped, feeling uncertain.

“Tell me again what he said.” Kris knew what Jerry had said; she wrote it in her notes but it was so plainly painful to the girl that it was needful to continue to explore her feelings about the words; so simple and almost lethal at the same time.

“He….we finished and he smiled at me. I never saw him smile like that….I thought…” She shook her head.

“You believed…you hoped that things were different, right?” Kris half-frowned in anticipation.

“He said…’Just….just as good….” She dropped her head and began to weep.”

“I know, Nan…it hurts…..say the words that hurt.” Kris didn’t want her to hurt any more than she did, but the healing had to come by facing the truth; not about her, but about Jerry.

“He…just as good as…a real girl.” She began to sob. Turning her head to the side, she leaned into the tall cushion behind her on the couch.

You're an ocean full of faces
And you know that we believe
We're just a wave that drifts around you
Singing all our hopes and dreams

A few moments later she turned to face Kris again, finding a welcoming half-smile to greet her.

“What did we talk about last time, Nan?” Again, a prompt that was necessary to tie in how it all fit together.

“That…I am a real girl, right?” Was she seeking approval for recalling the previous session? Kris shook her head no, but her words spoke anything but no.

“Are you a real girl?” Nan put her head down slightly at the question.

“Your faith means a lot to you; that it gives you strength, Nan. What does your heart tell you about yourself? What words help you remember?”

“’ The days of my life all prepared ….before I'd even lived…one day.’” The confidence that was lacking up to then seemed to burst into sight like a rosebud after a spring shower. She smiled and wiped away the tears with her sweater sleeve.

“So god knew how you’d turn out, right?” Simple enough to grasp if you’ve never been damaged or rejected or hurt, but still graspable; apprehension of the truth can be difficult but supremely rewarding.

“So…no matter what anyone else says about you…you’re …” Kris spoke the question all the way up to but stopping before the key word; the word that Nan needed to say…a confession of sorts.

“Real.” She smiled and put her head down and began to weep; tears not of pain and sadness, but of truth and joy and relief. Her sobs were so hard that she shook the cushions behind her. Kris nodded and smiled.

“Real,” she repeated. She grabbed a small notebook and handed it to Nan when the girl raised her head once again.

“I want you to look up the word real and as many synonyms you can find.” Nan nodded and Kris continued.

“Write down a sentence that describes you that uses each word; the reality of Nan, okay?” Kris nodded and Nan nodded back with smile that might not be the broadest or brightest, but a smile none the less.

We look around in wonder
At the work that has been done
By the visions of our father
Touched by his loving son

* * *

“Knock, knock?” The words mimicked the sound only somewhat, but the playfulness seemed to fill the room. Nan looked up from her magazine to see Linda standing in the open doorway holding a takeout bag and a bottle of wine.

“How’s my girl?” Nothing spectacular, but a question that set the tone for the evening.

“What?” Nan pulled the ear bud out and looked quizzically at Linda.

“I said, ‘How’s my girl?’” Nan’s eyes widened and she turned away, seeking an answer, which came almost jeopardy-like in the form of a question, but with a risk that went far beyond the moment.

“Why do you say that? You say that a lot.” Truth be told, Linda only said it once and a while, but to Nan it was frequent when compared to the way so many others…that one would speak to her. Linda set the food and wine on the coffee table and sat down next to Nan. She breathed out and shook her head. The ‘your head is shaking no no but your eyes are saying yes yes’ moment that we’ve all seen.

“Oh, it’s just a phrase.” It wasn’t just a phrase. Linda looked at Nan and tried to be as nonchalant as possible, but her eyes, as another saying goes, betrayed her. For the first time in a lifetime of sharing, Nan’s own eyes were open. Little boys who shared toys and sadness over daddies who never came home from places far away. Little boys who knew they were different. Little girls who knew they had to be whom they were. Young ladies who longed for young men but found no hope or comfort. Young men who hated what they were but then finally young women who became who they had always been meant to be.

And women who knew finally that sometimes the best lovers and the best mates are the best friends who were right there all along.

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“How’s my girl? Your girl just realized that she is your girl. That she always has been your girl. And…” Nan spoke haltingly, embarrassed and ashamed over missing something that should have been obvious all along. She felt a hand softly touch her cheek, turning her face back.

“That you’re my girl?” Linda said, tears streaming down her face like so much cool rain on a hot day. Nan went to speak and even the one small but significant word stuck in her throat. She shook her head no at the moment and then smiled; her own tears mirroring Linda’s as she finally nodded and mouthed the word,

“Yes.”

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, ever, never, ever stop...


You and Me
Words and Music by
Grahame Edge and
Justin Hayward
as performed by
The Moody Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7UZ5oVYmb8



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This story is 2195 words long.