Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chapter 17

Chapter 17

I knew Asa had a nice radio set up I just never paid it much attention. The rest of the world didn’t matter to me, not really. No doubt that is a selfish attitude but it’s how I feel. I might change my mind down the road but I’m not sure. I was in a comfortable place.

I thought Asa felt the same way, but I thought wrong. I came in from a morning forage run and found that Asa wasn’t where I expected him to be. He’d said he was working on some power conduit thing and that he needed some space because it was frustrating him. When I couldn’t find him I began to wonder whether he had gone on one of his “rides” when I looked in the seldom used – or what I thought was the seldom used – communications room. That’s what Asa called it but the door stayed closed so I just assumed … well, I don’t know what I assumed exactly. No matter how you look at it assuming was a stupid thing to do.

“Rob, I’ve got a mess of things to do here at my place. I don’t know when I’ll be able to come.”

(garbled static was all I could hear)

“I know it’s important but so is what I’m doing right now.”

(more garbled noise)

“No, sending someone to pick me up will not help me go any faster … as a matter of fact interfering with what I aim to do and getting underfoot is a sure fire way of slowing me down.”

(more gobbledy-gook)

“Sure, I miss the girls too but they’ve got Ash and Rowan for brothers and I’ve got work I need to do. I’ll radio in a few days and let you know if I’ve been able to clear my schedule any faster.”

Asa sighed and then turned the radio off. He turned and jumped when he saw me. He asked a little belligerently, “How long have you been standing there? I don’t like being spied on.”

I don’t want to say my feelings were hurt because mostly I was just startled. Still, it was enough to shut me down. I turned and left without a word and went outside. I was in the mood for a walk of my own.

There was a particular rock that I found to be comfortable. I called it my thinking rock … or my not-thinking rock depending on my mood. The chokecherries were ripe enough to eat so that’s what I did and got so full I simply sacked out for a while. I woke up when the sun wasn’t as warm as it had been and found I must have slept through a bit of rain. It was getting cool-ish so I knew I needed to go back to Asa’s place and change.

I was coming down the path when he came thundering at me on his horse. “Where have you been?!”

I answered, “Out.”

He complained, “You were gone hours.”

“So?”

He said, “You didn’t tell me where you were going.”

I told him, “I never tell you where I’m going. You don’t either.”

He denied it. “Yes I do.”

I shook my head. “No, you don’t. We’ve been through this too many times. Anytime I ask you shut me out because it makes you uncomfortable. I leave it alone because I understand the feeling.”

Ignoring what I’d said he ordered, “You can’t just take off like that. You don’t know how to take care of yourself.”

I told him, “I haven’t done too bad a job thus far. It’s not exactly like you’ve been giving me lessons. I haven’t brought home any poisonous plants. I bring home small game between the big ones that you’ve brought in. I do all the cooking. I learned how to take care of the horse I ride by watching you and she seems to like me just fine. I bring in all of the forage for our fresh food and I’ve brought in what has been dried. You built the dehydrator but I’m the only one using it.”

Angrily he asked, “Then why are you even here?”

“Because I said I would be. And in case you haven’t noticed I haven’t left. I just took a few moments for myself because I don’t like being snarled at. I didn’t know that it was a secret that you were talking to Rob.”

A cool wind blew and I shivered. I was done talking. I headed back to Asa’s place but when I got there I saw he’d barred the door and locked it. It was all I could do to not panic. I’d stopped wearing my backpack everywhere I went, I thought that here was a place I could stay. I thought this was a place I could stay and there would always be room for me. In that moment I stopped feeling that way. I knew with absolute certainty that I was in the wrong place … not a bad place, but it was the wrong place now; might have been the wrong place all along. I wasn’t sure.

“Guess you need me for something.” He was trying to joke but it fell flat. He sensed it almost immediately. “I guess that was a dumb thing to say. I … uh … I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”

“OK.”

He tried to start a conversation and all I wanted to do was get to my backpack. “Look, about that radio call …”

“You don’t need to say anything. It’s none of my business, not really.”

“Well, the thing is … I … uh … I need to go do some business. We’ll need winter supplies. I’ll be gone for a few weeks and you should know how to run the radio.”

“No I won’t.”

“Sure you will, in case something goes wrong.”

“No … because I won’t be here. I’m going back to give Carmine his saddle and stuff … probably the horse too. I don’t know that I can take care of it over the winter.”

Startled he said, “What do you mean? Sure, you’ll be here and …”

I looked him full in the eyes. “No Asa, I won’t. You’ve changed your mind. I don’t know why I didn’t see it until now but that’s why you’ve been leaving more and more. That’s why you’ve never even tried to kiss me after that first time … you don’t want any tangles or regrets. That’s why it was so easy for so long, because it was all superficial. We’re friends … but even that’s changing isn’t it?”

“That’s not true! You said you’d stay!”

“And I have. But you leave more and more. Your skin crawls because you can’t handle what’s here. The only difference between the way things were before and the way things are now is me. I’ve invaded your hole in the wall and it’s not the same for you as it was.”

Refusing to listen to what I was saying he said, “It was just a radio call Gurl!”

“But this isn’t the first one from them. They’ve called before or you’ve called them. Don’t deny it; I could sense it in your conversation. They’ve asked you to come before now and the only reason you haven’t is because you are trying to show them they can’t whistle and you’ll heel. It had nothing to do with preferring my company or anything like that. Be honest with yourself even if you can’t be honest with me.”

Shaking his head he said, “You … you don’t understand.”

“I do,” I told him. “A lot better than you think. I knew that …”

“Knew what? That I wasn’t good enough?”

I sighed. “Don’t be stupid. I knew that you had reservations … you just wanted someone to understand what you’d been through and keep you from being lonely. You weren’t being mean about it, you really meant it. But reality isn’t what you thought it would be. It was fun at first, a lot of fun; for both of us. But winter is setting in Asa … how are you going to run when the snow locks you up here with me … and you can’t get out?”

In desperation he said, “I’ll get used to it. I told you I was going to do the best I can!”

I sighed, “You already have Asa and it just isn’t working for you. Leave off already. It isn’t your fault and it isn’t my fault. We just jumped the gun. We both wanted something that didn’t really exist. You must have known it someplace inside yourself because you never trusted me enough to try and help with the sex stuff.”

“Hey! That’s none of your …”

“ … business?” After he realized what he’d said all the stuffing seemed to go out of him. “I tried Asa. I haven’t got a real clue beyond basic biology but I was willing to try. You shut me out … and let’s be honest, I let you shut me out. Forever is a long time for you to think that stuff isn’t any of my business.”

Angrily he said, “You mean you need a real man.”

I shook my head. “I could have been satisfied with the status quo. I was satisfied with just being your friend, respecting the boundaries that you set. You’re the one who isn’t. You’re the one that has been wondering if you made a mistake and not willing to do anything about it but wonder; wonder until it is making you sick. Well, I have to be friend enough to accept it. You gave me a place to lay my head, but now it is time for me to move on.”

Quietly he said, “I promised if things didn’t work out that you could stay until you found a place before winter set in.”

“I’m releasing you from that promise. I’ll figure it out, I always do. As soon as I give Carmine back his stuff I’ll start looking. I won’t tell anyone where this place is and I won’t burden you by coming back.”

I’d finally worked my way around to where my pack was and I picked it up and it dawned on me, I’d never even unpacked it much. My spare clothes were on a shelf nearby for convenience but everything else was still in there where I kept it.

“You’re not leaving now?! It was just a radio call!”

I leaned against the wall because it took so much energy just to deal with the whole enormity of my mistake. “When are you leaving to go to Gill’s place?”

“I planned on leaving tomorrow.”

“Good enough. I’ll follow you back, give to Carmine what belongs to him and then do what I have to do … for both our sakes.”

“What do you mean for both our sakes?”

Getting irritated at what seemed like his intentional obtuseness I asked him, “What do you think I mean Asa? You’ve been making yourself sick because you couldn’t tell me, couldn’t say ‘I made a mistake.’ And now that I’ve figured it out I can’t just sit around investing more and more of me knowing that eventually you’re just going to ride off and never be able to come back and face it. I’m not a person who can live like that. And you can’t keep running away hoping things will eventually be different from when you left. Deal with it. You know you made a mistake. It’s written all over your face. At least let us part while we are some kind of friends in case we run into each other down the road.”

Then he got mad. “Fine. Whatever. It’s obvious you never meant to stay. You can’t deal with me only being half a man.”

Trying hard not to lose my temper I told him, “Stop using clichés. If you can’t have sex that’s one thing and I already told you I was more than prepared to live with that. If you won’t have sex that’s a different issue. And frankly I don’t know which it is. Can’t is not your fault. Won’t is a willful choice on your part. And if it is something you are choosing not to do then there’s a reason for the choice … and that I don’t understand, that being left to hang in limbo not understanding is what I can’t live with. Why you felt the need to be so secretive about your radio communications I don’t understand either. It’s not like I was ever going to bite your head off for it. I know you have a business. I know you are in demand for your skills. I know you need people in a way I don’t. Have I ever tried to make you do anything? We agreed to accept how we each were. We agreed to give each other as much space as we needed. Is that what I did wrong? Did I give you so much space you didn’t think it mattered to me how you felt?”

Frustrated he shouted, “I don’t know! OK. I … I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right.”

As a counter point to his shout that echoed in the cavern I said quietly, “Then there’s your answer.”

1 comment:

  1. Ahh sorry it didnt work out between them,but better to find that out now.
    Thank you for the great chapter.

    ReplyDelete