“Squares” (An Aperitif)

In Fiction on July 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm

{A note to the reader: What follows is a brief fragment of a short story I am currently working on, tentatively entitled “Squares.” It is about a young entrepreneur who’s life is flipped upside down by an illegitimate child who, at thirteen, now wants to meet him.  It doesn’t hit far from home, if you know my family history.   Enjoy it in its partiality, but there is more to come.}

Rain: To Isaiah, over the years, it had gained a meaning beyond comprehension, something just out of reach of definition. It had become a comforter where consolation was difficult to come by. It had been a companion, when the omniscient embrace of one had made itself rare at his door. To Isaiah, it was like an old friend saying “welcome home”; to him, it offered the same gentle, quiet, vulnerable sweetness of a lover’s kiss. And now, in a less-than-comfortable chair facing the giant windows of the Portland airport, as he watched the cold, northwest rain of autumn drizzle silently down the glass, for a moment he felt secure, and in an inexplicable way, untouchable.

Isaiah Bradley was a subtle and simple man; his life was much the same way. To him, distraction was an adulteration he could never allow; it was a like ruining fine cuisine with an inappropriate condiment or putting salt in your coffee in place of sugar. He was a man of insightful forethought and astute hindsight. And in his thirty years of life—just thirty—he had managed to squeeze more out of life’s opportunities than many do in a lifetime—as if it were oil being squeezed from a rag.

His eyes, as they peered out from under a few dark, brown bangs of hair, behind a set of thick, black spectacles, focused intently on the rain drops as they rolled aimlessly down the window before him. And for a moment, even in spite of the bustling environment that seemed to envelop him, he was able to capture a moment of much needed contemplation.

The past few weeks hadn’t been what one might call easy going. In fact, the days leading up to this moment at the airport had been days filled by a long list of tribulation and misfortune. As an example: When his cell phone had rang a few days earlier, and on the other end of the line was his ex-girlfriend, Zandy, Isaiah had said very little. Instead, he had waited silently on the other end of the line as the woman talked, in silent anticipation of bad news.

“You should know something,” Zandy had said speaking quietly in an effort to mask the nervous vibration of her voice. “It is something very important, in fact.”

“Yes?” Isaiah implored.

For a moment, Zandy was silent. And in that moment of silence, perhaps even half a moment, time had expanded, and that moment had become like a performer’s eon—the vast chasm of time between the finale and the audience’s impending applause. And in that time, Isaiah’s brain had downloaded and processed every possible reason behind her peculiar call—except, of course, the actual one.

“You’re a father,” she told him in a “cut-to-the-quick” manner.

Of course, Zandy—this woman whom Isaiah had not seen or heard from since one arbitrarily chosen night twelve years ago—went on to describe the back story behind this sudden news. “I know all this must seem sudden,” she had said, hoping to coax out of him a little understanding, a little indulgence as to why she was just now giving him this fragile piece of information. She said, “I know this must be quite a shock to you.”

“A little,” Isaiah replied, half lying to the both of them. In reality, of course this had been a shock. It had been a white-hot lightning bolt to the forehead. It had come as a totally uninvited surprise.

Zandy had more to say: “The reason I’m calling is because Jordan is going to turn thirteen soon. And he’s getting to that age where he is starting to ask about his father. He’s never had one. I just thought it would make sense for you to meet him. That is, if you want to.”

Never, thought Isaiah, had a matter had so much gravity as this one. Should he decline the offer, there was potential for ruining the boy’s life.  Then, he’d become that guy—you know the one.  The guy who single mothers curse in their prayers at night; the guy who comes, but always goes; the guy who lives, but never ever loves.  On the other hand, should he accept, he was throwing himself into a scenario that would totally redefine him, reconstruct and transform the man he was: a man who’s only responsibility in life was to indulge himself. So he said, “I’ll call you.” Then they hung up without so much as a polite salutation, he saved her number in his cell, and then he leaned back in his increasingly uncomfortable chair, closed his eyes, and bathed himself in one, singular thought: Life is full of sucker punches!

After their conversation, Isaiah got up, gathered his luggage, and headed for the nearest restroom. He walked in to find it nearly empty, with the exception of a janitor cleaning the stall. He sat his bags down under the counter, and when he looked up, he caught his own glance in the mirror, and he found himself suddenly fascinated by what he saw. He had formerly viewed himself as a younger man full of energy and vigor. And now, looking back at himself in the light of sudden fatherhood, he was eye to eye with a man with whom he was somewhat unfamiliar. This man was one that would no longer be able to make decisions separate from his awareness of their affect on his son, who’s name he was told was Jordan. His brain frantically processed the weight of responsibility his shoulders now carried, and he stepped out of the restroom and back into the terminal to await two more hours of hopeless loitering, waiting for his plane to arrive and board.

So there was Isaiah Bradley, sitting once again in his uncomfortable airport chair. Its plastic was faded, colored on, and stuck with chewing gum. Its padding had been squished down by the buttocks of thousands of strangers before him. Yet, at this point in time, its objectionable contour, its intolerable shape, was as close to a consoling embrace as he was going to get. And so, as he watched from his chair and a jet angled itself onto the runway and soared off into the overcast sky above—wherever it was going, he wished he could have been on it and never looked back.

  1. “…enjoy it in it’s partiality…”
    I know you meant “its,” not “it is partiality.”

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