FINDING ONE’S ROLE. 8-8-11
Thomas Rawlings was an average student all the way up to, and through, his first semester as a senior in high school and he was content with his life because not only had his mother recently remarried – and by doing so had found both happiness and financial stability – but he, himself, had found a girl, named Audrey, who was a junior in his school and who he liked and who liked him.
Over Christmas break they got to be closer and closer and they spent a lot of time together.
Indeed, they became so close that the old, lover’s maxim, “What’s yours is mine,” became totally true for them and the withholding of ‘benefits’ on her behalf became unthinkable and because Nature dictated their urges they looked to Her for ways to assuage them too.
They knew enough, of course, to agree about the importance of using protection but sometimes the intensity of their needs brushed that consideration aside because they’d find themselves forced to get on with the doing of it with such urgency that the very idea of holding back for long enough to let him go to a drugstore for a new supply of condoms, especially if he’d already used the pack of six that he’d bought the day before, was brushed aside.
Audrey suspected that that she was pregnant late in January and when she told him about it he was delighted because he was so in love with her that he welcomed the idea of their having made a baby together which would “proclaim our love for each other to the whole world” – and on and on like that including his heartfelt hope that it would be a girl and thus have a good chance of being a second Audrey.
She didn’t start to show until the first week of March and on the Friday of that same week Tom was waiting for her, as usual, on the steps by the school’s main entrance and when she didn’t come out with her classmates he ran to catch up with them and he asked a girl who he knew was a friend of hers where she was and was told that Audrey’s parents had shown up at around nine o’clock that morning and they’d talked to the Principal who had then called her out of class and, after her parents had helped her to empty her locker, the three of them had driven away.
She went on to tell him that the teacher was then asked to go the Principal’s office, over the loudspeaker system, and when she came back she told the class that Audrey would be away for a while because, “She is going to a Spa, up State, to see a specialist for health reasons of some kind and won’t be back for at least two weeks.”
‘Bereft’ is the word that best described Tom’s state of mind as the full implication of the news came home to him. He went from euphoric to despondent in about ten seconds.
‘They’ had taken his soul mate away and ‘they’ were going to destroy and remove the wondrous baby that they’d created together and all without a word to him! How was it possible that his input wasn’t even being asked for? How could Audrey even contemplate allowing such an obscene act to take place? How? – How? – Why? – What? . . . his brain started to whirl and he had to sit on the grass and lean back against a brick wall to keep from falling down and desolation made tears come streaming down his face as the How’s and the Why’s kept on piling up and tumbling around in his mind.
The grayness of it all didn’t go away – even though just about everyone who knew him had told him that it would soon – and his whole world fell apart and stayed that way as did his ability to concentrate on anything else. He couldn’t climb out of the darkness of the abyss that he’d fallen into and everything else became farcically non-important to him.
All of it.
He kept showing up at school – mainly because his mother saw to it that he got out of bed and onto the bus every morning – but once there he made no attempt to learn anything or to do any work and when, every so often, one of his teachers demanded that he participate he’d snarl obscenities and tell her to get out of his face.
It wasn’t long after that before the Principal wearied of having to entertain Tom in his office, sometimes three times a day – without having given him an invitation to do so even once – and he became exasperated and so, one day in the second week of April when he’d been sent to him yet again, he told him, “Please listen to what I’m going to tell you, Tom, my boy. Seeing that you’ve clearly decided to not pay attention in any of your classes and seeing that you are regularly disrupting our regular procedures and seeing that you’ll be eighteen soon it won’t be necessary for you to complete this final year of yours. It’s a great pity but I can’t see any other way around it. So, if you agree to quit right now, this very morning, I’ll see to it that you won’t get into any trouble with the authorities. You hear me? I’m saying that you don’t have to bother about showing up here any more. What do you think? Do you agree?”
“You wha – – -? You’re telling me that – – – ”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you. You’re no doubt happy to hear that your high school education is now over. Please go and empty your locker and be sure to leave its door open when you leave the premises for the last time. Goodbye Mr. Rawlings.”
After the disaster Tom had also stopped pretending to like his stepfather even though they only saw each other for ten minutes or so at dinner time and so when he didn’t have to leave the house to go to school anymore he found it doubly hard to cope because the man was a ‘jobbing’ accountant who worked at home mostly – doing his work on his computer and sending it in to his customer’s offices – and the two of them began to clash far too often and in a matter of a few weeks the tension between them got to be so intense that they tried hard to avoid being in the same room together, which is not easy in a small house.
It came to a head one day at around eleven-thirty in the morning when Tom went into the kitchen to make himself breakfast and found that his step father was drinking coffee at the table in the alcove.
The man made the mistake of saying, derisively, “Ah, up at the crack of noon again, I see.”
Words were exchanged and culminated in Tom going way too far by saying, “Maybe I’ll accept criticism from you when you stop fucking my mother, you usurping Motherfucker!”
The guy was so flabbergasted on hearing those words that he didn’t trust himself to answer and he stood up and stormed out of there and went back to the spare room that he’d turned into his office/studio and he slammed the door shut. He was so upset that he couldn’t do much worthwhile work for about an hour afterwards.
When his wife came home from work at around six o’clock he didn’t repeat Tom’s words but she knew that something awful had occurred because he gave her an ultimatum – “Your son leaves this house tomorrow morning or both of you do. It’s him or me, you hear me? Choose.”
The best way out that his mother could come up with was to persuade Charles to go and pay an extended visit with his elder brother who had a house in a suburb of Chicago.
That visit didn’t last long because his sister-in-law resented his presence in her three bedroom home – she’d had to give up the spare bedroom that she’d turned into what she’d called, ‘My private media room,’ and that had also done duty as a large walk-in closet for her clothes and had also housed her extensive collection of tennis and field hockey memorabilia. She’d played both sports semi-professionally before she’d gotten pregnant and she had a few dozen cups and medallions on display along with many framed photos and an extensive assortment of equipment that meant a lot to her and that she hoped to use again professionally when her child-bearing/child-rearing days were over.
She tried to be patient about it but when it became obvious – after two months or so – that her house guest had zero intention of finding himself a job and wanted to simply mope and ‘hang’ – as he called it – in her living room all day she balked and Tom’s brother was forced to ‘suggest’ that he’d outstayed his welcome.
Tom had nowhere to go and because it was nearly summer time he went up to Canada and he fell in with a bunch of ex-pats in Montreal and was allowed to mooch off them because most of them had gone through the same thing at one time in their lives.
However, when he saw snow falling in August, and was told that that was a normal happening up there and that the summer was effectively over already, he decided to move south and he did some Greyhound-ing and some hitch-hiking and managed to arrange it so that he was safely in Florida by November.
He drifted around and found work in many different places over the next few years but he didn’t stay long in any of them and that was partly because he quickly became bored with mindless repetitive work and partly because of his acquired habit of letting whatever came into his head get to be immediately translated into speech, no matter what import it might have. For instance: If one of his supervisors or foremen or co-workers did or said something dumb he’d tell him so right there and then and that, of course, got him into a lot of trouble because no one likes hearing the hard truth – especially not at work or in a bar because they all got far too much of it at home – and so when, always in a matter of a few weeks, his hard truths had accumulated enough to cause sufficient resentment Tom would be ‘let go’ and that happened nearly as often as when he quit jobs because of sheer boredom.
One April, as he was moving in the general direction of North again, he found employment in a North Carolina hamburger/hotdog factory where his job was to feed cut up meat and gristle and fat and various unidentifiable animal products into a huge mincing machine along with oatmeal which was used to add weight and body to the mix.
The owner of the factory had needed help badly and, although he hadn’t much liked Tom’s surly attitude – “No I didn’t finish high school but so what? Do you have a job for me or not.” – when he interviewed him, he did give him a job but he’d told his other employees, openly and in Tom’s hearing, to keep him working hard and to check him out regularly through the day.
Every time that one of them, in his opinion, watched him for a little too long or looked his way a little too often he’d snarl, “Hey! Get the fuck out of my face, man.”
After a few weeks the monotony of the job started to get to him, along with the fact that the other workers had developed an obvious dislike for him – Surprise! – and so he knew that, once again, in one way or the other he wouldn’t last much longer there.
One Monday morning he was breaking open jumbo boxes of breakfast cereal that had gone past its ‘sell-by date’ and was being used in place of regular oatmeal – the factory owner had gotten a good buy on twenty large cartons of it – and he was pouring the contents into the mix when some of it spilled. It was cereal that came formed into letters, as a gimmick he guessed because he’d never seen it before, and a couple of handfuls of it fell to the floor.
By chance some of them fell in such a way that when looked at from a certain angle, and if given liberal interpretation and a little leeway for error, they formed the word, “SLOB.”
That was it for Tom.
He wrote a note for his boss, who hadn’t come in yet, and he left it on his desk and then he put his things together and then walked to the boarding house where he had a room and he picked up his backpack and then walked out of town and headed for I-95 North.
The note read – “This is to tell you that I’m quitting this lousy job. I hope that that I never see you again, you fat fuck, nor your crew of inbred, ass-kissing morons.”
As stated, he’d never believed in mincing words.