Naknek Revisted

Do you remember knocking at my door the day before you left when night was just turning to morning?

My door shook slightly with every tap from your wrinkled fist.  Your voice rasped, abused by years of alcohol, cigarettes, stormy months at sea and sorrow.

“Holly.  Holly.  Holly.”

I pretended not to hear you even though I was sure that you knew I wasn’t sleeping.  I tried everything.  I pulled my blankets and pillow over my head.  I rolled from side to side.  I imagined that you were a hallucination and that I could not hear you.  I pretended it didn’t bother me that there was an old man knocking on my door in that one moment of Alaskan darkness that comes on summer evenings in the far north.

When it became clear that knocking wasn’t going to accomplish anything you turned the knob and pushed inward.  My door was locked, thank goodness, my door was locked.

“Holly.  Holly.  Holly.”

You weren’t going to leave.  I was ignoring you, you had no way into my room, and still you weren’t going to leave.

I pretended you weren’t there for another minute or two, blanket over my head and ears plugged halfheartedly and then I couldn’t take it any longer.  Frustrated, but more sympathetic than I should have been, I went to my door and I opened it.

I blinked in the dim light of the hallway, giving the worst No-really-I-just-woke-up performance I have ever given to date, but you were drunk and the door was finally open, so it didn’t matter that I was acting.  The only important thing was that the darkness from my room was spilling into the light of your hallway and there was a girl there who would listen to you right there, within your reach.

If you had told me any other story it probably wouldn’t have worked, but my dead father shared a disease in common with your dying wife and even though the smell of cigarettes and alcohol and sweat followed you into my room, your sorrow did, too, and sorrow offered me the same oblivion that alcohol offered you.

At a certain point in life all anyone wants anymore is oblivion.

All either of us wanted anymore was oblivion.

You leaned against the wall right inside my door and told me about your wife.  The two of you shared a beautiful, strained love that you valued more than she did.  Her sickness was awful, but it had saved your relationship, because now she needed you to take care of her.  You had felt awful coming up north to work this summer.  In fact, you had almost stayed in your cabin in Washington, but money was tight and in Alaska fish would turn into dollars easily for the next few months.  You had been here for a month and you couldn’t do it anymore.

Rumi walked by and saw an old man and a young woman talking in the dark.  She pursed her lips but didn’t stop to save either of us from the mistake she imagined us making.

I told you a story that was supposed to help.  I was a lonely college student with an ego and I had more experience with death and fear and cancer than most kids my age, so I thought that I knew things.  The story was very metaphorical and poignant and you missed the point.  You heard me preaching death when I was trying to preach hope.

Hope from the hopeless is never hopeful.  That’s something I’ve learned since that night passed.

We walked across the hall into the room near Shane’s and sat down in front of the computer.

Click, click, pick a date.  Click, click, credit card.  Click, click, confirm.  Click, click, print.

And you had it.

Home in your hands, you thanked me and I could see tears underneath the folds of gray skin that blinked over your eyes.

Your pockets were filled with crumpled, creased bills and you wanted me to have them.

I refused twice until the desperation in the way your hands shook and your lips tightened against your teeth was too much for me.  I made $100 for booking you a flight home and listening for an hour.

I went to bed.

Next I knew you were on a plane and I was back to being alone with authority figures who wanted me to make bad decisions, but only if I made them in their company.

You gave me your number, your address, your email, and told me to call, to visit, to stay in contact.

I never did.

I hope you’ve moved past needing oblivion.

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One Response to Naknek Revisted

  1. Joey says:

    Who was the guy? Bob?

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