Life in a Northern Town Ch. 01byvelvetpie©
I took the exit and was surprised to find myself holding my breath. It had been twelve years since I'd been home and I was wrestling with my emotions. I had made a vow all those years ago that I would never return, that I absolutely hated the place. In all actuality, it wasn't the town that I hated, it was the memories it held. Peter Garland. His name was like saying Candyman. One mention and the box opened, a cyclone of images whirling out, attacking my heart and soul.
My parents had moved here during my senior year of high school, thanks to a fiscal year change and a promotion for my father. I, of course, was pissed off, being forced to leave the people I had known most of my school life and I found myself acting out in school. The only class I didn't disrupt was Creating Writing class. Teacher? Peter Garland. Candyman, Candyman ...
My cell phone rang, startling me out of my reverie and I fished it out of the holder, flipped it open and spoke, slowing down to take the snowy off-ramp curve. "Hello?"
"Where are you?" I smiled at the sound of Jessie's voice.
"Well, hello, Jessie. It's nice to hear your voice, too."
"Where the fuck are you?"
"Can't you even say hello first? You haven't seen me in two years and you can't say hello?"
"Hello." She took a breath. "Where the fuck are you?"
"At the Simon Street exit."
"Good! Hurry the fuck up, will you? We're all waiting for you."
That made me feel good. My old friends were all waiting for me to get there but something wasn't right. "Who all is there?"
"Allison, Stephanie, Morris, Jeff ... geez, do I have to go through the whole list?"
"No, Jess. Just answer the question I'm not asking." Silence pervaded the line and I heard the sounds of people partying in the background. "Jess ... "
"It wasn't my fault, Taylor. I didn't tell him."
If I was made of rubber, I would have melted in a heap onto the floor. "God, Jessie. Please don't tell me that you're telling me that he's there."
"He's here, Tay. He found out that you were coming back and insisted on being here."
"I don't want to see him, Jess."
Peter Garland was the first person that ever got me. He understood who I was and what I was trying to accomplish. He read my writings with the eye of a Renaissance man and artfully critiqued it in a manner that I could understand. He never talked down to me and he never pretended that he was a god of the written word. He was just Peter, a 43-year old man who loved zinnias, thunderstorms and Chaucer. And within the short spanse of three weeks, he became the love of my life.
"Well, he wants to see you. What are you going to do, avoid him?"
"I had planned to do just that."
"Yeah, I bet you did, silly girl." She giggled as a voice in the background ordered her to take a toke. "I have to go, Taylor. Hurry the fuck up!"
The phone went dead in my hand and I closed it, my stomach twisting in knots that no amount of alcohol or pot would be able to undo. Somehow, I found myself floating back to the first time I'd gone to his apartment. He was the editor of the local university press book and he had several entries to read through, determine whether they were good enough to be included, then edit for publication. I'd volunteered since I was the fastest reader in the class and Peter had told me that my editing skills were top-notch.
His apartment was vintage unmarried scholar. His living room was filled with dog-eared stacks of periodicals and leather-bound books and his kitchen was a disaster area. He ushered me in with a smile but glanced about the mess with an apologetic look. I'd seen this too many times to truly be worried about it. The only thing I was worried about was that either something would crawl on me while I was doing the work or something would crawl in my backpack.
He weathered my disdain, offered me a beer and we set about working on the pieces. I wasn't much of a drinker so the alcohol went straight to my head and all the loneliness I felt came pouring out. And he was the perfect reservoir. He listened and wiped my tears away, replacing them with kisses. That was the beginning of the end.
I turned onto Lacey Avenue and smiled at the Christmas lights that sparkled on the new-fallen snow. It was no surprise that the Barrios house was the most ornately lit of all the homes on the crescent. Jessie's father was crazy about Christmas and endeavored to make their home a Griswold house every year. I pulled into the driveway, turned the car off and sat there for a few minutes. Inside that house were people who knew me better than my own family. And inside was the man who had taken my virginity and left me like a used condom.
I took a deep breath, grabbed my backpack and trudged up the path, heading for what could either be my sanctuary or my purgatory.