The rum slugged forth from the bottle, much like suffering a urinary tract infection.
Growling in a similarly stunted sloppy fashion to no one, he cursed while watching some nectar splash helplessly past the glass’s rim, onto the perpetually crumb-filled countertop.
The idea of inspecting the bottle’s pour for possible logjams never occurred, as he relished a certain unforeseen satisfaction in failing even this simple task of drinking himself to death.
From the floor, his cat sat licking in solidarity errant drops that reached their snout. Much like their master’s, the measure was enough to numb, never enough to kill.
His eyes poured over her while watching another “indie” film that would linger long after the TV dimmed, the subsequential lovemaking exhausted.
They’d avoided speaking of the idea of “love,” as both previously had been ravaged by the self-serving narcissists each entrusted theirs with. Ignoring tomorrows unguaranteed, they instead relished Todays spent together.
Gazing upon her now, he filled with joy previously unknown. A joy he wanted not just tonight, nor tomorrow, but lifetimes to come.
Her cat nestled atop them as the movie plugged along, almost hinting that here is where he too should stay. Here he’d find life anew.
When we were first starting our journey another lifetime ago, we often compered ourselves to the Baileys, George and Mary. We were the ones who “stayed behind” to support the two aging families. We were the ones who had children to carry on in the same. We were the Baileys true and true, because though we had but 2 dollars to our name (yes, called papa dollar and momma dollar respectively), we were the ones that had each other and the dream…
It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem.
It ends just after George has his breakdown and subsequent salvation, but well before Mary has her very own mental destruction of a sort. A breakdown that couldn’t be fixed by any mere bell-ring wing hopeful; as Mary would never listen to opinions – heavenly though they may be – differing from her’s anyway. A breakdown that would eventually cause her to run off, indulging in “adventure” – replete with a newly purchased boot knife – all while pushing George from the house, from her life and from the life of his children. A breakdown that would eventually drive her to want to even kill George, if not in the flesh, then at least and more importantly in the spirit.
And George in fact, did die.
More completely than he ever realized was possible.
Not in the flesh, but at least and more importantly in the spirit.
He died very painfully, and for a very long time.
Just long enough in fact, to take root.
You see, in his death, an odd thing occurred. George became aware of something. In his death, George began to finally understand what that cross-hugging Israelite Lover of Life (the very One who took His own in celebration and protection of it) had so long ago said about not being able to truly live, until you had first tasted – and indeed drank of – the rusty cup of death. Not through his own wisdom alone surely, George was somehow able to recognize the fact that his death wasn’t so much a defeat as it was a victory – or at the very least an opportunity to achieve the victory that a long time ago he had willingly given up in order to obtain what he thought would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, the “wonderful life.”
The angels sent this time weren’t Mark Twainian flaming rum punch enthusiasts either. They were actual breathing, living, thinking, loving and bells-be-damned speaking people. OK, and possibly flaming rum punch enthusiasts as well. People who dispelled George’s self-hatred and loathing through speaking their truth of him to him. A truth he hadn’t heard for a very long time (15 + years to be exact), and a truth that through their persuasion he was finally willing to believe to be so.
A truth strong enough as to bring him back to life.
And with this belief, plus the tears that had watered and nourished him as he taken root, George was able to begin to grow again. Not even “again,” really, but rather, to grow anew.
Yes, that’s it – George began to grow anew.
It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem. Ending where it does, we don’t get to see the full story. I suppose that’s the case in almost every tale though. There will always be endings that are really just beginnings to even deeper, more meaningful tales. There will always be a moment in the story where we feel that “happy” is at a maximum, so we cut it there, afraid to carry on much further. And in so doing, we all – as C.S. Lewis once taught me while I was still a young Zuzu’s petal pocket-cramming naive father – sacrifice True Joy for mere happiness.
In the case of the Baileys and the tale we’ll never know, I pray that this George at least is never again satisfied enough with the latter, as to forego the purposed pursuit of the former. I pray that this George at least – and that all of you – are able to truly live, and enjoy moving forward towards, Wonderful Lives.
They sat on the porch, quietly. He invested deep within his book, and she, equally so in hers. Not a word was spoken, nor a head even raised as I walked briskly by. They were each totally engrossed within their own little worlds alone, but together.
The porch they sat on was not nearly big enough for the two of them, let alone their large-format print books, nor the cat that apparently shared their life. So to make space, he at least scampered down onto the lawn just before I arrived, stalking about almost as if to imply that he too was looking for a book in order ignore the rest of the world with.
The scene got me to thinking randomly (don’t they all?) and what I got to thinking randomly about was this:
Have you ever been engrossed with a book?
One written expertly, with characters so alive that you could almost pinch them, and a story line so well crafted that you could swear it was divined, instead of merely written?
And then all of a sudden, smack dab deep within the goodness and glory of that book, the whole thing turns rather sour, with the Author making you read through page after page of utterly distasteful activities and scenarios.
You read on, because you know that surely the Author didn’t suddenly lose all their skill, talent and story-writing ability. You’re certain that the Author simply MUST be forcing you through this section – most usually occurring shortly after the chapter that follows the halfway mark – in order to teach you something critical about the characters in this tale.
You’re certain of it but still, with each page passed, you keep glimpsing forward anxiously, wondering when the chapter will end, hoping that the next will bring you back to the delightful yarn that you had been enjoying so much so up until this point. You’d even read a short stanza or two from the pages to follow, and you know that it’s soon enough to be true, just after you can slog through this one black sheep of a bastardly and evil, yet wholly required chapter, first.
That in a nutshell, it suddenly occurs to me friends, is where I find my life right about now. But just for exactly right about now. Having worked my way through most of the chapter I wish I could have skipped altogether, I can see the number of pages remaining continue to dwindle. And while that does cause me extreme joy, it also gnaws on me, similar to the clawing cat that knows with desperation that it’s losing its litter-encrusted grip upon you. I keep finding myself having to fight the urge to try to read faster, or skip whole pages, for I know that I can do neither anyway. I must wait patiently and read through to the very last word.
The next chapter is already looming bright, begging to greet me with open arms and sunshine. But it can not start in earnest until this one first ends.
He sits there, drink in one hand, small unseen food product in the other.
I know it’s food, because he holds it gingerly, like it means something more than the size of it would normally let on. He sits in his chair, chewing. Possibly peanuts. Not to be confused with a food-chewing analytical expert, but to me his mouth definitely did seem to swish in the sort of fashion that you’d think it would, had he been chewing on nuts.
Anyway. He sits, eyes casually glued to what turns out to be a television screen. And he does so while she leaves, seemingly unnoticed, from the room. Walking briskly away in her white blouse and black slacks. A look very similar to what you’d expect Bebe Neuwirth to wear on the set of “Frasier,” though this specimen is NO Bebe Neuwirth. No bother, neither am I. Neither are any of us, really.
But alas, I digress.
So he sits and chews, as she sashay’s from the room. And though the poetician in me wants to say that the two were in perfect sync and beat with each other, for whatever reason they were not. And that, my friends, is all the story that there is to tell. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they in love with each other? In love with someone(s) else? I’ve no idea. I only spy them through their front bay window and make a mental note as I pass along.
Another bay looms into view as I stroll along. It’s a very Polish town, Buffalo, and many of the post-war “cookie cutters” reside here, all storeys single, all front windows bay. Maybe for ambiance, maybe for budget. Maybe just for passersby to have a tale to tell. But this second window provides none. The lights are all lit, but oddly. That weird sort of odd, where the owner was trying to leave just enough on to connect one room to the other, in an effort to traverse them when sauced. But not so many on as to blow their National Grid bill while they were out, getting sufficiently loaded for the experience.
The third looks similar, but buried deep within the kitchen – oh yes, in these houses, every room is viewable from the bay – is a woman hurriedly speaking on the phone. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but I do notice that something is wrong with the phone. Wrong, but right. And then I see it – she’s wrapping her finger round the phone’s cord.
Have I stumbled upon the Smithsonian? No, just a person who knows better than to believe every advertiser who says that your way is dead and the next way is king. She’s wringing the cord like she’s nervous as she speaks anxious-eyed into the phone. Is she? I’ll never know, as I’ve already passed her by.
The final window I look into shows no communication, no companionship whatsoever. I suppose you could say, the sort of window I fear of one day owning myself. In it, is just one elderly woman, sitting alone in a televisonless, phoneless, and decidedly Bebe Neuwirthless room. Spilling over her comfy chair almost as if she and it are slowly morphing into one. I would normally compare her to a sloth, but honestly, I can’t think of a single sloth that has ever looked so forlorn. So alone. She sits, looking into her lap at something. Looking into her lap at nothing. If not rejoicing over avoiding It so long, hoping that Death would hurry up and come already. And in either case, dreading what she’ll offer It to drink when It finally arrives. The bleak scene deadens me as well.
So I continue on.
I continue on, but decide that my window-gazing is done for the night. Their stories will be forever unknown to me anyway, and I’m a mere shadow to them. A whitened-shave legged aging ghost walking in an effort to stay attractive to no one in particular at the moment. A wanderer who knows the path all to well from taking it almost every single night, though finding something new on each and every pass. A nobody who is only noticed – if at all – by the cloud-covered moon hovering brightly above. A moon that most likely sees – should he be paying attention – only a spindly armed pot-bellied dreamer peeking into worlds that he really shouldn’t be visiting in the first.
I continue on and am able to avoid what – had I still been window-gazing, would have surely stepped upon – a colony of ants. I spy them as they all toil furiously, together and in earnest. In one big and shameless heap of achievement. And I wonder, are they like that because they are not as smart as us, or are they like that because a long time ago, they in their wisdom decided to refuse to build windows?
Windows that would have kept the outside world outside, windows that would have kept them trapped?
Windows that would have allowed each to look into – ever-so slightly – each other’s souls?