Waiting for a Train IV

Bernadette Martin, I liked her from the moment I first met her. It is that simple. It was at a First Friday in Olde City Philadelphia at a photography exhibit on a funky side street near Betsy Ross’s house. I almost didn’t go but some friends from college that I hadn’t seen in several years arranged a get together. It was to go out for dinner in Chinatown like we always did when living in West Philly during college days. The purpose was mainly to support one of our former classmates whose amazing photographs were on display. I had almost forgotten that this was the night we were meeting but I received two reminder phone calls. I was notorious for not showing up for things.

My classmate Ben Martin, a really fine photographer, turned out to be my future wife’s brother. I never knew much about his family, except that he had brothers and sisters and that he grew up in the Philly suburbs. My friends kept hounding me to go and I was a bit ambivalent about it. Ben was a good guy and I knew I would enjoy his work and I hadn’t seen any of the crew for months and months.  I’m so glad I agreed to join them.

Bernadette was pretty, not in a flashy way but maybe somewhat like a lovely daisy that needed no adornment. She was eating an apple when I met her. Since then I’ve never seen a gala apple without smiling and thinking of her. We were introduced as she was taking a bite. Smiling, chewing and shifting the apple to her left hand and reaching out to shake my hand she looked right into my eyes and said “I’m so pleased to meet you” in a way that made me believe it. “Excuse my munching” she said as she wiped her mouth, “I haven’t eaten a thing today. I rushed to work this morning and rushed here afterwards to help Ben with some last-minute setting up”. “Thank god for these apples”, she said holding it up in the air to admire it before she took another bite.

“Why don’t you come to Chinatown with us after the show”? I offered. “I believe Ben is coming”.

“That sounds great”, she accepted

She had an inner vibe that auto corrected any slight imperfection someone might find like the small scar under her left eye that I never even noticed until possibly our second or third meeting.  Her hair was a thick light brown with darker and then lighter streaks of auburn highlights. If she wore any make up it was so simple and subtle I couldn’t tell. Friendly and warm almost bubbly but with an easy self-assured manner, and so it is true, opposites attract. I am introverted and nervous, she was extroverted yet calm. I liked to read and dabble in arts, she did also but she was much more athletic than me. She had some artistic talents as well; small watercolor paintings were her specialty. She called them watercolor haikus. Using no more than three colors and minimum strokes she created what I called her “tiny masterpieces”. She would roll her eyes and say “Oh Sean, you need to have your eyes checked”.

Bernadette ran. She loved running. For fun she took ballet and yoga classes but running was her thing. She even got me into it, I didn’t particularly like running but I loved the way I felt when I was done. My nervousness would settle and the negative voices in my head were at their quietest. Mainly, I did it so that I could be with her. I loved to watch her run. We would start out together but quickly I would start losing my breath and begin to start lagging behind. She ran with total abandon like there was nothing in the world except her legs gliding down the road. Many times I would trip and barely stay up because I had my eyes firmly planted on her tight body and beautiful muscular legs. Even though she was 5′ 6″ her legs seemed to go on for a country mile. When she would slow down and stop I gradually caught up and after we caught our breath I would grab her and kiss her and she would laugh and push me away.

“Sean I’m disgusting, get off of me”, she would laugh and say. I would grab her again and kiss her deeply and this time she wouldn’t resist. She would return my kiss whole hardheartedly pressing into me from knees to face, salty sweat to salty sweat. Beautiful Bernadette would shove me away laughing even harder and say, “You stink Sean Baxter”, as she ran away making me chase her.

“You can’t kiss me if you can’t catch me”. I would start charging after her but I was barely recovered from our run and I didn’t stand a chance.

It didn’t matter because we would go back to her apartment or mine take a shower together and make love. Our running adventures on the weekends almost always ended like this and it was sublime. After running I was almost as calm as Bernadette. She taught me to be slow and gentle. Up until then making love, for me, was a race to the finish line. Not that I had a lot of sexual partners, I hadn’t. There was a steady girlfriend in my teens, and one failed attempt at sex with a sweet neighborhood girl when I was fourteen. Embarrassingly for me, it ended before it started because of my over stimulation. She seemed relieved and later I wondered if, like me, she was a virgin. We never talked about it, just pulled on our clothes and went to a corner store for a soda. There was also a homosexual encounter when I was seven or eight years old that, later, I realized was the defining moment in my life when I discovered I was straight. He was at least five years older than me and I was angry and hurt by what he succeeded in doing to me. He tried to get me alone again but I avoided him at all costs. Somehow I always blamed myself for what happened. I never told a soul until I met Bernadette. She had a way of making me open up and say things that I would never talk about.

I was extremely jealous when Bernadette talked about former boyfriends. I pretended it didn’t bother me but sometimes my face would get beet red and she didn’t miss it.  She had a lot more experience than me and sometimes she would try to tease me with it. She actually enjoyed my jealousy. She would look at me intensely when telling me about one of her escapades and burst out laughing when I would start squirming uncomfortably and getting flushed.

I would sometimes lay awake at night and get so worked up imagining her with another guy. The thought of her even kissing someone else drove me absolutely mad. It was so immature but I didn’t know how to control it. After a while and after she agreed to marry me the obsession subsided, but I still get incredibly jealous if I dwell on the images that sometimes play in my mind.

Bernadette has a magnetic personality and the better you get to know her, the more attractive she becomes. I’m not the only one who saw this. Some of her good friends observed the same patterns. She was loved by many and her friends enjoyed her immensely. Co-workers and acquaintances seemed to always be falling in love with her. She enjoyed the attention and would, intentionally or unintentionally flirt a bit but she never let it go beyond that. The attention that she paid to people was genuine and sincere and it came through. Sometimes people misinterpreted her attention and began to desire her affection as well. Through the years she has learned to let people down gently. Since we’ve been married, several guys, three to be exact, (but who’s counting?), and even one young lady wrote love letters to her or tried wooing Bernadette in other ways. She showed the letters to me and I would go ballistic. I was so jealous my ears were burning. She would laugh and say, “Oh Sean, I should have torn it up but I would feel a little dishonest not telling you about it. I didn’t think you would want to actually read it! Sean I feel bad for him”, or “he is a really sweet guy, he doesn’t mean any harm. I told him that he should know that I’m not available.” In a totally unguarded moment she said, “I love when you get jealous! It makes me feel loved and powerful. I know it is wrong of me but I’ve never felt so much love as when I see your face get flush with jealousy. Sean I would never ever hurt you. I love you. They may want me, but you have me. I can’t change my personality. I’m not even sure what I’m doing. I’m just being myself. You are the only man I love and the only one for me. How many times do I have to tell you until you get it? Now come here and kiss me”.

The Cusp of Now

The Cusp of Now

I feel it completely.
At last!
A glimpse of myself
Standing on the cusp of now
Letting thoughts lost on
disappearing yesterday vaporize
Letting moments lost on
unknowable tomorrow slip away,
drip away,
Surrendering,
Like wax
Where candle meets flame
A glimpse of eternity
Standing on the Cusp of Now

Jeopardize

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/jeopardize/”>Jeopardize</a&gt;

Will he jeopardize all he has and bravely stare into the tyrannical face of fear?  Will he reach down deep and challenge half truths and lies falling upon his ears? Or simply nod and wink, have another drink and sort of comfortably while away the years?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Nothing done, no need to explain. Flying under the radar, biding time. Learning to unthink, retraining the mind.

Will he roll over, fall back to sleep or jump out of bed and take another leap?Courage! Jeopardize!

Waiting for a Train III

When the train finally arrived and it looked like I would make my appointment I breathed a major sigh of relief. Now we boarded fairly easily and quickly and I found a seat next to a woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties. “Is this seat taken?”  I asked. “Does it look like it is taken?” she replies with a friendlier half smirk than her words implied. “I’m sorry”, she smiled as she spoke, “Sit down, please. You look a whole lot more pleasant than the oaf I had to sit with from D.C. to Wilmington.” She had an easy manner. Well dressed in business attire, suit jacket and skirt, light brown hair, longish and neatly coiffed. She said that her name was Lorraine and effortlessly uncovered that mine was Sean. I was not really interested in talking but she had such an easy manner about her that made me relax and almost willingly join in the conversation. First she told me about the guy that sat next to her earlier. He was rather large and overweight smelling like a combination of body odors and stale cigarettes. His arms, side, and butt spilled generously into Lorraine’s seating area. “He should have to pay for part of my ticket”, was her thinking. She tried to be grown up and relax, and then she caught a whiff of this guy and had to stand up, excuse herself and squeeze by “Mr. Hygiene” to look for another seat. Unfortunately there was standing room only and she couldn’t possibly stand the whole way to New York City. She was not shy so she walked back to her seat and asked, “Excuse me sir but would you mind sliding over to the window seat?” “Oh no!” he quickly replied, “I am claustrophobic and I cannot possibly sit on the inside, very sorry, but no way”. Lorraine said, “You, sir, are making me claustrophobic and unless you are willing to pay for the half of my seat you are taking up, you are going to have to move to the window seat”. He protested but she finally convinced or should I say, cajoled, him to move over by getting louder and louder and more and more insulting. “When was the last time you took a bath pal? Have you heard of a toothbrush?” “Jesus!” he finally said as he struggled to stand and switch seats, “take the goddamned seat lady.” She placed a folded newspaper between her and the oaf so as not to come into direct contact and sat down.

 

As she was telling me this story I glanced down several times to make sure I wasn’t encroaching upon her space. I am leaning towards five or so pounds overweight, since hurting my leg and taking a break from running but thankfully I was surely within the boundaries of my seat. At just under six feet I feel slightly cramped in a typical train seat. Lorraine, several inches shorter, slim and fit looked quite comfortable in her reclaimed window seat now. The conductor stopped by to punch my ticket and lingered a little longer than necessary looking at Lorraine’s legs. “Seriously?” she said glaring at the conductor. “Oh sorry Ma’am I was daydreaming, been a long day.”

 

I was actually planning to review and organize my thoughts to prepare for my interview, but I was enjoying the distraction. She was very different than many of the people that I have known. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I am not a great judge of character so I wondered what my wife would think of her, what my brother would think of her. Assertive but not pushy, relaxed in her own skin, unlike me. I measure every word I say. The filter mechanism is so ingrained I don’t even realize it is happening anymore. When or why my guard went up I’m not sure. My brother, who is almost ten years older than me, always maintains that I was a most spontaneous and care free adolescent. According to him I would sometimes blurt things out that would embarrass me or others but mostly I unabashedly spoke my mind, revealing my feelings. He asserted that around thirteen, maybe fourteen, I became quiet and contemplative. Right or wrong I disagreed; I feel it was a more gradual change, one brick at a time, until I was surrounded. Throughout my later years I’ve been cautiously trying to remove the wall but it is an even slower more incremental process than building the wall. Instead of panicking I’m starting to use breathing techniques and meditation to keep me sane through the process. The fleeting times when I’ve felt so incredibly alive were experienced with my wife especially when we first met and were inseparable. I had never felt my heart pound, like it did, with the anticipation of waiting to see her, the total and complete abandonment to passion and unselfish pleasure when we were wrapped in each other’s arms. Then later, the other side of the coin, my blood rushing to my head in jealousy when I found out another was pursuing her. Well, the point is, I guess, if there ever is an actual point to anything, I began feeling emotion again. It was kind of an emotional new beginning. Still in most aspects of my life I was living in a most guarded way.

 

In my youth I felt that something was wrong with me as I stumbled around trying to find out who I was and what made me tick. I didn’t feel I was good at any of my pursuits. I tried playing musical instruments, drawing, poetry and no innate talents emerged. These arts eluded my abilities yet I was intensely drawn to them, especially creative writing. Sadly, it seemed, I was more skilled in the practical arts of the city streets, like fighting and stealing. I fact, these skills came in very handy growing up in South Philly, but looking back I wonder if it was just more bricks in my growing wall. I must say I came to life and felt every fiber of my being and tingled with emotion when I was in a fist fight, talk about being in the moment. Fear and bravado converged in a stance, a stare, a sneer, a violent flurry of punches, stepping in, stepping back, swinging, ducking, blocking, and landing an upper cut. Laughing, standing victorious shaking as the violence dissipated out of every pore. Or, as often happened, lying in a bruised heap, on the ground in defeat, beaten and spent was still an emotionally charged event. Looking back I am so embarrassed and ashamed by the way I was. How the streets began to take hold of me and shape me into something so reprehensible, so unrecognizable to who I am today. This is what sometimes happens to inner city kids without fathers or structure or discipline. With emotional and psychological gaps waiting to be filled by whatever city life had to offer a poor kid. The streets can have much sway and can fill any empty spaces with booze, drugs and crime, but I digress.

 

She asked what I did for a living and without much effort found out why I was going to the “big apple”. I told her about my job interview. She got uncharacteristically quiet and listened intently while I sketched for her, in general terms, how I ended up next to her on this train to NYC.

Waiting for a Train II

Part II

 

When it went up on the board that my train would be delayed even longer, I began to become more anxious. I spent several minutes following the flow of my breath and repeating my mantra and thankfully it gradually started to calm me down.

I was new to all of this and after several weeks of mindfulness training I was having mixed results. I was taking the training because my doctor sent me to talk to a psycho therapist to see if they could help me overcome my new invisible companions; anxiety and worry. He didn’t think it was a good idea to continue prescribing anti-anxiety medication. It was giving me headaches and making me sleepy not to mention that I was averse to taking any kind of pills.

I never had a moment of anxiety or worry in my life and now at the grand old age of fifty four I couldn’t shake it. Seemingly, I had gone through my years ignorant of the panoply of subjects to worry about. This all changed one winter night when I was lying in bed and for the first time ever could not fall asleep. First it was too hot, and then I worried about the heater, and then wondered if I paid the bill. Changed the oil in my car? What if I die, how will my family get along? What if my wife dies? What if my kids die? This thought shot me out of bed and onto my feet. What the hell was I thinking this kind of shit for? I walked around the house for a few minutes trying to shake the feeling and at the same time not wake anybody up.

Everyone woke up anyway and I made a lame excuse about needing a glass of water even though they all knew that I always kept a glass of water on the nightstand next to the bed. The next morning they questioned me again and I just said that I had a disturbing dream. In fact it kind of made me wonder if it had really been a nightmare after all.

The train arrivals and departures started flashing and scrolling on the screen behind the main desk like a video game gone berserk. When the letters and numbers settled there was another fifteen minutes delay added to my train. I approached the reception desk and walked up to a short stubby man in an Amtrak uniform who was trying his best to ignore me. “Excuse me sir, why are so many trains delayed this morning?” I tried to hide my aggravation as I politely asked. “There’s an issue just north of Wilmington”, he grumbled. “What kind of issue”, I asked “do you expect it to be straightened out anytime soon?” “I’m really not at liberty to say sir and I have limited information, seems to be a mechanical problem. Everything should be getting back to normal soon”. Looking at me like I was a great annoyance he turned away again.  He was acting like I wanted to extract one of his teeth rather than a little information about my train.

I shrugged resignedly, walked back to my bench and sat down heavily. Breathing in and breathing out, paying close attention to my breath, trying to concentrate only on my mantra and following the ebb and flow of my breathing. Noticing my thoughts but letting go of them as I refocused my attention to my mantra. It sounded so easy but my mind kept going back to the train being delayed and how this job interview was really important to me. My brother told me that I should go up to New York City the night before the interview so I didn’t have to worry about being late. I reminded him that the interview was at 1:00pm and that I planned to catch the 9:00AM Amtrak. I would have plenty of time. He thought I was being cheap and even offered to pay for my hotel room. Of course I got mad and told him to shove his hotel room. No doubt, if this train doesn’t roll in soon, as usual, he might be proven right. With less than $5,000.00 left in my bank account and a family counting on me I calculated I was approximately three months from financial collapse. I didn’t think it was a luxury I could afford. I will have plenty of time. I insisted that easily, by 11:30, I will be comfortably seated at a Starbucks a few short blocks from my interview. At 12:45 I will pack up my laptop and head to the site and do my best to impress my prospective employer. I had already sent samples of my work and they liked them, otherwise, I would not even be invited. It didn’t hurt that I had several good references from top people in the industry. The company I worked in was moving to Austin, Texas and closing its Philly location. They were consolidating their territories and mine was being swallowed up by a southeast tech rep from Atlanta who had more clout than me. Being the son of a company big shot was all the clout he needed. I didn’t like Jason much, his knowledge of locking hardware and master keying systems couldn’t fill a small teacup and his ego and braggadocios personality couldn’t be contained by Madison Square Garden. I burned some bridges pretty well with his father when I found out that his son was getting my territory in the shakeup.  I would be out of a job in two weeks because I refused to uproot my family and become a tech rep in the Midwest. It would have been a lateral move and my wife would never leave the area because of her tight knit family and our kids were in school, well established and thriving. It would be too traumatic for all of us and the battle would just not be worth it. Telling a VP to go “fuck himself” is never a good idea, especially when it would create a gaping hole in my resume.  Fortunately I had some others inside the company who would quietly give me high recommendations. There weren’t many openings for master keying specialists and there was intense competition for any that opened up anywhere in the country. There had been so much upheaval and so many traditional jobs lost in the hardware industry as a result of the digital age. Computers have become center pieces everywhere and lock technology was no different. Technicians who were losing their jobs to attrition and worse were older guys like myself and the people coming into the field were more computer hardware and software specialists. People like me, who understand how hardware actually works and can communicate with end users about high security key systems, card access, retina and fingerprint readers were still invaluable to the manufacturers.

Catch As Catch Can

It’s been a long time since I last saw you                                                                                              but I still can recall how you took my heart and you tore it in two                                             You left me high and dry for another man                                                                                        Now you are back casting a shadow on my life again

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

You left me high and dry for another man                                                                                        Now you are back casting a shadow on my life again

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

Now you say you’ve changed and I can see that it’s true                                                            What you don’t see baby is I, well, I’ve changed too                                                                         The lines cut deeper across your face                                                                                                   That old magic is slip slidding away

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

 

Written by   Gene Halloran                           Catch As Catch Can©

Recorded at Foss4UsMusic

Gene Halloran  Guitar/Lead Vocals                                                                                                       Gary Gerace Lead Guitars/Backing Vocals/ Recording Mastering/etc                                                 Rob Hermans Bass/Backing Vocals/ Sound Engineering/etc                                                               Alan Schwartz  Drums/ Backing Vocals/etc