The Centre, Part Two

Day Three of Thirty Days of Writing

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
 The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
 Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
-The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats
Photo by Kat Fossell

After the discussion, the group made its way down the stairs to the kitchen. The French couple whose home it was had moved to the states from Germany when I was in high school. I remembered the woman who had always seemed so sweet. She had straw colored hair cut to curl at her chin. I remembered man too, who was smart and had a good sense of humor. He wore small square glasses and his nose stuck out like a peak beneath them. Their accents were enjoyable to hear, they bubbled over with the excitement of expressing themselves. My mother had introduced me to them back then, because I was decent at French. I went on to study it further during my undergraduate years. I had nervously spoken, un petite to the question, parlez vous francais? Then I made my fingers like a crab and pinched my claws, feeling nervous. I could understand French well, but I was always too self conscious to speak much.

The house was, as I remembered it, immaculate. It was sparsely decorated, with just a few pieces of furniture and a few paintings here and there. A curio cabinet was carefully arranged to showcase books and Buddhist paraphernalia. Healthy potted plants were tucked around the wide windows, and a small glass table holding a vase overflowing with white roses was perfectly framed near the sliding glass door that exited onto a back porch. Everything was immaculately clean. We were served coffee and they had set out dainty cookies as snacks with little white napkins. I remembered the place as if from another life. I felt at instantly at ease there, the wide-open space, the clean hard wood floor reflecting the light from the windows — it was like being in a cloud. Even the white washed walls failed to disturb the peaceful setting.

My mother and the Frenchman were talking. They were really getting into some specifics about work training. I was enjoying hearing them. They were both so intelligent, and specialized in their fields, it was evident they enjoyed the conversation. I had nowhere to be so I was smiling at everyone, Zen as a stone just looking around the house and at the trees out the big windows. The other guests were beginning to file out. As I sat on a chair pushed back against the wall, sipping the last of my coffee from its mug, a door opened and two men emerged.

I thought men first glance, but then I felt unsure of their ages. One of them, who I thought to be much older than me, and with a quick second glance thought to be much younger than me, drew my attention in that inexplicable way immediately. He entered the room and I felt the wave of his presence wash over my shoulders. Who were these mysterious man-boys erupting from the depths of the house, looking hung over as hell and in a hurry to avoid the cluster of Buddhists?

The one I was drawn to was caught in the clutches of the French couple as he exchanged a few words with them rapidly, in French, over everyone’s heads. My mom barked my name to get my attention. “This is Genevieve and Pierre’s son, Yuni. You two should talk. They have a son?

Yuni was busily making himself an expresso with a little machine in the corner of the kitchen. His friend was leaning on the wall near me looking tired. Kubo, very businesslike, gave me a curt smile, introduced his friend to me, and then said he would be right back, but he needed to escort his friend out. “Would you like an expresso?” He asked before turning towards the front door. “Sure. I’m almost out of coffee.” He spoke like no one I’d ever encountered before.

When he came back in, I could smell smoke on him. I’d picked up smoking again and his scent set off a craving. I was transported to the woods behind my house, where I’d found myself gazing up at the stars and staring into the indigo void between the trees’ silvery torsos. “Would- Could I bum a cigarette from you?” I asked sheepishly.

“You smoke?” He asked, looking surprised. “Yeah, sure.” A big smile lit up his face. “Come with me.”

Everything about his movement was concentrated. He seemed perpetually determined, as if he was always walking quickly through a hard rain or wind. His nice shoes clicked on the hard wood floor. I followed him to the front porch, where he gestured to the two chairs with a little table in-between. I hadn’t noticed when I’d walked in, but it held a glass ashtray. He busily dusted off the cushion in the chair, before tugging at the hem of his dress shirt and then sitting down.

He brandished an American Spirit for me from a yellow pack. My least favorite cigarette, but beggars can’t be choosers and almost all my friends smoked that same awful brand, down to the yellow packaging.

We spoke of rock climbing and books and music. We quickly learned that at least on a surface level, we had a lot in common. He told me he went rock climbing at an indoor gym with his neighbor. I hadn’t been since Colorado. “You should come with us.” He said, and I felt excited for the first time all year. Then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything more than walking for at least another week. My heart sank a little. What was I thinking? I couldn’t — I stopped myself. That was exactly the kind of thinking that was keeping me stuck in my parents’ basement. Mind you, it had only been about two months since my miscarriage, but it was time to start using the feeling I had that I was now somehow invincible. If I felt that no pain could touch me anymore, that nothing more could break me, then it was time to test the theory.

I decided to do something I never did. I said, “Here, take my number. I’m a little busy this week, but maybe we could meet up sometime next week if you’re not busy.”

A new friend could be just what I needed to start moving again.

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