A reply to: A letter from Newt
Sorry it’s taken me time to write back. I had no idea having a kid around would keep me so busy. No surprise to you, I’m sure.
The latest thing Aari wanted me to do was to make her a puppet theater. I took an old chest of drawers, sawed it up, put it back together, and now we’ve got a theater good enough for Punch and Judy. And I’ve got splinters to show for it.
Man, I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. I think I read about him in the Gazette. A real hero. Our company has a hero’s fund, so if he needs any help with medical expenses, or even paying mortgage or rent when he gets out, just let me know. I can pass on the word to the foundation president.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said about me being in denial about my feelings.
In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
When I think, I turn to art. I guess I never mentioned to you that I’m an artist in my spare time, did I? Maybe I did.
I haven’t just been thinking about Ira. I’ve been thinking about work, too.
Soon, Windenburg Wind and Sun is going to become Windenburg Sun. In fact, we’re going to do it before raptor breeding season. I’ve decided I can’t have another osprey, eagle, hawk, or falcon on my conscience. Even if it means losing money. A lot of money.
I’ve been thinking over the records and plans, over and over. We can do it. We’ve got enough in savings and investments to tide us through for a few years, to cover salaries and expenses, while we complete the conversion. I’ve worked out negotiations with power collectives in other areas to take up the slack until we’re back up to capacity. It’s going to be tough. But it’s also going to be really good.
I wish I could tell you what’s going to make it so good, but we might be going public. You don’t want to get caught up in insider trading scandals. Neither do I. Let me just say this: Imagine Tibetan singing bowls. Now dream big.
So, the other day, business was on my mind. And Ira was on my mind. And I was stuck between the end of the legacy of wind power and the beginning of something really big.
You know how they say some things are worth waiting for? I figure they’re right.
So I did what I always do when my mind is stuck and I need inspiration–I turned to art. I went to the art center in the city where my sister’s art group meets. Ira’s in that group, too, but she wasn’t there that day. She had to go to a parent-teacher conference. Something about Aari “acting out.”
I tell you, that kid has a mean streak. I love it. To me, it signifies strength. There is no way that what happened to her mom will happen to her. It’s the other guy we got to watch out for. Aari is not going to end up in a shelter for abused women, but anybody who tries anything with her might just end up with broken nose.
I found my sister in the studio. Class had just ended.
She could tell I was deep in it.
“How’s the painting feeling?” she asked.
It felt all right. Kinda twisted, actually. I chose all the wrong colors: blacks, grays, and red.
“Here,” she said. She handed me some clay she’d been working. “Don’t look at it. Just feel it.”
I pounded that clay for a while. I started loosening up. My mind got quiet. You should try it sometime, next time you’re stuck in the thoughts. Grab a lump of clay and pound it!
I was starting to relax when one of Ira’s friends came up to me. She’s also in Meadow’s art group.
“You’re Norm,” she said. “You know, you should really talk to her.”
We sat down. She told me that Ira talks about me all the time.
“I don’t know what you’re waiting for,” she said. “I mean, you two live together, right?”
I told her I didn’t want to ruin a good thing.
She said there was a fine line between not ruining something and spoiling it.
“You know,” she said, “the Rose Petal Festival is tonight. You should ask her. I’ll watch Aari.”
“You’d do that?”
“Certainly,” she said.
So I called up Ira, and when her friend got to our house, Ira caught the speed rail and met me at the festival.
It had this really hip vibe. Everybody was feeling it.
Ira and I headed into the karaoke joint across the way. She walked right up to the stage, as if she were some rock star, and started singing.
The way she moved her hips. I’ll tell you. That Ira is something.
I sat at a table and watched her finish her song. When she joined me, I told her I’d never seen anyone so hot before.
I was feeling it.
She looked at me, and she went white. The whole mood changed, just like that.
“I can’t do this,” she said. “Not yet. I’m just not ready.”
Now she’s never told me what happened that caused her and Aari to end up at that shelter. I’ve never asked.
Once, I saw the scars on her lower back when she was getting out of the shower. She covered up real quick, and I turned away and didn’t say anything.
I don’t know how to ask about that.
I can understand that she’s not ready to go there. It hurts.
I also know that some things are worth waiting for, and I decided right then that will wait forever for Ira. I decided I would wait as long as it took.
I headed across the way to the festival. I found the easels they had set up for the public art event, and I painted, just so I could release some of these feelings.
As I was finishing up, Ira joined me.
“Pardon moi, monsieur,” she said. “‘Ave you zeen mon petit chat?”
It’s our running joke. I realize it doesn’t sound funny at all when I write it. But it cracks us up every time.
The tension dissolved. We ordered some phở from the vendor and poured ourselves some tea from the festival tea house.
And we started to feel pretty good.
It got late really quickly and we had to catch the speed rail home.
I slept on the couch that night. I wanted to give her space so she would feel safe. If that’s what she needs, that’s what I give. She’s worth it. Like I said, I’d wait forever for her.
The next morning, we had breakfast together in the study while Aari played math games on the computer.
Ira was full of stories and jokes. It was like she was a different person from that white-faced ghost that sat next to me at the table in the karaoke joint.
When we finished eating, I did the dishes and then helped Aari with her homework. She’s already doing elementary chemistry, and I get such a kick out of helping her work out equations and formulas.
When Aari went out to play with her new puppet theater, I joined Ira in the living room.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “You’re amazing.”
I’m not making this up, Newt. She actually said that to me. I guess the little things make a difference. Things I don’t even think twice about, like making the puppet theater, scrambling eggs for breakfast, doing dishes, helping Aari with her homework–even sleeping on the couch the night before–those things actually mean something to Ira.
I felt a little weird when she told me how much those things meant.
“Cupcake,” I said, “I don’t do those things to make you think good about me. I don’t do them because I’m trying to get physical with you, if you know what I mean.”
She took my hands then. “I know that, Norm,” she said. “And that’s what makes them special.”
She told me then that when she’d said that she needed time, I’d given her time. And now, she didn’t need anymore time. Now she was ready.
She was ready.
I tell you. I gotta tell you. Some things are worth waiting for. And I would still wait forever for this woman.
Newt, you gave me the courage to talk to her. It blew up in my face. And then once the smoke died down, there she was, smiling crooked at me.
I’ve got a feeling my smiles will never stop. I got you to thank for it. You’ve been here all through that awkward time when I first met her. I’m no lonely bachelor anymore. I’m somebody’s boyfriend. It was a long haul to get her, but with you on my “support team,” as my sister would say, it’s worked out great.
Now: What can I do for you?
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