Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Choices, Part 6

So let’s take a good look at my afternoon so far. I was driving cross-country on a motorcycle I borrowed from Lucifer Morningstar on my way to look for Eve, my long-lost and content to stay that way immortal first love when I encountered a woman that I had relations with a couple decades before, along with the offspring of said relations, when the friggin’ Archangel Michael showed up demanding that I tell the women the truth, of all ridiculous things. I did the only thing I could think of, I walked briskly across the dusty parking lot from the diner to the run-down bar that shared the interstate exit and ordered myself a shot and a beer. There are some situations that just cannot be addressed properly without a certain level of mental lubrication, and this was shaping up to be a Cuervo-sized situation.

Once I felt that I had properly fortified myself for the confrontation that was coming, I made my way back across the parking lot to the picnic table where the archangel sat chatting idly with my daughter while her mother smoked a cigarette. These are not situations that occur every day, not even if you’re immortal.

“Myra, I think I owe you an explanation,” I started.

“Explanation? Explanation?!?” Usually when a word of four syllables involves more than two octaves, whatever follows is not going to be good, so I decided to head her off before she could get a head of steam going.

“Yes. Explanation.” I used The Voice. It’s nothing supernatural. I really don’t have any abilities other than the touch of ESP that everyone has and a ridiculous lifespan, but with age does come a certain level of authoritative voice, and I had elevated mine to capitalization status through a long period of study with the Greek orators. Those boys could talk, let me tell you.

“I know that I left without any warning, and I know that I showed up here again the same way. But I did warn you when we first became involved that I wouldn’t be staying very long, and that one day, you’d likely wake up to find me gone. We agreed that we’d enjoy the time we had, and that we wouldn’t put any strings on each other.”

“Yes, but that was before…” she trailed off and looked down, suddenly very interested in the scuffed sneakers she was wearing.

“Before what, Myra?”

“Before I fell in love with you.” She said, in a very small voice, this confident woman near fifty suddenly teenager-shy again, and looking for all the world like she wanted to be doing anything else in the world other than having this conversation. I knew the feeling, and I’ve had these conversations before. I could only imagine what it must have felt like going through it for the first time, and from the other perspective.

“Myra, I loved you too. I still love you, after a fashion, but there are some things about me that you didn’t know then, things that make it hard for me to fall in love.”

“Hard, Adam?” another party heard from as Michael decided to remind us that we weren’t having a private conversation.

“Michael, when I need your particular input on human relationships, I’ll look it up in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Until then, butt out. Myra, I’m not really sure how to put this, but it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m not exactly normal. I look about the same as I did when I left, and that’s been”

“24 years and three months, give or take a week.”

“How do you keep track of it that closely…” I trailed off as I looked over at Emily, looking about twenty-three and a half, and decided that finishing the question would make me look infinitely stupid and lead to more unnecessary input from my good buddy Michael.

“Yeah, a little over 24 years. So, the thing is, this is not easy to explain…”

“Adam, you’ve had work done. It’s okay. We’re not LA, but we’re not complete bumpkins, you know. There’s even anesthesia for facelifts in Texas nowadays, and most folks don’t even assume guys are gay if they get a little Nip/Tuck action. Well, most folks don’t, anyway.”

I laughed. A lot. I’ve had this conversation on more than one uncomfortable occasion in the past few millennia, and I’ve never been accused of cosmetic surgery before. This was certainly a day of firsts. I laughed, and was so taken aback by the idea that I just blurted out the truth without thinking a second about it.

“I didn’t have work done, honey, I’m immortal. I don’t age. Remember the Adam from Genesis? Yeah, that would be me. And Moses got most of that stuff right, because I told it to him while we were hanging out in Israel.”

“Yeah, whatever. You’re immortal and I’m Farah Fawcett.”

“No, really. I look the same because I always look the same, at least since we left the Garden. And I left without saying anything because I’m not strong enough to stick around and watch the people that I care about grow old while I stay forever young.”

“What?”

“He’s telling the truth, love. If you just take it at face value for now we can get on to the grand reconciliation and we can all leave this dump of a town. Honestly, Adam, why you insist upon finding trysts in such father-forsaken holes in the cosmos I will never understand.”

“Michael, for the last time, Shut. Your. Mouth. And when did you decide to be British?”

“Just now. It’s a pretentious decade and I can’t possibly fit in without an appropriately posh accent.”

“I think you’ll manage just fine. Anyway, Myra, like I was saying. I’m immortal, and the reason I left was because I really did, I mean do, care for you, and it’s just too hard staying in one place for very long because of the inevitable questions about not aging, and that coupled with the whole watching the people you love grow old and die thing, well, it’s just gotten to be too much for me over the centuries, so now I relocate after a couple years at the most, and I stay less time in places where I’m afraid that a real connection might be starting, because I figure it’s easier on the people that I leave behind if I leave sooner rather than later, you know, giving them a chance to move on with their lives and that sort of thing, and…I should probably stop talking now.”
“Yes. Stopping talking now would probably be a safe move, Adam.” Her voice was icy, and the look on her face made me inch out of arm’s reach, fearing another slap might be forthcoming. Instead, she looked down at the ground, took a deep, shuddering breath, and looked me straight in the eye.

“You. Son. Of. A. Bitch. You selfish, uncaring, thoughtless, chickenshit son of a bitch! You ran out on me after I laid in your arms every night for six months! I told you things I’ve never told anyone before or since. I told you my hopes, my dreams, my fears, the embarrassing things that I’ve never once dreamed of having the courage to tell another living soul, and then one morning I come in after my shower and you’re gone!

Gone, without a note, without even a slap on the ass and a thank you! You worthless motherfucker, you leave me without any reason, without any hope of ever seeing you again, and then you have the unmitigated gall to come back in here twenty-four years later riding on your big motorcycle spouting some bullshit about immortal and scared to love and expect me to fall for it just like I fell for your line of shit the first time you were here?

Well fuuuuuuck you, buddy, that train left the station a long time ago, and the only thing I got out of the deal was a beautiful, smart, darling daughter that you don’t ever, ever deserve to try to be part of her life. So get back on your motorcycle and ride off into the sunset you came out of, and don’t you dream of coming back into my life or my baby’s life!” By now she was full-on sobbing, screaming and looking for things to throw at me, so before the cook decided that it was probably worth it to come through the screen door where he was watching the show, I reached out to Myra, put my arms around her, and held her.

I pulled her to my chest, and so many memories came flooding back. Memories of waking up with her naked lying across my chest in the middle of the night, the ceiling fan doing nothing to cut through the heat of the day that still lay across us like a blanket. Memories of sitting on a hillside by a pond watching the sun set and pretending to give a damn about the corks we had floating on the ends of our fishing lines. Memories of watching her sling coffee and hash browns along the length of the breakfast counter to long-haul truckers and locals alike, each served with a smile and a saucy shake of the hips. I held her as she cried like a baby that’s just lost her favorite toy, and more than one tear of my own slipped down my face to dampen the curtain of hair that hid her face.

But finally she cried herself out, and got tired of hitting my back with her fists, and she pulled away.

“Better?”

“Yeah, I just needed to get that off my chest.”

“Good. It’s good to see you again. I’m glad you’re well.”

“Well might be stretching it most days, but I’m still here. And I think I’m glad to see you, too. But why did you really leave? And really, where is your fountain of youth, because most days, especially the way my feet feel when I pull a double, I’d like a swig.”

“Well…you see, here’s the problem.”

“What?”

“I was telling the truth.”

“About what?”

“About the hard to believe bits. You know, immortal, Garden of Eden, Adam. That stuff? That was real. I’m that Adam, and I left because I didn’t want to fall in love with you and watch you die, and because I thought if I left soon enough I could be gone and you could move on, leaving me as just a faded, but pleasant memory from your youth.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re the Adam of Adam and Eve, fig leaves, snakes, apples and Cain and Abel?” This was Emily, who had been content to sit and watch things unfold to this point.

“Yes to all of the above, except Luck-Lucifer wasn’t really a serpent, just kind of a snake in the grass metaphorically, and the fig leaves really were just inserted by uptight artists. We went straight from naked to woven grass skirts, actually.”

“So if you’re Adam with a capital A, and I’m your daughter, which you seem oddly willing to accept at face value without any mention of DNA testing or other proof…”

“It’s the eyes. I recognize them. My eyes always breed true in the first generation, so I learned to recognize them after a while.”

“Okay, so you’re Adam of the original humans Adam and Eve, and I’m your daughter, and you’re immortal, so what does that make me?”

“From what I can tell, lifespan tends to follow the norms for the period when you’re born, so you won’t end up immortal. At least, none of my children since Cain have been.”

“And exactly how many of them have there been?”

“437.” I now remember how much I disliked certain aspects of hanging around with angels. They keep a lot of trivia floating around in their heads, because they can I guess. And Michael, being ridiculously honest and forthcoming even at the most inopportune times, felt that he had to share my exact offspring census with the gathered family at a time when some obfuscation may have been the more tactful approach.

“437? That’s not a family, that’s a regiment! Jesus, what do you do, just leave a couple of bastards in every town where you stop for lunch?” Emily was a little outraged at finding out that she was part of such a large family.

“No. Please remember that I’ve lived for eons. When you look back across the entirety of the human race, I am not responsible for an inordinate number of offspring. In fact, with the notable exception of the time of the Roman Empire, I have been very particular with the… I do not have to explain myself to my own daughter!”

Slap! “You do not have the right to call her that! You were nothing more than a sperm donor, she is my daughter and nothing of yours!” Again with the slapping.

I fixed Myra with my steeliest glare “Nothing of mine? You can’t even pretend to tell me that you’ve looked in those eyes every day for 23 years and not seen a piece of me looking back at you. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to finish this conversation without getting hit any more.”
“So I had 436 brothers and sisters down through history, are any of them alive now?”

“One, but you might not want to spend much time with Cain. He has sibling rivalry issues. You mother is the first woman I’ve shared enough of myself with to have a child in some number of years, so you’re the only…”

“How many?” A small voice from Myra.

“Excuse me?”

“How many years? How long has it been since you ‘shared enough of yourself?’”

“About 1755 or so. I had a son. He died in the war.”

“Which war?” Emily asked.

“The Revolutionary War. We fought together. He caught a bullet in the leg and it had to be amputated. It got infected, as so many of them did, and he died. It wasn’t pretty. I held his hand when he went. He was 24.”

“I’m sorry.” Myra said softly.

“It wasn’t the first time I’ve held one of my children as they’ve died. It’s not something that gets easier the more often you do it, though.” We were quiet for a moment, then, both of us lost in thought. I flashed back on the dozens of times throughout history that I had watched my reflection dim in my child’s eyes, and Myra shuddered slightly as she thought about losing Emily.

2 comments:

BamBam said...

I love what you're doing over here!

:)

chaussures converse said...

That may have been the first day of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but my sense of right and wrong was pretty deeply instilled long before, and when he put his hands on Eve and she cried out in pain as he twisted her arm behind her back to remove her from the only home we’d ever known, I reacted without thinking. Further reflection brought me to the conclusion that had I thought before I socked the head of the militant Archangels in the snoot, I would have done the same thing. Every time.