Four Through Love's Window Excerpt
Nov 03, 2022
Four Through Love’s Window
I met Rupert when I was twelve, but I can't remember how. That might not be true, the part where I was twelve when I met Rupert might not be true, because everything seems to me to have happened when I was twelve and, clearly, not everything could have, since it was only one year. You would think, as much as I remember everything else about Rupert, that I would know how I met him. It's odd. But then things are sometimes odd and you just have to accept that, if you're going to get along in life without ripping out clumps of hair.
Maybe I was walking home from school when he was out tending the roses. He tended the roses a lot, so that could have been it, although it's beyond me how the conversation would have started. I wasn't the kind of kid to chirp, "Nice roses!" - or anything else involving voluntary chirping, for that matter - and Rupert never talked unless he was telling a story, which isn't something he would be doing while tending the roses. Odd. Sometimes things are.
Beside the point, though. The oddness, not meeting Rupert. Meeting Rupert is exactly the point. Rupert changed my life and my life was badly in need of changing. People always try to argue with me about that, that someone who's twelve - or eleven or thirteen or whatever - can have a life badly in need of changing, but trust me. Everything was excruciating. The part where Dad left for three days and came back with a big silver platter of cheese and crackers to tell us he was leaving but he was pretty sure he'd still love us was excruciating. The part where everyone else was the right height and I was way too tall was excruciating. The part where Mrs. Noel gave me "Black Like Me" to read because she thought I was smart and old enough to read it turned excruciating when Mom confiscated it because it had swear words. She put it in her nightstand drawer. I should have returned it, but she would notice if I just took it and I couldn't tell her she was wrong. It's still excruciating that "Black Like Me" never was returned.
See, that was the other thing. I think things are better if you're not afraid. Did that seem like it didn't follow? It did, just think about it. Something about the cheese and crackers on a big silver platter with the leaving made me afraid. Made me more afraid than the leaving. Because there was something I didn't understand. Being too tall was an afraid thing. I know it shouldn't have been, but, really. What's scarier than being different when you're twelve? Bullshit. Nothing is. Obviously, not telling Mom that keeping "Black Like Me" was more wrong than it having swear words was just afraid. Afraid afraid afraid. Maybe if you say it enough times it goes away. Maybe if I knew what it was then, if I had known that what I felt was afraid, everything wouldn't have happened when I was twelve.
Yeah, I know. It didn't. Maybe. Prove it.
Anyway, Rupert. The thing about Rupert was he felt like Brigadoon. He was somehow both solid enough and just on the other side of the mists both at the same time. I feel like that somedays, like I look like I'm right here but what's real is I haven't been here in years. Don't get stuck on that, it doesn't mean anything. Rupert being Brigadoon would explain why I can't remember how we met. Fell into a dream that woke into the middle of a reality. I think we'll go with that.
So where we were when I woke in the middle was Rupert's back yard. His patio to be exact. A tub of geraniums and a hanging fuschia on each of six evenly-spaced hooks. Lemonade on my side of the little glass table, and something brown with ice on his. He had those old-fashioned aluminum chairs with the orange and green webbing, but it wasn't frayed a bit, or even butt-dented. I don't know if he never had company or if he re-webbed them or what, but they looked like they'd just come from the store.
Actually, now that I think about it, those chairs wouldn't have been old-fashioned then, they might have just come from the store. Memory is one of those things that are sometimes odd - that what made perfect sense then seems out of place now. And vice versa, I suppose.
We weren't talking really, just sitting looking at the tree in the middle of the yard. Not talking seemed okay, I didn't know what to say anyway. Or at least now it seems okay - then maybe it was awful. No, I remember all the awfuls, so it was okay. The tree was one of those big leafy trees, an oak maybe, that seems like it should have a swing hanging from it, only it didn't. It would have been great for climbing, but I was too embarassed to climb in front of him. There was a robin jumping from branch to branch singing, which was nice and might have been why we were looking at the tree. Rupert picked up his glass but didn't take a drink, and said in that slow way he had of talking, "There's a lot of stories in that tree, I don't think I'm going to get them all out."
I didn't know what he meant. I waited a minute, but he didn't say anything else, so I picked up my glass and took a drink, and said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Trees gather stories. Store them like squirrels store nuts. Some of them more than others. Some too small to work very hard for. This one stored a lot and I'm too tired to keep unlocking them."
"What kind of stories?"
"Little bit of everything. Some true, some not. Hard to tell the difference."
I turned my lemonade around in my hand and stared at the tree, wondering where it hid the stories. The trunk I thought, probably. Maybe the roots. That's where the biggest stories would be.
I said, "Could we unlock one now?"
Rupert thought about it. "Maybe," he said, "I haven't tried it with anyone else around before. Might make it easier. Might not work at all." I waited. He said, "Tomorrow maybe, if you're here. I'm too tired right now."
I said, "Okay. I'll be here at four."
Rupert said, "That will be fine. Go home now, I need to take a nap before God gets here."