A Momentary Lapse of Recovery

“Good morning, starshine!” Jenny sang as she yanked the curtains back and let the sun shine on the
couch where Catherine rolled and grumbled. “Come on. Up, up!” She chirped.
     “No!” Catherine protested, throwing the blankets over her head.
     “Yes!” Jenny mimicked her friend’s grumble. “We talked about this last night, you are going to work
     “I change my mind.” She mumbled, her face in her pillow.
     “Nope, not allowed. Our deal is binding. Get the hell off my couch, you crazy woman!” Jenny was
joking, they both knew it, but there was still an undertone of seriousness.
     “Jenny... please don’t make me go.” Still Catherine was under the covers, and her mumbled pleas
were almost lost into them.
     “No, Cathy.” Jenny straddled the arm of the couch where Catherine’s feet lay and talked down to her.
“You’ve been lying on this couch for two weeks now...”
     “I’ve gotten my work done! What’s the difference?” She argued.
     “Half your work. I can’t keep telling Joe you’re not here, he’s caught on already. We’re not fooling
anyone.” She tried to pull the blankets off of Cathy unsuccessfully.
     “I’m fooled.” She insisted, tucking the blankets even tighter.
     Jenny finally gave her last tug on the blanket and gave up.  She threw the little she had gained back at
her friend and set her hands on her hips as she sighed in frustration.
     “Well, maybe I can’t make you go to work, but I can make you get off my couch.” There was no joke in
that. “When was the last time you were home?”
     “I dunno.” Catherine grumbled. “May... June, maybe.”
     “Yeah... Cath, that was a month ago. You’ve been hopping from house to house, avoiding your own.
My goodness... at least get some more clothes so that you aren’t doing laundry everyday.”
     “Fine, catch me a cab to Sears.” Catherine rolled.
     “Cute.” Jenny stared sarcastically. “Look...” she sat back down, “this is getting ridiculous. You had a
hard break-up, I get it, but...”
     “No.” A hard voice that didn’t quite sound like her friend resonated from the blankets. “No, you don’t
get it, Jenny. No one ever will. I’m all alone.” Her tough voice began to quiver. “He left me all alone to deal
with this. I have no one who ‘gets it’.”
     “You have me.” Jenny jumped in.
     The covers suddenly revealed a weathered face that looked strangely like Catherine Chandler. But it
wasn’t her completely. Things had changed.  The biggest was her speech, but it even came down to the
consistent darkening of her eyes. Finally the face’s mouth opened and a voice, that sounded as if it
belonged to Jenny’s long lost friend, came out. “I wish you could understand. You’ve always been here.
But, I’m sorry, Jen. I can’t tell you this one.”
     “Okay...” Jenny began slowly, obviously trying to hide how heartbroken she actually was, “then, maybe
you could talk to one of his friends. They can’t all have disowned you.”
     Catherine shook her head more than she answered. “I can’t face them.”
     “Are you sure they even know, Cath? Just talk to someone who knows what you’re going through. You
can’t mope around my house forever. Eventually you will have to get your life back together.”
     The two sat in silence for a while. Jenny had been logical, but she was sick of logic. She was sick of
people. They were always there for some reason, handing her things. ‘Here, some flowers. How about
some make-up? A new dress would be nice, wouldn’t it? And new watch for your troubles while we’re at
it!’ What if she didn’t want any of this? What if she just got rid of everything? What if she escaped with
Vincent to the depths of the earth, in rags, and only a lantern to guide them? No people. No questions.
Nothing but them.
     There was only one problem with that. It could happen. There would always be people... and she had
lost her Vincent. She was dying without him; slowly withering away to nothing. But... she wouldn’t get him
back, not any time soon. Maybe, just maybe, she could pretend that he was near if she was still with his
family. Close by association. She sat up slowly on the couch and weakly nodded to Jenny. “Okay.”


     “It’s good to see you, Cathy.” Peter came around her chair to sit at his desk in front of her.
     She knew that this process would have to go slow. She couldn’t just run down to the tunnels and
announce her intentions. No, she had to establish that common connection. Peter happened to fill that
criteria quite nicely. So, here she sat in his office, fists clenched together and the room spinning slightly.
     “We’ve, uh...” he searched for the word as memories flooded back, “we’ve been very worried.” Cathy’
s face was a little uneasy and agitated. “How have you been?”
     “I’m... I’m fine. You know...” she dropped off, her voice falling into her tensed hands.
     “So fine that you haven’t been to work in two weeks?” He watched Catherine raise her head
curiously. “When I didn’t hear from you, I called your office.”
     She smiled ironically. “Someday Joe’s going to give out information about me to the wrong person.”
     Peter gave her a weak smile at that. An awkward silence fell and he shifted in his seat. “Cathy,” he
finally decided to just let it out, “Jacob told me what happened.”
     “I assumed, Peter.” She granted him nothing more than her quiet voice.
     “Is...” he tried not to let his eagerness override his sensibility, “is this final then?”
     “Ask him.” She sat up straighter and shrugged venomously. “He sent me away.”
     “I’m sorry.” He said sympathetically, knowing that there was no comforting her. She lifted her eyes to
meet his and for a moment, a brief moment, he saw a little girl in front of him. He saw ten-year-old Cathy
Chandler sitting in front of him. The same face, small and innocent; her expression so sad that even
when she wasn’t crying, she looked as if she was. That grief stricken child being told that her mother
would never again play with her, or talk to her, or comfort her. For a moment, he felt as if she had lost her
mother once again.
     Catherine swallowed hard. “I don’t suppose Father’s sorry?” She asked delicately, hopefully.
     “Well...” Peter began nervously, “you know that... Vincent means the world to Father. With him being
gone so long... it’s only natural that Father’s very upset.”
     “Vincent’s gone?” All concern for her surrogate father’s approval was gone. She sat forward in her
seat, swaying a bit from sudden dizziness. She had hardly moved in two weeks. Now activation of
muscles was bringing on frequent dizzy spells.
     “He has been for nearly a month.” Peter nodded. He waited for the normal reaction to such news. The
look, as if searching for him in her own mind. The frantic eye movements, setting a plan into motion. But
there was none of that. She simply sighed, shook her head and sat back. “Don’t worry about Father,
Cathy.” He brought the conversation back. “He’s had high hopes for you and Vincent... once he got to
know you.” He smiled. “And I will admit that I hoped too. Two children who I treated from birth, finding
each other. I hoped for many things from you. Maybe that was wrong of me.”
     “What’s so wrong with that?” Catherine suddenly burst, as if the question had been pent up for years.
“I hoped too. Why is that so wrong? Why couldn’t we be more to each other? Why does there have to be
limits? Why can’t everyone be as blind to his differences as I am?”
     Peter simply sat and watched her. The questions fell out of her mouth as if she had rehearsed it on
the way over. Maybe she had. It was difficult to listen with no answers, but that was all he could do.
     When she finished, she was panting and staring at him, waiting for some sort of response. All she got
was a helpless expression and a small; “I’m sorry.” Swiftly, she was on her feet. “I don’t even know why I’
m here.”
     “Wait, Cathy, please!” Peter was up, coming around the desk to stop her. He didn’t need to.
     The room was spinning in circles and she swayed with it. Sound was delayed and her eyes focused
and unfocused. Suddenly the world was a complete haze and then... black.
     Peter barely caught her, and he had a difficult time of that. He was losing his strength as he gained
years, and he was quickly realizing, that weightless newborn he once held was now 30-some years older
and passed out in his old, weak arms. As gently as possible he helped her down to the floor.
     “Chandra! I could use some help in here! Chandra!!”

Compared to a Summer’s Day

     Little Anna Chandler, victoriously clutching her permission slip, walked as fast as she could without
stepping on her classmate’s feet. She always hated the concept of lines. They were so terribly orderly,
strict. One child follows the other, and so on. Everyone goes at the first child’s pace. How horribly
constricting. It made no logical sense either. School was for getting children ready for being a grown-up.
Grown-ups didn’t have to walk in lines.
     The single row of seven and eight year olds reached the bus waiting for them outside of the school.
The children filed on, hardly orderly, handing their permission slips to the teacher in their excitement.
Anna was in her seat, alone, when another child, the last on the bus, approached her.
     “Can I sit here?” The boy ask innocently. He was an odd child, awkward even around the teachers.
He wasn’t the stereotypical runny nose, wide-rimmed glasses little boy, but he was shy and unsure of
     Anna, with a little hesitation , slid over. She liked being alone in her seat. She was never lonely, she
just didn’t want to talk to anyone, she wanted to ride quietly. But, this boy was of the same mind-set and
the bus was full. “Sure.”
     The two children glanced at each other, no where near discreetly. It was so awkward, not really
wanting to talk to each other. So... they didn’t. They sat in silence through their trip, but it was enjoyed by
both. It was really nice to sit with someone her age, not needing to talk, just enjoying a ride.
     The bus stopped in the middle of Central Park West and the teacher stood up from her seat in the
front of the bus. “Okay... I want all of you to listen to me! Are you listening? We are here for school
purposes only. No running off on your own. And don’t think I won’t know if you’re gone, I’ll be taking head
counts often. You are to stay with us at all times, you should always be able to see one of the
chaperones. Understand?”
     “Yes.” All of the children nodded in agreement.
     “Alright, everyone file off the bus and wait by the door.”
     The herd of children crowded outside the bus and the chaperones wrangled them into something of a
circular formation.
     “Now, everyone knows who their parent is, correct?” The teacher asked.
     “Yes.” The second graders agreed in unison.
     Anna flinched, never answering the teacher. The whole concept of unity bothered her. Wasn’t
everyone supposed to be their own individual self? School just didn’t make sense.
     Never-the-less, she obediently followed her designated parent and the rest of the children in her
group. The back of the group was where she preferred, behind everyone else, but Sarah’s mom insisted
that she walk behind them so that she could keep a closer watch. Anna was stuck in the back next to
Sarah and her mom.
     Sarah was a nice girl, but Anna didn’t normally talk to many people. Many times her teachers had
called home concerned that there was something wrong with her. But her mother would always explain
that Anna simply thought that their conversations were never very interesting. Adults, however; now they
had fascinating conversations! But, Anna had tried to talk to Sarah’s mom on their last field trip. Sarah’s
mom just told her to go enjoy herself and play with kids her own age. She just didn’t understand that. She
had always spent more time with adults than children. Her mom was busy and she had no daddy, as the
other children repeatedly pointed out. ‘Going over to play’ meant sitting in Uncle Joe’s office and
listening to him talk about politicians that meant nothing to her. Fun was sitting with Peter and Chandra,
his assistant, and performing ‘experiments’ on potatoes. Other children weren’t any fun... what did they
know? Adults had stories that she was assured she would understand more in the future. School was
     “Kids!” Sarah’s mom stopped the group suddenly. “You all have your sketch pads and pencils?” The
children held up their materials. “Good, you can sit anywhere you like, but I should be able to see you.
Remember, once you sit down, you can’t move. You have to draw everything you see, right from there.
     “Yes.” That out-of-tune chorus sounded again.
     There weren’t many people in the park, not noticeably anyways. A few joggers, some teenagers
skipping school, and not one homeless person to be found. Sarah’s mom let the children spread out a
little more than she was wanted to, but it was so nice that morning. She only made a few kids sit close to
her so that she knew they wouldn’t run off.
     Anna moved to a far tree. This was a dumb reason for a field trip. There was no purpose to it. What
were they learning, how to look at things? She did that just fine. Still, she didn’t complain. She wouldn’t
have anyways. It was such a pretty day outside. She desperately wanted to climb the tree she leaned
against; to get so close to the sky that she could touch it. But she didn’t need the hassle of getting in
trouble. So, she sat down and observed her surroundings. What did she want to draw?
     Nothing was particularly interesting. She had seen it all before. Benches, trees, grass, a few fences,
garbage. There was that drainage tunnel down the hill, but it looked really dirty, and who wants to draw
something like that? ‘Bet a lot of homeless live in there.’
     As if in answer to her thoughts, an outstretched hand from the tunnel was revealed in the sunlight. It
was a tiny hand, and it twisted and turned like it was trying to catch the sun’s rays. After a few seconds, a
head of thick blonde hair poked out and took in its surroundings. Soon, when the area seemed empty
and secure, a little boy emerged into the sun. He immediately began spinning in circles as if trying to
dance between the rays. He was dressed in neatly placed rags. It was the type that a homeless boy
would wear, but the presentation was what seemed odd.
     Anna inched around the tree, glancing at Sarah’s mom (who was scolding the boy nearest to her),
and watching the boy to be sure she didn’t frighten him away. She flipped open her sketch book and
began scribbling. It wasn’t turning out to be what she wanted it to look like. Actually, what she was
drawing hardly looked like the little boy who was now hopping over the drainage stain. Oh, how she
hated being young at this very moment. This was interesting. This was something out of the ordinary.
     She tried her hardest, drew as best she could. She needed color. Crayons, or markers. Color would
make it look better, she was sure. But she didn’t have anything with her.
     Without thinking, Anna banged her fist on the sketch pad and growled her frustration. Realizing what
she just did, she quickly looked down over the hill to make sure he was still there.
     He was. He was standing against the open mouth of the tunnel staring up at her. It was there, in that
position, starring at each other, that Anna noticed the strips of hair along his face and the odd flatness of
his nose. It was here that he saw a rustic porcelain face with soft sandy hair. They watched each other
move; him swaying in the sunlight, her laying over the hill in the shade.
     “Caroline Chandler?” Sarah’s mom called out, distracting Anna.
     The boy was gone when she looked back. There was not even a hint or a clue that he had been there.
      “Caroline Chandler?”
     Anna looked down at her open sketch book, lying on the ground in her panic. It almost looked like
him. It needed more. There was more to this boy.
     “Caroline Chandler!” Sarah’s mom was angry now.
     Anna twisted around the tree and gave a reluctant, “Here! But I’m Anna.” She insisted quietly.
     “Well, what are you hiding over there for?” Sarah’s mom smiled pleasantly, if not condescendingly.
“Come on, honey, we’re leaving.”
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