Something strange happened to me last week. I don’t know why or exactly how it happened. All I know is that it did. It all started this way. It was Monday, just a Monday, like any other Monday ever since time began. This Monday was behaving the same as any Monday would. I am used to it, but, I have to admit, I wish that Mondays would behave like other days of the week. I would like Monday to become more like a Sunday, reverent, quiet, and lazy. Or maybe Monday could become more Friday-like, with wild, carefree fun. But Monday can’t be anything other than a Monday. And I can’t be anything more than what I am. I am Stephanie, a quiet woman, a philosopher, a poet, an explorer…the one who looks underneath while everyone else is over the top. I see things most people don’t see…and that’s exactly what happened last Monday.
It was a typical, sad, lonely Monday, a day of little energy and, even worse, little emotion. Nobody cares about anything on a Monday. Everything felt off balance like it normally does on a Monday. So, this particular morning of hazy sunlight and visible rain didn’t really make an impression on me. I would expect a Monday to be like that. I wasn’t really happy about it. But again, what am I gonna do? Mondays are going to come around again whether I want them to or not. They are just always there like an unwelcomed relative. At least, Mondays know when they have overstayed their welcome and leave after 24 hours.
That certainly isn’t like my cousin John who came to visit me one afternoon, and now, two months later, is still sleeping on my living room couch. I could hear him snoring as I got out of bed and walked down the hallway to the bathroom. I could usually hear him snoring anywhere I was in the apartment. The noise never ends. He is loud and obnoxious and I wish he would stop. But he doesn’t. I almost prefer to hear him snore because then, at least, I know where he is and what he is doing. It’s when he’s quiet that I panic. He likes to sneak up on me. I don’t know why he does that and I really wish he would stop. Sometimes, I don’t think he realizes that he is doing it. John just seems to exist wherever John is. He doesn’t think about anything.
So this particular Monday, I woke up around seven in the morning, rolled out of bed, and walked into the bathroom. I needed to get ready for work. I used the toilet and then quickly showered. After drying myself off with the one good clean towel, I got dressed. Getting ready on a Monday doesn’t take much thought. I just put on the same clothes I wear every Monday. Life is easier that way. Why complicate a Monday with concerns about what to wear? Monday will always be Monday regardless of whether I wear pants or a skirt. Why do people stress over what to wear or what day it is? Very simply, it was Monday, so I would wear my comfortable black pants, white short-sleeved blouse, and black pumps. I sighed as I looked at myself in the mirror. Monday was a cruel manipulator. It always dictated what I wore and how I felt.
So, even though, it appears that I was off to a great start, it honestly takes me a little longer to get going on Mondays. I’m always late for work every Monday. It’s not that I’m lazy or hate to work. No, it’s just hard for me to get focused after the weekend. I have a hard time getting in the mindset to go to work on Mondays. I get easily distracted.
For instance, last Monday, I was twenty minutes late because I stopped to watch a leaf floating in an inch of water in the storm drain down the street. I can’t tell you why this actually caught my attention but it did. I just stood there on the sidewalk and watched the leaf swirling around in the dirty water until it was finally swept down into the storm drain with the excess fluid. Though my body moved on, my mind was still stuck. I walked to work contemplating how the leaf had fallen so far from the tree and ended up in the storm drain never to return. So, that’s what happened. I was twenty minutes late to work last Monday because I was watching a leaf. The week before I was counting the cracks in the sidewalk and before then I was noticing how much the grass had grown in the courtyard outside my apartment. So, yes, I’m always late on Mondays. I usually am not completely focused until Wednesdays. Then I’m usually fifteen minutes early to work for the rest of the week. But come Monday, I am late again, and people in the office are beginning to notice.
That Monday, Linda, who works at the desk next to mine suddenly looked at me when I walked into the office and commented, “Well, I guess some of us need extra time to recover from the weekend.”
I hate Linda.
I wish I didn’t have to work next to her. She is very mean to me. She constantly makes rude comments to me since I became the Administrative Assistant to Mr. Davis at the law office a year ago. Maybe she’s afraid I’m going to take her place as Senior Administrative Assistant, as if that is something I really aspire to be. Maybe she thinks I’m not smart enough for my job. But whatever the reason, she is always making rude comments. The data entry clerks in the office are always laughing at the comments Linda makes at me. I don’t know why the two clerks always laugh at Linda’s remarks. The comments are never funny. I think the women are just terrified of Linda. She can be really scary…
And she loves to eat. There are always snacks at her desk. Linda especially loves to eat corn chips. I can hear her crunching throughout the day. The smell is disgusting. I never know what to say to Linda about the food or her rude comments. One day, I’m going to tell her to stop and leave me alone, but for now, I just prefer to keep my distance.
I pulled my long blond hair back in a loose ponytail and put on a few splotches of make-up before picking up my wide red plastic-framed glasses and sliding them onto my face. When I was ready, I opened up the bathroom door. I walked back to my room and grabbed my purse and keys. I guess I was ready to go. Maybe I could make it to work on time today. But it was Monday, and it had been raining since early this morning. Who knows what manifestations may distract me on my walk to the bus stop today? Anything can happen, though, I guess. Maybe that’s what makes life so interesting. I sighed deeply as I walked out of my room, down the hallway, and…
“AAAHH!” I suddenly screamed jumping back. I took several deep breaths and stared at John who stood directly in front of me. God, I was so caught up in my thoughts about Monday and Linda, I hadn’t noticed that the snoring from the living room sofa had stopped. John was standing quietly in front of me.
“Geez, Sis,” he stated, tossing back the long, straggly, blond hair that was hanging in his face. “You need to calm down. What’s wrong with you, Sis? You need to relax. You’re always screamin’.”
I stared at John for a moment. He always says he doesn’t purposely try to scare me. He claims he only startles me so easily because I’m never paying attention…
He may have a point…
It’s not fair though…I do pay attention…just not to the things other people think are important.
But I didn’t want a lecture on the art of relaxation from John right now, even though I know he is an expert on doing nothing. I didn’t want John to tell me about relaxing when I am the one working hard to support both of us.
And I wish he would stop calling me Sis! I don’t know why he does that. I am not his sister. I am his cousin. Yet, he always says Sis no matter how much it irritates me. It sounds dismissive to me as if he is just patting me on the head and pushing me away. I’m beginning to think that he says it on purpose, just to upset me. One of these days, I will demand that he calls me by my real name—Stephanie Ann Davis. And then, I’m going to tell him he has to leave. And then, I’m going to ask for the hundred dollars he owes me…
Just not right now.
I needed to get to work. Besides, I didn’t want to talk to John about my life or my job or money or anything really. Talking to John was like talking to a parrot. He just repeats back what he hears but doesn’t contemplate anything. It’s amusing for a while, but ultimately pointless. I push past John and walk into the living room.
“Not even a good morning today,” John called out sarcastically from behind me. “You can at least say good morning.” But I was too shocked at the mess I saw as I entered the living room to say anything to him. Clothes were all over the floor, and a few paper plates of food and several cans of coke were sitting next to the couch. The place was a disaster.
“John, why did you make such a mess?” I asked as I pointed to his clutter in the living room. John stared at me for just a moment as if he thought I was somewhat ridiculous. I didn’t care about that, though. I was past the point of worrying what John thought about anything. I just sighed dramatically. I had to admit that I was a little irritated when John just chuckled and shrugged his shoulders at my question. I knew that the mess would wait until I had time to clean it up when I got home from work.
“Yeah, yeah,” John was saying to placate me. “I’ll get it cleaned up.” He said the words in a lazy monotone without much commitment. “But I got stuff to do today.”
I stared at him in shock for a moment. “What could you possibly have to do today? You don’t have a job. You don’t go to school. How can you be too busy to clean up today?” I turned away, and walked to the door, but John followed closely behind me. “Leave me alone, John,” I said to him even though my words didn’t sound threatening at all. Instead, my voice came out of my dry throat as a bit of a squeak. So, of course, it didn’t stop John from following me to the front door.
I opened the door and stepped outside into a usual Monday morning. The sun was just beginning to break through a few of the lingering dark gray clouds. Large, dirty puddles covered the steps and sidewalks. I found myself leaping widely in an effort not to splash through the puddles as I made my way down the four wide concrete steps to the sidewalk. Well, this is different, I mused. This wasn’t like any other Monday or most rainstorms. I wasn’t jumping into the puddles and enjoying them like I usually do. This morning, I was sidestepping the puddles and fighting to keep my thoughts focused on just moving forward. I didn’t want to get distracted right now. Any place I stopped to contemplate life, I would have John right beside me. I wanted to him to leave me alone, but he continued to follow me. I hoped that the wet morning would deter John, but it didn’t. He continued to tag along behind me as I walked out the door, down the steps, and onto the sidewalk.
A nasty little thought occurred to me then. Did I lock the apartment door? I don’t remember if I had turned the little button on the knob before it swung shut behind us. I wickedly hoped that I had locked John out of the apartment! Here was John following me outside while he was wearing the soft flannel blue shorts and white t-shirt that he usually wore to bed.
…And he always tells me that I am oblivious.
Didn’t he realize that he was walking outside in his pajamas? I hoped we got further from the apartment before John realized that there could be a problem. I wondered how many people would see John in his pjs. The thought made me laugh and I was momentarily happy before I began to feel a little bit guilty. John is not a bad person, I tried to tell myself. He’s just very misguided and a little selfish.
Hey, maybe I could be a role model for him…
My brilliant idea dissolved into dread as John followed me across the apartment complex parking lot. Oh, man, he was asking me for money again! “Just twenty dollars,” he was saying. “Could you just give me twenty dollars to see me through the week? I’ll pay you back.”
“You’ll pay me back,” I laughed. “You already owe me a hundred dollars.” I glanced back at John who looked rather hurt that I had the nerve to keep track of the money he had borrowed from me over the last few weeks. I just shook my head at him. He had no right to feel insulted after he was has been living on my sofa for two months now. “When are you going to pay me back, John?” I asked. “How are you going to pay me back? You don’t even have a job.”
I didn’t want to give John any more money. I know how John operates. He’ll stay with me for a while, bleed me dry, and then move on. I tell him things like “I’m short on cash right now” or “I haven’t gotten paid from work yet this week.” I don’t think he believes me. I’m not an effective liar.
Why don’t I just tell him what I think? Why can’t I just be honest with him? John, I should say, just get your crap and move! I don’t want you sleeping on my couch anymore. I don’t want you eating all of my food. You need to contribute. But instead, I keep my mouth shut and just hope that he will somehow realize that he is no longer welcomed in my home. But John seems just as oblivious to the things happening around him as I am. We are family. Neither one of us really pays attention to anything other people think is important.
John continued to follow me across the parking lot to the opposite sidewalk. I don’t have a car right now. That is a bit of a relief. I know John would ask to borrow it if I had one. He wouldn’t think anything of taking my car for the day and leaving me stranded, without a way to get to and from work. I actually take the bus every day. It’s kind of a hassle…but, at least, John doesn’t get to use my car…if I had one, that is. The plan backfires sometimes, though…
Two or three times, I had to stay late at work and I missed the bus. I had to humble myself and ask Linda to give me a ride home. She was mad, but she eventually did it. She drove me three blocks and asked me for ten dollars in gas money! She even lives in my apartment complex! It wasn’t as if she had to go out of her way to take me somewhere different. I gave her the money, though. I didn’t know how to say no. I was scared to say no, but, honestly, what would she have done? Driven me back to the office and left me over night? I don’t know.
I hate Linda.
Now here was John trailing after me down the sidewalk and still asking me if I could please give him twenty dollars…twenty dollars, he claims, is all he needs. I only had 30 dollars to get me through this week. That was just for my lunches and bus fare. I tried to walk a little faster but John was right on my heels. I could hear his voice behind me. “C’mon, Sis. I really need the money, Sis!” I could feel tears of frustration burning my eyes. I couldn’t argue with John any more. I just needed to get away from him. Now, I hoped I hadn’t accidentally locked the door. I would have preferred it if John just went back inside the apartment and left me alone. But, no, matter how fast I walked, he was still there stalking along behind me. Finally, as I approached the bus stop, I irritably reached down into my purse, pulled out a few dollars, and turned around to face John.
I turned around angrily and probably with more energy than I had intended. I spun around…and walked right smack into him! I hadn’t realized that he had been quite that close. My face collided with his left shoulder. I felt a sudden whoosh as air spilled out of my lungs and my glasses were knocked off my face. I caught my breath as I heard my glasses fall onto the sidewalk with a scrapping thud sound. Oh, man, I hope I didn’t break my glasses…
As I bent down to retrieve my glasses, John did the same thing, and we suddenly cracked our heads together with a hard, loud thump. The head bump was so hard it caused me to stumble backwards for just a moment. Before I fell back on my butt, though, I suddenly felt myself being pulled in the opposite direction and back up on to my feet. I righted myself and then noticed that John was standing in front of me, holding on to my left elbow to prevent me from following over. I didn’t want to thank him for his help. I would have preferred to fall on my butt than to feel obligated to John.
Once I had my feet back under me, I yanked my elbow out of his grasp. John looked at me for a moment as if he expected a reward for his help, maybe like twenty dollars. When I didn’t respond, John bent down and picked up my glasses from the sidewalk.
“I’m sorry, Sis,” he was saying as he held my glasses out to me. I bit my lip because I didn’t want to cry and I didn’t want to scream at him. “Sis,” John was saying. “I really am sorry…uh, can I have the 20 bucks now? It’s cold out here. I want to go back inside my apartment.” I glared at him for just a moment. The fact that I had to squint to see him put more menace into the look I shot at him. “I mean your apartment,” he mumbled.
“Just give me my glasses,” I screeched at him as I reached out my right hand towards him. I am practically blind without my glasses and feel very vulnerable without them. At first, John held my glasses away from me. I heard him laugh once or twice as he yanked them further out of my reach. “That’s not funny, John!” I shouted at him.
“Geez, alright, Sis,” John stated. “I was just playing. You really needed to relax, Sis. Why are you always so uptight?” I continued to stagger around, slashing and sliding through puddles as I batted blindly at the air around me. I heard a grunt of laughter from John. I had this strange feeling he was going to hold my glasses hostage for a twenty-dollar ransom. But, instead, I suddenly saw his blurred image up close as he stood directly in front of me and dropped the glasses right down onto my face. I jumped back for a moment at the sudden sensation. As John put the glasses on me, I felt a little cold sliminess settle across the bridge of my nose. Oh, man, the glasses must have fallen directly into a puddle and John didn’t care enough to wipe them off. “I’m sorry, Sis. I really am,” John was saying. He was quiet for a moment and then added, “I really need the 20 bucks…”
I blinked several times trying to adjust my vision. Something didn’t seem right here. I staggered around and then looked up….and that’s when I saw it! I had glanced up at the sky just as the sun began to shine through a few of the dark clouds. But the sun wasn’t complete and perfect as it usually was. Instead, the brilliant golden orb now had a round dark spot right in the center. Why was this happening? Oh, my gosh, was this an eclipse or something? No, no, it couldn’t be that. The sun wasn’t a solid circle this morning. Instead, the dark spot on the orb was a small blip with jagged uneven edges. Could this morning’s storm have washed away the center of the sun? While John continued to beg for money, I just stood there in front of him, staring up at the sky, and contemplating the sun. I couldn’t believe that John continued to talk and other people just continued walking down the sidewalk while such a phenomenon was taking place.
And everyone thought I was oblivious…
Why didn’t these people look at the sun? Why didn’t they notice that the sun was slowly dissolving into a black icky mess? I wanted to grab people’s arms and yank them over. I wanted to point up at the sky and demand that they look at the sun. I wanted everyone to see what I was seeing. I wanted to share this spectacle with the rest of the world. This wasn’t just a leaf caught in a storm drain or grass growing in the courtyard. This was a happening, a miracle! Why was everyone else ignoring it?
I didn’t reach out to anyone though. I just continued to stand there, quietly staring up at the sky and studying the sun.
And suddenly, I realized that John had stopped talking. He was no longer begging me for money. Instead, he was suddenly standing by my left side. His gaze had followed mine until he, too, was staring at the sun. I suddenly felt myself filled with so much joy. I had never felt so close to John in my life. My cousin John and I were standing together on the sidewalk just a few feet from the bus stop staring up at the phenomenon of a black spot on the sun. It felt for a moment like the planet had stood still as John and I stood together in silent communion staring into a far-off world. I had suddenly slipped into my contemplative mood as I wondered what would happen to the world if the sun dissolved.
And then suddenly, I heard someone shuffle up to stand just to my right side. I didn’t turn around to look. I was scared that if I took my eyes off the sun I would miss something. I just had the sense that there was a person standing beside me. I didn’t know who it was or what he or she looked like. I didn’t know if the person was male or female, short or tall, heavy or thin. I didn’t know if he or she was black or white or Asian. I didn’t know if he or she was Muslim or Christian or Jewish. I didn’t know if his or her hair was black, or brown, or blonde. I didn’t know if the person was gay or straight. I didn’t know if he or she was college educated or a high school dropout. I didn’t know if he or she was rich or poor. All I knew was that the person stood beside me as we stood together staring up at the sun.
Then I felt someone else standing to my left directly behind John. And again, I didn’t know who it was. I still couldn’t turn my face away from that spot on the sun, so I didn’t turn to look at the person. I didn’t see his or her face. I didn’t know if this person was male or female, short or tall, heavy or thin. I didn’t know if he or she was black or white or Asian. I didn’t know if he or she was rich or poor. I could just feel the person standing to my right staring up at the sun.
Then I could feel someone standing directly behind me but I didn’t turn away from the sun to look. I could just feel warm breath on the back of my neck and the heat of a body warming me in the chilly Monday morning air. I didn’t know if this person was male or female, heavy or thin, tall or short, rich or poor…and I really didn’t care. I was just so happy to be spending this moment with these people. I hadn’t had anyone share my contemplations with me before and this moment now made me smile. For the first time, people were seeing the world the way I was! What an extraordinary and exhilarating moment!
I could feel someone now standing in front of me, but with my eyes turned up to the sun, I was looking right over the top of his or her head. I could just see a soft fuzziness below my face. It could be a hat, scarf, or hair. I couldn’t tell if he or she was heavy or thin, rich or poor. It didn’t matter.
I could feel the heat of a hundred souls around me. The sensation warmed me and made me feel safe and loved. I had never before felt so connected to other people.
Like a magnet, our quiet, calm moment caused more people to gather around John and me. There were so many of us that we filled the sidewalk and drifted into the street. There were so many people I couldn’t tell where I stopped, and they began. I could feel a variety of people on my right and on my left. There were people in front of me and behind me. I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t know if they were male or female, tall or short, rich or poor. I didn’t know their race, religion, or culture. It didn’t matter. Everyone was looking up, staring in one direction. All of us united in one common goal: to contemplate the phenomenon of the dark spot on the sun.
And I felt so much love for the people around me. I could feel John standing a little forward on my right side. My sweet cousin. I loved him so much. My heart swelled as we stood together contemplating this occurrence. We stood together, sharing a phenomenal moment of witnessing something so unique and original.
As I stood there, basking in the warmth of the human experience, I suddenly heard a child’s voice break the silence as he loudly asked, “Mommy, what are we looking at?”
“We’re looking at the storm clouds,” his mother answered.
Though a multitude of voices began to sound all at once, each one rang out as a separate solo in our unique symphony.
“Clouds?” a male voice suddenly echoed. “I thought we were staring up at the trees.”
“No, no, no,” another female answered, “there is nothing in the trees. We’re looking at the roof of the building across the street.”
“The roof? There’s something on the roof over there? Why would we just stare at a roof?” a different woman shouted. “No, no, we’re watching for planes.”
“Planes!?” a male voice asked angrily. “Why would we all just stand around waiting for planes to go by? That’s stupid.”
“Well, I don’t know what we’re looking at,” a female voice admitted. “I’m just looking because everyone else is. What is it? What are we all looking at anyway?”
Now, to my surprise, most of the people were saying the same thing. “I don’t know what we’re looking at.” “Everyone’s just staring.” “What is everyone looking at?” “What is it? Why are we here?”
What was wrong with these people? I wondered. Couldn’t they see? Why didn’t they know? How could they not see it? And then I realized something. We weren’t united in the same experience as I had imagined us to be. I was alone in my contemplation of life while others just stood around lost and oblivious.
Now, there was a quiet moment as everyone turned to stare at each other. Everybody was searching for an answer. Tension began to riffle through the crowd as everyone was trying to figure out why they had just wasted several minutes of their busy Monday morning staring at nothing.
“You were here first,” a couple of people suddenly said as they looked at John and me. “You started this? What were you staring at?”
“I don’t know. I have no idea. I was just looking because she was,” John said as he casually pointed at me.
“And I was just looking because you were,” another voice answered John. Several other voices responded in the same way.
Oh, my gosh, I thought, they really didn’t see it! They didn’t understand. Nobody else understood the magnitude of the situation. Before I could think of anything else, John suddenly said, “Yeah, it was you, Sis. You started all of this, Sis. What were you looking at?”
Now, I could feel all of the eyes turning away from the sky and focusing on me. It was completely silent, except for the shallow breathing of the people around me. “The spot,” I whispered, “the spot on the sun.” I didn’t turn around yet to face the people gathered around me. I felt safer staring directly at the sun. I slowly pointed up and said again, “I was looking at the spot on the sun.
“The what?” And I suddenly could hear the different voices of the people around me. I looked away from the sun then and at the people gathered on the sidewalk and in the street. Where we were all one before, now I could see their race and culture and religion. Where we were all in silent communion before now there were angry, confused expressions on their faces.
…And, oh my gosh, what was this!? Every face I saw seemed to be missing a particular feature. There was one face with a hole where the nose should be. Another with an eye missing. As I turned around, I noticed a woman’s face with a hole in her forehead. Oh, my gosh, what was happening? Everyone’s face was beginning to dissolve into darkness as the snarky voices continued questioning me. “What is happening?” “What do you see?” “What is it?” “A spot on the sun?”
My confidence and excitement was beginning to vanish. I didn’t know what else to say. I continued to repeat myself. “It’s the spot on the sun,” I said again, but in a softer voice. “Right there.” I pointed up at the sky. “There’s a black spot on the sun.”
I turned to look at John now, my eyes silently begging him to back me up. But instead, he looked at me with a really odd expression. Oh, my gosh, he seemed to have a hole on the left side of his face. I stared at him, trying harder to focus on his features. I couldn’t make myself look away.
John was staring at me incredulously. And then he said, “Oh, for God’s sakes, Sis! You have something on your glasses!”
Before I could stop him, he reached out and grabbed the glasses off my face. He glanced at the lenses for just a moment and then started to laugh. “Sis, look,” he stated. “Your glasses got dirty when they fell into the puddle. There’s a small piece of grass or a leaf or something on them.” John rubbed the lenses on the front of his white flannel shorts. Before I could protest, he plopped the glasses back on my face again.
“Oh,” I said as I was now able to see clearly. I glanced up for a moment. The sky was beginning to clear of the dark clouds and a brilliant, clear, whole sun was shining through. “Oh,” I whispered, “I guess the sun is fine then.” I giggled for a moment to hide my discomfort and embarrassment, but no one laughed along with me. Instead, everyone stood around me in complete awkward silence.
Everyone was quiet for a moment. And then suddenly one voice shouted out. “This was a damn waste of my time.” “Stupid,” another voice called. “Idiot,” I heard someone else say. “Damn fool,” was another comment that stuck in my brain as I felt a bright blush rushing up into my face. My eyes began to burn as I struggled not to show any tears.
“Well, if I’m such an idiot, why were you all following me?” was my weak reply. Nobody answered. People were brushing roughly against me, almost knocking me over, as they walked away. They were waiting to see a miracle, not realizing that they had already created one. For on that dreary Monday, a miracle had occurred. For one brief moment, everyone had been united. People had joined together and contemplated the world. It did happen. Why was I the only one to notice?
Why did this happen to me? Why couldn’t I see the world the way other people do? Why do I always have to see the earth through my own imperfect eyes? I had felt so close to these people just a few minutes ago. It hurt now that they would call me names and laugh at me as they walked away.
In just a few minutes, John and I were the only two people left standing together on the sidewalk. I struggled to fight back tears as we looked at each other. “That was really stupid, Sis,” John said as he stared at me. “You had everybody all confused. You were an idiot. How could you not figure out that it was just a spot on your glasses? Sis, you really embarrassed me,” John said then as he shook his head. “Why did you do that? You need to start waking up and paying attention to the real world.” He paused for just a moment and then said, “Can I have the twenty bucks now? I want to go back to the apartment.”
I just stood there staring up at John hopelessly. But we were one, weren’t we, John? I wanted to ask him. But John just stood there looking at me like I had lost my mind. I stared at him quietly for a moment, seeing him clearly now, too. “No,” I said in a small voice then.
“What?” John asked as if he didn’t hear me…or didn’t want to hear me.
“No,” I said louder now. “No, you can’t have twenty dollars, John. I will not give you any more money. I want you to pay me back what you already owe me. A hundred dollars, John. ”
“Oh, c’mon, Sis…”he started to whine, but I was having none of it.
“No, John,” I was all fired up now. “I may have made a ‘stupid’ mistake. But, I’m a good person. I try to help people and I think about life. I don’t need people standing around telling me that I’m stupid. I don’t need people in my life to hurt me.” Maybe I wanted to believe in another world. Maybe I was looking for a miracle. And then that’s when I did it. I turned to John and told him that he had to leave. “You need to be gone, John. I want you to leave my apartment…You’ve mooched off of me long enough. I want you to pack your crap and leave…NOW! Not tomorrow and not later. NOW, John. I want you gone! Get your things and go. I want you gone by the time I get home from work tonight.” I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, before adding, “You need to go.”
I turned around and walked away from him then.
“Hey, Sis?” John called out after me, but I wasn’t going to turn around.
“Leave, John,” I said as I walked down the sidewalk.
John still screamed out behind me. “C’mon, Sis.”
“And stop calling me Sis!” I demanded. “My name is Stephanie!”
I continued on my journey without looking back at him again. I had missed the bus, but that was okay. I felt like walking anyway. I walked the three blocks to work. I splashed through puddles and didn’t care if I arrived late, wet, and dirty to my job. This is who I am.
This Monday, I walked into the office half an hour late. Of course, Linda had something to say about it.
I hate Linda.
As I had walked in the door of the law office, Linda looked up from her computer screen. She started to make a few comments as I walked over to my desk which was right behind hers.
“Well, look who finally decided to show up for work today. Late again? It must be Monday,” Linda stated as the two data entry clerks looked up at me from their computer screens. They didn’t even try to hide their giggles. They always seemed to get excited when Linda made fun of me. “My God, what happened to you? You’re wet. You look like a drowned cat who…”
“Stop it, Linda! Just shut up!” I said. The data entry clerks suddenly looked away and found something important to do on their computers. The deep, patient tone of my voice even scared me. “Leave me alone. I’m a good person and I do work hard, so just back off!”
Linda stared up at me. Her eyes were wide and her mouth hung open. My own words were even a shock to me. I had never talked back to Linda before.
In the eerie silence that followed I continued. “Why do you always have to make fun of me? What have I ever done to you? I don’t want your job. I don’t want to hurt you. I haven’t done anything to you. Why are always making fun of me?”
Linda just looked at me for a moment. And when she finally found her voice again, she said, “Would you like a doughnut?” I stared at her as she picked up a large pink box that was sitting on the corner of her desk and held it out to me.
I wanted to stomp away from her but my hunger won out. I didn’t get anything to eat before I left the apartment earlier. This morning’s adventures made me really hungry. “Yes, Linda,” I said. “I would really like a doughnut.”
I reached into the box then and picked up a perfectly round, shiny, glazed doughnut. I looked it over once before I bite into it. “Thank you,” I whispered to her as I chewed.
Usually, Linda just ignores me throughout the rest of the day. To my surprise, though, today, she continued to talk to me, asking me if I had any questions or needed any help getting the rest of my work completed. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but slowly I began to relax into our comfortable truce. I was surprised how pleasant and friendly Linda could be.
I like Linda.
…Today. I don’t know about tomorrow yet. We’ll just have to see.
Our pleasant camaraderie that day made the time pass very quickly. Soon, five o’clock arrived and another Monday was over.
As Linda and I closed the office, she suddenly looked over at me. “Do you need a ride home?” she asked.
“No,” I answered her in a shy whisper, “I’m taking the bus.” Honestly, I thought that muggers on the bus would be safer than being with Linda in her Toyota Scion.
“It’s no problem,” Linda said. “I can drive you home.” She looked at me for a moment and I couldn’t turn away.
And then she smiled at me! Linda actually smiled at me! Though at first I tried to fight it, I couldn’t help smiling back at her. “That would be great, Linda,” I said, as I glanced out the window at the dreary evening. Though the sun had started to come out that morning, the rest of the day had dissolved into dark clouds and heavy rain. I couldn’t help but feel that the weather was my fault. Had I embarrassed the sun to the point that it no longer wanted to show its face? I reminded myself that that was an awful way to think. I know that the world didn’t revolve around me and that I certainly didn’t possess that kind of power. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bit guilty for ruining everyone’s day.
But then again, whose choice was that really?
So now, I had a choice to make. “Yeah, Linda,” I answered. “I would appreciate a ride home. But I really don’t have any extra money this week to give you…”
“Money?” Linda asked as if in shock. “Forget about it. It’s not necessary. The weather is just so bad, I don’t want to see you walking to the bus stop. Besides, we live in the same apartment complex! It’s okay.”
I smiled as Linda and I walked out of the office, locked up, and ran in the rain over to her car.
I like Linda.
As Linda drove us home, we just made general small talk about projects in the office…until we came to the corner of Third and Madison. The atmosphere in the car suddenly seemed to change. Linda suddenly became very quiet and took a deep breath as she pulled up to the stop sign. Finally, she said, “This is it.” She breathed in heavily. “This is where I lost my son two years ago.”
I turned to look in shock at Linda. Her revelation took me by surprise and all I could think to do was murmur, “What?”
“It was a motorcycle accident. It was on a day just like today. Dreary and dark and rainy. A Monday just like today. Mike was on his way home from work on the bike he loved so much. A car headed the other way didn’t stop and ran right into him, killed him instantly. I didn’t even get to say good-bye.” And then she suddenly turned and looked at me. “He was just about your age.” Linda was quiet for a moment as she stared out through the windshield. The atmosphere in the car was grown thicker, so I turned to look out my passenger side window. I was contemplating the row of houses in the neighborhood and wondering who were the people who lived in these decaying, aging homes.
“He used to have your job,” Linda’s soft voice was strong enough to shock me out of my reverie. “Yeah,” Linda continued, “He had just turned 21 and needed a job. He started working with me in the office. Then one day, he left the office about a half hour earlier than I did. I was driving home and I saw him there, lying on the side of the road. The paramedics were already working on him, but it was too late. The driver of the car took off and left my son lying in the gutter. I lost my son, and then two months later, you took over his job in the office.”
I shivered as I looked at Linda with more insight now than I had experienced in all of my moments of contemplation. I began to understand Linda’s animosity towards me. It really had nothing to do with me. Linda’s world did not revolve around me either. Wow, even though I contemplate life, I guess I’ll never really know what another person has been through until they tell me. I suddenly found myself reaching over and giving Linda’s hand a quick squeeze. She just offered a faint smile and slowly drove through the intersection then.
Suddenly, Linda started to talk again, “For a while, I refused to believe it. For months, afterwards, I still called his cell phone. I would tell friends that I couldn’t go out because Mike needed me at home…even after he was gone. I was just crazy then. It’s a little embarrassing now.” She gave a small giggle then and shrugged her shoulders. “I used to…I used to see Mike walking down the hallway of my home late at night even after he was gone. I saw him. I know I did. It sounds so crazy. But he was there.” Linda just rolled her eyes then before saying, “I was just…just crazy.”
I let Linda’s words sink in for a moment before I finally said, “Linda, this morning…the reason I was late…I thought there was a spot on the sun.”
Linda turned to look at me briefly before turning her attention back to the road again, “What are you talking about?”
“Well, this morning I was walking to the bus stop and I had gazed up at the sky…and I swore there was a spot on the sun. I thought the sun was dissolving. I don’t even know why I would have thought that. I think I’m always looking for the unusual…I don’t know,” I paused before I told Linda the rest of the story. “Several people stopped around me and they were looking, too. But they weren’t seeing what I was seeing. There was nothing there. I had just dropped my glasses in a puddle. My glasses were just dirty. There wasn’t a spot on the sun.” I gave a little hurtful laugh then. “What an idiot, huh?”
I cringed, waiting for Linda to make some snarky comment at me. Instead, her face glowed with a gentle smile that I had never seen before. “No,” she answered slowly. “I would love to see the world the way you do.” She smiled then as she turned into our apartment complex parking lot. “My son…he used to see things like that, too. He used to talk to me about aliens and ghosts.” Now she cringed a little. “Not in a crazy way, I mean. Sam wasn’t crazy. He just lived in a world of possibilities. He believed anything could happen. He always saw the most amazing things in this world. He thought he would live forever. He thought he was invincible.” Linda sighed deeply as she pulled the Toyota Scion into her assigned parking space. “Miracles hurt sometimes,” she sighed.
We both climbed out of the car. I walked around to the front and thanked Linda for the ride home. “It’s okay,” she whispered. We didn’t say anything more. It was still raining. With a quick smile and a “See you tomorrow,” we both headed to our separate apartments. I was really grateful that Linda didn’t laugh at me when I told her about the spot on the sun.
I like Linda.
I unlocked my apartment door and took a deep breath. What am I going to say to John if he’s still here? What am I going to do if he is angry with me? I nervously pushed open the door and stepped inside the apartment. “Oh, my gosh,” I breathed slowly as I walked inside and looked around. I walked through the living room and into the kitchen then back to the bathroom. The whole place was completely clean, except for a single sheet of paper lying on the dining room table. I walked over and picked it up. Underneath the paper was a single hundred-dollar bill. “Oh, my gosh,” I sighed before I read the note.
“Dear Stephanie,” the note began, “I cleaned up the apartment and packed up my stuff. Thank you for letting me stay with you for the past two months. Here is the hundred dollars I owe you. I will be staying at Rob’s place if you want to contact me. I have a job interview tomorrow at Von’s grocery store and I’ll start looking for my own place. Thanks again, Stephanie. You’re the best! John.”
I didn’t know where he got the money. I wasn’t going to ask. I placed the note and the money back down on the table. I walked back into the living room and sat down on the couch. I picked up the remote from the coffee table and turned on the TV. Oh, my gosh, I sighed as the picture on the screen flickered on and a strange gray light filled the darkening room. I stretched my arms up over my head and kicked my legs out straight in front of me. I swung my lower body up on the couch and lay down. I had my couch back! It was all mine again! And I can watch anything I wanted to on TV now. I didn’t have to watch just John’s favorite shows. I picked up the remote again and flicked through the channels. I sighed deeply…
I miss John…
The following Monday, I woke up and stretched as I got out of bed. I walked down the hallway to the bathroom. I showered and then went back to my bedroom. Today, I decided to wear red. I pulled the bright red, full-skirt dress over my head. This Monday felt special, as I knew all Mondays would feel from now on.
I walked back into the living room and smiled as I saw John lying on the couch. He was breathing deeply in his sleep. John had moved back in with me again. But this time, I just knew it would be different. He got the job at Von’s and he had agreed to pay half the rent and buy all his own food. I’m glad he is living with me now. I feel safer with John around and it’s nice having help with the rent.
I walked over to the door and quietly opened it up. I tiptoed outside and pulled the door shut behind me. What a great morning! I thought as I took a deep breath. A cool breeze was blowing over me…and the sun…well, the sun was full and bright and complete. I ran down the steps and walked across the parking lot. “Good morning, Linda,” I called cheerfully. “How are you?” I approached her car, feeling happy and warm in the glow of our new friendship. Linda has offered to drive me to and from work while I was saving up to get my own car. I have already giving Linda a few dollars for gas…and, funny, it felt good this time when I handed the money to her.
I walked over to where Linda stood quietly beside her car. “Are you okay?” I asked her as I looked at her with concern.
Linda looked up at me again and smiled, “Ants,” was all she said. I followed her gaze back down to the asphalt of the parking lot. In one of the zigzagging cracks of the pavement, a small, brown, sandy anthill had been created. Now, Linda and I were suddenly squatting down and watching the ants as they worked. Tiny, black ants were scurrying back and forth, in and out and around the hill. The ants appeared to be incredibly busy as they ran around in circles. Their day would be full and they would be as busy as most people I know. I wondered if they ever stopped to notice the whole large world around them…the ants, I mean. I already know most people are oblivious.
I thanked God then that I have always been able to see miracles. My world and the people in it had suddenly grown so precious, all because, one glorious Monday morning I had seen a dark spot on the sun. After a few minutes, Linda and I looked up and smiled at each other. I laughed as I realized we were both going to be very late for work on this Miraculous Monday Morning.