Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Eighteen

Columbia Cemetery 2aThe sound of the leaves, rocks and twigs crunching under Andy’s feet mingled with the lively conversation of the birds as he walked through the gates of the Columbia Cemetery, his arms flung out like wings as he picked up the pace and quickly headed to the back of the property.  Normally, Andy was a boy who lived closed in on himself, tucked in and hunkered down, like he was preparing for an outside assault at any moment.  In a way, Jeri supposed he was – considering how all five of his senses were always on heightened alert, because of his autism.  The world was too loud, too bright, too scratchy and basically far too miserable on the whole for him — but, apparently not today.  Andy practically flew through the grounds of the cemetery, leaving his mother slightly breathless as she tried to catch up with him.

Birds in every corner chirped and twittered away, like they were anxious to tell their stories or catch up with one another.  A slight breezed picked up and whistled through the trees, leading some birds to swiftly take flight. Jeri glanced up and found her heart soaring alongside them as she basked in the unbelievable lightness of her son’s steps today.  She was fully aware that this was a strange and unusual task she’d taken them on, but surely their hearts were in the right place.  What else could have led to the incredibly happy mood, evident in Andy’s buoyancy and the joyful chattering of the swallows, sparrows, jays and quail.  She wasn’t positive, but she was pretty sure she’d caught sight of a Greater Sage Grouse, but knew her birder grandfather would have told her it was her imagination.

Suddenly and without warning, Andy stopped and spun around to stare at his mother.  As though he were in command of the elements and all of the creatures around them, everything – sound and sensation – came to a complete halt.  The air was uncomfortably still and Jeri strained to hear any signs of life nearby, things like cars in the distance, the raking of leaves or sounds from nearby houses.  There was nothing.  The abrupt silence was as upsetting to Jeri as she knew the noise of the usual world had always been to Andy.

She stood motionless, only her eyes darting back and forth, as she tried to gauge the distance between them.  He appeared to be approximately 80 to 100 feet away from her and she knew that if he tried to bolt, the way he did when she took him to the mall when he was younger, it would take everything she had to try and catch him.  Agonizing over which direction she thought he might go, every muscle in her body tensed as she watched and waited, afraid that any movement she’d make would startle Andy into an all-out run.

Slowly and with very deliberate movement, Andy closed his eyes and began to sway.  It was not his usual rocking back and forth in rigid agitation, which was the motion Jeri had gotten used to watching him engage in whenever the world at large became too much for him to bear.  This was different.  His body languidly stretched from side to side as he slowly raised one arm and then the other, reaching as far left and as far right as he could without shifting his feet.  With his eyes closed and the slightest hint of a smile on his face, Jeri thought he looked like a church parishioner lost in the glory of the moment and the rhythm of some unheard music from a higher plane.  Softly, so softly that Jeri could barely hear the words coming out of his mouth, Andy began to sing with the light, airy voice of a murmuring angel — Sweet visions attend thy sleep, Fondest, dearest to me. While others their revels keep, I will watch over thee.

He was so lost in his reverie that Jeri decided to take advantage of the moment and make an effort to move closer to her son.  At the first crackling of the smallest twig under her foot, Andy stopped swaying.  His eyes opened and he glared at his mother, making it crystal clear that he did not want her anywhere near him.  Jeri froze, torn between fear and curiosity at whatever it was that was happening.  She shook her head and raised her hands to indicate that she would comply and slowly slid down and sat on the ground with her legs crossed.

In an unexpected move, Andy mimicked his mother, only he nodded and raised his hands as he sat down on the ground and crossed his legs.

Wrapping her arms around her body, Jeri began to gently rock side-to-side.  Once again, Andy copied her exact motions.  She didn’t know why, but this simple Monkey See, Monkey Do act gave Jeri hope that Andy was not lost to her.  The irony made her wince, knowing that doctor’s, back in the 1930’s, referred to autism as the Refrigerator Mother Syndrome because the relationship between mother and child seemed so cold.  Jeri had always felt incredibly connected to her son, from the moment he was born, but the traits of autism made him seem so remote and so far removed from her most of the time.  It was unbelievably odd to her, that in this moment, in the middle of a cemetery so far from the place they’d once called home, she suddenly felt totally connected to her boy and strangely at peace.

As if he’d read her mind, and understood their completely unique bond, Andy gave his mother a broad, toothy smile and began to sing again.  This time, slightly louder than before, but with the same whispery, angelic quality– Slumber my darling, thy mother is near, guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear.  Sunlight has past and the twilight has gone.  Slumber, my darling — the night’s coming on.

Not really expecting to receive an answer, Jeri spoke aloud.  “Where did that song come from?  I don’t recognize it.”

Behind her, the wind disturbed the leaves on the ground and Jeri was uncertain whether what she heard next was the rustling of foliage or a low, raspy voice.  She leaned back hoping to hear more clearly what she thought was the answer to her question.

“Foster?  Did I hear that right?  Is it a Stephen Foster song?”

Her voice felt flat on the still and silent air.  Jeri heard nothing but the beating of her own heart in her ears.  She waited a few moments, but no response came.  The silence was almost unbearable and she continued speaking, hoping to somehow reach Ezra in order to locate his final resting place, if it was indeed somewhere in the Columbia Cemetery.

“It’s a beautiful song, whatever it is.  And it’s true, Ezra.  You know that, right?”  She placed her hand over her heart.

Andy moaned and hung his head.  He stared at the ground for a moment then moved his hands to his ears, as if in pain.  Once again, his rocking went from side-to-side to the troubled forward and back motion that Jeri had become so used to when Andy was upset.

Despite her son’s obvious discomfort at her words she spoke to Ezra, she continued.  “We want so much to do exactly that, guard you from terror and fear.”

Andy rocked faster and began to whimper.  Jeri knew she had to talk fast if she was going to gain Ezra’s confidence, and to hopefully convince him to release his unseen grip on her son who was obviously in escalating pain.

“We will watch over you, sweet boy.  It’s why we’re here.  To find out exactly where you are and to make sure others will be able to find you, too.  We want nothing more than for you to slumber in peace, Ezra.  No more terror.  No more fear.  Please.  Let us help you.”

Andy stopped rocking and turned his head at an awkward angle, with one ear facing the ground and the other reaching toward the sky, his body twisted as though he was being pulled in two directions.  He then stood up, ramrod straight, and faced away from his mother.  He dropped his hands to his side and stood there, stock-still.  The image gave Jeri the chills and she no idea what had just happened.

At a loss for what to do, Jeri starts to talk again in an attempt to campaign for her son’s freedom from Ezra’s grip.  Her voice calm and slow, her words stern and deliberate, in no way revealing her accelerated heart rate or how badly she seemed to be hyperventilating.

“If you cannot tell us where you are, I’m going to have to guess, Ezra.  There is no other way we’re going to do this.”  With determination set in her jaw and step, she began to make her way toward Andy.

Dropping to all fours, Andy let out a loud cry, like a wounded animal and began to crawl around in the dirt.  He twisted his head, looked at his mother, his cheeks wet with tears and began to babble unintelligibly.  No words, just a river of vowels and consonants flowed out of him in rapid succession.

When Jeri finally reached his side, Andy was near a piece of iron fencing poking out of the grown at an odd angle next to a tree trunk and an unruly patch of weeds and dead branches.  Jeri touched his shoulder and Andy collapsed, face-down, splayed out in the dirt and weeds.  Muffled from below, he wept.  Why should the beautiful ever weep? Why should the beautiful die?

The words were not clear to Jeri, but the message certainly was.  This was the final resting place of young Ezra.  Lost no longer, alone no more.

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