[Author's Note: This installment picks up after "Friendship is Like Outback Steakhouse: Part IX". It is very important that you read the intro and Parts I through IX before reading this part].
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Today is my Dad's retirement party, but it is still an hour and a half before it starts. Right now, Delia-the manager at the Southern Trace pool (where we are members)-who does private parties is standing outside with me, waiting for the rain to stop so she can bring the food outside. We are talking about nothing as we stare at the torrentially leaking clouds that cover the sky. I say a lot, but I am thinking at the same time-about the Salems, hoping that Richard will come. I can't help but smile, and it is too hard to shield from Delia; we aren't talking about anything particularly humorous.
Delia goes back inside to see if the enchiladas are ready to go in the oven; I sit on the wrought iron bench under the patio overhang. I think about the forces of attraction again: how incapable of circumstantial discrimination are they! I like that: it's opened new doors, broken boundaries, and given me more encompassing eyes with which to see. Hey, wait a minute-that's also what a great poem does! I love that! Life is interesting, life is good; life shows you once-obscured things-that way, you turn out how you should.**
People are now packed in our house like sardines. The guests have covered the table with cards and gifts for Dad. The best part, however, is that Richard Salem is here. He is telling me about his home state of Pennsylvania and his grandfather's astoundingly productive-and interesting-vegetable garden in the mountains. I can tell that Richard loves the North in the way I love the South. But something tells me that this place so foreign to him has come close to his heart. I love that. It reminds me of a poem that I wrote about a Yankee who came to Shreveport to see the Independence Bowl.
The rain is beginning to slack off, so it looks like I'll be able to take Richard's sister Sheryl to the pool. I, of course, invited Richard to come with us. Mason is also going.
Before we go, however, Richard and I raid the buffet line that Delia set up. There are enchiladas (my favorite), refried beans (the air will smell of Dad and Mason's flatulence after everyone has left the party), Mexican rice (Mom ordered far too much because it is her favorite), and numerous varieties of beverages (It's too bad I'm not old enough yet for beer). I look like a pig with my eating two of the overwhelmingly cheesy enchiladas, but, thankfully, Richard is pigging out as well; maybe I don't look like such a pig when more than one person does the same as me. Or maybe Richard and I walk the same walk in more high-minded ways: I like that.
Sheryl is a typical Yankee girl: she doesn't believe in the word 'y'all' (which I use all the time) and she doesn't like to do a whole lot in the pool. This is atypical for me because I like to spend most of my pool time jumping off the divingboard in the twelve-foot-deep pool (or wielding a cue stick, but that's the other kind of pool). But if you are a Southerner and don't know how to swim, you're pretty far out of place. I guess that's why the Salems feel somewhat inept and queer in Louisiana, among other reasons, of course.
Mason and Richard are sitting at a table, talking. Neither one of them wanted to swim. It surprises me that they get along so well-Mason is very social and people-oriented with an anathematic opinion of school, whereas Richard is an intellectual and a trifle reserved. I'm not the least bit shy or reserved, but I suppose I need a balance in that particular aspect. I do, however, have a penchant for getting others to open up their souls and free their spirits. As one would expect, my subjects do become more confident and more trusting of others. I love that. Being very opinionated myself, I love it when other people speak their minds without inhibition. It's so liberating; it's just that it takes longer for some people to realize it. And there is always a way to freely speak out without being vulgar or offensive, but, of course, one can't always send a cogent without, at times, questioning some established view.
Mason ushers me and Sheryl to the table; there are ice cream cookies waiting for us, and it's time to leave the pool.
The Salems are standing on our patio with my family, and my Dad is holding something behind his back. I have a feeling that he is about to unleash his comic genius. Oh, goody, he's turning to face Colonel Salem...
"I want you to have this to take up North with you as a token of my appreciation." Oh, dear mother of Reagan, that is none other than a Confederate flag that Dad just handed to Colonel Salem! Holy crap! This is too good to be true! It is one of those times when I wish I had the video camera, even though I will surely never forget what just happened. What a way to give the last hurrah of a party before the last people decide it's time to go!
A few minutes pass as Richard and I talk, then Colonel Salem ushers his family to their van.
"I hope to see you again, Arlene," says Richard, before he walks to the door.
"I hope to see you again, as well," I reply. I am involuntarily smiling as wide as I can, but I do not want to stop. I feel Richard's soul lighting mine with anticipation. I know that one day, he will return, and Dad insists that we all will get together at the pool or somewhere before the Salems depart for their homeland. Colonel Salem promised us a visit to the North when we were at the picnic. I can't wait to see the North; it is a new frontier for me, especially since every out-of-town place I have been is south of Shreveport.
Richard seems rather reluctant to leave: he drags his feet slowly across the stone pavement instead of running like Sheryl. I love that. He must sense my yen for him to stay. I know I see his desire to remain and converse and to stand next to me. Why else would he tell me that he wants to see me again, and why else would he meander so slowly to the door? I love that. I love how friendship has magnetic forces and evokes a sense of perception into the people it brings together. And I'm still smiling in Richard's direction. I love that feeling of a wide, wholehearted smile plastered to my face. It is telling me now that Richard is the itinerant who shall return like Douglas MacArthur.
**This sentence was the original inspiration for my poem "The Legend to the Map of Life".
(To be continued...)
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation
The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.
"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"
"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.
Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"