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Mitch: Reconciliation

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Big Tits

This is the third part of a three part story. The saga began with Mitch: Perdition, which was followed by Mitch: Ruination.

——

Death is a unifying event, or at least it should be. When we hit adulthood, everything starts to spiral out from the centre, to spread out in a great exercise of entropy until the point where we have children and then it all goes to hell in a serious, quick way instead of a slow, plodding way. Death halts that process and brings you back to your roots, even if just for a moment. It clarifies you and sorts you out, sometimes permanently. It did in my case and so in a way you can say that the death of my mother brought me the clarity I’ve needed my whole life, even craved at points. It was a good thing, all things considered.

I got the call from Doug, who was a really unlikely person to hear this kind of news from. I guess he thought, being the eldest, that it was up to him to be the bearer of bad tidings. When Mom and Dad divorced, all those family roles just devolved to one of us kids and didn’t always put the best person into the job. He could barely speak he was so broken up, but after talking him down to a point where I could even understand what he was saying, he got it out: Mom has cancer. She’s got it in most of her internal organs and has been given only three months to live. No, Mom had refused chemotherapy. No, there was no prospect of recovery. The old bogeyman that we thought she had beaten with a radical double mastectomy years ago, had snuck back in for a second try and, this time, had won. The entreaty in his voice was clear.

You have to come home.

I knew that there was no way that he could handle all the responsibility of taking care of Mom in her final days alone; he can barely manage to brush his teeth on most days. So before I called the other kids to break the news to them and start to plan the great migration back to that center, I made sure to tell him that help was on its way. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him so relieved.

And then I sat there, in my expensive downtown condo that was less than a year old, on my expensive leather sofa and in front of my glorious 42″ TV and I knew I would chuck every last material good I owned for one more chance to just hold my Mom. I know I’ve said it before, but you never really understand love until you’ve nearly lost it. We’re just too busy these days to focus on the good things, the real things, because we get so caught up in the trappings until something gets rammed in front of our face to refocus our attention. This was life waking me up, so that is precisely what I did. I woke up.

I faxed my notice to my landlord and arranged with a buddy of mine from work to do the final walk through and to hand over the keys, then called work to ask for a leave of absence, which they denied, and so I quit on the spot. It paid well, but there are things we all know are more important and if business can’t wait, then business can go fuck itself. No offense intended. In an hour, I had dumped the roof over my head and killed my employment. In another hour, I had the sign for the sale of all my goods up in the foyer of the condo and was already receiving the first of the calls from interested buyers. It was really nice stuff, so it went quickly. Over the next 24 hours, I literally sold everything I owned, with the exception of this notebook I’m writing you on, my clothes and Mule, the backpack I used when I walked Europe.

This is my center. The words, the portability, the constant movement and flux. I never knew how much I had missed it until I was back to it, sitting in an empty room and typing these very words out like a madman. I knew that money would come. I had all my old connections from my freelance days and a decade’s worth of stories to tell. I had eight hours before my flight and I spent it writing the two stories I hope you’ve already read, pouring out my beginnings in giant streams of black.

And when I was done, the first of the wracking sobs hit, shaking me like a rag doll, and they didn’t quit until the taxi was at the door, the buzzer giving me a few seconds to wipe my face before taking the first steps of that long journey home.

Hold on, Mom, just a couple more days.

———–

Airports really give you time to think, and I had a few of them to go through before I was finally home, so there was plenty of time for thinking, let me tell you. I think the other people knew something was up, something horrible, because everyone I met, from flight attendants to ticket staff to the other passengers treated me like they would a wounded bird, circling wide, with caring in their eyes. I’d never seen that before, so I guess I was wearing my grief on my face like a mask. I kept touching my face to see if I had been crying, but there was nothing left to cry at some point, and it all just got hard.

The last ten years had been, well, good. I hit my stride when I hit university and rode my way up to a PhD in English. Not the Engineering degree that Dad wanted, but now erenköy escort that Dad was off with that fucking tart a year older than me, his desires were the last thing on my mind. I’d had a string of girlfriends and then even a wife, but that fell apart after only a year. Sandy. Fuck, I had to call Sandy. Even the ex-wives deserved to know, I guess.

But here I was, single, alone, homeless and with everything I owned inside Mule, just like I was 20 again.

I wondered, almost aloud, what the hell I would say to Mitch. Things had really fallen apart after we had had our fling. I think she felt so guilty about it that the only thing that made her feel right was to shunt me away because we hit a really black place for a while and didn’t speak for almost half a decade. It hurt me more than I could tell her. I was never completely happy with what we had done, but I wasn’t unhappy either. You can’t pick who you love. You really can’t.

She was divorced, now, too, and her ex had won the kid in the custody battle and bolted. She hadn’t seen either of them for three years. Her own fault, I guess, because of the affairs, but I knew how she felt. There was a reason I had all those girlfriends in a row. We were both just searching for something we knew we wouldn’t find, but like automatons, we hopped from bed to bed, hoping in one of them we would find each other again, but this time with a different face and a different name. I think by that point, I still had a little bit of hope left that I would find her replacement somewhere, but I had no idea where she sat because that black part, the really bad part with the screaming and fighting, was still there in echo. We rarely talked and when we did, it was cursory, like a chore.

But I still ached for her, deep down, like a sore. I’d come to accept that when I got divorced and the first person I wanted to talk to, the very first voice I needed to hear after Sandy walked out, was Mitch. I couldn’t call her because she was hanging up on me at the time, but I wanted to, badly. And in the second of the three airports I would have to hit, I wanted to talk to her again, badly.

In the end, I drove the last leg in a rental Subaru (who the heck rents Subarus?) because my flight was cancelled and so I got to revisit my trip out, in reverse, watching the buildings get older and yet more familiar as I went. I stopped at the edge of town, not quite ready to make that last step into the maelstrom I knew was waiting for me at the end. No, not the end, the center, the beginning revisited, this time with wisdom and intelligence to provide clarity.

And I looked out across the fields to the plants, closed down but still lit up by common consensus of the town, beacons in the long grey winter fields in front of me, guiding me home. It was cold. I had forgotten what snow was like and like a child, I stomped in the freshest of it, listening to the crystals groan as they grated against each other underneath my hiking boots. The reeds in the ditches rustled in the wind that whipped across the stubble, and I just soaked in the sounds of winter again, clear and cold and bright. No one makes winters better than the northeast and we should honestly find a way to bottle it. We would have addicts the world over just waiting every year for the scent of the conifers. The town had revived, become sort of an artist’s haven, with the centerpiece being an arts centre that the departing companies pooled to buy, sort of a parting gift. It was probably the only humane thing the plastics companies had ever done out here. Nothing keeps this town down forever, I guess.

I took a deep breath and then another. Finally, I was ready, and so I stepped into the storm.

———————–

Did I say storm? I should have said hurricane. Mom didn’t have three months to live, it was more like three days. I walked in to find Mom a rattling skeleton in the local hospital’s palliative care ward, with the family circled around her, all of them already deep into that never ending emptiness when your tank has run dry but there is no other option but to go on.

Mitch told me later that the worst part, the part that really wore her down, was all the strange hands on her back and I had to agree. Every distant relative and ancient friend of my mother’s felt like they had the right to touch us as if they could personally just pat away everything that hurt. By the end, I fucking hated the lot of them and I was only really in the thick of it for a week or two.

This had clearly gone on for some time, so seeing them like this I was angry that they hadn’t called me sooner. Regardless, right at that moment when I saw all the family’s backs, with the green of the sodium lamps in Mom’s room glaring between them, I knew that nothing I felt mattered and that I had to come in and fill them up, just a little, because they were clearly at the breaking point. I stepping in beside them, the murmurs and knowing half smiles rotating around all their wearied gebze escort faces, and took my place in the circle. Mitch was beside me and without a word, she took my hand, looking up at me for a second, her eyes saying what I needed to hear – thank you. Oddly enough, my Dad was there, right beside us all, and when I cocked an eye to him, Mitch gave me the sign that we’d talk later and smiled. God, how I missed that smile.

The next week was one of the most horrible of my life and I won’t write about it here. I’ve already said more than I probably should because this story is about Mitch and I, not about the death of my mother, but context is everything and so you needed to know something of what was going on. Suffice it to say, I had some long conversations with a woman I knew couldn’t hear me, and told her everything that I should have said ages ago, about how I respected her for walking out on Dad, how I admired her for being a hippy in a time when hippies were a joke, how I loved that she made us go to the next street over as kids to wash away racial epithets someone had scrawled in red paint on an East Indian neighbour’s house, opening the door to friendships with their kids that last to this day. She was good and kind and life hadn’t treated her the way she had treated it, not by half a measure.

When it was all done and peace reigned again for about a day, the funeral came, which was a whole new level of insanity. It was was heart warming to see nearly the entire town turn out, but it was chaos, utter chaos, and it drained us all to empty.

That night, we kids stumbled back into the family home, none of us strong enough or with enough energy to make the drive to our hotels. Doug, who still lived there, parceled out blankets and pillows to everyone and we passed a round of silent hugs out, everyone knowing this was finally the end of a draining saga. Like ghosts, my two brothers stumbled downstairs to their old rooms, everyone going back to the familiar.

There really weren’t enough beds because our old rooms had been remodeled, so Mitch and I ended up in the master bedroom, wordlessly slotting in beside each other. We were both too tired to care, so we stripped down like zombies and crawled into bed. I think I was asleep before my head hit my pillow, but one of the last things I remember was her backing into me and curling up, a smaller apostrophe in my larger curl. I think I put my arm around her, but I couldn’t be sure.

And we slept like the dead for nearly 12 hours straight. It takes that much out of you and more.

———-

We eventually woke up and when I did, I still had my arm around Mitch. She was flat on her back, snoring lightly. The house was hot, maybe because Doug liked it that way, and sometime during the night we’d slipped down to just a thin sheet to cover us. Mitch was like an oven beside me and I could feel the heat coming off of her like a beacon. Honestly just being kind, I pulled the sheet off to cool her down, blowing on her skin to help things along.

Now, neither of us are athletes any more. Her gymnastics blew her back out and my running tore my knees up, so neither of us had the bodies of our youth, hard and lean, but she was still beautiful, with her hair cut short now and still strawberry blond. She was softer, yes, but in a good way. Some of her angles had become curves and life had done well by her in this regard. I stared at the freckles on her upper chest and on her breasts, rising and falling like a metronome, and marveled at how someone could be so beautiful after dozens of lovers and a kid. Maybe I’m biased, maybe I just loved her too much to see her flaws any more or maybe I loved her because of them, but she really was beautiful to me. She had no bra on, so her nipples were stiffening in my breath, wrinkling like raisins. I had forgotten what they looked like, what she looked like. We had been so angry for so long that seeing her like this, peaceful, was a revelation.

And so I touched her, but not with sex on my mind at all, just caring. I ran my hand down the middle of her chest, lightly so that I wouldn’t wake her up, and then over her stomach. Once I had started, I honestly couldn’t stop and so I touched every single visible bit of her, inch by inch, including her face and ears and nose. I couldn’t help myself. I pretended that I was blind and that I was seeing her with my hands the way they do, and what I saw was amazing.

“Don’t.”

I didn’t know she had woken up.

“It’s not like that.” All the same, I pulled my hand away, afraid that this would turn into yet another fight. I couldn’t hack it and neither could she.

“What’s it ‘like’ then?” Her voice was odd, not angry, but not friendly, either. I really didn’t know what her feelings were.

“I was just … appreciating you.”

“Fuck off.”

“Seriously. It’s true.”

“Yeah, appreciating my tits.”

And I looked her in those bright blue eyes, brushing a lock of hair that had fallen into göztepe escort her face away, which made her flinch away from me, distrustful. “No, honestly I wasn’t. Listen … I’ve kind of made peace with it, you know? It’s hard to explain …”

“Peace with fucking me?”

“We fucked each other, Mitch.”

She snorted, but she knew it was true. We sat in silence for a few minutes, neither of us really wanting this to escalate. We’d been down this road before and both knew it was a minefield.

“I miss you, Mitch, a lot.”

“So you’ve said …”

“Seriously, can you just listen for a minute.” The frustration was creeping in. Why couldn’t she just understand me?

There was another awkward silence and then I continued, in a monotone.

“I know that will never go away, now. I’ve tried, but the first person I want to talk to when something important happens in my life is you. I’m OK with everyone woman I date never measuring up to you at this point. I can love someone and have a decent relationship, now. I won’t be empty, I just won’t be completely full.”

She looked at me like I was insane, like I’d just suggested we fly to Mars or something.

“And that’s good enough for you?”

“It honestly is.”

She laughed, “I think you are so full of shit.”

I rolled over, the conversation too uncomfortable to face. “I don’t want to fight about it. I really don’t.”

With my back turned, I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her breathing and then felt her roll over to face me, her body heat glowing against my back, uncomfortably close.

“Me, neither.”

And then she touched my back, the first bit of common human kindness I had seen from her in ten years. She stroked me like she would a cat, almost unconsciously, but it was something, even if she wasn’t putting a lot of mental effort into the gesture.

“Fuck, we were such perverts.” She chuckled, bitterly.

“Aw, Mitch, we were just kids. We’ve both had a lot of life since then. It wasn’t good or bad, really, it just was.”

“How can you say that?”

“I told you … I’ve made peace with it. You can’t help who you love, you really can’t.”

“Yeah, you really can.”

I could hear the anger creeping back into her voice, so I rolled back over, hoping to diffuse this before it got worse.

“Mitch … you know that’s not true. We both do. We’ve hopped from person to person ever since that summer, never landing, never being satisfied, never being fully alive. We either consign ourselves to a half life we are content with or we go insane. I’m OK with just being your brother and I think you should just give up the guilt and just be OK with being my sister. We’ve got a lot of years to go before we die ourselves, so …”

My lip quivered and my throat caught because I was thinking about Mom, about life, about death and mortality, and about how what I was saying was hurting me and likely hurting Mitch. We were going to need each other something fierce and I knew it, especially in the next year.

And she shocked me to my core by touching my face, her thumb on my lip. The pain in her face was so palpable, so real, that I knew she was mirroring my own and what I saw frightened me.

“It’s OK. Shhhhhhh.” Her voice was tender.

And gently, she pushed me over on my back and straddled me, clutching me like she had done in the tent, ten years before. We both knew the significance and so we stayed there, holding each other, for as long as we could stand the heat, but eventually we got so physically uncomfortable that she slipped back off.

“Goddamn Doug. This place is like a sauna.” She strode out of the room, not even trying to cover up, and I could hear her fiddling down the hall with the thermostat. When she came back in, she stopped at the doorway, all 5’1″ of her, and cocked her hip out.

“So … you still think I’m beautiful?”

“In my business, that is called a rhetorical question.”

She laughed: “Yeah? Well, it’s all started to head south, now. Damn gravity.” She cupped her breasts and lifted them up to where she thought they had been in her youth. “See?”

“At least you’re still hot. I’ve been riding a desk for half a decade and have hair in my ears. Get in.” I held the sheet up for her and she slid back in beside me.

“That damn bastard had it at nearly 85 in here.”

“Oh, was it hot? I couldn’t tell.”

With a laugh, she turned and belted me in the arm like we were kids again. In a second, we were wrestling, half-heartedly, and giggling like children.

————–

And that was when it began again. I don’t think either of us intended it, but it did. She looked at me and I looked at her and just like some special effect in a movie, her face just melted; all the hard edges and anger in her jaw just went away. When I saw that, that weight in my chest I had been carrying, the one that settled in as if it would never leave ten years ago, lifted too. As if she could feel it, really feel that weight lifting, she put her hand her to my chest, feeling for my heart. I think both of us were surprised at that.

And then we kissed, softly, the first real intimacy we’d had truly as adults. It was more an apology for all the hurt we’d caused each other than anything, but it was needed, even if just as a gesture.

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