Blog: Point No Point

Pine Street Episode 54

Kassandra, despite the hardness of her head, has to go to the emergency room, and is taken there by a friend.

Advertisements

The EMTs had insisted that Kassandra go to the emergency room to rule out a possible concussion. She was not sure her insurance would cover an ambulance ride, and the ER wasn’t far, so she said she could walk. One EMT shook his head. “No way.”

Kassandra sat in the ambulance, feeling light-headed but otherwise fine. She explained as much to the EMT. “It’s only a few blocks from here. I’ll feel better if I walk. I promise I won’t tip over or anything.” The EMTs looked at each other. “How much does an ambulance ride, even a few blocks, cost?” she blurted. “A few hundred dollars? More?”

The other EMT took the lead. “I don’t really know, ma’am. But we can’t, ma’am. We cannot release you without someone to look out for you. You can’t be on your own with a potential head injury.”

“My head is hard, my mom always says so.” Kassandra giggled, and then realized the giggle made her seem even less stable. “Honestly. I’m fine.”

“I’ll take her.” The bicycle rider poked his head into the ambulance. Kassandra smiled at him. He looked familiar, and kind, and her radar about potentially dangerous men did not go off. Of course, she thought, my radar is in my head, and it might be a bit dented.

“How?” asked the first EMT. “She shouldn’t really walk.”

“In a cab. My friend is a driver. He’s right here, actually, was cruising around and saw the lights and stopped. He’ll take us. I’ll make sure to escort her all the way.”

“See?” Kassandra said. “I have an escort and a driver. And a cab will cost me about ten bucks.”

The second EMT knelt in front of Kassandra. “One more look,” she said, flashing a pen light in Kassandra’s eyes, feeling her pulse, taking her blood pressure. “Follow my finger.” The EMT moved her finger back and forth. “Now tell me how many fingers.”

“Three,” Kassandra said confidently, then instantly worried if she’d been wrong. But before she could ask for another try, the first EMT spoke.

“Okay,” he said, and turned to the bicycle rider. “You take her, in the cab, and stay with her until the nurse takes her back.” He looked at Kassandra, a twinkle in his eye. “You have a good friend there. First he knocks you over, then he takes care of you.”

Yes, Kassandra thought as she smiled in response. A good friend. I’ll have to ask his name.

Pine Street, Episode 53

Franny finds Precious, and Marilyn’s house, in a state. But no Douglas, no Marilyn, and… is that blood?

When Franny arrived at Marilyn’s house, she paused at the front door. Something did not feel right. She leant in to knock, and at her light touch the door swung open.

Precious came to meet her, looking sad and confused, it seemed to Franny, as the dog sidled up to her, tail drooping. “Hello?” Franny called, stepping inside. “Douglas?”

The living room looked much like it had when she’d left the night before. Remnants of the party, a few cups and plates, lingered. The dishwasher hadn’t been run – Franny tiptoed into the kitchen, and opened it, finding it still crammed with dirty dishes. “Marilyn?”

Precious followed Franny through the house to the back garden. It was the same as when she’d left the night before, too, mostly cleaned up, but not quite. Not the usual for Douglas, who was meticulous with Marilyn’s home and possessions.

Panic started a slow crawl through Franny’s guts, still unsettled from her combination crying/drinking hangover. Instead of giving in to fear, she pushed her thoughts toward anger. Leo. He was supposed to be helping, before he’d been enchanted by Allison on the sidewalk. Before she interrupted them. Before Leo kissed her.

Didn’t Leo go back to help? Was he too distracted from what happened between them to care for his friends?

“Marilyn?” she called again, the pitch of her voice rising. She stepped back inside, knelt to scratch Precious behind her ears. “What’s going on, Precious? Where’s Douglas?” The little dog whined and leaned into Franny’s touch. Then she turned and padded a few steps toward the bedroom, paused, looked back at Franny, and whined again.

That toxic mix of fear and anger pushed at Franny’s chest. She walked down the hall, suddenly certain she’d find something dreadful in Marilyn’s bedroom. She tried to call her friend’s name again but it came out in a whisper.

The bedroom door stood ajar. Precious sat in front of it. Franny tiptoed to the door, reached out, and quietly pushed it fully open.

An unmade bed greeted her, a few pillows on the floor. Wedding night? Flashed through her mind before she saw the reddish-brown stain on one of the pillows.

The buzz of her cell phone sounded a million decibels loud.

“Marilyn,” read the caller ID.

Pine Street Episode 52

The morning after the kiss, and Franny has to face herself in the mirror. Or not.

Franny woke up late the next morning. That’s not completely true. Franny woke up early, about two hours after she fell into bed, sweaty from crying. She dozed and woke a half-dozen times before getting up to take some Tylenol and returning to bed, where she slept another hour or two before rising at nearly eleven o’clock in the morning.

Her plan had been to get back to Marilyn’s house by nine, in order to take Precious for a walk and let Douglas rest. Blown out of the water like most of my plans, she thought as she brushed her teeth.

Brushing your teeth is one of the top three ways to restore yourself to feeling human again. A cup of good, strong coffee is up there, too. A long hot shower is always number one, so Franny decided to give herself all three. She set the coffee to brew while warming up the water in her shower, then stepped in.

When she was nearly done, she turned the water to cool to help herself wake up. Stepping out, she caught a glimpse of her face in the bathroom mirror.

She looked away.

Dressed in a t-shirt and yoga pants, Franny curled up in her chair and sipped her coffee. She picked up her phone to check for messages.

Franny wondered. Do I hope for a message from Leo? Or do I hope there’s nothing?

There was nothing. At least, not from Leo. A text from Douglas, thanking her. A voice mail from a number she didn’t recognize, which turned out to be Marilyn’s friend Penelope (she of the dark red wine and musical birthday party, which seemed decades ago). Franny wondered how Penelope had gotten her number. The message was even stranger: Penelope wanted to start a vegan diet, had heard Franny was a vegetarian, so wanted a cook book recommendation.

But nothing from Leo.

By now it was nearly noon, and Franny considered it could be considered reasonable to check on Douglas and Marilyn, to offer to take Precious for a walk, as if she’d planned to do so at lunchtime all along. She popped bread in her toaster to stave off some hunger pangs.

As she started to reply to Douglas’s text, her phone buzzed. Leo’s number.

Franny sent it to voice mail, finished her text, ate her toast, put on her shoes, and left to walk over to Marilyn’s house.

Pine Street, Episode 51

Kassandra sees stars, a helper, and flashing red lights as she lies on the sidewalk somewhere near Pine Street.

“Are you okay?”

Kassandra blinked hard a few times, trying to chase the buzz out of her head. “Yeah. I think so, I mean, I’m fine.”

“Don’t move too fast. Wiggle your fingers and toes first.”

She followed the instructions coming from a voice somewhere behind her head on the pavement. The bicycle that had crashed into her (or had she crashed into it? The details of the event were already slippery, remembering felt like holding jell-o in a fist) was on the sidewalk near her feet, one wheel up in the air, spinning. Kassandra wiggled her toes and fingers and they wiggled back, reassuringly, waving at her from their places on the sidewalk.

“Good. That’s good. Now gently, really gently, bend your legs and arms.”

She did.

“Does anything hurt?”

Kassandra had to laugh. “Everything hurts,” she said, with a little gasp.

“You might have had the wind knocked out of you. I’m most worried about your noggin, though. Can you sit up?”

Noggin? Kassandra didn’t know anyone who used words like that. Especially not in an emergency. She rolled onto her side, remembering in a vague way that her old yoga teacher used to have them do that first, after several minutes in the corpse pose, before sitting up. Probably to stabilize our blood pressure, Kassandra pondered, nothing to do with the potential for head injuries. But it sill seemed like good advice. And rolling onto her side hadn’t been so bad, except that there were a few pebbles under her thigh now, and what felt like a boulder poking her ribs.

“Ow,” she said.

“Okay,” the instructional voice went on. “That’s good. No blood or anything on the pavement.”

Kassandra closed her eyes. What would “or anything” be? Her brains? But closing her eyes prompted a wave of dizziness, so she opened them again. “I need to get off this rock,” she said.

“Rock?”

“Here.” She pointed to where the rock was poking her ribcage. “Help me up off of it.”

“Okay, But easy. I’m going to put my arms under yours and steady you as you come up.” An arm slipped between the ground and her side near her armpit, another inserted itself under the arm on top of her body. “On three. One, two, three.”

Kassandra lifted herself as she swung her legs forward in an awkward attempt to sit up. Immediately she was glad the instruction-person was positioned behind her, as she leaned heavily backwards. “Ouch,” she said again.

“That’s good. Lean on me. You doing okay?”

She was about to reassure the instruction-person that she was going to be fine when her vision filled with flashing red lights. An ambulance pulled up.

The emergency medical technician who jumped down to examine her might have been the handsomest man Kassandra had ever seen. “Ma’am, can you tell me what happened?” The EMT crouched in front of her. His smile filled with white teeth flashed brighter than the vehicle’s emergency lights.

“Ouch.” Kassandra drew in a breath to formulate her answer, only to be met with a stabbing pain.

“Okay,” the EMT said. “How about you, man? You see the accident?”

“I caused it,” said the instruction-person holding Kassandra up.

Pine Street, Episode 50

Meanwhile, Kassandra needs to walk to clear her head from all the emotion of the day. An accident brings her a bit more head-clearing than she bargained for.

Kassandra the barista had no idea of the drama unfolding on the sidewalk in front of Marilyn’s house. She recognized an unsettled feeling of the sort that occurred periodically. During these times, Kassandra’s friends would say things like “Mercury is in retrograde” or “there must be a full moon” or “I feel a great disturbance in the Force.” Those friends who would say that last thing were Star Wars geeks, but Kassandra loved them anyway.

That evening Kassandra went for a walk. Her apartment felt far too small and her roommates’ activities far too large. She needed to think, to process the day, to see if her unsettled feeling could be settled again. Most of all, Kassandra needed to move. Not exercise, she never called it that, but movement. Walking meditation, or some such thing, she remembered Marilyn calling it in one of her art classes. Kassandra needed to walk, think, meditate, and be on her own. She needed to be out of doors.

As she meandered with no particular destination in mind, Kassandra pondered that expression, “out of doors.” It could have several meanings: outside, of course. But also: running out of doors, as in venturing out to a big-box home improvement store only to be told “sorry, we are all out of doors today.” Or simply: no doors around at all. No distinction of standing on one side or the other of any door. Just being.

Hardly the musings of a future world-famous economist, Kassandra heard her mother’s voice in her head. Then her dad’s voice, with one of his typical back-handed compliments: don’t worry, Kassandra’s inherited intelligence will come out one of these days.

She picked up her pace, walking faster, trying to drown them both out. Turning right at the next corner, she was blindsided by a bicycle rider using the sidewalk.

Kassandra went down, hard, on the uneven concrete. The bicycle rider tumbled off, too, and there they were, the two of them, sprawled on the sidewalk in the deepening dark. Kassandra lay on her back, struggling to regain her bearings, wondering if the numbness in the back of her head would transform into pain, sooner or later.

No one at the wedding had mentioned Mercury or the Force, but sure enough, there was a full moon straight up in the blue-black evening sky.

Pine Street Episode 49

The kiss, and what happens after.

Right there, on the sidewalk in front of Marilyn’s house. Leo took Franny’s hand in his. He gently turned her to face him, touched her chin, and leaned in. His lips were warm and surprisingly soft. He let go of her hand and slipped his arm around her lower back.

After the kiss, Leo held Franny to him as she cried. For a long moment, she buried her face in his shoulder as he held her, and gently touched her hair.

“That’s not exactly the reaction I was hoping for,” he said. Franny pulled herself out of his arms, anger flaring agin.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she snapped. “I didn’t realized you’d been planning this. I’m sorry to disappoint you. Don’t worry, you never have to kiss me again.”

“No, no, come on,” Leo said, reaching for her hand. “I’m teasing you, Franny. I don’t plan anything, you know me better than that. Much less a kiss. You’re just so… you know.”

“So what?” Franny asked, heat rising in her cheeks. “What am I?”

“Beautiful. Intelligent. Kind. You’re so everything, Franny. Don’t you see all that?”

Franny gulped. What is happening?  Exhaustion took over, sagging her shoulders, weakening her knees. “All I know is, I’m so tired, Leo. I need to go home. I need to say goodbye to Douglas and go home.” I’m rambling. I need to stop talking now. But she couldn’t. “Marilyn is sick, you know? She is so sick. Douglas is an amazing man. But he is spent. And me, I’m as tired as I can ever remember being. You must be tired, too. Or else you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what, Franny?” Leo’s voice nearly sent her back into a cascade of tears.

“Wouldn’t do this. This, kissing thing, and complimenting thing, and being all stupid thing.” She flinched at the hurt in his eyes. “Not that you’re stupid. It’s just, this whole thing, it’s stupid. I really need to go rest. I’m sorry. I am. Sorry, I mean. I’m the stupid one here.”

“Okay. Okay, Franny, it’s okay. I’m sorry too. Let’s go say goodbye to Douglas and then let me walk you home.”

They did just that. Said goodbye to Douglas, with awkward hugs, and walked to Franny’s apartment in silence.

Franny closed the door with Leo on the other side, leaned her back on the door, and slid to the floor as the tears gushed.

Pine Street Episode 48

Every one is exhausted and on edge. At least that’s how it seems to Franny. There’s a kiss in this episode – read on to find out who kisses whom.

“Leo!” Franny called down the block. She turned the other way and saw him talking to her neighbor Alison. Douglas needed to go rest, too, and she wanted Leo to come back and finish helping with the clean up, to give Douglas permission to say good bye to them both.

And there he was, back to her, apparently in rapt conversation with Alison. Franny could see the beaming smile on her neighbor’s elfin face.

Maybe it was the worry about Marilyn, or maybe it was her own fatigue, or maybe it was something else. Something more sour, and more green. Whatever it was, Franny’s head vibrated with a sudden rush of anger.

“Leo!” She walked toward them trying to breathe deeply, to shake the impatience out of her voice. “Leo.” He finally turned toward her, eyes crinkled from a smile of his own, and that nearly did her in. “Douglas needs you,” she said, voice cold and curt.

“Okay, Franny. I was just talking with your friend here.” The smile stayed on Leo’s face.

“Hi, Alison,” she squeezed out. “Douglas needs you, Leo. Right now.”

Leo’s expression morphed into concern. “Is Marilyn okay? Is something wrong?”

Yes, Franny wanted to answer. Yes, it’s wrong that you are down her flirting with someone so much younger than you when your friends need you. It’s so wrong I don’t know how to explain it. It’s even more wrong that you don’t seem to know it’s wrong.

“She’s sleeping. But Douglas needs you. Us. He needs us, so he can get some rest too. Come on.”

“Okay, Franny,” Leo repeated. Franny found his tone intolerably condescending. She turned on her heel and headed back toward Marilyn’s house. She heard Leo say good bye to Alison, and picked up her pace. “Franny. Franny!” Leo called. “Wait up!”

She didn’t slow down. “Franny.” Leo caught up anyway. “Are you okay?”

“No,” she answered. “But it’s not about me right now, Leo. Don’t you get that? Our friends need us to clear out so they can rest. It’s about Douglas and Marilyn. Can you stay focused on them, just for two minutes, without – ” She stopped herself, just in time.

“Without what?” Leo asked. “What did I do?”

Franny sighed. “Nothing. You just, you disappeared, that’s all. You weren’t there all of a sudden, and Marilyn’s asleep, and Douglas needs to rest, but he’s waiting for you to come back so he can say goodbye and thanks, because he’s that kind of a man. And you weren’t there.”

“I was just down the street. I was taking out the garbage and saw your friend, and – ”

“She’s not my friend, Leo. She’s my neighbor. Alison’s my neighbor.”

“Okay, your neighbor. She looked sad. Or lost. I don’t know. She looked like she might need something.”

Franny’s nerves wore through their last protective shield. “We all need something, Leo. Everyone of us needs something. Marilyn needs something, Douglas needs something, I need something, you need something, the kids in the bars every weekend need something, the president of the college needs something, the homeless people need something, the soccer moms need something. If you hanker after every single person who needs something, you’ll never come back.” Do not cry, she chided herself. Do not give him the satisfaction of seeing you cry.

Franny didn’t ask herself why she imagined Leo being satisfied at the sight of her tears. She didn’t have time to ask herself anything, because of the next thing that happened.

Leo kissed her.

Pine Street: Episode 47

Leo encounters Allison as she stares at the green house, looking for all the world like an elf on an impossible quest. Out comes his protective side.

While Franny and Douglas rested and talked about (and to) the dog Precious, Leo finished putting  the chairs and tables away, restoring Marilyn’s backyard to its former peaceful state. He was carrying the last two folding chairs to his van to return to the rental place the next morning when he spied the young woman standing in front of the house next door. Leo recognized her face from the dinner party at Franny’s apartment. Was that last week? Or last year? But he couldn’t recall her name.

“Good evening,” he said, and the young woman startled. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. You okay?”

“No. I mean, yes, I’m fine. No, you didn’t scare me. Not exactly. I was, you know, lost in thought, I guess.” She smiled then. Leo could not recall if she’d smiled that night at Franny’s. With a smile that lovely, he thought he would have remembered seeing it before.

“I’m Leo,” he said, leaning the chairs on his van and extending his hand. “I know we’ve met but I apologize, I can’t recall your name.”

“I know.” The young woman smiled again. “I mean, I know you’re name is Leo. I’m Allison. I live next door to Franny.”

“That’s right. How’s that nice sweetheart of yours? He seemed awfully doting.”

Her smile evaporated. “We broke up. Today, in fact. Only a couple of hours ago.”

“Well, then, he’s an idiot.” Leo wondered if Allison was sad or relieved. Just in case she was sad, he added, “And I’ll say I’m sorry for the third time in this very short conversation.”

“It’s okay. I’m going to buy this house.” Allison turned back to the somewhat dilapidated dark green house next door. Leo followed her gaze. His eyes landed on the skewed front porch, aimed toward the sidewalk. He scanned the roof that would most certainly need replacing. He took in the overgrown shrubs and weedy yard. He saw no “For Sale” sign.

He felt protective of this young woman, having lost her sweetheart so recently, looking for all the world like an elf on an impossible quest. Words of warning were on the tip of his tongue. No, he wanted to say. It’s in bad shape, it’s too much work, it’s going to be too expensive for you.

Then he noticed her expression as she stared at the house and sipped from her take-out cup. She was not scared, or apprehensive. She was not sad.

She was enthralled. It already owns her, this house, Leo thought.

“Congratulations,” he said, and she rewarded him with another view of her beaming smile.

Pine Street Episode 46

After the wedding party, Franny listens to Douglas. And asks him the question: what does Marilyn have?

“She’s in bed,” Douglas said as he plopped down on the sofa. His face showed signs of fatigue, but his smile was gentle and relaxed. His silver hair and lanky body reminded Franny of an aging television star. The intelligent expression behind his eyes reminded her of her grandfather.

“How are you, Douglas?” Franny asked, sitting next to him. They’d been cleaning up after the wedding party, putting chairs back in their natural places, scooping garbage into big black plastic bags, and sweeping tracked-in dirt back out of the house into the garden. Marilyn was beat; she tried to help, but they’d shooed her off for a rest.

Douglas’s smile grew. “I’m in heaven, Franny. I just married the most splendid woman on the planet. I saw her, happy and radiant in her dress, smiling back at me as we took our vows. What else could I want?”

Franny fought back an urge to burst into tears. Marilyn was ill, that was clear, and Douglas’s love for her, whether romantic or Platonic or both, was even clearer. A series of self-centered thoughts floated across her mind: would anyone ever love me like that? Has anyone ever loved me like that? Have I ever loved anyone like that?

“What’s wrong? What does Marilyn have?” Franny blurted, then immediately apologized. “Sorry. I don’t know what’s got into me. It’s none of my business if she doesn’t want anyone to know. It’s just, you know, we are so worried about her. I mean all of us. Her friends.”

“I know, Franny. Marilyn’s health is not my story to tell.” Douglas leaned back, stretching his long legs in front of him, and took a deep breath. “It’s obvious,that Marilyn is not 100%. I don’t know what the future will bring. But I will tell you what she has, if you really want to know.”

Franny swallowed. In that moment she was not sure she did want to know. But Douglas went on.

“She has a tribe. A group of people around her who love her, care about her, and take care of her. And that’s what we all need, in good times too, but especially when things get dark and difficult. We need a tribe. Marilyn has the best tribe I’ve seen.”

“You’re a good man, Douglas.”

“I don’t know about that.” Precious, Marilyn’s dog, joined him on the couch. He absently scratched behind the old dog’s ears.

“Precious knows. She doesn’t let just anyone do that.” Franny smiled. Thank goodness for dogs and their ability to provide a topic for conversation when real life is far too serious to talk about.