Blog: Point No Point

Pine Street Episode 134

Spring on the “other” side of the mountains, far from Pine Street, closer to the moderating effect of the ocean, was a very different experience. Although the strange late-winter snow had buried the entire state, for a while, the other side soon found itself back in its usual pattern of gradual lightening of the grey that blanketed each day. Once in a while, a brisk wind would blow the clouds away, revealing blue sky and sending seagulls and starlings swirling on its drafts. The denizens of this “other” side would be drawn out of doors, only to be chilled to the bone by the wind. 

On the whole, they much preferred the incremental change of seasons, becoming connoisseurs of various shades of grey.

This included Sasha. Deeply tempting though it was to show up on David’s doorstep, to disrupt his small-town idyll, to win him back, the climate helped hold her to home. She could not quite imagine living year-round in such extremes of cold and heat. 

No, reunion with David depended on luring him back to the city, back to the lifestyle Sasha loved and she knew David would love, too, much as he would learn to love her again. 

She’d grown so much since they were together, and she longed for the chance to demonstrate to him her new depth of understanding, her revised character. 

In the meantime, she waited, as spring waited for its chance to be revealed in all its other-side glory.

That day arrived in early April. The wind arrived, but this time it did not bring a bone-curdling chill. This time, it carried the lightness and warmth of the sun to every corner of the city. The thick grey overcast dissipated, leaving puffs of white clouds sailing in its wake. Baby crows stretched their immature wings, cawing out their desire to try flight for the first time.

Sasha stepped outside, ready to walk to her favorite coffee shop, and watched as the sky turned the shade of blue that only sky over water can achieve.  

She snapped a quick selfie, coffee mug in hand, blue sky in the background, and texted it to David, with no words to accompany it. Her message was clear: 

Wish you were here.

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Pine Street Episode 133

Franny looked up from her keyboard and squinted. 

A beam of sunshine entered her apartment through the window, slanted low, aglow with the promise of actual warmth. 

Snow still covered the rooftops and yards on Pine Street; ice crystals glittered in the breakthrough of sunlight. Winter had lingered this year, with a late punch of blizzards that seemed unending. The energy on Pine Street turned anxious and edgy. People were irritable and dogs misbehaved out of boredom. A daylong break would bring out the people and dogs, slogging across berms of snow and ice left by the plows, and then the next storm would chase them all back inside.

This sunbeam felt different, somehow. Franny went to the window to be closer to it, to absorb its warmth. In a fit of madness, judging by the lingering ice, she threw the window open and took a deep breath.

As she coughed out the cold air, she heard birdsong. A group of robins hopped about, eating the last lingering fruit on the ornamental pear tree in front of her building, creating mini snowfalls as they landed on laden branches. 

A single small cloud moved to block the sun, casting her apartment back into darkness, and sending a chill down her spine. Franny closed the window, turning back to her computer, ready to pick up where she left off in the chapter she was writing. 

But something changed in the five minutes the sunbeam had flooded her apartment, and she knew what it was.

The smell of cold air had changed, no longer full of the imminent arrival of more snow. It held an undertone of green, of growth, of newness.

The song of the robins was not the desperate calling to one another to help find the last source of food. It sounded of celebration, of hope.

Even the cloud that had blocked the sun looked different. 

Franny felt it in her bones. She pulled on boots and threw on a coat, and headed out of doors.

Spring was not here, and it was not even around the corner, but it was coming. It would bring the warmth of the sun, and the winds of change.

Franny walked, dodging snow dropping from tree limbs, toward the lingering light in the west, until it completely disappeared.

Pine Street Episode 132

David had no idea that Kassandra held such good will for him. His loneliness formed a wall around his intuition and understanding, a wall that was virtually impenetrable. Paradoxically, the more he longed for company, the more he behaved in ways that further cemented the wall.

The plan that tickled the back of his mind exemplified this paradox. He figured that Leo would soon move out of Allison’s basement and in with Franny, anyway, so why not hurry it along a bit? And then, with Allison needing a roommate, David could move in. 

Just down the street from his dad and Louise, not needing to see how close they were becoming, but nearby, so he could keep an eye on that situation.

Far enough away from Sasha so that she wouldn’t have an opportunity to slink back into his life more than he wanted her to.

And Allison would of course stay close to Leo, and give David information that he might be able to use, when the time was right, to insert a wedge between Leo and Franny.

All this scheming came from the need to find someone to be close to, someone who could be a partner. Most of us are like this. The seed of our behaviors is natural, necessary. The plant grows warped toward the only light we offer it, whether its source is compassion, understanding, and love, or jealousy, envy, and fear. 

The wall David built around himself only let in light from the fear that if anyone truly knew him, they would reject him. So the seeds of his behavior grew toward that light, creating a tangle of schemes and plans too complex to manage. 

Stealing dogs, knocking over lovers with a jeep, and now sowing consternation among friends. David kept plowing forward like a road grader through the snow, trying hard not to notice what he splattered along the way.

His next stop, after the office supply store, was not to Leo or Franny, as he could do nothing so directly. David’s next stop was back to Marilyn’s house, to start the wheels in motion with his father and Louise. 

Pine Street Episode 131

On her way into the office supply store, Kassandra nearly collided with David. “Hello,” she said. Ever since she discovered that David had, indeed, known her childhood friend Sasha, Kassandra had tried to reach out to him. She wanted to learn more about Sasha’s life, but did not want to raise sad memories. On some level, being closer to David was a way of being closer to Sasha, of holding out the hope that she could reconnect with Sasha herself, at some point.

But David had withdrawn further, as if this odd coincidence of a person whom they had both loved, or who had loved both of them, frightened him. Kassandra did not want him to be scared. She held nothing against anyone, including him, not even his strange behavior on Pine Street, not even his clear “secret” crush on Franny, not even his sometimes discourteous rejection of his father’s overtures. 

Kassandra is one of those rare souls who truly wants everyone to be happy. She never uses another person’s misfortunes to make herself feel more secure or more deserving of her own fortunes. She never asks the universe for revenge. She wastes no time or energy trying to even scores or elevate her own ego.

She loves people truly, as a whole and as individuals, and often finds herself puzzled by those who do not. How could you not love people? They are infinitely odd, curious, engaging, unpredictable, entertaining; they are always striving, always moving, always becoming.

Kassandra, therefore, mustered as warm a “hello” for David as she could manage on this cold slushy day, hoping for a moment of connection, a chance to reassure him with eye contact that at least one person today would be glad to see him.

But he brushed past her without making eye contact, lost in another world. David’s energy painted itself on the young artist-barista as he passed, and Kassandra’s heart ached for his loneliness. 

Pine Street Episode 130

One of the beautiful and disturbing elements of small-town life is the inevitability of encountering people you know in one context – work, or school, or that time you were called to jury duty – in a completely different context, and having to be polite. 

Allison experienced this daily in her new job at the office supply store. She’d have to check out the purchases made by a professor from her old department, uneasily realizing that this august person loved coloring books that featured My Little Pony. Or, she’d be required to special order a book for the professor who’d nearly derailed her thesis defense with his predatory ways, smiling all the while. 

Most days, though, Allison adored her new job. She felt slightly guilty about this, the voice in her head reminding her it had nothing to do with the master’s degree she’d worked so hard to earn. But her boss was great, the customers were usually happy, and her co-workers were sweet. Lydia, the girl who’d helped her apply for the job, turned out to be hilarious, full of happy energy and naive enthusiasm for life. The “close encounters,” as Allison named them to herself, with eccentrics or creeps or those whose private hobbies surprised her, were outweighed by the steady if small income and the community she found herself in.

This wintry day, Allison’s first close encounter was with David. Douglas was a doll, but his son had triggered a sense of disquiet in her since they met. She continued smiling, as she’d been trained, as she responded to his veiled insult about her status as “staff.”

“I’m happy to have a job, of course,” she said. “So many people don’t.” 

If he takes that as an insult, given I’ve never seen him go to work, then so be it, she thought. 

“True,” he responded mildly. “We are always better off when we are grateful for what we have, aren’t we?”

The little bell that indicated a new customer had pushed open the front door sounded. Allison looked behind David to see who it might be. “Excuse me,” she began. “I need to -” 

David ignored her. “I mean, you must be grateful to have the income, given that you are likely to lose a roommate soon.” 

“What?” Allison asked. 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” David said. “You’re busy. I’ll leave you to it.” He gave her a sort of salute, turned, and walked out past her new customer. 

He loves to stir up trouble, Allison reminded herself. Don’t fall for it. 

Pine Street Episode 129

David turned his face into the brisk wind. The cold needles on his face felt better, somehow, than watching Leo go into Franny’s apartment building. 

It was’t that he still harbored any idea that Franny would dump Leo and turn to him, David reminded himself. He knew that was a figment of his imagination, and probably always had been. 

The thought flashed  through his troubled mind: is this how Sasha feels about me? 

He shook his head to rid himself of the trace of empathy. No room or time for that now, he considered. I have to fish or cut bait. If I’m going to have a life, I need to start it today, this minute. No more dithering, no more wasting time in hopes of something other than what is in front of me.

Walking quickly toward his house, his father’s house, Marilyn’s house, whatever it was, David blew his warm breath into his cold hands. What is front of me? He pondered. Stay with my dad? Watch his budding relationship with that other woman, what’s her name, Louise? Witness everyone finding a partner but me?

Nothing about that idea appealed to him, except that he couldn’t think of anything better. Going back to Seattle, dealing with Sasha’s feelings for him, filled him with dread. Finding someplace new should be a glorious challenge, as it always had been before. Today, it provoked only boredom. 

He’d made it to the sidewalk in front of Marilyn’s house, but his feet kept going. He couldn’t stop until his mind quieted a bit, and that seemed far in the future. Tromping farther north, face still beaten by the wind, David made a sudden turn. 

Allison, the small woman who lived down the street, who’d never welcomed him, not much anyway, who seemed at that moment to embody every person who’d ever rejected or ignored him, crossed the street in front of him and headed into the office supply store.

On a whim, he followed her. He watched her go into the back room, behind the counter, and emerge again with a name tag. 

She works here? David tried to puzzle it out. Isn’t she some kind of genius scholar?

“Can I help you?” Allison asked him, a little too brightly. “Hello, David.” Her voice tightened almost imperceptibly at his name. 

“Hello, neighbor,” David tried to muster a relaxed smile. “Just saw you pop in here, and wanted to say hello. I had no idea you’d joined the staff.”

A kernel of a plan made itself known in a far recess of David’s mind. 

Pine Street Episode 128

“I love you.” He’d said it, out loud, and he couldn’t take it back, even if he wanted to. 

Which he didn’t. Not at all.

After years of being alone, although rarely lonely, Leo found love in his heart and body as if a switch had been flipped. It had been off, now it was on. 

As if the baggage he’d been carrying for so long he did not even feel its weight, its pressure on his back, lifted. And he could stand up straight for the first time in forever.

As if coming out of a dimly lit room into a clear sunny day, blinking cautiously, turning to feel the warmth of the sun on his cheek.

As if tasting the first rich, slightly bitter sip of hot coffee after going days without, the dark liquid sending a charge of energy he hadn’t remembered missing all the way to the core of his being.

As if his toes, numb with decades of cold, tingled back to life, rivulets of ice water soaking his socks. 

Actually, he was standing in a puddle. He’d tromped into Franny’s apartment from helping his friend, snow packed into his boots, which had a little rip part way up, he’d meant to duct tape it this morning, but he’d already been running late and then he’d completely forgotten until now, his hands on Franny’s arms, looking her in the eye, saying the words “I love you” while standing in a growing puddle of icy water, wet socks and all.

Leo tried not to laugh. Franny looked so scared, and so vulnerable, and he knew laughing would be just about the worst thing he could do. But his toes were tingling with the warming, and that tickled, and the whole situation seemed so delightfully absurd, a combination of sublime emotion and ridiculous puddles. He tested a smile.

Franny smiled back. “What?” she asked. 

“I said I love you, Franny.” 

“No, I mean, what’s funny? Why are you laughing?” 

Sensing this could be the first test of his ability to manage his new love relationship, Leo stepped back. “My feet are wet,” he said as seriously as he could, “and tingly, and it tickles.” 

Franny looked down, took in the puddle at his feet, and regained his gaze. 

Then she burst into her hearty, high-pitched laugh, and Leo laughed too, and she leaned on him as she laughed.

“I love you,” he said again, when he caught his breath.