“A Moments Wrest”, Chapter 11: Running To Stand Still
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11 Running To Stand Still
The hot water felt good on Sarah’s face. She had laid Aaron down for his early afternoon nap. It was the only time in the day that was truly hers. She decided to have a good, long shower. It had been a rare treat since the accident. But it became more than that to her. That small, tiled cubical proved to be a vulnerable place. It was the one spot she had no defense against the pull of emotion, and the push of tears. She had become so adept at keeping a convincing demeanor at the hospital, with Oren’s parents, and with Aaron.
But not here.
Everything she thought secure in her life had been shaken with that phone call. But the cracks had already formed. Oren had not been much of an anchor recently. She felt their relationship was not only not moving forward, it was slipping. Their time together was increasingly marked with lonely silence. She was not sure where his head was at. Or his heart. And yet, it was the idea of what they had which kept her. The hope their relationship would eventually get better; the way it should be.
This romantic dream was still eroding a little more each new day. Her husband was essentially on “pause”, unable to move forward or backward. Even if somewhere deep inside Oren wanted to claw his way back to her, he couldn’t. And she would have no idea if it was happening.
The distance between them could only increase. And time was dragging her farther with it.
Now, whenever she stepped in this shower, the tears came as quick as her dark brown hair became soaked. This was the most fragile she had ever been.
Strange as it seemed, it was also because she felt the most safe in this ceramic stall. With the rush of water through the pipes, bouncing off the glass door, the sound of her sobs were mostly drowned out. The steam wove a cocoon of warmth, closing her off from the rest of her world, clouding and obscuring the glass shower door. Everything waiting for her on the outside seemed far away, kept at bay by the hot water and steam. It was the only true retreat she had.
And each time, she stood there until the hot water tank gave up all it held.
Oren made his way closer and sat on the empty stump on the other side of the campfire. The two men sat there for a while before either of them said anything. Oren was not sure what this was about, or what was going on in this childhood friend’s head.
All he knew was that his was scrambling. Oren had remembered many of the kid’s names, but none of them seemed right. J? Yeah, it feels like it starts with a J. He has a J-name face. Jason? Jeremy? Jake? No.
The man finally spoke.
“Well Oren, how long do you think it has been?”, his eyes fixed on the frying pan. He had a small tray beside him with fresh fish fillets sitting in a seasoned flour mix. In the pan were two fillets, golden brown, almost done. The smell was incredible and immediately triggered hunger pangs in Oren’s stomach. In a short moment, he flipped them over to make sure they were done before reaching back for a metal camping plate and matching utensils. He lifted the pan off the fire, and slid the fish on to the plate with a swift move of the wrist. The man handed it to Oren before he could reach out his hand.
“Thank you”, Oren said. “It smells amazing. What kind of fish is it?”
“Some call it pickerel”, the man said.
“Where did you catch it?” There was no immediate answer, so he stretched out his question to fill in the silence. “I just came from a lake a few miles back. I could see the bottom for quite a distance it was so clear”, Oren followed up. “But I did not see anything swimming in it.”
That is as far as Oren went. He wanted to go on to describe how beautiful it was, but realized this guy might had been there just before him. The image of the black soiled footprints flooded his mind and it dampened his enthusiasm. How could he explain what happened without sounding crazy? Besides, he seemed like one of those “close with nature” types. He did not want to be associated with an oil spill if this guy grew up to be an angry tree-hugger.
“Trade secret”, the man looked up with the same wry grin. “I can’t reveal all my methods, now can I? Wouldn’t be much of a fisherman.” He added a wink.
Fisherman… something about that word? Oren’s mind triggered again. Fisherman… Fisher. His face fit the name. His memories were vague, and the four faces of his childhood friends all swam together in his mind. But something felt right about it. Oren knew he had to take a stab in the dark, or it would soon become awkward. It was obvious this man knew who he was. Their conversation had now extended too long to claw back to a cold introduction.
“Jesse”, Oren stated his question.
“I wasn’t sure you recognized me”, the man said. “Many years have gone by.”
“Of course I did”, Oren squeaked, then quickly changed the subject, afraid he wasn’t convincing. “This fish is incredible. I had no idea I was so hungry.” He shoveled another forkful into his mouth.
“You’re welcome. There is a lot more where that came from”, Jesse replied as he put two more fillets in the pan. It sizzled and sputtered in the hot butter.
…continued with Chapter 12