In the cab on our way to Queens, Agnes and I spoke about Gerry and the declining condition of his illness, how there was no stage five, and the house I’d reluctantly inherit from him shortly. Agnes felt mixed emotions, happy for my new found stability and sad for Gerry and his plight. Agnes felt what I felt everyday. A tug of war between those two feelings, like a child in the midst of a nasty custody dispute between two extreme emotions. Being trapped in the center of a constant push and pull.
We kissed often during the ride home and I quietly admired her as she spoke to me, I watched her lips move while wanting them on me, her face was where I wanted it to be, close to mine, her soft hand in mine, with a leg hung over mine. Ichabod pawed at us, trying to separate us or trying to join us with sloppy licks. I’d use the baseball to appease and distract Ichabod, though he’d quickly drop it on the floor of the taxi and try to get back in the mix. The signature and number on the hardball was smeared with saliva, but I knew the name. I never forget, and I never forgive.
Before leaving 534 for the final time I stole a memento, a little keepsake for sentimental reasons I suppose. I lifted the sign. All Guests Must Be Announced, it declared. During my tenure this sign had caused some minor unpleasant situations. As I killed time in the lobby I thought about the sign metaphorically. The guests in this analogy were invisible and plenty. The guests were my negative thoughts, my anxiety, my distress, my self doubts, my repressed trauma, all of it mixing together and barging into my conscience, they showed up unannounced and imposed heavily upon me.
The sign would hang in the foyer of my new house. Hung by the nail I borrowed from Murphy and hammered into the wall with a tool Gerry may have used to crush a target’s skull. Certain objects around the house would bring that thought into mind. Did he? I’d ask myself, and I hoped he had.
The song on the classic rock radio station was Patti Smith’s Because the Night. Maybe I’d like Bruce Springsteen’s songs if Patti sang them.
The night belonged to us. The partition between us and the driver was filthy, and the roads needed paving. Everything needs maintenance, I thought. Kranepool was a life lesson in perseverance. An oath to not give anyone the power to dispel my significance. My existence value would not depreciatiate, I wouldn’t permit it.
I had favorite writers and songs but I never had a favorite saint before. And now I would be mindful of Saint Dymnpha, I’d always be on the lookout for the lass, keeping a candle lit in her honor during the darkest nights. I sought mental clarity. My war with sadness was to the death, though I no longer wanted to repeat the same mistakes. My mental health would be a work in progress, an ongoing battle. The search for something pure in this wicked world was a heartbreaking hunt. Nothing is ever easy. Rich man, poor man, no one was happy, but no fault in trying. I did not want to be defined by my illness or my trauma. It could be a part of me, but not all of me.
I wanted mental clarity. I wanted to be present when I was with Agnes. I no longer wanted to drift off and occupy a vile space inside my head. I touched the skin that was draped beautifully over her cheek bone with the back of my hand to attest that this was real. That this was really happening. Nothing was guaranteed, I knew that better than anyone. One of us would most likely fuck this up. What was the chance of survival? What would be our Bligh reef?
Whether it lasted a week or an eternity I wanted to reflect on that night as being the beginning, where two people fell madly in love and started a life together. I wanted to look back fondly on the night I made a valiant attempt to ignore the voices, and vowed to make no concessions to my depression. I’d think about how that night I shed a layer of myself, I molted in the back of that cab, and eulogized my past lives. And I’d wonder how all this time my mind would never be right, but I could endure and all I ever needed to pull through was the right woman and a good dog.