“Ignorant Bliss” by John Fontana

Spread the love

He sat there sulking and tried to figure out what direction he was to head in towards home.  He could never think properly about directions any more…  In his youth, he had been the human compass, a virtual GPS thingy that all the kids were using now days to get around and get home. How he could have used one of those right now.

He was disorientated and nothing looked familiar.  A tennis court, a pond, a rather large crowd mingled around on the bright green lawn that encompassed everything and ducks swam on the pond in front of him.  The sun shown down on him in the warmth he always knew would make itself known in late spring.  May had been such a trying month for him – he had been lost on 2 occasions then and he had his niece…no, it was his daughter.  Yes, his daughter had come to pick him up twice from locations that were a lot more familiar than where he was now.

The world had moved on so much since he was able to enjoy a stroll and not get lost on his way to where he was trying for.  Heck, he used to try to get lost on his way home in order to see new places and possibly experience new things along the way.

This was a long way from that, however.

He grabbed for his wallet and clutched at denim instead – he had forgotten his wallet on the way out, or so it seemed.  Blast it!  He was really in a fix this time.  What was Amber’s phone number?  Where was his sweet child’s home phone number?   Yes, that’s what he needed right now and yet….  The numbers escaped him like words that you look to use to describe your affection in a unique way to the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.

A rather captivating tune was broadcast from a nearby radio, wandering through a refrain of Na Na Na’s that seemed to go on forever while you could also hear underlying tones and melody as the jolly chorus continued, enticing you to lose yourself in its joyful ruckus.  You couldn’t help to think that all was right in the world as such a feel-good ode complimented such a bright, sunny day.

But all wasn’t right for Thomas– Aha!  He didn’t forget everything!  He remembered his first name and that was a start.  Things hadn’t been quite right since Macy died on him last spring.  Oh how old the memories of his wife seem to be, yet how the most recent thoughts and occurrences seemed to escape him now.  Sometimes it was like he was peering into oblivion with each attempt at a thought.

Thomas remembered…coffee.  Bitter coffee and Amber telling him that he best be on real good behavior today because Dan was coming over and Dan had filled something inside her and was special to her.  Young love – well, not so young.  Dan and Amber were in their late 30’s.

Thomas thought to himself how it was remarkable how small details like that could come to him with clarity for one moment and the next he wasn’t sure if he had made a mess in his pants when he couldn’t find the bathroom.  He glanced around the park and the children playing by him – not scared to approach him – and thought that since he didn’t seem to be putting out a stench, he must be okay.  He sniffed the air and…yes, he was fine.  He wasn’t making the smell.  The goose shit around the paths to the park?  That was another story, but he was okay and that was what mattered.

Yet he wasn’t okay.  Not in any sense of the term.  He was in a park, somewhere, right?  Yes, that seemed like exactly where he was.  Children playing, tennis courts, a pond with geese on it and goose shit (“Don’t say that, dad!  Say ‘poo’!  You know I don’t like bad words!”) all over the paths around him while radios played.  People were generally enjoying a beautiful day in brilliant green surroundings.  Of course it was a park!  It was unquestionable and silly to think it could be anything less than that!  Now what had he been thinking about just a minute ago?  Starts with an “E”… No, a “C”, it had been…coffee.  Yes, bitter coffee was one memory that stood out with him.  Amber telling him that he had to behave himself with Dan coming over.  Thomas liked Dan and knew that Dan could take care of his darling child real well in the coming years.

Thomas stared blankly into his mental oblivion and after a moment or two could recall…a hockey game at…the Garden?  Most of the arenas now are dubbed the Garden though, or the Something-Center or Whatchamacallit-Forum or something else to that extent.  It was remembering hockey and that was the important part of everything.  He remembered being on ice– no, that wasn’t it, or that wasn’t the memory that was slipping in.  It was…Dan? Yes!  Dan and Thomas were at a hockey game together!  It had been years ago….  No, a few months ago….  No, no, that wasn’t it – it had been…last week?  Yes!  Another memory was now in hand!   Yes, it was just last week and Dan had asked Thomas to marry hi– no, wait a minute, that’s not right….

The ring, it was so beautiful.  He remembered how Macy had cried for two hours straight after he gave her that ring while they crossed the harbor from Cape Cod to Boston, and how she never left his side for 3 straight weeks after until they eloped in Lake Tahoe in California.  Oh what a blessed event that had been and how angry their parents had been at the time that these two kids ran off and sealed their futures with each other at such a young age. They bellowed to the couple during a heated confrontation, how they were convinced that things probably wouldn’t last a year.  Thomas remembered telling Macy on their first wedding anniversary, “And they thought this wouldn’t last.” before laying an impassioned kiss on her.

Suddenly an image of a statue marrying a princess jumped into his mind like an electroshock as color, movement, wild and erratic visions not centering on one thing or another all filled him like a whirlwind.  It was the freak show and he was full witness to it.   Yes, it was hell as Jesus Christ stood behind him and smacked him on the back of the head while telling him to “nap out of it, that “the grassy knoll was not the red carrot six feet under green comb cable….”

A child cried out and Thomas snapped up, awake, alert, on the green bench in the park.  What happened?  Had he dozed off?  Things really were tough right now and he had to figure out….  Oh hell, he had to figure out what he had to figure out for that matter! There had been a hockey game and a boy…no, a man.  A man asking permission to marry the eldest daughter of someone, but Thomas couldn’t remember who exactly except it was an old man.  He remembered looking at old hands and….  Those were his hands.  That was it – he was the old man and the man was asking permission to marry his daughter!  That was it!

But where was Amber right now?

Amber, he recalled, dressed up in a pumpkin outfit that Macy had sewn on that October when he had been laid off from the bank and there was little money around.  How thrilled his young daughter had been to take home such a bounty of candy…. and how Macy had made sweet love with him that night after Amber had been tucked away…  Macy whispered how life had been so perfect at that moment and that she couldn’t live without her darling companion.

He let out a soft moan as a pain erupted in his chest thinking of Macy – the heartache of not having his life love in his company any more — and soon all was quiet around him.  The sun seemed to glare the brightest he could ever recall as an adult, but softer than the vibrant hues of childhood.  He started to let his mind wander and found himself both awake and dreaming a surreal dream at the same time.  The dream was life going on around him – in spite of him – and he closed off to the world in a protective bubble that was his thoughts, his recollections… Or at least what he hoped he could recall.

He remembered….coffee.  Bitter coffee and how Amber had always been lousy making it.  She wanted him to be on his best behavior (the wild old man that he was had made several crude jokes in the company of others in his time – both youth and old age) because Dan was going to be there and how much Dan meant to her.  He had kept the secret really well of he and Dan slipping away to a hockey game the week before and how Thomas got through the game with (mostly) a clear mind.  Dan had talked endlessly about Amber and Thomas urged him to speak up with what was going on that his little Ammy was suddenly the only thought in Dan’s brain.

“Well, sir,” Dan had begun, “you see, I want to…  Oh this is silly; you won’t even remember me asking this in 2 days….” Dan had said with apprehension.  He was uneasy about things and it was clear he needed a friend right then and there. It was not like he was going to find that support from any of the others at the game, especially not right now; the Rangers were starting a power play with the game scoreless in the mid third period.

It was odd, this day of clarity for Thomas.  These hours of lucidity and being able to go through this with this young man was perchance the Holy Spirit passing one final blessing his way during a long and eventful life?  Being able to know that there was someone who had his daughter so much in his heart and on his mind that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her?

Thomas grabbed Dan’s arm with a force that Dan or anyone else wouldn’t expect him to be able to exert, thinking his strength was long gone.  Thomas then looked him straight in the eyes with a fire that Dan had never witnessed from him before.  He probably was seeing something that no one had seen in 5 years – this fire that raged from Thomas’ eyes when something he felt passionately about provoked and stirred his very soul.

“Dan, I take my daughter very seriously.”  Thomas had said.  “What do you want to ask me?”  He had spoken clearly, precisely.  Not a dribble, not a mumble, not a babble, not anything Dan had seen much of the past 3 years while he had begun involved with Amber.  In this one second of one instant in one day, both men’s minds were clear and there was nothing that made them second guesses what they were saying.  Thomas was experiencing this event for the last time, perhaps.  Dan, on the other hand, likely had a ways to go before he had to fear losing his love and then losing his mind.

“I want to ask for your blessing to marry your daughter, Thomas.”  Dan used no hesitation, this time.  No second-guessing making his statement.  No babble, no verbal foreplay, no whining, no eluding, just a balls-to-the-wall, play-your-hand-or-be-damned honest, direct statement that came out with so much ease that it made Thomas proud to see Dan standing up for himself.  He had seen Dan tap-dancing around issues so many times in day-to-day life, but seemingly with this old lion clutching his arm, ready to devour him alive, it didn’t give him the option to be wishy-washy on this issue.  Thomas speculated that Dan wondered how Thomas had pulled this off, the strength and passion that he was witnessing.  After all, the Thomas Dan had known up to this point was a guy who was known for drooling at times while watching “I Love Lucy” re-runs.

This question hit Thomas in two ways: At first it hurt him thinking he was going to lose his daughter after all, but then the second wave of everything swept over him.  He looked at Dan sternly and unclamped his hand from around Dan’s forearm.

“You will support my daughter, yes?”  Thomas posed.

“Of course,” Dan answered immediately.

“Honor and love her in sickness and health?” Again, Thomas quizzed.

“There’s nothing I want more right now, sir.” Again, Dan answered immediately.

“You’ll treat her sweet, make her happy, all that?”   Thomas asked him with his final question.

“I love Amber, sir.”  Dan told him.  “I have no direction in life without her and I couldn’t live without having her as my partner in life.”

Thomas looked away for a moment, reflective, contemplating.  He knew the answer to this full well and of course the building up on providing an answer was just a technicality.  All of this was just a technicality and, God bless him, Dan had decided to face this technicality when he could very well have just brushed off the old man as nothing.

Thomas looked at Dan again, his eyes showing that fire once more and he could see a tremble in the grown man before him. Never in Dan’s life, Thomas thought, had an old man whom he generally didn’t know (except through stories Amber shared with him) intimidated him so much.   It wasn’t a common occurrence anymore for young people to be old-fashioned enough that the Father’s blessing mattered and without it things were marked as damned between two lovers. Dan was aware of it and sought approval, earning him extra points in Thomas’ mind.

Thomas, the tribal elder, the old lion, the father of the woman Dan was in love with, opened his mouth.  He was ready to issue his decree and there was thunder through the arena (“GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!”), the rafters shook as this God issued the words that would shape Dan’s life from this day forward…

“Who are you?” Said the kindly old gentlemen standing before him, his eyes had spaced out and glazed over again, which caused Dan’s face to take on a dumbfounded expression.  Clearly the kid felt foolish and in shock all at once.  Then the crack of a smile formed on Thomas’ old weathered face.  A twinkle of life returned to his eyes and a wink came forth.  Dan gasped at what had to be the strangest event in years as Thomas grabbed his shoulder and laughed as he issued a very hearty “Son!”

That day, that instant, seemed to span an epoch from where Thomas was right now.

 

Where was he?  Denver?  No!  Denver’s where John goes to sing ridiculous hick songs with falsetto flares and pisses off the country music crowd at award shows.  This was, a….  Goose farm!  Honk, honk, honk, honk!  They waddled around as several children tossed bread to them on that bright green lawn besides the pond…

Wait.  This was a pond?  Bitter coffee….no, a pond….no, bitter coffee and Amber screaming that she couldn’t stand him any more and throwing dishes in his direction.  The china – oh that bitch, those were your mother’s!  Macy had left Amber that china in her last Will and Testament!  Macy had received those dishes after there had been peace forged between her parents and the happy couple after they ran off and got married.   How dare you destroy something of your mother’s!  How dare you attack me!  I’m your father!  I’m….  I’m…

“Oh my god, I’ve lost my mind.”  Thomas spoke to no one there.

The light picked up another notch around him and everything shined with soft hues of the brilliant colors that this spring day had brought out.  Everything in that instant became apparent and at the same time everything was lost.  The park bench where Thomas sat was not more than a mile from Amber’s home that Thomas had moved into after Macy had died of cancer in the retirement home last year.  This park, these fields, that pond – he had saved it 4 times over with donations and finally purchasing the land and giving it to the state to be preserved as a memorial to city servicemen that lost there lives protecting local citizens and helping restore order to the chaos in there oft-thankless jobs.

He had cried all day when Macy died.  There was no reason to go on and there was every reason to take the easy way out.  He knew that Alzheimer’s had destroyed most of his mind and ravaged the very fabric of relations with his sweet daughter whom he had always tried to protect from the evils of the world.  How thrilled he had been that Dan wanted to marry Amber.  That was the last straw in this life – knowing that his only daughter would be taken care of and that someone he genuinely liked – even through his delusions – would be there for her.

So a few hours ago, Amber started talking to him about being on his best behavior because Dan was coming over and she wanted to impress him.  In this moment of clarity he knew that Amber was clueless as to how Dan was already comfortable dealing with her father.   Amber had been in a hurry, pulling on a blouse and buttoning it up and that’s when he had commented on the coffee that he had insisted on drinking.

It was bitter and Amber wasn’t going to take the complaining any more.

The plates started flying from the cupboard and she screamed like a banshee as all her life stress and frustration finally came to a head.  She had been looking forward to this day out with Dan and her father had spoiled so many days out before that she thought it was impossible for her to ever find contentment again.  She began to sob and wail as she launched cup after dish at him – not knowing that what she was destroying was her last tangible possession that linked her to the mother.

The result of this barrage was Thomas fleeing.  Amber screamed and chased him to the door and he fled her rage, fury, hurt and all other emotions that had erupted.  She made no effort to chase after him as she slammed the door behind him, screaming and sobbing all the while.

He trotted, ambled and stumbled away from the scene of the crime.  It seemed like miles in his warped perception, but it was only a matter of blocks.  His memory of what happened soon began to only run in vague circles around the coffee and Dan before he reached his park, his bench, his perch, and his peace there on one of the last spring days of the year where the sun shown down brightly upon the waters, where children laughed and melodies with seemingly endless layers played through the air.  Where the mood was jolly and the oppression that his life had become could only haunt him in the prison that was his mind.

Thomas wept in his hands, the moment of truth had come and gone and he thought for sure he would not recall any of this in a few moments.  He wished them to be gone; he wished his realization would just leave him and let him enjoy the ignorance, the incompetence and the mundane insistence of his meaningless life.  This was the moment he truly hit rock bottom.  He could think of other times in his life where he had been close to the bottom before – his parents telling him to annul the marriage to Macy, or the 5 miscarriages that Macy had over the years that he blamed on himself for some odd reason. There was the time he was laid off from the bank and how he had felt worthless for what seemed like a century. All of those forays and so many frustrations in his life paled in comparison to this.

Amid the sobs he didn’t notice the hush around him as if everyone, everything, every instant upon itself focused on him and his pinnacle of being.  He did not notice the soothing shushing that approached him, like wreaths being blown in the wind.  The sound grew in volume and closeness

“Thomas, please don’t cry,” A gentle female voice asked.  “You’re my strength.  I can’t stand it when you cry.”  This startled Thomas and brought him back from the depths of his self-pity.  A hand took his shoulder and touched it soothingly, shushing him gently again and then rubbing feminine hands against his shoulder.

His mind swirled – who could be here telling him this now?  Her strength?  He’d never be someone’s strength again and the ridiculousness of that statement was almost insulting.  He gasped several sobs before looking up to see who in their right mind would be here telling him this now.

Macy stood over him and smiling her soft smile before shushing him and trying to sooth ills once more.

His heart melted and his eyes welled and there was no end to his elation as he bore witness to his wife standing before him.  He didn’t care what the circumstances were.  He did not care about anything in this world at this point; he just cared about whom stood there.  He stood and embraced her, crying all the while as he held his angel whom he had met on a ferry crossing.  The only person, the only thing in this world that could ever elevate him from his lows and make him whole again clasped her hands around him tightly and rubbed on his back.

She shushed him again and again, the soothing sounds of a mother with her child as he held her tightly…. He cried himself out and then held her arms tightly and pushed her a distance away so he could see her in her beauty.  This wasn’t the woman that he had witnessed die last year but the woman at the age he married her.  Her curly brown hair shown vibrantly in the sun and the white gown she wore resembled the simple dress she had worn at their elopement.

She took his right hand and stroked his cheek and the wrinkles, the stubble on his face that he expected to feel her hand rub against were gone.  He looked at his hands and he saw his youth restored.

He stepped away in momentary confusion and then spoke in realization, “I’m dead, aren’t I?”

“Yes, sweetheart, you are,” she said solemnly as she walked with bare feet across the grass to him again before hugging him warmly, laying her cheek against his shoulder.  At this point roles reversed and she cried lightly as she held him.  “You don’t know how much I’ve missed you, Thomas.  You don’t know how hard it is to be here alone.”   He stroked her gentle mane, feeling the curls tangle in his fingers.

It seemed like hours passed while Thomas clinched his wife who he had longed for.  There was so much that he wanted to tell her, but nothing was spoken.  There was so much that he wanted to share with her but nothing was brought out.  There was so much he wanted to cry to her about but there was this feeling of mutuality on things that nothing needed to be said.

Finally she spoke, reciting her joy at being with him again and telling him that they both could move on now.  How she had been waiting for him.

He didn’t care at about what this meant; he didn’t care where they were going.  Sure, the thought stood out in his mind but he suppressed them for the time.  Everything would come to pass soon enough.  They were starting out again as they were when they left Lake Tahoe all those years ago, instead of ending up as they had been in the retirement home.  And as long as they took this journey together, nothing could even come close to fazing him.

She took his hand and they sat down on the bench together, she looked into his eyes and kissed him with the affection of a woman who had been out of the grasp of her lover for years on end.

“I love you Macy.  I will never stop loving you.”  Thomas said with joy in his voice.

“I love you too, Thomas,” She smiled at him.  “Never forget that.  Never forget there is someone who finds strength in you and needs you as much as you need them,” A tear ran down her cheek, “I’ll see you again soon, darling.”

Thomas’ ignorant confusion resumed almost immediately.

 

The colors screamed at him and the day was – well, when was it?  Where was he?  What was he doing here?  How the heck did he get here in the first place?  What was that noise with people yelling so nice together?  Oh the humanity!  Thomas thought for sure he had lost all control of his senses at this point and what had just happened was a delusion of epic proportions and– wait?  Was he even Thomas?  Who was he?  Why was he??  Sound!  Color!  Light!  The maelstrom of it all overwhelmed him and it was like he had never experienced any of it before, none of it at all!

He cried; he was lost, he didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know how to get back to safety.  It was like an apex of another sort; self-realization of life in itself.  He glanced around wildly and wailed and thought of the scene he was making from it all.  No one glanced, no one looked, and no one stopped what he or she was doing to see why he cried like he did.  What he sat on did not feel right…nothing felt right in fact; he wanted to get up and run screaming to infinity.

He pushed himself off where he sat and fell, scraping his knee in a bloody mess.  He thought things had been wrong a moment ago?  They just got a hell of a lot worse as the pain came roaring through his knees.

His cries were now hitting an octave he couldn’t remember being able to reach.  Then again, he could remember nothing at all.  The pain, the humiliation, it was all too much!  He wanted to just curl up in the safety of her arms and her embrace and breathe in her sweet scents and just live again.  But alas it was so far away; it was so close as well.  Hadn’t we just sat down on that bench and….?

That’s when the shushing returned, mid thought, mid-wail, mid-sob, mid-blather.  This one was much more insistent but nonetheless soothing like Macy’s.  Someone, a woman, called to him with concern, picking him up off the pavement and carrying him in her arms.  He recognized the scent of the woman that rescued him and at the same time he had no knowledge of their identity.  Something told him, however, that there was safety here with this person and everything would be ok now.   The feminine scent, the softness of her touch all told him so, and yet he also knew so instinctively when she had arrived

Between sobs he looked around and saw men in funny suits talking to – HEY!  I know her!  That’s…. her!  I know her!  She tried to…. wait, what was she doing?  Coffee…. plates…scream…and that guy next to her!  I know him!  Ice, I can remember ice and….and…. 

 

            As little Thomas Baker was taken in his mother’s arms after he fell off a bench in Fireman’s Park, they passed the sad sight of a woman and what appeared to be her husband or boyfriend dealing with paramedics and police.  The woman was obviously hysterical and sobbing how she had killed someone by throwing him out, while the man held her tenderly to try to sooth her.

Megan Baker and her months-old toddler had arrived at noon and there had been a scene when an old man died on a park bench.  Megan had gone to investigate what had happened and left Tommy for a moment on a bench similar to the one that Mr. Thomas Broadhearst, former President of Underland National Bank and Trust, passed away upon a few yards away.

When Tommy and his mother finally arrived home, Tommy’s wounds were tended to and he was tucked into his crib for an afternoon nap.  This was the moment Thomas experienced the last recollection of his previous life, recalling Macy and her final words to him before he arrived wherever he was now: How she would always love him and that he was her strength, and that they would be together soon.  He found comfort in his knowing that they would meet again in the future. Sleep came to him quickly with her thought on his mind.  The ignorant bliss of childhood would soon engulf him yet be erased as he founded himself and his being  The memories of whom he had once been  would be but ashes in a burning furnace.