“I wonder what he was thinking.” Annabelle mused as she slowly walked around the marble sculpture. “I mean, he looks so…so…”
“Bored?” Harry supplied. He flipped through the brochure and sighed. “Can we go now? We’ve been in here forever.”
“Oh, shut up.” She flapped a hand at him. “We’ve got another area to cover and besides, you owe me.”
“Yeah, like you’ll ever let me forget it, too.” He grumbled.
Annabelle laughed at his pouting face. She linked her arms through his and kissed him on the cheek.
“Stop sulking. You know you like going to museums.”
Harry rolled his eyes and let his girlfriend drag him from the room.
He watched them go, perplexed as usual by the strange behaviors that transpired between men and women. Over the years the change in clothes, especially with the ladies, never failed to shock him. Exposing so much skin! Or even worse, wearing breeches! The men were dressed nicely enough, though he could never understand the fascination with the breeches hanging low to the knees. And the language!
If he could shake his head he would.
Some of the people that came to see him were actually quite nice. They whispered about him, pointed and even tried to take a picture. He wanted to warn them against that but the young lady sentry would come along and ask them not to do so. Sometimes it may be a young man…
He stopped forming attachments to the sentries that were posted at the door. They changed often, too often for him to study their habits. There was one, however, who had been there for a very long time.
Donald had been his name…
He remembered the first time Donald came to see him.
It was nighttime, the museum closed. Normally he would just content himself with remembered conversations he had overheard during the day but tonight, it was different. The sentry came into the room, walked right up to him and stared him in the eye.
At first he was affronted.
How dare this young man stare at him so deliberately? Granted, he knew his only purpose was for that but he felt provoked nonetheless. It was almost as if he were expected to say something.
He waited as Donald stood there.
After a long moment, Donald nodded and said that he would do. He admitted to being confused at the time. But gradually he found that Donald needed a friend, someone to just listen to him. His purpose was finally clear and he felt useful again.
Initially, the conversations revolved around studies and some silly girl named Beth who wanted to get married. Donald was hesitant. She kept pressuring him.
He listened to this for a few months until, eventually, Donald told him that Beth married his best friend, Albert and that the newlyweds moved to Nova Scotia soon afterward. Donald was relieved.
A couple of years passed by and then he was told about the new wife from Ohio named Lucy. They met during a concerto by a man named Who. He was happy for his friend.
He looked forward to these visits from Donald. As soon as the lights went out, he grew eager to see his friend, wondering what news he would have. It became his lifeline, his reason for happiness.
Over time, the conversations varied from Donald’s daughter’s first steps, to the arrival of twin boys, and to the passing of his mother, Gwendolyn. Donald’s children grew up and then his father, Milton, died when the twins graduated from college. Soon, there were several weddings, a divorce and then grandchildren. Donald had even brought one of his granddaughters in for a visit.
He didn’t know what the child had found so offensive about him as she cried the entire time. Donald had taken her away and the next time she was mentioned was when she had shaved her head and joined a musical group called the Screaming Eels or something like that. Donald had been quite horrified but made sure that his granddaughter had his undivided attention whenever she came to town.
His friend explained about mortgages, told him about a used car that finally died and how his wife had tripped over the youngest grandson’s skateboard, throwing out her new hip. Donald took a second job to pay down that medical expense. Then he and Lucy went to Las Vegas as soon as she got better.
He relished it all, thankful for every night that Donald spent with him.
Time marched on.
He saw the physical changes in Donald as well. The once dark brown hair became threaded with silver. The paunch grew in Donald’s midsection and his steps grew slower. The hands were thicker and not as quick.
Lucy passed away.
He wanted to comfort his friend but could only sit in silence as Donald broke down in tears. After that, his friend seemed to change.
Sometimes, Donald would stare into space.
Donald wore glasses now and started to nap during the night, his glasses perched on top of his thinning hair.
He was a little frustrated by this but could not fault his friend. Donald was a good man and deserved rest.
He just missed the chats.
Then it happened.
Donald was retiring. His granddaughter, she of the Screaming Eels, wanted him to come and live with her family down in Arizona. Donald was happy. He wanted to get away from the Canadian winters, said his old bones couldn’t stand it anymore.
He wanted to say to his friend how much it meant for him to share in his life. He wanted to say how he wished he wouldn’t go but knew that Donald had no idea of the thoughts that plagued him.
Then the last night arrived.
Donald came to stand before him and there were tears in those faded brown eyes. When Donald spoke, he felt the wealth of emotion behind the words of his friend.
“Thank you, my friend. Thank you for listening.”
He wanted to reply to him, to say something but he couldn’t.
He was absolutely shocked, however, when Donald raised a camera to take his picture. The flash blinded him but not the memory of seeing his friend, over the years, chase unruly youngsters who had tried to do the same exact thing.
When he vision cleared he saw his friend smile at him for one last time.
Then Donald was gone...
“Please don’t take pictures, thank you.”
The brisk voice of the sentry snapped him out of his memories.
He found himself looking at a young man that vaguely resembled Donald. The sentry had marched off, mumbling to himself.
The young man shrugged and snapped another picture anyway before moving to another exhibit. The sentry saw this and hurried back over, raising his voice. They started bickering, and then the young man darted around the sentry who began to give chase.
He smiled as he watched them, remembering...
© copyright 2011 by Ren Thompson May 9, 2011