As she often did, Mandy wanted to see the sunrise, but she missed it while struggling to get up and make herself a much needed cup of coffee. Her mug in hand, along with her favorite magazine, she walked out onto her front porch to enjoy the tranquility of the fresh, new day. She thought she caught something out of her peripheral vision and was quite caught off guard. A bit startled, she did not immediately recognize the sleeping figure to her left. Even more startled, she soon realized what she was seeing.
“Lloyd? What are you doing here?”
Lloyd didn’t move a muscle at her response, sleeping fairly soundly, too soundly to know that he should have already been in his car and long gone.
Again, she asked, “Why are you on my porch? Lloyd! Lloyd!” She nudged him in the shoulder a few times. Was he drunk? There was no smell of alcohol on him.
Now she had roused him out of his slumber, and Lloyd flinched. He was dumbfounded and needed a minute to get his bearings. With a sheepish smile, he slowly sat up and produced a pretty long yawn, stretching out his arms to shake off the night. He was in a rumpled T shirt and jeans, and certainly could have used a blanket.
Just what her brother doing on her gliding patio couch anyhow, acting like a hobo? Getting it together, he responded, “I just didn’t want to be there...couldn’t handle it last night.”
Mandy’s heart sank. “You mean you were afraid to be home by yourself”, she confirmed to his confession.
He nodded, reluctantly, and slumped back in a slouched position. Mandy handed him her cup of coffee. He needed it more than she did, and he was glad to have it. Her feet in fuzzy slippers shuffled back to the front door as she stopped, turned towards him and said to him, “If it wasn’t summer out I’d call you completely and utterly crazy. You know you could have just told me what really was going on in your head, and I’d have let you sleep on the couch. All you needed to do was to ask—no not ask—tell—tell me instead of making my front porch your hotel room. What kind of sister do you think I am?” She wasn’t sure that her little lecture got through his thick skull.
Before she opened up the door, she threw her little brother a slight glance of compassion and said, “I’ll make us some breakfast…”
Mandy asked their brother, Bill, if Lloyd was acting strangely in his company, as well. He said, “Yeah, he hangs around here a lot more than he used to. We have him over for dinner a lot, and I know he feels like an intruder…though he never says it. Karen never complains and the kids like having their uncle around.” Bill paused and added, “He used to be so much fun, but I see the difference. I see when he pretends with the kids, and see how it is when he is more alone. He probably doesn’t think I notice. I notice”.
Bill and Mandy always looked after their little brother. A gregarious boy, he always loved attention. Getting that attention often meant getting himself into trouble. He found himself in the principal’s office more than once—pulling the fire alarm was a prank that got him two days suspension. It could also be graffiti, clowning around in class, coming in with a jar of spiders to freak other students out, or initiating skipping school with his friends made him a big target for trouble.
When it was Devil’s Night, there was one demon that could be counted on for soaping windows and tossing toilet paper up trees. It seemed like harmless kids stuff, but it got Lloyd caught and in his room for punishment for one, whole week after school. It seemed he was grounded all the time, and his mother often delivered his punishment, but she still held a soft spot for her son.
Lloyd had his redeeming qualities. Everyone thought Lloyd would be great in the drama club in high school, not one timid bone in his body, and he could captivate an audience. He’d be great for the stage. So when the school was putting on the play, Fiddler On The Roof, Lloyd got to be understudy for the role of Tevya. When Joe Schwinn came down with a really bad cold, Lloyd finally got his chance to get on stage.
It was just that Lloyd had such a huge task to be the lead role for this production. It wasn’t that he didn’t learn the lines, but it was a tall order to fill. He was doing a pretty good job, but he was adlibbing all throughout the play, getting a few, unexpected laughs here and there. But when it came time for Tevya to confront his third daughter and her Gentile boyfriend for wanting to marry outside his Jewish faith, Lloyd really started to get stumped. He couldn’t think of his next line, and everything got uncomfortably quiet. He soon blurted out, “Leave my daughter alone and don’t come back, you **** *******!”
It got him the biggest laugh of the night, but also booted out of the drama club and back into the principal’s office the next school day. Nevertheless, Lloyd got lots of high fives from other students, had a blast, and loved having his moment in the limelight.
Being the youngest in the family, Lloyd’s immaturity made his parents’ hair turn grey—at least that is what his father told him. After taking the family car out for spin to impress his friends, when he only had his permit, Lloyd got into a minor fender ******. He was afraid to call his dad, but the police never gave it a second thought.
His father was furious. “Bill and Mandy, put together, never gave us even an inch of the trouble you give us!” he shouted to his son. For that foolish gesture, Lloyd did not get his license at sixteen, like his friends did. He had to wait until he could legally sign for his own, and that was at eighteen. It wasn’t cool to wait while all his friends were driving their own cars.
But now Lloyd was thirty-one. He seemed to have learned his lessons, and was a fairly responsible man. He was glad his mother lived to be proud of him, before cancer took her life. He still did not feel he was that much of an accomplishment to his father, and they only talked occasionally. It was like his dad blamed him for her passing, and Lloyd would have done anything to have her back.
In contrast to his funny, devil-may-care side, Lloyd had the more serious, thought provoking side. When his report card wasn’t as full of A grades—like Bill or Mandy’s—he would beat himself up over it. In spite of his shenanigans, he was actually a very good student
He really missed his mom. Though she often wanted to shake some sense into him, still she always believed in him. Now Mandy kind of took up that roll in her place. Even after he could make her angry, his mom would not hesitate to sit him down and tell him things like, “I’m proud of you Lloyd. It’s not what you do. It is who you are…and you are my son.” If only he could hear those words again from her lips.
Why would he want to go home to an empty house? Especially, the nights were the hardest. The digital clock by his bed seemed to be frozen in time, and the nightmare of insomnia seemed endless.
After knowing him for over six years, with four-and-a half years of married life together, Pamela left him. She once loved him-- or so he thought. She loved his crazy side—his humor and his fun loving nature. Maybe it was the miscarriage that did it. They both wanted children. Maybe it was because Pamela felt sheltered all her life, and soon discovered that marriage would be the way she envisioned it. Maybe it was him--period. Anyway, she left Lloyd and it tore a hole in his soul. On top of that, he was denied a promotion in the office that went to someone else who didn’t work there as long as he did. The group of friends that he had known much of his life grew apart. Life was caving in around him and he felt helpless to do anything about it.
It was Mandy who came up with the idea running through her mind. She told Bill, but he was against it and told her to stay out of it. Well, Mandy’s friend, Libby, was cousins with Tammy. It was Tammy who lived down the street from Lindsay and was acquainted with her. Mandy usually never played matchmaker, but she found out that Lindsay was divorced, too, and without any children. Since she dated Lloyd several years ago, at least they weren’t embarking on like some blind date that nobody really wanted to meet up with.
Sure, Lloyd was lonely, but it wasn’t for Lindsay. He was lonely for Pamela. How could his sister expect him to just get over her? She, too, was alone, almost married her longtime boyfriend, but backed out. Didn’t she understand? But Mandy made Lindsay her Facebook friend, and told her all about the latest with her brother. Though he was a bit perturbed, Lloyd knew his sister meant well. Soon, upon Mandy’s recommendation, Lindsay sent Lloyd a Facebook request to be her friend.
They never had dated all that long—less than a year. Lindsay reminded him of that duration of time when he first came over for a visit to sit out on her deck in her back yard. To shut Mandy up, he agreed to see her at least once. By now, the feelings for her had long passed. They were once an item together, but it was over a decade ago. They seemed like just kids at the time, though they were twenty-years-old at the time. Lindsay was actually two months older.
“My mom was so upset when she knew I had been drinking with you”, she told him. “You remember?”
Lloyd lifted up his beer in irony and Lindsay lifted hers as they clunk their bottles together. They both burst out laughing, a rarity for both. “I know. She would never allow liquor in your house”, Lloyd said, “Strict Baptist lady, for sure!”
Lindsay teased him. “Oh, you’re such a bad influence! Mom was right!”
“I was!” he exclaimed. “We were underage and lucky no harm came of it other than some **** in the toilet. No wonder your mom wanted you to ditch me!”
Lindsay always tried to please her mother who single handedly raised her only daughter. That was hard to do, though no matter what Lindsay did. She liked Lloyd a lot, but she also loved her mom. But just where was there relationship going anyway.
“You know”, Lindsay confessed. “You were my first, real love”. She playfully winked and sipped on her beer. “I love bad boys”.
It was like the rebel in Lindsay was delayed, not like it was in her younger years. She always tried to be the good girl, the dutiful daughter, unlike Lloyd. The two were in the same grade, and went to the same high school, but they barely knew of each other in those days. They were never in the same class together and only saw each other in passing down the school halls. Her locker was once across from his. Lindsay did remember, though, his famous role as Tevya, and thinking about it again made her crack up like it just happened the other day.
“You are so much more laid back”, he told her. “I guess your mother was always there to crack the whip, but not anymore. How is she, by the way?”
Lindsay looked sad for Lloyd as she said, “Like your mom, she got cancer, but thank God she recovered. She moved to Florida a few years ago because my brother and his wife insisted the climate would be better for her.” It was actually a relief to not have to rely on her mother. She now had no excuses. “Sorry to hear about your mother, Lloyd. My condolences.”
Lloyd appreciated her condolences. They reminisced a while, but neither one wanted to talk about the pain of being alone nor express the pain of feeling like utter losers. Lindsay wanted to open up about her two failed marriages, but she also wanted to forget about them. Lloyd was never one to share his innermost thoughts to her. He certainly didn’t want to tell her that he preferred to sleep in his car or on his sister’s front porch or that he tried not to cry because guys don’t do that, struggling with the lump in his throat from holding back so much.
After talking about their times at the lake, of how they loved to lay on the ground and look at the stars, Lindsay finally said, “I don’t really want to date anyone at this time. I don’t really feel like doing a lot, lately, that I used to do.”
Lloyd didn’t look at her, but felt her eyes upon him. “I know what you mean”, he agreed. “Depression *****, doesn’t it?”
“I know”, she responded. “I’ve been seeing this counselor for a while, another one, and I guess it helps. I wondered if I’d ever feel anything again. I just often felt like I was going through the motions…and that it was the best way to just get along in life.”
Lloyd didn’t know what to say. Often, he felt the same way, but he just couldn’t voice it. Would he ever want to share his life again with another woman? No, Pamela wasn’t coming back. Everyone told him so, especially Mandy. She never really felt that good about him marrying Pamela to start with, but it wasn’t up to her. It was over. Lloyd logically knew that about Pamela, but emotionally he still wasn’t there.
“I pretend a lot”, Lindsay told him. “I mean I do what I’m supposed to do—go to work, pay my mortgage and my bills…I’m just existing but not living. I’ve made my mistakes, and now I’m afraid—period. I prefer playing it safe. I prefer not to feel.” She smiled to lighten the atmosphere and rested her hand on his. “Now how’s that for a good catch phrase for a dating website?”
Lloyd pondered upon what she said. He could have easily said it himself. Eventually, he stood up and extended his hand out. He decided they should go for a walk. It was about three and a half miles to the park they used to hang out in—a good spot. They walked hand in hand, like they were still together. The wind blew through Lindsay’s hair and spread it around like plant life in the ocean, soft and swaying. She was lovely.
They got to the park and Lloyd pushed her on her swing, higher and higher until she felt like a little girl again. Then they went down the slides and the balance beams. Lindsay would tickle him in the back to try to get him off balance, or she’d push him off and he would pretend to chase her and give it to her. They truly enjoyed each other’s company. Being together really banished the blues for the time, and kept the ugly thoughts of loneliness at bay and from rearing its ugly face.
“So where do we go from here?” Lindsay asked.
“Huh?” Lloyd wondered what she was getting at. Did she mean for the park or in a deeper way?
“Can we be friends?” she asked him. She seemed uneasy, as if he would say, “Thanks, but no thanks”.
Lloyd felt a bit uneasy himself. He never wanted to hurt Lindsay, or Pamela or anyone. “Of course we can,” he told her. He said what he meant, too. He really wanted to spend time with her. “Let’s just enjoy things for what they are”.
Lloyd picked up some pieces of mulch, and threw them one by one, ahead of him. He asked Lindsay, “Was I really your first love?”
Lindsay thought a moment, and then pulled him by the arm, taking Lloyd to one of the picnic tables. She inspected it. No, it wasn’t that one. She looked at another table. No, it wasn’t that one, either. And then she went to another one.
He asked, “What are you doing?”
“Found it!” she said at last. Lloyd looked at the table, and among all the carvings in it, Lindsay pointed out what she intended to find.
Lloyd loves Lindsay
“Did I write that?” he asked. He didn’t remember it. He ran his hands over the indented letters surrounded by an uneven heart.
They both sat down and Lindsay explained. “All the time that we were together, I knew I was really starting to like you. I mean really, really like. I wasn’t sure at first, but the feelings just got stronger. I just didn’t want to be the first one to say it—and I thought you’d never!” Her eyes beamed as she went on. “Then it happened. You said, ‘Baby, I love you”. I said, ‘What? Did I just hear what I think I heard?’ Again, you said, ‘Lindsay, I really love you’. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I never thought you’d say it, but I hoped you would!”
Now he remembered. At the time, he was carving something into the table with his pocket knife. When he finally got the urge to tell Lindsay that he loved her, she asked to borrow his knife and right then she wrote it in the table. Lloyd than took back his knife and topped it all off with outlining those words in a heart.
Lloyd truly did love Lindsay. He didn’t lose those feelings after all. To know she loved him back was like medicine to him now. They began to walk back to her house