Commitment. It was one thing that Charlie didn’t have an issue with. He drove through the winding streets to his mother’s house thankful for the early morning sun to keep him from falling asleep. He normally would spend the next couple hours with his mother before he went home to crash in his bed for five or six hours. But this day he had told Jenny that he would help her out this afternoon. As much as he wanted to beat himself up over the commitment, he enjoyed helping people too much.
Charlie walked into his mother’s house calling for her while he brought in her mail. He walked through the living room picking up blankets and gathering dishes, “Mom. You still in bed?”
Delores emerged from the hallway taking the small steps that were common in women over eighty. “Charles? Is that you?”
Charlie rushed over to help his mom as she made her way towards the kitchen where they typically would chat. He held her arm and slowly walked her to her favorite chair. She was a small lady, showing her age with stark white hair and an inability to stand perfectly erect anymore. It was a strange sight for Charlie because it reminded him of his grandmother. Every time he came over, he could see that circle of life where we become our parents. Of course he never would mention this to his mother, it was the last person she would want to become.
“How are things Charles?” Delores asked the question out of habit more than anything.
Once he was sure his mother was situated in her seat, he headed over to the sink to work on the dishes flipping the thermostat down to the lower eighties on the way. “Everything is good mom. I am working on some website copy, a couple of text ads for emails, and my screenplay.” He said these things trying to sound annoyed, but any time someone asked about his life he felt it was a jab at his lack of success.
“You are going to do so well. Your father and I just know that this bachelor’s degree is going to take you places.” She said the words in almost a sing song way. She smiled and looked down at the tablecloth comparing her skin to its pink and white flowers.
Charlie sighed and went to the fridge to get the pitcher of water. He poured a glass and brought it to his mother. “Mom, do you remember me telling you I was dropping out of school to be a writer?” He placed his hand on her shoulder as gently as possible knowing that this startling news from two decades ago was going to upset her, but it was what the doctor had suggested they do.
“Oh. Well.” She focused on her water. “You still have your whole life in front of you. Just don’t be afraid to go back to school honey.” She used both hands to bring the glass of water to her mouth similar to a child.
Charlie agreed with his mom but wanted to tell her he didn’t have his whole life in front of him. He dropped out of school twenty years ago and had been struggling ever since. He wanted to tell her that her failing brain was tormenting him day after day reminding him that he should have gone back, that for twenty years he ignored that advice. But in the end, he just smiled and said, “I will remember mom.”
Some days were better than others. Some days Delores knew she was in her eighties. Some days she knew her husband had been gone for six years. Some days she even knew that everyone thought of her as an old senile woman. She never mentioned that, but some days it was clear to her.
But as usual Charlie sat with his mom for a few hours and told her about his life. “You will never guess what Randy did. I don’t get him.” Charlie rolled his eyes at the stupidity of one of his oldest friends. “We met this girl last night, Jenny. She is a writer too.”
Delores perked up, “Grandkids?”
“Mom, I just met this girl. And what I was going to tell you was Randy was hitting on her right in front of Missy.” He paused for a second but recognizing the confusion on his mother’s face he added, “His fiancé.”
“Men are terrible! Your father used to make eyes at other ladies, but I always put him in his place. When he gets home, he will tell you.” She thought for a second to herself, “But if Randy is spoken for then there may be a chance for little grandbabies running around my house.”
He smiled and nodded. It wasn’t something that had crossed his mind, it never did when he met women. His life was pretty full as it was and there was no chance, he was having children at his age, but he did think there was something sweet that even in senile state she was still putting the idea of love into his head.
The continued their chat for a couple of hours, but Charlie had made plans with Jenny and he was going to keep them. He kissed his mother on the forehead and told her to have a good day. He would drop by tomorrow hoping that they could continue their conversation, but he knew there was a chance he would have to start over.
He left the house and headed back to the diner. The trip was filled with the moments when he would feel himself drifting towards sleep but would shake himself back to reality. He kept the windows down and the music loud, but his mind continued to drift. He reminisced over his parents and his younger self. He wondered if his mother was right and maybe he should be looking at this girl in a romantic way. And he tried to find a new angle for the end of the world screenplay he had been working on for over three months.
The drive took the twists and turns that kept him somewhat alert until he reached the diner. He got out grabbed a table for two and was seated in the back corner where he would meet up with Jenny. He ordered some coffee and grabbed a pen and a napkin to jot down some notes on what his mother had forgotten earlier in the day. He had become almost methodic in tracking what was happening in his life. The notes would do for now, but when he got home, he would transfer them to the journal he had been keeping about his mother.
The next thing Charlie knew Jenny was sitting beside him eating a plate of pancakes. His shoulders and neck were so stiff that the slightest movement made what felt like a creaking noise. He looked over at the girl next to him, her slender face not noticing his return to consciousness. She let her left-hand glide over the pages that she had brought with her while her right cut into the short stack on the plate just caddy corner to her seat. She had a sweet smell to her that reminded Charlie of a wisteria tree in his yard when he was a little boy. Even the aroma of the pancakes did not hide the scent. He took a deep breath through his nose.
Jenny dropped the fork onto the plate with a sharp clank. She turned towards Charlie with a mouthful of pancake. “Oh. You are awake. Yay.” She said these words in a deeper tone trying to keep all the food in her mouth.
“Sorry, I guess my lack of sleep caught up to me.” He was starting to stretch his arms and neck trying to get a grasp on the world.
“It’s ok. You were so peaceful that I figured I would go ahead and eat and go over what I brought for you to read. I think it is a bit juvenile.” She placed her hand over the stack of papers in a weak attempt to cover her work.
“Oh, don’t sell yourself short. Let me see.” He reached over for the stack of papers. “Breakfast for lunch huh?”
“Try breakfast for dinner…” Jenny tucked her chin letting a smirk emerge on her face.
“Dinner?” Charlie quickly looked out the window to try and keep his bearings.
“It’s almost 6pm. You’ve been sleeping here with me with for almost four hours.” She giggled knowing that this would be a bit of a shock to him.
“Shit. I don’t have long then. I have a lot of work that I got to get out before tomorrow morning.” He looked helplessly at the table in front of him. “I’m sorry, I really wanted to help.”
“If you need to go, that is fine. If you think you will have any time before midnight, maybe I could stop by your place and we can chat about writing?” She seemed a bit hesitant. Charlie couldn’t tell if she was being shy about her work or about being so forward about showing up at his place.
“If I head home in the next thirty minutes, I can probably finish the ad copy by ten. If you want to stop by my place.” His mind was so focused on getting his work done, there was no ulterior motive to the suggestion.
Jenny finished her pancakes, while Charlie held a pleasant conversation with the girl. It was the basics, where did you grow up, what are your aspirations, what things do you do for fun. Just the normal chit chat.
When she finished her dinner, they both walked to the parking lot. Charlie took the stories Jenny had printed for him and headed back to his apartment.