Chris was in a heavy and slow moving traffic. Still, Chris of today, had the sense to not to get impatient and do something stupid. The days of stupidity are long gone by… As she waited for the downtown Los Angeles traffic to clear up, her mind wandered off to the past.
Christine Summers was an intelligent, strong and only child of her parents – Harry and Brenda. Harry was a very bright man, with a flair for life and humor, he was very much in love with his pretty wife Brenda and both doted on their daughter. Brenda was exact opposite of Harry; she was petite, sensitive and gave way to have Harry take the lead and be a strong support to the family. Chris had inherited her father’s sense of intelligence, independence and charm; combined that with the grace of her mother, she was quite popular and well-liked child. Those were the best days of Chris’ life, as she remembers it. Then the disaster struck – Harry was killed in an accident. Although, Chris, just over 9 years then, never understood it really well, she did feel a great sense of loss – she believes even today there is a thin vein of grief that can never go away; as she saw her father every time she looked into the mirror; she finally did come to a conclusion that Harry would be an inescapable and indelible part of her life.
After her father's death, Chris began to understand how much Brenda required someone like Harry – understanding, strong and someone who will never take advantage of Brenda’s diffidence and sensitivity. Brenda tried working at different places; because of her timidity, she always was taken advantage of. One such person was Vince – he was Brenda’s co-worker in the store, became friendly with Brenda and finally proposed to Brenda; Chris did not like Vince at first sight; she could rationalize that it was not because Vince is taking Harry’s place, but believed Vince was out to exploit her mother; things moved fast, Brenda married Vince; and then things grew worse. Chris’ impression of Vince proved right – he was a smooth talker, but he looked like one who could not hold on to the job. A year after the marriage, he began to be abusive. First words, then physically; Chris started staying away from home often – sometime staying at her friends’ house; or working late hours in the store; rebelling, she took smoking and drinking when she had gotten together with bunch of high school dropouts. When Chris was 12, Vince tried to be a tough father to Chris and tried to spank her since he had caught her smoking. Without blinking an eye, Chris slapped him hard across his face, and held the baseball bat that Harry had bought her and very calmly told Vince that she would not mind smashing his head in, if he tried that with her. She actually saw Vince then to what he really was – a blustering coward, who wanted to show his strength on people who were weaker to him. As abuse of her mother grew, Chris started staying away from home a lot; only come home when Vince was not around – she tried to counsel her mother to get away from Vince; somehow that never happened. Slowly, Chris stopped going home and rarely saw her mother. She moved to a different town, continued to do various jobs, got herself deeper into crowd that was mainstream and had history much more like her. Having started smoking and beer, she graduated into drugs and became a regular drug user; in spite of all this, Chris retained her interest in reading and continued to read whatever books she came across. It was an aimless life for her, but she did not really worry about it; once in a while she wondered of how her life would have turned out if Harry was still alive – maybe she would have been the lawyer that she said she would be, but then that momentary lapsing into reason will give way to what she did. Then she once drifted into her hometown – it was nearly 5 years since she had left it; first thing she did was to go see her mother. Hearing no answer after knocking at the door several times, she went around the house, gotten through the basement window and climbed up to the 1st floor. What she saw shocked her – her mother was unrecognizable wreck – she seemed to have lost all her beauty, thinned greatly and was sprawled out in the sofa; she seemed very sick; Chris found that her mother had very high fever and perhaps over a few days; Chris’ natural intelligence took over, she put her mom in the hospital, nursed her through, rediscovered each other (and discovered that Vince had left her mother for someone else), brought her mother back home, cleaned up the place and checked herself into a detox center. With 3 months, she had kicked her habit, took up a job and went to night school, got a degree, moved to LA with her mom and became counselor at a de-addiction center – she was slowly rebuilding her life and building her relationships with her mom and some real relationship outside; She had met one of the recovering addicts – Joshua Feldman at the center about an year ago and she knew Josh’s past; and sometime saw parallel to what she had gone through.
Earlier today, she had met Josh in his apartment this morning on the way to work – she had dropped the DVD of the movie, “Shawshank Redemption”, which she has watched several times over and over – to her Andy Dufresne mirrored her own spirit. Josh and she had gone out on some informal dates and she liked the way the relationship was moving – slow and its own pace and not something that is being hurried through – like the dinner last night at Josh’s house (until the magical moment got interrupted by the phone). It seemed it was like a small plant growing, but grow it will and flower. This morning, Josh was in the kitchen and she joined him in preparing breakfast and liked the closeness. They had breakfast together; as is wont, Josh was quiet. It was time to go, as she got up from the sofa to leave she kissed Josh lightly on his lips and cheeks; Josh reached out and hugged her. She could feel the warmth of the hug and just enjoyed the closeness; Josh’s embrace was tight; she slowly extricated herself, promised Josh that she will see him in the evening on the way back from work and maybe they could have dinner together. She was now driving through the suburbs of LA on her way to meet with Josh.
Josh was sensitive young man with a flair for arts and with a keen mind for the abstract – Josh’s life was very similar to that of Chris; except that both his very rich and very much feuding parents made his life hell; as a very young kid he hardly saw them; Josh discovered that the stories where father read stories to their son before bed sounded exactly like those fairy tales – untrue and imagined. As 9 year old he had laid awake to see his parents when the come home, with a hope of a story being read to him; only to be disappointed as they were in no state to read anything to him. As Josh grew older, he found that he had enough money and he could buy whatever he wanted including love. Quickly he found that distasteful and then switched to alcohol – he liked what his favorite drink (well, any drinks) did to him. It gave him solace and made him sleep quicker, so that demons no longer haunt him. Josh had become a good artist and he started doing small exhibitions that was well received in the community. He believed he could do well there, which was anti-thetical to his dad, who wanted Josh to get into the business that he was running; This constant pull made Josh go into depression; quickly his friends introduced him to new type of drugs and that seemed to help him out of it. Josh’s first moment of joy turned traumatic as his debut art exhibition was panned by the local reporter and agreed on by his dad; that was the first time Josh tried to end his life, but swallowing fistful of sleeping tablets with good amount of alcohol already in him. He was found in time and the doctors managed to save his life. Josh continued to do his art, although he was getting convinced that he was not going to be successful in it – he had yet another unsuccessful attempt at suicide. Then one event changed his life. What he thought would be his last attempt as an artist, his last exhibition exploring the dark side of humans turned out be highly successful and a critical success; Josh was suddenly the new talent and the toast of people who he did not even know, but who claimed to know him. As he gained name and reputation Josh also realized that appreciation of his art was the high he sought out now; and started on the road to recovery and successfully kicked his habit. Although he was completely off the drugs and alcohol, Josh still did have haunting thoughts of death and his suicidal attempts); talking about it to his psychiatrist did not seem to help and make them go away.
Things changed about a year ago; he met Christine Summers; he saw her first as she was attempting to counsel a teen-ager and was riveted by the earnestness which she worked with that young-woman. She was beautiful in her own way and carried herself with certain strength and poise; as he came to know more about her, he appreciated her for the way she treated people with dignity. He slowly felt he was drawn to her; for the first time, he believed he could have meaningful relationship with people. He had gone out with her couple of times. He was just waiting for an appropriate moment to let her know; however he had no idea of how Chris would react and was mortally scared of rejection. That was his worst nightmare. And a recurring one.Yesterday, Chris had dropped Josh from the Gallery last evening; they had a nice quiet dinner at Josh’s house – Chinese take-away. They sat later on watching a movie that they caught half-way… As Josh started to tell her about how he enjoyed her company and perhaps would have gotten to it, when the phone rang – it was Josh’s father asking about his work; somehow the magic of the moment was broken and she left. Again this morning, Chris was at home and while leaving, she had given him a peck on the cheek; he wanted to hold on to her for more; she seemed uncomfortable and slowly extricated herself, quickly told her byes and seemed to be in a hurry to leave…
Having successfully navigated late evening LA traffic, Chris arrived at and knocked at Josh’s door, she found it unlocked. She could not find Josh in his paint-room. As she walked through, she found the bath-room door ajar; in the tub was Josh filled with water, with both wrists slashed; and a note on the counter; she read the note, sat down on the edge of the tub, broken; after what seemed hours of crying, she slowly got up to call 911; and with despairing futility, she read the note one more time – “Chris, I love you a lot, but I just cannot take your rejection. Good Bye, love you always - Josh”
Chris and Josh’s Story:
Chris and Josh’s Story: