What comes after

Mid-End February 1993: Coping part I

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[What happens now. I want to hear a story from you about the coming two weeks. This will have minimal interference from me. Whatever you get up to. Three individual stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. How do you cope the next two weeks? What does your life look like, what do you do, what do you want to do? Does it have a theme or a struggle? How do you cope?]
-Storyteller quote

After the meeting Darren goes home to his wife Denice and life seems to go on. He works in a typical car garage where every now and then a colleague cracks a joke or remark about the accident. Darren doesn’t know whether or not this should make him sad or angry.
During the week that follows Darren watches his marriage slowly but gradually return to it’s original state of disinterest. The car mechanic tries to keep himself informed of what’s going on in the world by reading newspapers and following the news on tv. He also looks forward for something new to do during his monthly trip. When the troubles of the day become too much for Darren he escapes to his high school yearbook. With mixed feelings he has to agree that those were better times.

Stewart goes back to his apartment where he lives with his dog, Buster. He feels affection for his dog, even though he doesn’t really take good care of him. They hardly go out for walks and the creature has to do it’s business in the small back garden. Stewart has a boring desk job where, in his mind, nothing bad can happen. He loves the bottle but limits it to a couple of nights a week. He does his groceries daily in small amounts. He goes to bed early so he can be in time for work. Most of Stewart’s time is spent inside of his apartment watching tv, watching sports, especially baseball which was a big part of his life. He lives a cloistered excistence.
Stewart still has a toy car collection from when he was a kid. Sometimes he pretends to be a stunt driver, performing on the tracks. It helps him relive something of which he knows he will never again have the courage to experience

Dereck goes home to his wife and kids. His wife, Sophia, works as a nurse, a couple of hours a week to generate some income but those are slim. His twelve year old daughter is calledStacey and she’s hit puberty with all the rebelliousness that comes with it. Louis, his eight year old son spends most of his days stuck to his video game. Most of the time it falls to Dereck to look after the children but he doesn’t seem to keep them in check. When he’s not at home Dereck can be found on the street, playing dice games with friends in the neighbourhood. Small time bets roll as often as the dice, these flutters are paid for with Sophia’s income.

One day Stewart is drawn to the window by a sound that’s coming from outside. On the other side of the street he sees a man, singing his lungs out. He’s accompanied by a little boy, not more than fourteen years old. The little boy holds out a tin can to passersby and the man keeps playing. He keeps watching until he sees a young woman with tears in her eyes hastily write a check until she runs off. The kid shows the check to the man who doesn’t need to play anymore. Stewart can’t see how much is written on the check but the musician seems surprised. They pack their things and leave. Stewart closes his curtains to the outside world.

Dereck drives home, in his shabby wreck of a car, after buying groceries. His route takes him just outside his own neighborhood. This neighborhood is gradually degrading as his own has for ages. Rich people used to live here, though, in great apartments with nicely decorated house fronts. One of these buildings is old, it’s crumbling, once it may have belonged to a healthy family but not anymore. One thing he notices, as he notices everyday is a great mural, spray painted in white. A hood. An unmistakable symbol of a klux klux clan hood. He remembers hearing two women discussing their husband’s salary at the checkout counter back in the grocery store, doing whatever business for whatever corporation. That conversation is still at the back of Dereck’s mind when he sees that spray painting. He can’t shake the feeling that two were connected.
When Dereck gets home he notices that Stacey is gone. Louis is playing his Atari. Dereck has to ask his son three times where his sister might be before he answers with a half hearted “I don’t know. She went out.” Dereck packs his groceries and goes out looking for his daughter who has a tendency to hangs with friends while she’s not allowed. Dereck catches her on the street, smoking with some other youngsters. The man flies into a patronizing rage. “Stacey! This is outrageous! You went out and didn’t tell me where you were going! And now you’re smoking with these.. kids!” Stacey sees her social standing shattering around her and fights back the only way she knows how; by shouting even louder. “What are YOU doing here?! I’m out with my friends! What I do in my time is my own business!” Dereck starts towards her “What you do is most definitely my business because YOU are MY daughter! Now you’re getting in that car and you’re going home with me!” Stacey has no choice but to reluctantly agree. In the car ride back Dereck patronizes and grounds her, which she in turn firmly ignores.

One morning Darren finally wakes up, shivering, after a nightmare that seemed to have no end. Denice wakes him up. Darren is covered in sweat and heavily nauseous, for his night hours were filled with with visions of ceaseless storms. Of dark waves roiling, crashing and consuming each other while the skies above turned ever darker and spun. He knows he’s going to throw up in ten seconds. Darren scrambles out of bed in the direction of a toilet but he doesn’t make it that far. Denice helps and comforts her husband but when she leaves to get cleaning utensils a sigh can be heard from the hallway.
After his wife leaves for her waiting job Darren calls in sick for work. It’s not much of a fuss for he can easily be missed at work. He is troubled by what happened last night. He has a hard time distracting himself, he can’t find anything worthwhile on the TV set. Before long he sits back with his yearbook. He looks at the pictures from when he was a jock at school, when he had lots of friends. He has read it a hundred of times. He skips the sixth to last page on which he knows to be a memorial that he can’t handle right now.

Stewart bumps into his neighbor Andrew, whom he has a friendly bond with. They share an interest in Evel Knievel. These instances of smalltalk, short and superficial as they may be, gives some joy to the former daredevil. Remembering his hero gives him a small dose of adrenaline as well.

When Denice gets home Darren still has his yearbook in hand. Before him is a page with a photo of the couple who have been together since high school. He comments on how pretty she has always looked. They share a night of beer and wine which ends fruitfully. He heads back to work the next day. The week progresses without further incident all though Darren is anxious about sleeping the first night after the nightmares. It turns out to be a good week for Darren.

[Let us now end on your second week. The cumulation of the morale of your individual stories. Narrowing in on the core of your stories, you had a beginning, a middle. Now tell us the end of that story. Issues with kids, getting stuck in the past, hating the present.]

Stewart still works every day, he’s in his own cubicle. It doesn’t have any pictures on the wall.
This thursday is a special day for him. He musters his courage to visit the first exposition game of his favorite baseball team; the Braves in the Fulton County Stadium. As per his routine he sits in the second ring as close to an exit as he can. He gets a hotdog and a couple of beers. The athletes are not at their best this early in the season. He entertains the thought about maybe getting back into sports one day but he is scared by the loud sound of leather hitting wood. He leaves ten minutes before the end of the match to avoid the crowds stampeding for the door and beer stalls. At home he has one last drink but tries to get to bed early. On friday he tries to get home as early as possible. He enjoys the weekend and friday nights are important to him. It’s where he dares to drink a little more and if he can muster up the courage he takes a small walk around the block. Only if the streets are deserted, of course. Should he run into someone he quickly gets back home.

After the incident with the singer Stewart decides to keep a closer watch on his neighborhood. One person has peaked his interest. A young woman passes his street almost every night somewhere between 9 and 9:30. As the week progresses his interests in her doesn’t cease to increase. He wishes he could go and ask her out but finds out he doesn’t have the courage for such a confrontation. There’s always tomorrow, he says to himself. A couple of days later while being just affected enough by whiskey he puts on his coat but stops. “You’ll only make an ass out of yourself.” A sober voice says in the back of his head.

[Editor’s note: It’s during this time that Stewart’s player asks our story teller if it ever snows in Georgia. “Not really, it’s a warm region.” Is our story teller’s somewhat misleading reply.]

Sophia is angry with her daughter but just as mad at her husband for neglecting the kids. Dereck doesn’t pay enough attention to her and she’s sure that’s what caused Stacey to go out smoking. His son Louis is having a hard time as well, he isn’t very social and isn’t doing very well at school.
A couple of days later Dereck is out doing groceries again. His car breaks down a few blocks from home but not quite yet in his neighborhood. He knows that if he was within his own hood at least ten guys would’ve come out to help. Here, people give a fake smile as they pass by, probably wondering when this man is going to leave. Dereck decides to walk back home to find a friend with a towline.
The first one he sees is Fred, an older man with at least 10 years of seniority over the unfortunate Dereck. Both of them grew up around the same block. Due to the age difference they didn’t hang out much but Fred has never been unpleasant. They drive back to Dereck’s shabby car when an uncomfortable silence falls. A couple of minutes on the road Fred awkwardly breaks this silence; “I saw your girl hanging around my porch last week. I wasn’t gonna say anything but she’s hanging out with them Crawford boys. Do you know them?” Dereck knows of their father, at least the rumors that surrounded him back in the day. You could always get a discount on your stereo there. This reputation has escalated somewhat. Dereck curses his luck “God damnit, Stacey is getting harder and harder to handle. Must be the age.” This brings Fred to a chuckle. “My daughter is off to college now, do you think twelve is bad? At sixteen they won’t be able to fly the nest yet.” “Stacey is grounded now though..” “Ha! I remember that, they’re in the house and then you kinda wish they would get the fuck out of the fucking house.” Dereck agrees with a somewhat somber “Fuck yeah.” As they pull up to Dereck’s car his ride finishes with “I don’t know man. I just thought I would tell you.”

When Dereck brings the towing cable Fred suggests to take a look under the hood. “You said it simply died. It’s probably just the battery.” Dereck admits in somewhat of a fluster “Yeah, I guess we could. I took a good look at it but didn’t have any tools. I didn’t see anything but let’s pop the hood.” The senior takes a look at the car, with some jumper cables and less than a minute proclaims; “You’re good to go.” The car starts, Fred smiles patronizingly after which they both head home.
Upon his arrival home Dereck engages Stacey in some parenting alongside his wife. They talk about what happened the other day. The respect that Stacey has for her mother is obvious but she’s still mad at her father who embarrassed her in front of her friends. Sophia agrees with this, after all it wasn’t polite and could have been handled a lot better. When father mentions that it was the Crawford boys Stacey was hanging with the daughter has to endure Sophia’s scorn as well. Stacey with her pubescent mind claims to be old enough to choose who her friends are. Dereck forbids her to hang out with the Crawford boys again. In the end Dereck’s daughter stamps to her room. The parents argument doesn’t end there, Sophia calls her husband out on her laziness, on his gambling, about how he can’t even fix the fucking car. In the end her husband is an incompetent asshole. When everything calms down it is Sophia who heads to her daughter to try and fix the situation.
In response Dereck tries to connect with his son. Tries to play with him on the atari but that effort soon turns into a train wreck as well. Louis hardly responds to him and he has to push his son to give his father a try. This puts Louis on edge and that in turn causes Dereck to patronize him. “You should focus more on school instead of all these games. You should go out and play more with the other children. I haven’t seen Tom in ages, why don’t you just go play outside with him?” Louis raises his voice to his father when he declares “Tom is stupid and so are you! Everyone in school is stupid!”
At the end of that evening Dereck has alienated himself from his whole family.

All though everything seemed fine for Darren during the first week after therapy. The second week has everything spiralling out of control. The couple get into a fight, the reason of which is lost 3 minutes into the argument. It’s the kind of fight where one keeps twisting the other’s words, where 15 minutes deep you don’t know who you are anymore. It’s a long brutalizing verbal cage match. While her husband is making some kind of defense Denice blurts out “You should tell that to Joey Gabreski!” Darren can only stop himself from punching his spouse in the face by storming outside. He drives to a liquor store and makes his way to Casey’s Hill cemetery. There the man uses some a garbage container to climb the fence. From the bushes he grabs a hidden folding chair. He spends the night sitting in front of a gravestone marked for Joey Gabreski, a kid Darren went to school and took his own life at the age of seventeen.
At dawn the mourner hides his chair, climbs the fence and heads to work.

At the end of the week Stewart sits in his apartment with a can of his favorite beer and a tiny, tiny smile on his face. A weird look in his eyes, but a tiny smile as he pets his Buster.



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