The Shut In
(© John Putignano)
Virginia’s Nissan Altima pulled into the gravel driveway. Anxiously she
hummed an upbeat melody to divert her mind. It wasn’t working. The small rocks which
made up the driveway crunched beneath the weight of her slow moving tires. She
continued to hum, desperate to hide her angst from both herself, as well as
put the car in park and killed the engine. With her hands gripping the steering
wheel she closed her eyes tight. She shook her head and let out a deep breath
as she whispered to herself. "He’ll be fine. It’s just three days. I will be
gone and when I return things will be fine. Don’t worry. If you are worried he
will notice and worry too, and this certainly will worsen his condition."
she briskly shook her head as if somehow this would empty her mind. She
imagined her fears and insecurities falling free like dandruff from her hair.
She imagined an overwhelming sense of calmness flowing over her body like water
from a shower head. She took a deep breath and let out an exaggerated exhale.
She then reached a shaking had to her car door handle and jerked it open.
watched from the window. He heard her car coming up the driveway. He had
decided on gravel so he could always hear people approaching. He didn’t like
solid driveways. They were silent and gave visitors an advantage to surprise
him. He didn’t like to be surprised.
watched Virginia’s queer behavior. Thoughts began to develop in his paranoid
mind. He knew something was wrong, and being as sick as he was, he expected the
Sickle Cell Anemia, Multiple Dystrophy, AIDs
it was better to wait the four or five seconds until she reached the front
door. Maybe it isn’t that bad? He shook his head in disappointment. He hated
acting like this, hiding in the shadows and watching. He wished he could greet
her at the door, just like before. Greet her with a smile meeting her halfway.
He envisioned a normal welcome; absent of bizarre rituals of entry and she
would suggest they would go out to eat. He imagined the world as it was before,
before his mental breakdown.
seemed like forever to him but it had only been three years since his
agoraphobia isolated him from the rest of the world. Three years since he lived
a somewhat normal life as an average man with a decent job making pretty good
money. Three years since he would smile and be the social epicenter among
peers. Three long years have passed since the day he couldn’t get out of bed.
remembered that day well. Had it been two days before someone noticed? He was
catatonic, lying in bed muttering incoherent sentence fragments. He was unable
to move. He urinated in his bed, and lay there in his filth for two days, that
is until a concerned Virginia came to his rescue.
She called the paramedics, and they took him away to the hospital.
He spent a week there before he would be released back to his home. This turned
out to be a prison sentence. It was here he remained since, not so much as
stepping out the front door. He segregated himself from the world and it was
within the confines of this house where he found solace. This was his world,
and the only outside influenced allowed in his world now was Virginia.
Virginia truly was a great friend to him. She made
sure to visit him every day and bring him groceries once a week. The love he
had for her was strong, a bond like brother and sister. Jeff was ignorant,
however, of Virginia’s feelings.
She saw their love in a much different light. Where Jeff saw sibling
love, Virginia saw a potential for long, everlasting romance. She understood he
was unable to commit to any relationship right now, but in time. He was ill,
damaged, yet salvageable. His vulnerability amplified her feelings for him as
she set a foundation to build passion; one day when he is finally healed she
would be there.
And they lived happily ever after…
She knocked softly on the door, careful not to knock to hard. To
knock with aggressive force would set Jeff into a panic, and he would retreat
to a safe spot in the house. Days would go by before he could be convinced to
come out. Batting her lashes she cleared her throat before calling out in a
soft voice "Jeff, It’s me Virginia."
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