STEVEN JERAL HARRIS
EMERALD BLUE OKIKI
The New Beginning.
The drive from Virginia to Upstate New York is about ten hours. For most of the ride we simply enjoy each other’s company silently. I keep myself entertained by listening to the radio and periodically counting trees as they zoom by in a blur. We do talk from time to time as we cruise along, nothing serious, just enough small-talk to stop the awkward silences.
Now the remaining day is slipping from us and a florescent pink is devouring the blue horizon.
‘We made it,’ my mom informs me.
We take an exit ramp that welcomes us into the City of Rochester. The downtown area, just like any city, appears typical. You have your stores, your cabs, your buses, and your traffic lights on every block. In no time, we cruise through a neighborhood lined with large boxy homes resting on top of narrow yards. She makes a final right turn into Meigs Street and then lowers speed, and observes all of the addresses as we ease down the block.
‘This is us,’ she says while pulling into a vacant driveway.
This house is boxy like the others with a beige exterior and blue window shutters. There’s a black car parked in front of the house which belongs to a police official. My mom beeps the horn and a couple of seconds later the front door opens. A man is standing in the doorway grinning at us. He’s dressed casually in a pair of black slacks and a white shirt with the sleeves partially rolled up on each arm.
He hurries onto the porch and down the steps, bringing a vivid smile along with him. My mom rushes out of the van and meets him with an embrace. It’s one of those hugs you give someone you missed and haven’t seen in years. A moment later she detaches, only to study his physical appearance from head to toe.
‘Oh my God, I can't believe you cut your hair,’ my mom’s excited voice is penetrating the windows. He leans his head forward so she can further examine his bronze hair. He then says something unclear to her which leaves her bursting into laughter.
Then he directs his big grin towards me and wraps around the front of the van, and opens the door.
‘What’s up kiddo?’ He says to me.
I leer into his green eyes and begin to pull moments with him from my memory bank. Those green eyes, the golden brown hair color, and that smile remind me of my mom. And then it hits me.
‘Uncle Frank?’ I mutter shockingly.
‘Who else would I be?’ He replies.
As night falls, the three of us settle into the living area of the house, chitchatting about various things while sipping on a freshly brewed cup of tea. The inside of the house is very spacious, I love the high ceilings, but the style of the house is not so favorable.
Everything looks neat and clean but the house is furnished with lots of out-dated furniture. It was my grandparent’s house. I guess Uncle Frank left it the same way since their death, which was over a decade ago.
I barely knew them because they died when I so young.
‘So—my sister, an Editor in chief; how does it feel being the top dog?’ Uncle Frank asks from a leather recliner.
‘Please don't start, I feel nervous enough already.’ She replies with a sigh.
‘Mom and dad would be proud.’ He admits to her.
She smiles warmly at his comment and nods humbly in agreement with him.
‘I know,’ she replies. She then releases a long sigh and glances around the room at the pictures on the walls. All of them are old photographs from their childhood years together. Her eyes then shifts towards the fireplace, where a clutter of trophies rest on top of the mantel.
‘I can't believe this house is still the same, after all these years,’ my mom says, still surveying the room.
‘Amazing, isn't it?’ Uncle Frank replies.
Suddenly, I see my Uncle’s inner conscience snapping alert.
‘I forgot to tell you who I ran into the other day.’ Uncle Frank tells my mom.
She gasps out loud, nearly laughing.
‘No, you didn’t,’ she says in an astonished way.
‘Yup; he was asking about you too.’ He informs her, laughing.
I feel left out of a joke, so it’s only natural for me to ask them about this Matt character.
‘Who’s this Matt Thomas guy?’
‘Just your mom’s old crush in high school.’
My mom is laughing and blushing uncontrollably right now. She’s trying her hardest to cover her red face with her hands. She takes a quick break from laughing and blushing to speak.
‘Hold on, first and foremost, it was not a crush, okay. I liked him, that’s it.’ She sets the record straight.
Uncle Frank shakes his head in disagreement as he tries to hold back a laugh.
‘You was obsessed with the guy,’ he gives his side of the story.
‘No I was not.’ She backfires with a red face.
‘You was,’ he says with sincerity.
Eventually my mom stops laughing and then rests her head back onto the soft couch pillow, watching the ceiling in deep thought.
‘Wow, Matt Thompson. I thought he went to New York City for acting. How is he?’ She asks while in deep thought.
Uncle Frank takes a sip of the tea and begin to speak, but he is having difficulty putting words together in a sentence.
‘He’s good. He’s a pretty big deal now, the guy is huge,’ he says in a half-hearted, untruthful way.
‘Wow, so I guess everything went well for him?’
‘Not career wise, he’s huge, meaning fat. I barely recognized the guy.”
The shock hits my mother hard, which makes her gasp and leaves her lower jaw dangling.
‘Shut up.’ She says to her brother.
‘I’m serious. He went to New York and he obviously took one too many bites from the big apple.’
Once again, she begins to laugh out loud. How amazing, I’ve never seen my mother laugh so hard. Seeing her exhausted and dragging her feet into the house from working long hours at the publishing firm has been branded into my mind. This woman I see now—I haven’t seen her in a very long time. They’re laughing so much I can’t help but add in a snicker or two of my own.
‘He asked about you,’ he adds while laughing. ‘I’m gonna call him up and say… hey Matt, Julie wants to know if you guys can pick up where you left off.’
‘Don’t you dare…, I swear, I will kill you,’ she says, still chuckling a bit.
Slowly but surely, they stop laughing. Frank looks around the room again after all of his laughter fades, and falls into a daydream like state. I can see his bright eyes dim down and seriousness overcomes him.
Maybe he’s thinking about a sentimental moment that happened in this very room so long ago.
‘I couldn't sell it Julie. I thought about it but...’
He pauses to reflect on distant recollections, ‘it’s just too many memories in here. Man oh man, where did those years go?’
My mom smiles at his remark.
‘I must say it feels good to be back.’
‘It’s good to have you back.’
He turns and focuses all of his attention onto me. His bright smile returns.
‘Well, Iva, what are your plans for the summer?’
‘I’m not sure.’ I reply shrugging my shoulders.
‘Do you still write?’ He continues.
‘Ever think about picking up classes?’
I shrug my shoulders at him again, almost blowing the question off completely.
‘I didn’t plan on it.’ I reply weakly.
‘Frank trust me, I’ve been trying to get her to take courses. She just doesn’t want to,’ my mom joins in.
Her remark makes me instantly annoyed. I turn and leer into her eyes.
‘It’s not that I don’t want to mom.’ I take a break to sigh and calm my feelings. ‘It’s just—I can barely go anywhere without getting sick or whatever. It’s a waste of time.’
‘How do you know it’s a waste? Have you tried it?’ Uncle Frank moves the conversation along.
‘Is that how you want to live? Maybe there’s a reason for you being alive today. You are about to be 20 years old, Iva. You gotta get out there into the world.’
That statement really hits me hard. He’s right and I’m too afraid to admit it. But why? Is failing that intimidating to me?
‘Frank, come in.’ A voice says through static.
‘One second guys,’ he says while unclipping a handheld device from his waist. ‘What’s up?’ He replies into the device.
‘We’ve got a situation here,’ the voice responds.
Uncle Frank rolls his eyes in his head.
‘Can it wait?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
Uncle Frank sighs before replying.
‘On my way,’ he says half-heartedly.
He then stands and grabs his black blazer off the top of the recliner.
‘Leaving so soon?’ My mom asks.
‘The life of a detective I’m afraid.’
‘Okay, be safe.’
‘Always,’ he replies. ‘Call me if you need anything Julie.’ He turns then winks at me. ‘See you later kiddo.’
‘Later Uncle Frank.’
In no time, he’s out of the house and into the night.
Watch out for the next episode... New episode reads on Tuesdays.