HEY THERE, LONELY GIRL
I sat down finally on the corner of my bench in Brethren Park. I hunched and lighted my last cigar. I blew a cloud of smoke between my knees and onto the pathway. I watched my smoke disturb the destiny of ants.
“Don’t get old,” I croaked. Brethren Park took no notice. I was just waiting now. I closed my eyes. It was so quiet that I could hear the tremolo of the tinnitus in my ears and as I concentrated upon it I could imagine it engulfing my world in a shriek that no one else could hear.
That’s when she sat down hard at the other corner of my bench. She startled me.
“I’m sorry,” she said glancing at me, “I can’t do anything right.” She held her school books against her chest like a shield and she hung her head. Her face puffed red holding her breath.
“Is everything OK?” I asked.
She burst, sobbing, “I’m so ugly!”
“What? What? Who said you were ugly?”
She was trembling. She was crying hard, almost silently, leaning forward, and a string of spittle descended to her shoes.
“Don’t cry, missy, don’t cry. What’s your name? I’m Garvey. It’s alright.”
What the hell was I supposed to do with a crying girl? Instinctively I reached toward her and I placed my hand gently on her shoulder. Real or imagined, the pain was real to her. She caught herself and sat up straight with a giant snotty sniff and wiped her nose with the length of her sleeve. My hand was still on her shoulder. She glanced at my hand and then our eyes locked.
“I’m Cora. I’m sorry,” her face crinkled as she suppressed another sob, “Garvey. Nice to meet you.”
I withdrew my hand. She wasn’t a fairy tale princess, she was no Barbie Doll, but she wasn’t ugly like a witch or something. She did have soulful blue eyes, her nose was… noticeable, she had a wide mouth and thin lips that were trembling.
I shook my head, “You are not ugly! Cora, who said…, who said…?”
“Everybody. The boy I like… I just want to be somebody else.”
“Cora, what do your friends say?”
She exhaled trying to control her tears, “I have no friends.”
“No friends? You can’t mean that, Cora. Old people can have no friends, not young kids.”
“In my phone contacts list I only have two people who are not related to me,” she couldn’t dam the tears, “I just want to talk to somebody.”
“Hey, Cora, I’m listening. I’m kind of your friend right now, aren’t I? Why, if I were 17 again, I’d surely be your friend. You seem like a really nice girl.”
“You’re just saying that because I’m crying. I just don’t like myself! I am always so embarrassed that I’m so ugly.”
“Cora, please, don’t say that. It is not true.”
“I have acne and my face is red and greasy… And the boy I like…, I just want to talk to him and be friends with him so bad, but it’s never going to happen…, I can’t stop thinking about him…, I just want to die.”
I got angry, “Don’t say that! Cora, young men are idiots! They all just want to copulate with fashion cartoons. Most just can’t appreciate a good woman until it’s too damn late! Believe me. God made men crazy like mice to preserve the species a million years ago.” And I squeaked, “Even before I was born.”
Cora spluttered an unwilling laugh, “I don’t know what ‘copulate’ means. Don’t’ worry; I’m not going to kill myself. I couldn’t do that to my family. I see all these other people posting how they want to commit suicide…”
“And a young girl like you should never even think about things like that. What is happening to this world?”
“I just wish there was a way I could start over as a new person. I’m so awkward and ugly I just want to start as someone who is not, who doesn’t have my problems. A person that this boy would like…”
“I think every teenager feels like that. Believe it or not, you survive and it gets better,” and then my mind whispered ‘for a while’.
I thought in my desperate dishonesty, Just don’t get old.
Cora shook her head, “That doesn’t help me now. I can hardly go a night without crying in bed. I want to tell all these people at my school how lucky they are to be so nice looking, to have so many friends.”
“Cora, Cora, you have friends at school don’t you?” My mind whispered I am an impotent old man, trying to rescue a drowning child.
I felt terrifyingly helpless.
Cora didn’t answer my question and she continued, “And when I see the people I have to sit at tables with at school… I feel bad saying this: they are unattractive and awkward and I am part of that group.”
“Cora, isn’t there a counselor at school? Isn’t there one adult who knows you, to whom you can turn?”
“I don’t want to see a counselor; I don’t want to talk to my parents. They can’t change who I actually am. They’ll just say you will find someone when you’re older.”
Then Cora said softly, “I know how many kids have these problems…”
She looked at me and smiled and she swept away her tears with her fingers, “It was nice of you to listen to someone like me…, Garvey.”
“Hey, Cora, I really like you. I am so sorry you feel… down. But I swear that I will be so sad if you give up to the mean, terrible part of this world. Don’t give up. I don’t know what to say…, I want to say…,”
Cora held my gaze and turned her head quizzically. My vision grew blurry with tears.
“Cora, promise me that you will come to this bench and talk to me tomorrow or the next day, or soon, OK? Believe it or not…, you have helped me, Cora, you have helped me. Please say yes, OK?”
“I have helped you?” She stood up, “OK, Garvey. I would like that. Tomorrow, if I can.”
“I’ll be here. I’m out of school,” I grinned lamely.
Is this wrong?
This isn’t wrong.
Cora smiled sweetly and walked away down the path.
When I lost sight of her, I arose stiffly from my bench. I needed to get to the hospital and nullify the suicidal Oxycodone overdose I had taken before I sat down, before Cora saved me.
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