To this day, I don’t think I will ever truly understand what happened on our graduation day, or why it happened. But all I know is that it changed the course of my life in a very dramatic way.
I grew up in this piss poor crappy little town, with a whole bunch of angry, drunk people, my parents included. Between the beatings and the starvation, life pretty much sucked…with one exception.. Aileen. We found each other as little kids, and I guess you can say we raised each other as well. Her life was just as hard as mine, no mother and a useless, drunk father. But we had each other, and because of that, we had dreams. As we grew into our teen years our relationship changed from friendship to lovers. Of course we had to sneak around and hide our love, but it was worth it. We found a spot at the edge of the river, just outside of town. It had high grass and over grown bushes, perfect for hiding behind. And when we could, Aileen and I would sneak away , meeting at our secret spot, and talk about our dream life. My favorite part of our discussions was the house we were going to build. I wanted to be a carpenter, and it was in my mind to build a home for us, where we could live in peace, until the babies came along that is.
As we neared graduation, we put together a plan to escape this hell hold and run as far and as fast as we could, never looking back. We had both been saving what little money we could since the beginning of high school, and between us there wasn’t much, but it was enough to get us to the bus depot and away from here. The plan was to meet at our spot by the river after graduation. And that’s where my life took a 360 degree turn, and was never to be the same.
After the ceremony, Aileen and I quickly went over the plan one last time, discreetly squeezing each other’s hand and went our separate ways. We didn’t have much time, so I ran like hell until I got close to home, then slowed my pace. I didn’t want to give myself away. So intent on getting my stuff together, I never saw Aileens father and my Father waiting for me in the dark corners of my tiny room. And I definitely didn’t see the beating coming until I was down on the ground. The pain was unbearable, hard toed shoes cracking my ribs, fists pummeling my face and head, never knowing where the next punch was going to land seeing as how one of them had thrown a burlap bag over my head before the festivities began. Eventually I passed out to my blessed relief.
The next thing I knew, it was days later, and I woke up in the boxcar of a moving train. Every bit of motion made by the swaying locamotive sent agonizing pain through me entire body, and I passed out again. This went on for several days, until finally I was able to stay awake long enough to get through the pain and see my surroundings. As I finally woke up, the first things I noticed was this stale, rank smell. I couldn’t see very much due to the swelling of my face and eyes, but I could just see enough to know I wasn’t alone.
“So ya finally decided to wake up” came a deep, gravely voice.
“Yes sir” I replied. ” I’m so thirsty. Would you happen to have anything I could drink?” The man handed me the bottle he was drinking from, and nodded his head. I took a swig out of sheer desperation, then proceeded to cough it back up. I could hear the man laughing in the back ground .”Little less next time”he chuckled
As the days went by, and my body began to heal, I found out I was traveling with a drifter named Joe. He told me when he jumped the train car I was already inside, badly beaten and unconscious. He decided to stay and keep an eye on me. I was very grateful and told him so, he had saved my life, whatever life I now had.
I am not really sure how long we traveled across the country, but it was long enough for my body to repair itself and my heart to begin to heal. I tried very hard not to think about the fact that I had lost the only thing in my life worth living for… Aileen. But my traveling companion Joe shared a quote with me that gave me a new reason to live.. He said Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open by John Barrymore. And then I knew… someday I would find her again, no matter how long it took. And if it wasn’t to late I would make her mine again.
Years went by as I traveled the country, finally finding a place I could settle down. It was just like the place Aileen and I used to talk about, wide open space, fresh air and a heart stopping view. I found a piece of property with just those qualities and I set up camp, and went to work building our dream home. I lived off the land, foraging for my food, hunting for my meat. It wasn’t an easy life, but I persevered because I had a dream.
As I had traveled across the country, I had picked up odd jobs here and there. I learned new trades and was able to save some money. But my favorite trade was carpentry, and I found I was very good at it. Fortunately, the site I chose my new home was only a few mikes from a small town. I found a carpenter who was looking for an apprentice, and I talked my way into the job. His name was Carl, and he taught me all the nuances of his craft. I was an eager student and I absorbed everything he had to teach me like a sponge. After a few years, he offered me a full partnership in his business and added my name.
More years went by, and our business was going strong. People from all over the country wanted my custom made cabinets and furniture. And although the money was good, I had less time to build our home, and I couldn’t find Aileen until it was done. But eventually, it was finished, and it was exactly as we had dreamt it would be. Now it was time.
It took several months to find Aileen, but with patience and perseverance, I found her. And I began my plan of attack. The first thing I did was carve a miniature replica of the house I built for us, I even included doors that could open and close. I painstakingly carved ever detail, then I added the paint. When it was perfect, I brought it to the post office, and off it went. The next thing I did was to tell Carl what I was doing and where I was going. He slapped me on the back and wished me well.
As fortune would have it, I discovered Aileen was only a five hours drive away. Universe seemed to be on my side. I checked with the post office to find out exactly when the package was going to be delivered, and I hit the road. Hours later, I arrived on the street Aileen lived and I parked across from her apartment building and waited. I didn’t have to long to wait when I saw her walking down the street. Even though it was twenty years later, I would have recognized her anywhere. My heart started beating like a drum at the sight of her, and I broke out in a nervous sweat. I Really hadn’t thought this part of my plans through, but here I was and there was no turning back. I waiting for what felt like the appropriate amount of time, then I headed through the door to hopefully reclaim my love and my life.
Gathering my courage, I knocked on the door and waited. The look on her face said it all as she moved aside to let me in. I saw she held the house I had lovingly carved for her in a death grip, so as I guided her to the couch, I removed it from her hand and sat her down. Finding her glass of wine I handed it to her and suggested she take a sip. After I poured my own glass, we sat and talked for hours. There was so much to say, so much to try and understand. But one thing was becoming increasingly clear, the love we once shared was still there… but it was different, it was warmer, deeper, more mature. And the best part.. it was ours.
We took our time reconnecting, getting to know the more mature versions of ourselves. In time I told her about the home I had built, and asked if she would like to see it… she said yes.
Today we are living the life we had always dreamed of. Aileen is now my beautiful wife, we have a set of twins Robby and Venessa, and our rescue dog Roscoe, our energetic, Labrador retriever, all living together , happily, in the house love built.