Kenneth Burch

So it would seem, that the decision was not mine to make. But in the end, I too would have to pay, for it cost me plenty.

For me, classes were always a pain in the ass. I wanted to get out and see things. I hated being stuck in some room, gazing out the windows and thinking of all I could be doing, and seeing. Mr. Bork was once again going on and on about WWII and the horrors that came with it. He talked about the politics behind it and the men who gave their lives for it. The experiments done, horrible ones to the Jews. A creepy feeling that came over me as I sat there, letting him drag me backwards in time to a place that I never been and would never want to be a part of.

After 45 minutes or so, the bell rang and I collected my book and pencils. Classmates did the same and we all sort of raced out of the class. It's amazing how teachers touch some students, while others leave what they've learned, tucked underneath the desk. I remember that early afternoon very clearly, for it was the first time Cynthia Edward said hello to me. She was reaching for her books that were under her desk, and had just looked up in time to see me looking at her. She had a beautiful smile, and a pair of eyes that reflected that of an angel. She never seemed to date or go out with anyone, always alone and to herself. She walked along the hallways, saying hello to any and everyone she met. Many of the school's jocks and upper classmates, wanted to take her out. But she managed to avoid them all, but never hurt or insulted their feelings.

She was the kind of woman who carried a lure of mystery around her, like a glow that formed a light mist should you see her in the dark. She also avoided the girls of the school. Many of the girls would form gangs or clicks, pairing up and maybe causing trouble with others. but for reason unknown to me still, none of them ever messed with Cynthia. It wasn't as if she was a big and threatening, young lady, quite the opposite really. Small framed and very dark long hair that always seemed in place. But it was those eyes, my god those eyes. They say that eyes are the windows, to the soul. And if this is true, she must be perfection. I was too shy at the time and for that reason alone, I blame myself. But, had I been a better man of the time, I would have asked. I would had begged her to sit and talk with me, if only to see those eyes and the beauty that came from and reflected, in them.

Life is what it is and I guess, that it has a way of releasing what it is to those willing to await it's outcome. One early afternoon, she spoke to me. I remember being so honored and joy felt. I tried to smile and listened to the words breaking through those soft lips. Pleasure, the likes I've never known, came to me, rushing at me and covering me. I focused every ounce of my attention to her and tried to will myself inside her, though those eyes. What was it about them? I still can not say. I was driven mad in a wonderful way by the vision they showed me and the meaning of it all. The colors and hues that seemed to almost change with the tides and moods, of this beautiful creature. I admit there came emotions of selflessness and anger, to anyone interfering with my moments, with her.

I remember asking for some time with her. I didn't mean to imply anything but what it was, time. Of course a minute with her, could last a life time and did. But what I really wanted, was time with her. She was every bit a sexy and desirable as any girl in the school. Her slender features, and stunning smile haunted me for years to come. But on that special one afternoon, I wanted to sit and talk to her, forever gazing in her eyes.

School was letting out for the Summer in 1962, I had spent most of my high school years, trying like most, to find myself and decided where to go from here. Many of my friends had settled on college. They were sharp students with a flair for adventure, they seemed ready and willing for the next step in education. I however, was not. I had tried and as far as I knew, done my best at learning, but somehow failed. I walked along with others of my peers. Caps were tossed and plenty of hugs and promises came and went quickly. The real world had come rushing in and it took with it, everyone not fastened down. Within the first five years following graduation, the fun loving class of '62 had lost seven of it's class grads. Two years later, another four. Then came the real news that hit you broadside. Walking down the street, I had come across Daren Ellis. He had played football and even sax for the band. He was the kind of student, you knew had it together. I half expected him to appear on television, talking about the rights of the people and how he, if elected would clean up this small town. Would anyone vote for him now? He looked bad. His mind had snapped and he needed a bath. I wanted to sit with him and ask him, what had happened. I don't know why this desire came to me, it wasn't as if he and I were close friends, just classmates. But it made me so sad, seeing him. His face had told tales that he would take to his grave. What had they done to him? What had he done to himself? These question were never to be answered.

I later moved out West and met and married a young woman. She, was warm and kind and she believed in a man, who was having trouble believing in himself. For my love, she gave me two daughters and a son for which I named after my father. We bought a small house on the coast and sent my children to local schools. We both worked, and after time saved and bought a larger home, for our teenagers.

One afternoon, I had decided to nap in the backyard. I was resting when a thought came to me. I hadn't been home in a long time, I mean home. That special place were you dream and planned of your future, along with others. I suddenly had the urge to go home. What I had here was warm and gentle. A life of good and not so good as the years had showed. I was different, but never the less, the same. It's something about your home town that lends itself to you but for a time. You grow and leave and find yourself resting at some other place. Your life has changed and you've made new friends. There are people you meet and love, for the adventures you have taken. But there is something about home.

I kissed my wife and hugged my kids, my son had grown hair on his face, so we shook hands. I told them I would be back Monday night and caught the first plane leaving that Friday morning. My wife had dropped me off and kissed me goodbye, making me promise to call the minute I got there, and I did.

So much of this place had changed. The buildings that once stood towering in the sky, looked to be small. The corner store where Richard Maynard and I would go after school for candy and snacks before making that long walk home, seemed so small. I walked inside half hoping to see Mr. Fred. He was a nice old man at the time and little did he know, I never forgot about him in the years that followed. Inside, was a young woman. I walked over and smiled saying, "Hello". She put down the newspaper in her hand and smiled back, asking if she could help me. I told her I grew up here and remembered an old man, running this store. I asked if she knew him and she did. She was Mr. Fred's granddaughter. Her name was Sara and she told me that he had died some 15 years ago. Heart attack, it was. I looked around the store to see old pictures of him hanging and newspaper clippings, now framed. In my mind, he remained as he was when I knew him, gentle and kind.

The streets had remained the same, but many of the houses had changed. Some had been remodeled, while others extended with additions. The faces of those walking and riding bikes, were foreign to me. These could very well be the children of my old classmates, continuing the ever growing community of my youth. I walked past my old school and was pleasantly surprised to see, it hadn't changed. Brick faced and all, it stood. I walked up to it, it looked so small now. Inside through the windows, the desk I had once sat in, were still there. Some had been replaced and you could see new ones coming in. But for the most part, it remained unchanged. On the walls were pictures of drawings, done by gifted students.

I walked around taking in everything. I wanted so much to be inside. I wanted to break in through the glass window, and after unlocking the door walk in. I wanted to sit down at the desk I bet was mine and think about all that came that year. I wanted so much to remember those years and those people. I was thinking of everything that year, and it included her. There is was again, memories of her.

I made my way out from the back of the school building and over to City Hall. I wanted information. I walked into the building I had no use for as a young man. I remember riding past this building many times on my bike, and later in my father's car. For me it was a place were grown ups came to settle problems, I knew nothing of. But now at 49, I was ready. I walked in and rang a small bell on the counter. A middle aged woman with a summer dress, walked up to me. I introduced myself and asked question about some classmates of mine and if she knew or had information on them. I asked first about Ronald Howard. She told me that he had moved out of state in 1981. She also told me that Greg Rollins still lived in town, but lost the use of one leg.

I then asked about Cynthia Edward. There was a pause followed by silence. The woman looked at me and told me that Cynthia had died in an automobile accident in 1984. She was crushed by a truck, speeding on highway 233. I lowered my head. I wanted to walk away, maybe even run. It wasn't fair, just wasn't fair. I got myself together long enough to ask if she had married. The woman had asked me to wait one minute, that she would check. She came back a few minutes later with a folder. She opened it up and began flipping through pages. I could see different papers with seals attached. There were several of these and some were copies of other papers. There was also an obituary that had been sealed in plastic. The woman said that Cynthia had never married. She was very active in the Red Cross and spent most of her time helping others. She told me that according to the papers, most of her organs were to be donated to surrounding hospitals, to aid others. I cried then, I don't know why, but I did. I didn't care what this woman before me thought, I just broke down and cried. She stood for a minute, giving me the time she thought I needed, then spoke. "Is there anything else you'd like to know sir?" she asked. I wasn't quite sure how to ask, but I needed to. I asked the woman if Cynthia's eyes were listed on her donation card. She paused and for a minute, I felt ashamed. She looked down and checked through the remaining papers. She stopped and after checking one page, flipped to the back of it. "Yes" she said. A woman name Elsa Hillshire. She's in the nursing home in Glendale. I thanked her and left.

I arrived some hour later in the Glendale Nursing home on Peacock Ave. I walked in and signed my name. Another woman, this one heavy set, sat behind a glass window. I asked if Elsa Hillshire was here. The woman smiled and said "Oh Elsa, yes she is. Down the hall and to your left, room 147. If she's not there, go straight past the room to the patio, she spends a lot of time there, you can't miss her, she's the one with the pretty eyes." She smiled and I felt my heart crack and break. I thanked her and turned making the slow walk. Why was I here? What was I doing? What could become of this, was among the questions I asked.

The room was empty, the bed made. I continued walking past other rooms and in them saw the faces of old. These aged people had once ran through life with excitement, bursting with desires and dreams, only to find themselves here, evidence that life often plays a cruel and nasty joke. I walked out onto a patio where the afternoon sun had blanketed it's warmth. I looked around to see an old man sitting at a table, with a glass of orange juice. Against the railing, I saw an old woman. She was in a wheel chair and had a white blanket covering her lap. I walked over to her and asked if I could sit with her. She smiled at me and I saw those eyes. I stopped in my tracks, and my mind froze in time. There was some scar tissue along side her face, where an operation some time ago, had taken place. I introduced myself to her and extended my hand. I watched an old shaky hand come from under her blanket, and reach out. I took it and held on to it as I spoke. I asked her question about herself and the kind of life she lived. She told me that she had once lived in Europe and danced in New York in the late fifties. I asked her questions about her failing heath and she smiled. She told me that she had lost her sight some years ago, and that doctors said there was nothing they could do. She had all but given up on hope, when news of a donor had came. She had prayed for the chance to see again and promised to never take advantage of sight.

I sat that afternoon, talking with a woman I had never met, never seen before. Time had failed to remove the beauty born into the eyes of Cynthia Edward. She was no longer part of those of us still living, for her time had come and gone. I was no longer angry at God for taking her away. I don't know why, but as I sat there, next to Elsa I could feel Cynthia with me. She had changed from the person I had once knew. But as we talked and laughed, I had the feeling that several things had happened. Elsa had the chance to see again and laugh again. But I had done even better. I had the chance to finally sit and talk with Cynthia Edward. No, it wasn't her in body. But looking at Elsa, I could feel Cynthia's soul, and it's reflection.


For Jelena

Author's Note:
I'm not sure why I find myself writing only certain times of the year. It seems that I can't get anything going any other time. But come fall, it comes pouring in and the feeling is bliss. I believe dreams lend to me thoughts, that become the stories I write. I have no idea why, but it does. I find myself thinking more about life in the fall. Could it be because its near my birthday? Or perhaps when my time comes, it will take place in the fall. If this is true, it really would be most fitting. The title "Innervision" came from a Stevie Wonder album from 1973. It would be many years later that I would find and listen to this masterpiece. It became my most favorite album of his, beating out "Songs in the key of life". There is one song that when I first heard, I feel in love with. It's called "Golden Lady" and to listen to it, is to cry. For it is a song sung by a blind man, hoping to see a woman of beauty with his mind. I hope to have done the title justice. Thanks for listening.