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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Independence

Up until that summer, I'd never lived alone, but now my young marriage was withering, I was separated from my husband, staring down the barrel of a divorce and living hours from my parents and sister. Apart from a few casual friends from work, I was on completely my own in metropolitan Atlanta. Returning to my hot apartment late in the day July 3rd I changed from my work suit into shorts and a tank top and flopped down in front of the TV to polish off my newly-adopted single-woman's dinner of a quarter of an ice cold watermelon.

On the evening news, local reporters hawked holiday concerts, parades and festivities all over the city. I'd no plans to attend these or any other Fourth of July celebrations; I suppose I was a bit too broken yet to contemplate seeking new companionship after so many years of having a guaranteed date. And I wouldn't be spending time with my family since I only had the holiday off and was due back at work bright and early on July 5th.

After getting my fill of news, I began my evening routine: scoop the cat litter, sift through the mail, and then step out onto the balcony to water a dejected pot of impatiens quickly giving up the ghost in the summer heat. I lived inside the city limits of Atlanta and literally spitting distance from downtown Atlanta, but my balcony, three stories up, protruded over a deep, densely wooded ravine. On that balcony I could neither see nor hear anything that would give away my close proximity to a major urban hub.

I'd sat for hours on that balcony, contemplating my failing marriage, my broken dreams, my heartache, and I'd always done so uninterrupted by any other human soul. I was alone in an isolated tree house in the sky. The isolation had always served me well.  This night, it would not.

Stepping out onto the wooden floor of my peaceful haven among the tree tops, I spun around quickly to close the door and prevent the cat, a proven escape artist and daredevil, from exiting behind me and shimmying up or down from our forest perch, onto the roof or into the ravine. I'd no desire to spend the waning hours of daylight and dusk plodding around in the woods trying to locate my adventurous kitty.

Sure enough, the cat had seen the door open and he bolted at top speed toward it, his eye on freedom. I quickly grabbed the handle and slammed his escape route shut with such force it jarred loose the safety bar on the inside of the door. I watched as the bar fell across the track below in slow motion, rendering me a virtual prisoner on my own treetop perch high above solid ground on a wooden balcony overlooking nothing but a forest of spindly pines, acres of scrubby undergrowth and a conservatively-estimated four hundred eleventy million blood-thirsty mosquitos.

But the cat? Was still inside. Small victories.

At my disposal on the balcony were two pots of wilted red impatiens, two black wrought iron chairs and a rusted bistro table, one bladder already beginning to whimper about the half-gallon of watermelon juice flooding the plumbing, one tank top and one pair of skimpy shorts and about three cubic miles of exposed skin. I was barefoot and already beginning to sweat, and as I my eyes darted about taking stock, I realized in an instant I'd landed myself in a predicament of prodigious proportions.

Thanks to my newly-found independence, I pondered, there was no one on this whole planet, much less within shrieking distance, who would miss me should I remain stuck on that balcony until the day after tomorrow. I'd be discovered 48 hours from now, I worried, the hoard of hovering mosquitos having long since syphoned off the last few drops of my blood. I'd have spent my final living and functional moments ridding myself of two full liters of watermelon juice and scrawling out a meaningful epitaph on the glass door using only my fingertip and a paste of dehydrated impatiens petals mixed with my own urine. The other side of the door would be smeared and dotted with cat snot and paw prints from the nose and feet of the cat, still glowering at me over foiling his plans for escape.  (Oh, for him to be out here, and me to be in there!)

It occurred to me as I pondered my fate that as the evening wore on the single, hip set inhabiting the apartment complex with me would soon all be gone off to enjoy those holiday events I'd heard hyped just moments ago while I was thoughtlessly horking down the watermelon whose juice was now backed up past my eyeballs. A hasty rescue before nightfall would be crucial to my survival.

After a few moments I gathered my courage, shed my dignity and began to keen pathetically into a dusky hollow of boughs, branches and thicket:

HE-E-E-L-P ME-E-E-E. PLE-E-E-EASE?

And as I felt the aching aloneness of my present life I wondered fleetingly if the future would be worth survival, anyway. Sigh.

HE-E-E-L-P ME-E-E-E. I'm locked outsi-i-i-i-i-de. On my ba-a-a-a-alcon-eeeeeee!

No one would hear me, I thought. This was futile. I stood at the railing, leaning over. Looking down. Looking up. Up and down. Seeing no realistic escape route.

Oh, ple-e-e-e-e-ease! Somebody ple-e-e-e-e-e-ease hear me and help! I cried over and over again into the abyss.

And then! O BLESSED REDEMPTION! I heard footsteps tromping through the scrub below. From around the corner of my building wandered a guy my age or a little younger looking up. I peered sheeplishly back at him from my tower. We discussed the series of unfortunate events leading up to my predicament and he chuckled and assured me he'd have me back in my apartment or we'd die there together.

As we waited for the security officer from the apartment complex to arrive with a spare key to my front door, my gentleman rescuer and I chatted and I gratefully pretended to drink the cold beer he'd duct taped, along with a bottle-opener, to a long fallen branch and passed up to me through the spaces between my porch railings. I didn't dare actually allow another sip of liquid past my lips, lest the dam break and further embarrass me in front of this kind stranger.

Within an hour I was back inside my apartment soaking in a hot bath as I counted mosquito bites, having hastily liberated the watermelon juice inundating my lower regions, eternally thankful for my rescue. I moved away from that apartment a few weeks later, and never saw my prince-with-the-beer-on-a-stick again.

My next apartment in Atlanta had French doors out to its balcony that could only be locked manually from the inside.

After that I lived alone (quite happily, I might add) for another seven years, until another prince came along and coaxed me out of my (less virtual) tower, promising to stay by my side forever. The end. (Okay it's more complicated than that, but have you seen how long this post is? Let's let it go at that for now, shall we?)

(OH! And I still love watermelon, but I only eat it after making sure there's a clear and practical Plan B close at hand, if you know what I mean.)




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14 comments:

  1. Megan you are ha-lar-ious!!

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  2. It's funny how those stories cement themselves in our minds when part of a journey, hmm? You tell it well, and funny as usual, but I hear your heart, Miss Megan, and I know that moment holds a lot of emotions for you...I'm really glad the story has such a happy ending. :)

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  3. Sara Joy, you're right. There's a much longer (!) and sadder version of this story way back in my archives. I reworked it to post today, just for fun. Thankfully there's still redemption at the forefront, even with all the melodrama removed.

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  4. I'm so happy it all turned out all right in the end, in all aspects - not just being locked out. And I'm glad you can see the humor in it now!

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  5. I felt like I was reading a chapter of a book, but then Miss Fried Okra jumped out at the end. Loved it all. (Sidenote? I would've just died if that happened to me!!)

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  6. This is one of my favorite stories of yours. Never gets old. xoxo

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  7. And I thought I was the queen of locking oneself out of one's abode! I bet those skeeter bites were maddening. I'm scratching right now in sympathy.

    I never eat watermelon without a Plan B nearby, either! I learned that the hard way...

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  8. This is a beautiful piece of writing. I just want to lay down in it and soak it in for a while.

    By the way, are you sure your kitty wasn't PLANNING to lock you on the porch and have you reach an untimely and undignified demise? Sounds like a cat to me.

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  9. Such a beautiful post! As much as thouse hard lonely times in life suck i think we learn the most about ourselves in those times. Life's lessons are never easy i guess. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. Give your pet their own special cat door. Cat Doors provide your cat with the freedom to come and go as they please without requiring you to let them in and out every time. Selecting a quality Cat Door can help save energy during the hot and cold seasons. Choose a Cat Door large enough for your pet to enter and exit comfortably and safely. Cat Doors should have a closing panel for times when you want to secure your Cat Door. Cat Door or Cat Flap gives you and your cat the freedom they deserve.

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  11. It is writing like this that make me come back time and again. Such a great story.

    So glad you didn't wither away on the balcony!

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  12. Oh my word. I'd have died. You're hilarious. That is SO something that would happen to me.

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  13. What a great story. On so so many levels. Thanks for sharing it.

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  14. GREAT story! My favorite part, though, is that with all that the post is about, you manage to snag a comment (AD) for a cat door! :)

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Thoughts?