Yellow Stickies

I have a whole folder of stories I wrote in my I’m Going to Be an Author days.   My brother gave me the idea of publishing a few of my favorites here on Older Eyes.  This light-hearted romance is perhaps my favorite.

stickiesThe first one flutters like a wounded yellow butterfly from the medicine cabinet door and lands face down at the edge of the sink.   I eye it unenthusiastically as I scrape the lather from my cheek, debating whether or not to nudge it into the bowl, letting the steaming water and the dollops of shaving cream wash away whatever ink is hidden on the other side.   Ten-to-one, it says paint the hallway before Thanksgiving, or maybe clean the garage.   Why the hell can’t she just ask instead of leaving these God-damned notes everywhere?   I’ve heard her answer often enough to play it back in my head without asking.

“If I just ask, you’ll forget, and I’ll have to ask again.   Then, you’ll say I’m nagging!”

Shit, I think as I dry my jowls with the pink floral towel taken from an ornate brass ring next to me.   If she finds the towel crumpled next to the sink, she’ll say, How many times do I have to ask you not to use the decorator towels?    I try to fold it into a neat rectangle over the ring the way she does, with the embroidered primrose perfectly centered, but I know I’m caught.   With a sigh, I pick up the yellow Post-It and stick it back on the corner of the mirror, but without my glasses, the words are a blur.   Her meticulous block printing comes into focus when I step back… I am just where I’m meant to be in my life !!!!   The four emphatic exclamation points float like red balloons beneath the words.   “Oh, oh,” I say to myself, “she’s wandering the self-help section of Barnes and Noble again.”

I was beginning to believe the finish line of our parenthood was in sight, one son married, a daughter graduating from Brown next year, and our baby, Melissa, a senior in high school.   Of course, that’s when Melissa’s grades began to plummet and teachers who’d been her favorites started calling with reports of unexcused absences and suspicions of drug use.   We thought it was just a phase, but just before Christmas, we awoke to the slam of a car door in the middle of the night and found a note pinned to her pillow.

Mom and Dad  – I hate school and I hate life in this town.   I’m going to Seattle to live with Dirk.   Please don’t try to find me.   I love you but I’ve got to do this.   I’ll stay in touch.   Missy.

We didn’t know any Dirk.   When we called the police, they told us there’s nothing we can do since she’s eighteen.   Melissa called two miserable weeks later.   We learned that Dirk has a band called Cretinus and that Seattle’s the best place to be discovered.   After ten months, Cretinus is still unknown, but at least Melissa calls every few weeks now, talking occasionally about letting us visit which alternately cheers us and starts the ache again.

To cope, I turned to the thwack of my driver hitting a Titlist and to the calming effect of male companionship surrounded by the sweet smell of freshly mowed greens.   Linda found a support group for parents of runaways that filled her head with ideas about self-improvement and recovery.   If she’d bought a set of clubs and joined me at Long Wood once in a while, it would have made life a lot simpler.

Linda’s last craze was meditation.   Since she gets up at 4:30 to beat the rush hour onto the Riverside Freeway, you’d think she’d have squeezed this extracurricular activity into the evening or her lunch hour, but she began setting the alarm for 4:00 and quietly slipping out of the bedroom, as if the buzzer hadn’t already awakened me.   I stifled my meditationcuriosity for three days, but then tip-toed through the house at ten after four, finding her in the living room sitting cross-legged on the carpet.   An apple-scented candle burned on the coffee table and her night-gown was a pile of green silk beside her.   Her eyes were closed, and in spite of my annoyance over sleep lost, I stood admiring her body, the full breasts and rounded hips that I love.   I remember thinking, She may be a peculiar piece of work, but she certainly is well put together.   Later, when she told me that she knew I was watching her meditate, I asked the question foremost in my mind without stopping to consider whether I really wanted to know the answer.

“OK, Linda, I suppose I can understand meditation.   But why naked?”

She grinned at the notion that I’d understand but answered my question directly, as she usually does.   “Bob, I know this will sound weird to you, but without clothes, I feel in closer touch with the Universe.”

I had no idea how to respond, so out of habit, I went for the compliment.   “Well, it makes me hotter than hell to know you’re out there naked in the living room every morning.  I may have to come out and jump you one of these days.”

She just kissed me on the cheek and walked away shaking her head slowly.

affirmationsSo, now that I’ve finally accepted that the meditation isn’t going to stop, there are affirmations spreading through the house like a virus.   There isn’t a corner that doesn’t have a stickie of some size or color stuck in a carefully conspicuous place.   On the refrigerator door – My body is a temple, and I give it only healthy foods.   On the shower door, anchored with a band-aid so the moisture won’t unstick it  – I am a happy person, and I go through my struggles with serenity.   In the guest bathroom, yet  – I’m thankful for my family and friends, and I know they love me.

When my brother, Art, and his child-wife, Suzie, come by for dinner on Saturday night, I pray that he won’t notice Linda’s notes, but he and Suzie are beer drinkers.   With ten trips to the refrigerator for another Sam Adams and five to the bathroom to relieve himself, two-out-of-five to our bathroom because Suzie’s in the guest room – he sees them all.   And on eight beers, he can’t resist mentioning it to me when Linda’s out of the room.

“Bobby, what’s with the freakin’ sayings everywhere?  I hope to hell they’re not yours, dude, that’d be strange, even for you,” he says with a playful grin that just pisses me off.

Suzie sits giggling into her beer glass, and adds, “I hope, like, I don’t start doing this weird shit when I get old.”

Art stifles her with an his glare as Linda enters the room again, grinning knowingly into the awkward silence.   For another hour, as Suz prattles on about the gossip she heard this week as she did fifty-five manicures at Nails 4U, Linda and I only grunt politely.

Art finally says, “C’mon, Suz.  Let’s go.  We’re keeping these old farts up.”

Maybe Cain had the right idea.

In the twenty-four hours that follow, I roam the house, tearing stickies from anyplace they might be seen, only to watch them reappear in our bedroom, one squarely between my eyes on my photograph on Linda’s dresser.   I start to believe we’ve reached an uneasy truce but I’m wrong.   Confined to the bedroom, the affirmations mutate like sci-fi movie monsters, becoming larger and more bizarre, and, revitalized, they spill again into the rest of the house.   Index cards, carefully lettered in multi-colored markers, evolve into poster-board signs decorated with glitter and stickers.   On the refrigerator, three colors of day-glow surrounded by red foil stars announce I’m a woman of power because The Goddess is within me.   I begin to play golf four nights a week instead than two.

When Art calls me at work on Monday hoping for another shot at our refrigerator of beer next Saturday night, I talk him into going out for dinner – I have no desire to hear what he’d think of The Goddess.   Art can be a pain in the ass but he is my brother.   With the possibility looming that he’ll invite himself in after dinner Saturday, I decide that I’m entitled to an “affirmation-free zone” where we can entertain people who don’t have my tolerance of Linda’s idiosyncrasies.   I ask Linda for the dreaded Time to Talk.  Confrontation with Linda has never been easy and this recovery crap has only made it harder.  We meet on the patio after dinner, choosing opposite sides of the glass-topped table from which to state our cases.

I start cautiously.  “Art called today.   I told him we’d go out for dinner with them on Saturday night, OK?”

Her expression tells me its somewhat less than OK but she says, “Is that was this is about?”

“No.   I wanted to talk to you about these signs of yours.”

She stiffens in her chair and says, “They’re affirmations.”

“I know they’re affirmations but they’re still signs.   And they’re still embarrassing.”

“I knew it.   It’s Art.   God, Bob, he’s 38 years old and he still thinks he’s a teenager.  When are you going to stop worrying about what he thinks?”

Good question but I side step it.   “It’d be embarrassing with anybody, Linda, not just Art.”

“We never have anyone else over since Melissa.  Just Art and Suzie.   Shit, they wear on me.   Suzie’s just a child but Art.   He’s got balls acting superior to anyone.”

I’m on dangerous ground when Linda says “shit” but I bravely go on.   “All I’m asking is that you keep your signs … ah, affirmations … in less obvious places.”

Linda’s voice rises a half-tone.   “I need to see them if they’re going to help.   Shit, maybe you could just play golf every day, then you wouldn’t have to see them at all.”

Two shits.   Three is the record, I note with trepidation, but Art’s a sore point and I can’t stop.  “This isn’t about Art.   Do you think I like the way he gloats about Melissa as if he’s glad she screwed up?  Just because his kid’s a loser?  Or how he struts around like king of the pride since he married a girl fifteen years younger than he is?”   Linda’s looking toward the back fence, tears starting to appear in her eyes, but I go on, volume rising.   “Who else could we invite over with your God-damn signs everywhere?  Your support group?”

Linda’s gaze snaps back in my direction at the mention of her Group and a snarl creeps into her voice.

“Bob, you leave Group out of this.  I have to go somewhere for support.   You couldn’t even defend me with Art.   You sat there and let him laugh at my affirmations.  Shit, you just sat there.”

In my head, an angry voice says Three!   Let’s go for the record!   Unfortunately, I listen.

“Dammit, you could have avoided it all if you wouldn’t stick them right out where anyone can see them!    All I’m asking is – ”

“Shit,” is all she says as she jerks herself from the patio chair, bumping her knee on the table leg, then bangs the sliding patio door against its stops.   She limps into the dimly lighted family room, leaving me to contemplate the cost of my record breaking efforts.

The rest of the week passes politely but with little conversation.   Affirmations begin a gradual migration back to the bedroom, and The Goddess  disappears from sight.  I notice for the first time the absence of the work assignments on yellow stickies, realizing they’ve been gone for weeks.   On Tuesday, she asks me to change the oil in the Toyota, but I forget and fall asleep on the sofa.   A receipt from Rapid-Lube appears on my dresser the next day.   Scary.   Wednesday night, I give Billy a lame excuse, forcing him to pick up the talkative Phil McGruder to fill out their foursome.   That doesn’t score any points with the guys, but it’s not points with the guys I need.   Instead, Linda and I take a walk along the river for the first time in months, holding hands but rarely speaking, except to wonder aloud how we’ll tolerate Art and Suzie on Saturday night.   At bedtime, we exchange dry, tentative kisses, only to lie awake reflecting on how to topple this new wall we’ve built.   I guess walls fall harder after years without them.

Saturday morning, on my way to play eighteen with Billy Cleary, I stop at Ernie’s Golf Shop in the strip mall on Baker Street to buy some Titleists.   I notice a tiny storefront a few doors away that I’m sure I’ve seen before, but the sign in the window probably switched off my brain.   It says Crystal Grotto – A Place for Recovery, Self-Improvement, crystalgrottoand Enlightenment .   This time, though, it gives me an idea.   I’ll bring Linda a present in the spirit of self-improvement, even though she claims to hate it when I settle a fight this way.   Buying her back, she calls it, but I’m getting desperate.   I scan the parking lot carefully, especially in front of Ernie’s, and when I’m sure there’s no one in sight, I slip furtively into The Grotto.

At ten in the morning, there are no customers, but the store already reeks of incense and a half dozen candles are dripping wax onto the counter tops.   Trying to be inconspicuous in my yellow golf pants and Kelly green Long Wood Country Club jacket, I examine the sparse selection of books near the door, using the shelves to hide from any salesperson that might be lurking inside.   The first paperback I find promises greater well-being through meditation on the Chakras, whatever the hell they are.   Scanning the titles, I find Practical Tarot Reading, Practices of the Shamans, and Your Life and Love in the Stars.   I shudder and risk moving further inside.   Support is one thing, but if Linda’s going to try any of this shit, she’s going to have to find it on her own.   I find glass cases filled with unidentifiable trinkets of stone or brass or feathers, and I don’t even try to guess what’s inside colorful jars that line the walls.   Truthfully, I’m ready to bolt for the door when I spot a tray of necklaces and scurry to look, as much for the familiarity of knowing what I’m looking at as in hopes of finding a gift.   Crystals of every hue sparkle on a blue velvet background, some wrapped simply in wire that matches their chains, while others are incorporated into elaborate pendants.   A smiling silver sun atop a violet crystal catches my attention, and I’m so engrossed in deciding if Linda would like it, I don’t hear the owner of the store as she pads up quietly in deer-skin moccasins.

Softly, she says, “Can I show you something?”   I’m so startled that I drop my bag from Ernie’s, sending golf balls bouncing to all corners of the store.

Once I’ve tracked down my golf balls and regained my composure, I return to face the woman behind the counter.   She’s blonde and pleasingly rounded, a Barbie who’s been uniformly inflated by too many visits to the bakery by Ernie’s.   A white suede fringed blouse decorated with turquoise-colored plastic beads is pulled tightly across her breasts and a matching skirt flares over her hips.  Two crystals adorn her neck, one clear as glass and the size of my index finger, while a smaller one the color of Linda’s roses protrudes from the grip of a snarling cat.   A name-plate pinned to her blouse reads, Shakti – Spiritual Consultant.

The mental picture of Linda at a country club dinner dance in this outfit makes me wonder if I should scrap the crystal idea, so I recall instead the lonely goodnights and say, “I’m looking for a necklace for my wife.   I’d like to see that purple one with the silver sun.”

Shakti’s smile is slightly patronizing as she lifts the crystal from the case and holds it lovingly in her hand.   “This is amethyst, a very clear specimen, and the sun above it is pewter.   It’s so unusual, I’ve thought of buying it myself.   Is your wife into crystals?”.  Her tone says This is no mere necklace.

“No, I just want to bring her something pretty,” I reply, watching her smile fade.   Somehow, I’ve disappointed her, so I instinctively offer something else to rescue Linda in her eyes.   “She meditates, though.”

Her blue eyes brighten again, and she says, “Many of us meditate with our crystals and it deepens the experience.   Crystals have amazing curative powers.   I could help you pick out a book on crystals to go with hers if you’d like.”

With the woman I love, I’ll endure conversations that leave me wordlessly wondering if I’ve entered the Twilight Zone, but I can end this one with a quick purchase.   “I think I’ll take the amethyst,” I say, pointing to the stone glistening in her pale palm.   “She can pick up a book later if she wants one,” I add, truly hoping she won’t.   “Can she return the necklace if she doesn’t like it?”

“As long as you keep the receipt, she can return her crystal,” she says, underlining the word crystal again with her tone.   “You see, a crystal should speak to its owner.   When you give it to her, have her hold it in her hand like his and close her eyes.”  She stands for a moment as if in a trance, caressing the crystal with her stubby fingers, then looks up.   “She’ll hear it call her name if it’s meant for her.”

“I think I’ll take care of that with a gift tag.   With her name on it.”   I chuckle self-consciously at my joke, but she looks at me blankly, as if I’m speaking Tagalog.   In the silence, I fumble for my wallet and ask, “How much is it?”.

“Forty dollars,” she says, and as I drop two wrinkled twenties onto the counter, she places the crystal on a bed of cotton in a small blue box.   She rings up an old cash register, returning with my receipt and a small brown bag, which she places in the box with the necklace.   “This is sea-salt,” she says.   “Crystals should be cleansed periodically in salt water made with sea-salt to remove any negative energy they accumulate.”

“Thanks for your help,” I say as I place the box in my golf jacket pocket and escape to the doorway, slightly impressed by her persistence.   It’s a relief to find the sidewalk still empty, and as I sneak to my car, I take the salt bag out of the box and drop it into my pants pocket, laughing to myself.

By the time I finish eighteen holes, celebrate with Billy Cleary because he broke eighty for the first time, and pull into our drive it’s five in the afternoon.  I’m late and I know it, so I shuffle into the bedroom like kid who’s about to be grounded.   Sitting at her vanity in her bra and panties, Linda watches my reflection in her lighted mirror, and says, “Bob, you’re late.   Art and Suzie will be here to pick us up at 5:30!”   In the corner of the mirror, a yellow stickie reminds her I express my feelings clearly and directly, and her annoyance is both.

“I stopped to buy you something,” I say, hoping to blunt her anger, “at the Crystal Grotto.   We played Long Wood, and the traffic along Main Street heading back to Baker is brutal at this time of day.”   The aftertaste of the three Sam Adams with Billy is still faintly on my tongue, but she buys it and looks over her shoulder suspiciously.

“A present?   Oh, Bob.”   It’s her usual reaction without the usual passion, so I sense that she’s as anxious as I am to find a way to end the stalemate we’ve created.

“Close your eyes,” I say, and as she does, I take the necklace from my pocket and drape the silver chain around her neck.   She jumps as the cold amethyst settles into her cleavage, raising goose-bumps along the nape of her neck, and to my delight, her nipples to stiffen under her white silk bra.   “OK, now, you can look.”

She holds the stone in her hand, examining its magnified reflection in the mirror, then closes her eyes, sitting silently.   For a moment, I wonder if I haven’t committed a self-improvement faux pas  but she leans back against me, tears in the corners of her eyes glistening in the mirror.  “Oh, Bob, it’s perfect.   I’ve wanted to buy a crystal but I haven’t had the chance.”

Relieved, I squeeze her shoulders and say, “I’m glad you like it.”

“Like it?  I love it,” she says as she rises to embrace me.   “I can hear it call my name!”

Oh, my God, I think, but I enjoy her softness against me and hope she won’t notice my beer-breath as I whisper in her ear, “I love you, Linda.  And I’m sorry.”

“I know,” she says, “I love you, too.   You really surprised me this time.  A crystal.   You actually went into the Crystal Grotto?”

I grin dumbly.

“Well, I’ll have to pick up some sea-salt to cleanse it, ” she says, and sheepishly, I pull the brown bag from my trousers.   “Oh, Bob, how did you know?” she asks, and when I only shrug, she adds, “I think I’ll wear it tonight.”

Throughout dinner, Art’s attention drifts between the redhead in the low-cut sweater two booths away and the pewter sun smiling back at him from Linda’s chest.   I spend dinner gently rubbing my leg against Linda’s under the table and wondering what I’ll say when Art asks “What’s with the crystal, dude?” the first time Linda goes to the ladies’ room.

Instead, Suzie asks about it over dessert.   “Linda, I love your crystal.   I’ve been meaning to get one myself, my friend Annie, like, swears by hers.   Where did you get it?”

Redhead forgotten, Art’s jaw drops and he tries to speak through a mouthful of cheesecake, but Linda is faster.   “I’m glad you like it, Suzie.   It’s a gift from Bob.”   She looks to me and waits, smirking so slightly that only I see it.

Art watches me warily, but remains quiet, apparently content to have the subject in the hands of another man, even his brother.    I turn to look into Suzie’s vague gray eyes and say, “I bought it at The Crystal Grotto over on Baker Street … Do you know anything about crystals, Suzie?”

Suzie swirls her spoon in her spumoni hunting for a piece of fruit as she answers.   “Well, Annie says, like, her whole life has changed since she got hers.   So, what’s to know?”

Somehow keeping a serious expression, I say, “Suzie, you’ve got to choose a crystal that’s right for you.   Ask for Shakti, she’s the owner.    She’ll help you pick one.  She can also teach you how to use it to meditate.”   Linda is biting hard on her fork to keep from laughing and Art’s eyes are wide as I continue.   “They have an excellent selection of books, too, so you can learn about their powers.”

I enjoy a long draft of Sam Adams while Suz tells Art that they’re going to stop at the Crystal Grotto tomorrow, for sure.   Art sits dazed, his gaze darting from Linda’s crystal to my smirk to Suzie’s satisfied smile as he tries to figure out what’s happening to his carefully controlled marriage.

Suzie watches with a smile as Linda kisses me gently on the cheek.   “Aren’t they cute, Art?” she says in Art’s direction, but he only scowls and mutters something about older people acting their age.

Linda’s so close that her breast nestles against my bicep, and her lips tickle my ear as she whispers, “That’s one for The Goddess, I guess.”

A shiver runs down my spine, gathering heat as it goes, but I ignore it for the moment.   Careful to graze her earlobe with my lower lip, I whisper back,  “I’ll bet The Goddess  never expected help from The Golfer !    Where is she these days anyway?”

“She’s moved to the inside of my closet, Bob, where she greets me several times a day but doesn’t embarrass my husband when he has his brother over.”   She looks briefly in the direction of her brother-in-law, who’s still trying to talk Suzie out of a trip to The Grotto, then continues, “Not that his brother’s likely to be quite so smug in the future.   Shall I tell her about affirmations?”

Surging with brotherly love, I answer, “Not tonight, OK?   Let’s wait.   He’s sure to regress into his old self eventually.   Then, we hit him with affirmations.”   There’s sparkle in her dark brown eyes that I haven’t seen for months.   “I love you, Linda.   Let’s go home.”

Art is silent as he drives us home, but Suzie and Linda chatter like new-found friends, which is how I suspect it will turn out.   Art seems determined to salvage his evening by inviting himself in for a few of our beers, but I tell him, “Maybe next time, Art.   It’s been a long day.  Linda and I are beat.”

Suzie winks at Linda around the headrest and tugs at her husband’s sleeve.    “C’mon, Art.    Can’t you see, like, they want to be alone?”

Suzie’s, like, right.

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One Comment on “Yellow Stickies”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    Adorable! I love it.

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