In all my years I have never seen anything this weird, and that has been a pretty long time. As I sit here now in Tim Hortons, like I have every day for the past twenty years, I am witnessing a woman at the counter, placing an order, with a child on a leash. Maybe I’m old and traditional, but this is the oddest thing I have ever seen. What is society coming to? When I was a child, children were seen and not heard, well behaved and polite. There was no need for leashes unless they were on dogs. I am utterly baffled by this; it reminds me once again how much I wish Edith was here. She would have loved seeing this; I can almost hear her infections laugh at the site of it. One day I hope to hear that laugh again. It has been nine years now, since she went home. Lord knows she was tired of battling cancer every day of her life, but that doesn't change how much I miss her. Days now seem to slip by unknowingly, like I am simply wasting the last bit of my life away. I constantly depend on routine and comfort, church on Sundays, trip to the mall on Wednesdays and of course my daily 8am trip to Tim Hortons. I make this trip every day; sit in the same spot, and the regular employees all know me and my order, (although I enjoy switching up my donut order sometimes just to see their reaction). Needless to say, I am used to and comfortable with consistency. I can only assume that I will continue this routine every day, for the rest of my life, uninterru...
“Excuse me; I was wondering if I could sit here?”
I looked up, mid thought to see a very young, very pretty girl. The look on her face is tentative, and although I would prefer to be left alone I was almost compelled to say yes because of how harmless she looks. My mouth unfortunately moves faster than my brain.
“uhh..Well why would you want to do that? There are plenty of other free seats?” If I didn't give off the grumpy old man vibe before, I sure as hell do now!
“Well, you are alone and I am alone, and to be honest I would rather sit across from someone I don't know or won't talk to then sit alone. So why not?”
Although her face is turning red and I can tell she is slightly taken back by my initial response, she makes a good point and I see no reason to delay where this is headed.
“Take a seat, but I am warning you...At eighty five years old, I am not the best of company.”
She giggles, and infectious and all too familiar laugh.
With a devilish grin she says, “I think I'll take my chances.”
As she sits herself down and pulls a book out of her very oversized bag, (I swear I will never understand women), I can’t help but notice the similarities. Her smile and laugh, the way she handles herself, it was as if every action she makes has a definite meaning. I can almost see the gears turning in her head, as she tries to decide between a beaten up version of The Great Gatsby or what looks to be some sort of devil book.
“What's that demonic lookin' thing you got there?”
“Oh this, it is part of a series called House of Night. It's about vampires.” Her tone almost makes me laugh, she says it as if it was supposed to be spooky or something.
“aaaah, more of that twilight garbage! I've seen the news, it's an epidemic! Straight from the pits of Hell!”
A huge laugh erupts out of her. “I don't know where you've been hearing this, but it's just a book. No satanic literature here! I go to church regularly.” She proclaims it with pride, and accomplishment. Typical young person thinks going to church on Sundays will save her.
“I'm Elle, by the way! I figure if I am going to sit here with you and discuss literature we may as well become a bit acquainted.”
At the site of her smile, I nearly fell off my chair. It had a warm, comforting look. I have seen it so many times before. It is almost identical to Edith's.
“Well, uhh, I’m Edgar. And that by no means, is literature!” A bit harsh, but I have a point to get across. “You want to talk literature, we need to go back to the days of (Insert good author here) and (insert another good author here). Back when I was in school books meant something, now there is all
that Television nonsense. Kids brains are turning to mush and their parents wonder why! It's that darn box of sin they're always staring at. Lord only knows what they are watching on it.” I have to stop myself mid-sentence, another one of my old man rants.
She has a slightly amused look on her face, “Well, I must admit I do agree with you. T.V is turning people's brains into mush. The idea of getting lost in a story is so much more compelling to me.”
She immediately starts telling me about her adventures as a child, reading Anne of Green Gables and getting lost in stories of triumph and perseverance. I feel as though I have heard these stories a million times, but I listen anyways. Her passion is compelling, and all too familiar.
“Oh shoot, I totally lost track of time! I have to go, see you tomorrow Edgar?” Her questioning tone means she wants to sit with me tomorrow, and despite the fact that I don't like change, I will look forward to our conversations tomorrow.
“Yeah, well if you really want to put up with me again.” My grumpy elderly man act is getting kind of old. Pun intended.
Her familiar and infectious laugh follow her out of Tim Hortons. Not till now have I started to realize that my heart feels sort of happy and sad, all at once. Oh Edith, I miss you.
Hmmm, it’s already 8:15. Maybe she isn’t coming…
“Sorry I’m late!”
“Oh you know it’s not a big deal. Busy morning?” The question feels necessary; she seems kind of frazzled this morning. Hmph. Internet must have stopped working or something.
“Just typical teenage stuff, definitely nothing I would want to burden you with!” She says with a unconvincing laugh. There is something hidden there, but I’m not one to pry.
“Anyways, anything new in the news today?” She inquires.
“The usual, some sort of nonsense about the government censoring the internet. Not a bad idea if you ask me, damn kids can’t even get a proper education because of the thing.”
She is doing a bad job at hiding her budding grin.
“I know what you’re thinking, and no it is not just because I’m old!” I scoff.
Her contained laugh bursts out. “That is not what I was thinking at all!” Another laugh escapes her lips, this time it’s a little more obnoxious. “Okay, maybe just a little! You really need to lighten up Edgar! Not every young person is the same, some of us still read, and some of us still go to the library!”
She says in a shocked tone, obviously meant to mock me. I suppose I deserve it. She sets in on ranting to me about the things I may or may not have done in the sixties. Once again, I am content just listening, and that’s what she needs, or at least it seems that way.
We continue this ritual every week day for a month.
“Edgar, what do you think about life?”
The question is completely out of left field, and my reply a bit fumbled. “Well, uhh, I guess life is what you are willing to make it. I mean, in all my years I’ve never discovered the “meaning of life”. I think life is a gift from God, and we’re just supposed to do it to the best of our abilities.”
“Do you ever think about...” She pauses. “Death?” The timid look on her face tells me she is scared of my answer.
“I suppose I did quite a bit after Edith died. We knew she was going to pass, but death is something one can never fully be prepared for. That damn doctor and all his “new age medicine” wanted to try every new treatment out there, but Edith refused. I think she knew she was ready to be home. She suffered something awful. I would never go against her will, if I have ever known someone who knew what was best for them it was sure as hell Edith. So damn hard headed, I loved her for it though.” I say all this then realize I’m being a sap. Nobody likes a sap. “Sorry, I don’t usually talk about her.”
“Oh no! Don’t apologize! She sounds so wonderful. I wish I had gotten a chance to meet her. How did she die? If you don’t mind me asking?” Her tone is so soft, so full of concern.
“Cancer, such a damn horrible disease. She was wonderful, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Hell, if I could be half the person she was, I’d have a full ride to heaven. We all know that
could never happen though.” I say, making light of the situation, which honestly, makes me uncomfortable.
“You’re wonderful Edgar, and my life has been nothing but blessed since meeting you. I mean, who else would listen to all of my rants?” She says with a laugh. The same laugh. The painfully familiar laugh, and almost as if I was vomiting uncontrollably, the words came out.
“You are so much like her.” I surprise myself with these words. “I, uhh, mean, well you know what I mean.” I can literally feel the blood rushing to my cheeks.
Her expression is somewhat shocked, but very pleased. “That means so much to me. The way you describe her, she was a phenomenal woman! I can only hope to one day be like her.”
“You’ll get there, don’t rush. You young people all want to grow up so darn fast, rush your lives away. Take your time to establish who you are. If you only knew what a mess Edith was in her younger years,” I have to laugh at the memories of her when she was a young girl. Her mother never thought she would amount to anything.
I expect retaliation to my stab at her generation’s impatience, but she is still silent.
“Sorry Edgar, I have to go, thank you for sharing her with me.” She says in a despondent tone.
Something’s wrong, I can tell by the way she is rushing off. Although my better judgement screams that her iPod probably died or some boy sent a text that upset her, my heart knows there is something wrong. I just don’t know what.
Upon arriving the next day I notice a woman sitting in our usual spot, yes our, she has become a part of that spot. She begins to look me up and down, as if she knows me. Pfft, young people…although she does look about mid-thirties. She gets up and is heading straight towards me.
“Excuse me; are you by any chance Edgar?” she asks.
“Why yes I am, what’s it to you?” How on earth does this woman know my name?!
“I’m Elle’s mother, she told me you would be here. Right on time too.” A smile slowly reaches her face, but it’s a sad smile.
“Ah, yes. We meet here every day. Where is she?”
Her facial expression speaks volumes about the words that are about to come out of her mouth.
“Well, I don’t know if she told you this Edgar, but Elle had cancer. A rather severe form of it.” The tears welling in her eyes cause her to almost choke on the words.
“Well no, she never did mention that to me…” I pause for a second, it dawns on me that she said “had” cancer. “What do you mean she had cancer?”
“She battled for so long, and we thought she was doing so much better, but last night she just collapsed.” This time the tears came for real. Nothing is held back, just pure unhinged emotion seeps out of this woman in front of me. She looks so fragile, and despite the man I portray myself to be I reach out to embrace her.
“She was a remarkable young lady, the best young person I ever met.” It is all the reassurance I can offer her right now.
“She wanted you to know how much these past few weeks have meant to her. She really looked forward to this each morning. We would love to have you at the funeral.” The sincerity in her voice is heart breaking. I know she means every word.
“Of course, even as a bitter old man, Elle made my life that little bit extra special.” A smile of remembrance comes across my lips. She really was special.
I walk her mother out to her car; give her the traditional I’m sorry speech, and head towards home. I haven’t felt this empty in a long time. Not since Edith passed. The feeling is as if someone has placed the entire weight of the world on my chest, and I am struggling to keep breathing. It has been eight years since I last cried. Eight years too long, I can almost hear her voice telling me that it’s alright to cry. The old man in me is fighting it but the man I was before Edith died, the man that Elle helped bring back to life, screams to be set free. I reach my door; my hands shake as I try to fit the key in the lock. I burst into the house, and before I even get my shoes off the tears begin to fall. Not just a cry, it is a weep. A sorrowful weep from the depths of my soul, I begin to let myself feel again.
One Year Later.
It has been a year since Elle passed away. I remember the funeral as if it was yesterday, such a beautiful ceremony. It was so apparent how many people loved her, how many lives she had touched during her short time on this earth. I sit here in Tim Hortons, like I have for the past twenty-some years, and remember both her and Edith. I sometimes wonder how I am so lucky as to have known both of them. Blessed is really a better word to describe it. They taught me, and continue to teach me every day how to be a better man. I mean, I’m still a grumpy old man, just a grumpy old man with a heart. A heart never hurt anyone, did it?
I would like to start off by saying thank you for wanting to publish "Edgar Smiles", I was not expecting to recieve the opportunity to have my story published. This story has a very personal meaning behind it, we touch many people on a daily basis but sometimes we fail to realize just how much of an impact we can have on a person's life.
I am eighteen years old, and currently doing my fifth year in high school. Several years off track have prolonged my graduation, but I am hoping to graduate and go to university this coming September. I have always had a passion for writing but my main focus has always been on formal pieces, so creatively writing a story was a bit of a new adventure for me. Thank you for reading my story.