Life’s Little Melodies
By Finch Mellor
Copyright 2015 Finch Mellor
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Ohhhhhhhh, YES!!! I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I was to have stood so amazingly close to him on that humid summer morning years ago. And thank Sweet Jesus Christ Superstar and the most badass punked out Marlon Brando God for making it happen.
We stood huddled together during our first mid morning break from summer school classes. We were a small group of teachers who looked like J Crew dressed union workers crowded together outside the library front entrance. No fiery garbage can for us though. We were just a gaggle of Hawaiian shirted, sandal footed, sweet smelling wrap skirt wearin’ educators trying to make an extra buck while currently trying to stay dry during a mid morning downpour. It appeared that most of the other teachers just stood statically still and stared out at the schoolyard while remembering times from their own childhood pasts. They looked on jealously as the young students scrambled around the wet grass and chased each other in circles. Some of them simply stopped randomly to eat their soggy rain soaked cookies.
Me? Well, I stood there and swallowed anxiously while I scanned the area around me for something comfortable and familiar, something that might soothe the nerves of this uneasy newbie. I needed something that would help put me at ease. You see, I was a new teacher at this school and it was my first day. I felt completely and totally out of place. This was no ordinary school and it didn’t make me feel just ordinarily out of place either. This was an ultra conservative boarding school steeped in century’s old tradition, and I was a rogue educator who roamed the land and plied my trade in youth correctional facilities and city youth hostels. I’d taught in the bowels of a jail before, and loved it. My classroom’s also been the upstairs kitchenette/storage space of a youth transitional home, and now I was at a place that reminded me of Dead Poet’s Society. The birds chirped and guys rode around on Gators. For those of you unaware of what a Gator is it’s the backwoods equivalent to a Malibu golf cart. It might be a different vehicle, but it always has the same driver. Anyways, so I stood there and looked out over one hundred acres of beautifully manicured lawn with fancy wrought-iron-looking light posts dotting the perimeter of the quad area, and I felt so completely alone.
Anyways, just as I began to shake some of that loneliness off and find some confidence I noticed that the female teacher who stood closely to my right inched away from me after she thought that maybe I’d looked at her. Which I didn’t! But, okay whatever? So, that definitely didn’t help me at all! Then the young night before cologne-soaked teacher dude who stood next to her yawned so cool and nonchalant-like that it almost seemed rehearsed. Obviously he was indicating to anyone who’d noticed him and he hoped everyone did, that he was too cool for this place, and that I (or anyone around him) was most certainly the last person he wanted to speak to at this time. Awesome! Things were going great here at Hogwarts!
That’s when I noticed this guy named Peter, or so his “Hi! My name is _____” nametag called him. Behind his rock star reading glasses and his coarsely kindhearted indie actor good looks he simply stood there on his spot rhythmically still. Almost like he’d invited strangers to reach out to him on a regular basis. Like he invited others to confide in him, and to seek his guidance if they wanted to. And he made them want to. He was wonderfully welcoming is what I’m trying to say, if there’s such a way for someone to be?
Yup! So, there he was. That was my first impression of him – Peter. As you probably gather I’m not too good in new places, and I’m definitely not good in crowds of new people. So, having him standing there looking as peaceful as a monk was huge for me. I thought about what I’d say to him. “Keep it simple stupid”, I thought to myself. “Hi, my name’s Brendan.” Ya, that’ll work fine. Why am I so nervous introducing myself to people? I don’t understand it? Saying my own name’s always been a problem for me, kind of anyways. I think it’s more psychological than anything, but I’ve stuttered saying my name so many times in my life that I now I think about it way too much before I say it. So, I guess that’s why I rehearsed those simple words over in my head a few hundred times before I finally decided it was go time! I might have even sweated a bit. Seriously! It’s weird I know. I inhaled a huge gulp of humid Western New York summer air, and I turned towards him.
As I turned I noticed that I had been fighting against the noise from all the other teachers’ conversations as I thought about the problems I have with my own name. Their words bounced chaotically off the walls in my mind. And then the school kids running chaotically around the schoolyard grass screaming to the sound of the summertime thunder rolling over the hills sidetracked me. Why did it have to be so hard for me to focus? I mean come on!
Great! I’ve completely turned towards him, and now he’s made eye contact with me. “Uh, Hey…Brendan. I mean…my name’s Brendan, Peter. Not Brendan Peter just Brendan.” Seriously? How could that have even possibly just happened? I mean who does that? But, just when my embarrassment and awkwardness should have kicked in, everything melted calmly away. It was like a reset button had been pushed for me or a do-over was granted somehow? I didn’t really feel anything at that moment except for super calmness. It felt like time slowed down and the harshness of the Hawaiian shirts, and the other teachers’ jumbled words faded away. Everything felt so calm in fact that I’d now found myself standing next to Peter with my left leg shaking to a rhythm that I’d recognized, but at that moment couldn’t remember from where? Ugh, I hate when that happens! As I was trying to think about the name of the song I was shaking my leg to, and where I go from my bumbling intro he spoke to me. He spoke to me without even saying a word. It felt like we’d skipped past the “Hi my name is Brendan” fiasco and we jumped straight to “It’s so good to see you again, friend. It’s been a very, very long time. Welcome home.” Who is this guy?
At that very moment I instantly recalled memories from past lives, not vivid memories or dreams, more like all of the important lessons and life experiences I’d gathered over lifetimes. It was as though a bunch of data was seamlessly inputted into my brain instantaneously. I immediately remembered how to accept the voice of another soul. It sounds weird, I know, but it happened. I instantly understood once again how a soul’s voice speaks to us, and more importantly how to hear one again. Pete’s voice travelled through my arms and legs, past my heart, fearlessly into my mind’s eye, through my inner ear and straight into my own soul. I stood there feeling perfectly overwhelmed in my worn down Doc Martins, my frayed khakis, and my beaten up five dollar light blue shirtsleeve collared shirt. My souls devastatingly long and lonely journey was over, I could feel it! The best part of all was that I didn’t even know it was on a journey. Hell, I didn’t even know that my soul wasn’t my very own, or that it wasn’t a completely whole one? Huh. You learn something new everyday!
Anyways, I guess this meant our souls could finally relax and ride the wave of good fortune that this life on earth in the year 2007 granted them? I mean now that we’d reconnected a fractured soul, how much better could things get? We’d now humbly wave good morning to each other knowing what we’d done. I could see it all happening in my mind. We’d wave to each other from across a chalk-lined athletic field while we walked through the mist of another dreary Saturday morning. We’d reassure each other with a sly smile snuck sometime during one of our relaxed English department meetings? Oh no! I bet it’d be an indiscreet tough guy nod to each other in the gym while one of us was punching hell out of the heavy bag? Fortunately, for me it usually came in the form of a friendly ‘ra-ta-tap-tap’ on my shoulder during another dull all-school morning assembly. You see, I’d nod off occasionally while listening to our mind-numbing Headmaster chatter on and on and on and on and on… But, I digress and man I wish he did at times too.
The important thing here is that with every wave or nod or tap from Pete came the strengthening of our now perfectly reconnected soul. The tunes we’d hummed together in our mothers’ wombs centuries and millennia ago got louder and louder every day. Our saved soul’s heavenly glow shone like a lighthouse from this broken down world of ours and straight up to wherever heaven is hidden. I can pass along this much to you. Our souls are not whole. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are some whole souls on the earth, but not many. It’s our duty as human beings to reconnect the fractured souls. The more souls we reform the closer we get to understanding life. How do we do this? We love, we do good, we hope, and we learn every minute of every day. Look for the signs that fractured souls send us. We must allow ourselves to daydream, to think about and to recollect over deja vus. What else can we do? We can work hard and we can listen to the notes between the sounds. You know when you get that high-pitched sound in your head; it seems to come from out of nowhere. It’s called tinnitus, but it’s also a reminder.
God, things were going great!
And then in a blink of an eye everything was gone again.
I mean shit. Really? We’d just gotten started.
During one of my visits to see him at the Buffalo General hospital Pete rocked out the beginning to Rush’s song YYZ on a regular ol’ Swingline classroom stapler. He couldn’t believe that I’d recognized the beat! But, come on right we still shared the same soul. Just because he was really, really sick didn’t change that fact. It just made our connection a little foggier, a little out-of-tune and a little bit harder to hold together.
Ah ha! That was it! Yes, finally! That was the rhythm I shook my leg to when we first met. , I knew I’d figure it out!
Anyways, back to Pete and his stapled beat. I added to it by banging my fists against that puke green vinyl-like hospital chair that I sat next to. I always sat on the dirty bluish chair in the corner of that awful 6th floor hospital room he was recovering in. But, halfway through my visit that day and before I’d even left the hospital that evening I knew. I knew it because it felt like we were stuck between radio stations. I couldn’t really hear him clearly anymore, but I thought maybe it was because we were in a hospital and there were a bunch of X-Ray machines, and radio waves and whatnot. But I knew I was only fooling myself.
When we reached the lonely exit doors that night I once again held them open for his wonderful wife and his three beautiful children. I walked them to their van, and when the clan was all bundled in, I walked back through the parking garage. I thought about the Indian food we’d (Pete not included), just eaten together. I thought about how Pete didn’t even feel my hand on his shoulder when I first greeted him that evening. Because you see, radiation and chemo treatment will take all of that away from a person and replace it with last meals and resentment. I barely stood on my own two feet at that moment. I stood there angrily and so devastated.
I’d be so empty again. Left here all alone, AGAIN! I didn’t really understand what loneliness was until I met Pete. And I mean that in the best possible way. I now feared that dark loneliness again. It chased me my entire life up until we reconnected under that library front entrance overhang during that mid morning thunderstorm years ago. And now I feared I wouldn’t have the strength to face it all over again.
As I exited the hospital-parking garage the cold evening air hit me like an abuser. So, I did what any soul who was about to be fractured again would do. I stood in the middle of the road and I cried. I cried for all of the souls whose lights were fading like mine was. As my spirit tired and my thoughts sunk I was somehow silently reminded about how Pete and I had just laughed hysterically together. I chuckled through my tears about how we’d laughed about him having trouble showering himself in his tiny hospital stall. We somehow laughed about how hard it was for him to find the right words to ssss, to ssss, to ssss to SAY to me during our con…con…you know what I mean, right? His surgeon said he should have put a hinge on that piece of skull after his first brain surgery. Oh ya! And funniest of all was how thoroughly unimpressed Pete thought the nurses were with his pasty white nakedness.
Anyways, ever since that late night when I watched him skip like a shadow down that stranger’s driveway hundreds of miles away, I’ve struggled to sleep soundly. I’ve slid mechanically out of my bed every morning since. I’ve thoughtlessly shuffled into my sorrowful slippers to begin my day without a trace. Each morning I’d wrap my hand around the same difficult to open door knob and I… I’d stand silently and I’d push my heavy head against the cold wall to pause the insensitive morning air from smacking me with its hopelessness. I’d lost hope and I knew it. Pretty simple. It’s not like I didn’t try hoping, because I did. Never really knew what I was hoping for, but…
But, when I stepped up to that door on one cold winter morning I knew I had nothing left. Nothing at all. There was no fuel left in me to even think about trying to hope for something. I now felt so callously cast aside by the world that I’d barely even cared about getting into my slippers. I’d barely rested my hand on that son-of-a-bitch doorknob, and I’d hardly turned it at all. But, I did and it opened. I stepped outside and shuffled head down across our snow packed driveway. I walked through the dark moonless morning and I knew what I’d do. I knew what was about to happen and I was okay with it. This would be the last time. I’d hoped that much for myself. Hey! I hoped.
I’m guessing it was the strength of my weakness that changed the ultimate plan for me on that day. I can’t really think of anything else that could’ve brought me back from such despair. I decided that I’d ditch work and I climbed into my car and drove straight to the village of Kenmore. It was about a forty-five minute drive from where I was but it felt like it took about five minutes that day. I parked my car just down the street from Pete’s old home on Nassau St. It felt good to me to be back. Things felt good to me. I opened the car door and I stepped one foot out. I felt immediately intimidated by the outside. Nothing was the same in the neighbourhood and I knew it. Why was I here?
All I wanted was a reconnection. I wanted to be back where Pete’d been, and touch the things that Pete’d touched. I walked up and down both sides of his street about a hundred times. I walked Delaware Ave. until a strip was worn off my boots. Shit, I walked all the way down to the hospital Pete was in, and back again. I might have done that twice? When I finally convinced myself that he wouldn’t be around the next corner, or waiting for me at the bar, I panicked. I felt freaked out. I felt lost, short of breath and disoriented. I felt strangely gratified though because it reminded me of a time when Pete went out to buy a children’s birthday gift and all he could do was sit quietly in his car, paralyzed because the tumor in his brain took him captive. Finally, I felt close to him again.
Huh? What was that? I reached backwards and felt around the back of my shoulder because I swear that I felt something hit me and bounce off. Maybe a twig fell from a tree above? Hmm. No trees and nothing on the ground. Okay. Weird.
Did you just ‘ra-ta-tap-tap’ me?
That’s craziness! You’re dead and I’m standing here by myself on Delaware Ave in front of the Record Baron. And now I’m also talking out loud to my dead friend in public. Okay get a grip, Brendan. You’re getting delusional. I knew for sure that I was standing there by myself. I looked all around me. I swear I felt a ‘ra-ta-ta-tap’ on my shoulder.
Waking me from what?
I wasn’t snoozin’ at morning assembly.
And then I heard a familiar tapping on a ride cymbal. And then a kick drum boomed and a snare drum snapped. I couldn’t believe it! It was YYZ by Rush again. No shitting you. I felt like I was going to fall over. I stood still and stared. Who I saw behind the drum kit amazed me. She was an eight-year-old girl named .
Pete, WTF my Home Slice?
You’ve done this right?
Your subtle ghostly shoulder tap took me back to a time when I skipped school, visited head shops, bought fake ID’s and Pixies t-shirts. I’d spend hours roaming Indie record stores, how we watched The Lowest of the Low on New Year’s Eve, and how we taught students for years to act like Gods and to write like poets.
Am I right? Did you do this? Of course you did.
You spoke to me as clear as day again. You used the hope I found in Alexey’s eyes. Didn’t you? It’s hope that keeps us alive. Isn’t it?
Well, it’s been two years since Pete’s left us. And how I hate to be reminded. But, April 15th each year I am. The memory of my endless tears in the front pew of St. Joseph’s church while we laid him to rest, the bible passage I read proudly for him from the altar and my crushing loneliness all sit like a surgical scar on my skull now. But, I promise that whenever I feel that scar I listen for the beat. Whenever I touch that scar I hear Alexey, and I think about all of the students you’ve taught and inspired during your time on this earth. Most importantly I hear you on the ol’ Swingline stapler and I have hope. With every line we recite, with every note we play, and with every lesson we learn we come closer to finding the missing parts to our souls. God willing Pete may we find you in the crowd again someday again really soon. .
Dear Mr. Peter Weisenburger,
Your soul soared spirits as you walked
So damn rhythmically throughout our lives
As if you breathed instant classical serenades
With every musical exhalation
You spoke soothing words of empathy that poured
Peacefully into the ears of lucky bystanders
As your look provided compassion
And your touch, well it healed us all.
Thank you for reading my story. If you have the time and energy please leave a review from where you downloaded this ebook. I’d personally love to hear from you, too. Thanks! Finch. Click on my image for contact info and to find out a little bit more about me.