George (Part One)
by BJ Neblett
George cowered on the floor of the old Chrysler. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. His pulse raced. George shivered in the still, warm night air, his eyes searchlights, his ears at attention.
It was late, perhaps three or four in the morning. The slanting rays of the waning moon filtering through the grimy tinted glass told him so.
It wasn’t the din of the raucous party that stirred him from a fitful sleep. George was used to that. The worn blue house with the white trim and new roof was the scene of many late night adventures, especially on weekends. This Saturday was no exception. By midnight, the vacant lot adjacent to the two-story home was full. Incongruent to the tired neighborhood, fancy SUV’s and sports cars now crowded George’s derelict Chrysler. Against the curb sat a flashy silver-grey Mercedes sedan with 20” spokes.
George liked people. He enjoyed seeing new faces, making friends. It had become somewhat of a hobby, listening to and collecting the lively tales and sullen stories most people openly related.
Everybody had a story. George understood that most people were basically lonely, at least on the inside. A friendly greeting and willingness to listen were all it took to elicit unrestrained reverie from his recent acquaintances. He’d keenly watch them; observe their sadness as it puddle the corners of their eyes. He could hear the excitement in their escalating voices; taste the regret as it welled up in their throats. Yet, throughout his many years being a people watcher, George felt himself slowly becoming disenchanted with people. He’d come to the decision that there was a growing apathy, what he termed a disintegrating awareness among mankind. It seemed a virus like disappointment in life. What triggered this alarming trend, George didn’t know. But with the surety of an empath, George could peer into the souls and psyche of those he listened to, and understand the forces and motivations that propelled the stories they related. Increasingly, George didn’t like the things he learned.
The officious operators of the gaudy vehicles that peppered the vacant lot were prime examples. Unlike a few of the residents of the old blue house, these outsiders seldom had time for George. They’d bruise past George without as much as a greeting or acknowledgment. That was a shame. Despite the obvious self-centeredness and negativity, George enjoyed their tales. It was his entertainment, his television, movie theater and best seller. But beyond that, the stories of the individuals he encountered were his school, the tellers’ unwitting docents in the open air classroom of George’s existence.
George was a people watcher, yes. But he was also a people listener. He listened and understood and learned.
Sometimes George would be invited into the old blue house. There he’d usually be welcomed, till some harried resident would breeze through with a disconcerting attitude and what’s he doing here gaze. Then George would be politely but stiffly shown the door.
Often the girl who lived in the tiny second floor rear apartment would offer George food and some delicious ice cold milk. She was young, maybe twenty-two, plain and shy. George thought her attractive, with simple smooth features; a slightly turned, kittenish nose; long, straight honey blonde hair, and clear, telling blue eyes. Or perhaps it was her unassuming looks and the unpretentiousness of her body language that he found so appealing. If George had learned one thing from a life on the streets it was to recognize and accept the inner beauty – as well as the hidden ugliness – of those he met.
But George understood the comely occupant of the second floor was lonely. He could see it in those same twinkling azure eyes; feel it in the fluid movements of her delicate body; hear it in the timbre of her soft voice. She was one of the good ones, George decided. She slipped effortlessly into one of the categories George had fashioned to understand those around him. He didn’t necessarily approve of this human filing system he unwittingly devised, and chided himself on the matter often. But the system was nothing in not efficient, and, George found, remarkably accurate. The lonely girl on the second floor fell right at the top of George’s favorite people. And it wasn’t merely for the tuna and milk lunches they sometimes shared in the small, fenced rear yard of the old blue house. Her stories were real and touching and meaningful, resonating of minor victories and not so minor tragedies. The kind of life molding events George loved to hear about.
“We are,” she once said, “the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
It was right then, as they sat in the cool Seattle sunshine, that George knew he was in love. He loved the pretty, plain, lonely, enigmatic girl from the second floor of the old blue house.