Warning: This is a REALLY long post!
* This is something I've been working on for over a year now. It was something I started for NaNoWriMo and never finished. I think it's too big for me right now, but I have faith that this character has more flesh than I can give him right now.*
The trees whipped by so fast that it was hard to focus on them individually. Instead, Jared let his eyes go unfocused and took them as one large object. The wall of leaves and dappled sunlight periodically made him blink . The ride home from school was a time for him to daydream. It was usually uninterrupted as well because no one talked to Jared. Ever. He would sit and think about the characters in the books he read, of which there were many because of his solitary status. He never had to defend his right to sit alone because no one ever tried to sit with him.
Sometimes he would try to imagine himself away from this place. Grown-up, working, married, a father. The pictures in his head were always in shadow because he really couldn’t imagine ever being free of this life. During this time he could always hear a snatch or two of conversation from the other kids on the bus. So-and-so likes Billy Epps, did you hear what Crystal said to Diane, blah, blah, blah. These people were the losers, in Jared’s mind, not him. He would never admit to himself that he envied them. What he wouldn’t give to be the one who had not a care in the world, that he might ever have a reason to gossip about someone else’s life. That was something he would never consciously think, much less say out loud.
The bus turned onto Phelps Lane and Jared’s stomach did a flip-flop. This happened every day too. In about two minutes the bus would be in front of his house and he would have to get off. “I hate my life so much”, Jared thought to himself. Technically, what he hated wasn’t his life as much as it was the way people tended to act. One day…just one day… he wished that he could be invisible. That he could get up, unnoticed, and get off the bus without having to listen to them. Without having to hate them and himself.
The yellow school bus pulled to a stop in front of a dilapidated house that had been built at least 50 or 60 years ago and had not ever been maintained. It kind of leaned to one side because of the settling and not having anyone to love it and take care of it. The paint, which used to be white but was now dirty enough to be sort of a brown color, was chipped off in large portions and fading. A couple squares of blue tarp were nailed to the roof from leaks that never really got fixed. The screen door didn’t have a screen in it anymore. The yard was more dirt than grass. It reminded Jared of a chicken yard. He sometimes thought that if they had chickens then maybe that might give the yard permission to look so bleak and barren. However, no chickens were to be found in this yard, therefore no real reason for the yard’s appearance, other than the fact that it was as old as the house and maybe just as tired.
Ruby, the bus driver, opened the bi-fold doors and looked up into the large mirror over her head expectantly. Her oversized sunglasses falling down on her nose forced her to wrinkle her face in an effort to keep them up. Jared breathed in a quick breath that he knew he wouldn’t exhale until the bus was safely out of sight again. He grabbed his pack and rose up to exit. Immediately the whispers and snickers started. “Doesn’t it ever get old?”, he wondered to himself. Every school day - from kindergarten to middle school - this had happened. Is the poor, quiet, “weird” kid really that much of a novelty that it had to happen every day? Really? Every day? Jared made it a point not to ever react. Never give them the satisfaction. Pretend you don’t hear them. He could hear these things in his mother’s voice even though she had never actually said them to him. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t say these reassuring and protective things to him, it was because he had never discussed this part of his day with anyone, not even her. He knew it would only cause her worry.
He made it to the front of the bus easily enough. People pulled in their arms and legs and even straggling backpacks and sweaters to keep him from touching them, as if poverty or personality were things you could “catch”, like chicken pox or lice. As a matter of fact, Jared had caught lice once. It had happened in the third grade and most of the school had caught it too, but someone had decided that Jared must have had it first. People still gave a wide berth to him five years later.
Like his house and his yard, he looked poor therefore he was dirty and contagious. Jared kept his eyes down, not looking at anyone’s face. He got to the bus driver and she tried to catch his eye and smile. She did this every day. He really did appreciate her kindness but he wished so much that she would stop. The less attention towards him the better. It gave the mob less ammunition. She had offered many times to give him the seat at the front so that he could just jump off at his stop. He had declined it because somehow he knew that this too would become fodder for the others.
He exited the idling bus and the doors closed behind him. Jared was still holding his breath. Just as Ruby started to pull away he heard it. A window went down, a dull “thwack” and laughter. He had just received a spit ball to the back of the head. “Hey!”, a boy’s voice yelled, “You forgot your food stamps!”. More laughter. Jared just kept walking. He didn’t even reach up to brush the damp ball of chewed up paper out of his hair because he knew that would add fuel to the fire. The laughter was joined by scolding as Ruby loudly admonished the students on the bus. They slowly accelerated away from the house. Jared exhaled.
Soon the only sounds around Jared were wind, insects and maybe the occasional bird call. His house sat back from the road, surrounded on all sides by a grass meadow, so that it was about a two minute walk. Jared made it his business to take at least five minutes. This was his favorite part of the day… if there really was a favorite. For five minutes of his day he was alone. No one to laugh or make fun, no one to tell him what to do, no one to disappoint. He looked around to make sure that he was indeed alone - to make sure that no one was out in the yard waiting on him. He shucked the hoodie off his back and tied it around his waist, adjusted the backpack on his shoulders and started walking slowly toward the house.
The sun was so bright and warm today. Not a single cloud blemished the late-May sky. It was that transparent blue color that Jared had come to associate with early summer. It was almost summer now too. He stopped walking and just stood in the middle of the dirt driveway. He closed his eyes and listened to the Earth speak. As the sun shone down on him, warming his hair, and the tall grass whispered delicately, he wished one more time that he would open his eyes to a different world. Different house, different town, different school, different Dad…same Mom though. She was the only thing in his life that was right. The only thing that was good.
Today was Thursday. One more day of 8th grade. Summer. It distressed Jared to think of it. Summers were supposed to be what kids dreamed of all year. What a deceiving concept. Every fall he would sit and listen to his classmates give their “What I Did This Summer” speeches. He usually made up a story just for that purpose. Not something fantastic because that might somehow backfire on him. Someone might ask his Mom how she enjoyed their summer vacation the next time they saw her in line at the store, expecting to hear all about Disney World or the beach, only to have his mom start lamenting the double shifts and foot blisters that her summer actually involved. He always kept it simple. “ I went to my Grandma’s house (lie) and learned how to milk cows (lie), then I learned how to use the tractor with my Grandpa (double lie because there was no Grandpa or tractor)”. It was boring enough for people to forget, but kept him out of trouble for not having completed the assignment.
Summers at Jared’s house were always the same. Mom worked while his father, Tommy, slept on the couch because he was nearly always unemployed. Jared read books or did chores and anything else that would keep him away from Tommy. That was it … that was what his summers were made of. Jared’s Mom, Danielle, was a waitress/short order cook at a truck stop on the Interstate. She was never home. It wasn’t personal. She made an effort at least to make sure that he knew that. It was just that someone had to work and Tommy had never gotten the hang of gainful employment.
As far back as Jared could remember Tommy had always been at home. Tommy had hurt his back several years ago doing a construction job and said that he was disabled. Because of the “disability”, Tommy, more often than not, preferred to lie down on the couch than sit up. Even after Danielle bought him that Lazy Boy for Father’s Day, he still lay on the couch. He said it helped the "pain". It wasn’t that Jared didn’t necessarily believe that his father was in pain, it’s just that Jared had never seen him take any medicine for it, or go to the doctor and he didn‘t receive any type of Disability Check that other disabled people seemed to be entitled to. In fact, the only thing that he had ever seen his dad do was watch TV, smoke more cigarettes than the ash tray could hold, and sleep. That pretty much summed up his whole life’s experience of what fathers do.
His mom was a different story all together. Danielle was the sun and moon and all the stars to her son. She was beautiful for one thing. She would never admit to it and might even argue against it, but she was the most beautiful person Jared had ever seen in real life or in pictures. The feature that made her beauty stand out the most wasn’t her long honey-colored hair or striking profile. It wasn’t her trim figure or her dancer’s legs. She possessed all those things, for sure, but these things alone would have made her just an ordinary beauty. What Danielle Marshall had that Jared had never seen in any other woman was an infuriating unawareness of her own presence. She did not think that anyone, ever, took notice of her.
Four years ago Jared had gotten a one line part in the class play about George Washington. He had hovered around the curtain before show time, peeking at the audience, to see if his Mom would make it in time. After several minutes, she had entered through the lunchroom door in the front near the stage. Jared saw the whole thing happen in slow motion, even though it couldn’t have taken more than 15 seconds. She walked her graceful walk as she searched for a seat as close to the front as she could find. Unaware as she always was, she did not notice the men who had certainly noticed her.
Six men immediately straightened up in their chairs, simultaneously inhaling stomachs and smiling. Also noticing her entrance was nearly every single woman in the room. They, however, were not smiling. His Mom, oblivious to the commotion, picked her seat, smoothed out her waitress’ uniform and waited patiently. Jared watched silently in awe of the whole thing, of the positive effect she had on men, on the negative effect she seemed to have on other women and how she didn’t even know it. He also felt something else, even though he was too young to recognize it, he felt an intense jealousy. A need to claim her as his mom, a need to defend her against those other women and protect her from those men who were still smiling goofily at her. Suddenly he wanted to go home. Skip the whole thing. But he knew that wouldn’t happen, so instead he filed this memory into a file marked “Review Later” and closed the peep whole in the curtain.
Ever since that night he had tried to notice things that happened when his mom was around. People’s reactions and facial expressions, the service or prices they got on things, etc. One thing was for sure. Danielle left people stunned everywhere she went. Jared wasn’t sure it was something that he would ever get used to. The older he got the more he noticed it and the less he liked it. It wasn’t something she was trying to do, so it wasn’t something she could control. He sort of saw her as the unwitting victim of her own beauty. Although there were times that she was the beneficiary of it, most times she wasn’t. It depended on the person’s perception of her. It was sad really.
As Jared walked, he picked a piece of tall grass from the side of the driveway and chewed on it. It never got mowed and in the height of summer it was so tall that it blocked most of the house from sight. As he chewed the torn end of the bitter grass he mentally prepared for his entrance to the house. It went pretty much the same way every day. Hear the television from the yard, enter the house, spend a couple minutes fetching things for Tommy, go to his room and lock his door, wait for Mom to come home.
This had been the routine as long as he could remember. It didn’t really bother him though, because he wanted to spend as little time as possible with Tommy. As far back as he could remember, Jared had always called his father by his first name. No one seemed to think it was odd. Maybe Tommy didn’t want to be called Dad, or maybe Jared had just taken to calling him Tommy because that’s what his Mom called him and no one had ever corrected it. It didn’t really matter to Jared either way because Tommy didn’t act like a Dad and he didn’t seem to want Jared to call him Dad…so why call him Dad? In fact, he hadn’t even noticed that it was odd until he was in upper elementary school. 4th grade at the earliest.
Jared raised his head as he entered the “chicken yard”. One thing caught his attention immediately that he hadn’t noticed when he got off the bus. He should have seen it sooner, but he had adopted the habit of walking with his head down. His mother’s car was home, the only car they owned … in the middle of the day … on a Monday afternoon. Danielle worked doubles at least 4 or 5 days a week. She was almost never home this early. The very next thing that he noticed was that he couldn’t hear the TV.
The house was quiet and Mom was home…something was wrong. For a split second Jared imagined a horrible scene and in the next second he was running - a full out sprint. For all he knew, with the way his Mom and Tommy fought, his mother’s life might depend on the speed of his legs. He took the concrete blocks that doubled as front steps in one leap. With the speed behind him he actually slammed into the door and had to back himself up so that he could open it. His mind was racing faster than his feet as he yanked the screen-less door open and screamed, “Mom!”. His breath tearing in and out of him in ragged gasps.
In his mind he could see her laying unconscious on the floor, Tommy stepping over her to go lay down on the couch again… or worse. The two of them had always had a violent relationship. Partly because of Tommy’s whiplash personality changes and partly because Danielle could only take so much. Part of the pattern of their life was that every few months his Mom would just break apart and direct all her anger and pent up resentment towards Tommy. The fights were usually loud and physically violent but short. They had both drawn blood in the past but no one had ever gone to the hospital, even though many times Danielle probably should have.
Multiple times she had gone to work with visible bruises and at least once a black eye that she feebly tried to cover up with make up and excuses about walking into a cabinet that no one believed. By the time Jared was 8 or 9 he knew more about his parents’ marriage than a child had a right to know because of all the screaming at night. He also knew all the signs of Battered Woman Syndrome only he didn’t know that was the name for it… the only name he knew for it was Mom. Now as he stood in his own front room, chest heaving and terrified, he could only picture what kind of vile thing had happened at this house while he was at school and was torn with regret that he had not been here this time, had not been here to protect her. He had not been here when she needed him.
“Mom!”, he screamed again after not getting a response the first time. He began scanning the front room for signs of struggle: overturned furniture, scattered papers, dumped ash tray, torn drapes or worse…blood …but found nothing out of place. He was hyperventilating and he knew it but he felt like he had no control over his own body at this point. He made a move toward the kitchen to start the search. For what? Her body? He didn’t know but that wasn’t going to stop him from tearing the house apart. Something was definitely wrong. As he turned to the left and entered the kitchen, he saw a cold cup of coffee on the table and one long ash, that used to be a cigarette, in the ashtray. It had obviously not been smoked but had been left alone to burn itself out. He turned in a complete circle, tears in his eyes, unable to inhale a breath and cried out, “MOM!!”.
Just then the door to the bathroom opened and through a cloud of steam stepped his Mom. Eyes wide, fully dressed but with hair up in a towel, she startled as she saw him standing there in such a frightened state. “Jared, baby, what’s wrong? You look like you’re scared to death!” His mom came forward with a worried look on her face and touched his shoulder. He just stared at her like he didn’t know her and then without warning his face crumpled and he burst into tears.
Great jagged sobs began to come from deep inside his chest. His knees went weak and he almost collapsed where he stood. “Jared!”, his mom cried as she directed her son to a chair at the kitchen table. By now he was almost as tall as her and she certainly wouldn’t be able to carry him if he collapsed on her, “Sit down sweetie. Sit here”, she said as she pulled out the nearest chair and led him to it. “What in the world is going on Son?”, she asked while she simultaneously steadied him with her hand and reached to the sink for a damp rag that lay draped over the sinks edge. She wiped his face with the dish rag and studied his expression as Jared tried to compose himself and was suddenly embarrassed to be seen crying in front of his mother. At 13 years old he, like most boys his age, fancied himself too old to cry anymore.
She sat down in the chair next to him and reached for his hand. He could see the worry in her eyes and felt at once stupid for causing such a commotion and yet so full of love for her and the concern he could plainly see on her face. She didn’t rush him or demand anything from him during the time it took him to calm down, she just gave freely what she had to give… her love and her time. He didn’t want to take too long and he knew she must think he was losing his mind. She didn’t think that though. She didn’t think anything really, except that something obviously was bothering him. She certainly didn’t think that a moment ago he was imagining her death at the hands of his own father. In her mind he wasn’t old enough to even really process the complexities of her marriage. She was wrong.
He drew in a slow breath, his hands shaking, and forced himself to concentrate on the cheap salt and pepper shakers that were centered on the kitchen table. They were shaped like a Dalmatian and a fire hydrant. He remembered when they’d gotten those. They had gone to a Firefighter’s Museum on a field trip in his second grade year. It had been one of the only trips that his Mom had ever been able to chaperone. They had picked the salt and pepper shakers out together at the tiny crowded gift shop, while she complained at the cost of cheap souvenirs.
“Mom, what are you doing home?”, was the best he could trust himself to say at the moment. She looked at him for a split second and deadpanned the response, “I live here.”. He smiled and laid his head down on the table, willing his heart to slow down. He gave a furtive laugh and mumbled into his arm, “I mean, you’re usually working.” She sighed a little sigh and ran her hand over his silky coffee-colored hair. “Baby, tell me what’s bothering you. Obviously something frightened you. I’ve never seen you fall apart that way.” Even though she couldn’t see him, Jared’s face colored a bright red. She bent down and whispered in his ear, “What? Are you too embarrassed to let your Mom see you cry?”. “I’m not embarrassed, Mom.”, came the muffled response. She sat back in her chair and smiled at her only son. “Sure you are… your ears are turning red.” He raised his head and looked at her. “Mom, I thought that something was wrong. You’re never home this time of day.”, he paused, “Where’s Tommy?” He looked around cautiously as he waited for her answer but noticed that her demeanor had turned cool and he could tell she would be defensive when she answered.
The subject of Tommy didn’t always go well between them. Sometimes they were equals in the struggle to live with him. A glance between them was like a silent agreement that they were in this together. Most times they didn’t even have to talk to communicate what the other might need at the moment: patience, courage, strength. But, there were other times. Times when they were not in it together. Jared hated those times. During those times it seemed like it made his Mom’s life easier to separate herself from him. It was always a last ditch effort, but he could never tell if it resulted from her wanting him to learn how to handle conflict himself or if it was as simple as her not having the energy or courage to stand up for both of them again. It was probably the later. Tommy wore her down so often, more often than he did Jared, that it made sense that she just couldn’t put up the fight all the time.
She took her hand off of his arm, turned her head and looked out the window. “Tommy left”, was all she said. It was silent in the kitchen while Jared waited for the rest of the story. She was squinting her eyes as if she were remembering a distant memory, not something that had happened just this morning. Jared waited out the silence. He knew that asking questions was going to irritate her more and probably cause her to abandon the whole subject. His mom had always been this way. She was more apt to share something if you pretended you were invisible. He supposed it was more like she were talking to herself, not opening herself up to you.. In fact, most of the “conversations” that Jared and his mother had shared, the ones that were meaningful to him anyway, weren’t even two-way discussions. It was him being silent and her letting the wall down momentarily to talk about herself. It did not happen often. It was directly because of this that Jared had learned the art of listening.
He sat patiently and waited a moment. After a second or two, her focus changed and she snapped back to the kitchen table and her son. She smiled a big, and Jared could tell, fake smile. She patted his arm again and rose from the table “Come to the bathroom with me. Come see what I’ve done!”, she said as she went back towards the bathroom she had just recently appeared from. Jared stood and walked to the bathroom door. It was the only visible doorway in the hallway from the kitchen. To the left of the bathroom was Danielle and Tommy’s room and to the right was his room. He leaned in the doorway, as the bathroom really was barely large enough for one person to turn a full circle. Tommy had called it the bath-closet.
“Oh Lord”, Jared thought to himself. His mother sounded mischievous and Danielle rarely did or said anything remotely close to mischievous. When she did, it was usually memorable. As he was thinking this Danielle leaned all the way over to undo the towel on her head. She used the now damp towel to brusquely rub the remaining moisture from her hair. When she stood she flipped her hair dramatically revealing a startlingly bright red color. “Oh my goodness! Wow!”, she laughed as she stared at her reflection. “I guess they really meant ‘Shimmering Copper’ didn’t they?” She turned to look at Jared to get his response but she found him to be without. He stood in the doorway, jaw slack, and gaped at her. The thought ran through his mind that he might be witnessing his own mother’s nervous breakdown. He didn’t really know what that might involve but he had heard of it on TV and in books and it certainly might account for her behavior right now.
“Sweetheart, breathe. It’s not that big a deal. It’s just hair color.” She continued to look for a response when suddenly and without permission from his brain, Jared’s mouth blurted, “Did Tommy leave because you colored your hair??” His mother burst out in the largest laugh he had ever heard come from her mouth and she literally had to sit on the toilet to recover. She howled as tears started to form at the corners of her eyes and run down her face. She was still bent in laughter when she said, “Baby, if that would have done it, I would’ve dyed my hair years ago!!”. She bent over again in a spasm of renewed laughter. Momentarily she recovered from the fit of humor. Drying her eyes and gasping for air, she stood up. “Whew! Jared, honey, you really are funnier than I thought.”
He continued to look at her expectantly. “Are you going to tell me?”, he asked of her. “ Well, ugh, I was hoping for a different reaction”, she pouted as she continued to towel dry her hair. He just stood there. He knew that if he stood there long enough, looking at her but not talking to her, eventually she would get irritated enough to talk. She inspected her new color thoroughly, wiped the sink, counter and mirror with her towel, then hung it up over the shower curtain rod before turning her attention to her son. “Geez! You’re such a wet blanket, Jared. I was so excited about my hair … you just had to pop my balloon didn’t you?” She stood in front of him with one fist on her hip.
He waited a beat then smirked and she put her hand on his face and pushed to turn his head to one side as if to say, ‘Go away‘. He looked back at her still smirking and she laughed. “Bucket Head”, she said. “Bean Brain”, he answered. “Smarty-pants”, she returned. “Jelly Belly”, came his return. She scoffed. “Are you calling me fat???”, she accused in a mock-shocked tone. He grinned a wide grin. She grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him to her and hugged him tight. “ I love you”, she whispered low into his ear as if it were a secret. She was normally not a touchy-feely sort of person, but this time instead of breaking the hug like she usually did, she just held him. He didn’t know why, nor did he care, he just let her wrap herself around him.
He stood there, head resting on her shoulder, letting her love on him as much as her heart desired. He could smell her freshly washed hair mixed with the sharp aroma of the chemicals recently added for color and the sweet ,cloying smell of her body wash. He closed his eyes and inhaled, trying with all his might to memorize this moment as he was sure that it would end and might not happen again for a long time. After a moment she gave one last quick squeeze and released him. He opened his eyes and willed himself not to tear up at the loss it caused inside his heart to let her go. She stared into his eyes and as seriously as she could she said, “I need chocolate”.
She breezed past him into the kitchen and began rummaging in the bread box, where she had always had a not-so-secret stash of chocolate. He walked back to his previously occupied chair and sat down. As she joined him, she handed him a wrapped piece of dark chocolate. He accepted it from her, noting that she was shaking slightly as she held it out for him. “The good stuff”, he noted aloud. She nodded her head up and down as she bit off a tiny piece of the already disrobed confection. They sat in silence again for a moment while they let the chocolate melt on their tongues. She had taught him years ago that real chocolate is not for chewing. She stressed this point to him. “Real” chocolate lovers knew that you had to allow it to melt in your mouth slowly to actually taste it. If you only ever chewed and swallowed your chocolate then you, my friend, had never really tasted chocolate.
After a minute or so of mutual enjoyment he cleared his throat as if to say, ‘Get on with it, Mom‘. She turned her attention from the wrapper she had been studying back to him. “What do you want to know, Jared?” She tilted her head and waited. Her tone was unmistakable. This was her “I have no idea what you’re talking about Dear” tone. He leveled his eyes at her and said, “Everything”. She chucked lightly and said, “You’re not old enough for everything, Jared. Pick another topic.” “Fine. Why did Tommy leave?” His gaze never left her face while he waited for his answer. “Because he wanted to, I suppose.” Her expression never changed. “Come on, Mom, tell me what I want to know”, he implored. He almost couldn’t sit still for all the tension he was feeling right now.
She leaned forward now, expression finally changed into one of frustration. Her brows were starting to furrow and her lips were tightened into a thin line. He knew she was cracking and now he would get to hear some real truth. Danielle had always been this way when it came to talking about her life or her feelings. Anger had to accompany the truth, it was the only way it would ever get spoken. “What do you want from me, Jared? You want me to tell you that I finally stood up for myself and told him to leave? You want me to tell you that we had some big fight and he stormed out?… What?!… What, Jared?… I don’t know what you want from me!” She leaned back in her chair, trying to collect herself, and ran both her hands through her still damp hair. He waited a second to make sure that she was truly in control of herself . He leaned toward her this time, put his hand on her hand as it lay on the Formica tabletop and with a calm and maturity beyond his thirteen years said, “I don’t want anything but your love, Mom. My father abandoned us today and I think that you could at least tell me why. I’m not upset about it myself and I’m not trying to upset you, I just want to know why.”
Silence. More silence. Jared was just about to come out of his skin with frustration and anxiety. The only thing that helped him get through these minutes as they crawled by was history. Their history. She had always been so distant with him about her feelings and she had never, ever talked about her marriage with him. Even when it was really bad with Tommy, she never spoke about it with Jared. Theirs was an unspoken alliance. She was staring out the window again. He could tell that, even though her body was present with him, she was not really here. Her mind was miles or, as the case turned out to be, years from here. After another very constipated minute, her focus shifted back to him.
“What?”, she asked him with a tone that lent itself to someone who was lost in the conversation. He stared at her like she was losing her mind. This had to be a nervous breakdown. She’s lost it, he thought to himself, She’s lost her mind this time. He waited, thinking that she would explain herself…explain her confusion to him. “What do you mean, Mom?”, he finally asked her. “What did you call Tommy just now?” She had a pained look on her face. “I…um…I called him my father”, he stammered, instantly realizing that it was the first time he’d ever done so. She stood suddenly, plastered a very un-real look on her face, and cheerfully said, “We need some dinner!” She immediately went to the bathroom and began to blow dry her hair, leaving him to be baffled all by himself. A minute later she shouted over the blow dryer, “Where do you want to go for dinner?”. He sighed a long, tired sigh and went to take his place back at the bathroom door. They’d come full circle.