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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chapter Eight

Lee sat at a table at a local coffee dive that was home to all of the local hung-over drunks on their way to work while trying to keep their out of control alcoholism a secret.

He liked the place, with its sagging, decaying sofa chairs that hemorrhaged damp stuffing, the scratched chess boards whose pieces had all gone missing and been replaced with whatever had happened to be in the patrons’ pockets at the time: it was amongst these oddities that Lee felt at home, as if he were just another slightly warped piece of the collection.

            He often sat at his table and wrote in a cracking leather book, his back pressed against the wood of the wall so that he could keep an eye on the room around him and no one could sneak up behind him.  He had taken a turn for the obsessively cautious after he’d been jumped and maimed, and even though the local patrons of the coffee house most likely couldn’t tell their feet from their faces, Lee was not about to give anyone an opening.

            He carefully opened the book and thumbed through the pages until he came to one that had the name ‘David Armstrong’ written across the top in thick, often-traced letters along with a somewhat jumbled list of names, addresses and dates, his permanent leer turning his concentration into a grotesque grimace.

            His conversation with the detective the night before was echoing through his uncannily sharp memory, and he carefully jotted down the key words in a column of free space by David’s name, “Rosie Lund.” He grinned to himself at the thought of David bumbling around looking for the girl’s full name, the more sadistic side of him reveling in the idea of seeing how long it would take. David was smart, and these little puzzles that Lee set before him made for some interesting watching.

            Raleigh Finch owned Atlas Communications. On paper, he had no part in the business on any level but, in all actuality, every cameraman, every roadie, and even the directors themselves were deeply nestled in his pockets, awaiting his instructions. He had worked carefully over the past few years to insert himself into every aspect of ‘One Week Window,’ off the books and behind the scenes, slowly tightening his grasp until he became the seedy unconscious of the company as a whole. From there, he waited, planning the perfect move against Atlas and all it stood for in a somewhat Fawksian ideal of a revolution.

A couple walked in an order coffee, and it was immediately obvious that they were intruders into the sacred world of drunken spills, sweat and black coffee. They stared at the menu with an expression of confusion and bemusement at the absence of their favorite Starbucks concoctions, and when they finally settled on “western-style pot-brewed,” Lee secretly couldn’t wait until they took a sip and encountered the egg shells and grounds at the bottom of the cup.

The woman must have felt his gaze on her because she glanced up and caught his eyes, and her face was a sudden blush of horror and arousal. Due to his scarring, Lee had found that he still attracted two very distinct types of people: those dripping with insufferable pity, and the other sort, the type hideously intrigued and attracted to him. He found the second kind to be a lot more fun, but annoying in the end.

It wasn’t entirely true that Lee Finch was gay. In order to be homosexual, Lee would have had to be attracted to humans, which, for all intents and purposes, he was not. He was closer to being a rock or a brick wall, in that he had no desire to be desired, making him very much alone and isolated, which was exactly where he wanted to be.

When Lee was eight-years-old it had become painfully obvious to his father that he wasn’t ‘normal,’ by his standards.  While other children his age wanted to play baseball, blow up toy soldiers, or fire off model rockets, Lee possessed a more sensitive nature. He enjoyed reading, experimenting in the kitchen, and playing the piano.  It became Lee’s father’s goal to toughen up his son under the pretense that life was rough and he needed to prepare his him for those realities. The useless platitudes that his father used to convince himself that his behaviors were justified were too numerous to count and yet each one fueled Lee’s father’s determination to rid his home of any delicate or queer tendencies. 

Like many inadequate fathers, Lee’s saw his children as an extension of his personality and values rather than as individuals with their own interests and identities. It was more important for his father to glorify certain family traits, no matter how unattractive, so that Lee and his siblings never questioned his parents’ blatant inadequacies.  For this reason and many others, he had never felt that either of his parents knew him except through the prism of their own mind’s eye, and for Lee, that prism was toxic, destructive, and emasculating.

His first memories were of his mother visiting him in the evening once he was in bed. Her intentions were somewhat innocent, or so she earnestly thought; she merely wanted to connect quietly with her son who seemed to be at the mercy of what she liked to call his father’s ‘idiosyncrasies.’  Whereas his father’s destructive nature was like a hammer, you could at least see him coming: Lee’s mother was more reptilian.  She would slither into his room and sit on his bed in her sheer nightgown or with a towel wrapped around her after her bath. This violation of boundaries between the slyly seductive mother and the developmentally naive son were incredibly destructive. Although Lee didn’t specifically know why his mother being in his bedroom in her nightgown was inappropriate, he began to compensate. He would sleep with eight or nine blankets on his bed. When he was younger he thought that he piled on the blankets to give him a cocoon or safe space, but what he soon realized was that the numerous blankets provided a shield, a barrier that would keep the snakes out. 

Lee unknowingly made a mistake when he was young although he couldn’t pinpoint the exact age when he let in the snakes. On one of his mother’s bedside visits, Lee described his mother as his cuddly toy. This innocent statement of affection psychologically placed his mother under the covers and beneath the barrier. If this had happened only once then maybe the damage wouldn’t have been so traumatic. Instead, the term cuddly toy became a touchstone phrase for his mother that she used to justify her lack of unhealthy boundaries. There was never a bedside conversation between Lee and his mother where she didn’t ask if she was still Lee’s cuddly toy. Even though years had passed, whenever he thought about these encounters he felt his stomach turn. He would need to pause and block those hateful feelings so that he could function.

Even though his mother never physically touched him, she left him psychologically crippled. The combination of his father’s brutal rejections and his mother’s psychological screwing shattered Lee’s identity.  The depression that ensued was staggering and Lee withdrew from social interactions and his schoolwork suffered.  Not until he was a senior in high school did Lee discover a coping mechanism.  Lee spent little time at home and he convinced himself that he was a psychological orphan because the thought of being his parents’ son was an anathema and an abomination.  Lee escaped from his parents like so many others young people; he left for college.  He never returned home again.  Distance helped Lee reconstruct a part of his identity but he fervently knew that returning to his parents’ home, even for a visit, would be a mental setback and too painful to endure.

Lee looked up at the woman again and noticed that she had patted her husband’s shoulder and that they were both sending him seductive glances and gesturing for him to come over towards to them. Lee stood up, set his dark shades on and brushed past them, his skin crawling with memories of his youth. 

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