Chapter 3: Joe

Ducks fighting, calling to their mates. Children squealing in delight. Birds in concerts way up in the trees. The earth smelt bewitchingly moist. Joe took it all in, filling his senses. Quietly sitting on his usual bench, it was a beautiful day. As magical as it was, he missed his friend. He missed having someone to talk to. Especially now when the weather made him nostalgic. The air took him back to his footballing days. He played professionally for St. Earl’s local club in high school and St. George’s in college. He even graduated from Nottingham Trent University with honours in Architectural Technology achieving a 2:1 academic rating.

Even though he excelled in school, he loved sports more but his family made it clear to him that he wouldn’t make money from it and made him feel like a nobody. He aimed to prove them wrong with every goal he scored, every medal he earned and every championship trophy he earned throughout his schooling years. When scouts from Leicester came to town, he was more than ready to step up to the plate. This was the precise moment he had been preparing for his entire life. And as if God himself granted his wish, he was taken on-board as the only person that entire weekend to be scouted. It was one of the most successful nights in his life but he had no one to celebrate this auspicious occasion with. Of course he had a drink or two with the boys at the pub but when the lights and faces were all gone, there was no-one left to celebrate with. He had worked tirelessly to advance in his path. Alienated from his ridiculously large family and unwilling to maintain a relationship, he was truly alone. That very night, he cried himself to sleep. As much as he wanted to rub his contract in his parent’s face, he couldn’t bring himself to stoop that low. He made a decision then and there, to find a wife. Someone to call his. Someone to care for him. Someone with whom to celebrate every moment in the future with.

Asking

All I ever wanted was your praise

Just a boy searching for approval

And with time

Just a boy searching for anyone’s approval

Alone in the dark

Just looking for someone to light up the candle in the corner

A boy waiting for his family to accept him

Just a young boy begging to be loved

In no time he found her and very quickly, they were madly in love. Finally, he had someone to share his fears and joys with. And he relished every moment. A few months into their new love, his lady fell pregnant. Too excited to waste a second more, he fell onto his knees and she gladly accepted. They wedded that spring in a small garden with a few friends present. A small wedding on a farm where they had initially met, during a barn party with the pair being the only non-rednecks there. In that moment, he truly believed he had the perfect life; a blooming career, a loving wife and a baby on the way! Those were the good days, memories he’d cherish ’til age strips them from him. Unfortunately for him, those moments he had celebrated were soon about to become one of the few happy moments in his life as it all came crashing down after that. Joe’s smile folded downward as he went further down memory lane. Just as the football season began his bride haunted him with questions of financial security. With each trip, she grew more and more possessive, throwing tantrums every time he had to leave. Every night she would find something to fight about. ‘It’s the hormones,’ a counsellor had said. ‘It will get better,’ his friends kept on reminding him. Throughout his patience, these two words were the ones which made him hold onto what was struggling. When he could not take it anymore, he quit, resigning into the arms of his awaiting beloved. 

The pair were finally back to young love. It felt as if their honeymoon phase had returned a few months late. Their euphoria peaked when they bore twins. By then, Joe had already found a desk job at a local architectural firm designing local buildings. With his wife downstairs working in the bank, their new home and the day care centre a few blocks away, all they needed was each other. Joe was content. His family was happy, and that was enough to put a smile on his face. But it wasn’t long until the cracks in the paint started to show. The Mrs was on a rampage daily and he hid in the pub downtown. Most nights beside her he felt lonelier than ever before. He was moving up the corporate ladder, buying her expensive gifts but it still wasn’t enough. So he drank some more. And a little more. And a little more each time things got worse.

His friends and associates began to notice a morbid change in him and advised the couple go for counselling. Little did they know she had thrown a chair against the wall the last time he suggested it. The twins, 7 year old  Mia and Ethan saw it all and cried themselves to sleep. It had become a mad house with nothing but constant fights and furniture being broken. The night he first served her with divorce papers, she surprisingly wept bitterly. After years of ‘cat and mousing’, they finally sat down and talked about their issues like grown-ups. All it took for them to finally sort out their issues seemed to be a reminder that forever isn’t promised. That night, they made sad love under the dim light of the moon watching from their window on a cool windy night, with the curtains swaying gently. It felt more like a goodbye than a ‘we-sorted-everything-out-and-are-okay’. That night must have been a miracle night because she fell pregnant. After almost a year of no intimacy, the one time it happened, she got pregnant. The pregnancy was taken as a miracle and was accepted with utter delight by both parties. The first and second trimester was one of the best times in the homestead. Everything seemed to be fixed by the hope for a new life. Thinking back at how happy they were during that period brought out a tear rolling down his face which he quickly wiped off with the back of his right hand. Seeing that nobody noticed him, he carried on reminiscing about the past. After the birth of his daughter, everything went back to the unfortunate pits they were at. It was after one eventful night did he finally decided he needed to leave. After another long night at work, he came home to find no one at home. The twins, his latest daughter and his wife had all gone out apparently without informing him. They all came back right before midnight from a party he wasn’t initially told about. He had been worried sick. Reassured, they all then went to sleep peacefully. In the morning when they woke up, the little family they had been building for almost a decade then was all gone. In the flash of an eventful night, his family was cut in half in the most unfortunate way. He knew he could not stay in that home and up’ed and left. He left everything behind; the house, his daughter, his wife, his cars, his business. All he did was emptied his savings, paid his loan out so that his daughter wouldn’t suffer, took a duffel bag and left. The fairy-tale story had ended and not even his family knew what had happened. No one saw him again after that. “Disappeared into thin air,” was the exact words used by those who once knew him.

Right as Joe began to choke on threatening tears, Bo waltzed into the frame and brought him back to real life. It was now that he realised he wasn’t in the fairy-tale turned into a disaster anymore and his best friend had come to cheer him up.

“Are you okay?” Bo asked him wondering why he looked to be choking up as she approached the bench.

Daydreaming

Reel after reel

Its like I’m watching a movie

But in my head I’m glued to the seat

And the exit is blocked

Locked in with my eyes wide shut

I can’t get up

And after the millionth time

I don’t wanna

These screams are all I have

These scenes are all I can ever have

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