Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bookfield, Mary

Parchment’s rule about not sharing day-to-day experiences with one’s roommate, so as not to de-motivate them, was having an effect on Mary and me. We both followed the rule. I desperately wanted to have someone to talk about my experiences with; I didn’t know how Mary felt about it. But, a rift grew between us. The lack of communication seemed to eat away at our trust and closeness. Sometimes I wondered if she just didn’t like me.

We were allowed to talk about things unrelated to our work. Once she indicated that she was interested in Bill (remember, the parking lot escapade). She had noticed how both Chip and Gregg were ‘sweet on me’, but my disinterested response seemed to shut down that conversation. She had known them both as great guys from her school. I guess they had never hit on her. I didn’t want to tarnish them for her by telling her what I really thought, nor did I think that it would achieve anything for my relationship with her to do so.

I wanted very badly to be friends with her. She was basically very different than me, but I liked her. I could have used the support. Wouldn’t the support value have of our confidence in each other have outweighed the value attributed to non-communication?

Strangely enough, I felt alone, even though I met with twenty or more people every day. Of course, those interactions were carefully scripted. There is no time for personal relationships of any kind when one works 80 hour weeks and attends out of town meetings on Sunday.

I have a strange remnant of a memory of being at one house where there was a new litter of yellow and black Labrador puppies. The lady of the house did not buy any books, but let me play with the pups. As if she read my mind, she said how lonely I looked, and asked if I wanted to talk about it. I guess I did, but I have no memory of what I said, or anything else that happened while I was there for two hours. It seemed a struggle to leave, like the lady had some sort of magnetism. When I finally left, the lady told me that I could come back any time to talk, but I never did. I could never remember where the house was. Weird.

Just around this time, I came home one evening and Mary was sitting unnaturally upright on her bed. She wore a big, white cervical foam collar around her neck. Her body was shaking visibly, but she wore an obviously brave face with some difficulty. “Mary, my God, what happened?”

“Oh, nothing...” she answered with her voice quavering.

For ten to fifteen minutes I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong, what had happened to her. She refused repeatedly, eventually bursting into tears. I hugged her to try to calm her. “I can’t tell you.” she said, “What if it ruins your sales?”

“Fuck the sales, Mary.” She didn’t like it when I cursed. “It would ruin anyone’s day just to see you like this and not know what was going on, or if you were okay. What’s important now is you.” That did it, and she broke down and told me that while on her bicycle she was hit by a car. The car, driven by a woman, bumped her rear wheel, throwing Mary from the bike onto the shoulder of the road. The woman never stopped. Some good Samaritans stopped to help Mary and took her to Athens General Hospital. She had spent most of the day there getting X-rays done.

The curvature of her spine had been thrown out of whack in a couple of places, but there were no fractures. She was in tremendous pain. The bicycle was being repaired. I don’t think she took any time off from selling, but she stayed off of her bike for a week or two. She found pain relief in seeing a chiropractor about once a week for almost the entire summer. Parchment’s insurance footed the entire bill.

We went to MacDonald’s, even though it was late, to assume some normalcy in our routine. Mary was really shaken. I thought that this breakthrough would overcome the non-communication rule imposed by Parchment, but I was wrong. Mary appreciated the support that night, but she intended to stick to the rules. Maybe she felt guilty about unloading her burden that one time, but after that we drifted further and further apart. We only discussed the truly superficial and inconsequential details of our experience that summer.

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