It’s amazing how much can change in ten years. One minute you are eleven years old, most liked kid in Mr. Simmons fourth grade class at P.S. 118. You help save the last remaining tree in your neighborhood from being destroyed. You clean up a vacant lot so you and your friends d
on’t have to play baseball in the streets. You get stuck downtown with your best friend dressed like fruits. You help the strange kid in your neighborhood leave his stoop. You help the crazy ice cream man realize he can do whatever he wants. You meet your favorite baseball player Mickey Kaline. Your only real worries are avoiding the school bully and losing your favorite blue hat. Next minute, you are engaged to a girl who used to call you football head just to tease and make fun of you.
The Sunset Arms Boarding House is emptied quickly after Elementary School. The Kokoshkas, that is Suzie and Oskar, they divorced and went their separate ways about the time I was in 6th grade. Suzie went on to be a teacher, Oscar ended up becoming the owner of a moderately popular website that sells all sorts of gags and gifts. Last you hear of him, he still does his work lazily and half-assed, just like he did when he lived a few doors down from you. Ernie Potts ended up severely injured on a worksite and became paralyzed from the waist down. After winning a huge lawsuit against the demolition company he worked for, he was able to afford his own house somewhere on a lake. After I was able to find his daughter on Christmas that year, Mr. Hyunh helped to put her through school and get a college degree. Apparently, he had been saving all of his earnings for something, but he didn’t know what to spend it on. After she finished her degree, the both traveled back to Vietnam to visit their homeland before returning and opening a business.
Grandma died when I was 15. Grandpa was devastated at his loss, and he wasn’t really the same afterwards without her. She was a big part of his life, as well as mine. He was the last remaining border in the house, and told me time after time that I will inherit the Boarding House when he passed away. I wasn’t sure what I would do with the old place when he passed, but I don’t know if we would have enough boarders to keep it open. He lived a very long and fulfilling life. The day he died was gravely hard for me. I tried to give a memorial speech for him at his Wake, but found myself unable to do so. This happened earlier this year.
The faces around town sure have changed as well. Harvey the Postman is now the Head Manager at the Post Office for our district. We don’t see him on routes anymore; instead we have a grumpy old man who doesn’t like to mingle whose name is unknown to me. Mr. Simmons is no longer a teacher; instead he is the school counselor, and he makes it his mission to help students out of any crisis they may find themselves in. Mrs. Vitello, the flower shop owner, passed away earlier last year after having a stroke.
Gerald was accepted into a major university somewhere out of state. We keep in contact, but only the occasional text message or weekly email update or facebook status change. Sid and Stinky were contracted into doing a show for a local channel, which aired for about 3 seasons. Everyone loved it, and now they are producing more television shows rather then star in them. Eugene ended up winning the lottery, ironically enough. The unluckiest kid in school became one of the luckiest people alive. He is living off his winnings happily with a girl he met at community college. Most of the other kids from class, Brainy, Phoebe, Curly, Lorenzo, Lila etc, well, they either moved away or lost contact with me. I still see Herald about town every now and then, seems he is getting ready to buy Mr. Green’s Meat Shop and continue work as a butcher.
Then there is Helga. Well, her story is pretty sad. Helga and I started our relationship over in high school. In about the 6th grade, out of nowhere she stopped with the relentless name calling and bullying. I noticed a drastic change in her about this time, and did not know what had caused it. It wasn’t a gradual change either, but something had completely shifted seemingly overnight. Shortly after, her father was convicted for some sort of felony involving his failing company Big Bob’s Beepers and sent to prison for many years. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but Helga’s mother and her moved to a different part of town and she was pulled from the PS 118 school system.
High school came and in 9th Grade we were placed in the same Public School System again. She was back in our district and was different…. extremely different. Her once pretentious attitude was diminished. Her boisterous voice was weak. She was sad, melancholy if you will, and seemed depressed all the time. Her appearance, vastly different from what I remembered, was also uncharacteristically askew. She no longer kept her hair up, but rather down and untidy. She dressed in clothes that seemed too big and dirty. Her general appearance was that of extreme poverty. The only time she seemed to show even the slightest sign of life was when I was present. When she would see me, her face would light up for a split second, and I saw the Helga I remembered from elementary school. Something inside me did a flip-flop when this would happen. I realized that I had missed her during the years she had been absent.
My senior year I asked Helga to Prom. She said yes. That night is still very vivid to me. When I picked her up, I was amazed at the state of her house. The place was filled with garbage, no tidiness as I had perceived Helga from her younger days to live in. The who atmosphere of her home was that of uncaring and gave a general feeling of disgust. Her mother did not seem to notice or care that she was leaving, or that I was even taking her to a Prom. I guess a normal mother would be radiant, taking pictures, absorbing the feeling. Even though her house was a terrible mess, when she came down that staircase, she looked stunning, as if she had sold everything to rent her beautiful dress. Donned in a tight fitting blue smock, glittering with shines of light blue, her image would be engrained to me until even this day. The night was filled with dancing, good times, and ended with a kiss I will not ever forget. Something came back to life in her that night. She did not want to go home, so I didn’t take her back. That evening, we sat up on the roof of the Boarding House and watched as the sun rose over the city.
After High School graduation was about the time she moved into the Boarding House with me. Grandpa had his own room, and I had my attic room still, slightly modified from my Elementary Days of course. After seeing the vast change in her persona from Prom, I knew something about me completed her. When she moved in with me, she brought very little, but did not want to retrieve anything else. A small car full was all that she had ready, mostly clothes and other small knickknacks. Helping her move out of her mother’s apartment was depressing. All her mother did was sit on the couch, smoke cigarettes, and stare emptily at the television set. Few short words were exchanged, and Helga informed her mother that she was moving out, from which she did not receive an encouraging response. After she was settled into my room, she told me her whole story.
She started in fourth grade, how she had obsessed over me, loved me from the day she met me. She kept my picture in a gold frame on her at all times, hidden from anyone else to see. She sometimes made small idols of me. She wanted me more then anything, but couldn’t find the strength to tell me, for fear of rejection. She instead turned that desire into teasing, the only route she knew to utilize. Her home life was terrible. She lived in a constant shadow of her older sister Olga, the perfect daughter in her mother and father’s eyes. She told me how she was constantly reminded of her older sister’s success, and how she was never given any credit for any good thing she ever accomplished, simply because it wasn’t good enough. Her mother was ditzy, and her father was controlling.
When she turned 14, the sexual abuse from her father began. Big Bob Pataki was a deviant, and hated the fact that he had a second unwanted daughter. After Helga was born, he forced his wife to have a female vasectomy of sorts, called a tubal ligation, so that another unwanted child was impossible. When his wife told him that she did not crave sex anymore, he decided instead to turn on Helga. She told me how she always knew he hated her existence, but was stern in the fact that it was just a tedious idea concocted out of jealousy for her sister, but when he started the abuse on her, it became clear that she was right in her horrible ideals.
She said it lasted for two years, up until he was charged with Fraud and Avoidance of Federal Funds from the IRS. She recounted about how he would do terrible things to her at night, when her mother was asleep. If she fought, she would be punished physically. He was sentenced to 30-50. After her father was sentenced and placed in prison, she tried to consult her mother about the things that had been happening. She never did before her father went to prison, simply out of fear of what would happen. Sadly, even though she tried to find comfort in her mother, she was only met with a heartbreaking disappointment. At her telling me this, I could see her eyes well up with tears. Her mother did not care about the happenings with her father, and she even speculated that it was her mother who recommended her father abuse her. She said that she felt her mother had also grown to hate her daughter. She told me that those two years were suppressed in darkness. She stated that she couldn’t remember the details if she wanted to. All she knew was that she went from being perfectly happy to wishing for death each and every night. The tears became too much, and started to roll. Then she started to cry.
She lay sobbing in my arms for a good 3 hours. All those years of wondering what was missing, why Helga had left, where she was and if she was doing okay, I discovered this horrible truth. She sobbed and sobbed, crying out years of pain and anguish. All this time she had nobody to console, nobody to talk to, nobody to be a friend when she needed it most. All the time I could only hold her head on my shoulder, stroke her arm and tell her everything was okay. I told her that things were going to get better. She stopped for a second, whispered to me “I know. I have you now. Everything I have ever wanted is right here, in you.” She then lay her head back down on my arm, and promptly fell asleep.
It’s amazing how much can change in ten years.
As she slept peacefully on my arm, I wiped the remaining tears from her eyes. I kissed her on the forehead and let her rest. I began to close my eyes in the emotional strain of things. I heard too much, I felt too terrible. I just wanted to get some sleep. Thoughts and feelings of radical natures plagued me. I was devastated, angry, torn, completely paining for my dear Helga. The horrors she had endured are too much for any one person to have to deal with in one lifetime. I decided it would be best to sleep. Just before I drifted into unconsciousness, I heard her whisper “I love you so much…football head.”
Helga is better now. Any and all sorrow she had that night was cried away, and drifted into nothingness. She is happy, happier then she has ever been in her entire life. Always I knew there was something odd about her. She always seemed too keen to go out of her way to antagonize me. Looking back at it now, I realize it was her way of asking for some attention. I love her equally to what she loves me, more then anything I have ever loved in my entire life. I asked her to marry me about 4 months ago, and she said yes. In due time, we will be newlyweds.
Thinking back, its humorous to me now. I used to dread sometimes going to class for fear of what mean things Helga would do to me. Now, I can’t stand to be away from her. I lay here now thinking about life before she found her way back to me, and can’t remember anything. Is this a testament to the idea that a man isn’t truly complete until he finds his soul mate? Has Helga always been the person I was destined to be with? I like to think that she is.
It’s amazing how much can change in ten years.