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August 08, 2022

Life As An Aesthete

By Pete Armetta

Harry was upstairs in the bedroom with the door locked. Like usual. He'd just returned yesterday from his eighth-grade camping trip, and while the very thought of having to spend any time with his classmates in any way, shape or form made him thoroughly sick to his stomach, overall it went much better than predicted. He thought it was actually kind of fun and they weren't as stupid as he thought. But still, those few days were enough. He had lots of catching up to do, so had stayed in his room without coming out for any air.

Mom was used to such antics.

He lay back in his bed reading. He was about halfway through with Jack London's Call of the Wild, and whether it was the fact that he'd just been camping, or his general restlessness and lack of fitting in anywhere, the story was really affecting him. It must be the desolation and beauty of the Yukon where the story takes place, he thought. The characters have such passion and depth. Such aspirations! It'd really affected him way deep down inside.

He knew that someday soon he'd be getting out of this ugly little town where he'd spent his whole life.

Since he was a child, Harry always itched for adventure. But because of his "condition" there really wasn't much else for him to do but stick to his regular routine and stay as close to home as possible. Just camping for those few days had totally upset his equilibrium, got him off-kilter. Mom had always been there for him though, through thick and thin. Well, she didn't really have a choice did she? Being he never knew his father, or even knew OF him, and didn't have any brothers and sisters, it was always just his mother and him.

She just didn't understand him was the problem. Now that he was growing up, that is. Like the conversation they had last night. Harry explained to Mom that he planned to spend his life as an aesthete. He wanted to go and to see and to learn as much as he could about this beautiful world before he died. He waxed eloquently about art and music and literature and nature to her, but like usual, she had no idea what in the hell he was talking about. He talked excitedly about hiking across the desert, spending time deep in the forest and scaling the biggest mountains, but her face just blanked out. And then she got upset. Why did she have to be so closed-minded? Didn't she believe that he would do it? He asked her if it was because she'd never left the town in her life herself, and didn't know anything of the outside world. When he said that she started to cry. She said through her tears what he'd heard over and over through the years.

"Oh Harry, you're just a dreamer. Where you got that from I'll never know, 'cause you sure didn't get it from me!"

Yeh, that's what she always said. And he had no idea why he was the way he was, either. He just went with it.

Harry was engrossed in his book while these thoughts danced around the periphery of his mind. He heard the doorbell ring downstairs, and on a tear jumped up and ran down the hallway and down the steps in his bare feet. He was so excited. He assumed it was the UPS man with his packages, as he had checked online this morning and they were due to be delivered today. He tore past Mom who had no idea what was happening, and opened to door to the tall man in brown. Harry signed the manifest while laughing and bumbling to the man, and brought the package in, sitting on the floor Indian-style rushing to open it. Mom stood over him, just shaking her head.

"Harry, what have you got going on there now?"

His hands were in the box, pulling out one book at a time. He reverently looked at the covers of each and started stacking them in a neat pile on the carpet next to him. A book on botany, one on the shamanism of the Native Americans and Toltecs, some more Thoreau, a compilation of his favorite 18th century philosophers, a biography of Bob Dylan, and a big glossy picture book of the Rocky Mountains. He was leafing through this one and held it up against his chest, looking up blissfully at Mom.

"What Mom, why are you looking at me that way? These are the books of the places I'm gonna go and things I'm gonna learn."

Mom looked down at him tenderly. What in the world was she going to do with him? She certainly didn't want to come to loggerheads with him again. But he'd been more consumed than ever lately, she just couldn't seem to have a grounded conversation with him.

"Harry, I just don't want you to be disappointed, that's all."

"Oh Mom, I'm not gonna be disappointed, these are the places I'm gonna be going. I told you, I'm an aesthete. This is what I've dedicated my life to."

Mom helped him pick up the books as he started up the steps. "Harry, why don't you come down and I'll fix you a tuna sandwich for lunch. You have to eat something ya know."

Harry shook his head no. "Mom, I gotta figure out my plans here."

Mom walked back into the kitchen, not knowing what to do. She knew it was never gonna happen. He'd never be able to go anywhere. They'd be lucky if Harry even made it through the year.

Article © Pete Armetta. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-05-27
Image(s) © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
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