I'll Come By Here At Eight
Natalie did show, and so did Henry – 20 minutes too late. Natalie was already on her way with Diana to the doctor. Henry walks in on a torn and distressed Dan Goodman, who almost wishes that Henry would walk out.
Henry knocked one final time on the cool front door of the Goodman house.
"Damn." He whispered. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, desperately hoping for a text from Natalie saying
"I'll be down in a minute!" – he'd only been knocking for about 5 already, finally giving up. His eyes had taken notice of one of the missing cars from the driveway – maybe she had gotten confused! Maybe she thought he said he'd meet her at the dance….Henry's heart prayed that's what had happened, but his mind knew it hadn't. She hadn't shown. She wasn't coming.
But, maybe she was upstairs….getting ready…yeah…maybe she just couldn't hear. Henry decided to abandon his manners, and go through the garage door, remembering Natalie's words over the phone one night,
"If you come late enough – they'll be asleep, they leave the inner garage door open – just remember the code for the outside. Be quiet, because their room is right above the garage."
Henry punched in the code and ran quickly under the rising garage door, and quietly opened the interior. His eyes scaled what appeared to be an empty Goodman house. Henry's shoe made a noise against the hardwood floor when he took a cautious step. He took one more glance around, and quietly called,
"Nat?" He walked into the living room, and almost jumped. A still, silent, hunched over Mr. Goodman sat in one of the chairs, his head's weight being held in his hands. Dan looked up.
"Henry." He exclaimed.
"Hey." Henry said dumbly.
Dan stood up, and turned on the lamp next to him. Henry examined the destroyed man in front of him. Usually perfectly done hair was disheveled, and eyes that Henry had always seen radiate pure joy and pride, now dug a grave into Henry's, staring. Henry couldn't decipher the feeling boiling in them, but he himself was frightened.
"She's not here." Was all Dan said.
"Natalie…she's gone. She took her mom…to the doctor." Dan spat. Henry nodded, and scratched the back of his neck.
"Is she okay?" Henry asked, not really sure which "she" he was referring to. Dan didn't respond, just slipped his hands in his pockets, raised his eyebrows, and sighed. Dan's eyes scaled Henry, and he desperately wanted to tell him.
Dan wanted to tell him to go – to not come back. He wanted him to know how deep the waters were before he tried to swim. He clearly didn't – if he did know…he wouldn't still be here. Would he? Dan felt awful for wanting to rid his daughter of the one thing in her life that made her do the one thing he could never – smile, but really he was ridding Henry of the swollen heart that would result from the punches.
Dan wanted to tell Henry what he'd wish someone had told him. What he needed to hear now – life goes on. Move on while you still can, before you get sucked into the grave of a relationship that is long dead. Move on before you're too afraid too. Dan remembered being Henry, and the more he thought about it the more he wondered if maybe he really did know, that something more was in store with Diana than a beautiful romance. Maybe he knew then and there that he was getting on a train that wouldn't stop. Maybe Henry knew too.
Henry had been there for the dinners, the disastrous "family nights", and the piano recital. He'd watched Natalie try and fail over and over again, had watched her practically kill herself, and sit in the cold, deadly shadow of her grieving, manic mother – and he was still around. Maybe he knew. Maybe his brain knew what was to come, and his heart couldn't care less.
Isn't that what the human brain is trained to do? Disagree with the heart?
Dan's lips began saying something, which came out as
"Don't bother waiting." But Dan prayed Henry could hear between the syllables. He didn't, and Dan saw that in the destructive disappointment in the boy's eyes. His blue suit was goofy, and a good size too small – but he had walked in with a glimmer of hope in his bashful grin. The grin had disappeared, as had the spark – and now he just stood, shyly, waiting for Dan to say something else. Dan wanted to chuckle at the poor kid, but didn't.
"Why don't you go to the dance? I'll let her know you're waiting." He told Henry. Henry nodded.
"Thanks." He muttered, beginning to walk towards the door, but he turned around, and his voice cracked as he asked,
"Mr. Goodman?" Dan looked up – piercingly fearful eyes seeming to stare well beyond Henry's.
"Are you okay?" Dan's facial expression fell. Not just his face, his whole body seemed to relax, his eyes fell to the floor – and for a moment, rather than a painted on smile, or glass, tortured eyes – Mr. Goodman looked real.
His facial expression hadn't been the only thing to fall – but his whole façade as well. All of the fake emotions, all of the things he thought he was supposed to feel left him – and there he was, real as the silly band on Henry's wrist – Dan Goodman. Whoever that was at that moment, because Dan could guarantee that nobody, not even himself knew.
The words seemed to grip Dan, and he hung on to them, not responding immediately. It seemed like years since someone had once asked him that question – he'd been too busy asking it of other people. His lungs and his tongue worked together to mutter an empty
"Yes, thank you." And Henry nodded. Now, more than ever, Dan could see himself in the boy who was on his way out the door.
Henry stuck by Natalie because of his love for her – and like Dan, his heart was bigger than his head. Like Dan, his biggest strength – his compassion – would and had quickly fallen to being his biggest weakness as well.
The front door shut, and Dan texted Natalie to no response that Henry had come, to meet him when she could, and to remind her to keep him updated. Dan took his seat again, and laid his head back. Stale air filled his lungs, and he couldn't help but feel that he wasn't alone. Dan gazed at the broken music box pieces on the floor, and he shut his eyes. His baby son began to appear, and the over-played movie began to play again – but he opened his eyes to make it stop.
He always opened his eyes. Sometimes, what was in front of him was a good distraction, and sometimes it wasn't. Tonight he had found a good one….Diana, suitcase in hand. Before Dan could process the vision in front of him, her light voice, whispered,
"So anyway, I'm leaving.", and Dan realized the disappointing truth that when it came to Diana – his heart would always be bigger than his head, but that it would never work that way for Diana when it came to her feelings for him.
The cracks in her heart, however, would always overpower what was healed. Which might have been nothing at all.