The driver was twelve minutes early just like my assistant had predicted. I stood on the balcony that overlooked the driveway and tried to tie the blue tie my assistant had laid out for me to wear. Every year it gets harder to do the simplest things like tying a tie, knotting shoelaces, cutting steak, and even writing. My assistant can tell my condition has worsened even though I haven’t mentioned a decline in dexterity. She’s neither a doctor nor a rehabilitation specialist, yet, she knows my fingers have to fight much harder to do the things that most people can do without thinking, that I used to do without thinking.
I didn’t want any more people knowing about my struggles. I didn’t want to have to do any more explaining. I wasn’t ashamed or afraid of my body’s deterioration; I was just so tired. I was tired of the knee-jerk concerned reactions. The faces of sympathetic but unempathetic intentions was wearing me out and I didn’t want to keep up a polite air.
As I contemplated giving up on the tie, I heard my assistant knock on the door. I turned, waved her in, and held up the tie as she entered.
“You need some help with that?” she asked.
She took the tie and in just a few swift motions, the blue was around my neck. It hung proudly against the pale blue of my shirt.
“How many more homecomings do I have to go to?”
My assistant stepped back. “You’re booked for the next five years.”
I retrieved my suit jacket from the chair by the balcony, slipped it on and patted the pockets for my wallet, keys, and phone.
“You don’t look too thrilled.”
And I wasn’t. It had been twenty years since I’d graduated from high school. Captain of the football team, co-editor of the school newspaper, honor roll student, homecoming king, and president of the debate team. I did what I needed so I could leave and not come back again. I wasn’t counting on playing football in college or in the NFL. I wanted to own a newspaper and publish stories that would change the way people thought and lived. Who knew the internet would push me into a career in pushing people to the ground?
“You’re the best thing that came out of that town and nobody will let you forget it,” my assistant reminded me. “Now, shall we go?”
I followed her out of the room, down the hall and outside to the awaiting car. The driver stepped out to greet us. He shook my hand and opened the back doors before returning to the driver’s seat.
My assistant plowed through emails, texts and put her phone on silent.
“I’m here for you tonight,” she said. “The rest of the world can wait until tomorrow.”
“My school may expect me to turn up every year for homecoming, but are you sure you aren’t assuring them I will be there just so you can ignore everyone else for one night?”
My assistant remained quiet until we arrived at the school twenty minutes later. After paying the driver in cash and checking my tie, she patted me on my right forearm.
“You have realistic demands even if I have to convince you to see them through. Everyone else expects total obedience in exchange for my sanity. Wouldn’t you stick with you too?”
I couldn’t argue with her reasoning.