Charlie. Charlie. Charlie. Since when did Jonathan become obsessed with Charlie? The two of them barely ever talked as far as I could ever see. I doubt they even know each other’s birthdays.
This was one I knew the answer to though. Charlie’s favorite team was always the Seattle Mariners because of Ken Griffey Jr. I knew one of their colors when we were kids was teal. Hence, his favorite color was teal. Correct.
Next question please….
What was the name of Charlie’s girlfriend in sixth grade?
I knew this one. I knew this one, but I just couldn’t get the name on the tip of my tongue. It started with an N and was something I thought was kind of tacky for a girl from a small town in Virginia.
I knew where I could probably find the answer to the question rather quickly, but it unfortunately involved going back into Charlie’s room.
My teenage curiosity led me to sneak into Charlie’s room years ago when I was still in middle school to snoop around his stuff and see anything “adult” I might be able to find. Now, almost 15 years later, I was doing the same exact thing. I sat poised in front of the old dresser off to the side of his bed where I remembered he kept the notes girls passed him in sixth grade and later unmentionables they passed him in high school.
I took a deep breath and pulled open the top drawer of the dresser where I remember coming into contact with all of those notes and pink ink all those years ago. I swore I could still smell the sweet, pre-pubescent perfume of those girls when I stuck my face down into the drawer and saw the notes written on wide-ruled paper still in there, tucked next to a few stray socks, pairs of boxer shorts and small pairs of women’s underwear.
I went after the notes like a young child the spilled guts of a fat piñata, scooping them up with my entire arm and dropping them down into my lap. However, a realization washed over me once I had the only correspondence in my lap. There was a breeze in that drawer.
I gazed back into the drawer and saw the source of the breeze. The back of the thing had been pried off and the wall which rested behind the dresser had been ripped open. I knew the walls of our humble, little double-wide were modest, but holy shit, I didn’t think someone would be able to rip it open like that. The back of the dresser was basically a portal to the backyard of the house.
I pulled out all of the other drawers to discover the entire back of the dresser had been ripped off and fed directly into a crude, human-sized hole in the side of the house which was concealed by some thin shrubbery which would have made it not obvious from the backyard if you weren’t specifically looking for it. I never went in the backyard anyway, so I never would have seen it back there anyway.
My priorities had been flipped in an instant. Suddenly those old notes in my lap were not the most-valuable thing in the universe, that elusive answer in Jonathan’s crossword puzzle less-significant than the jagged door hiding in the back of Charlie’s dresser. Had he been using it to get in and out? Had he been in the house? I would have noticed. I would have had to.
Fueled by a need for caffeine and/or sugar to stay awake any longer and enticed by the intrigue of the crossword puzzle which seemed to be inadvertently putting me on the trail of Charlie and his reappearance finally led me out of the room. I pulled a heavy dresser over to the front side of his bedroom door just to be safe before I headed to the kitchen.
A few swigs of coffee running through my brain, I found the energy to dive back into the crossword puzzle and to push any fearful thoughts about Charlie into the back recesses of my brain. There had never been a single dangerous behavior ever exhibited by my oldest brother. The worst he was probably doing was finding a warmer place to sleep without having to undertake the awkward task of actually talking to me.
I tore into the notes. They were sadly a little mundane with a lot of basic words spelled wrong, but the good news was I was able to find the name I was looking for about five notes in: Naomi. That was her corny ass exotic name she had even though she lived in the Appalachians.
What was Charlie’s nickname in high school?
Finally…an easy one.
Due to Charlie’s left handed pitching capabilities.
I needed a palate cleanser. I started reading the rest of the notes in the pile.
Most of the notes were drivel. Juvenile, no, infantile, bullshit about holding hands and meeting up after baseball practice. I don’t know why I even wanted to read them. But I was glad I did.
The notes finally started to get interesting towards the bottom of the stack. The stationary switched from standard wide-ruled lined paper to rainbowed Lisa Frank stationary I would have been jealous of when I was seven and handwriting I had seen before.
The sloppy, childish scribbles in pink ink which still glittered just a little bit belonged to no one else other than my little sister Atchley. I remembered it from the school projects she would always so proudly show me when she came home. That writing was stuck in my mind forever.
What unfolded on the following pages made my stomach turn. I will spare you the details, but I have no better way to describe the notes then as love letter notes written to someone identified as “Ken,” written by Atchley. I had my initial concerns down by the shack about “Ken” being Charlie because he sometimes liked to call himself that because of that baseball baseball player he loved, but this took those concerns which were in my brain and my heart and shot them full of meth.
I had to put the letters down. I almost couldn’t breathe. I let them fall to my feet in a messy pile.