The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 33

Amelia began her story: “When I was a girl, it was my junior year in high school. Josh was a year ahead; he was about to graduate. We met a boy at our school…well, we already knew who he was, but we never talked to him. He was strange, he talked funny and everyone at school thought he had mental problems, maybe autism or…he didn’t have any friends, and people were afraid of him. And they made fun of him, they were horrible to him, throwing things at him, imitating him…it was heartbreaking. Looking back I’m so ashamed that it took me so long to notice, and that I didn’t do anything until…it got so bad, people were so cruel to him. Josh and I couldn’t take it anymore…Finally, we defended him and then we became his friends. We ate lunch with him, walked to school with him and found out that he was…” Amelia began to tear up again, so she stopped talking for a moment and wiped her eyes. She began again, noticeably forcing her tears back, “…he was really an amazing person. He was beautiful…and, and…nobody knew that. He was so forgiving, he forgave everyone almost immediately, he didn’t even have to try, he just did it effortlessly…I’m not even sure he thought about it, it was so natural. But he still was so afraid, afraid of people and mistrusting; and he had every right to be!”

“That summer, we spent the whole summer together, the three of us. Josh got a job, a new job at a café, but he mostly did baking in the early morning…so he got off early, and we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. I have a sailboat, so we mostly sailed, the three of us. Richard had never been in a boat before…that’s his name, Richard…he was so scared at first. I shouldn’t laugh, but it was funny. He looked like a cat being put into a bathtub! Arms and legs all over the place and terror on his face…but he was fine. And it turned out that he loved it. We all did, gliding over the waves all day, nothing else that we had to do…I loved to watch him when we sailed, he was so…what’s the word?…enraptured? Yes, I think that’s it…just so overcome with happiness. It made me happy.”

Amelia stopped for a moment and refilled our coffee mugs. She sat pensively, searching her mind, smiling wistfully. “Josh used to say to me…oh, what was it exactly? He would bring my attention to Richard, he’d say something like: ‘watch him [Richard] and see how he lives so immediately…you and I are thinking everything through, but watch him…he’s just living …it’s so perfect and so honest. That’s the way to be.’ Josh wanted to be like Richard. I guess I did too, a little bit…but I don’t think I understood him in quite the same way that Josh did. Josh admired him…and he was inspired by Richard. It’s a funny thing really, I mean, here’s this young guy, Josh, who is tall and strong, good looking and smart…everyone likes him…and yet, he admires and is inspired by this other guy, that nobody in the world thinks about…but that’s my brother…while everyone in the world is looking to the left…he’s looking to the right…and finding what nobody else can see.”

“So, is Richard the artist who drew your portrait?” I asked, beginning to connect the dots.

“That’s right. He turned out to be an incredible artist on top of being an amazing human being. But we didn’t know he could draw until later. And he didn’t do that portrait until a year or so after that…after everything went to shit. Excuse my language…oh, where was I?” Amelia searched her memories for a moment and then exclaimed, “Oh, yes! Not only could he draw, he made these incredible bird nests too! So, that summer I saw where Richard lived…he didn’t live at home, not with his family. That was terrible, you’d think social services would have gotten involved…but I guess nobody cared…or nobody knew what was going on. Anyway, he lived in this amazing place that he made out in the woods, by the stream, in a ravine…you could only get there through this tunnel in the bushes, and the entrance was all hidden behind this door that he made out of living vines! It was incredible, I couldn’t believe it! We went there together, he took us but he was nervous, I think about showing it to us…he trusted us, I know…but he was afraid still…that was his only home and where he felt safe. So I understood why he was afraid, in case he lost it. But we would never tell anyone about it, not back then. I think he knew that.”

“So he had made all of these nests for the birds and put them in the trees and bushes all around where he lived, and there were tons of birds living there with him. They were like his family…it was so sweet. They all knew each other and he treated them like…well, like they were us, I guess like people. They weren’t afraid of him, they’d come to him for food or he’d pet them a little…the larger birds he even turned upside-down and rubbed their bellies… the crows he did that to, and they seemed to like it! It was so funny! Oh, it made me laugh…and it made me cry too, I don’t really know why. I wasn’t sad…I loved it, I thought it was so beautiful…but I guess maybe I was sad a little, realizing that this was possible, to be like that with birds, and them with us.”

“Richard, he did this thing with all of his nests, he wove something special and unique into each one…like a ribbon, or something shiny and pretty…and he said this made it a home. Every nest needed that, he said…without something beautiful and special, it wasn’t a home. I thought this was a nice sentiment but didn’t take it very seriously. Well, sometime towards the end of that summer, Richard became very sad. I assumed it was because school was about to start again, and because Josh wasn’t going to be with us that coming year, since he had already graduated; but Richard wouldn’t talk about it, so we didn’t really know what it was.”

“One evening after the new school year had started, Josh came into my bedroom and sat down while I was doing homework. He said to me, ‘I know why Richard is so sad, Amelia. I finally figured it out…you realize he loves you don’t you?’ I was stunned, and my mouth literally fell wide open…that really happens…and I couldn’t think. My brother continued, ‘…he is completely in love with you, and my guess is, he’ll never stop loving you now, for as long as you live. You know that’s how he is.’ And I did know that, instinctually I knew that this was something serious…and for good or bad, I had made a permanent impression upon Richard…and now I had a responsibility to him…for him…and I didn’t know what to do.”

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