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Robert's Light

Robert sat silently on the train as the thoughts ran through his head. He found the movement and the clickety click of the train quite hypnotic and he found himself in a half sleep state. He stared into the dark and watched the lights of the houses and shops of towns and then the darkness of the open country slip by. He generally enjoyed this part of his day. The trip home from work on the train gave him a quiet time to himself to reflect. There was no television or computer to distract him and often on the train his phone had no signal so that temptation was limited too. The contemplations of his mind were not always peaceful or joyful but it was a time with less distraction to help him sort his thoughts.

Robert had not had a bad child hood. In fact he had many great memories. He remembered the long trips he had taken with his family all packed into a car with a pop-up camper towed behind. He laughed when he thought how that old clunker made it across the country up the mountains and through the deserts. How lucky they had been to have lived in so many places in the states and to have travelled and seen so much. He had even lived in Hawaii for a few years which was beautiful. He knew his parents loved him but there had been strain and doubts and still were.

Some of what made his childhood so great were also the cause of burdens. His father being a military man meant they moved around a lot. It took Robert a while to make friends. When he did they would always be deep friendships but as soon as these took real root he had to move again. He loved seeing all these new places but it was really hard sometimes.

His father was a man that wanted to prove his worth to his own father and had wanted his own children to be as hard working as he was. He loved them but did not always show his love to them and finding approval in his eyes seemed nearly impossible. His mother was deeply religious but never seemed happy in it. She seemed to be always seeking something more. She judged the world and Robert felt she judged him. He had almost shared with her what he felt was his darkest secret once but chickened out. She might have sent him to a psychologist or to some religious camp or who knows what. He had a great bond with her and he knew he could come to her when he was hurting but he could not share everything with her.

Robert was a bit of an awkward kid. If he were a child now he would probably be diagnosed with ADHD. He had great intelligence and great compassion for others. In any subject that held his interest he excelled with hardly any effort. Though sitting down to do his homework on anything that wasn't of great interest generally took hours even though it took his classmates minutes. Even as an adult he finds it hard to work or hold conversations well with the distraction of the television in the room. He found making friends of his own age difficult. He seemed to get picked on quite a bit. But the friends he did make were the best and deepest of friends. And oddly he was in many ways mature for his age. He felt most at ease with people much older than him as a child.

As his train powered on he thought about his past and his possible future. He wanted to do great things but something held him back. Every time he thought about improving his life he would get distracted or believe he couldn't do it or he didn't have the money or there wasn't time. Always obstacles in his own mind that he could not push past.

He rubbed his eyes and woke from his half sleep as he came into his station. He got up and stretched to get the blood back into his stiff limbs and as the train came to a stop and the doors open he got off and walked home.

He turned the key and entered his 1 bedroom flat. It wasn't a big place but it was comfortable to him. He didn't make a large sum of money so he spent what he could on things he enjoyed. A nice flat screen TV, a good computer and a good stereo. The furniture was second hand but in good condition. Stuff friends had given him or he had picked up at the thrift store. He was amazed at the quality of some of the stuff people gave away.

It had been a long day. He grabbed a slice of cold pizza from the fridge and flicked on the TV meandering through the channels trying to find something good on. After vegging out to a couple of stand up routines he decided to go to bed.

Robert woke the next morning, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast and headed to work. Another uneventful day at the office ahead.

As he sat down at his desk a friendly face popped over the desk and Robert heard a familiar and cheery "Good morning Robert".

"Good morning Rosie." Robert replied matching her cheery tone.

"How was your evening?"

"Ah you know the same old same old. Get home had a bath and a bit of a read. How was yours?"

"Yeah pretty much the same as every night I guess." Robert said with not much enthusiasm.

Robert really liked Rosie. She was about 10 years his senior and she seemed to have a really positive outlook on life. She was happy with her job which was more than he could say. She didn't seem to have great ambitions but she seemed satisfied with where she was at. Something about her just really made him comfortable.

"Aaah diddums, feeling a bit down are we?" She said in a mock motherly voice.

"I think I just need a coffee I can't start my day with out a bit of a caffeine boost."

"Don't I know it grumpy boy!" She said as she passed over the coffee she already had waiting for him.

"Thanks Rosie you really got me figured don't you?"

"Well I know your a grumpy bum with out your coffee in the morning and if I have to work next to you all day I'd rather you be a bit more cheery." she smiled.

Though Robert didn't know it, Rosie felt for him. She sometimes watched him and saw the pain in his eyes. He didn't talk to her about it but she could see it none the less. She felt for him and really wished he would talk to her. A burden shared is a burden halved and all. She was a compassionate and caring person and most people opened up to her. Robert was a bit harder nut to crack.

"You know Robert if you ever want to talk I always have an ear to lend."

"Yeah I know Rosie, I'm alright. Thanks though" Robert pressed into his work day and chit chat and conversations about nothing much at all passed. Before he knew it he was on the train home with his thoughts again. He thought about how lonely he was. How he longed for a companion that he could trust with his secrets and with his soul. He felt for sure that he would be alone forever. Who would ever really love him with all his baggage and his needs? Soon enough Robert was home and his stomach was rumbling. He had been a bit down today and hadn't really touched anything at lunch. He had snickers bar and plenty of coffee but nothing of any true sustenance. Robert actually enjoyed cooking but didn't do much of it as it wasn't nearly as enjoyable doing it for just yourself. He enjoyed watching people as they enjoyed what he had prepared them as much if not more than eating what he cooked.

Robert rummaged through the fridge trying to find something that piqued his interests but there wasn't much to choose from. He decided that it was time to go for a walk. It was autumn after all. His favorite time of the year. The air was crisp and fresh and the colours of the foliage were so beautiful. He really did enjoy nature, though he didn't get out into it nearly as much as he would like. He headed for the door grabbed his jacket and headed down the road to the local grocery store. As he walked along the road he took a deep breath and began to relax.

When he got to the store he took a slow walk around the butcher counter waiting for something to take his fancy. It didn't take long before he saw some wonderfully marbled steak strips.

"Perfect for a nice pasta" he thought. He grabbed some fresh spinach, some sun dried tomatoes, a bulb of garlic, some penne pasta, a chunk of Parmesan cheese he could grate himself.

When he got home he sliced the steak strips into even thinner pieces and flash fried them leaving them pink in the middle and seasoning them with salt and pepper. He quickly chopped the spinach and mixed some sun dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar into the pasta along with the steak strips and covered it all with a good helping of Parmesan and italian herbs, seasoned it and mixed it about. He dug in with pleasure.

"That was tasty, and I have plenty for lunch tomorrow and maybe some to share even. I may not be the perfect man but at least I can offer more than a tin of spaghettios." He thought out loud proud of his cooking.

He packed what was left into 2 resealable containers and popped it into the fridge waiting for the next day's lunch.

"You know I bet Rosie would like some of this. She always eats at the canteen. The stuff they have there is quick and cheap but not too tasty. I bet she would like a bit of a change. Besides she always has my coffee for me." Robert grabbed a beer from the fridge and plopped down onto his leather lounge chair and popped on some Simpsons. The full feeling in his stomach and the light buzz of the beer sure made him feel satisfied and relaxed. For a rare moment everything was just fine.

After a couple of hours of TV he decided it was time to hit the hay. A couple of minutes and he was fast asleep.

Morning came too quickly as it always did and the alarm sounded. Robert groggily got out of bed and zombie walked to the bathroom. He relieved himself, hopped in the shower and continued his morning routine. Soon he was back on the train to work. He had a cool pack with 2 containers of his pasta from the previous night. It always tasted better the next day with the flavours melding together and he was quite looking forward to sharing it with Rosie. Hoping she would enjoy it as much as he did.

"Morning Robert" Rosie said in her normal cheery sing song voice.

"Are you feeling any better this morning or are you a grumpy bum still?" Robert always felt a bit awkward when she spoke to him in that motherly voice. He kind of liked it and that embarrassed him a bit.

"Morning Rosie, I am feeling a bit happier this morning. Of course I could use a coffee." He said hinting and hoping.

"Well I figured" she said as she produced a cup of coffee over the desk.

"Robert needs his caffeine to function. Though you know one of these days we are going to have to break you of that habit. It's not very good for you as much as you drink."

"I dare you to try to separate me and my caffeine. There is no chance of that!"

"Ah a challenge and a dare. I might just have to take your coffee away Mr Tough Guy!"

"Do that and I won't share my lunch with you. I made a nice steak and pasta salad last night. I guess I could eat it all myself." Robert retorted.

"Hey now no need to get mean. Steak and pasta salad you say? Sure sounds tastier than that stuff they sell at the sorry excuse for a canteen they have here. You make it yourself or get your mommy to do it for you." Rosie said in a playfully teasing voice.

"No no I made it myself. Bet you didn't know I could cook did you? Hell my "mommy" hasn't cooked or done really much of anything for me for years." Robert said with a bit of frustration in his voice.

"Hey sorry if I hit a nerve there. It sounds lovely. Glad you thought to share it with me!."

"Oh sorry if I was snappy Rosie." Robert apologised.

"It's just that my mom hasn't really been there for me. I have had to do everything on my own since I was a teenager. Not your fault though."

"It's ok Robert, I know family can be rough. Like I said before and I'll say again I've always got an ear to lend."

"Thanks Rosie. I appreciate the sentiment but you don't want to get bogged down in my self pity."

"Oh honey I don't think feeling down is self pity, you don't have to talk about it but just know I'm here." Rosie said in a soft caring tone.

Rosie couldn't help but caring about this guy. She could see he was intelligent and he had a lot to offer. He could even cook. If only he would let someone in. If he would just open up he might just find someone to listen.

"Yeah I know. Well I suppose we should get to work before the boss tells us off." Robert said more to change the subject than anything.

"Yeah I suppose we should. Looking forward to lunch though." They both got into their work quite quickly and it was pretty quiet between them for the rest of the morning.

Lunch time came around soon enough and Rosie decided to break the silence of the morning.

"So how about that pasta? Still planning on sharing it?"

"Oh yes, I really hope you like it. I do enjoy sharing my cooking." Robert said smiling really hoping she would like it. Although he did feel a bit silly. Like a kid trying to show off his newest drawing.

He passed her a container of the salad and they headed to the dining area. They sat down and both dug in.

"You know Robert this is pretty good. Where did you learn to cook?"

"Oh you know I just always loved experimenting with food. I watch the cooking channel quite a bit and growing up one of my favorite memories was cooking with my mom. Not to mention I do really enjoy seeing someone else enjoy something I made."

"Well I am enjoying this. So you cooked with your mom quite a bit? Were you close to her growing up?" Rosie probed a little.

"Yeah she used to bake with me all the time when I was little. I was always quite close to her growing up. I really don't know what happened though. Time just distanced us. I guess I really never felt I was up to her standards. She is quite religious and wanted me to become a preacher or something. I guess I just didn't live up to her expectations. Don't get me wrong. I still have my faith and I have struggled and questioned it. I just live it the way I believe it and it is not the same as hers." Robert was surprised he was opening up about this. He really didn't share much with people. There was just something comforting about Rosie he couldn't put his finger on.

"Wow Robert, that must be hard. I know how important that motherly bond can be, even when you are grown up. I know most people want their parents to be proud of them and it feels so bad when we think we don't live up to their expectations. Even when those expectations are unrealistic."

"Rosie...can I ask you not to talk about this to anyone else. I don't normally talk about this to anyone and well it is quite private. You're the first person I have talked about this to in years. I like my privacy and all." Robert said wondering if he should have said anything at all. Could he really trust anyone with his feelings? In the past people had used his feelings as a weapon against him. Rosie seemed different but didn't those others too? "Robert I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything. I really mean that. I am really glad you opened up to me today. It doesn't take a shrink to see your hurting. Some times I can see you sitting and working away but your mind is ticking away at something else. I can see it in your eyes. You can trust me. I won't say anything to anyone. We all need friends we can trust. I know I could use one. Acquaintances come by the dozens. Good trustworthy friends are rare."

"Thanks Rosie. Sorry for unloading on you. I'm sure you have your own problems to deal with instead of my silly life."

"Robert your life isn't silly. It's important. Your more important than you know." Rosie took a piece of paper, wrote on it, folded it over and handed it to him.

"Robert this is my phone number. If you ever want to just talk to someone friendly give me a call. I'm glad you finally opened up to me today. You know I really value our friendship."

"Even if you are a grumpy butt in the morning." She added jokingly to lighten the mood.

"Thanks Rosie. I value our friendship too. I think today has made me realise just how much." Robert was amazed at how comfortable Rosie made him. He felt this warmth from her that he had not felt in a long time. For a brief second he even thought about sharing his deepest secret with her. It was a very brief second though. No one could know about that there was just too much risk of losing a friend and if Rosie was as genuine as she seemed this was a friend he wanted to keep. The rest of the day passed quickly and he actually enjoyed work for the first time. A bit of a release and a chat with someone he felt he could trust really turned his day around.

When Robert got home that an evening and opened the door he noticed the normal pile of bills and junk mail on the floor in front of the mail slot. He bent down and picked it up and in the middle of the pile was a letter from his mother. This was interesting. It had been a long time since he had received a real letter from someone and it had been a few months since he had spoke to his mother. He opened the letter.

Robert, I was going through the attic the today and I came across a box of yours. What I found inside, well I think you know what it was. I don't want to see you until you get the help you need. I don't want you to see your sister either. I don't know if you can be trusted around the family. Who knows what sick things the devil is convincing you to do.

I have included a card in the envelope to a psychologist I want you to see. Until he tells me that you are over this you are cut off from the family. Robert I am sorry to do this to you, I love you. I just need to know you are safe and you find the mental help you need.

Robert's mind reeled.

"The box...the box? How could I have forgotten about the box? How could I have hidden this side of myself for so long and been tripped up by a stupid box. Why didn't I take that box out of the attic when I moved. I had planned to. How could I have forgotten? How could I make such a mistake?"

"How could my own mother cut me off? She says she loves me? LOVES ME? How can she think of me as a sick person. She knows me, she raised me. The devil is convincing me to do things? What horrible things have a I done? Have I murdered, raped, stolen? No no I haven't. She won't let me see my sister? How can this be? How can she refuse to let me see my sister. What does she think I'm going to do?"

"Has she told Dad? What does he think? How can I ever face them again? Any of my family? How can they ever look at me again?"

"But I have done nothing wrong. I haven't hurt anything. I haven't done anything that hurts me. No. I am OK, I am normal enough. Well not normal. Why do I have to have these feelings. Why have I been cursed with these damn feelings." Robert felt betrayed, betrayed by his mother, betrayed by himself for having these feelings and desires.

Robert suddenly felt all the pain and sorrow that he had been swallowing for years come to the surface. All he had ever wanted was acceptance. Acceptance from his family. His mother particularly. He loved her so much he just wanted her to love him back. Love him like a mother should, unconditionally. If maybe she could just accept this part of him he could finally find the acceptance in himself.

Robert thought despairingly, "If my own mother can't accept me who ever will?" Robert was not a man to cry, he was not a man to let his emotions get the best of him. His father had taught him that men don't cry. Men stand tall in the harshness of life. That is what a man was.

He took a gulp and tried to swallow his emotions, he wanted to be a man. Especially in this moment, especially in what had brought this moment about. He had to be a man.

As much as he wanted to be "a man" at that moment his mind and body failed him. The realisation of what had happened and the culmination of his fears. The pain he had swallowed for so long had come to the surface and it wasn't going away. He broke down, he sobbed rocking back and forth on the couch. Hot salty tears poured down his face.

What for most would have been at least a slightly cathartic release was not for Robert. The fact he was sobbing just made him feel weaker. It made him feel worthless. Why couldn't he control himself. He was being a child, a big baby. Why could he never escape from this? "Why can't I just grow up, why can't I just be a man, an ADULT." Then the thoughts that always came to him when he was down flooded in like a tsunami. They filled his mind. The thoughts of suicide. He went through all the methods in his mind. All the ones he had thought about before. How it would bring him peace and he could escape this feeling.

Robert had never acted on any of these thoughts. In fact he hated the thoughts. They came though and they always did. He knew it was never a solution but they came and they made him feel worse. He did however remember the words of his church youth leader from years ago.

"Suicide is permanent, problems are temporary." This phrase had helped him so many times. He also had his faith. He believed deeply that he had a purpose for his life. It was ironic that in some ways his faith, well his mothers faith, caused him so much guilt and pain and had at the same time saved him from taking his own life many times. If it were a crutch it didn't matter it was something he needed.

Finally the tears subsided. He didn't really feel any better but he was too exhausted to cry anymore. Too exhausted to struggle in his own inner turmoil anymore. He washed his face, got undressed and collapsed into bed. The stress and depression always drained him so much. He was out in seconds. Robert woke to the alarm the next morning; he couldn't face the day today and hit snooze.

"10 minutes more", he thought to himself.

Ten minutes turned to twenty and twenty to thirty. It didn't take long for him to decide that today he just wasn't going to face the world. He picked up the phone and dialed work.

Robert layed on his "flu" voice and plugged his nose, "John, it's Robert I'm really not well today I won't be making it in to work today."

"Oh, well ok, whats wrong?" John asked.

"Just got a bad cold or the flu or something, feeling really bad", Robert sniffled.

"Well take care of yourself and get yourself to the doctors if you need to. Hopefully see you tomorrow." John said with genuine care.

"Thanks John, don't think I need the docs, just some rest. If I'm feeling better I will see you tomorrow."

"OK, well feel better. Bye" Robert felt a bit guilty. He didn't like pulling a sicky and his boss John was a pretty laid back guy. He didn't ask a thousand questions and pressure you to come in even if your ill like some of his other managers had. He just couldn't face work today. Although in his heart he knew that staying at home was probably the worse thing he could do for feeling down. Just him in the house and his thoughts to keep him company. He quickly shook off those thoughts for now and decided to watch some TV. He flicked over to Comedy Central. A marathon of Futurama was on; just what he needed to veg out.

About noon he decided to grab some cold pizza and a coke out of the fridge. He got back to the couch just in time for the next episode "The Tip of the Zoidberg". He quite enjoyed the episode and when it was finished decided it was time to take an afternoon nap. Robert found this time the hardest at work as he felt really sleepy in the afternoon after lunch. Since he was at home why not sleep? He layed back on the couch and closed his eyes while listening to some music and quickly nodded off.

-- Robert woke to a knock on the door.

"Who could that be?" he thought to himself. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked out through the sliding glass door in the back. It was dark already.

"Whoah, slept longer than I had planned." He heard another knock at the door.

"Yeah, just a second, I'm coming." he shouted. He got up and peaked through the peephole. It was Rosie.

"What's she doing here?" Not that he wasn't happy to see her. He just wondered why she would come to his house and he was a little bit worried about getting caught out in being ill. Did he dare open the door? He decided it was rude to let her stand out in the dark and opened the door.

"Uh, hi Rosie, what brings you around?" Robert asked with a tired voice. The voice was somewhat put on but it wasn't hard since he did just wake up.

"Hey Robert, hope you are feeling a bit better. I noticed you weren't at work and John said you had a cold or something. I thought I would check on you. I even swung by the chinese place and got some egg drop soup for you. For a cold I think it beats the pants off chicken noodle." Robert was a bit surprised that Rosie would take the time to come and check on him. She had dropped him off at home a couple of times when the trains weren't running well due to the weather. She didn't live all that far away but it was still a bit out of the way for her. It seemed a lot of hassle just to check on a friend from work.

"Um, uh, thanks. I am feeling a bit better." Robert sniffled a bit for effect.

"So you going to make me stand outside all night or are we going to have some soup?"

"Oh, yeah, sorry. Come on in. Just don't get too close, I don't want you to get ill."

"Don't worry I'm sure I will be fine. You don't seem all that ill to me. Like you said you're feeling a bit better." Robert panicked a bit. Did she know he wasn't really sick? He didn't want to get caught. She wasn't his boss but she could always tell work.

Rosie noticed the panic in his face. She laughed, "Don't worry Robert I won't tattle on you. We all need a day off sometimes. Just don't make a habit of it. I don't want to waste soup and I miss talking to you at work." Robert was a little suprised she saw through it so fast.

"Uh, um, OK, sorry about that. Thanks for not telling. Sorry for making you stand out side. Come in. By the way the soup won't go to waste; I love egg drop soup. Going to have a bowl with me?"

"Of course I will, grab some bowls." Robert walked over and grabbed 2 ceramic bowls and 2 soup spoons. He set them down at the table.

"Please come sit down. Again thanks for not telling and sorry for the trouble of you coming over." Rosie smiled, "No trouble at all Robert. I like a bowl of soup and it is nice sharing it with a friend. Guess you gave me an excuse to come over and see your place." Robert smiled at hearing her call him a friend. He really did enjoy her company. She was older than him and he figured she had her own set of friends outside of work. He didn't really think they would end up being friends outside of work. She had given him her number to talk but she was really nice and that could have just been a nice gesture with out much meaning behind it. But here she was turning up at his door when he was ill, as far as she knew at least.

"You never need an excuse to come visit. You are always welcome. To be honest this place gets a bit lonely sometimes."

"Yeah I know the feeling. My house is pretty big and it feels empty some nights. My dad left the house to me and I was an only child. With no kids of my own it is pretty quiet. I'm not complaining. I enjoy it most of the time. It is just nice to be with other people. To be honest that is why I work. I was lucky enough to get the house after it was fully paid up and dad left me a decent amount to live on. I could get away with taking a while off work but I like being around people."

"Wow must be nice. I don't think I would work if I didn't have to." Rosie took a sip of her soup.

"Eat some before yours gets cold. It is actually really good." Robert took a sip. It was lovely soup, very rich from the egg yolk. For a basically clear soup it had quite a bit of flavour.

"Mmmm, it is good soup, thanks for thinking of me Rosie."

"You are very welcome Robert." Rosie smiled, "As for not working you would probably get pretty bored pretty quick. I mean I'm not rich or anything. I can't afford to travel the world all I want or anything. I suppose if you won the lottery big or something you could not work and stay busy traveling and stuff."

"I think if I won the lottery I would go back to university. I didn't really get the chance to do that. I think I would enjoy learning something new." Robert said with a bit of regret in his voice.

"My parents wanted me to go to university but they didn't want to give me money for it. They thought if I didn't earn it myself I wouldn't appreciate it and would spend all my time partying or something. Not that I really did much of that when I was younger anyway. Well not like some people did. I didn't feel I could get the money myself, I didn't know how to go about it. I kind of felt on my own." Robert couldn't believe he was opening up again. Rosie just had something about her that made him feel relaxed and open up.

"Oh that's too bad. I can see how it would be frustrating if you wanted to do something but didn't know how to go about it. What about now? They say it's never too late."

"Well I have thought about it. I just don't really have the money. Having to pay rent and all my own bills and stuff. I guess I could get a room mate but I generally prefer to be on my own and not have to worry about someone elses habits and such." Robert let out a little laugh and half jokingly said, "I have a hard enough time taking care of myself let alone cleaning up after someone else."

"Sounds like you need a nice girl to take care of you." Robert smiled at the thought of being taken care of.

"Well, I might be able to handle that. The girls aren't knocking down the door to get to me though." Rosie smiled to herself. She hadn't quite knocked down the door but she had knocked.

"Well you never know. They always say when your not looking is the time you find someone."

"Yeah I guess." Robert had heard that before but he hadn't been looking for a while. He had a couple of girlfriends but always ended up distancing himself from them. He just didn't feel like he could share everything with them and he just couldn't see himself with someone he couldn't share all of himself with.

"So what made you decide you had to have today off?" Rosie asked, she had a sense something was up and figured she would offer her ear.

Robert took a breath and let out a sigh. It would be nice to be able to share. But he couldn't share about this. No one could understand. I mean his own mother certainly didn't. He really did want to talk about it to someone though. Could he talk about it with out going into too much detail? Maybe.

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