Epiphany Days



     Travis Henry hated these Days.  Not summer Days, or rainy Days, or SunDays – although all applied today.  No, Travis Henry hated this Day because it was, as he called them, an Epiphany Day.  Everybody had them, he was sure.  They just didn’t have a name for them.  They were the big days, the important days.  Travis Henry had lived through nine of them.  It could have been four hundred and nine, and still he would hate them.  An Epiphany Day was a day when everything changed.  Sometimes things changed for the worse, sometimes for the better.  It didn’t matter which.  Travis Henry hated these Days.

     His first Day came when he was just four years old - too young really, to have an Epiphany Day.  But that was one reason he hated them – you couldn’t control when they came.  The first Day of school.  It wasn’t stressful, or frightening, or in any other way traumatic.  To the contrary, it was a blast.  Finger-painting.  Show and Tell.  Pulling Charlotte Henderson’s skirt over her head (a feat he tried again, unsuccessfully, in high school).  He didn’t even realize the Day was important until ten years later, on his first Day of high school.  He thought that was an Epiphany Day, until he realized it had all started with his very first day of school.  That was when the fun stopped.  Gone for good were the days of unstructured, unrepentant fun. 

     The next Day came when Travis Henry was seventeen.  A long bus trip back from a summer church retreat his parents had forced him to go on.  Michelle Brown had smuggled some of her father’s bourbon from home, and they were enjoying the last of it in the back of the bus.  The counselors wrangled all the other campers to the front rows for a sing-a-long.  Travis Henry and Michelle, being seven years older than the nearest other camper, protested loudly and were left alone.  The bourbon soon got the best of them.  And quickly, quietly, on the cold, black vinyl of the back row of seats, Michelle Brown relieved Travis Henry of his virginity.  He still smiles every time he hears “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.”

     High school graduation was his third Day.  But not for the reasons his parents or teachers seemed to think.  No “Grand Journey” had been completed, as was proposed in the valedictorian’s speech.  He felt no sense of self-worth when handed the ribbon-bound scroll by the principle, whom he had butted heads with so many times.  It was one of those Days because he was done with it all.  Done with the petty insecurities and peer politics that had marred his adolescence.

     Epiphany Day number Four came some five and a half years later.  College graduation.  Again, no great journey or sense of accomplishment.  The realization that he was going to have to get a job, and stay sober enough to go there every morning.  That was this Day.

     He met Judith Peterson during his second junior year of college.  They shared a bench outside Sociology class and helped each other cram off the scant few notes they had between them.  They managed B’s – thank God for multiple-choice exams – and went out to celebrate.  From that day forward, they were inseparable.  After college they found jobs in the same town and moved into a small, one-bedroom apartment together.  And, two years after graduation, they got engaged.  Day number Five.

     The wedding was only a month away.  Travis Henry left work early to get home and surprise Judith with a special dinner.  He told himself he would do that at least once a month for the rest their lives.  After all, Judith liked surprises.  Judith also liked, as Travis Henry found out that afternoon, the bricklayer who lived two floors down.  That was Day Six, and the last time Travis Henry ever tried to surprise anyone.

     Blake Chalmers from work set it up.  You’ll really like her, Travis Henry remembered him saying.  And he was right.  Camille Benedict was perfect, and Travis Henry fell immediately in love with her.  She was beautiful.  She was patient.  She was funny, and thought he was funny.  She found his family’s “quirks” amusing.  She brought him homemade chicken soup when he had walking pneumonia.  Most of all, she loved him.  He drained his savings account paying for the ring, but paying his student loans early off could wait.  None of that mattered when she agreed to be his wife.  Number Seven.

     Travis Henry kept his self-promise to never surprise anyone.  Camille said she understood, but he could tell she was disappointed.  To make up for it, he sent her flowers at work and made dinner for her once a week.  But he always called before he left work.  Starting a month before their wedding, every time he came home, Travis Henry rapped his knuckles on the front door, then waited sixty seconds before opening it.  Camille humored him, and eventually, she started opening the door for him so he wouldn’t have to wait outside.  The wedding ceremony went off without a hitch, though Travis Henry held his breath during the “If anyone here knows just cause . . .” portion.  Day number Eight.

     Travis Henry, Jr. was born a week late, and to this day remained hesitant to leave his mother’s side.  He was the most profound thing that had ever happened to Travis Henry.  Everything else became a distant second on his priority list.  No more working late, or on weekends.  No more boys’ night out on the third Friday of every month.  He was never able to convince them that this wasn’t Camille’s fault.  He would just rather be at home with his boy.  Epiphany Day number Nine. 

     And now this day.  Travis Henry hated Epiphany Days.  He hated them because sometimes you didn’t even realize you’d had one until a decade later.  He hated them because sometimes the epiphany seemed to ruin your life.  He hated them - good change or bad.  But mostly he hated them because of how they all started.  Every single one started the exact same way.  Ordinary.  Every single one of them started out ordinary.  No premonition, no nagging feeling at the back of his neck.  Nothing.  They started out the same way the other 13,047 days of his life had started.  That’s why he hated them.  Days of such significance should allow you the opportunity to prepare. 

     Today had started out like any other.  Travis Henry should have known something was up.  An absolutely ordinary beginning to his Day.  But here he was, twelve hours later, embroiled in what he was now sure was Day number ten.  He didn’t know where this was going to take him.  Another reason he hated them – even if you realized you were having one, you never knew exactly how your life would change.  You knew only that it would.

     Camille was sitting perfectly still on the edge of their bed.  He asked her again, but the answer didn’t change.  She was sure.  She had tried to tell him, she said.  He just hadn’t listened.  He looked in the mirror.  In the reflection, he could see she was wearing that sheepish grin of hers – that grin of apology and comfort.  He turned toward her.  Their eyes met, and she gave a slight shrug.  Travis Henry turned back to the mirror.  He knew she was right.  He hated these Days.  He turned sideways to the mirror, his eyes narrowed to slits.  The sooner he came to grips with it, the better.  Travis Henry hung his head and let the truth wrap its cold arms around him – these pants DID make his butt look big.