Pennington Clark stood
looking out the window of his office. It was cold and grey outside,
which was not that unusual for Boston in November. But he had been
spoiled by the warm sunny weather of the long Indian Summer. Now, with
the more seasonal weather back, Penn was feeling down and found himself
daydreaming, which was also not that unusual.
His childhood had been full of dreams. He grew up in Providence, Rhode
Island, but knew very little about the area. He was a very shy and
introverted child, and kept to himself most of the time, usually in his
room engaged in something creative. He loved art, especially creating
his own, and he had a great deal of natural talent.
By his teen years, he had not changed much, though his creativity had
branched out into other areas. The hours alone in his room were spent
reading, drawing, writing stories or composing and playing music on his
guitar. He still had lots of dreams, possibly becoming a famous artist,
a musician, a writer or even a movie director. The fact is, Penn was
very unfocused. The hours that he spent alone in his room pursuing his
creative interests had helped him to develop a number of useful skills,
but he never really learned how to relate to people. He was an
unrealistic dreamer with little experience in real life. He excelled in
all the art courses he took in school, which continued to fuel one of
his dreams - being an artist.
Then he got involved with Cheri, almost by accident. A friend had
introduced them shortly after her boyfriend, Eric, had broken up with
her. They had talked for a while, then she took Penn to meet Eric who
was nearby with a group of his friends. Penn was gracious in the
awkward situation, and while Cheri was obviously trying to make a show
to Eric of having 'moved on,' Penn didn't realize that this was out of
the ordinary. Having had very little experience with girls, he was
taken with the attention and found his feelings growing very strong
very quickly. Once again, the romantic dreamer took over. They married
soon after high school.
He spent a few unhappy years in jobs he hated, living
paycheck-to-paycheck. Penn and Cheri didn't fight - Penn usually gave
in to her wishes, thinking that this would make for a happy marriage.
Instead, he was miserable. When she left him, saying that she didn't
want to spend her life with a loser, he grieved for a short while. In
time, he finally realized that all the time he had spent alone while
growing up had prevented his developing the ability to relate well with
other people. Relationships he entered were usually shallow, didn't
last long, and he was able to move on quickly when they ended. He
didn't want to continue on like that. He decided that it was time to
make some changes in his life.
He found some art courses in a local college that offered student aid
for which he qualified. Of course he did very well, and was able to
follow up with more advanced courses. Eventually, the college helped
him get a job at a Boston design studio.
At first, living alone and knowing nobody in Boston was difficult for
him and he found himself slipping back into his old lonely ways,
keeping to himself in his dark, musty little apartment. But when Tim
Sherman, a designer at the studio, invited him over for dinner, Penn
realized how lonely he really was. He took up the invitation and soon
became good friends with Tim and his wife Bobbie.
Time spent with them was usually quiet. Tim and Bobbie both had mellow
personalities, and though they were both outgoing when the situation
called for it, and could be quick with a joke, they mostly enjoyed
spending time at home. They could spend hours at a time working on
complex jigsaw puzzles. Tim had once gotten Bobbie a jigsaw puzzle he
found that prominently featured a picture of Bobby Sherman. He knew she
hated having the same name as that "talentless 70s singer" as she
called him. She laughed at the joke and placed the puzzle on a shelf in
the closet where it was never opened.
Sometimes Penn would watch videos with them, other times he would help
them work on a puzzle. Their visits, he admitted, were not usually
exciting by any means, but he found he looked forward to spending time
with them. It was always a nice relaxing break from his work.
But Penn enjoyed his work, and he did it very well. His creativity had
quickly manifested itself in every project he worked on. He had started
out doing simple spot illustrations and page layout, but his superiors
recognized his inate talent and soon had him working on bigger projects
for their more important clients. Within a couple of years, he was
among the most recognized and requested illustrator/designers on the
Within two more years, Penn was able to purchase a Back Bay brownstone
and enjoyed the feeling that he had "made it," at least financially. He
had fun decorating the place, for it was another creative outlet for
him. He spent his free time over the next few months shopping for
antiques to furnish his home as it might have been when it was first
built. It was a nice distraction for him and the results were very
satisfying. He had a nice, comfortable home that he enjoyed spending
time in. He just wished he had someone to share it with.
For a while, he thought that Shelley might be the one. Shelley Sellers
was an exuberant redhead with intense green eyes. She wasn't quite
beautiful, but she had a very striking appearance, and Penn was
attracted to her from the moment he first saw her. She was a freelance
artist who occasionally did some work for the studio, and their similar
creative interests gave them something to talk about for a few dates.
But eventually, she got bored with him and they called it quits.
Penn began to understand that this was still related to his earlier
problems, his difficulty relating to other people. He had no problem
expressing himself through his work, for creative expression came
easily to him. He had a few friends and acquaintances, but he realized
that they really didn't talk that much. They would get together to do
things, like see a movie, but there was not that much conversation.
They would talk about work, but Penn was recognizing that none of them
really knew each other that well. And when he came face-to-face with
new people on a personal level, he often froze up. It was particularly
difficult with women when the awkward silences were deafening. The more
he tried to think of something to say, the harder it became to think of
anything. That was what made it so nice with Shelley for a while, until
they exhausted their mutual topics. Beyond work, Penn had a hard time
conversing with her.
As usual, when his problems became too much for him to think about, he
threw himself into his work. His superiors didn't mind, though. He was
good for the studio. They had recently promoted him to Art Director,
and while that meant more money and prestige, Penn was beginning to
regret accepting the position. He was more involved in managing various
projects but had less time to express his own creativity.
He had no answers, and when there were no answers, he didn't like
thinking about the problems. What was the point? He pushed both hands
through his dark hair and rubbed his scalp, trying to relax.
Streetlights were starting to come on down below on Newbury Street and
eased him out of his revery. He turned from the window, gathered up his
coat and briefcase and went home.
© 2008 Kelly Cheek