Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan

#Book Review
Fiction|Love|Friendship|Redemption

Phoenixville Rising is a story that talks about how the shutting down of a steel mill affected the town and all of its people. It is a story that resonated across America before the turn of the century. Phoenixville Rising is written by local author Robb Cadigan who also resides in a town named Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It’s a fictionalized version of history that follows the story of Boo and Sketch, and the remnants of a once-bustling steel town. In the absence of the steel mill jobs, the youth of the town are drawn towards petty crime and gang culture. Interwoven within this story is also a fictionalized recollection of an era in Phoenixville’s history. The two narratives are separated by time but connected by the same human emotions.

I enjoy reading stories about small towns in an effort to get an insight into the town. I was disappointed to find out that a few of the places mentioned in the book were not present in the real world. It would have been great if I could visit the Wishing Manor which plays a central theme in the book. This book also has themes of friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, crime, and the everyday struggle of youth without a secure future.

If you like reading about small towns, then do give Phoenixville Rising a chance. However, if you are looking for a deep insightful story about a town on the brink of extinction, then you would be better off picking another book.

A Lost Friend

#Short story

When I saw her for the first time, it felt like I had never seen anyone who looked so angelic. I stayed away from her, I thought pretty girls like her would not want to talk to me. We sat on the same bench in class but we never spoke to each other. Sometimes, when the lecturer dictated notes I would peek into her notebook, she would push her book towards me and smile. Even her tiniest gesture of kindness would touch my heart.

One day at a friend’s place we ended up being alone in the corner of a room. That was the first time she spoke to me and when she did, I was surprised by the speed at which she spoke. I don’t remember the conversation, all I remember is that she spoke really fast. If I had to describe her looks, then umm..she has innocent honey brown eyes, super chubby cheeks, clear soft skin, long black hair, and a sweet naughty smile. She is a beautiful girl, my girl!

We got close after the bike accident. She had fallen off the bike while riding so our group of friends had rushed to the hospital. I ran straight towards her because she was crying the loudest. She was not injured, she was just scared, really scared, and she asked me to stay by her side. Instead of feeling sorry, I found the whole situation amusing. But, it was also the first time I felt protective about her. I wanted to take care of her and keep her safe. I did not see her in college after the accident for a week. And then she was back! Her beaming smile made me feel warm and happy. I sat next to her and that’s how our friendship began. We were inseparable.

She used to talk a lot and as I mentioned earlier she talked really fast. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by her. Every day I would look forward to seeing her. The level of comfort between us was unlike anything that I had with my other friends. We understood each other, cared for each other, and had fun like no one else. We could laugh for hours, we were silly, and we loved spending time together.

I remember she would always wait for me outside the college gate. I was always a few minutes late, but she would wait for me without ever complaining, and then we would run in together. When she missed her bus, it was my turn to wait for her. I would watch her walk hurriedly towards me, fixing her flying messy hair, holding onto her college bag clumsily, and fixing her clothes angrily. She always used to be annoyed, like she hated the world, but then she would end up laughing when she finally reached me. All her worries would fade away and we would get back to cracking silly jokes. Problems in life never got serious when we had each other.

After classes, we would spend a few extra hours hanging out in college and I would take the longest route so I could walk halfway with her. Sometimes I would even go all the way to her bus stop and wait with her until her bus arrived because I lived close to the college. Sometimes we would be lost so deep in conversations that she would deliberately miss her bus so we could talk a little while longer. After reaching home, we would send each other text messages and chat until late night. Friendship with her felt more like a relationship. I am not sure what we had, it was certainly more than love. I was scared that someday I would lose her, we had gotten too emotionally attached.

When college ended, we slowly started drifting apart. She got busy looking for jobs and I got busy doing my new job. We would meet once a week, soon it became once a month, and then once in six months. We even stopped talking to each other on the phone. I tried many times to maintain the friendship but she failed to reciprocate. It was difficult for me to understand the change in her nature. There was a period of time when I was angry with her, “How could she forget me so easily?” On days when I needed my friend, she wasn’t there and that would make me sad. I waited for her, with a hope that things will go back to being how they used to be before.

Soon, I fell in love with a guy, who is now my husband. She got married and moved to another country. We completely stopped talking, we had forgotten how to be there for each other. There was one time when our paths accidentally crossed, she was with her two kids. She spoke to me briefly and I realized she was nothing like the person that I knew before and our relationship will never be the same. I lost my dearest friend and losing a best friend is worse than a breakup.

I often think about her, wonder where she is, and how she is doing. I miss her, I miss laughing with her. But over the years I’ve realized that I need to be thankful for the time that I got to spend with her, people move on and I should learn to accept that. By trying to rekindle the relationship I might lose all the sweet memories that I have been holding onto. So, I guess it’s better this way.


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Sharing Life

Day 25 Inktober – Buddy

He held her hand and showed her the world through his eyes.

She looked up to him and followed him around.

Sometimes he wouldn’t share his things and make her feel sad.

But he would make up to it by taking her on a bicycle ride.

Together they spent hours building with Lego blocks and playing pranks.

Together they laugh, they play games, they fight, they share stories, and their lives.

Her first buddy – her brother, because friendships always start at home.

Tea in Rain

A distant rumbling thunder.

There it comes,

Pitter-pattering rain and with it rises the fresh earthy scent of mud in the air.

Avni goes running out of her mud and straw hut with the pullu of her sari over her head, its tip clenched tightly between her teeth to prevent the pallu from falling.

She hurriedly grabs the washed clothes hanging on the fenced railing and runs back inside the hut.

After a while, white smoke rises from her hut.

Every time it rains, Avni brews tea.

She sits quietly and watches the foamy brown liquid come to a rapid boil.

After a minute, she removes the chai from the fire, pours it over a strainer and into two large mud cups.

She covers the cups with a lid, goes out running again and enters the hut opposite to hers.

Eighty-year old Ajjamma lives here and Avni is very fond of her.

The view from the other side of Ajjamma’s hut is beautiful. It overlooks a large pond with fields of corn surrounding it.

Every time it rains, Avni and Ajjamma sit by the doorstep of the hut in silence and drink chai. 

They watch raindrops splashing and creating bubbles of air in the pond, they watch the field of crops sway gently with the wind and they like the mist softly touching their skin. 

This is happiness to them, in each other’s company and their hot cup of tea.

Kinship

Day 51

Like a flower,

Your kind kinship blossoms my life.

Your negligence and anger

Pierces through my mind and heart.

Making me shallow,

Wringing the inside of my soul.

And I still do not hate you.

I feel you stronger in me than ever before.

You are so good that no matter how much it hurts.

I bond with you a little more than the day before.

When Friends Talk

Day 5

When friends talk

You know it will take a while to stop.

It can go on for hours

When they reminisce the memories of their past.

When friends talk

The many emotions on their faces

Look like a movie.

Excitedly with light in their eyes

They open up and share their lives.

When friends talk

They disagree, get angry and fight.

But when they come back and smile

You can’t help but hug them tight.

Friends make life easier

They comfort and assure you

When they put their arm around you.

You know they will always be around you.