They Didn’t Come Out to Play

By Paula Puolakka

“Life’s a heartbreak,” Tammy, Tod, and Ted used to say. They had all been diagnosed with mental health problems: Tammy had anxiety disorder, Tod suffered from depression, and Ted was called schizophrenic. However, in my mind, they all were just fine and beautiful in a very unique way.

Tammy had roaring laughter, and she was a pretty blonde with artistic tendencies. Tod had a sick sense of humor, but he never wanted to hurt anybody – physically or emotionally – and he was very attentive towards Tammy and her work. He was a slender tall guy with big brown eyes and dark hair, and he loved to play the guitar. Ted was the reserved one: he spent hours alone in his closet-size room reading philosophy and fiddling his rosary. He would have looked like Apollon if he hadn’t had the permanent frown on his face.

The glue between the three was the love towards the Beatles. Every Wednesday, when the spring and summer sun was shining, they gathered in the living room, put music on and sang along. “Dear Prudence” was their favorite tune, and as I saw and heard them through the open window, I could not help but to stick my head in and ask them to come out and play. They never did and almost gazed me as if I was their enemy.

Twenty years later, I am still taking care of the garden that nowadays is three times bigger than when the house still existed. The building burned down on an ominous New Moon’s night in 2000, killing those individuals I regarded as my friends, although they completely ignored me. The smell of roses reminds me of Tammy. The smell of rosemary brings back Tod, and the smell of poplar bark makes Ted come alive.

“Life’s a heartbreak,” I say every day and hum my favorite tune – Led Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way” – but instead of frowning, I am smiling.


Paula Puolakka is a Beat poet, writer, and MA (History of Science and Ideas.) In 2019, she landed second in Dreamers & MLK poetry contest (NC) and also gained merit in the contests held by, for example, The Finnish Reserve Officers’ Federation, Woody Guthrie Poets (OK) and Tiny Spoon.