I got a reminder in the mail about tax for the Jag. Not only did I not have the money for it, since the car was hardly roadworthy I didn’t want to be bothered with it. I worried about it all that day, and then woke the next morning with a brilliant idea. I called around some of the Jag owners I still knew, and eventually found one that would take the car for parts, and he even agreed to come and tow the vehicle back to his garage.
It was a sad day, but also a relief to be free of the responsibility. It was also good to have some spending money again, and I treated myself to a haircut and a trip to the laundromat. As I sat there watching my clothes go around in the dryer, I thought, was this what my life had come down to? Sitting alone in a laundromat, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. On my way home I stopped and got a bottle of brandy to go with the scotch I’d bought earlier; maybe a cocktail or two would help.
Christmas came and went. Percy sent me an invite to his Christmas gathering, and my brother said I could spend the holidays with him and his family, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone or go anywhere.
Out of the blue in January, I got a call from Angel. She had left Edinburgh behind and was back giving Norfolk a try, and she wondered if I want to meet up, and maybe do some business together. I said yes, but then realized I could not bring myself to get out there and be present with the world, not while I was so depressed.I made and excuse about going to see my brother when she called next and hid out in the apartment so that I didn’t run into her.
By the end of January, I just stopped answering my phone because it seemed to be too much effort to do even that. When out of provisions I had to go out to the store, but I tried to go at the quietest times to avoid meeting anyone. Even so, I did occasionally run into someone I knew, and I put on a happy, everything is going great, face for them.
One early evening in March my peace was disturbed by the buzzer from the front door. I tried to ignore it, but my caller was persistent, and eventually I gave in and went to see who it was. It turned out to be Jenny and Angel, and I was surprised to see the two of them together. I noticed that Angel had a bottle behind her back, and invited them in.
I was suddenly aware that I’d not cleaned the place in I didn’t know how long. I could see Jenny taking in the pile of empty bottles in the kitchen. It had just seemed easier to leave them there than throw them in the garbage, and I felt myself getting defensive, just from her look.
“I happened to meet up with Jenny in the Anchor,” Angel explained. “We got to talking about people we knew, and you came up in conversation.”
“The thing is,” Jenny went on “we’ve been worried about you, and think it’s time we said something.”
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about me!” I said, trying to be as right and positive as I could. “I’ve got a lot of thing bubbling under you know.”
“Tony,” Angel said “This is me you’re talking to, remember. You are a good friend, and as a friend, I have to tell you that you are very much not doing well. Anyone can see it. When was the last time you took a shower? When was the last time you had a decent meal? And how much, exactly, have you been drinking recently?”
Jenny chimed in “You’ve been wearing the same clothes every time I’ve seen you around town, and again today. And when are you going to get that tooth seen to?”
“Listen, “ I started “If you just came here to make me feel bad…” but before I could go on Angel broke in.
“It’s true Tony, just look at this place and at yourself. When we first met you were the toast of the town, Mary used to drool over how gorgeous you were, in and out of bed, and you could have any woman you wanted. Men as well if you’d ever been that inclined,”
Jenny joined in “I’m sorry you’re going through a tough time, but you’re let yourself go. We both love you like a brother, and we’re worried about you, can’t you see that?”
Suddenly, all the frustration from my situation broke through my composure, and I let rip at them.
“Like a brother?” I lunged at Jenny. “yea, what about stealing my wife from me, that was just like a brother, wasn’t it? And you” I turned to Angel “you introduced me to you faggot friend who stole the money that I worked so hard for. Just like everyone else – they all let me down in the end. I tried to be a good son, a good husband, a good lover, a good employee, but I wasn’t good enough, was I?”
I’m not sure what else I said, but it seemed that every hurt I’d ever felt and hidden came out in a continuous stream of consciousness. Eventually, I ran out of things to say, and a profound silence filled the room.
“Oh Tony,” Jenny said at last. “Oh sweetie I know, honestly I do. But at some point, you just need to stop being a son, a husband, a lover, an employee, stop hiding behind all those masks and just be you. Just be Tony. I’d like to meet that guy and get to know him.”
“Me too Tony, I’d like to get to know the real you,” Angel said. “Listen, we’ve going to leave now, but I’ll come round again in the morning, and see if we can’t clean this place up a bit. Oh, and don’t think you can pretend not to be here again, I’m going to keep on ringing the bell until you answer, and if you don’t answer I’ll call the police on you!”
Somehow I was on my feet again, and both girls gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek before leaving. The door closed behind them and I was alone again.
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