Henry went home that early morning, showered and looked in the mirror to make sure he was still alive. He decided to grow a beard, for now at least. He put on a suit, shirt and tie and walked downstairs. No one was home and he made himself a cup of coffee and went to work.
He sat at his desk and then remembered, “I am dying. It could happen here. I don’t want to die here.” He had a class in an hour so he walked to see Dean Walters who was also his best friend.
“Hey Walt, you have a minute?”
“Good morning Hank – of course come on in. Betty two coffees please?”
“I need to take some time man,” He couldn’t look at him, he looked out the window. “I have a, I am sick. Not sure if I am going to get better or avoid…”
“Hank…What is going on?”
They spoke for another 20 minutes during which Dean Walters said he wanted to contact some Doctors on his behalf and Henry said he would contact his doctor to get the tests and whatever else they needed to see.
“Anything Martha and myself can do – please…” They hugged and Henry walked away, wrote an email to his students thanking them and telling them that he hoped to be back the following semester. He shut his computer, pulled on his jacket and locked the door.
He walked to his car and drove home.
At his home he wrote an email to his lawyer and explained how and what he wanted things to be handled.
Took off his tie and sat on his couch.
“What the hell am I going to do? He walked to his kitchen and opened up the Xanax bottle. Filled up a cup of water and was about to take the pill when it hit him.
“Why am I scared? What more can happen to me? If I die – I wont know the difference. Nancy didn’t even call him this morning or last night to see how he was, where he was or if he was. He walked into his room and found her asleep with Neil, her old lover. He didn’t even bother to wake them – just pulled some cash from the emergency shoe box and walked out of the room. Went downstairs and re-wrote the email to omit Nancy from the whole will; giving all he had to his children.
He pulled out of the driveway and drove towards the diner to have another look at Wendy.
She had the kind of smile that caused one to question every decision ever made in their life. She used it, perhaps unknowingly as a weapon or a moat to deter any strangers or visitors. I can do no justice in describing her smile; in a clumsy and inadequate manner I will try.
When she smiled her high cheeks would fill and her eyes would shine like dancing water in the sun. Her mouth would twist in a perfect shape…and oh those lips…plush and filled with honey with a hint of a jasmine scent. She was 33 but looked as if she were 23 – her skin was bronzed and smooth and her hair was dirty, Streaked with colors and stains from the different stages she had taken life on. She did not have the conventional assimilated agreed upon body – she was a woman who in the middle of the past century would be considered a dame, a broad and a woman.
“I was hoping to see you last night – you were a no-show.”
“I know that – I am sorry. How about tonight, can I buy you a drink, or two?” He smiled, she smiled.
“I get off early today – I have a daughter at home.”
“How old is she?”
“She is an old 10 years – going on 40.” She laughed.
“Ok so, another night?”
“How about I meet you at Oscars at 9?”
“You got it – I will be there this time.”
Henry left the diner and did a google search for a hotel in the area. He ended up at a Marriott on Industrial Way – he took a junior suite with a king bed. Lay down and fell asleep. Woke up at seven, showered and headed out to Oscars.
His cell rang, it was his daughter.
“Dad, whats going on? Mom said, well she said, you are not feeling well?”
“I am feeling ok, actually. But according to the Doctor…it doesn’t look very good right now.”
“Dad I want to come home and see you.”
“OK, whenever you want. Book a ticket I will pay for it.”
“I cant right now, I have 4 term papers I need to write. As soon as I do them I will come to see you.”
His heart sank and he felt nauseous.
“OK. Don’t worry I will try and hang on for you.”
“I gotta go – I’ll call you tomorrow?”
As if planned his son called two minutes after their call and he had the same conversation with him. He pulled over to the side of the road and began to shake, shiver and cry. Not because the kids couldn’t come or wouldn’t come – but because he had failed as a father to inspire them to care enough.
He parked his car down the block from Oscars – well, actually it was called, “Walt’s Last Waltz.” As he got out of his car he felt a dizzy spell coming and he sat back down again. His heart began to race and he felt himself beginning to sweat.
“Not now, not now…I really want to live tonight. I want to see Wendy…I don’t want to die…at least not now.”
He began to take deep breaths and opened the air conditioner. He woke up around 10 minutes later, the back of his shirt was wet as was his scalp and hair. He pulled a brush out of the glove compartment and brushed his hair back and left the car.
“Thank You…” He whispered and then thought to himself. “No more holding back, damn it I am dying, its time for me to live.”
As he walked up the stairs to “Walt’s Last Waltz,” he spied Wendy walking up the block towards him. She was smiling and he felt something inside of him awaken.
They sat by a table in the back and ordered burgers and a pitcher of beer. He sat there and looked around.
“You know I used to spend a lot of time here. I would spend time talking to Oscar and I remember his daughter would always be there by his side.”
“What was her name?”
“Oh, I don’t remember. Oscar was a good man – a baseball fan – we used to talk baseball all the time.”
“A big Brooklyn Dodger’s man – until they ran off to California – that broke his heart.”
“He became a Met’s fan because he could never imagine rooting for the Yankees.”
“He hated them – he loved the Met’s though its a shame he never got to see Citi Field and the Dodger’s shrine. Remember the picture of Ebbets Field he had on the wall?”
“How do you know so much about him?”
“Before tonight when was the last time you were here?”
“Over 20 years ago.”
“More like 25 years I think – I was 8 years old.”
“You? Oh my her name was Wendy!”
She smiled and a tear or two formed in her eyes and then she smiled.