I asked him several times to meet me after work at the local hang-out bar. From his reaction I didn’t think he would show. For the last few weeks I was on cloud nine. Every hour, every minute, every second I savored because I never felt such happiness. He gave me such hope.
“It’s ok!” He would say to me in his deep, husky voice. “You just want people to like you for what you are and it angers you when they take advantage of your nice personality.”
“How true! I never thought of it that way.” I said.
Hunched over in his seat he would turn and look at me. The picnic table was big enough to sit 8 or 10 people and yet we sat so close to each other, side by side, I could feel him breathing.
He’d close his eyes while he talked to me. Take a few seconds and then start again.
“You have manic depression. That’s ok. The majority of the people today are manic depressive. There’s nothing wrong with that.” He spoke deliberately and slowly.
He would close his eyes again. His face wrinkled and he would stretch his arms by flexing his hands in and out. His body was as solid as rock either from age or from exercising. He seemed soft as he spoke to me. What sort of experiences has he been through, I wondered. No matter how terrible it had been, his kindness to me would shine through his light blue eyes.
My body tingled with heat and I felt as though a wave of mixed feelings rush over me.
I turned my bar stool toward the door and caught him staring at me from the doorway. With the morning sun glaring behind, him all I could see was a shadow. I placed my hand over my eyes and smiled at him.
He walked up and I turned toward thebar, that’s when he came behind me and whispered in my ear.
“I almost didn’t show, but I realized this would be the last time I get to see you, smell you, touch you…”
My ear tickled from his breath. I giggled. “oh, knock it off.”
He sat next to me, ordered a shot and a double JD and coke. I looked up at him. “you serious.” I commented.
“I don’t play around when it comes to drinking. If I’m going to drink, I do it seriously. You don’t want to see me when I’m at home. I drink shot after shot, or straight out of the bottle until I pass out. I don’t drink beer.”
Larry slouched over the bar, sitting on top of a tall stool. He became solemn, very unusual even with all our depressing conversations. His quietness unearthed me.
He ordered steak and eggs. The bartender slid him a rolled napkin with silverware. He opened it and discarded everything but the fat texas-style steak knife. He flipped this in his palm over and over, staring at the blade as if he wanted to do something horrendous right then and there.
I just laughed and said “Oh, Larry” brushing this new side of him that I’ve never seen before aside.
But he kept on and didn’t acknowledge my flippant attitude. He continued to roll the handle of the knife in his hand. I became increasingly aware that he knew exactly how to use this weapon. I shuddered to think of how many times he may have used it in the past. Or what dark thoughts may have been hiding at that moment. Was he thinking of someone he already hurt or was he thinking of someone he wanted to hurt now? I’ll never know. When he finally talked I had all but lost my humor.
He was clear when he spoke. He didn’t mumble. He talked about the pain he felt. How people hurt him. He didn’t say whether it was his family or friends. But I knew right then that he felt truly alone in the world. I understood how important our relationship was to him. The rest of the bar disappeared as I looked at him with new eyes. He scared me. The power behind his mind, the strength in his hands.
It was time to go. I didn’t want to leave him and yet I couldn’t stay. I was afraid.