But I’d leave all behind and be born anew
Why, But Why Not
I watch from the window as the world passes by
Sitting alone, sitting in fear
Fear that never again will I know
Wonderful life, wondrous times
I long to be that which they already are
Envy I’ll admit, jealousy I won’t
Not why me, but why not
Details I see, hidden from eyes
Substance so fine, yet course if you will
Why do I see that which I don’t
There for the soul, open and willing
I know because knowing
Stems from ignorance
My heart pumps blood in an absence of life
But it bleeds without fail, ironic in beat
Flexing in time, and then it skips
Next my throat clutches
And I gasp for air
Just one more breath
Why, But why not
All I had, all I lost
All I have been has gone long ago
But still it lingers as a scent I can’t forget
Do I watch from the window
And yearn for what passes by
Is it my heart; or is it my hope
That I can be you, but I can be me
Why, but why not
Last Night I had a Daydream
Last night I had a daydream
Where all things hurtful ceased
Pain rushed from my body
Damned up agony burst free
I dreamt of complete calmness
And yet, I was awake
I fantasized of tranquility
Repose was mine to take
A life with no woe or anguish
Where normal meant feeling good
No one was tormented
All were treated as they should
The restless world was peaceful
The warriors now asleep
No need for guns and armies
Serenity was ours to keep
People and nations in harmony
Not a discord to be heard
Hostility now was bygone
Unity was the word
Today I had a nightmare
My daydream had been just that
The pain had never left me
It consumed me where I sat
Shards of fractured memories stab my consciousness
Images of those who I knew before but now are gone
Not to all finality, but gone from where I am
They sting me in brilliant flashes of thought gone by the by
Remembrances of bitter sweet pleasantness of what I can’t forget
Running through the crowded field with a ball and hot pursuit
Viciously brought to the ground or reaching victorious end
The rainbow colored sweater of a girl I was too afraid to love
Joe and Frank bravely fighting battles against nature and themselves
I sadly knew they’d never win; yet their courage rendered smiles of admiration
Rock-n-Roll Rick and Wild Man Dan shouting “party while you can
The drunken days and nights of sweet, blessed forgetfulness
Inside the bottle inhibitions peeled away and fantastic impossibilities
Wrapped themselves around me in a warm blanket of attainable realities
This irony of forgetfulness remembered
Is just a piece to a puzzle of sharpened fragments of memories
Filed smooth and fit together to create a life of what was and what might have been
It wasn’t really as I want to remember
And can’t be yet again
Reality, though possibly not desired, is in the here and now
Mine to blissfully reject and dream of yesteryear
Or to embrace and turn into tomorrow’s sweet memories
The Wounded Warrior
I am the wounded warrior
Limping, crawling from the field of battle undaunted
There are no stops for rest
Not healed from the last fight
Still, I search for my next
The search, I think, is in vain
The onslaught always comes to me
Unlooked for and unwanted
Somehow, someway it’s always here
I called for my doctor
But he was with the generals
I hear they’re trying to stop this war
But our leader won’t let them
The crime is not the war
And neither is it mine
It is what has not been done
To stop the suffering
Of countless wounded warriors
I am the wounded warrior
But it’s getting so hard to fight
Wounded Soul, Broken Heart
The sound of a wounded soul
Is a sound heard time and again
It’s a lonely cry born in the dark
It’s a lonesome call born out of pain
The yearning of a lonely heart
Is the consequence of one that’s been broken
It’s the terrible need to know
Of spoken words better unspoken
My heart still yearns for healing
But my soul is still tattered and bleeding
Blood pours from a heart torn asunder
As I lye in my bed only needing
I wail, Oh my God, can you hear me
But when I pray, I don’t want to weep
I only want Him to hear me down here
My wounded soul for His here to keep
Yes, I am a wounded soul
And my heart can’t find its mate
My heart was once broken by a woman
But my soul was wounded by fate
What I Write II (Lonely Words)
I don’t want to write lonely words to be read
By those who will think this is all that can be said
About whom I am, about how I feel
About what is true, about what is real
There really is more than what I have written
A man who felt joy, by true love once smitten
Sometimes I laugh, but mostly I smile
At outrageous fortune which occurs once in awhile
Sometimes I’m happy, but true joy eludes
A place that is found among many moods
I tell stupid jokes; behind the mask do I hide
Of a man somewhat happy but I don’t let them inside
I’m not a closed book, sometimes easily read
I just don’t let them see pages upon which I’ve bled
I don’t want them to know I haven’t recovered
From a wound so deep, in its blood I’m still covered
But I’ve bared my soul open with lonely words I write
To be read and analyzed by those who might
But maybe I’m stupid; maybe I’m vain
To think that they care, they may think me insane
But if that’s true, then be that as it may
Although I do care about what they say
I’m possessed to write what comes from within
About struggles for happiness which I can’t seem to win
I don’t want to write about sadness and pain
But I’ve written it before and I’m writing it again
I don’t want to write lonely words to be found
Among silent volumes where loneliness abounds
Perhaps someday my words will make people smile
But I guess lonely words will have to do for awhile
I know now I couldn’t give you what you wanted
And what you wanted wasn’t all that much
You wanted someone who could give you more than love
Though I’m not sure there is as such
I sang you my slightly off key Saturday song
Simple and pure it poured from my heart
But you wanted a pitch perfect symphony on Sunday
And I’m quite sure I wouldn’t know where to start
I gave you my everlasting vow and not much more
And I thought we’d always to be together
You spoke your own blessed pledge at the same time
That we’d be in this love forever
I wasn’t anything more than imperfect
But my gift of love was flawless and bold
Like a brilliant, many faceted diamond
Set in a mangled band of gold
What were you searching for; what did you want
Was it worth it and what did you find
I know it doesn’t keep you awake at night
Because you don’t care who and what you left behind
It wasn’t even good
But it was better than this
It was what I want to remember
But I don’t have certain illusions
It wasn’t a dream fulfilled
But better than a nightmare
It was what I wish not to forget
It was just as it should be
If given the choice where I would
Would I were as I was
Or would I am as it is
Then I’d rather be that
It’s not a place of time
But rather a time out of place
It’s what I wish I could be
And what we wish we all were
The water glass rests on the table
Still his throat is dry
The phone rings twice
Then falls silent, no one answers
The evening meal sits on the counter
Uncooked and uneaten
A knock on the door
No one behind it
The bed is unmade and messy
But no one lies there
The bath is drawn
Yet no one soaks in the tub
The breeze stirs the air
And no one breathes easy
What is and what should be
Still is but never will
Around and around it would go
But the circle remains broken
I tried something different this time. The title is at the end, but please read the poem first.
Lines, scars and blemishes became defined
As reflections of a lifetime came into focus
With so much yet ahead
And so many stories left to days escaped
Go untold and buried, unwanted and unheard
The impression was revealed and recognized
By whom had known it like no other
Its attempt at deceit fooled no one
When just two judges cast down rulings
The visage was strong and terrible
Then at once vulnerable and withdrawn
In just that moment, knowing was poison
And brightness became the enemy
Apprehension of familiarity
And the want, the need for change
Embedded themselves in the appearance
Of an echo bouncing off the glass
Harshly regarding its duplicate
As its unborn twin each day
I see my hands tremble and a shiver runs up my spine
I see my lifeless legs and wish they weren’t mine
I see a set of stairs and I sadly turn away
I see my body failing with the light of each new day
I see the heavens open and wipe the rainfall from my eyes
I see the truth revealed as it emerges from disguise
I see terror in the stares of children caught up in the fray
I see opportunity and watch it slip away
I see a man on a quest who doesn’t know where he should go
I see a long journey behind but what’s ahead I don’t know
I see just enough to scare me but not what’s truly there
I see with such clarity on occasion although rare
I see jesters dancing and wish I were one
I see the spotlight gleaming yet gladly turn and run
I see unclimbed mountains never to be scaled
I see unread letters of life carelessly never mailed
I see the spring of eternal hope and drink to quench my thirst
I see all that’s gone before but know now what should go first
I see that in the end what I could have done is a guess after all
I see a man humbled by life who has only the will to stand tall
The Telling of a Lifetime Tale
Untethered, ungrounded, I’d watch over all
That’s all there is
That’s all I can do
I’m doing the best that I can
Losing like this
Winning like that
Was never part of the plan
Designs I drew
The dreams I had
Were just sketches traced in the sand
Out with the tide
Went the castles I built
No foundations entrenched in the land
What could I do
But start over again
A bit damaged but still the same man
New plans were made
New courses were laid
Yet, I still didn’t seem to understand
You can’t do that
You must do it our way
Only what’s part of our plan
I dared to differ
I screamed that’s not me
I can only be what I am
Nothing that’s untrue
Only what was and wasn’t drawn in the sand
That’s not all there is
I can do so much more
I’ll do better than the best that I can
A Pretty Bad Poem
But I’d like to fly free, I’d love to fly high
If I could run through the towns, I’d run all along
In the streets and the fields, singing a little song
Do you remember H. R. Pufnstuff
“Where you go when things get rough”
I’d sing a song from that old children’s show
“If I could, I would be a balloon that a little kid let go”
If you know more, you remember more than I
And come to the rescue, you needn’t even call
I’d hit the ground running, right into danger
I’d thwart the bad guy, that terrible evil stranger
I’ve always wanted to be somebody’s hero
Instead of this feeling of a bit less than zero
I know that line came from the title of a movie
But I like what it said, the thought quite behooves me
Yes, I know this poem’s not very good
Rhyming just to rhyme, let’s not be misunderstood
But the feeling is real, my sentiments are true
If I could be there, I’d be there for you
Things are good these days
I have a good job
My health isn’t bad
I woke up with a heartbeat
And that’s more than half the battle
The problem is as I really don’t have a clue
Down this path or down that road
I hope I don’t screw up
But if I do
I’ll deal with it
It’s pretty sweet to do something right, though
I do it every once and again
But pride cannot be allowed
Not after I gorged myself
In a self-indulgent feast of inner contentment
If I face the utter reality of each given situation
Than the presentation of the vile
Can be more easily tolerated
And the thrust of its hideousness
Can be absorbed in the armor of my acceptance
Yet something is missing
Full well I know what it is
I don’t want to talk about it really
But illusions still can’t replace the truth
And imaginations are rarely realized
Things are good, though
I’m able to work
I have my head above water
No one’s trying to pull me down
I should count my blessings
I wrote this in April of 1984, so that explains some of the dated language. It’s a complete work of fiction, but some of the dialog and settings were based on actual events. “Johnny” and I really did “cruise” past a bar advertising male dancers, and actually ended up at a bar with a similar name to the one in the story. Part of the conversation with the bartender was real, and part was fiction. It’s up to the reader to guess which is which. The rest of the story was a product of my then twenty-four year old twisted imagination.
Johnny picked me up at my parent’s house in Medinah, a small suburb of Chicago, on a crisp Saturday in April. We didn’t have any definite plans that night, so we just started cruising the area. I had been living in the city for the past couple of years and I wanted to stay away from that scene. The cool, clear night was refreshing, so we started driving through the surrounding suburbs, Roselle, Bloomingdale, Addison, trying to decide where to go. We passed a bar advertising male dancers.
"Lotta women in there,” Johnny said.
“Not many cars,” I replied. “Drive on.”
We kept driving, sipping on a few Heinekens. We talked about high school days as we passed the old building. Johnny and I had kept in touch since then. We both had gone away to college, he to Eastern Illinois University and I to Illinois State University. It felt strange being back in the old neighborhood. New shopping centers and restaurants had sprung up everywhere. We were in Roselle when I spotted a familiar bar with a different name on the sign. The Patio Pub. It used to be called Woody End. I thought both names were a bit inappropriate. It didn’t have a patio and it wasn’t at the end of any woods. We decided to go in.
The first thing I noticed was that it hadn’t changed a bit in seven years. New name, new owner, that was it. The bar was in the center with tables and chairs along the walls. There was a back room with pinball machines. What a memory jolt. The place had authentic pinball machines! I thought video games had made them obsolete. At nine o’clock the place wasn’t very crowded, so Johnny grabbed a prime table while I went up to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic for me and a vodka and tonic for Johnny. The pretty little bartender mixed powerful drinks. Hell, I was in the mood to get a buzz.
From our table, we could see the big screen TV perfectly. A basketball game between DePaul and Georgetown was on. Good game. A guy with a flattop crew cut sat at the end of the bar watching the game. It seemed he had a monopoly on the jukebox with Willie Nelson’s country version of “Georgia on My Mind” playing over and over. That soon changed when I made a few selections with the change I got from buying the drinks. We had put down about three drinks each when more people started shuffling in. I recognized a girl from high school when she walked past our table.
“Pam Sanders,” I said. She looked at me, but no recognition registered on her face.
“Do I know you?”
I smiled. “Not really.”
A young woman ambled up to the juke box not twenty feet away from us, she aware of us, we of her.
Johnny said, “Nice upright tits. Look how she juts ‘em out. Nonverbal communication my boy. She’s on display. Her face is okay, but kinda funky. I need a few more drinks before I go after her.” As if on cue, the bartender motioned me to the bar.
“You guys ready for refills”
She handed me two drinks. “On the house,” she said with a smile.
As more people came in, the old guy with the flat top made a quick exit. Maybe he felt uncomfortable around younger adults. Then I looked up at the TV and noticed the game was over. DePaul had upset Georgetown in the NCAA tournament. He had only been interested in the game and a few beers.
Johnny and I sat watching the activity and putting down drinks. For the amount I drank, I was pretty sober. Johnny got up to go play a pinball game. I had no interest in bungs and bells that night, so I figured I would go talk to the pretty young lady behind the bar. I thanked her again for the earlier drinks and introduced myself. She gave me another free drink. Her name was Karen. She had a country, but not quite country, accent, so I asked her where she was from.
“Home On The Range, Montana.”
I found that hard to believe. “C’mon. That’s the name of a real town?”
I was staring at her for a few seconds when she asked me what I was looking at.
“Sorry. I was just studying your face. You could say I’m an expert.”
“How do I rate?”
“Between eight and ten.” She was very attractive, but not drop dead gorgeous. On a scale of one to ten, she was about a seven. I exaggerated a bit because a little compliment couldn’t hurt. Besides, she might keep putting up a few more free cocktails.
Her face lit up at that, and without missing a beat, she coyly replied, “I guess that means nine.”
Other people walked past that I recognized, but nobody recognized me. I chuckled under my breath, but Karen heard me.
“What’s tickling you?”
I was about to say something when I looked towards the door and my words got caught in my throat. She walked in and he was right behind her. I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, I saw them again. I regained my composure and decided to make the best of the situation. I knew they wouldn’t recognize me. The memory of what happened five years ago rushed back to my mind. We had gone to college together. Her name was Terri. What a beauty. We had dated for a while our freshman year, then we just drifted apart. New experiences, new exposures. As is said, the only constant in life is change. She had joined a sorority. I was strictly anti-Greek. I thought the whole system was jive, initiation, hazing, and all that shit. That wasn’t for me.
A few semesters later we had a biology class together. She told me she had quit her sorority. The girls were to catty and phony. I told her I was playing on the rugby club and having a hell of a lot of fun. We told each other about everything that we’d been doing since we broke up. She didn’t tell me about her crazy boyfriend.
We started dating again and both had grown up a bit. Those things that had separated us before seemed irrelevant now. She started coming out to the rugby games. She liked it. Maybe she got off on watching a bunch of men running around kicking the shit out of each other. It didn’t take long before we started getting intimate. She dug me. I dug her. Whenever we made love, it was at my place. I lived in a house with three other guys, but I had my own bedroom so it wasn’t a problem. I always wondered why she never invited me to her place. I would soon find out.
After a couple of months of seeing each other, she invited me to her apartment one night. She told me about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Vince Toscani. She had let him move in with her when he didn’t have enough money for his own place any longer. She made it clear she wanted to see other guys. She told me he was acting strange, too possessive. She didn’t like being smothered by him. She told him about me and kicked him out. He wasn’t very big, she said, but he had a fierce temper.
When he burst though the door with a 12-gauge shotgun, I thought fierce temper was a gross understatement. He was a lunatic.
“He was screaming, out of control. “I’m not giving up my girl to anyone.”
“I’m not your girl anymore,” Terri growled through clenched teeth.
He raised the gun to my face about thirty feet away from me. Instinctively, I tried to bury my face in the crook of my elbow. I couldn’t quite cover my face, but managed to absorb some of the buckshot in my arm.
My face was shattered. My jaw, cheekbones, nose, and ears were all obliterated. My elbow and forearm were also badly damaged. But I was lucky my vision was saved and no buckshot had entered my brain. I was in a coma for three days. When I came out of it, I went through extensive plastic surgery. A series of operations and rehabilitation lasted almost a year. Terri never visited me. Toscani was convicted of attempted murder. I left the hospital and returned to school with a new face. Terri had transferred to another school.
Even though it was an old cliché, I was fascinated at what a small world it was. After all these years, they walked into a bar only about three miles from my parent’s house. TOGETHER! I knew she lived somewhere in the metropolitan area, but what the hell was he doing here? When did he get out of prison?
Johnny hit me in the arm. “She’s a looker.”
“You’ve been staring at the girl, oblivious to the rest of the world Brian.”
“She went to Illinois State with me. I knew her before I was shot.”
“Has she seen your new face?”
“Johnny, that’s Terri. The Terri. Guess who that scumbag is?”
“Chill out Brain. Don’t cause any trouble.”
“Just gonna have some fun.”
I walked over to their table. “Hi. You two look familiar. Did you go to ISU by any chance?”
Toscani looked at up at me. No recognition. “Um, yeah, for a couple of years. Why, did you go there?”
He looked uncomfortable. “Yeah. I was just saying to my friend over there that I recognized you. I don’t forget faces.” I looked directly at Terri when I said this. “Listen. Let me buy you a round. What’ll you have?”
“Hey, thanks. I’ll have a Bud. Terri?”
“I’ll bet she’ll have a seven-seven,” I interrupted. I hadn’t forgotten her favorite drink.
“Good guess.” She looked surprised and puzzled.
I chuckled to myself as I went up to the bar to get the drinks. This was getting good. I brought their drinks and my gin and tonic back to the table. “Here we go.”
“Thanks,” they replied in unison.
I offered a toast. “Here’s to a small world.”
Terri was looking at me, then down at my drink. “What are you drinking?”
“Gin and tonic. It’s my favorite. If I’m drinking beer, I only drink Heineken.” I threw that in because Terri knew what kind of beer Brian Kirkpatrick liked to drink.
“Do you come in here a lot Vince? I haven’t been here for a few years myself.” He didn’t catch the fact that he hadn’t told me his name. He wasn’t too bright. I could tell that Terri caught it. She was looking more and more puzzled.
“Yeah,” he answered. “I work down the street at the lumber yard.”
I acted surprised. “Why do you work at the lumber yard if you have a college education?”
“Well, I didn’t graduate.”
“Prison will do that,” I mumbled as I got up. He didn’t hear me. She did. The look on her face almost made me laugh out loud. “See you later. I’ll be floating around the bar.”
I was sure she recognized my voice, but couldn’t quite place it. I still hadn’t found out what they were doing together, but I was having fun watching them squirm. Johnny wanted to know what was going on. I simply told him I was having a jolly old time confusing them. Toscani had no idea who I was. He was probably just uncomfortable because I was from Illinois State. The shooting and his imprisonment had been highly publicized. Terri was aware of something else in me. Toscani got up to go to the bathroom. I walked over to Terri.
“Why are you hanging around with a guy who should never have gotten out of jail?”
“How did you know he was in jail?”
“I recognized his face from the papers. He shot a guy you know.”
“I know. He shot the guy I was dating. I don’t know what he’s doing now.”
“Kirkpatrick? He was in the hospital for a long time. If you don’t know what happened to him, then you probably never visited him in the hospital. It must have been hell for him”
She cast a strange glance towards me. “Look, I feel bad enough about it. Now Vince shows up at my door begging me to talk to him. I agreed only if we could meet in a public place and take separate cars. He scares me.”
“He should. He’s a fuck up.”
“What do you know about him besides what you read?”
“I know him better than you could imagine.”
“Who are you?”
“I don’t think it matters to you.”
“Toscani came back from the bathroom and tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey buddy, just because you bought us a couple of drinks doesn’t mean I want you hanging around all the time.”
“I don’t care what you want convict,” I replied. He was fuming. His face was all red, but he was a coward without a gun. “I think you better get your ass out of here before I mess up your face.”
At the moment they both knew me. He was so shocked, he couldn’t speak. He stormed out the door. Terri’s mouth was hanging open. I laughed and turned to walk back to the bar.
Her voice was shaky when she spoke. “Brian?”
I turned without saying a word. My face was blank. I just stared at her. She didn’t avoid my gaze.
“Is it really you?”
“Do you really care?”
“Yes. Yes! I thought I’d never see you again.”
“Why didn’t you ever visit me in the hospital?”
“I felt gluity and scared.”
“Lame excuse Terri.”
“It’s true though. I really am sorry.”
“Its too late for apologies. I put my life back together with this new face and made something of myself. But I’m not going to be melodramatic for you.”
Toscani came back in. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was pissed off. It seemed like a scene from an old movie. The big showdown. I walked up to him and hit him full force on the nose. I enjoyed watching it splatter all over his face with blood pouring down onto his jacket as he fell to the floor. He stumbled to his feet and something metallic flashed as pulled something from his jacket. A gun. One of those unreliable, but lethal Saturday Night Specials. He raised it up to my face. This time he was only a couple of feet away. Five years ago he was far enough away from me to prevent the blast from taking off my head. The buckshot spread out just enough to ruin my face. This time a single bullet entering my head from a couple of feet away would surely kill me.
He squeezed the trigger. The cheap pistol backfired and exploded in his face. He crumpled to the floor. He was still breathing, but what a mess.
When the paramedics arrived, people were crowding around. Johnny and I were standing near the ambulance when they put Toscani on the stretcher. Terri was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t care. She was from my past.
“Will he live?” I asked a paramedic.
“Probably. His face will never be the same though.”
This one was written sometime in the summer of 1984. It was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek spy thriller, although it’s a bit short to be too thrilling. I did a little bit of research for this one, so it does have some scientific accuracy. The ideas are my own; I just backed them up.
Upon re-reading it after many years, I’m struck by how I liked to “obliterate” people’s faces. Well, I was young and thought this is what people liked. Come to think of it, with all the violent video games, television shows, and movies our society ravenously consumes, I was right on the mark, unfortunately.
McCaskey and I walked down the hall towards Dr. Billings’ office. Finding the door wide open, we entered the scientist’s cluttered office. Upon flashing our badges, I introduced us, “ This is Agent John McCaskey; I’m Agent Raymond Gunn. Please, no wisecracks. We have to move quickly. The operation is going down now. Would you tell us about the Soviets’ offer and your reply?”
The tall, bearded professor studied us for about three seconds and answered, “Two KGB agents came to my house this morning to confirm my price of 20 million. They told me they would contract me tonight concerning further instructions. Exchange details, no doubt.”
The Soviets wanted Billings new information coding system that activates our laser defense system. Our land-based lasers can pick just about anything out of the sky and above. He conceived a brilliant technique involving coding the activation sequence on a specifically chosen molecule. It is necessary for the molecule to have electrons with specific, stable locations. Among the myriad of molecules in existence, there are many options, making the information impossible to decode unless the identity of the molecule is known.
Dr. Billings contacted the CIA after the KGB first contracted him and agreed to cooperate with us. The Soviets planned to neutralize the laser defense system then launch a missile to destroy the Space Shuttle “Security,” which is conducting experiments in orbit that has the Kremlin on edge. But we know that they won’t launch the missile unless the lasers are inoperative. The Soviets need the identity of the specific, coded molecule in order to scramble its electron locations through a magnetizing process, delaying the activation process of the lasers.
McCaskey had been sizing up the fortyish scientist and asked, “Did you make it clear to the Soviets that you had developed a second code on a different molecule for a back up incase anything happened to you?”
“Good. That’s the only insurance you have on your life. Knowing that killing you will alert us to switch to the second molecule, they won’t touch you.”
Billings looked confused. “If we know they won’t fire the missile unless they can deactivate the laser system, why go to all the trouble of acting this out?”
“Actually, it’s so simple its absurd,” I replied. “We want to flush out these KGB agents, capture them, then exchange them for CIA agents that the Commies have.”
“When will I hear from you?”
“The KGB definitely has your house staked out and your phones bugged, so we wont call you. At about eight-thirty, take your wife to that Italian restaurant near your house.”
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
“It’s a pizza place.”
“Eat a pizza then. They’ll be watching. So will we.”
McCaskey watched the house, while I went to Santinos and waited. Just after eight-thirty, Billings and his wife entered Santinos. One man followed. Mrs. Billings excused herself to the ladies room. The KGB man sat down at Billings table, talked with him for a few minutes and left. Mrs. Billings returned. I got up and walked over to their table.
“What’s the plan?”
“Who is this man?” Mrs. Billings demanded.
“Honey, meet Ray Gunn. I told you about the agents who visited me this afternoon.”
“Ray Gunn? Who’s your partner, Buck Rogers?”
I cringed. “Please, no wisecracks.”
“Sorry, couldn’t help myself.”
Billings interrupted, “They want to meet me tomorrow morning near Lake Arrowhead. Nine-o’clock.”
“That’s pretty far out in the hills,” I said. We can get a good position on the exchange. We’ll plant a bug on you. McCaskey will pose as a currency expert. Tell them he will determine if the cash is counterfeit. I’ll listen in a unit out on a road, out of sight. The Ruskies will already be out there, so it will be safe to meet at your house. We move at seven. Good night doctor, Mrs. Billings.”
I picked up McCaskey near Billings house, told him the plan, and drove back to the hotel. I cleaned my Walther PPKS 9mm, and then fell off for a few hours of sleep.
The next morning, I drove to Billings’ house in a van equipped with the latest, high tech surveillance equipment available. McCaskey drove in a turbo-charged ’69 Nova. We walked in to find the scientist wearing a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum in a shoulder holster.
“All right Dirty Harry, take off the hostler,” I said.
“I have a permit to carry this weapon Mr. Gunn, and if I’m going to walk into the lion’s den, I want to be able to protect myself.”
“Take it easy Doctor. You can keep your cannon. I just need you to take your shirt off so I can put a wire on you.”
McCaskey said, “You and I will go in that ordinary looking Nova which is anything but ordinary under the hood. It can move if needed.”
I don’t see the need for some kind of escape car,” Billings argued.
“Just a precaution. I doubt we’ll need to hurry. Gunn will follow about a mile behind. After we have the exchange on tape, Gunn will move in first and then we’ll move in and try to take them alive. Let’s hope they don’t have reinforcements, because it’s just us against them.”
When the radar blip indicated the Nova had traveled one mile, I started to follow.
About thirty miles out of Pasadena, the hills became steeper. McCaskey’s voice came over the receiver; “We’re about two miles from Lake Arrowhead. The Ruskies have a helicopter on top of hill just north of the road. We’re pulling over.”
Dr. Billings voice came next, “This is it. My chance to do or die for my country.”
McCaskey’s voice: “Easy there, hero. Nobody’s going to die. Just hand them the envelope containing the information and repeat the warning about the second molecule.”
The car doors opened and slammed shut. Two men were speaking Russian. One of the Soviets spoke with just a trace of an accent, “Dr.Billings, Who is your companion?”
“A currency expert. It’s not that I don’t trust you; It’s just…Well, I just don’t trust you.”
“It’s real doctor. The envelope please.”
Billings delivered his line, “ If you kill me, the pentagon will transfer the code to the second molecule.”
“There will be no need for that, Dr. Billings. You have done your part. The Kremlin will be grateful,” replied the KGB man.
McCaskey laughed. “Kill him.” I have the information about the second molecule. As for you Gunn, your van and all evidence of this affair is about to explode.”
The sound of the explosion was deafening. As one Russian aimed his gun at Billings, I dropped him with two shots from my Walther. Billings drew his .44 and obliterated the surprised look on McCaskey’s face. The other Russian managed to put a slug in Billings’ shoulder before I wheeled and took him out.
I sat in a bar on Sunset Boulevard thinking about the day’s events, sipping my scotch. Agent Richard Shelby was in the hospital recovering from a wounded shoulder. He had performed well impersonating Dr. Billings and had been moved to a military installation in New Mexico. Shelby carried the bulky .44 magnum because McCaskey would have been suspicious if he had been carrying the more sophisticated Walther PPKS.
McCaskey and the Russians were dead. He had been suspected as a double agent for months, but we had no evidence. We followed through with the exchange act to prove it. He already knew about the coding system on the first molecule, so that had to be kept authentic. What he didn’t know was that the second molecule was a fake. The coding had been transferred to a third molecule that McCaskey knew nothing about. There had been a leak in the CIA for months, and McCaskey was it. I saw him plant the bomb in the van the night before the exchange, so I abandoned it just before McCaskey and Shelby got out of the car. I watched the exchange just out of sight. Only Shelby knew I was there.
“Security” finished its experiments without complications. The Soviets, failing to neutralize the laser defense system, never fired their missile. But the game continues. Espionage is a cat and mouse game that will never die.
“Hey Ray Gunn, wanna zap me?”
I turned to the familiar voice and the beautiful face of “Mrs. Billings.” Andrea Pontillo was the perfect agent for the part.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said. “When are you going to come up with a new line? That one’s terrible.”
We slipped off into the night, arm in arm.
I wrote this one in the summer of 1985. We all have our struggles with our inner demons and memories. That’s what this story is about. .
Albert Weston trotted along the street; his long legs carried his lean, muscular frame with just a hint of difficulty. Standing 6’4”, 200 pounds, with long, lean muscles, he had been an excellent athlete. Technically, he was still an athlete, but he didn’t know about the excellent part anymore He was, and always had stayed, in shape. It was almost an obsession. The irregularity in his stride was almost unnoticeable, but it was there. Three years ago, Albert lost his left leg below the knee. He had adapted well to his artificial leg, but it still felt odd. His college sweetheart was killed in the car accident, and that he never got over.
Albert was running behind the local high school when he noticed that the gates to the grounds were open. He ran through them towards the football field. The pounding of Springteen’s “Glory Days” played in his head. His eyes absorbed the goal posts at each end and the 120 yards of real estate between them. The grounds were empty. Albert jogged up and down the field, thinking about playing the game.
But it wasn’t football Albert was thinking about. It was his days as a college rugby player before the accident that occupied his thoughts. A rugby pitch, as the field is called, is approximately the same size as a football field. Pawing the ground with his right foot, he imagined running into the end zone for a try, the equivalent of a touchdown, with the crowd cheering him on. When he lifted his head, the crowd vanished. He sighed and thought what a wonderful, brutal game rugby is. Full contact with no pads, it’s a combination of American football and soccer. Unless you had a basic understanding of the game, it seemed like a practice in sheer lunacy. Albert walked over to a nearby tree, sat down and rested against it.
Moments after he sat down, around 30 men wearing rugby jerseys and shorts walked through the gate. Albert counted them. Fifteen were wearing blue jerseys and fourteen were wearing red. One guy wore a black jersey and two others were in white. All had white shorts with the initials FRFU running down the left side of the hip. Albert rubbed his eyes, but they were still there. They started to set up to play a match of rugby when the man in the black jersey, who apparently was the referee, called over to him in a fine British cockney accent , “Hey, you by the tree, fancy a match of rugby? We seem to be short a man.”
Albert would have jumped at the chance, but replied. “With this fake leg, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much good.”
“Watcha talkin’ about? Ya legs seem fine to me. Do ya know ‘ow to play?
Looking down at his leg, Albert saw flesh. He massaged it to be certain.
The man was getting impatient. “C’mon then. Are you going to help us out of this mess or not?”
This time Albert did jump. No more limp, he raced over to join the others. He knew it had to be a dream, but if he could see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch it then he sure as hell wasn’t going to question it.
The referee spoke again. “What’s your name lad?”
“Big Al, then? I’m Colin. You’ll play with the red team. They’re short a winger. Can you play the wing?”
“That’s the position I used to play.”
“There won’t be any problem then, will there now? We’ve got a spare jersey. Should fit.”
Albert pulled the jersey over his head, the two line judges, each wearing white, ran to the sidelines, and the red team kicked-off. The players all had British accents and were the best rugby players Albert had ever seen. The two teams were so evenly matched and so in tune with each other, they must have played together and against each other for many years.
The first ten minutes were scoreless with heavy hitting, few turnovers, and stalled drives. Neither team could get the advantage over the other. Then Albert got his hands on the ball. As soon as his teammates were able to pass it back to him, he began to perform a few amazing feats. He was gaining huge hunks of yardage before anyone could get near him. He was passing with perfect timing and style. When necessary, he punted booming kicks downfield, and once ran down his own kick, stole it from the arms of the receiving player, and ran it in for a score. It was the best game, well match really, of his life.
By halftime, the red team had built a huge lead, and since Albert had been the difference, it was agreed that he would switch sides with the blue teams’ wing.
The man Albert switched jerseys with wasn’t the same man he had played against in the first half. He was an identical copy of himself. The clone brushed past him and with no accent said, “Watch your step asshole.”
Albert was astonished. He trotted into position for the kick-off in a daze. The kick came to him, and before he could move, his twin knocked him to the ground with a vicious hit to the ribs.
“Suck it up, you fuck,” growled his look-alike.
The game went on and Albert was becoming more and more frustrated. Again and again the clone brought him to the ground with savage tackles. After each tackle, the twin would throw a cheap elbow shot to his face or gut. During one play, Albert tackled the clone, and the man threw an overhand punch into Albert’s face, splitting his lip open.
Albert was furious. He was about to tear into the look-alike when the clone said, “That’s not as bad as your girlfriend got, you fuck up. If you had been watching where you were driving, we wouldn’t be here.”
The referee called a penalty on the play, but Albert didn’t hear. He was frozen in place.
One of his teammates, Phil, came up and said, “C’mon with it lad. That bloke’s out to tear your bleedin’ head off.”
Albert started coming back. His amazement gave way to his emotions. He fought back hard but clean. His twin wasn’t giving any ground, and Albert wasn’t expecting any to be given. He was intent on taking it. On one play Albert slipped past his foe, who reached out at the last second and grabbed the back of Albert’s shorts, ripping them from his body. He was lucky the team had an extra pair with the FRFU lettering down the sides.
As blood flowed from each man’s wounds, Albert took the upper hand in the battle against himself. He realized the twin was a manifestation of his guilt and inner demons. Recognizing who his opponent was, he started playing as he had in the first half. He felt the triumph of defeating the guilty, hostile side of himself, and as this feeling swept over him, the clone transformed back into the player he was in the first half. Albert knew he was in a dream, but it was so vivid, it felt real. All too soon for Albert, the game ended in a tie.
Albert walked to the center of the field where everyone gathered around him. Colin spoke first. “You played a hell of a match, mate. Better than any bloody Yank I ever saw before.”
“It’s my dream, isn’t it?” replied Albert.
“Right you are. Well the lads and I have to be off and we’ll be needing our jersey back.”
“Sorry about the blood stains,”
“Quite all right. Hold on to your dreams, Big Al. It isn’t often a bloke like you gets a chance to play with the Fantasy Rugby Football Union,” he said with a sly indication to the letters on his shorts.
Albert watched them all walk through the gates, each one disappearing as he passed through. He walked over to the tree he had been sitting against when it all started, sat down and closed his eyes. What seemed like seconds later, he opened them and looked down at his artificial leg. A broad smile spread across his face, turning into a laugh. Everything seemed a bit clearer now.
While he was laughing, he looked over to the gate. A neighborhood woman he often jogged with, Joanne, trotted through. She ran up to him and stopped. “So here you are. I thought we were going to run together today.”
”Joanne! Oh really, I’m so sorry. I was running along my normal route to your house, saw that the gates to the grounds were open, walked around a bit, and then I fell asleep under this tree.”
When he looked at her, she seemed beautiful for the first time. He patted the ground. “Have a seat.”
She slid down the tree and sat next to him. “Why are you smiling like that Albert?”
“I was just remembering about how much fun my last rugby match was,” He replied.
“Why do you call it a match and not a game?”
“The overall concept is a game but an individual contest is a match. It’s a British thing.”
“What does FRFU mean?”
The question surprised Albert. “Why do you ask?”
“The letters on your shorts. What do they mean?”
Albert smiled. “FRFU means dreams can, and do, come true.”
I wrote this in October of 1987. I thought if I wrote a love story, however tragic or sad, I might be able to get it published in a woman’s magazine. No such luck. I got the title from a line in a Phil Collins song “Don’t Lose my Number.” The character just goes from bad to worse, so I decided to explore the concept with this story.
Out of the Shadows and into the Night
I’m back. My name is Declan O’Brien and I’ve returned to Chicago. I never thought I would, I really had no reason to return. Most of my friends no longer live here. My parents were killed when I was a freshman in college, but I’ll explain that later. Chicago makes me sad.
After my wife and son were killed in a traffic accident on Lake Shore Drive, I moved to Wyoming. I remained in virtual seclusion for two years. Theresa and Patrick were killed instantly when a bus ran a red light. I was scheduled to make a business trip to New York, so they were coming to pick me up from my office to go out to dinner before I left.
After their deaths, I just kind of lost it. I had no desire to work or do anything else, so I left the place where I had experienced so much pain. I told only my sister, her husband, and my friend, Dan Potter, where I was going and how I could be reached. I didn’t want anybody else to know where I was. I just wanted to be left alone.
During the two years I spent in Wyoming, I lived off of my investments. I had been a lawyer, I still am, but I didn’t practice for those two years, and an agent who represented professional athletes. I lucked into the agent bit because I met and became friends with a lot of athletes when I played football at the University of Illinois. I was good but not really good enough for the pros. Even though the Miami Dolphins drafted me, I made the decision to study law at Northwestern.
After practicing corporate law for a few years, I decided to capitalize on my “jock” connection. The athletes trusted me because I had been one of them. I picked up clients quickly, first football players, then basketball players and anybody else in need of representation at the bargaining table. As my reputation grew, so did my bank account. I was very wealthy by the time I was thirty.
I met my wife in college and we married soon after graduation. We never had money problems because of my inheritance after the death of my parents. Their deaths affected me deeply, but I never let it show, not even to Theresa. She understood that I was kind of person who buried my pain. I shared all my other emotions with her, but not that one. When my parents were killed, I felt empty and betrayed. Theresa changed my life. She filled the void left by the loss of my parents. My sister, Beth, was different about the whole matter. She was only fifteen when they were killed and she reacted very emotionally. Because she allowed herself an outlet for her pain, she was able to deal with their deaths sooner that I. I didn’t show it, but I was mad as hell at the punks who killed them. I burned inside. I know I haven’t explained how they died, but I will.
While living in Wyoming, Beth and her husband, Tom, visited me a few times. I’m glad they did because I couldn’t bring myself to visit Chicago. Dan came out a few times. Each time he did, he tired to convince me to come back. He told me I was wasting my life. The last time he visited, he tried to inspire me by using my old nickname.
“You cant be a hermit all your life, Dobie,” he said. Come back and start living again. Our fifteen–year high school reunion is coming up. Remember how much fun we had at the ten-year reunion? Come on. “It’ll be fun.”
“Don’t call me Dobie. I’ve always hated that. It makes me sound like some kind of attack dog.”
“They’re your initials, not mine. Anyway, you’re avoiding the issue. You need to put some life back into your life.”
“I was with Theresa at the last reunion. There is no life without her.”
That conversation took place a year ago. Dan recently called to see if he could change my mind. Surprisingly, he did. I don’t know why I decided to go. I just did. I had been living in the shadows of sorrow. Maybe it was time to see the light. I know it sounds corny, but I really felt that way.
The reunion was held at the O’Hare Marriott. That made it very convenient for us out-of-towners. The people who organized it had been the cheerleaders in high school. They always thought of those kinds of details. We used to call them “Rah-rahs.” I had a big crush on one of them back in our school days. Unfortunately for me, she went steady with the same guy for all four years of high school. I teased her about it at the ten-year reunion. Cathy Nells was her name. She married the guy and became Cathy Osmanski.
When Dan and I arrived at the hotel, she was the first person I saw, even though there was a sea of people between us. A feeling of guilt ran though me as if I were being unfaithful to my late wife. It was silly to feel like that; I hadn’t even spoken to Cathy yet.
I made the rounds exchanging pleasantries with everybody. Many people offered their condolences about Theresa and Patrick, which I awkwardly accepted. When I finally reached Cathy, I noticed her husband was nowhere to be seen. She told me they were getting a divorce.
“You don’t look like an Osmanski anyway,” I joked.
She laughed, not one of those fake polite laughs, but one that came from the heart. It really broke the ice. We spent most of the night huddled in a corner talking about anything and everything. She made me feel comfortable. I even stopped feeling guilty about Theresa.
She told me about her relationship with Osmanski and why they were splitting up. She said there was no passion left in their marriage. They had been staying together for the sake of their kids. She didn’t want to stay in a marriage without love, so she explained this to her children and starting divorce proceedings. It was all very civil. They agreed on joint custody, but the kids felt it was their fault their parents were getting divorced . Many children of divorced coupled feel this way. Cathy believed that with proper explanation, time, and love, the kids would come to understand that it wasn’t their fault.
Before I knew it, the reunion was over. Cathy and I felt something strong between us, so I decided not to return to Wyoming just yet. We soon realized we had fallen in love. A love that had been dormant for so many years was now blossoming. It was like something out of a fairy tale, but it was real. I was even sure Theresa would approve, as if she were looking down from heaven with a smile on her face giving us her blessing.
Being with Cathy made me feel so good about life; I even started practicing law again. She was the new light of my life. The change was even noticeable to those around me. Beth told me how glad she was to have her brother back again. After fifteen years, I was even able to forgive myself concerning the deaths of my parents. I suppose I should explain that now.
Their killers knew me. They knew I played football in college and that I wouldn’t be home for Christmas vacation that year because our team would be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. These punks had once been friends of mine. After high school, they started robbing houses and I knew about it. I never reported them to the police because I thought they would grow out of this behavior, that somehow they would change. Unfortunately, I was only fooling myself. Ultimately, they robbed my parents’ house, thinking they had gone to Pasadena to see me play in the Rose Bowl. My parents stayed home because my father had the flu. The burglars panicked when they discovered my parents were home and shot them to death. Beth had come out to see the game with an older cousin, so she wasn’t in the house when it happened.
All these years, I blamed myself for not reporting the previous robberies, but I buried my guilt. They were sentenced to life in prison and I decided that was the end of it. I didn’t think it would do any good to bring up the other robberies at the trail. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Both men were recently killed in a prison uprising. I felt justice had been served, but I still felt I could have prevented my parents’ deaths.
Cathy’s love gave me a certain inner peace. When I lost my parents, I felt empty, but Theresa filled that void. After she and my son were killed, the emptiness consumed me again. Cathy filled me with love and made everything seem right and natural again. We spent a lot of time together, alone and sometimes with her kids.
While the weather was still warm, we would picnic in Grant Park. We could have dinner at an expensive, chic restaurant or chow down at a hot dog stand and still feel the same about each other’s company. There were no pretensions, no need to impress each other. We were in love.
After five months of this fairy tale romance, Cathy dropped a bomb on me. She was getting back together with Osmanski. She felt she had to give their marriage another chance. Her kids were not accepting the separation of their parents and thought of me as an intruder. They didn’t want me to be their new daddy.
I was devastated when Cathy told me this. She said she still loved me, but she thought she owed it to her kids to give her marriage another try. She even believed that with the help of a marriage counselor, she and Osmanski might discover that they still loved each other.
Suddenly, I was empty inside again. All the feelings of guilt and pain returned. My whole life was turned upside down. What had I done to deserve this emotional roller coaster ride I was on and couldn’t get off? I thought Cathy was the answer to my problems, the light beckoning me from my shadowy existence. But, she wasn’t who I thought she was. I feel no hope, no promise of better things yet to come. I’m thirty-three years old and feel as if my life is over, but my body still lives. For so long, I led this existence where light and dark held no meaning. It was just existing. Then, I felt a new life, a new light even. But that led me down this path into impenetrable darkness. You could say I came from out of the shadows and into the night.
I came back, but now I’m leaving. I didn’t tell Beth or Dan or the people at my office of my plans. I don’t care. I just want to be left alone. My plane leaves for Wyoming in ten minutes. I’m really not concerned about what happens after that. I feel so empty.
I wrote this in the spring of 1993. I originally called it “Adrift” and started writing a story around the idea of someone drifting or lost. Very quickly, I lost focus and it developed into a love story. I tried writing in this romance genre previously, but this one seems to be more of a sappy piece of crap than anything I’d done before. I don’t know if I should take responsibility for writing it.
Coincidence or Destiny
Drifting amidst the sea of bodies on the crowded sidewalk, I saw the one person I had never wanted to see again. She broke my heart oh so many years ago, and it never had quite fully healed. Girlfriends and relationships came and went; yet I never found someone incredible enough who could fill the void in my heart.
I realized many years ago not to see her would be best. Reminders of what once was hurt too much to bear. Now I saw her and all logic and reason ran away from me. I prayed she wouldn’t see me, but it was too late. Her eyes locked with mine for what seemed an eternity. I wanted to run, but couldn’t, so I walked towards her to confront coincidence or destiny, which, I did not know.
Her soft face, with features like those of a storybook princess, was directly in front of me now. Her mouth formed to create the sound of her voice, and as it did, tiny lines appeared, revealing that she wasn’t as young as she first seemed yet she was even more beautiful than I ever remembered. The years had been kind to her, not that she was old; late-thirties at most, her face appeared wiser, radiating a glow of hidden thoughts and experiences.
The words she now spoke sounded like notes plucked from an angel’s harp. I hadn’t heard such sweetness for so long I had forgotten her voice could have such an effect on me. For a moment, I was dumbstruck. I had to quickly recover to make sense of what she was saying to me. “Well, finally, we meet again,” she said.
“I didn’t think I’d see the day,” I replied.
She looked at me, trying to pierce my soul or read my mind. “I never meant to hurt you,” she started to say.
“Please, I really don’t need to hear it.”
“But it’s true. I think about you all the time.”
“I try to forget.”
Over the years, I tried to forget the nuances of her being. I tried to forget the good memories as well as the bad. But I couldn’t. I would remember the crinkle in her nose that formed when she squinted her eyes to see something far away. I could never forget the intensity in her eyes when she looked into mine, searching to understand my thoughts and feelings, just as she was doing at this very moment. What was pleasing to me then was now unsettling. What would she discover? Would she see the pain I felt in seeing her, being near her, wanting to reach out and touch her, but not able to, or the avalanche of emotions that was crashing down as we tried to make conversation?
There were tears in her eyes when she said, “I can never forget and I never want to forget. I’m sorry I couldn’t explain to you why I left when I did, but I think I can now, if you want to hear it. This is no chance encounter on the street. Three weeks ago I saw you here. I had no idea you worked here; it was pure coincidence that I saw you. But after seeing you, I knew what I had to do. It’s taken me this time to think of what I should say to you, and now I don’t know what to say. Still, we need to talk and I hope you’ll let me explain and try to make you understand. I’m not trying to make excuses; I just need for you to know so you won’t hate me any longer.”
“I never hated you. You hurt me and I tried to forget you. And now, just as I learned to be lonely, you walk back into my life.”
“Can we go somewhere private to talk?” Her eyes seemed to beg with me as she asked.
The logical side of me said no, to forget and move on. But the less rational, swayed by a pretty face and a sexy voice side of me said, “When and where?”
“I think we should talk now, while I have the courage. It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s private.” Apparently, she had thought out what she wanted to say.
“My apartment is private,” I said. “We can go there. I live with a few fish, but I don’t think they’ll hear us.”
“Don’t tease me. This is hard enough.”
I thought it would be fun to keep her on edge, not letting her get comfortable with me, but I could see this was no game. She was uncomfortable and was very uneasy with what she felt she had to say. I could find no joy in seeing her this way. I began to get curious about what she would say.
We took my car from downtown to my northside apartment. She was quiet for the entire 20-minute drive, nervously twirling her curly, auburn hair. It had that undefinable scent belonging only to her. Each gesture, each mannerism, each smell brought back memories I wasn’t sure I could handle. I was ready for what she had to say, so I thought, but not her, not for her essence. She was still overwhelming. Her vulnerability tempted me to reach out and hold her; but, again, I didn’t.
We arrived at my apartment, and as the elevator ascended to my floor, I started to lose that smug feeling I had in thinking I possessed the upper hand in this awkward situation. I realized I was nervous.
For so long, I had stopped concerning myself with the thought of her. Now I was about to hear an explanation about what had been left behind. Why did she have to dredge it up now? I hadn’t pursued her or even tried to find out why she walked out. She left me and I eventually convinced myself that there was nothing more to it.
I opened the door, and as I was about to offer her a seat and a drink, she rushed past me, whirled and blurted, “I killed a man. I didn’t want to, but I had to. He attacked me, hitting me, hurting me. He wanted to…”
Before I could even feel shock about this sudden confession, I had to slow her torrent of words. “Wait, wait. Slow down. Take it easy and tell me calmly.”
She stammered a few words, stopped, regained her composure and began with a heavy sigh, “It wasn’t what you read in the papers. They made me out to be a jealous ex-girlfriend.”
“What was it then? Who was he? I know the jury acquitted you, that you acted in self-defense. But I never heard your side.”
She riveted her eyes to mine and said, “I wasn’t a jealous ex-girlfriend. I hadn’t even seen him in years. We dated a long time ago, but then I ended it. He eventually married and I met you. When you and I were planning our own marriage, he came to my house. I remember I was cutting some lettuce for a salad when the doorbell rang. When I answered it, he just pushed past me. He was irrational, crazy. I didn’t know how to handle him. He said something vulgar and mean about his wife and said only he could have me, no other man was worthy. Crazy, scary words.
Then, he started to touch me. I pushed his hands away and he exploded. He ripped my blouse, tore my shirt…he was going to rape me. I got away from him, but he wouldn’t give up. He punched me and I fell back though the kitchen door. He ripped my panties and bra off. I reached for the knife I had been using earlier and, I don’t know; it all happened so fast, like a blur. He started to force himself and I just stabbed upwards. The knife went into his chest. I called the police and just sat there until they came.”
“Why couldn’t you tell me? I would have understood.”
“I know that now, but I was scared of what you would think. I couldn’t think straight. All I could think of was that you wouldn’t want to marry someone who could kill another person. So, I ran away after the trial, far away to be alone. I’m sorry. I never gave you a chance to decide for yourself. I was confused.”
“Why did you come back?”
“I had time to think. I finally had to know what you thought to ease my mind, even if you don’t want me back, at least I’ll know. I don’t even expect you to want me. I just don’t want you to hate me. I can’t live with that. I want you to forgive me.”
“I never stopped loving you, and I never believed the papers. I thought it was something about me that made you leave, but I never knew why or what. If you can trust me with your fears, I can help you with them. I would like to try again. You don’t need my forgiveness; forgive yourself and love me again.
“I do still love you. I would like to try again.”
She hugged me harder than I’ve ever been hugged before. She cried and I kissed the tears away.
E-mail comments to Kevin at: KJAK27@hotmail.com