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Chapter 1 – Reunions Part 2

Timothy looked at the clock, it was well past three a.m., and he could feel morning starting on its way; it was getting late and the hours were zipping by him.  He sat up on the side of his bed and grabbed the smokes off the nightstand, shook one of cab driver’s cigarettes out of the pack and watched as the match head flared into a tiny little supernova and then burned steadily. He lit the cigarette and sucked in the warm smoke and watched the smoke coil away lazily as he exhaled.  His parents would be horrified if they knew he smoked; he was the good son. The idea made him laugh a little, “if only they knew,” he thought to himself. He made his way back to the futon; someplace he’d read that to keep your sleeping rhythms steady, you had to get out of bed if you weren’t sleepy. He sunk back into the futon and closed his eyes, remembering one of the last times one of the broken people let him know how bad things had gotten for Frankie.

He was walking from work at an investment bank on Seventh Avenue and Forty Seventh down to a chophouse on Thirty Fifth off Madison Avenue, famous for its two-inch-thick pork chops and aged beef.  He made the turn off Seventh onto Thirty Fifth when he heard a familiar voice call his name, a female voice. It was both surprising and jarring; being recognized on the street in Manhattan is unusual, to say the least.  The anonymity was one of the things that Timothy appreciated about the city.

“Timmy!” she cried, “is that really you?” Even more jarring was the fact that nobody called him Timmy. The girl crossed the street, strutting along in the way that junkies do;  arms out, hands raised palms up at her sides. She was a pretty blond, high cheekbones and a strong jaw that was reminiscent of three or four actresses.  As she got closer, he started to notice that she was skeletal, and thick clumsily applied make-up covered up what was obviously bad skin. Her hair was all over the place and looked brittle. She was wearing a dirty pink clingy track suit and was obviously braless, though the effect was more disturbing than anything. “Don’t you remember me?” she said, “stop messing around. It’s me, Joanie.”

He was stunned.  Joan had been one of Frankie’s girlfriends that had tried to seduce Timothy when Frankie was living with him. She had come over one day to hang out with Frank, and ended up staying and talking to Timothy. She was wearing a cast on her right leg that went up about three quarters up her thigh, from where she’d broken the leg skiing. They had smoked a joint together, and when she asked him to sign her cast, he slid her skirt up to the top of her cast and signed her thigh. They kissed once deeply before they heard heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.

That Joan was gone now, and there was only this caricature left here in front of him. She reached up and straightened his lapel. As she reached up to smooth his suit at the shoulders, he caught a whiff of her and did well not to recoil.

“You look really nice in your suit,” she said coyly. “Like a real businessman. Frankie would be proud if he could see you.”

“Yeah,” he said reflexively, “I doubt it. I don’t think that’s true – I haven’t heard from him in what…  six months? A year?  I don’t think Frankie thinks much about anybody but himself.”

“He talks about you all the time, Timmy.”

Timothy was still taken aback by the “Timmy” thing. Nobody called him by the diminutive; everybody called him Timothy. He’d never been called Tim, or Tim-o and certainly not “Timmy”. There had actually been times in his life when not having a nickname opened a big empty space in his chest; sometimes it made him feel like nobody liked him enough to make the effort, sometimes it just underscored the “apartness”. Everybody liked him, just not like they liked Frankie.  From the junkie Joan, “Timmy” rang hollow, like an overenthusiastic handshake from an insurance salesman.

“Well,” he said, looking pointedly at his watch, “I’ve got some people to meet at a restaurant over on Sixth Ave.  It was really nice seeing you, Joan.”

“I’m headed over toward Sixth, too,” she said, “how about if I walk with you?”

“Sure,” he said, thinking but not saying that she had just taken “can’t take a hint” to a whole new level. He nearly bolted away, staring straight ahead.

“Hey, Timmy,” she said, “wait up. Let me walk with you.”

“You’re free to do whatever you like,” he said, instantly regretting how petty and bitchy it came out.  He slowed down some and smiled weakly at her.  He didn’t figure it would hurt to walk a few blocks with her. He’d give her a couple of bucks and she’d probably walk away.

“Well,” she said, “it’s amazing that we ran into each other, right?”

“Yeah, I guess it was,” he said absently.  “Walk around long enough, and I guess just about anything’s likely to happen.”

“Aren’t you even curious about Frank?” she asked bluntly, “you guys have always been tight, right?” She laughed at the inadvertent rhyme.

“He’s the one that keeps disappearing.”

“It’s not his fault, Timothy, really,” she said quietly. “You know that, right?”

“Whose fault is it, then?”

“I don’t know,” she said, reflectively, “it’s just that sometimes things work out that way. You keep thinking that you’ll call tomorrow when you’re not as sick.”

“You talking from experience?” Timothy asked curtly.

“Yes, in a way,” she answered, “and you don’t have to be a dick. I know how this must all look to you.”

“No,” he said, “I don’t think you do.” He almost stopped himself, took in a breath and let it out, then for some reason went ahead and said what was on the tip of his tongue. “Let me ask you something.”

“Yeah, sure, Timmy. Anything,” she said, smiling and hoping to score some points with him, hoping that if she’d go along with him, he’d maybe start being nice.

“That time, when you had the cast on your leg,” he started.

She smiled, a little relieved. Finally, a nice memory, a nice moment she might be able to latch on to.  “Yeah?”

“I’d heard that you broke your leg on purpose on that trip to get a prescription for Demerol. Is that true?”

Her face dropped. “Yeah.  I was dating that young doctor, and he liked to party, but he started worrying about writing the scripts. I figured that would buy him a little time.  It wasn’t for me.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re Mother Theresa, right?” he laughed smugly.  “Of course I don’t know how I’d expect a junkie to answer any differently, right? Fucking zombie,” he said, with a hard angry edge in his voice that scared her a bit.

“I’m still a sentient being,” she said quietly, regaining a little of her former self, “as much as I hate it, I’m still self-aware.”

“Big words for a junkie,” Timothy said almost to himself, then got quiet. She had been a sentient being, bright and funny with crisp blue eyes. A pang of nostalgia cut through him. He’d really liked Joan and had halfway hoped that things would go on after their indiscretion. They couldn’t, though, and they both knew it; she was one of Frankie’s girls and she’d be faithful even though she had to have known that Frankie had a steady parade of girls through the apartment. Timothy had even asked Frankie at one point why he strung her along and didn’t cut her loose; as he asked, he instantly regretted how whiny, bitchy and judgmental the question came out. Frankie’s answer was simple and direct, “If I don’t bang her, somebody else will,”

Joan and Timmy walked quietly for a bit, both keenly aware that they were nearly at the chop house. He hated what he knew was coming soon, and he was trying to think of a way to lose her before they got to the restaurant. He could only imagine how the scene would play if his friends were out front.

“Well, Joan,” he said slowing to a stop and facing her, “I’m almost there. It was good seeing you. Tell Frank I said hello.”

“Timothy,” she said, stopping and grabbing at his sleeve, “I’ve been trying to tell you, Frank isn’t doing so hot.”

Timothy stopped walking, pulled his sleeve brusquely out of her grip, but kept his temper. He looked right at her, and spoke slowly and clearly, as if to help her understand. “What do you want me to do?” he asked, but his meaning was clear.

She stepped back an inch; her shoulders and her whole being dropped. “Yeah, guess there’s not much you can do about Frank.” She looked around, as if she had suddenly realized that she was someplace else. Tears were welling up in her eyes. “Hey, I hate to ask, Timmy, but it looks like I’m a little short for a token and I need to get downtown…”

Timothy reached into his wallet and fished out a bill that would buy her in the neighborhood of ten tokens.  He pressed it into her hand, and she closed her hand tightly, and smiled without looking down at the bill. They exchanged their goodbyes and she told him the name of the mission where Frank was taking his meals when he was strong enough to get around. He looked again towards the chop house, and when he looked back to his right where she has been standing, she was gone.

It wasn’t too much longer after that Timothy went downtown and caught up with Frank and helped him get to the hospital, and rented him a tiny studio apartment downtown to help him get on his feet. Frankie disappeared and left the apartment vacant. It wasn’t much longer after he abandoned the apartment that the family decided to freeze him out and force him to rehab. By the grace of God he came back to Timothy instead of heading back into the darkness.

 

Timothy sauntered back over to the bed, defeated. He knew he wasn’t going to get much quality sleep; now he was going for any sleep. As he lay there trying to fall asleep, he knew that there were times, more times than not, when he didn’t even try to hide his disdain from Frankie. As he finally drifted into a shallow, restless sleep, it hurt him to know that Frankie probably knew it, too.

One Comment

  1. Netina wrote:

    Hooked! Line n sinker. Great work

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

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