DAVID IN LOVE
by Ruth Z Deming
He lay on the sofa in his briefs, watching his belly rise up and down. He’d hung up his blue cop uniform in the bedroom of his small apartment in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and felt the cool breeze filter in through the window. He took a small sip from the glass bottle of Rolling Rock beer – he hated the taste from cans – but still he couldn’t stop thinking of her. How long was it now? Two years this terrible relationship had labored on and off.
“David,” said his best friend, Officer Jack Cooper, “it’s like she has you in hand cuffs. Captive. What’s so good about her? She’s no beauty but the worst thing is she won’t let you screw her.”
All that was true, thought David, as he sipped his beer. He got up and went over to the window. At seven-thirty twilight shone over the back of the apartment – the grass looked blue – and the Delaware River was pulsing with skiffs and a few sailboats, while a reflection of a big fat moon skimmed back and forth in the waves.
His Aunt Helen, his late mother’s sister, said, “Maybe she reminds you of your mom. Gotta be a reason you’re so stuck on this gal. Don’t wanna be mean, Dave, but I’ve never really liked her, don’t understand what you see in her.”
Yeah yeah yeah. She was stuck to his heart. He was 12 when his mother, Kathy, died. They even had the same name. Both were drunks, always trying to stay sober. He walked over to an end table and removed a thick photo album. Three pages were devoted to his mother. As a child, she was a laughing redhead. After her marriage to his dad – quite a handsome couple with Dad in his police uniform and she in a white strapless dress – she began to go downhill. Hours and hours of being left home alone with two kids while his detective dad was out on the streets hunting drug dealers, wife beaters, prostitutes and pimps – it gave her the kind of loneliness she had no way of stopping.
Maybe his mother felt like he, David, felt now. Like a sack of stones sat in his belly, pining over a woman. He remembered how his mother’s face seemed to darken over the years, her brow wrinkled and the small lines around her mouth grew deeper and unattractive. He loved her so. Couldn’t she at least comb her hair when he and Lynnette came home from school?
It was awful when Dad came home from work. They lived in a three-story house in Bristol, painted green. First thing his dad would do was go into Mom’s bedroom. His wife would be passed out in bed, facing the ceiling and snoring like a donkey. A bottle or two of red wine would lie on the floor, where a small red puddle stained the carpet.
“Useless female,” his father would mumble and eat the supper David had prepared. Lynnette, by now, spent more and more time with the man she would eventually marry. The hot dogs with mustard and ketchup were always good. So were the frozen Banquet Dinners. Fried chicken, Salisbury steak. Cranberry sauce. Apple crumb pie.
His father would sleep in the same room as David, in the other bed.
“I’m gonna straighten up,” his mom told David and his father. “You’ll see. Tomorrow I’ll go back to AA.”
Did she? They didn’t know. One day around dinnertime, she was not home. Both knew something was wrong when they each entered the house. They could not feel the suck of her presence. David felt panicky. If his dad did, too, he didn’t let on.
The knock on the door was loud and insistent.
Dad opened the door and spoke to a fellow officer, “Why, Leonard, what are you doing here?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew.
Only an hour ago, Mom had called 9-1-1. The heart attack killed her instantly.
That was forty years ago when David was a senior in high school. The memory was as clear as yesterday. He stood up and put the photo album back in the bureau drawer in the living room. His stomach was killing him. Nerves, he knew. Maybe walking would help. He went into the bedroom and changed into sneakers, shorts and a red plaid top. He ran in place a few minutes.
His fast steps pattered down the two flights of stairs of his apartment as he stepped onto the sidewalk. Looking up at the heavens, as he always did, he caught sight of the moon which looked like a giant basketball waiting to be dribbled across the sky. There were plenty of places to stroll around in Bristol, once famous for textile mills and iron foundries. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a small box of Good and Plenty, popping several in his mouth at once, enjoying the feeling of cracking open each sugar-coated nubbin. His stomach pain was soothed by the candy.
Who would he see tonight? The huge green meadow was a gathering place until darkness fell like a blanket across the field. Over on one of the benches he recognized one of the owners of The Steak and Alehouse, who sat with his arm around his daughter, who worked as a waitress. David was as well-known here as a celebrity and often enjoyed the attention but now he wanted to be alone. He’d try to rid himself of thoughts of “her.”
A large queue snaked out from the Dairy Queen. Everyone he talked to said to find himself another woman. Kathy had dated both himself and “The Weasel” as he called a former inmate who wormed his way into her life – she allowed it – and was about the biggest loser in the entire town.
As he walked along, looking at the Dairy Queen, the dollar store and the sparkling Delaware River, he heard feet behind him on the sidewalk getting closer. Of course he hoped it would be Kathy. This was “her place” as much as the other regulars.
He felt small warm hands on his shoulders.
“Your girlfriend’s back,” said her joyful voice.
He spun around to see her. She looked ravishing in tan short shorts and a blue tank top that revealed half of each plump breast. How wrong everyone was who didn’t find her beautiful.
He said nothing.
“Ain’t you gonna talk to me?” she asked, her blue eyes staring at him.
She was a little thing, barely five foot tall, but she had a magnetic pull like a diamond. And she was smart. One time when she visited his apartment she talked to him about music. He was surprised she liked classical, she seemed far too restless. She flipped on the classical music station on the living room stereo, then sat down next to him on the sofa.
“Handel’s Water Music,” she said knowingly. She got up from the sofa and looked out his window at the Delaware River in the distance. “King George wanted music to play on the Thames River” – she mispronounced it as “Thames” instead of “Tems” – then turned around and smiled at him – “like it?”
David laughed, got off the sofa and attempted to take her into his arms. She pushed him away. What was her problem? Fear of intimacy, fear of getting close and being rejected? He’d had a smattering of psychology at the police academy.
And now, not surprisingly, in the park she was all smiles and affection, damn her. She grabbed his hand and led him to an empty bench. They sat facing the river. She smelled good. A nice shampoo smell and the breath mints that hid her Jack Daniels’ smell. Suddenly, she took his face in her hands, stared at it with her deep blue eyes, and then kissed him. It tasted of desperate longing, and he was so thrilled he became dizzy and thought he’d fall off the bench.
“Ya liked that, huh?” she said. “Oh, look!” she pointed. “Here come King George and Handel sailing down the Delaware.”
She laughed. He was so confused he had no idea what she was talking about.
Just as well.
She stood up and hollered. “Jim! Hey Jim!”
She began running over to “The Weasel,” David’s rival.
Without thinking, David jogged home, ran up two flights of stairs, went into his bedroom and grabbed his Glock revolver, still in its holster, and tucked it into his shorts’ pocket. He was back at the park in seven minutes, the cold metal gun wiggling around in his pocket. Where the hell were they? David knew he wasn’t going to go on a killing spree. He wasn’t that kind of man. He’d just kill the girl and then himself. It was the only thing that would set him free.
When he couldn’t find them, he walked, head down, back to his apartment.
He heard his sneakered feet tap up the uncarpeted stairs and let himself into his unlocked apartment. He stood at the window – it was nearly dark now and looked strangely beautiful – watching for Kathy.
Then he sat on the sofa, looked down at the black revolver, and put it in his mouth, tilting it upward. Over the years, he’d responded to hundreds of calls where someone shot himself to death. Women usually took pills and didn’t die. The taste of the metal bothered him. They should have special suicide guns, he thought. Let the person who would spend his last few moments on earth have their choice of flavors, like ice cream. Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. He’d choose the Jamoca Fudge like they had at the Dairy Queen.
He took the gun out of his mouth and began to laugh. A big hearty laugh that Kathy loved.
Then he put the stinking gun back in his mouth, tilted it upward and pulled the trigger.