The old man’s been calling all week. I tell him when to call. But he calls when I’m having my morning coffee or when I’m trying to write, so I don’t answer. Or he calls when I’m on the treadmill at the gym, feeling as good as I can feel, sweating and panting with Yo La Tengo blaring through the headphones.
The old man calls and calls because he’s lonely. He says his daughter doesn’t give him any attention, so he calls me. He calls to make sure we’re going to go somewhere this weekend. I tell him to call me on my drive into work. I give him the time, but he never calls in that window. So, I call him on my drive into work, and he never answers.
He’ll call today to make sure we’re going out tomorrow or Sunday. We’ll probably go to Long John Silver’s tomorrow and gorge ourselves on golden fried, batter dipped fish – the old man’s favorite meal.
I’ll pick up the old man from his trailer. We’ll use a wheelchair since it saves us time. On our way to and from Long John Silver’s, I’ll fret that he won’t control his bowels or bladder. He wears adult diapers, which is helpful, but I’m still skeptical. I’m skeptical and fretful since my current car has cloth seats, a downgrade from my previous car’s leather.
On our way either to or from Long John Silver’s, this old man will want to talk about sex. And I won’t be that interested in hearing about it. He’ll reminisce about his time in Florida working as a projectionist in a porno theater. He’ll talk about films like Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas and speak of those films as if they’re real cinema. He’ll go into detail about sex with two women at once, prostitutes and how he never had sex with his second wife. He’ll talk about how he dreams of laying with his home nurse who visits a few times every week. He’ll tell me again how she’s married with three kids. He’ll detail his imaginations about laying with her, caressing and kissing her.
I’ll remind him that beautiful young women aren’t meant for old men. I’ll include myself in that, though I’m 30 years younger than him. I’ll tell him it’s best not to ruminate over such things. It’s best to move on once it’s time to move on. Again, he’ll probably tell me he’s got nothing else to move on to.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this old man’s obsession with sex. I shouldn’t be surprised since all sorts of people find ruts. There’s the ruts of gambling, video gaming, cyclical interpersonal dramas, religion, self-obsession or mere lethargy. It should come as no surprise that he found one too.
We’ll get to Long John Silver’s and he’ll tell corny jokes to the kids working behind the counter. These kids, like the clerks at Walmart, will entertain this frail, friendly old man by courteously laughing at his jokes. I sometimes wonder how it might be different if they saw more than the jovial, frail old man in a wheelchair. I wonder if things would be different if they knew about his obsessions with his nurse and Debbie Does Dallas and his stint in jail for domestic abuse.
We’ll eat our fish and I’ll take him back home. He’ll lament we haven’t spent enough time together. But, it’s December, and tomorrow’s temp is supposed to reach 60, so I want to go walking in the park for 8 miles. There aren’t many opportunities for that in the winter, so I’ve got to take them when I can.
I need to set time aside since I need that 8 mile walk to clear my mind. I need the 8 miles to tear down my body in order for it to rebuild. I need that 3 hours of solitude on the path for whatever it is it gives me.
Then, after the 8 miles, there’s the casino for the fights. The casino’s the only place to go now to watch the fights. I need to get there early to place some bets and secure me a spot to sit and watch and drink and smoke for 4 to 5 hours. I’ll try not to drink too much. I’ll try not to smoke at all. I normally don’t smoke except at the bar. But something – I don’t know what – has been happening lately that makes me need to smoke more.
I’ll sit alone at the casino and watch the fights. I’ll lose most of my paltry bets. I’ll get home late, not too drunk. In the morning, I may get a call about breakfast at the VFW or American Legion. If I get that call, I’ll go. Otherwise, I’ll stay home and try to write for most of the morning.
Then there’s football. I’ll go to the bar to drink and smoke and watch football with people I know. I’ll go because I like following football and I like going somewhere where I’m known and accepted, though I also like sitting alone, like at the casino, where nobody gives a shit.
At the bar, they’ll probably send me across the street for their scratch-offs. A few weeks ago I was going over to the liquor store to get a pack of cigarettes. Somebody said since I was going over there, get them a $20 scratch-off. I did and they won $200. So next time they sent me over again and they won another $200. Now I’m their lucky charm, though it’s got to run out sooner or later for them, just as it has for me.
After football, I’ll come straight home after the game since I’ve got a dental appointment Monday morning and I want to show up fresh, not hungover. Otherwise, I might stay out late drinking more.
I’ll come home early Sunday night with that dull, anxious feeling of being utterly out of place. Out of place at the bar, even though I was with people I know and, on the whole, like. It’s a feeling much worse than sitting alone and anonymous at the casino. But I figure, sorta like the aching foot and sore back I get from my 8 mile walk, socializing’s got its minuses that go along with the pluses.
I’ll come home early after the game since I’ve got to go to the dentist in the morning. And I’ll wake up earlier than normal so I can get there on time. I’ll remember my hygienist’s name is Lenore. She’s in her seventies, I think. She’s got a boyfriend who sometimes drives her crazy. It’s either him or his kids that drive her crazy – I forget. Lenore dyes her hair a purplish-red. She always remembers that I work in a lab and at night. Sometimes we talk about the brand of shoes we wear, since both of us work on our feet a lot.
I’ll pray my dentist finds nothing wrong. Normally, he doesn’t. Normally, both he and Lenore give me praise for the care I give my teeth. Hopefully, he’ll be busy. He’s a chatterer, which gets him behind. When he’s behind, he has to hurry in order to get caught up. I like it when he’s in a hurry. That way I don’t have to chat and he doesn’t spend too much time looking for shit to fix that don’t need fixing.
Hopefully, the dental appointment goes well and I can get the fuck out in a flash.
It’ll be late Monday morning. I’ll go to the gym. At some point, the old man will call. He’ll call to tell me he’s lonely and not doing good. He’ll ask if I did any good at the casino. He’ll ask if I had a good time at the bar. He might even ask about the 8 mile walk.
It’ll only be Monday but he’ll already want to know if we can get together again come Saturday. I’ll tell him it’s too early to commit. But I’ll say so long as I can, we’ll try.
He’ll be thinking about Long John Silver’s again. Or, maybe this time, Steak ‘n Shake. I’ll be thinking about those too, but also about next weekend’s weather.
The weather’s a paltry thing. It’s not much to look forward to. Sorta like the beer and cigarettes and measly $5 parlays on 5 hours of fights. None of it’s much, but it makes the time a bit more engaging.