I never really cared for ghost stories. The idea of telling spooky stories while sitting around a campfire seemed silly to me. Either the story would be weak or badly told and, therefore, of little consequence, or the tale would scare the crap out of you. The former, a waste of time. The later, extremely unpleasant. So where was I? I was sitting on a log while R.J. told a ghost story.
R.J. is Alissa’s eight year old and this was his first Cub Scout overnight. He was given the opportunity to pick anyone to accompany him. Surprisingly, he chose me.
I hadn’t expected R.J. to ask me to go with him because, frankly, I’m not the camping type. My idea of roughing it is staying at a Holiday Inn. His father, however, had been an Eagle Scout. Alissa’s dad had been through this with both of her brothers. Both Alissa’s ex and her father were far more qualified. But, R.J. asked me and I had quickly accepted.
Though R.J. was amongst the youngest of the Cubs, he was the first to tell a story. R.J. then sat on my lap as one by one the rest of the Scouts took a turn. There wasn’t a shiver or even a cringe until Ben, one of the dads, took a turn. With a serious voice he spun a tale of snakes, dogs, abandoned houses and, well, you know, all the stuff that makes for a scary story. He managed to spook several of the boys and succeeded in proving my point.
As I reassured R.J. and another Cub that Ben had made up his story, I realized how many ghosts were sitting on these logs with our dozen scouts. They were the ghosts of missing fathers. Four of our boys had been accompanied by their mothers. R.J. and Louis were with neither birth parent. These boys had been holding back. Many of them could tell stories that could make grown men shake in broad daylight. And their stories would be true.
The boys were too tired to worry about ghosts. Thanks to a half a mile hike from the parking lot to the cabin, we had each walked over ten miles this day. Our basketball games also contributed to their exhaustion and two of the boys had had hockey earlier in the day. By 10:30 they were ready to climb into their cots.
Anyone who has children knows that just because the boys were ready to go to bed doesn’t mean that they were ready to go to sleep. It only took about a half an hour to get everyone’s teeth brushed and sleeping bags zipped up. We tucked our boys in and then escaped to the serenity of the campfire.
The sun and the boys all rose about two hours earlier than necessary. By 10:30 we had packed our cars, cleaned the cabin and were ready to leave. R.J. and his friend, Nicholas, were still discussing the ghost stories. By now they had decided that Ben’s story wasn’t real. But that was okay. Their only complaint was that we had stayed for just one night.
The elections are over. The hideous television ads have ended. Now, the hideous analysis and spin doctoring begins. Allow me to be one of the first.
The Beach Boys: The tsunami came in and white male Republicans from around the country mounted electoral surf boards and hung ten like champions. Watching the various networks, I observed that several candidates had campaigned in plaid flannel shirts. It is amazing how similar Mike DeWine, George Pataki, and Dan Quayle look. I’d hate to have to pick out one of them from a line up.
Coat Tails: A week before the election I had an interesting conversation with James Foster, the executive director of the City Club. He asked my opinion about the Kucinich-Sinagra race. I mentioned that Governor Voinovich was campaigning hard for Tony Sinagra, but that it would be for naught. George Voinovich is not a leader, he’s a manager. Strong leaders have coat tails. Managers don’t. Voinovich appeared daily in television and radio commercials for John Fink and Jeff Ambruster. He made the Sinagra election a personal crusade. All three lost.
The End of an Era: The Republicans control the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. There will be some who see this as a change of biblical proportions. There are pundits (George Will, for one) who view this as a permanent shift to the right. I don’t think so.
History has taught us that societies shift their priorities in cycles. These cycles form a well-defined pattern. It was time. In fact, this change began fourteen years ago. Some time ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, we will shift back. It won’t happen tomorrow and no, the right wing, or for that matter even the Republicans as a whole, won’t be in control forever.
There are issues that have not been addressed. There are constituencies that feel that they have been ignored. These perceptions drive political activity. Well, they’re in and two years from now they will probably elect a president. How long the Republicans govern will be directly attributable to how few groups of constituencies they alienate. This is how our government works.
I’ve never hidden my political beliefs. I am an unashamed Democrat. I was thrilled with Oliver North’s defeat. I cheered Diane Feinstein’s’ victory in California. I was saddened by Eric Fingerhut’s loss. But life, and the Republic, go on.
“This is Peter. What’s your problem Mr. Cooonix?”
My problem, Peter, is that I’m lonely. Its 11:30 Wednesday morning and I’m all alone. YOUR REPAIRMAN’S NOT HERE.
“You’re scheduled for service some time today.”
No, Peter. After your guys failed to show up last Saturday, I was scheduled to be the first one seen today. There’s no one here. I don’t mind Peter. I’d much rather stay home and do laundry that go to my office and run my business.
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
You could get someone over here. NOW.
“I can’t do that. It’s not my job.”
I called the repair number and asked for the person responsible and they gave me you. Did they screw up Peter?
“I have it right here. You were to be serviced first thing Wednesday morning.”
Gee Peter, when the technician called ten minutes ago he said that he didn’t know I was to be first.
“Well, I don’t know who your technician is.”
Larry. Larry P.
“Oh yeah. I’ll call him.”
Right. He’s going to leave in the middle of a job. Get someone here now!
“Why are you yelling at me?”
Because my business is closed while I’m waiting for your guy. This is your fourth scheduled visit.
“I’ll call the technician, then I’ll call you back.”
It has been forty-five minutes. Obviously, my mistake was in calling Sears to repair one of their refrigerators.
This all started in July. I noticed a problem with my twelve year old refrigerator. There was water dripping on to the shelves and my “no-frost” freezer was filled with frost. I called Sears.
The first repairman came on Saturday, July 9th. He diagnosed a problem with the door and gasket. Ten minutes and $84 later, he told me that the freezer will be fine in time or I can defrost it and it will be back to normal immediately. Empting a filled freezer and watching the meat thaw and the ice cream melt was more than I cared to do. So we let mature take its course.
My mid-September, it became apparent that the fridge was still a problem. There were little puddles inside and outside the machine. I defrosted the freezer and things got worse. A second visit was scheduled for September 24th, another Saturday morning.
We got another repairman on the 24th. Larry diagnosed the problem in seconds. We needed a new divider. The part was only $30 but he didn’t have one with him. He would have to order it. Someone would be out in three weeks. An appointment was made for Saturday, October 15. The machine would have to be off, empty and defrosted before the technician arrived
The call came at 9 a.m. “This is Sears. We can’t come out today. We had some emergencies come up today. We’ll call back later.” Alissa answered the phone and told them that we expected the refrigerator repaired today. The dispatcher called three hours later. Even if one of the repairmen finished early, my machine could not be fixed today. They had already returned the divider.
I’ll admit that I lost my temper. A house full of people and no refrigerator! The dispatcher promised that a technician would be at my house first thing Wednesday morning to repair my refrigerator. I was assured that the problem would be handled and that I would only be charged for the part. We plugged it back in and resumed our lives.
That brings you up to speed. The fourth load is about to come out of the dryer. I’ve talked to a couple of clients, made a tape for my car and gotten thoroughly aggravated.
A Sears technician arrived at 12:30. Not Larry. He walked in with the divider and while in the middle of my kitchen asked me where the refrigerator was! I left the room quickly.
It took an hour and a half to install the divider. I walked in to the kitchen and nearly slipped on the wet floor and debris. The repairman tried to add insult to injury by handing me a bill for over $170. I told him that I was to only pay for the part. He didn’t know anything about that. I had had enough. I told him to send me a corrected statement and showed him the door.
I’ll still shop for refrigerators, washers, and dryers from Sears. I’ll just never call them again for service.
I remember the last time I saw my grandfather. He was lying in a hospital bed. Cold and hot simultaneously. The flimsy hospital gown betrayed him. He was too weak to cover his nakedness as his family entered the room. I was shocked at how frail he appeared. He was about to die and this terrible secret was not a secret to anyone-not his daughters, not his son-in-law, not even his eight year old grandchild. How painful it has been to retain that vision of that once strong man defeated by cancer as my most dominant picture of my grandfather. It is a memory that I cannot shake.
My father is sixty-eight years old; about the same age as my grandfather was when he died. Dad is also in the final lap of a race that he cannot win. His cancer has overtaken him and the checkered flag is about to be waved. Alissa and I will fly in this Friday, July 22nd, for one final visit.
This isn’t our first final visit. A week before Jenny’s Bat Mitzvah in April we made the long drive to the east coast. Not only was it doubtful that he would be able to attend the service, there was a question as to whether he would even be alive. Somehow he recovered and flew in with my mother and brother, Rob.
I guess the first final visit was in March of 1989. The doctors had found lung cancer. Surgery was required. They rushed him in and removed one of his ribs on the way to taking the top third of his right lung. Over the years I have been there for the removal of his spleen, his duels with Chemo and Radiation, and other assorted hospital pit stops. Each time the doctors are successful at keeping my father alive. Each time the doctors fail more miserably at retaining my father’s life.
My father completely understood his role as provider/head of household. He went to work. He came home. There were no stops in between. His job was to earn a living. His perks were dinner when he returned each evening, a clean home, and a minimal amount of hassle. His duties included cooking breakfast on Sundays, occasionally disciplining the children, and one week of vacation each summer whether he needed it or not.
My father led an orderly life. He wore crisply starched long-sleeve white shirts under his suit jacket each day to work. On Sundays he wore crisply starched short sleeve white shirts around the house. I must have been ten or twelve before I ever saw him wear a sport shirt. For years he ate the same breakfast (coffee and Special K), sent out daily for a sandwich from the same restaurant, and in every way imaginable repeated the same patterns at work and at home.
It was always a special treat for me to visit my father at work. Because it was at work, behind a diamond counter, that Jerry Cunix came alive. He was a delight to watch. Joking, smoking his little unfiltered Pall-Malls, slowly taking the couple in front of him to the sale he wanted to make. He once sold one of his customers a refrigerator. After the sale was completed, he ran down the street to a wholesaler, ordered the unit and arranged for its delivery! Every day was a new performance.
The performance stopped suddenly after the lung surgery. The man who expected to be carried out of his store was too weak to work. He was unable to spend thirty to thirty-five hours per week in a retail store, much less the fort-eight to fifty-five hours he was so accustomed to.
Each surgery, each succeeding discovery of another cancer, followed by another treatment, robbed him further of his strength. For a while he could work twenty-five hours and then it was only twenty. Soon he was limited to sixteen. There were weeks when he could not leave the house or hospital. The economy intervened. Jerry Cunix became a luxury that no retailer could afford. Yes, he could sell, but he couldn’t put in enough time to make a difference.
Now there are no more performances. There is just an old man who used to be 5’11 ½” but now appears to be no taller than 5’8”. A thin man whose body has served as the battlefield in the war between cancer and modern medicine. In a short while a new battlefield will be found and this one will be laid to rest.
I am not bringing my children with me this Friday. The picture that they will carry in their minds for years to come will not be of a frail old man moments from death. It is not fair to them to do that. It would no be fair to do that to my father.
I could no more avoid the media coverage of D-Day this last month than I could have participated in the historic assault fifty years ago. Both were impossible. At thirty-nine I am too young to have been on the beaches of Normandy. And the coverage of D-Day has permeated the T.V., radio, and Plain Dealer.
This celebration was made for television. Cameras recorded the amazing septuagenarians parachuting on to free French soil. There were interviews with the children of fallen soldiers. And there were the endless pictures of the French and English countryside.
But the best interviews, the best pictures, were of the men. They told stories of individual bravery and ingenuity. They talked about their buddies, the friends who never left Omaha Beach. And, they put a human face to the heroics of D-Day.
Another soldier was being interviewed. My friend Jim and I were watching this on the news as our kids ate hot dogs and potato salad outside at the wooden picnic table.
The soldier was describing Eisenhower’s activities in the last few days prior to the invasion. We were shown the woods where the general slept in a tent. We were then told about the General’s visit to the paratroopers prior to their deployment.
“He cheered the paratroopers on. He was there to see them off. He knew that many of them would be killed. As the planes took off, the four stars on each shoulder must have been a terrible weight. He turned around. His shoulders were stooped. There were tears streaming from his eyes.”
Did you hear that, Jim?
Eisenhower crying. They never told us that. We never knew.
That changes everything.
We grew up on a steady diet of John Wayne and Gregory Peck. Even George C. Scott’s Patton smacked his cowards. We were given a World War II where all of the American soldiers were brave, heroic, and ready to die for this country. Fear? Hell no! Doubt? Of course not! They were Americans. The image was so strong that Ronald Reagan, who spent the war in Hollywood, started to believe that he had been a real soldier.
We were never told that these men had been afraid. We weren’t told about the English hospitals that were filled with soldiers suffering from self-inflicted wounds. We were never told that Eisenhower cried.
Did all of this matter? Of course it did. We grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam War. We didn’t know why we were there in the jungles of South-East Asia and we were afraid to go. We had no point of reference. As far as we knew, everyone wanted to fight for this country. Everyone but us.
Our fathers volunteered for the Army or Navy during World War II. They didn’t talk about it. This was something they had to do.
Popular culture, the movies and T.V. showed valiant men stoically conquering evil. There was no fear, doubt, or tears. Now, in 1994, we learn that Eisenhower knew that he was sending these boys to their death, but that he had to. This is how wars are fought. We were never allowed to know what he had thought about it.
There were real heroes in World War II. There were men and women who risked their lives in hope that their efforts might help their leaders build a better world. They made real sacrifices. And many, many of them died in battle.
The world is a very different place today. A great deal of the credit belongs to the men who planned and executed D-Day fifty years ago today. A great deal of the blame goes to the ongoing propaganda machine that never let us know that Eisenhower cried.
OK, here’s my dilemma. I caught one of my closest friends in a lie. Wait, not only did he lie to me, he also betrayed my confidences, sought to besmirch my reputation, and then “no showed” a Passover Seder that I hosted last week without so much as a phone call.
If this had happened twenty years ago, the cad would, once confronted, hang his head in shame and beg for forgiveness. Mutual friends, aware of the transgressions, would rush to intervene or mediate. The issue would be resolved quickly.
But today is March 30, 1994. Mutual friends run from the risk of involvement and the establishment of guilt. There are no consequences in the post-Reagan 90’s. There is no shame. Remorse? Hell, he feels wronged! He claims to be a victim of the high standards I set for his behavior. I owe him an apology.
Welcome to the 90’s, a time where being wrong is OK and being right can get you a law suit. Oh, it’s just not this. This failure to accept responsibility for one’s behavior has become all too common.
There is a teacher shortage in Cleveland. I have been substituting at an afternoon Hebrew School. It was a lot of fun teaching fifth, sixth, and seventh graders Bible and Prayer. Some of the children even learned something in my classes. Of course there were behavior problems. Most of the kids didn’t want to tangle with someone 6’4”/220 pounds. They tested. I made it clear where the lines were. They behaved. But, each class had one or two that would not. Why? These children had learned that they were “untouchables.” Let me till you about two sixth graders.
The first is a fat, obnoxious child that has yet to have an original thought. He disrupts the class by copying the bad behavior of others, but doesn’t do it until after everyone else has stopped. His major problem is that he is also a terrible liar. When he handed in his homework, I noticed that half was done by him (all caps, misspelled words and sloppy) and half was done by someone else (properly spelled and neat). I started laughing when he claimed that he had done it all. Do you want to guess who his mother is? That’s right, a teacher in the same school. His mother claims that the differences are because he did some of the work in the car.
Our second little boy is the youngest of several demons. Loud and out of control, his mother claims that he is simply bored. I’ll never forget the day that he brought Chicken Nuggets to class! Non-Kosher food in a Conservative Synagogue. His mother? After years of terrorizing the Synagogue’s School Director, the mother is about to become an officer of the Synagogue.
There are no consequences for these children’s misbehavior. As long as Mom or Dad can bail them out, or make a big enough fuss, these children will continue to disrupt every class they are in and making learning almost impossible for the other students.
Where does it end? One day they will cross a line and their employer, the government, their spouse, their friend or whoever it is that they have hurt or offended will have had enough. There will be no quick forgiveness. There will be no easy escape. There will be punishment and retribution. It will probably be awhile till that day dawns for the two sixth graders. But its 12 noon for my friend.
Six o’clock. The construction on Mayfield had taken an additional twenty minutes of my time. I had an hour and a half left to get dinner for Jenny and I, set up her new TV/VCR, and make the final preparations for an invasion of nine thirteen year olds coming for a sleepover party. I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen waiting to pick up a cake.
The clerk brought over the cake, verified that it was properly decorated and asked me for $11.25. I reached into my pocket and realized that I only had seven dollars on me. No sweat. I’ll write a check.
Dairy Queen doesn’t take checks. Dairy Queen doesn’t accept Visa or for that matter, any other plastic. Crap. I figured that I would have to run to the bank and fight the construction again. No, the clerk told me to take the cake and drop off payment at my convenience. I was shocked. “You’d rather give me the cake and hope for payment then accept my check?”
“We have too many checks bounce” another clerk added. “People come back.”
I grabbed the box and left. Neither clerk’s name tag identified them as part of the management team, yet they were empowered to make decisions involving service and money. I was impressed.
On Saturday afternoon we dropped off the money at Dairy Queen on our way to Sun TV. One of Jenny’s friends had generously given her a radio/cassette player. The problem was that Jenny already owned one just like it and also had another one that even plays C.D.’S. We had planned to exchange the gift for a couple of C.D.’S.
I have purchased several things from Sun in the last year or so. A T.V. A boom box/CD player for Phillip. A vacuum. Some phones. You get the idea. My office partner, Bill, and I have even shopped at Sun for our new computers. I know the stores well.
Since the radio was a gift, we did not have a receipt. The box had never been opened and a portion of the price tag was clearly visible showing that this had come from Sun T.V.
The assistant manager checked the box carefully. He told us that he would have to pay for the radio if there was anything missing. The tone of his voice implied that it had happened before.
Jennifer searched for the two C.D.’S she wanted while I handled the paperwork. Only one was available. No problem. The radio was twenty-seven dollars. The C.D. thirteen. We’d take the one Sun had and run to the mall for Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams”. Well, I thought it would be no problem.
The service desk clerk informed me that I would have to accept a due bill for the fourteen dollars. A due bill for $14? I asked for the manager. Twenty minutes later the manager finally decided to come to the desk.
The manager didn’t care that the radio/cassette player had been a gift. He didn’t care that it didn’t make any sense to give a thirteen year old girl a $14 due bill to an appliance store. He told me that it wasn’t his decision. It’s not his decision? The manager of a Sun T.V. store can’t make a $14 decision.
The way I see it, if you can’t trust your manager to make a $14 decision, you should hire better people. And if he had the authority and simply screwed this up, you really should hire better people.
After an extensive search we found an acceptable alternate C.D. and left the store. Jennifer, completely aggravated, asked me why we had been hassled like that. Why didn’t he just give her her fourteen dollars?
“I guess the problem,” I told her “is that Dairy Queen doesn’t sell boom boxes.”
I quit smoking in the fall of 1981. About six weeks later my employees, some of the cheapest (and unfortunately laziest) people I have ever known, purchased a fancy cigarette case and lighter for me. They spent almost one hundred dollars. I guess that I had become a real bear and they decided that the only way to get back their old boss was to get me to start smoking again. I wasn’t ready to quit smoking and it showed.
Jerry, my friend David’s step-father, was admitted into the hospital in December of 1883. The doctors thought that he had pneumonia. That was Monday. On Tuesday the x-rays revealed that his lungs were gone. He died of cancer that Saturday. That was enough for me. I quit smoking January 1, 1984. Two packs a day, cigars, and my pipe…to nothing. Cold Turkey. It wasn’t easy. But once I was ready, it was doable.
In the summer of 1991 I wrote a column for this paper dealing with my decision to give up my last remaining vice, matrimony. The article was The Tides. In a couple of hundred words I detailed my most recent marriage and proclaimed my resolve to remain single.
One year later I experienced an unfortunate episode of backsliding. You may have read about it. (If At First You Don’t Succeed Aug 92) NOW I’M READY!
Goodness the last six months have been unbelievably awful. There was absolutely no reason for this marriage to succeed. None.
Those of you familiar with the gory details may have an opinion as to what, specifically, killed this relationship. Some of you may point to the twelve year old step-daughter, her faked kidnapping, suicide threats, and depression. Some of you may point to the fact that I traveled, like Jacob, to a far away place thinking that I was marrying Rachel, only to find that I was wed to Leah. Some of you may point to the fact that Anna and I failed to communicate on the same level and never understood what the other thought to be important. And others…well everyone has a guess as to why this marriage was doomed from the start. I, however, know the real reason.
The truth is that I am incapable of choosing a woman to marry that I can be happy with permanently. The truth is that many of the very qualities that I find attractive in the women I date I find to be annoying in the women once I have married them. And the truth, as I wrote a year ago, is that I can’t seem to see the entire woman when I am dating. Failing to see the flaws, I tragically wed women that are totally incompatible with me.
I am not alone at this. Yes, it is shocking to discover at 30.000 feet that your co-pilot has never flown before and is afraid of heights. But why is she there in the first place?
You don’t get married in a vacuum. These women all knew what I am like and what I expected of them. Yet, they still keep telling me what I want to hear. They still keep volunteering to walk down the aisle. And they still keep looking shocked when I tell them that enough is enough.
And we are not alone. Many of you, my faithful readers, have called or written with similar stories. Is there something in our water? Or, do we simply expect more than our parents and grandparents did from marriage? I can’t answer that and I promised my parents that I would leave them out of this column.
The bottom line is that I really think that I am ready to quit this time. Phillip, Jennifer, and I will get along just fine, thank you. No twelve step programs. No fancy clinics. No hassle. You just have to be ready.
The ice storms have passed and the temperature has reached forty. Let the thaw begin! The gutters frozen and clogged are of little use. The water has to go someplace. Why not under the shingles? Water drips from the ceiling of my bedroom. The glass light fixture had to be emptied twice. The front windows are fogged up the way my car windows used to get when I was in high school. I didn’t mind then.
When my house really frustrates me I try to think of the things that make it my home. The following is a view of the rooms.
Lot’s of people have collections. Phillip has baseball cards. Stamps and coins are popular items. My twelve year old has started to collect towels. There is no larceny involved in this. She isn’t taking the towels from the hotels and motels we visit. No, these are the towels Jennifer uses when she showers.
I have eight bath towels for the two kids. I noticed that the linen closet was empty and ran downstairs to do a load. There were only three in the hamper. Up in Jen’s room I waded through dirty socks and clean turtlenecks strewn upon her floor. The five missing towels were forming a pyramid by her papasan chair. One solution would be to buy more towels, but I don’t know how many her room could hold.
Peace had descended upon the living room. Jen was playing Nintendo in the basement. Phil had yet to return from his youth group overnight. Alissa’s children, R.J. and Meredith, were with their father. Adult time.
I poured two large mugs of cinnamon flavored coffee and lowered the volume to “Sunday Morning on CBS.” She curled up next to me on the couch as we finished our breakfast of lox and cream cheese on bagels. After Charles Kuralt ended his show with the sound of Norwegian birds perched in trees above the Olympic crowds, I put on some music. I was reading the editorials. Alissa had the Metro section.
It is hard to read with your eyes closed, your arms wrapped around the woman you love. Hours were spent on the same page. Kenny Loggins’ C D, Leap of Faith, played all the way through four times.
I have faith. I am ready to leap.
Jennifer lit the Sabbath candles. Phillip led us in the blessing over the wine and recited the Kiddush. We were having a traditional Friday evening dinner. It was not unusual for us to celebrate the Sabbath. It just seemed so odd because it was the first time in over a week that Phil, Jen and I were eating dinner together.
We used to eat dinner together every night. But Phillip is in a play at Brush, and Jennifer has flute and babysitting, and I have meetings and appointments, so now…
Sometimes I make three different dinners at three different times. Sometimes they are my children. Sometimes they are my two red-headed roommates.
I am ready for them to grow up. I just wasn’t ready for the dining room to be so empty.
We begin with the end
Hot tea, warm bookstore
Shake hands, part friends
I never promised
Neither did I
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work
The symbols all dance
The flowers, the card
The first kiss, your breasts
It all meant something
But not enough
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work
So we end with beginnings
New partners, new places
New memories, new dreams
Shuffle the deck
Deal ‘em right
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work.
David L. Cunix
Damn, it was like being seventeen again. The doubt. The signals. Mixed signals. He had owned a 1965 Buick Century back when he was seventeen. Sometimes it ran. Sometimes it didn’t. He never knew each morning when he turned the key whether that Buick would start or not. He never knew when he telephoned Carol whether this would be his last call, or not. He was definitely too old for this, but she was special, and he wasn’t ready to give up.
The good news was that they had only recently begun seeing each other. Three weeks. When the end came, as if something that never really started could have an end, it came painlessly. She was honest. She was positive that she could never love Jim. And since love was the only thing Jim wanted from Carol, there was little point in continuing.
Jim and I had breakfast the next morning. Over toasted cinnamon raisin bagels and cream cheese at Broadway Bagels he told me how he had kept the doors open. He didn’t love Carol. Never lost emotional control. Nagging doubts had held him back. But he was so close. Closer than he knew.
Their first kiss had been at the stroke of midnight at a New Year’s Eve Party. Their second was a few hours later when he confessed that he didn’t want to wait a year to kiss her again. He was romantic. Carol was receptive. Jim brought her flowers. She had forgotten how nice it was to have someone truly care.
But there was something wrong. Jim was not the most sensitive guy in Cleveland and yet he could tell, he could feel, that Carol was holding back. Maybe she wasn’t ready? Perhaps there were issues? No chemistry? Who knows? She wasn’t prepared to show her cards, so I had told Jim to hang in and be himself.
Jim and I are salesmen. We live to hear the word “Yes”. We die little deaths with every “No”. But the word that hurts us the most is “Maybe”. Maybe means that if you try a little harder and work a little more we will succeed. Jim, a black or white – yes or no kind of guy, hated the indecision Carol was feeling. Moments of passion followed by days of indifference were taking a toll on him.
The end came quietly. A soft voice admitting that there was no future. Half expected, Jim was able to choose his words carefully. No anger. Surprisingly, no pain. But Jim was disappointed. He really had liked her. He really did think she was beautiful. He really had wanted badly to make it work.