I swore I would never drink like that again. My head pounded, and my mouth felt like the whole Viet Cong army had camped in it overnight. I managed to get out of bed after three previously futile attempts. I looked around at my sorry living conditions. An efficiency apartment, the owner had billed it. The space was one large room with a couple of partitions tossed together on either side. One partition hid a kitchen and postage stamp dining area, the other a dressing room, and bath. The center portion served as both living and bedrooms. A neat trick managed by a folding sofa bed. It would have been a back killer had it not been for the eight-inch thick air mattress atop it. The air mattress and a couple of plastic tables where the only things that belonged to me.
I stared into my bloodshot eyes, in the permanently fogged mirror. Mornings like that, I thanked god for the fog. I stripped off my few remaining clothes to step into the shower. I spent a long time under the water. The water made only a small difference but every little bit helped, the orange juice and aspirin did a little more. Coffee, followed by a day old donut seemed to raise me to about fifty percent of normal. Hell, normal wasn't all that much.
I looked about the one large room. I had called it home for the previous two months. It was still filled with cardboard boxes. Most had never been opened. I planned to open them before I tossed them in the dumpster. It would at least be nice to know what I was tossing out. I promised myself that I would do just that the next day.
That day was a day of rest. The next I had meetings with lawyers all morning. Maybe in the afternoon I could get to the boxes. I really needed to make more space in my little room. After my coffee and donut, I dressed for the day. Since it wasn't a work day, I dressed in army fatigue pants and a navy blue cotton thermal shirt. I covered the thermal with a white dress shirt. A walking contradiction, that was me, mostly fiction.
The knock startled me. I didn't know anyone in the building. "It must be a neighbor," I thought. Knocking on my door was a waste of time, unless they wanted to borrow a cup of cold air. That was about the only thing in my refrigerator. Nonetheless I opened the door. I should have looked through the spy hole first. Then again, why? The building was filled with eighty-year old widows. I had a hell of a time convincing the owner to rent me the apartment. At the time, I was only thirty.
"Hi," the attractive young woman said, "My name is Jennifer, I just moved in two doors down." She waited for me to respond. I couldn't think of anything to say. Not only was I hung over, I was shocked to see a woman without a walker.
"Could I borrow your phone? Mine hasn't been connected yet." she said. When I still didn't respond instantly she went on, "It is a local call."
I opened the door wider. "Sure you can use the phone. You just surprised me." I said it stupidly.
"Thanks," she said it as she passed. "I have to call my parents. They are expecting me for lunch."
I left her alone with the phone while I returned to the kitchen for more coffee. I didn't want her to think I was eavesdropping, even though I heard every word she said. I listened to her talking, presumably to her mom for a few minutes. When she hung up, I walked back into the room.
"Would you like a cup of coffee. It is about the only thing I have to offer." I said it partly to make up for my rudeness and partly because I wanted her to stay.
"No thanks, I have to run. I appreciate the use of your phone though." She said that as she turned to the door.
"Anytime," I replied. After she had gone, my mind processed her for storage. Jennifer was probably twenty-five or so, about five eight or nine, tall for a woman. She was thin with almost the shape of a pencil. Still, it had been a long time between women for me. I put her onto the temporary A list.
Other than that interruption, and a couple of trips out for hamburgers, I spent the day watching football on my portable color TV. It was my one and only luxury. That night I slept the sleep reserved for people with the last dregs of a hangover. I slept hard, so hard that I never even heard the sirens. Living in an older apartment building in those days, meant living downtown. In my case, it meant living in the same block as the police and fire stations. I had taken the place for the extra security.
The owner boasted that there had never been a break-in at his building. What he didn't tell me was that the sirens blasted almost continuously some nights. On a full moon weekend, it was almost impossible to sleep. Thank God, I had only lived through one of them at that point.
Unfortunately the previous weekend had been it. A full moon which lasted until New Year's day, which was on Tuesday. Until I died from exhaustion, I had listened to sirens for four straight days.
I awoke the next day, just in time for a quick shower before rushing off to the lawyer's office. My lawyer, when I needed one, was John Gilmore. That day I met with Edward Simpkins, who was my wife's lawyer. Why she thought she needed a lawyer was beyond me. Simpkins kept me waiting in the reception room for twenty minutes. I recognized it as a ploy. One intended to humble me.
I stood, walked to the receptionist, then said, "I am sorry but I have to leave. Please have Mr. Simpkins call me for another appointment." I turned before she could answer.
I was almost out the door when she hastily said, "Mr. Simpkins can see you now."
I was tempted to just keep on going. I probably would have, if I thought I could have avoided returning the next week. Instead I turned to face the receptionist. "You sure? If Simpkins is all that busy, I can come back another day."
"No, he is ready for you. Just walk this way please."
There was no way that I was ever going to be able to walk the way she did. She moved with the grace of a young woman who wanted to flaunt her almost perfect body. I trudged along behind. She led me into a conference room. It was a small conference room with a table for six. My wife Maggie and a tall thin man were seated at the table. The man stood when I entered. He didn't extend his hand, so I didn't either.
"Mr. Rollins?" he asked.
"That would be me," I said it with as much sarcasm as I could manage.
"Yes, well Mr. Rollins you know why we are here?" he asked.
"I think so, but why don't you tell me anyway."
He ignored the heavy sarcasm. I don't know whether it was to avoid an argument, or just so that he could show off for Maggie.
"Well yes, we are here to sign the final divorce degree. Oh yes, we are also here to make the final division of the property."
"Let's not forget the property," I said. I was being as nasty as I could.
"Ronnie, why don't you try to at least be civil." Maggie said.
"Why should I? I have nothing to gain by civility. What is done is done. You can't possibly get more now. So, just in case you missed my meaning, you and the fancy boy here can just kiss my hillbilly ass." As always Maggie had pushed me over the edge.
"I don't think there is any need for that kind of language," Simpkins said.
"Let me explain again, I am not here to win any popularity contest. If you want me to leave because of my language, just say so. I will be happy to get out right now. The air in here is filled with cheap perfume."
"If it's cheap, it isn't mine," Maggie said with a cool smile. I knew she was right. There was nothing cheap about Maggie.
"Mr. Rollins, why don't you just read the papers and sign them," Simpkins suggested. He was trying to play tough for Maggie. Men were always trying to impress Maggie.
I accepted the papers. I read the first couple of pages quickly. It was all in a foreign language, legal double talk. Page three was the only one I cared about. It contained the division of assets. Maggie got the new car, I got the ten-year old Toyota land cruiser. Maggie got the house, I got the bank accounts, not even close to a fair trade. Maggie got the furniture, I got the boxes stacked in my apartment. The few credit card debts we had, were split between us. Most of the debt had been Maggie's anyway. Maggie got the mine, I got the shaft. Even with all that, I got the better deal. I got the hell away from Maggie.
I hadn't always felt that way. I had loved her when we first married. At that time she hadn't been a drunk or an adulteress. Those things took a couple of years to happen. Don't let anyone tell you that a woman strays because she isn't getting it at home. That is bullshit.
Maggie didn't want to get it at home. She wanted to get it from her boss. You guessed it, the honorable Eddie Simpkins. He probably already had my garage office converted to his home office. I thought for a minute about not signing the papers. That thought only lasted a minute. Getting the two of them off my ass was worth every penny.
I didn't return home until after lunch. Lunch most days was no more than a hot dog at a local diner. That day was no exception. I celebrated by having a coke instead of iced tea. Lucille the black waitress said, "What in the world has gotten into you lately Mr. Rollins? You been actin' mighty mean."
"I'm sorry, did I forget to leave you a tip again?" I asked jokingly.
"You knows damned well you wouldn't get out without leaving' me something. I mean you ain't been laughing and joking with Miss Nomie. That ain't like you." she said.
"I'm sorry, I signed my divorce today. It kinda pissed me off a little. You know?"
"I ain't never been married, but I knows what you mean. Nobody wants to feel like a failure" she said.
.... There is more of this story ...