Searching for the answer to himself. Part 1
“Thomas you’re not making any sense.”
“Maybe it’s just that you aren’t listening to what it is I’m saying. Because it makes sense to me.”
So what is it exactly that you are trying to say?” Kerry asked, knowing full well what his response to that question would be. The same response he always gave.
“Sometimes I just don’t know anymore.” Tom answered. Kerry stood mimicking him, and was completely caught off her guard when he turned around and caught her doing so. “What was that? You think this is funny? So this is all one big joke to you?” Tom’s face turned from its normal fair tone, to a tone that was bright red. This was a change Kerry was all too accustomed to seeing. It had become the telltale sign Tom was about to loose control of his temper. “That’s all everything is to you, just one big joke.” He began scratching at his goatee, another sign his patience was wearing thin.
“Thomas can you please just calm down, you are over…”
“Overreacting? Is that what you think I’m doing Kerry?” Tom snapped back. Kerry just stood speechless, as she always had. She loved Tom more than anything in the world. She just didn’t know how much longer she could tolerate this new Tom, not that he was the source for all her emotional problems. For the seven years Tom and Kerry have been married, they have suffered together emotionally and they have suffered together physically. More so than they could have ever possibly imagine doing in a whole lifetime.
One year after they were married, Kerry had left the house for a doctor’s appointment. Three blocks from their home, a drunk driver that had just run through a red light struck her car on the driver’s side. Kerry never saw the car coming. It was in the Hospital that Tom and Kerry learned about the miscarriage, they didn’t even know she was pregnant. Kerry admitted to Tom later on that day that she had an idea, but wanted to be sure before she told him. Less than two years later, Tom’s parents were killed in a car crash, when the taxi they were riding in hit a patch of black ice and skidded into oncoming traffic. Tom withdrew from the world; the shock of his parents’ death was too much for him to bear. After six months of counseling, he came to grips with it and was finally able to accept it. A few months after Tom’s counseling ended, Kerry’s mother lost a yearlong battle with cancer. Kerry’s father, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, committed suicide a month after the funeral. Like Tom, Kerry went into counseling for close to a year. It was when they learned of Kerry’s second miscarriage, that the communication between them stopped. Kerry slept in the bedroom, as Tom slept on the couch, for almost a month they didn’t say one word to each other. There was more counseling that followed. This time they went together. Overall, things had gotten better in general since then.
“Tom, you need to relax.” Kerry tried to move closer to him, but he backed away. Something Tom had never done before, Kerry was shocked.
“No that’s not what I need to do, I need to get out of here.” Tom turned to go, Kerry grabbed on to his arm.
“What do you mean, you’ve got to get out of here?”
“I’ve just got to go, take your hands off of me.” Tom pulled his arm free of Kerry’s grasp, and walked out of the room.
Tom grabbed his leather coat, which lay over the back of a chair in the kitchen on his way out of the house. Kerry, realizing he was really going to leave, gave chase after him. As she stepped outside, the harsh reality that was winter slapped her in face with a frigid sting. Stunned, she shook it off, and continued after Tom. She called out to him, but he did not respond, and just kept walking. She walked quickly and finally caught up with him a hundred feet down the road. It was brutally cold outside that night, but they stood and continued to talk. She tried to get closer to him, but he kept pulling away. It was when Kerry looked into Tom’s eyes that she noticed something different.
“Let’s just go back inside, please.” Kerry pleaded, hoping he would agree and come home with her.
“Going back inside isn’t going to change anything right now. I need some time to try and clear my head.” Tom turned and began to walk away from her again.
“Can you at least tell me when will you be back?” Kerry’s eyes began to fill with tears as she asked him. The bright blue color of them was now surrounded by a bloodshot tone, instead of its usual whiteness.
“I really don’t know.” Tom answered without turning around.
Kerry stood for just a moment in the road watching Tom go. As she began to return home, the tears that had filled her eyes began to roll down her face, quickly freezing in the winter wind. She wiped them away, catching with them strands of her long brown hair that had stuck to the tears. She turned once more, hoping with all her heart that he would be right behind her, he wasn’t, and Kerry wondered how long it would be before he would return home. She knew of all the goodness Tom had inside of him, and she understood how tough this must be for someone who was always as proud of a man as Tom was. Deep down inside she felt pity for him, and for herself.
As all couples do, Tom and Kerry had their shares of arguments. Mostly they ended with each of them spending time in separate rooms of the house. This was the first time Tom has ever taken off and actually left. Kerry returned home and slowly closed the front door. She leaned her back against the door, and slowly slid down until she was seated on the floor. She crossed her arms and rested them on her knees, which were bent up toward her chest. Resting her head on her arms, Kerry began to cry. In between the sounds of her cries, tears fell from her eyes and splashed on the floor.
Tom walked at a steady pace; he was in the midst of fighting what he has always believed to be a loosing battle within himself. It had been over a month since Tom had been laid off from his job. For five years he had been his company’s top salesperson. He was due for another raise right at the time the company was sold. Following months of interviews and evaluations, Tom was given his pink slip. The new owners felt it would be better to hire two new employees at minimum wage than retain someone with Tom’s high salary. It took him a week before he overcame his shame and told Kerry. He took her out to the nicest restaurant in town, and broke the news to her over desert. When they returned home, and got into bed, Tom began to weep. Kerry tried her best to comfort him.
The wind began to pick up, forcing Tom to bundle his jacket tighter. Of all the nights he chooses to storm off, he does so on one of the coldest night yet this year. Reaching into his pockets he searches frantically for his open pack of cigarettes. He pulls a crushed pack out of his pocket and removes a cigarette from it. From his left back pocket he retrieved the Zippo lighter Kerry had given to him on their last anniversary. He held it for a moment just looking at it. Rubbing his thumb over the inscription that adorned one side of it.
A Light for the Light of my Life
Tom continued onward, alternating his walking between the sidewalk and the street in order to avoid any part of the path that was not clear of snow. The two days of light snow had blanketed the city in white stuff almost a foot deep, and according to the T.V. weatherman, If Tom remembered correctly, there was more snow on the way in a day or two. Why couldn’t we live somewhere warm Tom thought to himself. It was then that he felt the vibrating sensation coming from his waistband. He reached down and removed the cell phone from its belt-clip. He glanced at the phone number showing on the caller I.D., seeing it was Kerry he returned the phone to the clip. Kerry should have known better than to call him this soon after they’ve had a fight. Tom continued on, ignoring his phone when it began to vibrate again.
This is Tom, I am unable get to the phone right now; please leave a message after the beep. Kerry hung up the phone and placed it back on the receiver without leaving a message. Looking around the room she spotted the car keys sitting on the coffee table. She thought for a moment about going after him, but came to the realization that that would most likely only upset him more than he already was. Making her way over to the couch Kerry could feel the tears building up in her eyes once more. She fought them back as hard as she could; yet they over came her. Grabbing the nearest pillow, Kerry hugged it as she cried. Squeezing it tighter with whatever strength she had. As she sat there, it became apparent to her that lately she hugged that pillows more than she had hugged her own husband.
Reaching over onto the end table Kerry grabbed a tissue out of its box and wiped away her tears and blew her nose. She fidgeted on the couch for a moment before getting the remote control and turning on the television. Flipping quickly through the channels until she reached the weather channel. According to the report, no more snow was anticipated for their area for at least another day or two, relieving some of her fears that Tom might get caught in some sort of storm. Flipping again through the channels Kerry stopped on the local news. Realizing it would most likely depress her even more to watch this, she changed the channel to something more uplifting and made herself comfortable. As soon as she did the phone rang. Kerry raced over to answer it, hoping that Tom would be on the other end, he wasn’t.
Upon reaching the intersection of South and First Streets Tom paused and contemplated between continuing on or to return home, he reaches for another cigarette. After removing the last one Tom throws the empty pack on the ground and steps on it. As he begins to cross the street out of the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of a set of headlights racing down the street in his direction. Tom jumped backward onto the curb barely getting out of the vehicle’s path, it’s horn blared as it rode passed him. Tom shook off the minor scare and crossed the street, carefully looking up and down the street this time before doing so. He continued up South Street a little further until he reached a store where he could get a new pack of cigarettes.
Coming out of the store, Tom’s cell phone began to vibrate. He was going to ignore it again, but finally gave in and checked the caller I.D. Looking at the number, he saw that this time it wasn’t Kerry calling, still he hesitated before answering. Flipping open the phone, he brought it up to his ear and spoke.
“Yeah?” There was not even a hint of enthusiasm in his voice.
“What’s up man? Boy you sound like one miserable bastard.” the voice blared from the other end of the line, forcing Tom to hold the phone away from his ear. “You are one hard guy to get a hold of.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Yeah, I just called your place and Kerry said you took off.”
“Just need to get my head cleared out.” Tom began walking again. “What’s up Mike?”
“So you’re really out walking around the city?” Mike began laughing. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Hey Mike did you just calls to break my balls or is there actually something you want?” Tom was beginning to get upset again.
“Man relax will you. There’s a bunch of people down here at the bar. Come on down, we’re all tripping the light fantastic here. Why don’t you…”
“I’m not really in the mood for the bar tonight, Mike.” Tom interrupted.
“Look, come to the bar and have fun, don’t make me come and find you. Cause I will.” Mike’s statement actually brought a little smile to Tom’s face, because he knew that Mike really would come look for him.
“All right. I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Tom said with a sound of defeat.
“You had better be. Because if you’re not, whoa boy!” Mike hung up, as did Tom.
For the first time Tom had a direction to go in, it upset him when he realized he was headed the wrong way. He turned around and headed back past the store to the intersection where he almost got very acquainted with a moving vehicle. He made a left onto First Street and was finally headed toward the bar to meet Mike and whoever else was there with him. It was then that the sound of S.O.S. being tapped out in Morse code came from his phone. He flipped open the phone and read his new text message. It was from Mike.
GET ME BUTTS.
Tom shook his head and smiled. What an ass. He thought to himself as he once again turned around and made his way back to the store. Twenty-five minutes later he finally arrived at the bar.
Tom walked through the front door of the bar and wiped the snow off of his feet off using the floor mat. Empty peanut shells crunched under his feet as he walked. It was a custom here at this bar to throw the remains of the bar snacks on the floor. Overhead hung a wood sign that had a line from Dante’s Inferno carved into one side of it. The line read:
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
Although it had not been that long since the last time Tom was here, he noticed the few new posters that were adorning the walls. Picking up his head he got his first good look around the bar. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before opening them again. Mike was nowhere to be seen, neither was anyone else. Midway through the bar, Tom stopped and checked his appearance in the large mirror that lined the wall behind the bar. After quickly fixing his hair, he continued on.
“Hold on a one second.” Called a voice from the back kitchen. Tom gave no reply and sat down on one of the stools at the far end of the bar.
The seat Tom chose was at the far end of the bar, near the entrance to the kitchen. After taking off his jacket he picked up one of the late night menus off the bar and looked it over. As soon as he put the menu back down, the bartender emerged from the kitchen, drying his hands with a small towel. He stretched his arm out toward Tom and the two of them shook hands.
“How you doing Tom, haven’t seen you in a while.” The bartender smiled at Tom, picked up a glass from its shelf, and began to mix Tom a drink.
“I’ve been all right I guess, how about you Rich?” Tom took the drink and left a twenty-dollar bill in its place. “Let me get a dozen of your finest wings as well.”
“Ha finest that’s a good one. You got it man.” Rich said as he took the money. “I’ve been good, nothing real exciting to report.” He put Tom’s change down on the bar and went into the kitchen.
Tom picked up one of the quarters off of the bar and dropped it in the coin slot of the video game that sat next to him on top of the bar. Interesting, Tom thought to himself. He hadn’t been here since they installed this new touch screen video game. He couldn’t help but think of how far video games have come since he was a kid. He touched the graphic on the screen that represented all the card games, and the screen flashed to life. Another screen popped up and Tom now had ten games to choose from. He touched the graphic that he believed was for blackjack, much to his dismay the game was much more difficult than trying to get twenty-one. It took only a couple of minutes before the machine informed Tom his game was over.
“What flavor do you want your wings?” Rich called from inside the kitchen.
“I’ll take the spicy barbeque.” Tom replied. Rich then appeared carrying two plates. One of then hold a bowl of bleu cheese dressing, as well as pieces of carrots and celery. The other plate was empty, causing Tom to give Rich a strange look. Rich responds with a wink and goes back into the kitchen as Tom reaches for some carrots. Rich emerges from the kitchen once more, this time carrying a plate piled with more than a dozen wings on it.
“I got distracted and lost count.” Rich said with a smile.
“Thanks man. You’re the best.” Tom said as he reached for his first wing.
As Tom sat chomping down wing after wing, Rich leaped up and over the bar making his way to the jukebox. His first selection soon came playing through the bar’s speakers. Tom began to tap his foot and bop his body with the beat of the music. Halfway into his plate of wings, Tom had to sit back and take a break from them. He grabbed his drink in an attempt to extinguish the fire that had begun to burn inside of his mouth. Putting the drink down, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the new pack of cigarettes and opened them. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he held one of the cigarettes over his head.
“Thanks man, you’re the best.” Rich said as he took the cigarette. Leaping over the bar, he grabbed Tom’s glass and refilled it.
“Where the hell is everyone? Mike called me and said there was a lot of people here tonight.”
“Well there was, but they said they were going somewhere, I forget where they said, but they wanted me to tell you they’ll be back.”
“I certainly hope so.” Tom began to pick at the wings once more, hoping everyone would be back soon. It had been a long time since Tom sat in a bar by himself. That scenario was once one that Tom would feel fine with, but that was before he quit drinking seven days a week. In those days, getting Tom to leave the bar before it closed was almost impossible.
Six years had past since the night Tom realized he needed to sober up. He sat in the same exact seat he sits in this night, drinking since the bar had opened its doors that day at noon. By the time the bar closed at three a.m., Tom was barely able to stand and quite incoherent. He walked out of the bar, across the parking lot to his car and got in. Luckily for him as soon as he put the key in the ignition he passed out. Four hours later the owner of the stationary store that was next to the bar was knocking on Tom’s passenger side window. Startled at first, Tom reassures the man he is all right and drives away. Arriving at home, he parked his car in the driveway. In a state of disbelief, Tom sat there for an hour trying to piece together the events of the night before. When it finally became clear to him that he would not remember, Tom got scared. He didn’t touch another drink for two years after that incident. Kerry could not have been happier.
“You need anything else right now? I’m running to the bathroom real quick.” Rich asked, catching Tom off guard.
“No thanks, I’m good for now.” Tom replied with a raspy voice, the spicy wings taking a toll on him. Rich smiles at him, Tom returns the gesture.
Not wanting to sit alone in the bar any longer, Tom reached for his cell phone. As he removed the phone from it’s clip, he lost his grasp on it and the phone fell to the floor breaking in two. The battery had separated from the phone and slid across the floor. Staring down at the two pieces that used to be his phone, Tom lets out a depressed sigh as he gets up to retrieve them. Snapping the battery back into place Tom flips open the phone and turns it back on. The face of the phone lit up in an array of colors, confirming that it still worked. Losing his motivation to make a call, Tom places the phone on top of the bar, sits back down and returns to his wings.
“You want to shoot a game of pool with me?” Rich asked from behind Tom, startling him.
“Not right now man. Maybe in a little while.”
“Yeah, you already look upset. Beating you, like I always do, would probably only upset you more.” Rich said with a smile.
“You’re probably right. I wouldn’t want you to have to kick my ass, and make me feel worse.” Tom said with a sarcastic tone.
“Oh please you could never do that either.” Rich boasted as he Gives Tom a jab on the arm. Tom gets up and the two of them begin to play fight. Throwing punches so that the other could dodge them.
Tom and Rich have known each other for a long time, going all the way back to their days together in college. Close to ten years they’ve hung out, beginning when they lived with fifteen other guys in a dorm. Everyone partied just as hard as they did. Tom remembers all the good times they had together in that dorm. There was the parties, the booze, the drugs, and of course there was the girls. More girls than Tom could really recall, until his senior year when he met a girl that was unlike any he had ever met, and it was because of Rich.
Rich had been dating a girl named Tracy, who had a roommate that was apparently really good looking but never went out. Rich had hung out with her a couple of times when he would go to see Tracy, and he would always tell Tom that she would be a perfect fit for him. Tom was hesitant about giving up his playboy like lifestyle to settle down with only one girl. After a week of listening to Rich nag him about it, Tom finally gave in and agreed to go out on a date with her. After the date Tom came home and told Rich he never had so much fun with a girl before that didn’t include having sex. Three dates later Tom and Kerry became a couple, and have been together ever since.
Tom’s phone began to vibrate, rattling around on the tile-topped bar. He watched it do its little dance for a moment before picking it up and checking the caller I.D. He saw that the call was coming from a private number, he went against his usual reaction, and answered it.
“Dude, what’s up? Where are you?” Mike asked from the other end of the line.
“Sitting in the bar waiting for your dumb ass to come back here.” Tom replied.
“Good, Good. I’ll be there in about ten minutes or so.” Mike hung up. Tom placed his phone back on the bar, and reached for his drink.
Knowing that Mike would soon be joining him at the bar did not cheer Tom up as much as he had hoped. He began wondering how the night would progress once the two of them got together. He thought about calling Kerry, knowing he would have to sooner or later, but decided he didn’t know what to say to her yet. This argument with her took its toll on Tom more so than any other had. It has made him tired both emotionally and physically. He began to wonder if they had maybe been together too long, if maybe separating for a little while would help things. The thought of Kerry being better off without him was a fear Tom always kept hidden deep inside of himself. If she wouldn’t be better emotionally, she certainly would be financially. He shuddered thinking about it only depressed him more. He reached again for his drink.
The phone in the house rang a few times before Kerry woke up. Still half asleep, she got up from the couch, and answered the phone. She hoped this time it would be Tom. Once again it wasn’t. Talking with her friend did not ease her discomfort. She conversed for a couple of minutes before they both hung up. Staring at the phone for a couple of minutes, Kerry contemplated making a few phone calls to try and make sure Tom was okay. Knowing that Mike was looking for him as well, she made the bar her first call. On the third ring Rich answered the phone. Kerry simply asked the person who answered the phone if there happened to be a guy named Tom there, and then Rich confirmed. She hung up the phone with a sense of relief. Her anxiety had subsided a little, but still she felt she needed to go into the bathroom. Closing the door behind her, Kerry lifted the toilet seat, and began to vomit.
Hanging up the phone Rich walked over toward Tom. “That was Kerry, she wanted to know if you were here. I said yeah and then she hung up. Just thought I’d tell ya.” Rich gave him a little half grin and continued with what he was doing. Tom gave him a little wave of thanks. At least she knows where I am now; Tom thought to himself, he was glad she didn’t want to talk yet.
“Wahoo!” Mike exclaimed as he walked into the bar. A taller man than Tom, Mike’s heavily tattooed arms stretched out from under the sleeves of his t-shirt. He was loud and he was funny, a lot of times Mike and Tom would end up in some sort of trouble together. “Wow there was just more people in the bathroom at McDonald’s.”
“It’s about time you showed up. I was getting sick of waiting and was about to leave.” Tom said, a small tone of an attitude in his voice.
“Oh shut up, I needed to go get cigarettes.”
“Asshole, you asked me to get them for you.” Tom responded, throwing Mike’s cigarettes at him.
“Okay so now I have two packs.” Mike said as he handed Tom a five-dollar bill. “Keep the change.”
“So how come you’re out tonight? Don’t you have to go to work tomorrow?”
“Yeah well, it’s rough being me. I’ve got to be in at ten in the morning, then going home at one in the afternoon. It’s tough I tell ya.”
Rich walked back and forth behind the bar past Tom and Mike, as he did he placed a bottle of Coors Light in front of Mike and replaced Tom’s drink. Mike was about to pay for the drinks, but Rich walked away once more and into the kitchen. For the next couple of minutes Tom and Mike made small talk between themselves until Rich returned with two more plates of wings. He set them down on the bar in front of Mike and Tom.
“Whoa ho! All right, you rock. These are free right?” Mike asked. Rich smiled and walked away. Mike slaps Tom in the arm. “I like your boy, he’s cool.” He began to eat the wings.
Tom had all he could do to force a smile.