Ray Macky sat at a table for one. He was used to it by now. It wasn’t like the old days. In those days it had been tables for two, or four or twenty-four. He’d been wildly popular in his younger days. In those times he thought it’d been due to his personal charm but now looking back from the cruel vantage point of having lived too long he saw it for what it was – he’d had success and that’d brought truck loads of money in its wake. He must’ve wined and dined every opportunist in town and even married some of them. He’d enjoyed the crème de la crème of the beautiful and sexy who were, at their hearts, the very worst of humanity. Had he learned anything from all this? No. Zip. He still melted inside when a pretty one smiled at him. These days they smiled at him out of pity – he seemed like a kindly old harmless fool instead of a wealthy one. It seems the last faculty to die is one’s stupidity. Each marriage had grown shorter and the settlements larger until there was nothing left. Ray, in his few honest discussions with himself, lamented the small deaths that led up to the big one. The death of his trust; the death of his respect; the death of his generousity; the death of his health; the death of his longing; the death of his libido; the death of his caring.
Sometimes on a summer’s night at an outside table for one, surrounded by young couples in love, he held on momentarily to the conceit that on one such night a beautiful, kind, understanding woman would notice him and walk into what was left of his life and everything leading up to this would suddenly make sense. But he was also smart enough by now to know that this was only the dream of an old man who needed something to clasp onto to bring sleep each night.
Ray liked to walk home from his favourite restaurants on such nights although friends had warned him it was no longer safe to do so at his age. It was a different time and now young boys roamed the streets filled with enough anger to pleasure themselves by bringing down the vulnerable. As if life hadn’t hurt them all enough.
On these late night walks home Ray would try and remember the sound of his parents’ voices and it’d comfort him. Step by step back into the past until he was a young lad again. Back to a time when he was loved…no…treasured, and the future was so filled with options and adventure that he couldn’t wait to be older. Where did it all go, he wondered. Was he so busy running to and from things that he forgot to savour the pleasure of each moment? Or did he enjoy them so much that time accelerated? Whichever scenario, the result was the same – he was now weary. Not just in body, but in spirit. And sad. Sad that he had had so much love to give and dissipated it on all the wrong people. The worst of them had damaged him for the best of them. In recent years he’d had the opportunity to have relationships with certain women but had always declined the offers or let them die on the vine from his lack of interest or follow through. All he knew was it felt good to finally have all the power. He could now no longer be seduced by a pretty face, a sexy body or a woman with a wicked mind. It gave him some satisfaction to see their surprised expressions when their games and charms no longer worked on him. Alas, they were too late. He had no more chips to bet.
His nightly walks also made him think of those that had gotten away. The ones he should’ve stayed with and the ones who broke his heart by leaving each time the money ran out. He’d had such rotten luck in love, although he wasn’t quite sure that some of the horrific scenes he’d endured should be classified under that sacred four letter word.
He wished he could go back in time and give his last wife the things that she’d needed that now seemed so clear but back then were unfathomable. What an idiot he was not to see. And now he was being punished for it. A life sentence. A dead man walking.
He wondered where his son was and what lies he must’ve been told to have distanced himself so much from a father that loved him more than life itself. But such things were too painful to think about if one was to keep going forward. He preferred to think of him as the young man who had worshipped his father. A dad who could do no wrong.
On his last nightly walk home, Ray Macky heard his son’s voice yell out to him from behind and he turned, smiling, his eyes suddenly filled with hope of a new beginning, or a miraculous renewal of what had once been the most loving of relationships. For a few moments Ray was taken aback at how much his son had changed. His face had grown hard and cruel in ways that he couldn’t quite grasp. And he was older than his years. Had he caused this damage to the one he had so loved?
Then he heard the suddenly unfamiliar voice demand money, “Give me your money, old man, or you’ll get this!”
Ray looked down to see a knife in the boy’s hand. Surely his son wouldn’t pull a knife on his own father? If he wanted money all his son had to do was ask and Ray would’ve given him anything. Ah, but then again, Ray no longer had anything. He was back in the here and now, and the cold realisation that he was of no longer any use to anyone.
“I only have twenty dollars in cash I’m afraid. But it’s yours, Tommy, take it, my boy. I can get you some more on Friday when my pension is in my account..”
“Tommy?…Who the fuck is Tommy you stupid old bastard?!”
“Tommy, don’t you recognise me? I’m your dad. I’ve never stopped loving you…”
Ray didn’t get to finish his sentence before the boy grabbed his wallet, thrust the knife into his stomach and ran from the stranger.
Ray fell to the footpath as a warm pool of blood formed around him. Lying there he wondered what he had done to make his son hate him so. Didn’t he know that life just got in the way sometimes and people had no control over where it led them?
Ray attempted a laugh that a monetary figure had finally been placed on his life and closed his eyes in peace that all debts were now paid.
Ray’s last thought was that he hoped the twenty dollars would be of some help to the boy.
(c) Frank Howson 2016