Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"Nighthawks", a painting by Edward Hopper.
I am on the road again. I leave today, Tuesday, June 16th. This is another motorcycle trip that will take me on the Crow Creek Commemorative Motorcycle Ride until Saturday, then I'll join a few other folks and we'll head out towards Montana before heading South and then return. I'll be back in early July sometime.
The story below is fiction. There are some similarities between the main character and myself, But Joe Nighthawk is not me and no one else depicted here is anyone I know or built around anyone I know. E4E, as she is known, who writes the Watergate Summer blog, started this blog called the Enigma Cafe some time ago. I discovered it over two years ago. I started going there in the wee hours as I get up early most days. I haven't corrosponded with E4E in a long time, but I know she is still around, and so am I. Maybe someday a documentary about bloggers and their lives through changes and all that. Who knows?
The icon she used at the time was Hopper's famous "Nighthawks" painting, as seen above. I wrote a page of this story as a comment, then returned every day for almost a month and added to it. It was "published" in the comment section of the Enigma Cafe blog. There were a few comments in between my writing if I remember correctly. I don't know if it is still there in her archives or not. I did save my efforts on my own computer and here it is, as a complete story.
It is long, 37 pages on my Appleworks, (iMac), word processing program. Read if you care to. I'll leave this up until I return from the cycle trip. The first trip had me on the road for 12 days. I traveled 3720 miles. I used US Hwy routes 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 26 and 30 along with other state and county roads to cross the country from River Falls, Wisconsin, where I live, to Crane, Oregon and return. I met a good friend in Oregon. He lives in Fortuna, California. We road and stopped at the Crane Crystal Hot Springs four years ago and decided to meet there. On the way home to my place, we zig zagged through the Rockies, the Big Horns and the Black Hills. We have been riding motorcycles since our teen years and together since 1970. Hal, my friend, was suppose to go with me on part of this next ride, but I had to take him to the airport yesterday. He flew home to attend to his wife who is sick and in the hospital. They will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Now, the story. No title. This story is actually a part of a book. I need to write the prequel, as this is near the end of the book. So, here I re-introduce, so to speak, Joe Nighthawk.
Some Diner in Cleveland, early morning in December
He looked at this cup of coffee sitting on the worn Formica countertop in front of him. Seemed like he wondered why coffee didn’t arouse him any longer. Used to be the caffeine buzz, after a couple of cups, made him stir. Maybe coffee was changing like everything else and going the way of the dinosaur.
He was thinking that cars aren’t built strong and fast anymore. Movies are never funny and leave little to the imagination. Food didn’t taste as good, or smell good and this coffee, after he put it to his lips, was nothing more than hot water dyed black.
As his thoughts wandered, he’d look over from time to time at the woman. She wasn’t a young gal, but figured her for at least ten to fifteen years his junior. Would she think he was an old pervert if he talked to her? Would she allow him the pleasure of her company in any way?
His glances became stares. He looked at her hips. He looked at her shoes, the smallish feet, and imagined them hanging in the lake at the end of a dock in the warm summertime sun. He looked at her hair, closely. How it was streaked with gray and silver strands amidst the mousey brown. Her face. The age, but not wrinkled. The maturity. How many miles she has gone in her life.
He became enamored. He wished he could have her as a friend, a lover. Someone, anyone, her, here tonight, to talk to. She was right there. And then she was gone. The waitress had come to fill his cup and he looked away for a fleeting moment and she was gone. He never saw her leave. He wondered if she was ever even there at all.
He looked up at the waitress. Her name was Katy. She wore a name tag, but he knew her name from the endless times he frequented the place in the middle of the night.
He asked, “Hey Katy, do you know that woman that just left here?’”
“Yeah, she comes in here a lot.”, Katy answered politely.
“Always in the middle of the night?” He asked
“Well, she usually comes in earlier, after work.” Katy wondering now why he was asking these questions.
“Where does she work?” He asked pensively.
Katy told him that the woman had her own business cleaning offices in a large building somewhere downtown. She’d come in after work to unwind Katy told him that’s all she knew about her.
The man continued with his questioning and asked, “Do you know her name?”
“Yeah, her name is Sandy.” Katy said.
“Do you know her last name? Is she single? Is she gay?”
“I don’t even know your first name and you’ve been coming in here for as long as I remember! I don’t ask people their names OR their sexual preferences, and you don’t wear name tags!” She pointed to her breast and the little white tag that bore her moniker.
“Joe, Joe Nighthawk is my name. Glad to meet you, Katy.”
Katy smiled but did not offer her hand in a gesture of meeting a new friend. She looked at him and asked, “Are you an Indian?”
“No, my step dad was Native. My Mom tells me I’ve got a lot of variety in my blood. My real Dad was gone before I was five years old she told me. This Nighthawk guy paid for raising me and taught me a lot of good things. I use his name and always have. I consider him my Father”
Katy walked away as another customer came into the Enigma and sat down at a booth. She grabbed a cup and in one motion set it down and filled it up with coffee in front of the man.
Joe left the cafe. He vowed to himself to come in earlier and try to catch Sandy and get answers for himself. He hadn’t pursued a woman in this way since he split up with his wife some 12 years ago. He’s had the one nighters here and there. Drunk too many times to even remember names. He was sober now, and liking the control he had with his life and his thoughts.
He never divorced Carol, his ex wife. Carol never insisted on it and they just agreed non verbally to let each other go. They just let each other live their own lives and remained Mom and Dad to their two children after the years had swallowed them up.
There was no infidelity. No fighting. Just each walking their own way after years of life together. There was never a doubt that he still loved his ex and his children. And although Carol, his wife of 21 years, lives with another man, they still interact on the phone in an amiable fashion.
He got into his old jeep. It had stopped raining. How weird the weather for December. Another brown Christmas. The holiday was just a few days away. He bought, wrapped and sent gifts to his ex wife and his daughters. The two Grandchildren go the usual money deposited into their trusted savings accounts and a gift.
He drove home. He went inside and turned on the TV and had Sport Center playing, trying to catch a few hockey scores. He kept loose tabs on such things, more as a diversion of his loneliness rather than sincere interest in the game. He moved from the chair to the sofa and fell asleep. He had no dreams this session. He slept from exhaustion. From hours of being awake, hiding from his dreams.
Joe went to Vietnam as a young man. Barely 19, he found himself in the rice patties. He learned about war first hand. Taken in the draft in 1968, he went to serve when asked. He saw what war does. He saw and understood that it is a meaningless waste of lives and honor is just a word when your own government forsakes you.
He returned different than whence he left. He is still bothered by the dreams. He holds a rifle, ready to take life. It haunts him every minute of every day. It ws only those years in the bottle or on drugs that he remembers as “good” times. They were good because they melted away the pain of it all and left him numb.
Katy awoke sometime in the middle afternoon most days. This one was no different. Her job as a waitress at the Enigma started out as a way to earn money while still in junior college taking classes. Her schedule used to be a variety of shifts, but when the grave yard came up and the cafe needed a steady, she took the job. She thought it would only be for a few months, now here she was, four years later still slinging hash from 10 PM to 6 AM five days a week. The tips weren’t great after they closed the night shift at the paper mill, but she stayed on in hopes of finding her way one day and leaving not only the dead end job, but the nearly dead town behind her. Her dreams to go to Hollywood and do something in show business seem to be dashed repeatedly. Her string of abusive boyfriends and a mountain of debt has kept her captive at the Enigma.
Her blondish hair is barely long enough for a pony tail, but years ago it was long, long enough to reach to her waist. The high cheek bones and flawless complexion was to be her ticket to stardom. That all vanished with the first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage, and disappeared entirely with the abortion and scars from the beatings. The rat is in prison now, but it has been a tough road for a young beauty here in the midwest amongst the mining, manufacturing and the docks along the great lakes.
She fills her spare time with marijuana and alcohol and makes the scene every weekend at many of the local dives. She knows a lot of folks and isn’t lonely, but lives alone in a trashy part of town in a one bedroom apartment where the rent is cheap. She drives an old car that is need of repair often, but can hail a ride from a bevy of boyfriends in a moment.
She weighs more now, she feels she’s not like she used to be when her dream was alive. But sports a great figure with the top heavy breasts and shapely full figured curves. She wants to quit smoking but is struggling there.
This day she was ready for some shopping to replenish her sparse wardrobe. Happy to be wearing uniforms at work that were provided by the gracious owner of the cafe to all the employees, she didn’t have to spend anything on clothes for work. Her make-up bill ran mighty high though. She groomed and prinked and kept her hair impeccably clean and coifed. Her nails were done professionally and she managed a visit to the tanning booth a few times per month.
Katy grabbed a bus and headed to the mall. She’d think about a bite to eat later. She was to be back at the Enigma tonight at 10:00PM. Her arrival at the mall found her face to face with holiday shoppers as the mall was quite busy with this activity.
Joe awoke around 3 PM. He had slept a whole 6 hours, a lifetime for his usual habit of three to four hours. He made a pot of coffee and went to the newsstand and grabbed a paper. The news bothered him. War and government seemed out of control. He threw the paper down in disgust in a pile that already had four editions of what he viewed as the same old same old.
He fired up the Jeep and headed out towards the big lake. He often filled a travel mug with coffee and headed out for a drive along the shore. He’d watch the boats or nature, whichever presented itself to his view as he sat in his car with the radio tuned to music, any music. He pressed a button and changed the channel as often as necessary to avoid a commercial or the news.
He’d sit there for hours and contemplate his next move. Work wasn’t an option at this point in his life. Too many scars in his brain. The VA has told him he is unstable and have granted him a monthly paycheck that paid the few simple living expenses and obligations that he had. This freedom was a boon and a curse. Not really enough money to go anywhere and do anything, but enough time to plan extensive forays out of town, returning to the haunts he traveled when he was employed.
He had that woman on his mind. Sandy he remembered was her name. He was hoping that there would be a chance tonight that he’d be there when she stopped in after her routine. His day dream had him out to dinner and sitting with his shoes off at her place watching a movie with the prospect of a sexual encounter, or at least someone to hold in his arms for a while. Someone to return the embrace. Someone that would show a little passion, He hadn’t felt that in a long time. Maybe Sandy would be the one to get him back into the game. She sure looked good enough to him.
His mood changed from the dreamy pleasant thoughts to sadness as he felt a young woman like her would never be interested in an old man like him. Frustrated, he headed to the bar. He’d do like he’s dome so many times. Order a diet Pepsi and sit and watch others get hammered on shots of good whiskey, listening to the selections of strangers on the juke box. This eye candy kept his mind busy enough to not allow the unhappiness of the fact that Sandy was not going to fall his way any time soon.
She was 47 just last month. If you looked close, you could see the small lines on her face. The ones around her mouth hidden by the dimples when she talked or smiled. Her hair was streaked with the gray and silver of a life lived. These strands struck a naturalness that some pay dearly for at the salons.
Maybe the only reason Joe thought her to be a younger woman is the way she dressed and her still girlish figure. She was no spring chicken and had run the gamut. She did time in the 70’s for possession. Both her last two husbands went the way of the diving board of life. Number one, a Vietnam Vet drank himself to death. The next one bought it in a car wreck.
Figuring she was unlucky in love, she neither sought after or seemed interested in men or women. But she wasn’t unfriendly, just cautious. She felt that she possessed the kiss of death for anyone she might have affection for. She wouldn’t wish that on anyone else as her past record would prove.
Her name is Sandy. She got into the cleaning business years ago working for a large corporation in the city. That corporation got caught cheating and invoicing for services never rendered. Sandy was the working class standing there and she took over the contract for the janitorial maintenance of the small business. She enjoys the freedom it offers. She cleans at night, she chooses the hours and has a couple of trusted friends for back up when she wishes to check out and travel as she does from time to time.
She stops in the Enigma after her work is done and sips coffee and has a smoke or two. She likes being alive and awake at night. The Enigma is one of the last few places around for the late nighters. The all night diner. She’s known Kate and went through the growing
pains of a career cut short, the abuse, the pregnancies and the attempted suicide. They were better friends than most folks knew.
Sandy was like a Mom to Kate, but you’d never know it at the Enigma. They rarely talked about anything other than the mundane in public, but rather kept the private parts of life private and only interacted as waitress/ customer at the cafe. Their conversations were on the phone or e-mail. Katy needed a friend and confidant. Sandy was a natural helper. They’ve been friends for almost four years.
This day was like most others for Sandy. She went to work. She has been doing this routine for so long, she has cut minutes and even hours off the chore of cleaning the offices of her contracted employer. But the gig pays her enough to live comfortably. She doesn’t like fancy clothes or spend a lot of money on herself. She keeps it simple and basic. A plain jane so to speak. Neat and tidy, but plain. Just those tiny baubles she wore on the lobes of her delicate ears.
Sandy stopped in at the Enigma. It was just after midnight. She’d be sure to see Katy and have a few words with her and get a cup o’ joe and leave before the 2 AM bar crowd appeared. She didn’t like the way the drunks treated their women or the waitress after the bars closed. She was done for the week as it was Friday night/early Saturday morning.
“You doing anything exciting this weekend?” Asked Sandy.
“No, just the usual. I’m going to the Blues Club.” answered Katy.
“So, I haven’t been there in a long time. The music still rockin’ in there like it was years ago?” Sandy said, expecting the answer to be no.
Katy surprised her when she said, “Oh yeah. They got some hot acts from Chicago in there about once a month. Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants tonight.”
Sandy had heard of them. She read in the weekly entertainment tabloid that this band was hot and played Chicago style blues with gusto. She liked blues music. The stories that are told by the greats.
The songs skipped by in her head. “Every night, the blues fall down on me like rain” the melody and 8 bar beat sang to herself in her head.
“I’ll have to get out there one of these weekends. What kind of crowd is in there these days?” She asked.
“Oh, everything and everybody. Young, old, gay, straight, drunk, sober, crazy and sane.” answered Katy. “last week there was a hard drivin’ southern band and the place was really rockin’. I was dancin’ till they closed the place. I’m used to being up all night you know?” Katy said as she smiled a knowing grin.
Sandy smiled and said, “Sounds cool. Maybe I’ll get out of the house one of these days.”
Katy was called to another table with a couple of policemen looking for coffee sans donuts. They were part of the regular beat. They both nodded a courteous hello to Sandy and to the few others sitting in the Enigma this night.
Joe ate a sandwich and sat down to watch some TV. He wandered through to the sports channels and saw nothing he could live without seeing. He wanted to go out and maybe try to listen to some music. He cruised four or five spots he knew from his days of being out in the mix, so to speak, just about every night. Many of these places had new names. Some sported a new look. But they were all bars, all the same he thought.
Still he sought music and wanted to watch the acts unfold. It was entertaining and would pass another night away without having to sit in front of the dreaded TV. He stopped his jeep and parked about 4 blocks from this place, Deuces Wild was the name of it. He heard the thumping of the bass and the guitars sending their message from a half block away. he walked in and found a stool at the bar.
He ordered the usual, a Diet cola. He didn’t want to argue about whether it was Coke or Pepsi. He had his preference, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t here for the drinks. The music was loud. The band was playing rock and roll and blues hits. All cover tunes, but doing a good job adding their own takes on the standard riffs, and singing harmonies well enough to hear them blend.
He was there about an hour. That’s a long time to sit in one place by yourself and listen to a band play. They were taking a break now, a good time to hustle out of there. He was ready to leave, maybe try another joint. Something quieter and more relaxed. A man stood out from the crowd and the din of conversation got dead quiet. This man was tall and big shouldered and obviously drunk.
Joe watched and listened to the ruckus unfold as he slowly walked towards the door. The big guy reached over and slapped a woman and told her to “Shut the fuck up!” in a loud unmistakable tone of voice. She held her hand to her cheek, her lip was bleeding. He threatened another bystander who was grumbling about their argument.
Joe Nighthawk stepped back one step, turned around, made eye contact with the bartender and said, “Call the cops.” The man turned in the direction of Joe and looked at the bartender himself and said, “If you do, I’ll bust your fuckin’ head too.” He was looking at Joe.
People started to move away from any proximity of Joe or the man. Some folks grabbed their coats and left. It was still quiet. the bartender stood their and looked at Joe as if to tell him he wasn’t going to be calling the police any time soon and that his own neck was more important right now.
“This ain’t none of your business, so get lost mister. You don’t have anything to say.” The big man said as he stood ten feet from Joe in the runway behind the bar stools. Joe didn’t flinch and kept breathing a slow steady tempo. “Move along asshole, this ain’t your fight.”
Inside, he was shaking.
He felt the muscles in his legs spasm. For a brief moment, he thought he would fall to one side from the weak feeling he had. He had been in this spot before.
After the war, he came home a bitter soldier that felt he had been betrayed by his countrymen. He drowned his sorrow and tried to escape that brief portion of his life in bottle after bottle of hard liquor. He has been in many a bar room brawl. he either started it, finished it or jumped into it as the adrenaline flowed. He never knew why he sought the wild side of things until many years later when he learned that it was part and parcel of the bigger picture. It was a mechanism to ward away the pain of trauma he experienced in the war.
Over the years, he mellowed. He met a woman about a year after he got home from Vietnam. They dated for only a short time before getting married in a frenzied Las Vegas moment. Within 10 years, they had three children. All girls. He never hit them, but exhibited this mean side through words and putting his fist through a wall in his home or the face of a bar patron. When he finally got arrested and jailed for public intoxication and lost yet another job, he sought some help with the pressure of a friend guiding his way.
It was a stroke of luck to have a friend that knew what was happening to him, how he was suffering and to get him off the booze and into accepting help. “I’m one of the lucky ones” he would say at times, until the depression slapped him on the face and he sang a different tune. One filled with shame and guilt, anger and fear, love and hate.
His wife, Carol, found out that she was a victim of her husbands illness. Just living with the day to day dealings of someone with PTSD molded and changed the personality of the codependent. Carol never drank, but lived in a world where she might just as well have been doing it all these years herself. her behavior was similar to her husbands.
She got help and shifted gears but stayed on for 21 years. She’s close by and has never turned Joe away, but she has also gone on and is living a good life away from the man she still loves. It’s been 12 long years now. She’s used to life without Joe. She doesn’t think about it much anymore, but harbors no malice after all these years.
If she was at the bar where Joe was standing, she would have tugged at his coat sleeve and whispered, “let’s just get out of her, Ok Joe?” She stopped going out with him early on in their relationship. She stopped listening to the stories soon after that. She knew how this trauma was like a disease and was spreading through her and the girls. She was wise enough to get out while she was still reasonably intact.
Joe wished she was there with him now. To pull him away. Tug at his sleeve so he could leave a toxic situation. he never listened to her before, but now wishes he had her to help him back down from the anger that swelled in him as he confronted the big hulk of a drunk who was about to turn wild like he had so many times before.
Sandy drove past many joints on the boulevard trying to find a place to park. It was uncharacteristic of her to go out to a bar for any reason. But she had it in her head that she needed a fix of live music, blues music. She was taking Kate’s suggestion and looking to try the Blues Club they talked about the night before at the Enigma. Cafe.
She thought the Enigma could be one of those dreamy after hours jazz places where all the performers visiting the big city would congregate after their gigs and sit down and jam. All it needed was a minor alteration of the lighting and a real chef. A late night hangout complete with the haunting groans of a saxophone and the piano keys tinkering while a raspy voiced singer hung around, smoking cigarette after cigarette waiting for the fusion to settle down.
It’s all changed now, she thought. No smoking in bars or restaurants. The real musicians didn’t play the bars much. there were only a few of the old style places around. You couldn’t make money doing jazz and coffee. Loud grinding chafing music with plenty of alcohol made money. It was how things evolved.
“Why on earth was she going out to a blues bar on a Saturday night, alone of all ways to do it, and not really wanting to drink alcohol for alcohol's sake?”, she thought to herself.
She was ready to head home. She’d watch a movie or read or listen to some of her own collection of music she has gathered over the years. She had some classic stuff on CD’s. She likes being in her own place and being occupied with her own style of living. She’d grown accustomed to it. When her second husband got killed by a drunk driver she settled into being alone. She surprised herself how quickly she got over it and was even ashamed that she didn’t have more remorse. It was sad to be sure, but not devastating. She rolled with it.
Some one had told her that it was out of her hands and she agreed. her first husband was the man she really loved anyway. His death was more tragic to her. The second man was using her and she used him as they thought they needed another in their lives to be normal. She learned and accepted that she could do just fine living alone and thinking for herself.
She saw a man standing by a parking meter. He was wearing a leather jacket and she caught site of his salt and pepper hair. He held his head in his hands as if he was sorry for what he has seen or crying over spilt milk. “Probably drunk.”, she said to herself as she stopped looking for a parking place and headed for home.
When she got home, she checked her voice mail. her Mom had called to tell her that she would like her to come and visit her tomorrow. She turned on the TV and started surfing through the cable channels. She felt a little tired, but more just relaxed. For some reason, she thought about the man she saw by the parking meter in front of that bar, The Deuces Wild. She saw the neon glittering in her head and saw the man. Then she wondered what made her think of that scene.
She fell asleep on her sofa at 10:30PM. The TV played on as she slept. At around 3 a.m., she awoke and was slightly amused that she crashed on the couch in her clothes. She still felt tired, but she was too lazy at this moment to get into a nightshirt. She went back to the sofa and watched a few minutes of an informercial about how to get rich overnight and wondered if anyone really ever called these one eight hundred numbers.
She didn’t want to sleep now. She went out into the December air, “Warm for December”, she thought. She headed for the Enigma Cafe and a cup of coffee.
Joe looked at the man. He was taller by about six inches and must have outweighed him by 50 pounds. He knew he wasn’t the man he used to be. Many stupid crazy fights as a drunk just to get his own head stoved in as he remembered it. But he always carried a sword for those that couldn’t defend themselves. This guy had used his big size and power to strike a woman and push others around. He knew he’d have to defend them, merely because of the man’s immense size and the fact that he knew what was right and what was wrong.
Joe spoke, “Don’t you ever watch the movies? Don’t you realize that the troublemaker always loses in these situations?”
Joe thought he’d get him into a discussion and maybe diffuse the whole affair. If he’d have thought about it, he knew better than that, but this was worth a try as he no longer had the desire to have his head caved in by a fast moving right hand to the side of his face.
The man stepped closer to Joe. There was only 36 inches separating the two of them. He roared, “It’s none of your fucking business asshole, now get lost!”
Joe said nothing and didn’t move. The big guy started to move his body and surprised Joe with his speed and agility not only for his size, but for his drunkenness, He lost nothing to coordination and his fist caught Joe and grazed off his scalp near the temple. It knocked him off balance, but he quickly caught himself and put his size 12 into the man’s crotch. The behemoth grabbed his pants, Joe hadn’t scored a direct hit. The man was angry and his veins popped from his neck. He reached out as if to grab his foe and tear him apart instead of the bludgeoning he started with. He got hold of Joe’s leather collar and pulled it towards himself. Joe tried to shake loose, but found his jacket going over his head.
Not wanting to be rendered blind from his jacket, Joe went with it and used all his weight to push the man. He succeeded for about six feet and felt his head against the mans chest as he slammed his back into the bar rail. He couldn’t hold him there, he was way too powerful and erratic. Joe worked his way free from the mans grip and came at him hard and swift to the solarplexis. Again and again, punches, like the piston of a locomotive, then the kicks to the groin scored a direct hit. Joe kept hitting and kicking him.
It was black, reality shut out and pure adrenaline kicked in. A flurry of fists non stop rendering the man helpless. The man was down, he was beaten into submission. Joe kept up the assault like a jack hammer. His mind was blank. Fear and sweat and all emotion spent this moment.
Bar patrons held his arms back when he started living again. His heart was pounding. The adrenaline had flushed his face to a bright red. The big man lay slumped on the floor. He was breathing. Joe hadn’t killed him. People in the bar were all a buzz and he heard bits and pieces of the conversations and comments saying things like, “He’ll never be able to have children after those blows to his nuts” and “Did you see how he hammered him?”
Joe turned into a wild man. His anger flared up and he lashed out. He was in the jungles of Vietnam again and had to survive. It was kill or be killed. He went blank and his mouth had a foul odor, his clothes were soaked with sweat. He wreaked of the bar and the stench of hatred and wished it was he on the floor and not the big man. He hunched his shoulders and went outside for air. No one really talked to him. One person asked him if he was all right. He nodded his answer, nodded a lie that said “Yes” and he headed for the door.
Outside, in the shadow of the orange and red neon, he slumped against a parking meter and put his hands to his head and cried.
Her hair was tousled, her make up askew. She looked at herself in the mirror and thought she looked like a raccoon. This guy was a good lay. He did all the right things. She knew she had the ability to manipulate them into her web, get what she wanted and then devour them and spit out the pieces when she had had her fill.
Katy washed her face and found a clean spot on an old towel in the strangers apartment. He slept away and didn’t even hear her leave. She took a taxi home. This john had taken her to his place in his car and they frolicked and made love until his drunken stupor took over and he fell asleep naked on his bed. She didn’t try to cover him up or offer comfort in any way. She just left. She told him her name was Tracy and that she lived in Perrysville and that was all.
She used him and used him up all in one night. Sometimes she’ll run into someone she has slept with before and they’ll remember her. But she usually succeeds in letting them believe they are mistaken. She’d never get away with that in a small town, but it was easy in the big city. One guy had her worried for a while though. He was a hanger on. He followed her and was good enough in bed and not smothering and she trusted him a bit too much. She let him live with her for a while and she found herself pregnant from a night of carelessness.
She had the abortion, immediately. She didn’t want to think about it. “A baby? No way.” she would say. So,when she found out she was pregnant, she was afraid and ran to the clinic and had the procedure done. The first time she got pregnant, she miscarried. The father of her love child disappeared right after the announcement, but she thought she should have the baby and thought she could take care of it and love it. When she lost it in the hospital around mid way though, she felt somewhat relieved.
The father of this first one was a brutal man. But she took the beatings as his undying love for her. He didn’t want her talking with “No other man” he would tell her. She mistook that for fidelity. It was domination but she was too young and not in tune with the rules of life yet when that happened.
It could be said that that is why she is how she is. Viewed as a slut, a whore. She’ll sleep around and let them spend their money and call her honey, then drop them like a scurvy rat in a bilge and go on to the next. Not looking for anything from anybody except a good time for a couple of hours and all the money she could get them to spend.
When Katy met Sandy, she had just been to the clinic to see a doctor. Sandy was a counselor there. She talked to the young women and tried to steer them to professional help though the program that was offered. She had taken a liking to Sandy because she took her time and seemed to listen.
Sandy had tried to get her into treatment for her own good. Sandy told her she was asking for trouble if she didn’t do something to curb her appetite for men, or at least learn and understand what she was feeling and her disdain. She told her she had wounds from the man that abused her and that therapy might do her good.
Katy got out of the taxi and went into her apartment and laid down on her bed and cried herself to sleep.
Sandy walked in to the Enigma Cafe, sat down and ordered a cup of coffee. As she sat there she melted into the vinyl booth seat and seemed to become part of it. Her body was tired, and now that she was seated, there was a comfort that came over her. She wanted to curl up and sleep now. A big yawn. Then she sipped her coffee.
She wondered sometimes, why she chose to spend her life living alone. Then, in a moment of reflection she realized and accepted her role in life as a helper. Her marriage, so to speak, was to the women at the abuse shelter where she volunteered from time to time.
That’s where she had met Katy. The young woman who was guided into her path by another kind soul who saw the bruises and the scars. Sandy had met her when she was pregnant the first time. When she miscarried, Sandy was the one who explained things to a young girl and took her under her wing.
Sandy was smart enough to know that her help wasn’t going to fix a girl like Katy. Because even though her steps and work seemed to offer some peace and understanding to a young problematic girl, the problems were there and a lot of hard work would be needed to make them go away.
Katy just wasn’t a strong spirit and if someone wasn’t there beside her to help her along life’s journey, she would fall again and again. One of these days, the fall might possibly be fatal. Sandy was wise enough to know that in the event of this kind of what seemed to be an inevitable tragedy, she had no control.
Katy wasn’t at the Enigma tonight. She didn’t work weekends. Sandy had little idea how Katy spent her days off. She knew she went out a lot to the bars and the clubs. She thought about how she couldn’t even bring herself to stop and search out some music in one of the Joints. She saw that man again, the gray haired man with his head in his hands in front of that place with all the neon.
Joe walked into the Enigma Cafe. He gazed along the line of booths along the window and with no hesitation of motion, walked towards where Sandy was sitting.
“Mind if I join you?” Joe asked.
“No, not at all.” said Sandy
Joe sat down. The left side of his face was swollen some, and had the reddish blue hue of a bruise up near the temple. A small cut was dark with a dot of clotted blood. he signaled, using a pot being poured, for a cup of coffee.
“My name’s Joe, Joe Nighthawk. I’ve seen you in here before. Katy says you come in here all the time.” Joe said to her. His boldness surprised him. He didn’t have a preconceived notion that he would see Sandy here at the Enigma tonight of all nights.
He was self conscious, now, about the bruise on his head. He had slowed his heart rate back to a normal cadence from the skirmish at the bar. He put it behind him for the moment. But now, here he was trying to woo a woman for the first time in years, and his head was swollen, bruised and bleeding.
“What on earth happened to you?” Asked Sandy.
Joe put his hand to his head and said, “Oh, this, just a little misunderstanding with a gentleman. Does it look bad?”
“Were you fighting? Did someone attack you? How did that happen?” Sandy showed concern in her voice. She reached over and grabbed a clean napkin from the holder and patted the spot gently as if to see if she could wipe it away.
Another group of people in the Enigma were talking loud and in a conversation between those in a booth and a man at the counter, it was evident they were talking about a fight. “You should have seen him. He was at least a foot taller than this guy but he hammered him down to the floor. He never had a chance against that guy. He had it coming, too. He smacked some gal and was pushing people around.”
The talk continued and the story was told in bits and pieces and what parts Sandy caught made perfect sense. Her new found suitor was the “guy” the patron was talking about.
“That you?” asked Sandy as she hoisted her thumb and pointed it towards the conversation that was filtering over towards them.
Joe nodded in the affirmative. Sandy didn’t have any particular thoughts, but wanted to comfort and heal the man. Joe sipped a little coffee and said, “well, nice to have finally met you. Sorry about all this.” And he used his whole hand as he gestured towards his bruised head and embarrassed face. He started to get up and leave. Sandy stopped him short.
“You don’t have to go, it’s okay. I saw you in front of that neon place. Must have been right after it happened. You all right now?” Sandy comforted.
Joe stopped getting up and slowly slid back into the booth. ”Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thanks.”
They each just sat there and sipped coffee. resting. They’d look up every once in a while but seemed to never make eye contact. They talked about the weather, the Enigma, the city where they lived and their common thread, Katy.
Sandy and Joe had talked for only a short time last Saturday night at the Enigma. They parted company knowing each other’s name and that maybe they’d see each other again at the Cafe sometime. She had finished her work at the offices. She would make her stop at the Enigma. She hoped she’d see Joe again. She sensed a strong willed man. She thought him rugged and good looking without a pretense. She felt he was himself and presented himself to her as if he had known her all his life. She’d do a few extra things to pass a little more time at work. She knew Joe usually came in later than she did. She’d linger a while and hopefully catch him at the Cafe.
Joe was in his usual routine. He slept a little and was up and moving around by two AM. The mild December early morning had him walking to the Enigma. He wondered if he’d see Sandy there. He was a bit earlier than what is normal for him. Maybe that was his plan, he thought.
Katy was tired. She had a long weekend of drinking and less sleep than usual as she shopped and watched TV and generally kept busy in hopes of keeping her demons away. She had done it again. She let herself down, so to speak, because she knew that her behavior did nothing good for her health and even less for her fragile mind.
She was at work. The Cafe was as usual for this time during the graveyard shift. A few folks drinking coffee, the occasional working stiff having breakfast. She saw Sandy come in and smiled. She sure liked seeing a friendly face. Then she recognized another regular, Joe Nighthawk. She loved that name. She saw the black and blue bruise on his face when he walked in.
Sandy was seated at the counter and talking to Katy drinking coffee. Joe sat down next to her and said, “Good Morning. Come here often?” He smiled and was being coy. He knew she was there often after work. They had established some comfort level of acquaintance last Saturday night.
“How’s your head?” Sandy looked at the bruise.
“What happened to you?” asked Katy.
“Nuthin’ Just got into a little tangle, bumped me up pretty good.” Joe answered. A little embarrassed, a little ashamed, but happy that he felt so free to be able to make conversation on such a casual level.
They sat at the counter and intertwined their lives in the simplest of terms as they drank coffee at the Enigma cafe. The night spoke to all three of them. They made peace with themselves at night. Now they shared a portion of it with others. Behavior so natural to many that was so fleeting and distant to them on any given day was being played out as such a natural occurrence. The night drifted into early morning light and Katy started to get busy doing the work she had neglected. Sandy and Joe left close to about the same time.
On her way home. Sandy felt the uneasiness that she has held to her heart before. She liked Joe, but was afraid she’d be giving the man the kiss of death if she were to get involved with him. But she enjoyed his company and his gentle manner. She had a hard time envisioning him fighting in a bar, but no trouble seeing him fighting to defend another persons persecution.
Joe was thinking how strange that he went up to this stranger at the Enigma just a couple of days ago. Now, they seemed to be friends. He liked sitting and talking with Sandy very much. He saw her as beautiful and liked looking at her. He hoped he hadn’t been staring in reality as he was looking deep into her eyes as he walked home in the sweet mild December morning air.
Katy finished her shift and left the cafe. She thought it a bit strange that her friend Sandy and this Mr. Nighthawk had met and seemed to become friends over the weekend. Why couldn’t she meet a man like that? she wondered. She seemed to always pick the losers and believed she got nothing emotional at all from any man in her life.
Sandy and Joe spent the next days seeing each other at the Enigma cafe. Each would act as if it was routine to be there at the same time, but each also knew the other was coming earlier than usual or later than usual to be there and share some time sipping hot coffee, laughing, crying and making friends as they told each other the high points and low points of their lives.
Katy was there, too. She felt a little left out at the Cafe, but she did have Sandy all to herself on the phone and e-mail. In one e-mail, Katy asked Sandy directly about her involvement with Joe Nighthawk:
Do you love him? I mean, you guys are there every night together. You seem to get along real well. I mean What is going on? Tell me Sandy, I have to know!
Sandy’s response was always slow and measured and level headed. She sure liked Joe a lot, she even was thinking “those” kinds of feelings for him. But, she didn’t tip her hand to Katy and certainly didn’t want Joe Nighthawk to hear anything about her feelings for him from anyone but her and her alone, and only when she felt the time is right.
Joe had Sandy on his mind often as well. He would contemplate his next move. He feared any sort of rejection and asking her anything past superficial was going to be a challenge, He’d start with dinner. Some place half way nice, but somewhere away from the familiar Enigma cafe. He’d ask her tonight.
Katy was getting through the workweek, barely. She went out twice and drank too much. She has been getting high on pot and her thoughts when she was by herself have been erratic. It was Friday night, or early saturday morning at the Cafe. Sandy and Joe had met up there like they had every other night for the past week. Katy wasn’t there tonight. Sandy thought it strange. Joe didn’t pay it any mind.
“She just took a day off sick. Maybe she needed a long weekend.” Joe said.
“No, I know her pretty well, Joe. I think something’s wrong. It just isn’t like her to skip work. that’s not her style.” Sandy exclaimed.
Sandy asked the waitress who had come in to cover Katy’s shift. She just said that the owner had called her and asked her if she could work because they needed someone. The cook said just about the same thing with the addition of the fact that the call came early in the day.
Sandy was sure that something was wrong. It was four o’clock in the morning. Sandy wasn’t going to call Katy’s place now. She’d wait until later. But she told Joe that she didn’t feel right about this at all and vowed to make sure she found out if anything happened.
“Call me when you find out, okay?” Joe asked.
“Sure, sure, I’ll call you.” answered Sandy.
Joe and Sandy lingered around and resumed their chat. The discussion was about food and Joe jumped on that with an invite to dinner.
“Yeah?” she said.
“I was just thinking. How about going out and having dinner at Carrabba’s tomorrow night, You like Italian?” joe asked with a sort of a twisted grin on his face. Inside he was nervous. He wanted her to say yes and took the risk of a refusal, but Sandy answered right away and he didn’t have to hold his breath very long.
“Sure, That sounds like it would be great fun. I love Italian food. You been there before?”
Joe smiled a big smile. He was elated. He hadn’t dated in many years. He was confused to some degree now. Why was he attracted to this particular woman? Why had it been so hard to be with women over the years and why was it so easy to be bold with Sandy?
“Joe? Have you been there before? Is it good?” Sandy was pleading for an answer.
Joe said. “Oh yeah. It’s real good. I haven’t been there in a while, but it’s good real Italian food.”
They finished their conversation and left the Enigma together. They didn’t seem like they wanted to part company. They each knew that aside from the dinner date on Saturday, there would be no excuse to meet in the middle of the night until next week. Joe wanted to say something special. He wanted to grab her and give her a hug. He wanted to kiss this woman. His life was changing for him in a short time and she was the reason.
Sandy felt the attraction as well. She hadn’t been with a man for quite some time. She really couldn’t remember the last time. She was ready. Joe brought that out in her. She was steaming to be held. It was time.
“Joe, why don’t we head over to my place and have some breakfast?” Sandy smiled and looked at him as she spoke. Her eyes moaned for him. Joe looked at her with fear and happiness expressing his desire for her.
“My car or yours?” Asked Joe.
They arrived at Sandy’s place and went inside. Sandy started a pot of coffee and pulled open the refrigerator door. Joe was looking around and admiring the diverse works of art that Sandy had hanging around her apartment.
“Make yourself at home, I’ll put some coffee on and get some breakfast started.” said Sandy. She had a lightness in her voice and a smile on her face. She hadn’t had a suitor in this apartment before. She has lived there for the past seven years.
Joe took off his shoes as they were wet from the rain that saturated the streets and sidewalks of Cleveland in the unseasonably warm December. He had a smile on his face and wondered if Sandy was an artist or art collector or both.
Sandy came out of the kitchen and brushed past Joe as he stood up from his shoe detail. Joe reached out and gently put his hand on her arm. She turned and they fell into a firm embrace. Joe put his lips on hers, she returned the desire. They locked themselves into a long passionate kiss. Sandy melted into him and she felt his strong arms around her holding her up. They put their heads on each others shoulders and each of them softly explored where they could reach without straining.
In the bedroom, they slid out of their clothes slowly and deliberately as they explored each other with their fingertips, tongues and senses. A series of flushes passed over Joe as he realized what the touch of a woman meant to him and how much he has longed for the right woman to take him from his celibacy. It had been so long since he has had this experience. He seemed to lose consciousness as his mind was lost to the sensual reeling in his head.
Sandy found herself realizing that she, too, longed for the touch of the right man and that Joe seemed so right, right now. They felt each other climb to the top and release their pleasure to each other, neither holding back any emotion but rather giving their full attention to their connection.
They lay there and held each other and both of them closed their eyes and enjoyed a half sleep, half awake recovery from their spent selves. Each of them not ever wanting to let go of the moment or each other. The December morning was starting to brighten and when they opened their eyes and looked at each other, they smiled and kissed softly, and sighed, and let their muscles relax and both felt the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders.
Both of them had allowed themselves to trust another for the first time in years. Both of them had a lot to think about, but it all would wait. This beautiful moment was theirs right now and no matter what was in their future, this time spent together would be a memory to share forever.
“What d’ya got here?” Asked the detective when he arrived on the scene at the apartment building on the west end of town.
The uniformed officer directing the activity at the scene answered, “Looks like a suicide attempt. EMT’s have things settled down. Victim is a young female, sleeping pills and a bottle of tequila were found nearby where she lay.”
The siren sounded and the ambulance drove off towards the hospital in a hurry. The building caretaker had seen the door cracked open and the young girl laying near the door. Things didn’t look right, so he called the police.
The paramedics were summoned as soon as the police arrived on the scene. An empty prescription bottle was laying nearby her barely clad body and a bottle of tequila was laying on its side, almost empty.
“We got a name?” asked the investigator.
“Yeah, A Kathleen Johnson. Caretaker says she works nights, that’s why he took a look when he saw the door cracked open. He thought she left it open or someone had broken in. He was checking it out when he saw her laying there. He called us.” Answered the cop.
The paramedics thought the worse, but when they checked things out, they saw a large wet spot near the empty liquor bottle. They figured most of the tequila spilled out and she passed out before she could drink it to wash down the sleeping pills.
It looked to the medics that she would recover. They think they caught her in time to get her stable and to the hospital. Katy had finally tried suicide to hasten the reality in her mind of a life not worth living. Her scrapes with pregnancies and drug use, physical abuse at the hand of a miserable dreg of a man and feeling alone and unloved in an urban city along the shores of the great lake in Cleveland, Ohio.
She was being taken to the hospital and was unconscious. Whether she lives or dies is still a question to the medical people, but to her, she died a while ago and was just putting on the finishing touches.
The woman on the overnight shift, at the women’s shelter, just about ready to get off, answered the phone and took the message that a former resident had been found and had attempted suicide. The phone number of the shelter was the last number dialed on her cell phone and the name of the shelter was found on records scattered on a table in Katy’s apartment.
Sandy’s friend, Karen, was a member of the full time staff at the shelter. Sandy had been a volunteer there for a number of years and had worked with Katy in particular. The two women had worked with the young girl off and on over the last few years. Karen got the message as soon as she came in to work on a rainy Saturday morning. Karen knew the girl and attended to the policies of the shelter by sending someone to the hospital to find out what happened with one of their own.
Karen would wait until she collected the facts and then would call her volunteer friend, Sandy, and tell her the news.
The phone rang and Sandy got up to answer it. Joe watched her walk across the room and saw her body sway as she went towards the phone. She made no attempt at modesty. All seemed so natural to both of them. This revelation would surprise them later, but right now Sandy was shrieking, “What? Is she going to be all right? Where? I’ll be right there!”
Joe had heard the loudness and the fear in her voice and got up and asked. “What happened?”
“It’s Katy, She’s in the hospital. She tried to kill herself. I gotta get over there.” She said this as she felt her nakedness and quickly went into the bathroom and pulled a towel around herself.
Joe grabbed his pants and put something on his bottom half and asked Sandy, “What hospital is she at? Can I go with you?”
Sandy and Joe get dressed and went to the intensive care center at the hospital. Sandy had been around here before and knew her way around. She had parked close to the emergency room door and when Joe looked back as if he was reading the parking restriction sign, Sandy shrugged a half hearted wave towards the regulation and steadily walked towards the door. Joe followed close behind. He admired her decisiveness and leadership. He remembered the days when he felt like he was in control and a leader of men.
They walked into the intensive care area and the nurse at the desk pointed towards the door of the room Katy was in as soon as she recognized Sandy from the shelter. Joe was more impressed at stature and respect she was shown when she entered the area. Her positive approach to be there in the middle of someone else’s problem made him wonder if he’d be in the way. He slowed and lost a few steps and lagged behind Sandy as she went into the room.
Sandy looked back and gestured for Joe to come forward. Even in the midst of turmoil and tragedy, she managed to remember she was with Joe. He started seeing Sandy in a completely new light and joined in the concern for the girl from the Enigma Cafe. Katy was hooked up to a myriad of tubes. A nurse typed on a computer keyboard and another adjusted knobs and worked at untwisting the many lines.
Sandy asked a few questions and spoke in a quiet whisper to the nurse that was doing the typing. The nurse answered. They spoke for a few minutes and Joe could catch a few words here and there. As he understood it, Katy was going to be all right.
They walked out of the intensive care room and Sandy told Joe what had happened. She gave Joe a sketchy background as she thought Joe knew of Katy’s troubled past. When Joe told her he didn’t really know all the details, Sandy explained what she could about Katy as if she was speaking to a friend of Katy’s and a trusted friend of her own.
“I’ll be busy for a while helping Katy get back to normal. I’ll have to work harder at convincing her she needs some help. I’ve failed before, but she seemed stable. I didn’t see this coming. I neglected her.” said Sandy.
“She’s lucky to have your help. Is there anything I can do?” asked Joe.
Sandy told Joe that Katy needed to be put in an inpatient care facility and stay there for an undisclosed period of time. her friend from the woman’s shelter, Karen, had come to the hospital and Sandy and her talked about Katy and her shaky future. Joe felt out of place.
“Excuse me, Sandy, I’m going to head out. I’ll catch up to you later, okay?” said Joe.
“Sure Joe, I’m so sorry. Call me later, please? Here, take my car, I’ll get a ride with Karen.”
Her face looked at his and he knew she meant it. She smiled a sweet smile and Joe told her that he’d keep in touch as he caught the keys when she tossed them in his direction. He went home and sat down in a chair and thought about all that has happened in the past 18 hours. He dozed off on the Laz-Z-boy and enjoyed a dreamless slumber the likes he hasn’t had in quite some time.
Sandy and Karen stayed around the hospital long enough to gather a little more information. Karen dropped her off at her apartment and Sandy showered and went to sleep. Her thoughts were scattered as Joe and the thought of their lovemaking flashed into her mind over and over again. She was afraid she was falling in love, but it felt better than she remembered and she also slept in a peaceful way.
Katy sat up in the hospital bed as her visitors came in. Sandy and Karen, her friends and counselors from the shelter came to help her make some plans for her future. It looks like Katy will be transferred to an inpatient care facility where she can receive some therapy and hopefully get back to everyday living with a better frame of mind.
This will be a hard sell to Katy. Sandy and Karen want her to understand that they will be behind her and offer support. Her life has been filled with busted dreams from the beginning. The challenge will be to get her some help, but also to encourage her towards accepting the help and participating in defining a path for her future. She needs to make some effort herself if this was going to work.
After their visit with Katy, they went to the Enigma for a cup of coffee. They needed to catch up on the things that friends tell each other and discuss Katy’s situation and their roll in her future. Surely they would help all they could as a member of the shelter’s staff, and a member of the shelter’s volunteer staff.
“Haven’t seen as much of you as I have in the past, Sandy. How are things?” asked Karen.
Sandy, busting to tell her friend about her new special friend, Joe Nighthawk, wasn’t sure she knew exactly what you’d call their relationship. She stumbled for words, but then said, ”Karen, I’ve met a man. A really nice man.”
Sandy confided in her friend and told her how they met right there in the Enigma Cafe. She pointed to the booth where they sat when they first officially met. She had some confusion in her voice, but also a lot of excitement. She was confused because it had been a long time since she related to anyone romantically. She still had the idea in her head that she would be a bad omen for any man.
But Joe made her feel different for some reason. He wasn’t forceful or demanding inn any way, yet, why is he still married to his wife? Why haven’t they divorced after living apart for the past twelve years? Joe told her that he never worried about it because he didn't’ think he’d ever get married again. He had told Sandy that his wife, Carol has never asked either. Both Carol and Joe were in agreement and decided that there was no need to do anything about it, but if either of them wanted to, for any reason, the other would step aside and make this step easy.
“Karen, Joe makes me feel so good. He has a gentle nature it seems, but then again, we’re just getting to know each other. I want to take my time and see how he looks at it. For now, I have no reason to believe we won’t be dating for a long time. Who knows from there?” Sandy told her friend.
“Good luck girl. You deserve a good man if anybody does. It’ll work out, I’m sure of it.” Karen said, making Sandy feel confident.
“You know something Karen?” Sandy was looking around the Enigma cafe in the daylight when she asked.
“What?” replied Karen.
“I’ve never been in the Enigma in the daytime before. Always at night after work. They have a nice bright view of downtown here, don’t they?” Sandy exclaimed as her face was lit up in the afternoon sunshine. “Sure is sunny and warm, can’t believe it’s December.”
Joe was thinking as he sat at home reading a magazine. He usually wasn’t up at this time of day. He noticed the daylight and bright sun through the window. He even cracked it open to let in some of the fresh air on such a fine day. He thought to himself what weird weather for December.
He also was thinking of Sandy. He found himself doing that a lot and didn’t mind it one bit. He kept reliving his mouth on hers and how tender and soft her lips were, how sweet she tasted when she kissed him. He wondered about the future and how to go about it. This was new ground for him, he thought to himself. He didn’t want to screw it up.
There was so much they would need to know about each other. He has lived alone for the past twelve years, yet was still a legally married man. Sandy knew this, but had not told him how she felt about it. He would call Carol, he thought, he wanted to tell her.
“Hello, Carol?” Joe said when a woman’s voice answered the phone.
“No Dad, it’s me, Marshall, your daughter?!” she said sarcastically.
“Hi honey, how are you? I haven’t talked to you in about a month, sorry about that, I’ve been busy”, Joe tried to be sorry, but his daughter saw right through him. “What are you doing at home, visiting Mom?”
“Yeah, just stopped by for a quick hello, I’m busy too.” said Marshall, Joe’s youngest daughter. Marshall was 28 now. Her sister, Alison, was 30. Both have grown into beautiful people, Joe thought, in spite of him not being around. He had shame and guilt, but also has accepted the facts as his own wife and children have accepted him as he is.
They harbor no grudges and Joe was finally believing that his wife and both his daughters still loved him. He wanted to be a good Dad and husband, but the thoughts and sadness that raced through his head kept him from that all those years long ago. When he moved out, he actually got along better with Carol and they both decided to keep their distance from each other, but keep in touch.
It was hard on the girls, but Carol had a knack about explaining things and never allowed them to become bitter and hate their Father. As they grew up and left home for their own adventures, Dad wasn’t always at the forefront, but he never forgot them and keeps in touch. His daughters love him very much.
“Is Mom there? Can I talk to her?” Said Joe
‘Sure dad, just a sec. Mom, it’s dad”, Joe heard her say away from the mouthpiece of the phone.
“Hi Joe, how are you. It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you. Is everything all right?” Carol asked him in a soft soothing way.
“Yeah, I’m doing good. Just haven’t talked to you guys in a while and wanted to say hello and check up on things.” Said Joe.
Joe and Carol talked for a few minutes as Carol caught him up to date on what has been going on in her life and the girls’ lives. Carol lived alone for a few years, but when she met Matt, her live in boyfriend, she felt a satisfaction that she was not alone. She knew Joe couldn’t give her his life. It took her some time to accept it all, but she had and has moved on. She knows she will always love Joe on some level, though.
“Carol, how's about you and I and the girls getting together for dinner before the holidays make us all too busy?” asked Joe
“That sounds good Joe. Hardly seems like December with the weather the way it’s been.” answered Carol. “Do you want me to invite Matt?”
“No, No Carol, if you don’t mind. Just you and the girls this time, okay?” Joe quickly answered.
“No problem Joe, just us, okay.” Carol said exactly what he wanted her to say. Joe was glad that Carol was so easy going, and happy to have a date planned with his family.
Joe decided he would tell Carol that he has met someone. He wanted to share this with his wife and daughters. He was full of anticipation over what they’d say, but he was sure that he would get their blessing.
Joe was worried. His track record wasn’t so good with women. He lasted twenty one years with Carol but credits all of it to her determination and effort. He knows now that he was a handful to deal with. Over the years, Joe sought out some help with his problems and the demons of his mind. Time marched on and when Carol started living her own life and met Matt, he backed off of any ideas of getting back with with her.
He slowly let Carol go and with the help of counselors at his weekly meetings, he is fine with it. Now, he feels like it’s time to move on, make the split official and divorce Carol. He knows she is happy with Matt and that the girls like him, but he still feels strange inside about what Sandy might think or if she’ll understand at all.
The last thing he would want is for Sandy to be out of the picture, but he sensed that she wasn’t going to rush into things. They went to bed and shared their love passionately, but this was not an everyday occurrence, and there has been no talk of living together, yet Joe felt secure when he was with her and hoped that he spread this feeling to her as well.
Time would tell. He’d follow Sandy’s cue. He’d let her set the pace, and try his damnedest not to let her get away. He looked nat the clock and saw that he had been awake all day. This is unusual. He normally slept days and was up most of the night. He felt he was like that from some form of circumstance surrounding his name. Joe Nighthawk.
He told Carol and his daughters that he had met a woman and was dating. When they were finished at the restaurant and the girls left for home, Joe told Carol all about Sandy. He was definitely fishing for her approval.
Carol just smiled and told him, “Joe, it’s time for you to do what you need to do. Please know I am one hundred percent behind you. I’m happy the way things are now. If you need me to say okay, then you got it. It’s all okay with me. I love you Joe. I want you to be happy.”
The next weeks brought Christmas to Joe and Sandy. Neither of them actually celebrated the holiday religiously, but they both liked to get into the spirit of seeing friends and spending time with them during this time.
January brought colder more seasonable weather to Cleveland. the blustery winds howled off of the Great Lake Erie. Katy entered a treatment program and is so far following orders and working hard to become real again as she puts it. She has two great Mother’s in Karen and Sandy, and Joe Nighthawk has added the dimension of a Father to her.
Sandy and Joe spend a lot of time together. Sandy is the rock steady force that is a strong voice for stability. Joe needed this structure very desperately. He has let go of so many preconceptions about love and relationships. Then horror that he could never love or be loved is becoming a distant memory.
Sandy, too, is overcoming her fear that she is a curse to any man she loves. She knows she loves Joe very much and he loves her. Joe and Carol have agreed to do the paperwork to legitimize their divorce. Showing respect for Carol and for Sandy.
Sandy’s work has her finished and home before midnight. She goes home and reads. Joe has been usually sleeping by that time. They meet sometime in the morning, usually. They go to the Enigma Cafe for breakfast quite often.
The Enigma, during the late night, has been a place that people pass through on their way through life. For Sandy and Joe, they seem to have come full circle and no longer need this place to console their loneliness.
Katy paid some dues for life doing the overnight shift at the Enigma Cafe. Life caught up to her and in her youthful view of the world, she paid the price and recovery is up to what effort she puts forth. Her odds are greater with the help and support and love of friends.
Joe and Sandy see the Enigma in a new light now. They see it in the light of day, but recall the way it looks on the night they met. There is talk that the owner of the Enigma Cafe is considering the possibility of closing at 10:00PM and reopen at six in the morning. It is just too hard to find staff that will work overnight.
Until or if that happens, the Enigma Cafe will be a beacon in the middle of the night for those that need a place to go and hide out in public when the demons of their own life haunt them in their own home or circumstance.
It is January in Cleveland. It is late at night, or early in the morning, depending on your point of view. A man opens the door at the Enigma Cafe. He is wearing an overcoat and the collar is pulled up over his neck to his ears to ward off the cold blasts of winter. He sits down and orders a cup of coffee. The waitress draws it from the big silver urn and places the heavy ceramic mug down in front of him.
All is well in the world now.