Let’s just say time passed.
No need to go into all of it. Alcohol was involved.
There was banging at the cellar door.
I ignored it, until it sounded like Duke was running a freight train against the portal.
Finally I went down and yelled at him, “Cut it out!”
He reminded me about the contract signed in blood. He made threats that were increasingly explicit.
I yelled back, “Doris is gone. She says she needs time to think. Damn you, Duke, this is your fault!”
He laughed. “Damn me? Get in line, pal.”
“I can’t do anything until I sort this out.”
“How long you think that’s going to take?”
“I don’t know.”
“Try forever. I were you, forget about sorting out. Try learning to live with.”
“Learn to live without her?”
“I’m saying let it breathe. Get on with your life. Open the damn door.”
“Then read the fine print, is all I got to say.”
“Based on long association, Fatman. I’m cutting you some slack. Go ahead, sort. Wallow. Two days, I’ll be back. My advice, be ready to pop the hatch.”
Then the cryptic messages from Doris, delivered via text.
Love you but need time to consider…
Consider what, I replied.
Nothing in response.
Where are you? I wrote.
Safe. Quiet here. Good for thinking.
When you coming back?
When it’s right.
We should talk.
Should know my own mind first.
You even in the country?
Not important where I am.
Love you Charles. All for now.
That was it. All I could do was wait.
You see Doris from across the room and you think, Buttercup! That pile of hair, the curls, the big eyes looking up at you, the plump lips, the sly smile — you want to believe she’s putty in your hands but really what you’ve got is an anvil. Once Doris makes up her mind, the negotiations are over.
I was angry. Angry to find myself in a position of such weakness. Angry that she was so hard-headed. Angry that Duke had me on a leash again.
But that wasn’t all of it.
All the idiotic observations I made to her and that she indulged— what to do with those now? All the little taps and pats and kisses — all those reminders that we exist on this earth — oh, without her I felt at the end of the day that I could turn into fog and drift into nothingness.
When Duke banged on the door again I was beside myself. I wondered if now he was all I had.
I should have known better.
Instead I opened the door.
Monday: You got wi-fi down here?