I pull out Jeremiah’s number and contemplate whether or not to call him. It’s seven-thirty Seattle time which means it’s nine-thirty in Houston. Today is Wednesday and he is probably sitting at a happy hour somewhere on Richmond enjoying a beer with a few of his co-workers. Or, he is out on a hot date with an exotic looking girl sipping on Mumms Cuvee and listening to smooth jazz. A single young, good-looking man like himself could be doing a number of things besides sitting at home. I take a leap of faith and dial his number. By the fourth ring I hear the phone pick up and I hear a soft shallow voice utter, “Hello.”
I am about to leave a message before I realize he is on the other line.
“Hi Jeremiah, I expected your answering machine to pick up.”
“I’m unwinding, sipping a little cognac and listening to some music.”
“How was work?”
“Double shift. My dogs are killing me.”
An image of Jeremiah in his uniform pops into mind. I’ve always seen him from the waist up so I envision his forest green shirt with the AirExpress emblem and ID badge dangling around his neck.
“You sound really tired.” I say for lack of a better word.
“I’m much better now.” He says just as the tempo of his voice increases. I hear a Louisiana based dialect that wasn’t there before.
“I just knew you were out somewhere having yourself a good time.”
“Why do you say that?”
“A single good-looking guy could find a lot to do on a Wednesday night. Don’t you have a girlfriend?” It’s not uncommon for a guy to be involved and still dabble on the side.
“No girlfriend at the present.”
An alarm went off. I’m not looking to get involved but you can’t tell that by my conversation.
“Have you ever been married?”
“I was married for ten years.” Wow, that’s a lifetime in today’s age.
“No.” Dear Lord, something’s wrong with his soldiers.
“How old are you?”
“How old do I look?” Thirty-five.
“I might guess the wrong age.”
“You’ll be surprised.”
“Thirty-seven.” I blurted out.
“You’re way off. I’m forty-two.”
“You’re not forty-two.”
“Yes I am.”
“You easily had me fooled.”
“You should see me when I haven’t shaved. That gray starts sprouting like wild grass.”
“Salt and pepper looks sexy on you.” I don’t want to sound too suggestive.
“I’m a little self-conscious of it.”
“They have dye in a box you could use.”
“No way. That’s not me.”
“So tell me about your marriage, what happened?” I open the curtains to my hotel room. Darkness is just falling across the Seattle sky. I pull up a chair and rest my feet on top of a desk. I don’t care if I have to get up around five-thirty tomorrow morning. I am on the phone with Jeremiah and I am all ears.
“You want the Reader’s Digest version?”
“I want your interpretation of it.” I was told there were three sides to every story. His side, her side and the truth.
“My ex-wife was a very selfish woman.”
“Did you know this before you married her?”
“I saw signs of it but I was too blind to see it. You know about that?”
“Boy don’t I.”
“When we met she had no college degree and she was still living at home with her mother.”
“Where did you meet her?”
“We worked in customer relations.”
“What was the initial attraction?”
He paused. I don’t know if he was thinking or taking a sip from his glass.
“She was outgoing, witty, charming. She carried herself with a lot more class than most of the women at the office. She was well-traveled, she came from a really good family.”
“When did you start seeing the truth?”
“About two years into the marriage. I saw how she dealt with money. I worked so she could go back to school. She got her bachelor’s degree and worked part-time and I thought that once she got her degree she would join the workforce. But, she went back to school and got her master’s degree. She applied for loans that she didn’t really need and went shopping like she had a million dollars. She ended up getting a car she couldn’t afford. I thought once she got her master’s degree that she would get a job. But no, she went back and got a doctorate...”