Bernice and Garry: It’s All In the Cards
Then the pause you never want to hear. “I don’t know,” she says, “I’m going to be out of town for two weeks. I’ll be visiting my sister in Phoenix. Maybe when I come back, if you’re still interested.” I suppose it’s open to interpretation, but to me this was her way of telling me the romance ship had sailed…
The holidays are upon us. Ten days of glorious idleness in which to reflect on the successes of the past year with enough time left over to ratchet up for the new year. Out in the world faces are aglow with hope and good cheer. But for me the glow is more pallor than sheen. The streets are bustling with folks with holiday pep in their step. Me I’m slinking around like a Vegas loser whose winnings were in the stratosphere until lady luck gave him the cold shoulder.
The lone consolation was not having to endure Rose’s pitying headshakes. I’m running and reading in the daytime. Most nights I’m lying on the couch letting the television watch me as I doze intermittingly. One night during doze I was accosted with visions of a chorus of my students looming over me and chanting derisively, “You lost her card. You lost her card. You lost her card.” This vision faded into one of Rose leading my friends in a New Orleans style funeral march around my coffin/couch vamping on theme “You shoulda come clean. You shoulda come clean.”
Then fade to black with echoes of empty laughter. Slowly a small, out of focus image begins to fill the blackness. It’s Bernice, no it’s Bernice sitting and listening patiently to Margaret read. As the image grows and comes into focus I see her face, patient, encouraging, but with a hint of pity. Margaret fades out, replaced by full-screen close-up of Bernice’s face. She’s looking down at me and I realize the patient, encouraging, hint of pity look is for me. Only the patience has faded into a look of sad reproach. Her slight smile drives the hint of pity like a stake through my heart.
They say you never die in your dreams but you couldn’t prove it by me. Cut to a tombstone with the etched in stone epitaph,
Garry Cox 1942-1992
He should have come clean.
From a distance I hear my landlord friend Clyde repeating my name. “Garro (pause), Garro (pause), Garro” And then no pause and much louder, “Garro, wake up man. It’s too early to go to bed. Wake up, I’ve got some mail for you.”
I open my eyes, sit up, and sheepishly accept a square envelope that usually indicates a card of some sort. I am eternally grateful for being delivered from my appalling dream but there’s no way I could explain it to Clyde so I lamely remark, “Thanks. I hope it’s not a bill.”
“So, open it already,” says Clyde.
I’m oddly reluctant, although I have no sense the card inside is personal. That is until I look at the return address, Phoenix, Arizona 85032 and feel a spark of expectation. In a sorry attempt at nonchalance I open the card. There are a couple of pictures, which I ignore because nothing will validate my growing excitement but the message. I find it. “Just thought you might want to see how I spend my vacations, Bernice”. Then I look at the pictures; one is a shot of a swimming pool, bordered by a golf course with a Dreamsicle colored building in the background that I assume houses vacation condos. The other picture is Bernice stretched out on a pool chair wearing a two-piece bathing suit, eyes closed soaking in the sun. “Dam,” I say to myself. “I never realized her legs were that long.” Then I look up at Clyde who is still standing there waiting for a report. “It’s a card from a friend of mine. Lady who does literacy volunteer work at my evening site.”
“What’s she doing in Phoenix?”
“And she sends you a card?”
“Probably just wants to rub it in because we’re stuck in the frozen Midwest.”
Clyde is either satisfied with my response or has lost interest and leaves the scene.
Alone now my spirits are rising. Cloud nine won’t be able to hold me. I don’t claim to be wise in affairs of the heart, but we’re not talking rocket science here. A woman sends you an unsolicited card, including pictures? She is thinking about you, dude. You can take that to the bank. Hot Dam! My luck has done a 180; the Romance is on again.