It is often hard to see the beginning when you are at an end. In Lew Decker’s entry, looking up at the sky–something we often turn to for inspiration for the future–is too cloudy of a task to be able to have hope for the future. Because even if we see it coming or have been staring at it for a long time and are past the initial shock, no matter how poetic it may be, parting is such
sweet sorrow. Please enjoy,
by Lew Decker
Just after dawn a dying front wandered through Key West and left behind a patchwork of puddles that meandered all the way down Angela Street. When the low sun emerged from the clouds, it cast in silver the chain of puddles and the last of the raindrops beading in the thick grass of the cemetery.
Nathan Addison stepped off the bus and glanced at the puddles and then at the tombstones streaked from the rain across the way. He yawned out of nervousness and made his way down Angela to the end of the block where the Legal Aid building sagged over the intersection: an aging Phantom Mask, shiny from the rain and steaming in the rising sun. He ducked through a narrow side entrance and climbed two flights of wooden stairs where he found Frederic standing near an open door at the top of the landing.
“Hi, Nate. I’m glad you could make it,” he said. “I’m sorry about this.”
Frederic stretched himself in the doorway and took a huge breath to try to fill the extra-large shirt he wore. Nate forced a smile and then shook Frederic’s outstretched hand. Fred turned and strutted over to a Navy surplus office desk cluttered with papers.
“I really am sorry about this,” he said again, “but I think it’s a good idea that you clear things up before you leave. Where’s Sarah?”
“I didn’t want her to be any part of this,” Nate said. “I didn’t want any part of it, either. What have you got?”
“Just some tag ends to complete the proceedings. I think this will wrap it up. We’ll have to wait to hear from the court, but you can head south to the Caribbean. There won’t be anything else, at least not for quite a while.”
“I suppose you’re right. It makes me feel like a failure, even after all this time.”
“I know what you mean. Sign where I’ve highlighted in yellow. There are four sheets in all. Do you want me to go over the bogus charges?”
“No. Isn’t it just mental cruelty or some such nonsense?”
“Basically, but you know how the legal system works. There has to be fault somewhere, and you’re it.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong, Fred.”
“Believe me, I know, but if there is no fault, there is no divorce. It doesn’t matter that the law defies logic.”
Nate took the papers and scrawled a rough signature in each of the yellow slashes. There was an air of finality to it and he felt sick to his stomach. When he finished, Nate stood and looked at Frederic who stared through the windows before turning to face him again.
“You’re still hanging around the Green Parrot,” Frederic said.
“I should have rented a room up the street and saved the commute time.”
“You can kill yourself drinking like that, you know?”
“I know. I feel like shit when I’m sober.”
“You look like shit when you’re hung over.”
“You aren’t much help.”
“Don’t lose sleep over these papers, Nate. It’s best for both of you to shut the book. God, I wish I were going with you.”
“You can drop everything and go. You’ve gone with me before.”
“Not this time. Gracie would flog me within an inch of my life if I ever came back.”
“Well, thanks for the legwork, Fred. I know you’re right about the papers. It’s hard just the same. I’ll look you up when I get back, maybe in June. You’re a good friend. Take care of yourself.”
They shook hands but there was nothing more to say. Nate left the tiny office and took the stairs two at a time just to get away. He glanced from the sidewalk to the second-floor window where Frederic stood looking beyond the rooftops toward the clouds drifting out to sea over the Gulf Stream.
The Green Parrot Bar and Sub Shop didn’t open until noon or Nate might have taken a seat in the corner and ordered a few bottles of St. Pauli Girl, probably a lot more. He walked in the opposite direction along Angela Street just to breathe for a while and to escape the tourists littering Duval. The divorce papers reminded him of Dana again and her Carol Burnett smile the day she disappeared through the door of that Air Sunshine DC-3. The empty ladder behind her drooled from the fuselage like the cartoon guy on Bart’s T-shirt from the Tongue n’ Groove Construction Company. Nate never believed Dana would leave, but the ramp service guy shut the hatch behind her, and the pilot started the Pratt & Whitneys. When the sound of the open exhaust slammed against the windows of the terminal, Nate knew, suddenly, that it was over. He couldn’t leave the rail until Dana and the DC-3 were lost in the sky far above the Keys that stepped away to the east. He remembered staring at the windsock hanging limp from its tower at the end of the runway, but then he turned and walked away into the heat.
The April winds blew soft out of the south with just enough strength to make the cemetery puddles flicker in the early morning shadows of the magnolias. Nate looked up from the shimmering patchwork in time to see the Green Line bus down on White Street. He waved at the driver who frowned as the bus lurched to a stop. Nate took a seat by the window in one of the middle rows and stared at the front porch of Sarah’s old apartment when the bus drove down Caroline. Near the corners of the Conch house there were aloe plants growing stiff and thick- leafed along the flower beds, still wet from the rain at dawn. When the bus made the turn to go up Simonton, Nate shut his eyes and didn’t look at anything else until the bus drove past the airport where another Air Sunshine DC-3 warmed itself on the tarmac.
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