returned from a shopping trip lyrical in her description
of a Ďdream dressí she had seen in a shop window.
After a week of badgering I gave in as usual, and
she went gaily off to buy her heartís desire.
But to my amazement she returned empty-handed.
ĎIt was still in the window," she explained. "So I
decided that if no one else wanted it
neither did I.í "
Donald L. Whitaker (Omaha, Neb.)
Not too long after my "date" with Freddy I heard from our mutual friend, Mikhael. While I had often thought fondly about her, his place in my memory had grown consistently grim. Gone were the happy times when we were still kids. Those moments remained in my memory but they took on a darker aspect, an abuser and abused personality. I could look back on those times only as the exploitation of the relentlessly foolish. With my family and that personal education I got I should have known better, been smarter about what was real and what was merely stupid in my actions.
To hear from Freddyís lips the story of her ill treatment by him and then by his father really did the trick. I had no use for these people and they could certainly have no use for me.
Besides, my life with Paul Donner was just perfect. I had clothes, food, a place to be in the evening when school was done. I had the music I loved and fine apartments as homes in New York and London and superb hotels suites when we traveled. I wasnít ever cared for like a servant, but always as a best friend. There was nothing I was seeking, nothing I was missing. It was the perfect situation for me.
Protesting too much again, I notice. Protesting for what reason? Things were just fine. Thatís the truth of it. I had no need for Mikhael.
Mikhael, though, had need of me. Uprooted and alone, ignored by his father who apparently believed that Mikhael had betrayed him, the only man I had ever cared about was in need of a friend, of me. When he phoned me, and how he got the number I never discovered, and I heard his voice through the receiver I thought I would die, if I hadnít already done it.
"Max, donít hang up on me too," was how he started the conversation.
"Too?" was all I said. I never acknowledged I knew him, knew his name, said his name. I just repeated the word he had said.
"They all do it, now," he said. "Everyone. Freddy. My father. Even the strangers I speak to at banks."
"Banks?" I asked him.
"I must have some money, soon. I have nothing left to me. All was taken away. My father has closed the apartment and fled from me."
"Fled?" Boy, I was being difficult with him.
"To Canada, I think. To safety."
I said nothing. There was nothing I could say.
"Max, see me please. See me today. I need to hold you and have your arms enfold me once more."
"No," I said. "Iím too busy."
"You are too busy for an old sweetheart such as me?"
"Yes. Too busy."
"But I have nothing, Maxie, and you have everything. Spare an old flame a minute."
I held my breath, knowing I should just hang up the phone, but I didnít. Instead I listened in as much silence as I could muster.
"Max!" He was in a commanding mood suddenly. "You will let me come up to see you, yes." It was a statement and not a question.
"If you find me here, so be it," I said as placidly as I could. In truth my heart was racing a mile a minute.
"I will come to you, then," Mikhael said ending the conversation. I put the receiver back in its cradle and stood there looking at it for a long time. Then I went to my room to shower, shave and change. I knew instantly that I had made too many poor choices in the past few moments, but I did what I set out to do and when I was done I decided to make a run for it. I would get out of the apartment and not be here when Mikhael showed up. That was the best decision I ever made. Sadly I made it too late.
He was standing outside the door as I opened it. He looked at me, his dark eyes burning into mine. I tried to blink, but couldnít. My focus was caught in his stare and my eyes were no longer mine to command.
"Hello, Max," he said simply. I nodded at him and after the briefest interlude I took a step backward and gestured to him to enter. He did so. "This is a fine place you inhabit. Very grand befitting your station."
"What does that mean, exactly?"
"Nothing at all, Max. Donít be offended."
"Offended?" I was doing it again.
"I mean no harm, Max. I just wanted to see you after so long."
"You broke your engagement, and a long one at that, to Freddy," I said.
"You have seen her then?" he asked a little too eagerly.
"I did." I paused. "Yes."
"She is well?"
"Sheís fine." I decided not to go into details with him.
"And you will be seeing her again, I trust?"
"I donít know. I donít think so."
"You are the unforgiving man, Max." He laughed a little bit.
"Not so," I said.
"So we both have a chance with you then," Mikhael said grinning from ear to ear.
"No," I said instantly. "No chance. Not a chance in Hell."
"Max, so demonstrative!"
"What do you want, Mikhael? I have a life. Iím busy."
"I want the hug you promised me, Max."
"Thatís presumptive of you, Mikhael. I never mentioned a hug. I think that was your idea."
"Who cares. Between us a hug is insignificant. Come and embrace me, Maxie."
"I donít want to. Thank you."
"But I want you to. This much I require of you and not more."
"You mean Ďnot the whole enchilada.í "
"Yes, of course I mean the enchilada. Whatever that may be."
He laughed and I found myself joining in. I didnít want to but I couldnít stop it.
"Come in. Have I seat. Can I get you anything?"
"Just my little hug of welcome, Max."
I didnít want to. I new where it would lead. I hugged him anyway and an hour later, one enchilada later, we were talking, finally.
"That was nice, Max. Better than old times."
"That is one thing we wonít talk about," I said abruptly.
"You withhold from me. I understand."
"Iím not compensation for your losses, Mikhael. Iím not and I wonít be."
"You think that was pity sex?"
"I donít know what it was. But itís behind us."
"You act as though you did not want to see me."
"I donít. You havenít been a part of my life for years, Mikhael. I wrote you off as a bad check that wouldnít bounce twice."
"So much in the business world, Max."
"Iím sorry. But Iím not here to be played with again."
"You have aged."
"Iím older, wiser and self-protective, yes."
"But not me, Max. I am the same."
"Youíre not. The old Mikhael, the former one, would never have treated Freddy the way you did."
"Always it was Freddy between us, Max."
"No. She was the glue that kept us together."
"It was not your affection for me that did that?"
"You say I have misjudged Fredericka and have misunderstood you. This is a claim I cannot communicate with, Max."
"Itís the truth."
"Your truth only." He sounded angry and vicious when he said this.
"You canít make me believe otherwise, Mikhael."
"You have no idea what she has done to my life, then. The betrayal of my family secret has completely overwhelmed me. It has taken away my purpose in life and had robbed me of my fatherís affection."
"When did he ever express any? When did you ever see him?"
"You think you know my life so well? Why? Because we spent some time together? You were never a big part of my life. Neither one of you played a role in the fullness of my life."
"So then you can take the rest of your life away with you, Mikhael. I donít need to be a part of it and neither does Freddy."
"What do you think I am, Max? What do you think I can be alone with nothing and with no one?"
"I donít care to think about it. I donít care at all!" I was shouting now and trying not to. Paul was due home any minute and I wanted to remain calm but that was almost impossible.
"Little Max, so big and tall and so very small and insignificant in reality."
"Just get out of here, Mikhael. I donít want you here."
"You were delighted to have me here, Max. Donít for an instant think otherwise."
"Still the bossy bastard," I snarled at him.
"I could always get what I want from you, Max. Always. Always."
Each time he said the word my anger increased. Finally I shoved him hard, in the direction of the apartmentís door. With each shove he took a large, awkward step backwards. He never said anything to me except that word, over and over, "always, always, always." Finally we reached the door and I reached for him, turned him away from me and shoved him hard, one more time against the closed door.
"Get out, Mikhael. Just get out and stay out."
"You think its that easy to not want me? You will learn."
"I know who I am and what I want," I said. I reached around him and grabbed the doorknob, pullingit towards us, The pressure of the opening door shoved him hard against me and my free arm went around his waits to support him and keep us both from falling down.
Paul stood in the doorway, his key in his hand. Mikhael looked at him watching us in that awkward embrace. He gave his harshest snicker, then laughed and pulled himself free from my arms.
"Goodbye, then, boy from prostitutes. I have no further need of you."
He pushed past Paul and went out into the hallway. Paul stood there watching him retreat toward the stairwell. Then he turned to look at me. I didnít want to see his face just then. I didnít want to read in it what must be in his mind.
"Good afternoon, Max," he said finally. "Is supper ready?"