What makes a man beat up on the woman who shares his bed? David Miller could never understand it. His old man was a wife beater. When David was a boy his father would get drunk after working in the mill and then come home and beat hell out of the old lady. All David’s mother ever did was keep a clean house and raise her three sons and two daughters the best she could. David Miller was forty six years old now and his parents were still together but his father was too sickly to beat anything including his own meat.
Patricia Alverez, David’s new woman, left her husband because he would slap her around. Dave had one hell of a time getting into Patricia’s panties because of that bastard. A bad marriage does all kinds of crazy things to a woman’s head. Well, Dave wasn’t Patricia’s psychiatrist. He was her lover. He treated her good.
Dave was having a few cold bottles of Iron City Beer with Cecil Jordan. Cecil was a professor with tenure who taught English Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. The two men sat at the covered side walk cafe of the Union Grill a few blocks from campus, getting the warm breeze of a sunny, late afternoon. Dave enjoyed watching the wind blow around all the short hemlines. The Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh loomed over the Oakland neighborhood. Dave’s friend, Cecil Jordan, had grown up in the Hill District, Pittsburgh’s inner city. A magazine had recently named him one of the top twenty five most influential people of the black community.
Cecil was saying, “What does it all add up to?”
“Professor Jordan the philosopher.”
“All this hustle and flow. Nothing changes.”
“Things get better.”
“They do?” Cecil said. “We go from clubs to arrows to muskets to machine pistols.”
“People live longer.”
“To do what?”
“Ah, pleasure,” Cecil said. “Is that the purpose of life? Pleasure?”
“I’d like to pleasure myself with her.”
“You become too easily distracted to know what true pleasure is.”
The waitress appeared with two more bottles of Iron City and took away the two empties. Dave poured some beer in his glass.
Cecil said, “How many women have you bedded in the past twenty five years? A ball park figure.”
“They were all willing.”
“No doubt. Because you my friend have a genius for getting a woman to joyously disrobe.”
“What does that matter?” Dave said. “We all die anyway.”
“Now you’ve hit upon the essence of all societies,” Cecil said, “all art, all science, all social bonding, all religions and all relationships. To comfort us in our knowledge of death.”
Dave said nothing.
“What do you think the elimination of death would do to our concept of God?”
Dave was silent.
“Our need for love?”
Cecil asked, “To the medical profession?”
“Keep all plastic surgeons very, very busy. And very rich, too.”
“Very good,” Cecil said. “There’s hope for you yet.”
Dave looked around at all the other people sitting on the patio. He felt the moisture of the cold beer bottle on the palm of his hand and felt the heat of the sun on the bright street just beyond the covered patio.
“So,” Cecil said, “donde es su amiga?”
Dave smiled at his friend.
Cecil said, “Are you going to commit?”
Dave poured more beer in his glass.
“You know, Mr. Miller, she may be your last chance at true adulthood.”
“She’s been traumatized.”
“Oh, hell’s bells, man. We’ve all been traumatized. If it wasn’t for trauma where would we be? The species needs trauma. It’s like oysters and grains of sand.”
After more talk Dave caught the attention of their waitress and motioned for two more beers. The men sat quietly for a while.
Cecil said, “You better come up with some answers. A man of forty six should have a few answers. At least to three or four of the more important questions.”
“Cecil, are you traumatized?”
“I can imagine what it was.”
“No, no. Nothing racial. I became traumatized when I found out there was no Santa Claus.”
“It meant my parents, my beautiful, strong, loving, all knowing parents had knowingly lied to me. It was the end of innocence.”
The waitress brought two more bottles of Iron City and took away the empties.
“Fantasy and illusions,” Cecil said. “What gets most of us through life simply is not true. Find out what is true. What’s always been true. Always will be true. Break it down until it can’t be broken down any further. What you have left will be the only thing worth holding on to.”
“You know what?” Dave said. “I’m going to ask Patricia to marry me.”