The End of the Movie

“What, did you think you would hit a meeting and I would just go away?”

He was sitting in the passenger seat, His trusty flask between His legs. “Surely you knew that wasn’t happening. I been with you all day.”

I pulled the keys from my jacket and put them into the ignition. It was a warm night by Omaha-in-December standards. Warm enough to go to Uncle Duff’s in semi-descent shoes, my new Polo shirt and my black leather jacket.

“Oh come on, admit it,” He said. “You dressed a little nicer because you were going to a meeting afterwards and you wanted to like nicer at meetings because you are …”

My head hung. I looked at my lap.

“Oh come on, sonny boy! You can say it to little old me. You are …”

“Tired of being alone,” he said, clenched my teeth, then released them.

“Exactamundo!” He gave a short giggle, rocking His head back and forth on His shoulders.

Being a single man over the holidays is brutal. Especially in my case. Not ever having been married and with no children, I go to family functions alone. I sit alone on the couch. I drink my Diet Coke. I try to feel engaged in the conversation.

“Not too easy to do when everybody is good-naturedly ribbing each other about the new refrigerator and screen doors for their houses, is it sonny boy,” He said.

“Stop calling me that,” I said and started driving.

“What, “sonny boy”? Why would I ever do that? First, it’s condescending and I know you hate that,” He said and drank. “And second, I’m an old man. People have had addictions since before there was a word ‘addiction.’ But I know I’m pretty. I wear it well. You, on the other hand, well, you still have the same fat gut you’ve had your entire life. I know, I know, you foolishly thought it might go away when you got sober and started going to the gym all the time. Sorry to break it to you Ahab, but you will be a fat bastard whether you are sober or not, so you might as well accept it. Personally, that’s reason enough to drink. I mean. Sorry to break it to you, but you’ll never be one of the pretty people,” He said and drank deeply, eyes closed, with a look of perfect satisfaction.

“Just like you’ll always be emotionally 14. You will never be emotionally sober, never. And that little fantasy you hold on to? Y’know, how you’ll meet someone that, now that you are clean and sober and ready to bring some emotional maturity to a relationship with a pretty, equally emotionally mature woman? You can kiss that little pipe dream good-bye cuz guess what? All the good women are taken by guys who are normal and functioning and aren’t 38 and contemplating how it would be acceptable to work for $10 an hour again. Guys that have a job, that is. You’re a fucking loser, you missed the boat. All the good ones are married and have children with men far more ready to accept the demands of being a real man. Demands that you, sonny boy, will never be able to handle,” He said and put His arm around my shoulder. “They see a single, never-been-married guy with no kids and think ‘Well, no one else has ever taken a chance on him, so I’m certainly not going to.’ Nope, sorry my friend, but the very best you can hope for is finding a woman with at least as much emotional baggage as you. And as far as ever being able to afford having all the nice things and houses, let alone a child, that’s another thing you can certainly forget about, because you’re far too stupid to ever get a job that will come anywhere close to allowing you to afford that stuff.”

I was merging onto I-680 South. I turned up the radio and blared “The End of the Movie” by Cake :

“People you love, they’ll turn their backs on you. You’ll lose your hair, your teeth,

your knife will fall out of its sheeth

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie

People you hate, they’ll get their hooks into you

They’ll pull you down, you’ll frown. They’ll tar you and drag you through town.

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie

No, you still don’t like to leave before the end of the show.”

Suddenly, the music switched to Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes.” He didn’t touch the dial. He didn’t have to.

“Here,” He said. “This song is more your speed. A simple pop song with as much emotional complexity and depth as you.”

I waited for the song to end, humoring Him. When it was over, I flipped through the stations, then found the one I wanted. A soft smile washed over my face.

“What’s with the grill?”

“Nothing, I just like this song,” and turned the radio up. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up”:

“I am a man whose dreams have all deserted him

I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name But no one wants you when you when you lose

Don’t give up, you still have friends

Don’t give up, you’re not beaten yet

I know you can make it good

Somewhere there’s a place where we belong.”

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