| "Hello…hey Devin! I was thinking about calling you…no, nothing I couldn't put off…really? That's great. So when are you guys driving up? Ericka's not coming? Guess I won't need to clean the place."
Devin's call has me feeling giddy. It's been awhile since I've seen my best friend. Since Devin and Ericka moved to San Diego, I haven't seen much of them. In the three years since they moved, I've gone down twice, and they've driven up once.
Devin and I use to have a blast. We had season tickets to the Clippers home games. Heck, we would even take in two or three Rams games a year. That was before Devin moved. That was also before the Rams, or should I say the Los Angeles Lambs moved to St. Louis. I don't care about the Rams leaving town, but I wish Devin had stayed.
Long before our college years, and well before our present pseudo-yuppie existence, Devin and I were buddies. We lived two blocks from each other in a low-income neighborhood.
With his sandy hair and squared jaw, Devin was a hit with the girls. A bright star in the sky, he was surrounded by an orbiting cluster of perfumed dwarfs. Unlike me, he really enjoyed women. He didn't mind the time consuming task of chasing after them. I did not dislike dating; I just didn't seem to have as much time as Devin. In my teens, to have money, I had to work. When I had the time and money, I would befriend the girls who got burned by Devin's searing rays.
In between our various sporting activities, Devin and I daydreamed about what we would do. We often camped out. In the twilight hours, fishing poles in one hand, plain label beer in the other, we talked about everything once, but always managed to talk about girls more than once. We thought we knew it all. Back then; we didn't really know what we wanted. We just wanted more than what we had.
Fifteen years later, I think we have fulfilled some of our dreams. Devin's a lawyer and I am an associate professor. I don't believe I have reached a pinnacle level of success - not by a long shot. What I have attained is a certain level of comfort, a sense that I have options. A lawyer and a college professor; not bad for two kids who grew up having more dreams than toys.
It's too bad Ericka won't be coming. She's probably on a business trip. It is strange how things work out, or end up being. When he awkwardly bumped into Ericka in the student union, Devin had no idea he had just met his future wife. The poor guy didn't know then that his bachelor days were over. Moreover, he probably never conceived once married, he would hardly ever see his wife. At times, it seems the two of them love their jobs as much as they love each other.
Ericka the Great, as I jokingly call her is a shining star in her own right. A buyer for Covington Crowe, Ericka is bright and beautiful. Her gravitational pull is as strong as Devin's. In fact, he may orbit her more than she gravitates toward him.
When I first met her, I knew she was different. No-sir-rhee, she was not the run-of-the-mill, wide-eyed small town girl. Ericka, before her designer clothes, before her hundred dollar salon visits, and well before she landed her six figure salary at Covington Crowe, she had what very few actors possess, she had a way of controlling time. She did it with her dictionary words, her feminine but robust laugh, and with her California figure. She grew on me, not because she was smart and pretty, but because on top of all of her admirable qualities, she was down to earth. Ericka, on-the-other hand, was nobody's fool. She got what she wanted because she was smart, pretty, and unfortunately, above all else, a workaholic. Any one of these qualities is enough. However, if you combine all four, watch out! Here comes Ericka the Great.
It wasn't too long after they met, maybe a year, maybe less, when they got married. The wedding was elaborate. I remember standing beside the two of them thinking, if one must get married, then this is the way to go. Personally speaking, I always dreamed of getting married in the wilderness - somewhere in the mountains away from it all - with only a few guests and God in attendance. An old girlfriend laughed at the idea. She said it would not work. On their wedding day, I was truly happy for Devin and Ericka. I grinned at them sheepishly wondering about my own white wedding day. Well, that was three years ago. Now Devin will be here soon. I hope he brings his tennis racket.
Except for drastically altering our eating and drinking habits, Devin and I haven't changed that much. Ericka, when she first started dating Devin, hung out with us and watched a few games. She said she kind of liked football. During one half-time break, Devin and I, as usual, ate and drank more of everything than we had eaten or drank before half-time. Shocked at the male consumption of chips, beer, and meat, Ericka told us that we should write a book. "A book about what?" We simultaneously asked with full mouths. "On how to die eating," she said.
Now, Ericka somehow forgot she used to like football. Devin says she hardly ever watches, unless Dallas is playing. "Why Dallas?" I asked pleased to know she liked my favorite football team, a team her husband hated.
"I guess she thinks your punk quarterback is cute," he answered dryly.
"Hell Devin! You look as good as Troy Aikman."
"Really?" He said, somewhat surprised.
"Yea! I mean you are about five inches shorter than Aikman and about thirty pounds heavier, and whole lot poorer…other than that, you guys look the same." Laughing, I quickly hung up the phone before he could.
Ding-dong! Unshaven, standing with his college duffel bag strapped over his shoulder, Devin looked tired. We clasped each other's hands in an arm wrestling grip, tested each other's strength by gently tugging with our arms and smiled. "Come on in man." Turning, I walked into the kitchen and grabbed two beers. Settled in the living room, I asked, "So what's up?"
"Nothing much, he said, glancing around the place. "Boy it's been awhile," he quipped.
My condo is large; I guess I pay more for space, than I do for locality. Furnished almost entirely in black leather, the living room is offset with a couple of red and blue chairs. The kitchen is all white, complimented with white colored appliances. Three chrome bar stools mimic Norman Rockwell's soda fountain type diner. There are two bedrooms. The master and guest room depart sharply from my 1950s psuedo-avant garde motif. The rooms are styled and furnished with antique furniture. My place,
if anything, reveals my varied tastes. Traditional living juxtapose with monochromatic minimalism. To those who enter, I hope it conveys taste without over indulgence.
"Hey what happened to that…what was, what was over there?" Devin asked still looking around.
"Oh-h the rubber tree? It died."
"How can you kill a rubber plant, Yannick?" He said, finally breaking a smile.
"They don't need much attention."
"Like you've never killed anything. What happened to that bonsai Ericka bought you?"
"The California weather didn't suit it," he replied.
We both laughed. "It's good to see you man." I raised my bottle to him.
Stretching, Devin said, "It's good to see you too. So are you still dating Nikki?"
"Nikki? Geez! You really need to come up more often. That relationship died long before the Hevea Brasiliensis."
"The what?" Devin said, putting his beer down.
"My rubber tree. That's the scientific name. Ah-hem, or should I say, the genus name, aren't you lawyer types supposed to have a large vocabulary?"
"Hey! I got your genus name and your large vocabulary right here," Devin said, grabbing his crotch.
"Sorry I don't play the San Francisco game," I retorted with a lisp.
"I don't knowww Yannick," Devin said emphasizing ‘know’. What are you now, thirty-four and still a bachelor?"
"Thirty-two punk!" I said tossing a couch pillow at him. "I get enough of that from your mother."
"When did you talk to her last?" He asked going into the kitchen.
"About a month ago, she said I was messing up my life," I replied laughing. How is mother Trudy doing?"
Devin muffled an answer.
"What?" Out of habit, I grabbed the remote, and clicked through a few channels hoping to find a game. "Hey! The Lakers are on!"
"I can hear you," he said, chomping on a chicken leg from a ten-piece bucket I had just picked up from the deli.
Swilling down his beer, Devin said "outside of her chronic back pain, a slipped disc in her neck, anemia, and her arthritis, she's doing fine."
I chuckled. He was exaggerating a bit. Trudy, his mother, was a kind woman, far from the hypochondriac he had described. Trudy always thought of others before she thought about herself. We both knew she was the big reason behind our moderate success.
When we were young, Devin's mother played many roles. She played the role of stand-in mother for me. She adequately filled the void my parents divorce had left in my life. For Devin, she was a loving mother as well as a harsh disciplinarian. She had to be. Devin's dad had split; he left Trudy alone to raise Devin and his two sisters. One time, she even coached a game for our seventh -grade basketball team - one of the few games we won that year.
"We should go back east and visit your mom."
Kicking off his shoes, Devin said, "Whenever you want to go, it's fine with me."
This was a surprise. Usually Devin would have to go through this elaborate process - call it over planning - before we ever did anything. A behavior his wife had also mastered.
"What gives? Can Ericka schedule out that quick?" He took a long drink from his third beer. "Yannick."
"Yea--h?" Oh shit, here it comes. I knew right when I opened the door something was wrong he looked exhausted.
"Ericka and I are getting a divorce."
"The sirens of Babylon and Hiroshima are sounding." Realizing I had spoken my thought, I quickly apologized. I got up, raised my hand to signal him to hold on. I slowly went into the kitchen, returned with two more beers. Back in the living room feeling as if I, instead of Devin, had drank three beers I said, "What the fuck is going on?"
Taking a deep breath he said, "I know, it sounds weird to me too, but she really wants a divorce." He sighed and lowered his gaze.
If we were two women, I don't know, maybe we might hug or hold each other. We are men. We do what we know best, hugging is not it and crying is shameful. After what seemed to be a long pause, afraid to look him in the eye, afraid to see him this way, I quickly glanced at him.
He cleared his throat, but remained silent. Seeing my tough-willed buddy in this state was gut wrenching. Over the years we had gone through a lot. We were just two, poor, smart kids trying to make it in the white-collar world. We were not afraid of too many things. We were then and I still think now, two tough individuals. I kept quiet.
Finally he spoke. "You know…if she had said she was in love with someone else, I could see it. If I had been unfaithful, I could deal with it. Yannick! She said she didn't get a chance to really discover herself. Can you believe it?"
"Is she at home?"
"Nah, she's visiting her parents. She says she wants to live alone…she said something"
He stopped, guzzled his beer and then continued.
"…something to the effect that we had married too soon. She said she didn't get a chance to discover herself," Devin exasperatingly said.
Why doesn't Ericka just get a Discover card, she would find herself then, I silently thought. I kind of figured her to be a high-maintenance person, but who isn't? Who does not want a better life? Maybe he's not telling me everything? Maybe he's giving me the details in increments, increments he can handle? God, this is all still so eerie, Devin, my 'Old School Surfer' taking a big spill.
In our twenties, he was like the action hero Silver of Marvel Comic Books. He surfed over schoolwork, girls, and money hassles. He surfed over all the things, which troubled me. It wasn't that he did not have problems; it just didn't seem to bother him as much as it bothered me. When he found Ericka, I thought it was great. She was attractive and goal-orientated and he was handsome and career-driven, they loved eachother, what more? What more? To see him now - with his linebacker-sized shoulders slumped - whew!
Devin issued a loud breath. He rose and slowly walked to the guest bedroom, a room he shared with Ericka on their last visit. He needed to rest. He needed to sleep off Ericka. Poor guy, it will take more than eight hours to sleep off a wife.
He turned at the doorway and tried to smile. A wide grin, with no teeth showing, he closed the door behind him. I expelled a tense breath, reached for a beer that had to be flat by now. Who would have thought of it? Devin and
Ericka Bannister are getting a divorce. Mr. and Mrs. Success. The inseparable are separating. Geez! Just like that. If they can't make it, what chance…what chance do the not so perfect couples have? Trudy says I will die a lonely old man. Yeah, maybe so, but it sure beats dying a lonely old divorced man.
I swigged the last of my warm beer, got up and dimmed the living room lights, depressed the mute button on the t.v. remote. I stretched out in my favorite chair, a leather recliner. Ericka, the now not so great, once called it the Playboy Bunny rocker, a funny girl, always the prankster. Physically comfortable and almost zonked out, I suddenly remember what I wanted to ask Devin. “Devin…Devin,” I said softly, tapping on the bedroom door.
He opened the door. In shorts, he was brushing his teeth. "Did you bring your racket, or should I say, did you bring your racket and your sorry-ass tennis game?"
Devin pointed to his mouth and excused himself. He went into the bathroom, spat, rinsed, and came back.
"Yannick, I would have to have my legs amputated before you could even think about beating me."
Laughing, I said, "I'm glad you're here man."
"Me too, Yannick, me too," he replied.
Before I could say anything else, he slammed the door in my face. I could hear him on the other side laughing.