by Steve M
Cary meets the love of his life but all is not as it seems
| Cary climbed in behind the wheel of his old, clunker car. It probably wouldn't start in this cold weather, and it didn't; the battery was too weak to turn the engine over. Today was just not his lucky day. He turned on the radio as George Jones' was singing. Cary put both hands on the wheel and, with his head down, listened to "He Stopped Loving Her Today."|
The song took him back to a time years ago when his life felt complete. A time when he was in love with his girl, his job, and his life. It could not have been more perfect. Cary did not have a single memory of a bad moment, a wrong decision, a stupid act, or anything else that could have been the cause of the beginning of the end.
The very beginning of this consummate period of Cary's life was the greatest job on earth. He started his career, fresh out of college, as a marketing specialist for a large insurance company in Omaha. Cary was a charismatic young man and a real people person. He was a quick study and did not take long to get noticed as an up-and-comer by his company's management group. His marketing skills were exceptional and his rapport with fellow workers was commendable. Before long he was an assistant sales manager, and shortly thereafter was promoted to Vice-President of Marketing for the southern division. By the time Cary was 25 years old, he was leading the corporate marketing division and had it made.
One day he was at lunch with two other division managers, at a busy tavern just down the street from his corporate office, when he noticed a young woman at a table across the room looking at him. He smiled just a little, then continued with his friends, eating, and discussing work. He glanced in her direction a minute later and could not help but notice that she was quite the knockout. She looked up at him just then and gave him a little smile in return.
Cary got involved in the conversation for a few minutes before he looked back again. He wanted to give her a sign that he would like to talk to her before she left, but too late. She and her friends were gone.
He was not at his top performance the rest of the day. He had trouble concentrating on work because he kept thinking about if he would ever see her again. She was very pretty, and they had this kind of connection, you see?
It was about two weeks later when he decided to take the chance and go back to the tavern for lunch on the off chance she would be there, too. But this time he was going alone. Well, maybe not. He did not want to look like a stalker or a freak, so he invited his two friends along again. It was Friday, just like before, and the tavern was crowded again. Lots of people and lots of loud conversations, business as usual for the Crescent Moon. They grabbed a table in the middle of the room. Cary's strategy was to be as close to her table as possible without knowing where she would sit. Now, if only she would come.
Cary and his friends finished their meal and their conversation, and she never came. "What were the odds?" he thought. There's no way this was going to work, he had to face up to the fact that he blew it two weeks ago. He should have been smart enough to watch her and make his move as she was leaving. But no. He was not smart enough.
They went to the bar and paid their tab; Cary took one last look around the room. She still was not there. Oh well. He pushed the heavy wooden door open to leave and there she stood. She took his breath away, and he just stood there looking at her until he finally said, "hello. My name's Cary and I have been waiting for you all my life."
"Hi, my name's Kimberly," she replied with a smile.
This was the beginning of the beginning, and it could not have begun any better.
The next two years were a romance novel. Of course, they had fallen in love almost immediately, and spent every spare moment of every day together, bonding ever so closely. Cary was on the path to becoming a corporate vice-president and was revered by his company and his peers as the quintessential insurance executive. His family and friends were waiting with great anticipation for him to pop the question and make his life whole with Kimberly at his side.
Cary's job was requiring him to travel some, usually just for a day or two a couple of times a month. He had conferences and regional meetings in his division that he must attend. The trips were never more than two nights away from home, and never on a weekend, so the interference in their lives was minimal. Cary was totally devoted to Kimberly and never, ever, failed to be faithful to her during these travels. The homecomings were always terrific!
On the fourth anniversary of their meeting each other at the tavern, on Friday, October 23rd, 1987, they had an anniversary celebration lunch at the Crescent Moon. The dinner was a cheeseburger with fries, a bottle of Merlot wine, and a candle on the table. Even though the room was crowded and quite noisy, it was still romantic. At the end of the meal, Cary asked for Kimberly's hand in marriage. "Will you let me make you the happiest woman in the world? Will you be my Princess bride?" he asked.
Kimberly looked down at her plate for a few seconds and looking up, her eyes filling with tears, said, "I am sorry, Cary, but no. I cannot pretend any longer and I am afraid I have let this go too long."
Cary could not breathe. "What did she just say?" he asked himself. "This can't be happening." But it was. And it did. And just as quickly as it began it was finished.
Cary locked himself up in his apartment for several days. The weekend passed, and the whole next week slipped by. He did not go to work, or answer the phone or door, he barely ate, and he began drinking, heavily. He never returned to his job and avoided everyone they knew.
Every waking moment was consumed with thoughts of Kimberly. He could think of nothing else; the pain of his loss was barely tolerable. The drinking helped him cope a little. He would sit for endless hours looking at pictures of her and asking why, why did she leave him. Kimberly never gave him a reason for her not being able to pretend any longer. Pretend what? What had he done? There was no explanation, she just stood up from the table and walked away. He never heard from her again, he never saw her again. She changed her phone number and moved from her apartment; he had no way to contact her.
Over the next weeks and months, he worked short periods at menial jobs, just enough to pay rent in a cheap apartment and buy a bottle of Jim Beam. He never stayed in one place for long, and supplemented his income by panhandling.
Things got tougher that third winter, there was an exceptionally long cold spell, with freezing temperatures and snow. He was short on money for rent, but the landlord let him slide for a couple of months. The landlord's generosity eventually ran out and he evicted Cary on a Friday afternoon. Cary had nowhere to go. He went down to his old clunker car and sat behind the wheel. It was freezing outside. He sat there the whole night long, sipping his whiskey and thinking of her.
A neighbor called the police the next morning about a man slumped over in his car. Cary had not made it through the night. The city coroner had him picked up and taken to the morgue; the police identified him with the ID in his wallet.
A notice was posted in the classifieds asking if anyone knew that name and to call in. Two days later, a woman came to the morgue and identified the body as Cary. She stood by his side for several minutes crying and then gave the mortician $500 for his burial. She turned and walked away, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Returning to the Crescent Moon the following Friday, she found a table near the center of the room and sat alone, as she had done every Friday for the past two years. She kept looking around the room for Cary even though she now knew he was never coming back. She drank her usual double shot of whiskey, then got up to leave. She pushed the big wooden door open, and hoped, as she had every Friday, that he would be standing there. But again, not today.