I Never Saw It ComingbySlirpuff©
THE MIDDLE—CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
It was somewhere around two o'clock in the morning and with the exception of just a few faint lights in the corridors, it was pretty dark. I could see silhouettes and shadows of what little there was to see in my ten by ten cell. With my arms folded behind my head, I was deep in thought rather than sleeping like I knew I should have been. My mind had the bad habit of drifting back to things I had tried my best to forget, but couldn't.
Hearing steps, I started counting them. Seven, eight, nine, ten, then I saw him look in at me. His face was hard, emotionless, like everyone else's around here. He was doing his job, making his nightly rounds, and not interested in making friends. I didn't even know if he saw me looking back at him but it made no difference—he was out there and I was in here.
When he passed by my cell, I stopped counting, no point, he won't be back for another ninety-two minutes. Looking at the ceiling, I again started planning what I was going to do when I get out of here. Five days and a wake up and I will be walking through those doors for the last time. I was thinking, I will have served just about seven months of my one-year sentence. My job was waiting for me but that probably was going to be the only thing that would be the same once I get out, and I knew it. My older brother had repaired my car, was looking after my house, and managing what little was left of my savings after legal fees. Was I still angry? Angry didn't even come close to describing what I continued to feel, but these emotions were tucked deep away until after I got out of this place.
I had finally figured out why guys who do ten to twenty years are empty shells when they are released. All traces of humanity are left at the door when you check in. It's all a matter of survival and this place is a damn resort compared to the facility up north where they send the hard-core prisoners.
So I closed my eyes again and for the umpteenth time I tried my best to fall asleep, hoping that I would be lucky this time and get a few hours of sleep. I longed for my old bedroom—the one with the room darkening shades. I knew that room, like everything else in my life, would never be the same again.
"I'll be picking you up next Tuesday," my brother Gary explained to me on the phone in the prison's visitor center when we last spoke. We looked at each other through the Plexiglas wall separating us hopefully for the last time. "Anything you want to eat your first night out?"
"A steak. A big steak, medium rare." Gary grinned at my request.
"Steve, you're too easy. I thought you might say something that would be a little harder for me to sneak by my wife. You'll be staying with Andy and me until you can get settled again. I know there is no food or much bedroom furniture left in your house. This will give you time to get what you need. It won't be the Ritz Carleton but at least it will be clean and you can come and go as you please." He smiled, I didn't.
"I want to thank you..." I started to say before he stopped me.
"Forget it. We're family and that's what family does for one another. And don't worry about Mom and Dad. I know they will come around once all this shit dies down." But we both knew that wouldn't be for quite a while, if ever. Emotions on both sides ran pretty deep.
"You see my kids lately?"
"Last time was about two weekends ago at Mom and Dad's. Heather looks about the same but John now has this stupid bowl shaped haircut that is all the rage. It looks like shit and I told him so. You know what that little prick told me? Said I wasn't his dad and he didn't have to listen to me. I would have slapped the shit out of him but Mom was right there. You're going to have your hands full with that one."
I knew that John wouldn't have dared say such a thing with me anywhere in earshot. Even though I was his dad, he wouldn't be living with me when I got out. He and his sister would be with their mother, at least for a while. Oh well, I had time. Hell, I had all the time in the world once I was out of this shit-hole. I would wait for just the right moment—I was in no hurry.
Although the divorce was already final, I still owned half the house. Kathy would owe me somewhere in the area of sixty-five thousand dollars to buy me out. I knew by now she had probably raided our bank lockbox and grabbed all our bonds and CDs. Luckily I had given my attorney a list of everything by serial number so there wouldn't be any question as to who owned what when I got released. And it would be sooner rather than later.
Kathy and my ex-buddy Bob had done a real hatchet job on me, basically handing me my gonads on a silver platter, but that was in the past. I'd been caught flat-footed and ill prepared the first time. That would never happen again, at least not in my lifetime. So I was waiting, remembering, and looking forward to better days in the future when my ass was out of this rotten place. Only then can I rebuild what was left of my personal life and start a new chapter, closing the old one in the process. I hoped so anyway. I hoped I could hold it all together until that point.
THE BEGINNING—PART ONE—SO I THOUGHT
They were good, really good, because I never saw it coming. Weeks before I even went to jail a few of my supposed friends would come up to me saying they knew something was going on but hadn't said anything. What the hell was everyone thinking? Did they think I knew about it and was okay with it? Every one of those people had to know I never would have stood for it, but I supposed they didn't want to get involved with someone else's problems, most people had enough of their own.
We had a great marriage, so I thought, twelve years and counting. Two kids, a nice house, and jobs we could both be proud of. Sure there were some minor disagreements now and then; what marriage didn't have a few rough patches? But, I loved my wife to death and never dreamed of what she was truly capable.
We didn't have a slew of friends. We mostly hung with a few couples from the neighborhood. The majority had been married seven plus years and were all pretty much the same age as us. We all had at least two kids with the exception of Bob and his wife Connie. They had been trying forever to have a child, but nothing was working. I guess Kathy knew the real reason why, but me, well, I was trying to stay out of their and everyone else's personal business. We were close, but I didn't want to be that close.
One thing that eventually became apparent to everyone in our group was the amount of alcohol Connie started to consume. Since no one had to drive home the booze flowed at our parties, more than if you were getting behind the wheel. We all lived close enough so anyone of us could almost crawl home if we had to. Her drinking started about a year ago and progressively got worse. At first Connie was just a lot more melancholy, but after a few months it started to get a bit ugly, then a lot ugly. Bob drank very little because he had his hands full taking care of his wife.
"Bob, honey, get me another drink, will you?" It would start out at the beginning of the night. By the end of the evening she was telling him to get his worthless ass over there and get her a damn drink. More than once he had to practically carry her home she was so drunk. I felt sorry for him, but it was his problem not mine.
"Connie was in rare form tonight," I said, getting undressed and ready for bed. "I think she passed out more than once. I am guessing the main reason Greg and Judy left early was because Connie started taking her clothes off and asked Greg to help her. There was no way anyone was letting her get in that pool."
"I felt sorrier for Bob," replied my wife, throwing her shorts and top on the chair next to our bed. "I know Connie is devastated that they can't have kids, but her taking it out on her husband is the wrong approach. I told her she could adopt but she wasn't hearing it. She simply said if her husband was more of a man, they wouldn't be in this pickle."
"Well, they'll either work it out or get divorced," I told my wife. "I know Bob isn't going to put up with it much longer. You do know we're all supposed to go out to dinner next week. I hope to hell she's on her best behavior, though I'm not counting on it." I was kind of wishing we weren't going.
"I'll talk to her this week. Maybe she'll cool it for one night." My wife was trying to be optimistic.
"I can only hope so." But Connie didn't cool it.
"Waiter, waiter!" Connie yelled at everyone who passed by our table. "How's a girl supposed to get a drink in this place anyway?" she asked, slurring her words. That's when she started in on Bob for the second time. He was about to blow a gasket when I tried to defuse the situation.
"Come on, Connie, you promised me a dance tonight, remember?" I said. I put her drink down on the table and pulled her onto the lounge dance floor. She started to say no but I was already on my feet, not taking no for an answer. We were close to getting kicked out because of her, and I was doing my best to at least try to do something, anything at this point.
I carried her around the dance floor for three songs. I saw my wife talking to Bob who looked lower than whale shit. When we danced near the hall Connie excused herself saying that she had to go pee. I steered her towards the ladies' room door and eased her through it.
When she hadn't come out after five minutes I debated what the hell to do next. When two women started to go in I asked them if they'd check to see how Connie was doing. It wasn't good.
"Does she have on a bright yellow dress?" one of the ladies asked, sticking her head out the door. When I nodded yes she shook her head. "She's passed out in one of the stalls. If you want, I'll stand guard while you get her."
I went in, stood her up the best I could by the sink and splashed some cold water on her face. It helped for a second or two, but then her legs buckled again. I ended up practically carrying her out to our table.
"Bob, let me give you a hand getting Connie into your car. She's out cold and I don't think she's going to be waking up anytime soon." I stood at the table holding up a very drunk and dazed Connie.
Bob couldn't hide his embarrassment and anger. "Steve, I can take it from here. Sit back down and I'll handle it. It's not the first time, but it's definitely going to be the last." Against his objections, I carried her out while he grabbed Connie's purse and said his goodbyes to everyone. I laid Connie down on the rear seat and slapped Bob on the back.
"Sorry man." What else was there to say?
"Thank you, for your help tonight. I'm at my wits end and don't have a clue what to do next."
"You two need to see a counselor. It's a sure bet the neither of you can figure this out on your own. If you need a little moral support just give Kathy and me a call. We'll help you anyway we can." All right, I was giving him mostly lip service but it sounded good. We couldn't fix their situation and truth be known, their problems were probably too far along for anyone to solve at this point. I gave them a couple of months at the most. I wasn't too far off but no one ever expected the final outcome.
It was just after ten thirty on Thursday night three weeks later. We heard the sirens and walked out the front door to see what the hell was going on. I saw a slew of bright lights at the end of our block. It seemed that everyone in the neighborhood was running down the street towards the ruckus.
I yelled to Kathy, "Stay here, I'll see what's going on." I ran towards the scene along with the rest of the block.
It wasn't pretty. Everyone in the neighborhood watched the fire rescue squad pry open the driver's door of Bob's car. "What's going on? Is Bob all right?"
"It's not Bob, it's Connie. Someone said that they were having an argument, she grabbed Bob's keys and ran out the door and got into the car. He tried to stop her but she put the car in gear and went flying down the street." I could see she didn't get far. My informer continued to explain the unsettling situation. "Connie rear-ended a parked car on the street doing about forty plus miles per hour." I was about to ask how she was when the ambulance pulled up. They put her on a stretcher, piled her into the back, and were gone in less than thirty seconds. I saw Bob climb in the back with her at the last minute. The show was over.
Their front door was wide open and all the lights were still on inside the house. From the looks of it, Bob and Connie had had a real drag-out fight. Things were scattered all over the floor. I called Kathy from Bob's phone and told her what had happened. I closed up his house leaving him a note on the front door saying I had his house keys.
"How's Connie?" my wife asked when I finally made it back home.
"Not good. She wasn't wearing a seat belt and swerved just before plowing into the back of someone's car. The air bag deployed so she didn't hit the steering wheel but her head hit the driver's side window hard enough to shatter it. The cops said she was doing about thirty-five miles per hour. Bob went to the hospital with her, so we'll just have to wait."
"Don't you think we should go down there?"
"Honey, he's going to have his hands full tonight. We'll go down there tomorrow when everything settles down. Right now we need to get to bed. Tomorrow's going to come a lot faster than we'd like." We kissed goodnight but didn't sleep much with both of us having Connie on our mind.
At about eleven o'clock the next morning my cell phone rang. "Steve, Connie's on life support!" yelled my wife over her cell phone. "I'm leaving work right now. Bob's a mess and someone needs to be there with him. Meet me there when you can," she said frantically, before hanging up. Damn, the guy couldn't catch a break to save his soul. On the way over to the hospital I picked up lunch for the three of us at a nearby McDonald's. I called Kathy's parents pick up the kids from our house after school.
I quietly walked down the hall into the waiting room where my wife and three others were consoling Bob. "How's she doing?" I asked.
"Not good," my wife whispered. "The doctor pulled Bob into his office a while ago. He came out looking like a zombie, and hasn't said more than three words since."
"Bob?" I said, sitting down next to him. "You okay?" It was a stupid thing to say, I know, but what the hell, I needed an opening line.
"Steve, she's not going to get any better. The doctor said there is little if any brain activity. I don't know what I'm going to do?" He started to cry into his hands. I motioned for everyone to back off and leave us alone. "Has anyone notified Connie's parents?"
"They're on their way over and should be here any minute. Steve, the hospital staff is asking me if Connie has a living will and if she carried a donor card? I'm starting to feel like they're vultures circling around my wife. The doctor had the gall to ask me if she were brain dead would I consider pulling the plug. For Christ sakes, they're talking about my wife not a fucking piece of meat." He was shouting now, not caring who heard him. "Why can't they just fix her? They're God damn doctors, why can't they just fix her?" I didn't have an answer for him.
Connie's parents arrived a few minutes later and the three of them went into her room. There was a lot of loud crying and cursing. I think her father was somehow trying to blame Bob for his daughter's condition. The attending physician went in and about twenty minutes later everyone came out. Her parents left heartbroken knowing they'd never have the chance to talk to their daughter again. We left the hospital at around eight o'clock and swung by Kathy's parents' house to get the kids.
"God, I hope I never have to make that choice," I kept thinking to myself.
Forty-eight hours later with Bob, Connie's parents, and the doctor in the room, they shut off the machine that was keeping her alive. She went quietly and peacefully. We tried to consol Bob anyway we could.
Even though Connie had been hell on wheels for the last year and a half, Bob really loved her. At times like this you usually remember the good stuff not the hard times. The funeral was packed and there wasn't a dry eye in the house—even the men wept openly. Bob took it hard, finally taking a month's leave of absence from work and visiting his family back east. I told him that we'd take care of his place until he got back and not to worry about anything.
"I love you, you know that, don't you?" I said to my wife while getting ready for bed. It had been an exhausting couple of weeks and things were starting to get back to normal. "If I'm ever like Connie, just pull the damn plug. There is no way I'd want to be hooked up to a machine like that forever."
"Steve, don't even talk like that. It was a stupid mistake on her part. It could never happen to us."
Bob came back a couple of weeks later somewhat functional. He asked Kathy to help him go through Connie's clothes and get rid of everything. I helped him take out his bedroom set when he bought a new one. It seemed after three months he was coming to grips with it all. Everyone bent over backwards to make sure he remained involved and included in all the social functions. Two of our neighbors even fixed him up with a few blind dates, but they didn't go anywhere—it was way too soon. So life went on, or so I thought.
When Bob got that spark back in his eye about six months later I was happy for him. And when I saw him smile and start to enjoy himself at our get togethers again, I was relieved he was out of that damn depression he'd been in for so long. He was intermingling with everyone. We finally had our old Bob back.
Looking back, I should probably have seen it and maybe I did, but it never quite registered. Kathy and I were still a happy couple only there was something not quite right; I just couldn't put my finger on it. We were close as always and made love about as frequently as we had before all this shit with Connie and Bob had gone down, but I don't know—maybe it was just my imagination. Nonetheless, after a few months I ended up asking Kathy outright if there was something bothering her.
"Nothing really, Steve, why do ask?"
"I don't know, you just seem to be a little out of sorts and distant lately." I responded, trying not to be confrontational.
"Everything's fine," she told me, smiling. "Maybe you haven't been getting enough sex. If you want more, all you have to do is ask."
"Sex?" I thought to myself. She'd never referred to it as sex, she had always said lovemaking, and why should I have to ask? Stupid, stupid me I just smiled, gave her a peck on the lips, and shut my brain down.
THE BEGINNING—PART TWO –WHO'S SORRY NOW?
I'll never forget Friday, August 20th. It was the day my world came crashing down around me. Kathy called at work to tell me our kids would be spending the weekend with her folks and asked what time I'd be home.
"Honey, in that case I'll make sure I'm home a little early. You want me to pick up anything special on my way?"
"That won't be necessary. I just need to know what time you're going to be home, that's all."
All right, a million things started running through my brain. Looking at my watch I noticed it was half past three. Shit, an hour and a half before I could leave. I adjusted the hard-on in my pants thinking about all the fun we would be having this weekend.
I kept backing off on the accelerator, driving home, no use starting off my great weekend with a speeding ticket. I did, however, set a new record by making it home in just under twenty-eight minutes. I should have suspected something was up when I saw two cars on my driveway, but I didn't since I recognized it as our friend Bob's new car.