Cledus wonders why it feels like a blind date as they drive from Ruth’s apartment. He looks over at the woman, which time has gently altered.
“I’m sorry...I did not sing you a song. But I do remember you deserved it!”
From any ordinary man, the woman may have been taken aback. Instead, the mature woman wrinkles up her cute nose—temporarily.
“It's ok. If I recall…you had just sung for half the night.”
The woman rarely looks over at Sammy, sitting in the driver’s seat. At first, Cledus takes the conservative nature as a good sign. She does not gawk or fawn over him, assess his britches, or ask about new tracks. She merely looks out the windshield at the tar laid out before them.
“Do you know what brought me back to you, Darling?”
“The shower? A hand job?”
“No. Yur one of the few g’hals who is submissive and willing to relinquish yur feminine need to control. Yur a giver. A dying breed.”
Tears begin to well up in the woman’s more experienced eyes. Cledus glances over at Ruth’s apparel and notices she is dressed conservatively. Her breasts are not hanging out, she does not wear a half a gallon of make-up, and there aren’t any rings on her well-manicured fingers. Why don’t they call it a womanicure? Cledus chuckles to himself. Cledus is amazed how comfortable he feels, when alone with the woman. It almost pains him to think Chuck follows them in a land rover.
Cledus gives his favorite gal another glance. He notices tears begin to well up, again, in his prospect’s kind eyes. He cannot gauge whether they are sad or happy tears. He reckons the woman tries her best to smile through them. The entertainer had preplanned the night by renting his favorite restaurant—for fifteen thousand dollars. It becomes apparent this is a good thing, because the woman obviously has something important to tell the rascal. Cledus is glad he does not have to worry about various interruptions: gawkers, groupies, autograph hounds, or stalkers, to add distractions. In fact, he does not care that the restaurant is cutting a fat hog by scheduling: one manager, one waitress, and one cook.
As Cledus drives the woman into the parking lot, a sweeping bath of light reveals how beautiful Ruth is in a mere catch of a glimpse. Her playfully full mouth, salon style haircut, and (pretty) green eyes combine to make Cledus’s heart melt, never mind a narrow tattoo chain on the woman’s left ankle he finds quite alluring—as if the adornment has waited for this moment and his eyes alone.
He offers Ruth his arm, which the woman takes without a second thought, and the two glide their way to the glass doors of the eatery.
Once they are shown to their table, Ruth waits for Cledus to pull out a chair for her tush. She enjoys being thought of in such a chivalrous fashion. The woman pulls her dress underneath her legs, before she fully plops down. A homely waitress flops out a few oversized menus, opens them up, and considers how much tip she may get from the Rock Icon Sammy Moore. Some Jazz plays in the background, as per a request from Mr. Moore.
The woman bats her eyes and says, “I’m flattered you went to all this trouble!” This confession turns into a blush.
“I have come to develop a fondness for you that I have never felt before, nor may ever feel again!”
Tears well up in the woman’s eyes. They start to flow again.
“Excuse me, I have to go to the ladies’ room.”
Cledus takes out a cigarette and gets in a few good puffs—to pass the time. He puts his head back and takes in the restaurant’s acoustics; something he never remembered stopping to analyze before; paranoia of being discovered by any random onlooker often tended to narrow his vision. For a moment, he forgets about a signed Posse Photo he donated for charity and now hangs along one celebrity filled wall. Life approaches pleasant, temporarily. I have some things to live for: access to the bible, a granddaughter two generations in front of me, my own spry wonder, and I have a ‘real woman’ in my sights.
Ruth returns from the drop pit. Her smile, once radiant, quickly fades to gloomy and contemplative. Some weird body language follows. The meal they ordered arrives quickly. Cledus prepares his napkin, then stops to allow the woman to speak her mind. His face reflects his mind is torn between waiting for Ruth’s emotions to form into words and slicing his savory meat with a knife.
“Sammy, I have something to tell you—that is separate from how I feel about you.”
The woman looks down at her plate, and confesses, “I’m HIV positive.”
Like an instant gust of prairie wind, Cledus Beaumont is struck by a flowing heartfelt warmth of current. AIDS had been diagnosed for practically three decades; Cledus Beaumont only had an eleven-year introduction, through safe sex campaigns on the television, in magazines, and in casual references made in sit-coms.
“I’m so sorry.” Is all he can say.
“Maybe you should get yourself checked?”
Deep within, Ruth can’t help but wonder if their fate boils down to an AIDS Test. If he is also HIV Positive, they could be a perfect match. Cledus draws back from the table, speechless. He thinks about his child and wonders about her fate?
“Sorry to ruin the evening for you!”
“Like you really had a choice in the matter! You would never risk my life, knowingly. I know that about you.”
Ruth smiles again. The rest of the evening is a breeze for her. She knows the confession is stupid, and it may have just cost her any sort of normal life. At the same time, Ruth truly loves Sammy Moore. Not in an idolized, glamorous sort of way, but as a soulmate that knows it deep within her heart and soul. She feels secure on his arm, confident in his presence, and knows he will be a good provider. Of course, Ruth assumes his tests will come back positive, because of the sheer volume and carelessness with which most rock singers live their lives out on the road.
Cledus looks at her ringless fingers.
“You have several tests done? You sure there wasn’t a mistake?”
Ruth nods her head to the affirmative.
“It doesn’t change the way I feel!”
“Honey…you can’t risk your life based on a feeling,” Ruth says between dainty bites of food.
There is so much humbug I mind to tell you. But, I nary can. Cledus changes the subject, quickly. “You seed my new concert video?”
“Which one is that?”
“Yeah…It’s the coolest!”
Cledus smiles. He finishes his steak dinner without a worry. He is not incredibly fond of his new world, but he tolerates it—none-the-less. He gives the waitress a tip which reflects an appreciation for her lack of star gazing, not interrupting their private conversations, filling their drinks at all the right times, and being so cordial and professional in the presence of his sweet Ruth. The restaurant is scheduled to open in a half-an-hour, when Sammy takes the lovely lady home.
To say Cledus has a hankering to place a brick in his hat is the understatement of the millennium; because he soon gets lost in the unreal world and in a blunting of the human senses, a jeopardized relationship, and having to put his artistic talent on a back burner—not caring if it does not heat back up. Above all, the rocker’s brain becomes submerged in the fear of having his body fluid tested for its validity. Would they care if the blood type does not match the charts? Will I be given a death sentence? Do I really need another complication?
Bruno II tries to hold the man up, and keep him from doing something incredibly stupid—again; inside, Chuck wonders if he gets paid enough money to babysit a grown rich man?
(Four miles away…)
Ruth arrives at her apartment to take a Valium. She finds great comfort in her dog, Fluffy, curling about her bare, well-manicured feet.
Ruth awakens from a doze with a renewed sense of purpose. She thinks she can become a trailblazer for women who are inflicted with the disease, a cause given credence by the likes of Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, and many other highly regarded public and political figures. Songs were developed to represent an entire generation of AIDS victims and to better represent the emotions behind the tragic stories. Ruth had sunk to the depths of personal pity. She had even attempted to place blame. She smiles, knowing Sammy Moore’s re-appearing will change everything for the greater purpose.
Early the next morning, Cledus awakens with a hangover. He is annoyed with seeing multiple runs of commercials offering therapeutic Herpes salves. Who or what actor, in their right mind, would star in such a stigmatizing commercial? Whoever they are, they sure as hell seem to be happy professing their personal problems to the nation. All of them have absolutely zero body fat, as if they appear to exemplify the epitome of human health. A fat person cannot even be portrayed on an add depicting a product used for a disease that does not discriminate in who it infiltrates!
Cledus’s thoughts return to the tabloids and what they would do with such personal facts about him. He can already imagine what might be printed in large bold print: SAMMY MOORE JOINS MAGIC JOHNSON. The gunfighter’s head goes into a tailspin over the thought. He thinks about his name plastered across a bubble-gum card, and the mention of a sexually transmitted disease attached. Underneath this information, in smaller print, is the acknowledgment of someone, somewhere, fighting for a cure. The cure. Or even better, he pictures some sort of mocking advocacy for the institute of safe sex.
When the rocker’s thoughts clear, he is forced to pick up the telephone and call a doctor for a private consultation.