Chapter 21: Fate
Sandy recognizes the sensation of a hang-over immediately despite the fact that it has been decades since she had one. The headache is less present than a migraine The dull ache is tolerable, but sudden unexpected waves of dizziness, as if your brain is adrift in some black hole with interspersed pockets of gravity and antigravity, combined with a desperate thirst, makes it hard to think or care about anything else but stabilization of your body systems. Still, Sandy realizes she is not in her own bed and is wearing an unfamiliar nightgown. Trying to remember the previous evening somehow intensifies the waves of dizziness and so she simply lies for a while. She gradually realizes she is lying on someone’s chest and a pair of strong arms are wrapped around her. Please don’t let it be Sammy! At the thought, she tenses up.
Dwayne: Stay where you are, woman. I have earned the right to hold you in my arms a few minutes longer.
It’s Dwayne. Thank God! Sandy gratefully relaxes back onto his chest and becomes aware of the scent of him. Despite having no recollection of how she arrived here in this bed with him, she is content. How well she fits here! She lays on his right side. Her left leg is under his right leg and her right leg is over his right leg. She is sort of half on and half off his chest. Her head is on the spot between his chest and shoulder in the cradle of the arms which are wrapped so tightly around her. As she relaxes the waves of dizziness subside. Her body systems are stabilizing. She feels safe from her own internal body’s chemistry and safe from the external forces of the world. She is safe from everything within his arms. She opens her eyes and looks up at him. He smiles down at her. His eyes are amused but in a benevolent, caring non-judgmental way. Damn, he is even more handsome first thing in the morning.
Dwayne: The girls are fine. I sent Frank, Fred, and Tom over last night with movies and popcorn. They stayed a couple of hours and left my cell number with Isadora who just texted me that they are fine. (Sandy starts to rise up). I said stay where you are at, woman. Frank and the girls think you had food poisoning and stayed the night because of that. Fred was the one who came and got me so he knows the truth, but I swore him to secrecy.
When Dwayne mentions Isadora, Sandy feels ashamed for not making it home last night. What else does she have to be ashamed of? She thinks she should get up, but he told her not to and it feels so good just to lie here without thinking. How would anyone ever get out of bed if they woke up to this every day? Scattered images begin to pop into her brain and she groans. With her eyes closed, she asks Dwayne, “was I in jail at some point last night?” Dwayne kisses her forehead: “yes, Darlin’, you were.”
There is a knock at the door and Dwayne attempts to disengage from Sandy. She grabs onto him with protestations of no. He laughs, kisses her on the cheek and says thank you, but still disengages. Dwayne has ordered room service. He brings over a glass of milk and an orange juice. He tells Sandy in a commanding voice to sit up. She does not seem to have will of her own and so obeys his command.
Dwayne: Honey, you are just going to feel bad this morning. I wish I could feel it for you, but I can’t. Drink a little milk to coat your stomach and then a little orange juice. You’ve got to get your blood sugar up. There’s water on the nightstand beside you. You’re dehydrated as well. I have toast and fruit when you are ready. Take your time. We threw away your clothes, but I looked at your sizes and I sent out the concierge to the all night department store. Its cheap brands, but you will have something to wear, at least, and he brought back a toothbrush, hair brush and other stuff as well. I think we thought of everything you will need. It was a pretty dress we had to throw away. I’m sorry, but between the blood and the puke. The dress looked good on you. You were really pretty at the party. I don’t think I told you how pretty you were. You were (not knowing how to express it) pretty.
Sandy alternates drinking from the three beverages (milk, orange juice, and water). Dwayne puts on a white t-shirt, sits down at the table where the food has been placed, pours himself a cup of coffee and starts spreading butter on pancakes.
Sandy: What are you doing?
Dwayne: I ordered pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. I worked up quite the appetite last night.
Sandy tries again to remember. After Dwayne told her he had not meant to hurt her, he walked into the hotel suite, told the band they better go, kissed the journalist goodbye and said he would see her after, and then told the four non-band guests to drink up, finish the bottle and the ribs. Hope they enjoy the show. Two more rounds had been poured and drank swiftly before they went to the show and Sandy wasn’t used to whiskey. Once at the concert, the intern who had taken Dwayne and Sandy’s picture earlier in the day, came up to Sammy and Sandy. He said Dwayne had told him his job was to take special care of them. He would get them anything they needed. Sammy kept ordering more whiskey and Sandy kept slamming them. Why did I drink so much, she asks herself now, feeling her stomach react to the liquids she was putting in her system.
Oh, she remembers, to feel numb. Soon as Dwayne left, Sandy was ashamed of herself. What right did she have to be jealous? Sandy knew at the core of her soul how much it had hurt Dwayne to look in her eyes and see the pain he dreaded seeing. She thought of the line in the poem: “I dread the day I see disgust in your eyes.” She hated that she had been the one whose eyes he saw disgust in. Really, why? The journalist wasn’t a child and it was certainly consensual. All Dwayne had ever been was nice to Sandy. He had helped her clean up the bar, had walked her home, and had agreed to play her song. He had been the knight and the Prince. She had been irrational and jealous.
Three times in less than 24 hours she had been with her soulmate and each time ended badly. She knew it was her fault. She hadn’t been honest with him; hadn’t told him that she thinks he visited her in his dreams (it sounds so crazy). Still, if he didn’t know about the dreams? It just seemed unfair that she had knowledge of their special bond which she was keeping from him.
Sammy kept whispering to her to look at this person or that person. He asked what she and Dwayne had been talking about so long. Just the arrangement of the song, she answered. The band started. Sammy kept trying to make comments, making fun of Dwayne, and the more he did, the more she drank.
It was near the end of the show that Dwayne played “The First Time.” He introduced it by saying he knew there was at least one woman in the audience who had never heard any version of it. The audience shouted in laughter and disbelief. Dwayne said he knew it was hard to believe. He said, “She knows who she is and I hope she enjoys it.” Sandy was moved to tears. It was such a beautiful song. He then said he had two new songs to debut tonight and that he wasn’t going to do an encore. It was his birthday. He turned fifty today. He hoped they understood he wanted to celebrate a little. The crowd roared again. He told them that, in a way, both songs were birthday gifts from the same woman because the first was inspired by her and the other was written by her. He said he hoped she knew that, why they hadn’t known each other long, she had made him wish he was young enough to fall in love again. The crowd cheered. He said no, really, if he knew anything in this moment, it’s that he was never going to be in love again. He was thinking he would just go live with Alex and they could be the odd couple together. Alex said, jokingly, that Dwayne wasn’t living with him. Dwayne said “Well, destined to be alone then.” Women in the crowd screamed and someone threw up their panties. He said, “Here are two new songs about love.” The audience stood up and danced to “Then, I met you.” Then, the band left. Dwayne pulled a chair up to the microphone and put the dulcimer on his lap. It was just his voice and one instrument with 1000 people watching as he played “Bliss”. His voice broke and cracked when he sang the words: “I’m a man growing old, yet my journey onward goes, wandering eternal across winter’s frozen ground.” He stopped for a moment, closed his eyes and the audience applauded. They could see he was struggling, but stayed with him; giving him the kind of love only a dedicated fan base can. He smiled, regrouped and continued. “Looking for a soft place just to lie and rest, would like a few nights to recall, the close to, but not quite bliss”. He finished the song, stood up, and bowed to the applause. He stood a few minutes and seemed to be looking out over the crowd. Sandy noticed that his shoulders sagged as he walked off the stage. He was defeated, sad and old.
As Sammy and Sandy stood up to leave, Sandy’s head began to feel dizzy and she found it hard to focus. She was very drunk. She held onto Sammy as they made it through the crowd outside. Sandy began to sweat. She felt hot from the inside out. She stumbled, bounced against a large over-sized man. The man was understanding and steadied her before he walked on. Sammy remarked on the man.
Sammy: Look at Jethro. Seems like he had a few too many fry chickens. Just the type who would come to a concert like this.
Sandy: (slurring her words) You are a mean spirited man.
Sammy: Oh, please, should I deliver you up to Dwayne’s bed now? That whole scene he played at the end was exactly for menopausal women like you to wet yourself a little and beg to go to his next show; which by the way is already sold out. But maybe you could get tickets, you did write him a song.
Sammy was himself drunk and very jealous of his date’s obvious infatuation with Dwayne. He thought they were coming for a little fun. It turned out the woman he brought had not only bought into the hype, but was actually a contributor to it by having written that ridiculous song. A couple next to him started to sing “The First Time” as they walked hand in hand beside him.
Sammy: Oh, please, every couple’s first time is uncomfortable and awkward. If you go home expecting anything like the song, you are just going to be disappointed when he farts right after you’re done.
The couple looked at Sammy angrily. The male pushed Sammy who pushed back. He then punched Sammy one aggressive punch right in the nose. Sammy fell backwards into Sandy. He landed with his bleeding nose directly on her dress. Sandy pushed Sammy away. She thought she was pushing him back at the guy who just punched him, but that guy had moved on. Instead she pushed him back into the arms of a police officer who had made it through the crowd to see what was happening. Sandy recognized the officer and then puked up all over her dress.
The next thing Sandy can remember is that she was at the police station; sitting in a room with the same police officer who routinely answered calls at the bar. He was talking to her in a patient voice and it sounded like he might have been talking to her for a while. He seemed to be repeating information over again as Sandy gained clarity of thought enough to focus on his words. She was aware that she had puke and blood on her dress and some chunks in her hair. He was asking who they could call to come and get her. Nobody she tells him.
Police Officer: We can hold you for drunk and disorderly conduct, but I don’t know what that might do for your employment. I prefer to just send you home, but can’t do that unless I know someone is going to take care of you. If no one can come for you, I will have to book you.
Another police officer sticks his head in. It appears like someone has come to claim Sandy. Of course, it is Dwayne. “Your knight to the rescue again.”
Dwayne had been more than a little shaken following the party. He asked Alex if he had ever met, fell in love and lost a girl within 24 hours. Of course not. Alex thought maybe he had been wrong about Sandy. He advised Dwayne to forget her, she was too much drama and remember that the journalist was still here. Dwayne shook his head.
When the concert was over, Dwayne walked off feeling like he had lost all sense of direction or independent thought... While he was on stage, knowing Sandy could hear his voice, he felt as if he had a purpose. The purpose was to impress her. He sung every song knowing she was listening. He had looked out in the audience to see if he could see her. With the concert over, he was standing off stage and leaning against a wall; confused what he was supposed to do next. Alex waited for him. He asked him if he was okay. Dwayne nodded, but stayed against the wall; disoriented. What was his purpose now? Alex lifted Dwayne’s left arm and put it over his shoulder. Alex wrapped his right arm around Dwayne’s waist. “It’s okay, buddy. Lean on me for a while.” They walked out of the theater together.
By the time they were back at the hotel, Dwayne was walking on his own. Alex and Dwayne rode the elevator together in silence. The journalist was standing by Dwayne’s door. She was subdued as Dwayne let her into his room.
Jackie: You brought down the house, Professor Cowboy, with the talk about turning fifty and playing that last song tonight. I wish I had a film crew here. It would have made my trip worthwhile.
Dwayne: Have I done something to offend you?
Jackie: You announced to about 1000 people that you had given up on love. You told another woman in the audience that Sandy woman, right, that she made you wish you were young enough to fall in love.
Dwayne: Is love what you were wanting from me?
Jackie : I knew you didn’t love me and I don’t love you, but when you’ve flown twice in one week to two different cities to see a man, it would be nice if, at the very least, he wasn’t melancholy about not having found love. Whatever we had I thought was good. I’m not going to be with you while you pine for another woman.
Dwayne: I don’t know why she has affected me so much, but it’s no reflection on you. Being with you has been as close to bliss as it can be without being in love.
Jackie (kissing him goodbye on the cheek): Don’t give up yet. My guess is you will still find your bliss.
Shortly before midnight, Dwayne was thinking his birthday was going to end the way it begun; standing on his balcony lonely for a woman. Someone lit off left-over fireworks. He heard a knock on the door. It was Fred telling him he didn’t know what to do. He had seen Isadora’s mother being arrested.
Dwayne was dismayed by how bad Sandy looked and smelt. The police officer explained that Sammy was arrested. He had become belligerent and started throwing punches. Sandy really hadn’t done anything wrong, but been drunk and sick. He just knew Sandy and didn’t want her to get into trouble with work; you know a bar manager being arrested for drunk and disorderly. Dwayne thanked him. He told the police officer that Sandy and he were friends. He would make sure she was safe.
They walked back to the hotel from the downtown precinct. Dwayne held the back of her shoulders and guided her. Twice, she stopped to puke. After the second time puking, he handed her a handkerchief and she seemed to stand up steady enough to talk to him.
Sandy: Why are you doing this?
Dwayne: Doing what?
Sandy: Rescuing me; being my knight again.
Dwayne: To get you in the sack?
Dwayne: Because I know it aggravates you?
Dwayne: I don’t know how to not rescue you. I said goodbye to you three times today. Here we are for a fourth time.
Sandy: It’s fate.
Dwayne: For me to rescue you over and over and you to get irritated about it every time?
Sandy: No, fate for us to fall in love.
Dwayne: Oh, is it now? I thought you didn’t believe in that type of thing.
Sandy: I didn’t until I met you, by golly.
Sandy collapsed and Dwayne caught her in his arms. He carried her the remainder of the way to the hotel, through the lobby, up the elevator and to his room.