February 23rd, 2001
I have to attend a publicity conference and convention at the Balmoral Hotel tomorrow night. Crane Global Visions are introducing their new range of electronic devices and I’m required to do a little promotional song and dance act.
Although I am a confident speaker, I look forward to it with much dread and trepidation.
It is what happened after my little spiel in the Balmoral Conference Hall that concerns me more.
Following my second divorce, I had vowed never to get married again. But Erika had come into my life – smart, witty, intelligent, beautiful and a whole fifteen years younger than me.
She had swept me off my feet from the first time we had met at the Balmoral.
An unexpected cold front had swept into town, and I had sort warmth and liquid sustenance in the ladies bar just inside the hotel’s main entrance.
I had met Erika at the bar counter. She had graciously accepted my offer of a drink, although she had hardly touched her current one.
At first I thought she was there for Global’s new products launch, but soon discovered that it was her favorite spot to unwind after a long day at the office. She was an assistant editor for a big local newspaper – The Chronicle.
So young, and already an assistant editor! I was immediately infatuated. Infatuation eventually led to love, and in time marriage.
They say love is blind. How very true! I had fooled myself into believing that what I felt for her was mutual. How very wrong!
In the time leading up to us getting married, I had made it clear to her that I had no intention of fathering any children.
I was 43 at the time and didn’t foresee myself having the time or patience necessary for raising a couple of little Crane’s.
I had been on my own for many years. Having a new wife - that alone would require some serious patience, adjustments and sacrifices.
But, as I said, I loved her and was willing to make any necessary changes to my self-centered lifestyle.
Although she had never been married before, or had any children of her own, I was delighted when she said that despite the fact that she loved kids, her career was very important to her. She promised to continue taking precautions towards this as she was highly allergic to latex. That suited me more than fine as I abhor the contraceptive function of rubber myself.
It was less than six months later that she came to me with a confession.
“Not to me, I’ve never been late ever. I can ring the calendar I’m so regular.”
“It happens. Stop worrying.”
“But, what if?”
“Stop worrying. It’ll be fine.”
“I’m not having an abortion.”
“Fine, whatever you say.”
“I mean it, Cornelius.”
“How can you be so calm about it? I thought you said…”
“It’ll be okay.”
It wasn’t okay.
The very next day she announced. “I was at my gynie. It’s official. You’re gonna be a daddy.”
“One hundred percent!”
The news was like a bullet through my heart. I remember half staggering before finding a chair and flopping down. I felt nauseous.
“God, you’re pale as a sheet, Corny” That was one of her terms of endearment that she used for me. Normally when she was upset. “I told you I’m not having an abortion!” There was determination, but also anger in her tone. “It’s not so bad.”
“What?” I choked from my dry gaping mouth.
“I decided on the way home that I’m going to quit. You got nothing to worry about. It’ll be fine. I’ll do all the shitty child-raisin’ things I know you don’t want to be doing at your age. You won’t ever have to get up in the night or change a messy diaper. You can leave all that to me. I promise.” She took my face in her hands and forced me to look into her eyes. “I know how hard you work. I know very well how important your work at Global is. You won’t miss a night’s well-earned rest ever. It’ll be fine. I promise. In the end you’re gonna feel sorry that you ever felt bad about it at all. You’ll love him…or her. He was made from love – our love. It’s a precious little gift from God. If it’s a daughter, I hope she has your eyes. You know how much I love your eyes?”
Now, all of this would have been fine and hunky-dory, except for one important little fact:
Way back in ’93 after knocking up my secretary, and then convincing her to have an abortion, I had decided that it would be far safer, and also give me the needed peace of mind to enjoy myself without having the worry of unwanted little feet pitter-pattering in my hallway, if I closed the shop permanently. Or, as we men say, ‘Convert to a sport model’ – the medical phrase is to have a vasectomy.
She didn’t stagger or turn pale or even feel the need to sit down when I told her.
Instead of guilt or remorse or even shame, came a heated flurry of accusations and derogatory remarks - I was the one in the wrong!
Why had I never told her about it?
“What difference does it make? You said you agreed that not having children would be fine! You said your career was more important.”
“What about yesterday?”
“Yesterday when I told you I was late. Didn’t you think it would have been a good time to tell me?”
“If I had? What then? Would you have aborted God’s precious little gift.”
“Not me, Erika. It was some other man. Not me!”
Suddenly it was as if someone had taken the woman I once knew out of the room and replaced her with a deadly, venomous, spitting cobra. It had been like flipping a switch. I never knew the woman who now stood before me. Even Mr. Hyde would have been shocked.
“You wanna know who I been fucking all this time?”
“Too bad, because you gonna hear it anyway.” My world had already collapsed around me, and for an instant I thought she was going to say Steve Ferran, my one and only true friend in the whole world. That would have been the statement that buried me forever. Instead, she proudly declared and emphasized the name, “Willy Newood!”
I felt both ashamed and relieved, “Who?”
“Yeah, sure!” I sneered cynically. “You sure it wasn’t Seymore Butts?”
“Willy Newood, the barman at the Balmoral, duh!”
“That’s really his name?”
“It’s probably William, but everyone calls him Willy.”
“Well, that figures.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Much bigger than your fuckin’ little wiener!”
“Okay, so he’s a big prick then?”
“Yeah…no! Fuck you, you’re confusing me.”
“Not me, you’re doing a good enough job all by yourself.”
“You’re such a self righteous, sanctimonious bastard! No wonder your first wife also left you for another man.”
“It’s okay, Erika. Say what you wanna say and be done with. You can’t hurt me anymore than you already have.”
“Is that so?”
“Life sure is funny.”
“Well I sure as hell ain’t laughing!”
“No, neither am I, but just ten minutes ago, I worshiped the ground you walked on. Now I wish it would open up and swallow me.”
“So now you’re the only one who’s hurting. What about me? What about my feelings?
“Don’t mistake that guilt you’re feeling for hurt.”
“I mean for good.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I’ll take you for every last fucking cent.”
“Finally the truth shows its ugly head.”
“What are you on about?”
“That’s what it was always about – the money.”
“You guessed that one right grandpa. I was captain of the cheerleading team and the goddamned prom queen. You must have been living in a dream world if you ever thought that I was marrying you for your good looks and charming personality!”
“That’s it, twist the knife some more. I told you already you can’t hurt me anymore than you’ve already done. I’m dead inside, now. Numb! You’ve killed anything and everything I ever felt for you.” She opened the front door. I added, “I don’t think I even feel hate.”
“Is that so? Well I hate your fucking guts! I’ll start moving my stuff out tomorrow when you’re at work.”
“Yeah! Go! Run and tell Willy what his woody gone an’ done. Let’s see if he enjoys hearing the good news about being a daddy?”
The door had violently slammed shut.
After my second divorce, I fell into a state of extreme depression. I was soon leading a very promiscuous, alcohol-soaked life.
And although I had the capital to buy the services of some of the most beautiful women that money could afford, I even started to sexually harass many of the attractive females on my payroll. The threat of dismissal had seen many end up on my large four-poster bed at the mansion on the hill.
And whenever my target was a married lady, which was more often than not, then the encounter was far sweeter for me – it was my way of getting my own back at this unfair and cruel world.
Each orgasm felt like a victory shout into the perpetually smiling face of that deceitful entity called Fate.
It was five years after the divorce that the doctors gave me the bad news. I suppose it was inevitable that my self-destructive lifestyle would eventually do just that – destroy me.
“Don’t worry,” the doctors all told me. “There are many new drugs; new revolutionary medicines that can help you live a long and normal life.”
Revolting would be a better term to us! Is it normal to know that your body, which is already undergoing the ravages of that other cruel entity, Father Time, is now riddled with a disease that could hasten your journey along that inevitable path?
Of course, at the time of the doctors’ disclosure, I had truly believed it was a one-way street with an inevitable dead end.
But I finally succeeded in beating Fate by throwing the old sucker into reverse. I guess he never saw that one coming? Still, he had probably laughed loudly again when I had ended up back inside my six-year-old body.
It was a steep and bizarre price to pay, but immortality is priceless!
It was after the doctors’ had told me the bad news that I had become obsessed with Death and Father Time.
Many believe them to be a single entity, but with Steve’s help, we proved them wrong.
Yep, on an evening when our discussion had been about what happens to the human consciousness when the body it possess fails, the theory of preserving that consciousness indefinitely had been born.
It would be another ten years before we managed to prove the theory correct. And in so doing, we…I was able to show both Death and Father Time the finger.
Strange, that Time should be humanized in male form, when, for all intents and purposes, its very nature is so very female; filling you with hopes and promises, but at the same time sucking away your vital essence like some monstrous leech.
Erika, although she got far less than the threatened, ‘Every last fucking cent’ she had hoped for, still managed to get herself a sizable settlement amount.
Sizable enough for her and Willy to move to the West Coast where they opened a bar of their own, The Cowie Belle; a small dive with a view of the ocean.
I later heard through the grapevine that they too had divorced after being married for only two years.
Their only child, a son, had drowned whilst under Willy’s supervision during an outing to the beach.
The nails in the unfortunate toddler’s coffin had also been the final nail in their already shaky relationship.
Well, at least their marriage managed to last a lot longer than our flimsy six months!!!