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Ron was unhappy with the way his life had turned out. He had always expected to be a celebrity; a wealthy celebrity. He had not realized that this would probably require a lot of hard work and discipline. He had depended on luck. Luck had let him down.
As he looked back on his short life, he could see how often he had had the opportunity to take luck by the throat. But those opportunities were past now. His life no longer had the prospect of wealth or celebrity.
He had been born to a couple of teenagers. They had never really grown up the whole time he’d known them. He was the mature one of the family, and he resented this. He had no brothers or sisters. His parents, though alive, were no longer together, and he felt as if he was all alone in the world. Holidays divided between different households was difficult for him to come to terms with. It robbed the holidays of the joy he so much wanted them to hold. He had long ago decided to forgo holidays altogether, not because they no longer had any meaning for him, but because they meant so much. He refused to see them turned into tugs-of-war.
Ron had joined the service as soon as he got out of high school, not because he wanted to, but because he didn’t really have anything better to do, and no place better to do it. He was not a model soldier. He was in and out of trouble, but somehow managed to get out with an honorable discharge. He still had nothing better to do.
He finally found himself a job in a factory. Nothing too demanding, and perhaps a
little demeaning to his intelligence. But it kept him fed. He didn’t hate his job, but
he had no loyalty to it.
He smoked a little too much. He loved his cigarettes. He didn’t think he was addicted, and would quit from time to time, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months, and twice for a couple of years. But he loved tobacco. He knew it might kill him someday, but this did not cause his affection to waver.
He also loved women. They seemed to love him as well. At least those who could
get close to him. But there was something about him that they could not penetrate, no matter how much or how often they tried.
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Ron was a dreamer, but not a doer. He had some good ideas, but they seldom got
beyond the interior of his mind. Whenever one of them would seep out into action it was always left undone. He did not seem to have the energy or interest to push himself to complete anything. It was that lack of discipline again.
Ron was staring out of the window, looking at the rain falling out of the sky when
he heard someone knocking at the door. He got up to answer it, and as he did he knocked his ashtray off the arm of the sofa, breaking the ashtray and sending the contents onto the floor and under the furniture. He accepted this as a part of life, without cursing, without getting angry, but sorry that he had broken the ashtray.
He opened the door. Standing there, rainwater dripping from her strawberry blonde hair, was Kathy. It looked like she had been crying, and he invited her in. She refused. "I’ve just come by to say goodbye," she said. "I’m on my way to the airport, and I wanted to see you before I left."
"Where are you going?" asked Ron. Kathy was one of his closest friends, and he would be sorry to lose her.
"I’m going to see my mother. Dad’s gone. He died about an hour ago."
"Kathy, I’m sorry. What happened?"
"He was..." She began to cry. He reached out for her and pulled her close, putting his arms around her as she sobbed into his chest. He loved the idea of her tears soaking into his shirt; her make-up being smeared onto his clothes. He loved her helplessness. He immediately felt guilty for this, but it didn’t make him desire her any less.
"Had he been sick?"
"No. He wasn’t at home when he died. He was shot. He was shot in another woman’s bed by her husband. I guess he came home from work and caught them.
My mother’s broken hearted. I’m not sure how I feel yet. I’m mad at him, of course, but I loved him so much, and now he’s gone. How could he do this to me?"
"I’m sure it was nothing personal Kathy."
"I can’t stay. My plane’s leaving in an hour."
"How are you getting to the airport?"
"Paula’s taking me."
"She misses you, Ron. She wanted to come in, but she wasn’t sure you’d want to see her."
"Well, don’t bother yourself about all that right now. Let me walk you out to the car."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I’m sure. I have nothing against Paula. I think she may have something against me. I don’t know. I just can’t read minds."
Ron and Kathy walked out into the rain. Paula’s car was parked there at the curb,
the engine running. Ron opened the passenger door, and Kathy got in. Ron looked at Paula and smiled. She smiled back, but more out of courtesy than any real sense of warmth. She looked like she might have been crying as well.
Ron turned back to Kathy. "When are you coming back?"
"I don’t know. I’ll call you in a couple of days. Please pray for me. And Ron..."
Ron looked her in the eyes. He thought he knew what was coming, but didn’t know how to stop it.
"What is it, Kathy?"
"I’ll miss you."
He was relieved. "I’ll miss you too. Call me."
Ron closed the car door and waved goodbye. They drove off, and he stood there in the rain, until the tail lights disappeared in the wetness. He walked back inside.
He lit a cigarette, and began thinking about Kathy. Why was he so attracted to her
He had been sitting up later than usual. He had been thinking about Kathy, recalling their short conversation that had revealed an ugly secret about her father. He had begun praying for her at some point, but he couldn't quite remember when his thoughts had taken that turn. It still seemed so natural after such a long time. Kathy must have known that he didn't pray much anymore, and yet she had still asked. But maybe she didn't know. It wasn't the kind of thing one went around boasting about.
He found himself thinking about Paula. How did he really feel about her? He thought he knew once, but that was over a year ago, and much had changed since then. He tried to remember back to those days, but it was difficult to separate the good from the bad. Maybe some day it would be possible, but time hadn't passed far enough along yet to dull that razor edge of anger and disappointment. Was there enough time in eternity for that to happen?
He was damaged. He had pinned all his hopes on her, saw her as the dream he had pursued for so long. He had chased this dream unbeknownst to him for years. He had finally become aware of his pursuit, but it was still nothing more than a vague feeling of lack; an absence rather than a presence. The way she had made him feel led him to believe she was in some way connected to this undefined longing, but he saw now that he had only confused a shadow for a doorway. He had been terribly disappointed, and to his mind betrayed. She had made promises she could never allow herself to keep. In the end, she proved to be, not the dream at all, but an imitation and distraction. He had since vowed not to be distracted like that again, but he only ended up becoming aloof and cynical, unable to believe the goodwill of others was genuine. Even those who loved him began to sense a pulling away, a distancing. The pursuit had turned into fear, and Ron knew it. And he was becoming tired of it.