To Give Again

“To another Valentine’s Day,” the older man said, lifting his pint.

The two, sitting side by side, clinked glasses, took long swallows.  The bartender delivered two shots of Jack Daniel’s.

“Yeah, it’s another Valentine’s Day with no valentine for you,” said the younger man, shaking his head.  “What’s the problem?  How’s that online dating thing working out for you?”

The older man shook his head, the same way you would if a shiver ran down your spine.  “It’s definitely not great.  I’ve been on so many sites, and on so many dates, I feel like it’s futile.”

“And for a long time now, huh?” said the younger man.

“Yeah, for maybe five years now.  I mean, well, you know I’ve had dates.  But it’s never been right, never clicked for me.  It’s been mostly one date and out.  No chemistry, you know?”

“And you don’t think you’re being too picky?”

The older man laughed.  “You know, that’s what everyone says.  But please, don’t tell me you don’t know what chemistry is?”

The younger man nodded, sighed.  “Yeah, I hear you.  You know me. Once I found her, that was it.  I miss her.”

“Me too.  She was a great woman.”

The two sipped.

The younger man said, “I know you never got over your true love either.  That’s definitely not going to make it easy to connect with someone.”

“Yeah.  No doubt that’s a big part of it.  After Elaine died, I don’t know.  She took something of me with her, something I can’t get back.”

The two sipped.  The bar looked out over Ala Moana Park.  Beyond that the waves rolled in to shore like the rhythm of a beating heart.

The younger man said, “How’s David the Third doing?”

“Ah, well, you know.  He’s lived in L.A. longer than he ever lived here.  My son’s a Californian now, not a Hawai‘i boy.”

“Amazing,” said the younger man.  “Who would have thought that someone who loved the water so much would end up never coming back here?”

The older man nodded, said nothing, sipped.

“By the way,” said the younger man, “here’s to your mom.”

“Oh yeah,” the older man laughed, “you better not forget about her.”

The younger man smiled.  “Yes, I never have.  She’s still good, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” said the older man.  “I never understood why she retired.  I mean, all she does is sew clothes for her friends.  So now she sews for free instead of getting paid for it.  She might just as well have kept on sewing professionally.”

“Yes,” said the younger man, “so you’d think.  How about you?  You could have retired a long time ago.  Any plans to do so?”

The older man watched the waves pulse in to shore.  He’d never been to this bar.  ʻAʻole Pilikia, no trouble, no problems.  Everything copacetic.

“Lotta pilikia nowadays,” said the older man.  “Gotta stay on the job, help keep O‘ahu as safe as I can.”

The younger man nodded.  “I give you credit.  I know you wanted to teach English, like Elaine.  I still feel pretty bad about you shifting gears, joining the police force, just because of me.”

The older man watched the waves.  He turned and looked at the younger man.  “Hey, it’ been an honor.  Every day I think about you.  It keeps me going.  It keeps me doing what I have to do.”

“Chief of Detectives,” said the younger man.  “You never thought about trying to move higher up the ladder?”

The older man shook his head.  “No.  I like it right where I am with HPD.  I feel as if I’m doing the most good being right there.”

The younger man nodded, watched the waves.  He turned to the older man, raised his glass.  “Here’s to you,” he said, his eyes glistening.  “Here’s to your dedication to me.”

The older man raised his beer, drained it.  Placing his glass on the bar, he picked up the shot of Jack Daniel’s and downed it in one swallow.  Standing up, he took some money out of his wallet and laid it on the bar, turned and walked away.

“Hey,” called the bartender.  “Aren’t you going to do this other shot and drink this beer?”

“Oh no, they’re not for me,” said the older man.  “They’re for my dad.”

“Your dad?” said the said the bartender.  “Is he coming to drink them?”

The older man thought about the younger man, smiled.  “No, no, he’s gone.  He’s been gone a long time now.”

The older man turned, walked toward the exit, and pushed through the doors.

The bartender shrugged and shook his head.  “Some kind of whack-o,” he said to no one sitting there.

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