I could smell it on him the moment he entered the room. Even more than usual. My eyes began to water.
You’d never be able to tell just by looking at him though. He’s the soberest drunk I’ve ever known. If you breathalized him, the balloon might go up like the Hindenburg, but he could walk a line straighter than any you could draw between two points.
“What you been up to?” I asked cheerily as he sat down on the chair opposite me.
“Been drinking and thinking,” he said.
“I could tell the drinking,” I said, “but what’s this about thinking?”
“Ha!” he said. “Is that a joke, then, you saying I don’t do much thinking?”
“No no no, of course not,” I said. “I’m just asking what you were thinking about?”
He grabbed some tissues from the box on the coffee table and wiped at his nose. “I was thinking about the course of true love.”
I didn’t laugh. I know English majors occasionally say things like this.
“You of all people know how I’ve never been lucky in my relationships,” he said.
If you knew him, you’d know this was true.
“So I figured that this time, you know, maybe this once, after all the lousy relationships I’ve had through my whole miserable life, could it just possibly be that I’d finally found the one, you know?”
I waited. Nothing. “So what happened?” I asked.
“What do you think happened? It all went to hell.”
“Oh my,” I said, “I’m sorry to hear that. Do you want to talk about it?”
So he opened up the way only men who’ve drunk too much alcohol can. He’d found this woman at his favorite watering hole, chatted her up a few times, finally got up the courage to ask her out, dated for several months, and then, wouldn’t you know it, all of a sudden she won’t answer his calls and stops coming to the club.
I said, “Did you try going to her home to see her?”
“Yeah, I did. There’re never anyone home. I figure she must be out with someone else. I’ve gone by three times already. She’s never home anymore.”
“Do you know where she works?”
“She’s a freelance writer. She works from home. I just can’t get in touch.”
“Oh my, that’s too bad.”
“Too bad? You know what my whole life has been like. This isn’t just a too bad kind of thing. It’s like I’m running out of time. I got so few chances left to find the one. I could be dead before I find someone who really loves me.”
I didn’t know what to tell him. No one’s known him longer than I have. Maybe no one is ever going to care about him the way I do, either. And that’s a true love too.
“Well,” I said, “try to get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s another day, you know.”
“Yeah right, but like I say. There aren’t a whole lot of those tomorrows left for me.”
“Please don’t give up,” I said. “You never know.”
I watched him head upstairs to bed, and I felt powerless to help him. It’s not like I haven’t tried over the years to find good women for him. I don’t know what it is, but he really hasn’t been lucky. My poor boy. My poor, dear boy.