Go ahead, you freaking coward, I thought. You drove all this way, with your new 6" GPS. Now you’re a bowl of jello who can't ring a bell? I took a deep breath and pushed the buzzer ... nothing. I knocked, softly. The door opened, slowly....
"Joey Sliwa?" a voice said.
It felt good to be recognized after thirty-five years. "Yes, Lana?" I said, smiling, questioning. A touch on the arm and an awkward hug. She led me into a medium-sized living room with two, white-as-snow Shih Tzu puppies.
Sitting on a plush, microfiber couch with coffee and a baker's box of pastries. I was so drawn to this woman, I had to force myself to move away.... The dogs sat up. Their attentive stares were ... disconcerting.
"I can't believe I'm here," I said. "I never would have come without calling -- but, your number was disconnected and you stopped communicating on your Facebook page."
"I'm flattered you were so concerned. You do know I have MS, right?"
"Yes, of course. I figured it might be something like that. I guess ... I wanted to see you one last time before I dropped dead," I said, with a half-smile. Our fingers touched and, yes, there were sparks.
"How are your kids doing," I inquired.
"Both grown and out of the house. They're always badgering me to come live with them." She seemed lost in thought ... for a moment.
"And, Bob. You never told me. What happened to Bob?"
"I don't want to talk about him," she said. "He was abusive and a terrible father. That's all I'm going to say -- for now."
I moved closer and put my arm around her. She didn't pull away. "Lana, you don't have to explain anything. I'm here to visit my old friend, who I love very much." There were tears in her eyes.
"You know, Joey, we can never be," she said.
The Shih Tzus' white-as-snow fur was no longer so white. I felt a pain, and I was frozen in place.
"Joey. What's wrong? Can I help you?" I heard her speak.
"Can I help you? Sir, do you need help?" The voice of a young man. "Dina, call 911."
I opened my eyes. My arm was outstretched, trying to press the buzzer. There were people around me who I didn't recognize. "I was looking for Lana," I stuttered. "Lana White?" The good-looking kid with the Burt Reynold's moustache took notice when I repeated her name.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My name is Joey Sliwa. I was friends with your mother many years ago. We recently connected again on Facebook," I said. "And, you're her son, Daniel. I saw pictures." I felt a tightening in my chest.
"My sister called for help. They'll be here, shortly," said, Daniel. He ran back into the house. There were neighbors gathered around.
A teenage girl who was listening to the conversation sat next to me. "Lana passed away three months ago. It was in all the papers. And, it was a week before her body was discovered. They found Goo and Princess eating parts of her body. It was just too horrible," she said.
One of the neighbors screamed at her: "Gigi, get the hell out of here. You're father's going to hear about this. This man is in no condition to hear that ****!" Gigi quickly left my side.
The ambulance arrived and they lifted me onto the stretcher. The last face I saw was Lana's daughter, Dina. It was uncanny the resemblance to her mother. I felt light-headed from the oxygen. The cold ambulance air-conditioning made me think of brisk autumn winds. I knew, if I closed my eyes now, I would be back in the living room with Lana. So, I did close my eyes, for the last time....
Copyright © Tom Arnone | Year Posted 2016