We're taking a couple of new turns. Your thoughts?
After Aaron left I really felt alone in the house, even though both my parents were there. But it was like they were there, but not really present. They rarely spoke to each other. Maybe they'd been married so long that they no longer needed to speak. Or maybe that was their way being able to stand each other: a negotiated silence that had solidified into a permanent and mutual blindness. That scared me. I could easily see that happening to me and Aaron: two lives intertwined, but frigidly separate, like Siamese twins who hated each other.
Memorial Day passed without comment. Most of the houses on the street, including ours, flew flags, but I didn't notice any other celebrations, except for the parade of war movies the old man watched all day on Turner Classic Movies and the History Channel.
When he reached Indiana, Aaron called me. He'd checked into a motel and was meeting the movers the next morning at 9:00.
"I wish you were here with me, Baby, but I know you need to take care of things there."
"Thanks for understanding." I was grateful he wasn't giving me a hard time for staying behind.
"Are you going to see Rich Sharpe while you're there?"
I hesitated. But there was no use pretending. My friendship with Rich wasn't a dirty little secret.
"I called him this afternoon. We're having dinner Wednesday night."
There was a brief silence on the other end. "Well, say hello to him from me," Aaron finally said. "And call me the minute you get home."
It was a clear, cool evening, so I decided to walk the dog. It was nice to get out of the house. The old neighborhood was frighteningly unchanged, like a time capsule from the 1980's. Actually, it was probably little changed from the 1940's, when most of these houses had been built: the square, neat yards, the front porches, the driveways leading back to small, single car garages, the knots of petunias and pansies around the base of trees, tricycles abandoned on the sidewalk.
A cat slinked under a car and Gorcey bristled and growled. "Forget it, old pal," I warned him. "No chasing cats for you anymore."
He looked up at me with his cranky, pushed-in face and I almost laughed. He was a silly, flatulent little dog, but he kept my father company. And he was enjoying the walk. I doubt anyone had taken him for a walk in ages.
We strolled all the way down to the Detroit end of the street. I stopped in front of the Keeley house, but there was no sign of Greg or his parents.
I hadn't thought about Greg Keeley in years. That's the trouble with spending time at home. There are old ghosts everywhere. You just can't get away from them.
We stopped on Detroit, right next to the drug store. Then Gorcey and I walked back home.
On Wednesday night Rich Sharpe took me out to the Orchid on Mayfield, which he promised was the best Thai restaurant on the East Side. "As good as anything in New York City." And it was a nice place. It wasn't anything close to being like in New York, but it was good enough. I had chicken and jasmine rice and Rich had the Pad Thai.
But I wasn't really focusing on the food. I was thinking of what I'd tell Rich about my recent relationship difficulties. How much to tell? And with how much emotion? But Rich was a friend. Someone I could trust. So between the appetizer and the main courses, I plunged ahead and told him what had happened between me and Aaron in the past few weeks.
Rich sighed at the end of the recital. "I've said it before, Shea: you have to make your own life separate from Aaron's. You know that. You've known it for a long time. It's been getting bad the past few years and will only get worse in the future!"
"I know, Rich," I said, with a defeated air. "I know it's been happening, but what can I do? He just ignores me when I try to talk about it. It's easier to just let things slide."
"Easier for you -- or for him? It isn't going to get any better, you know. Unless you both get some kind of couples therapy." Rich prided himself on practical solutions.
"I've had enough therapy! After Dr. DiGiglio, I'm fucking finished!"
"I said for both of you," said Rich. "You and Aaron. Together."
I shook my head. "There's no way in hell Aaron is going to agree to couples counseling. He doesn't think there's any problem with our relationship -- at least as long as I agree to everything he says. And besides, he'd never take the advice of some couples counselor. He'll end up psychoanalyzing the therapist! You know what he used to do with his old analyst back in New York? He used to second guess him all the time! And that guy studied in Geneva with some student of Jung's. Aaron has written papers on Freud and Lacan and psychoanalytic film theory, so he's not going to buy anything that some guy with a clipboard and an M.A. in counseling is going to tell him about our relationship! Aaron invented our relationship! And I guess that means he can do what he wants with it. And with me."
"You've had rough patches with Aaron before and you've always made up with him." Now it was Rich's turn to shake his head.
"I know," I admitted. "But it feels different this time. I never doubted him before. Never thought he was cheating on me. I'm still not certain what went on with that grad student. I don't know what to believe!"
Rich looked down at his plate. "But you don't want to believe he was unfaithful?"
"No, I don't want to believe that. I can't believe it and still stay with him."
"You can if you love him. And you will. I know you will." I could hear the regret in Rich's voice. "But it doesn't have to be that way, Shea. You know that."
I knew what Rich was trying to tell me. But I didn't want to hear it. Didn't want to deal with it. Not tonight.
The waitress came to the table. "Would you gentlemen like some dessert?"
"None for me," I said. Rich also declined.
I took out my wallet, but Rich grabbed the check. "Oh, no! I invited you. This is my treat."
"You always pay," I reminded him.
"Beauty has its privileges," he replied. "It's still early. Why don't we go somewhere?"
"You mean to a club? Or a bar?" One thing I knew for sure -- Rich hated loud music and he hated gay bars. That was something he and Aaron shared.
"Not exactly," said Rich. "There's a place down by University Circle. Some of my students told me about it. It's a little funky, but it's fun. Like an old hippie place. They have folksingers."
I stared at Rich. This wasn't at all what I was expecting. "Folksingers? You're joking, right?"
"No," he said. "Come on!"
The Barking Spider was the farthest thing from a club or a gay bar that I could imagine. It was funky all right: small and dark and low-ceilinged, more like a converted garage behind some old university buildings and a more upscale coffeehouse. Rich parked and we had to weave our way through some bushes and down an alley in order to find it.
"You were right about the hippies," I said, looking around. "I think we've just gone back in time to 1969!"
Rich laughed. "I told you it was different."
We sat down at a big wooden table, facing the stage. Rich went back to the bar and got us a couple of beers. The rest of the customers seemed to be college students; except for the guy tending bar, we were the oldest people there.
The stage was just a space at one end of the place with a microphone and a couple of amplifiers -- there wasn't even a platform for the performers to stand on. A tall guy with a mop of curly red hair walked up and turned on a few lights, pointing them at the stage. Then he opened up a case, took out a battered acoustic guitar, and stepped up to the mic.
"I'm Finn," he said with a pronounced Irish accent. "It's good to see some of ya back again tonight. And a couple of new faces as well. That's brilliant. Just brilliant! Here's a tune I know you'll all enjoy. " And he launched into a Bob Dylan song, 'It's all Over Now, Baby Blue.'
"Even I know this song," said Rich. "He's pretty good."
"That guitar has seen better days," I commented. But I also had to agree: Finn had a good voice and he got a lot of sound out of the old guitar. "That's an old Gibson. I used to have one like it."
"I didn't know you played the guitar," said Rich. "I didn't know you played any instrument."
"I didn't. Not really. My mother thought that since I was hopeless at sports and couldn't draw a straight line, maybe I was musical. She wanted me to play the piano, but the old man wasn't about to spring any cash for a piano. One of my cousins had an old guitar he'd left behind when he moved out, so my aunt let me have it. I took lessons from a guy at a music store on Detroit. He tried to teach me some real guitar licks -- 'Smoke on the Water,' 'Stairway to Heaven,' the usual -- but the best I could manage was a few basic chords."
Rich gazed at me. "I learn something new about you every time I see you."
I looked away from Rich and at the stage. "Every kid thinks he can play the guitar -- until he actually tries to!"
My dreams of rock and roll success were fairly well smashed when I tried to play at a family picnic at my Aunt Mary-Pat's. I found that my stage-fright was so strong I couldn't even manage to croak out a single word of 'Leavin' on a Jet Plane,' which I'd practiced for hours. My musical career began and ended right there.
Finn played for forty-five minutes, a mix of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Irish songs I recognized from my old man's Clancy Brothers albums, and a couple of unfamiliar things I thought might be originals. As a performer, Finn was quite winning -- besides singing he kept up a running commentary between songs and sometimes even during them, laughing, joking, calling out to his friends, and demanding more beer.
"I'll be taking a wee break for now, but I'll be back for another set in two shakes. Thanks for coming. My name's Finnbar Kennedy. Don't you be forgetting it!"
He put his guitar back in the case -- and then walked directly to our table and sat down. "You fellas are new here. This your first time at the Spider?""
"I'm Rich. And I've been here before," said Rich. I could tell he was more than a little disconcerted by our intruder. "But my friend hasn't."
"Oh?" Finn looked at me as if I were on approval. "And what might your friend's name be?"
"I'm Shea." I stuck my hand out awkwardly for him to shake, almost knocking over my mug of beer. "I enjoyed your set. Were some of those songs that you wrote yourself?"
"Aye!" Finn grinned. "A few of 'em. I only toss a smattering of me own tunes in there for amusement. This lot only wants to hear familiar stuff. I could play the same five Dylan songs every night and they'd never complain -- or notice! Are you a musician yourself, Shea?"
"No, but I know some Irish music. My last name is Desmond. I grew up on the West Side. Lakewood."
"Sure," Finn nodded. "I play places over that way. The Harp. D'Arcy's. Tara's Throne."
"Tara's Throne isn't far from my parents' house. Do you live on the West Side?"
Finn lifted one bushy, orange eyebrow. With his tall, lanky frame, red hair, and blue eyes, he looked a like an elongated leprechaun. He would have fit into a Desmond family gathering without any difficulty: he looked more like a member of my family than I did. "That's a brilliant question. It depends, my good friend Shea Desmond. I live wherever the Goddess sends me. Right now I'm perching not far from here with a few friendly folks I met at one of my gigs. Next week, I may be at some other abode -- or in another town."
"Like a wandering minstrel, huh?" said Rich, frowning.
"Just so!" said Finn. "'A thing of threads and patches'! That's me!" He glanced over my shoulder and his eyes began to gleam. "If you lads will excuse me, I see someone lovely I'd like to become better acquainted with." And Finn was off, heading for a long-haired blonde in a peasant blouse who was leaning against the bar.
"That guy was flirting with you," Rich muttered.
"I don't think so!" Rich was as paranoid as Aaron. "Did you see the way he made a beeline for that little hippie girl? He's Mr. Irish Straighty McStraight!"
Rich drained his beer. "Are you ready to go?"
I wanted to stay and hear another set, but I knew I had to get up early to take the old man to Cleveland Clinic for his tests. And Rich was driving.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm ready."