When Jonah quit using, he became the poster child for sobriety. Aced tech school while working as a breakfast cook seven days a week at two different diners. Got a job as a Junior Software Engineer that paid the bills while he furthered his education, graduating with a 3.9 GPA, a CIT and followed that up two years later with an MBA.
Currently the VP of Marketing at Fortune 500’s 77th ranked Top Tech Company, he was pulling down 800k a year not including bonuses and benefit package.
Throw in a sexy, young wife and a 4000 square foot house in Pacific Heights, and you got a trifecta.
“Well then face it, you f’ing suck at dangling the proverbial carrot, Timbo. And unless you kick start your game- you’re not gonna close Scienicon. They are too big, too bright and too fat to play ball with a dribbler. And guess what Timmy my boy, you ain’t just dribbling your drool….”
Jonah dropped the pontification mid word, hit the break and spun the wheel hard to the right, and narrowly avoided embedding the front end of his Shelby GT500 into the hatchback of a waning twenty year old Toyota Previa at 78 miles an hour.
“What the? Jonah! You alright? What the hell’s going on over there?” Tim’s panicked voice was blasting through the car’s audio system as Jonah righted the Mustang, and pulled off onto the berm, staggered. How could he have escaped getting hit from behind?
“Lemme call you back..”
Jonah crossed his arms over the steering wheel closed his eyes and allowed his head to loll slowly forward until the two met. Lying there, it occurred to him that he was right in the middle of ripping Tim a new one, telling him he better tighten up His game- when himself nearly buys it in the rear end of a Previa!
The idiocy of the whole thing caused him to groan audibly, as he rebuked himself, “Who the hell are you to talk?”
He was the guy that was so far off his A game that he was practically playing on another field. He was the guy that was so scared shitless that his reign as Golden Boy would be abdicated the minute anyone found out the blood lust he originally brought to the plate- was slipping away like dry sand through a sieve.
He was the Boy with the Most Toys.. And he was losing it.
Take the situation he had himself in this minute- he was on his way home from work, for christ sake. He had no reason to be in a hurry. No matter what time he got there his beautiful wife, Carolyn, would either be already gone or en route to attend Pilates or yoga.
Now, that is not to say she was shallow. Not by a long shot. She was a gifted interior designer. Their home a showplace. Her cutting edge fashion sense kept both of them looking like they just walked off a runway. She could organize and execute with perfection any number of social events given reasonable advance.
She was exactly the wife any guy in his position would kill to have.
And she loved him.
So it certainly was not in effort to avoid any part of her, that he had lost his, what would you call it? That feeling that he used to get when he finally had an evening free? And he’d be rushing through traffic trying to get there as quickly as possible, so they could have the max amount of time together. The word escaped him, but it didn’t matter. Whatever it was, it was going at best.
Sure he still loved her. Yet there was something about the way he didn’t feel for her that he knew he had to hide. He had to pretend it wasn’t there. Just continue to go through the motions.
He had to be the only one that knew- that his life had become limp.
He no longer had a hard on for anything. Not his wife. His job. His money. His toys. To bastardize a line from an old song by Pink Floyd- he had become uncomfortably numb.
Torn from his introspection, Jonah jerked his head back hard when he heard a sharp rapping at the car window. He saw the cop, and his heart sank.
“Hey there Sir, how you doing tonight?” He said as he looked up and saw a cop that had arrested him for drug abuse and possession quite a few times in his distant past. Funny thing, he looked exactly the same. Twenty years, and this guy hadn’t changed.
“License, registration and proof of insurance.” The cop snapped back matter of factly, reinforcing Jonah’s initial observation. Still a by the book cop.
“What are you doing here? You can’t just park on the side of a main thoroughfare.” He continued as Jonah handed him his license and insurance, and slowly retrieved his registration from the glove box.
“I had a near miss accident, and I was pretty shook up, so I just pulled over for a minute to regroup.”
The cop scrutinized Jonah’s paperwork. He gave Jonah a hard look, reverted back to the picture on his license, back to Jonah, and said, “Reardon, that you? Says here your Jonah Reardon. 234 Byron Terrace.”
A bit taken aback Jonah answered, “Yeah, it’s me. I thought you looked familiar. Long time no see.”
“Looks like you’ve done a little growing up there Reardon. About time. I wouldn’t have recognized you.”
Jonah half smiled, remembering the last time they met up. He had been crawling out the garage window of an abandoned house in the city. He had crawled in there to get a little privacy to do a shot of dope, and was so high when he tried to get back out that he nodded mid window- feet out, head in, just hanging there. Shaking his head he almost couldn’t believe he was the same guy. He had come a long way.
“This is what I’m gonna do,” the cop informed him. “I’m not gonna shake you down, or make you walk a line. I’m not gonna do that, I should, but I’m not gonna. The reason I’m not gonna is you look good, Reardon. To say you look better than the last time I saw you would be an insult, because I can see you’ve changed your ways, even more than your looks have changed. And it is for that reason and that reason only, I’m gonna let you lock your car, and give you a ride home. I can’t let you drive. To do that I’d have to field test you and I wanna do whatever I can do to avoid throwing the wrench into your recovery.. Deal?”
“Deal.” Jonah heard himself answering without having given the matter any thought whatsoever. At least he wasn’t getting a ticket.
“Come on. Hop in the car. I gotta make you ride in the back. Regulations.” he said as he opened the rear door and instinctively tucked Jonah’s head through the opening.
When he realized the direction the cop was driving was the opposite direction of his home, he remembered the cop as having recited his old address, his mother’s address, as if it had been on his license. ‘Gotta hand it to him.’ Jonah thought to himself, ‘guy’s still got a crack memory if he remembers where I used to live.
Mom’s house would be fine. He hadn’t seen her in awhile anyway, and he’d already established he was in no hurry to get home.
As the cop car pulled up to the curb outside his mother’s house, the cop admonished him, “Keep up the good work Reardon. Whatever it is, you got this, you can turn this thing around.”
Jonah thanked him for the ride and had started up the walk, when he saw the kitchen curtain dropping back into place and knew his mother had seen the cops bringing him home- again.
‘Hey Mom.” Jonah announced himself as he entered.
“I saw you getting out of that cop car Jonah, so don’t ‘hi mom’ me like nothing’s going on. What on earth have you gotten yourself into this time?” She had herself so worked up, she was breathless by the time he leaned in to give her a peck on the cheek.
“Nothing Mom.” Jonah tried to assure her as he whipped the kitchen chair around and straddled it backward the way he had always done when he was young and cocky. “I avoided what could have been a serious accident, and pulled off to the side of the road to…”
“Sleep it off?” she interjected.
“No, to sit for a moment and regroup before I got back on the road. And that cop, he remembered me because he used to arrest me on a pretty regular basis back in the day, and he got confused and…
“Oh, he got confused. It’s always someone else with you Jonah. It’s never you.”
“Ma, hold on, what are you getting all bent out of shape about? Would you just let me tell you…”
His mother placed both hands flat on the table and leaned in toward him. “No Jonah. No. For once I will not just let you tell me. There is too much at stake this time. You think you know everything. You always have. But I know some things too. I know that there is an elephant in the room Jonah. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that until you admit to yourself that it is here, that you can see it, and tell me what it is so I can see it, I can’t help you- and you can’t help yourself. Just hold on Jonah. Hold on tight. If you can just hold on long enough- you can to learn to love yourself.”
In the distance, Jonah could hear a loud bawking sound. Bawk. Bawk. Bawk. His mother turned in silence and walked away from him, and toward the sound.
When a reasonable amount of time for his mother to have reached the source of the sound, came and went, and the sound not only continued but intensified Jonah became agitated.
“MOM!” he yelled out not knowing how far away she had gone and wanting to make sure she would hear him. “MOM! Shut that thing off!”
Bawk. Bawk. Bawk.
“Hey there buddy, I could hear you yelling all the way down the hall. Calm down. No, don’t try to sit up. Everything’s gonna be okay. This is a hospital, you’ve been in a serious accident. We thought we were gonna lose you there for a minute, but it looks like you’re gonna get another crack at it.”
Written for D. Wallace Peach’s Speculative Fiction Prompt