Wednesday, September 1, 2004

PART 42 - Say Goodbye

Say what you will about Madonna - her seemingly endless total transformations, her shocking antics, her religion, whatever. I like her, always have.

Take a Bow
Madonna

Take a bow, the night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Lights are low, the curtains down
There's no one here

Say your lines but do you feel them
Do you mean what you say when there's no one around
Watching you, watching me, one lonely star

I've always been in love with you
I guess you've always known it's true
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye
Say goodbye

Make them laugh, it comes so easy
When you get to the part where you're breaking my heart
Hide behind your smile, all the world loves a clown

Wish you well, I cannot stay
You deserve an award for the role that you played
No more masquerade, you're one lonely star

All the world is a stage
And everyone has their part
But how was I to know which way the story'd go
How was I to know you'd break my heart

I've always been in love with you
Guess you've always known it too
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say goodbye
Say goodbye . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Like clockwork, I always met my friends at Rick's house on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday following my encounter with Rick, I was noticeably absent.

The next morning, I got a call from Lisa, Mike's wife (Mike is Rick's younger brother, remember.)

"Rita! What are you doing?" she said. She always said that when she called me.

"Heyyyy, Lisa - not too much, just working for the man," I answered as I saved a couple of documents I had been editing.

"Don't give me that shit - where WERE you last night? We didn't see you last weekend either; you missed Rick's birthday party at Nashville Sound. We miss you," she said. Did she know? I was thinking that maybe she DID know.

"Aww, thanks . . . sorry I missed all the fun. Just been crazy around here," I hedged, not willing to tip my hand - yet.

After a brief interlude of silence, Lisa spoke up again, "Sooooooo . . . ."

"Yes?" I answered, trying to read her voice. She knew. I could hear it.

"So, what happened with you and Rick last week?" she finally asked. I chuckled a little; she really sucked at playing innocent and unknowing.

"Whatcha mean?" I offered. I wanted to know what she had been told before I said a word. For some reason, it was important to me not to reveal anything that he hadn't revealed already. After all, she was a part of his FAMILY, she still talked with his ex, and he was the one that was so dedicated to fidelity. If she knew, then fine, we would talk, if not, then I wasn't saying a thing.

"Well, let's just say that Rick mentioned that you and he . . . did a little more than DANCE last week," she said carefully.

"Define 'a little more', Lisa," I urged her. She was going to break before me, I would see to it.

"Oh, come on! Did you fuck him or not?!" she blurted out, exasparated. I laughed out loud; Lisa was a VP in a pretty stuffy bank, and I had this vision of her sitting in her suit, prim and proper, talking this way. "What the hell's so funny?" she added.

"You. You are funny. Watch that mouth; you are on the clock, sister," I advised. Taking on a more somber note, I said, "OK, yeah, it's true."

"OH MY GOD!" she screeched.

"Lisa, I seriously hope your office door is shut. You are getting hysterical," I commented. "Besides, calm down. It was a HUGE mistake; it won't be repeated," I said with finality.

"What? What do you mean, huge mistake? What happened?" she asked, with a mix of concern and curiosity.

"Well, it wasn't something that either of us put much thought or consideration into beforehand. He had been drinking, we were alone, and I told him I cared about him. He reacted to that, and the upshot is that I regret what happened, I am sure he does, too, so that's that."

"Was he rough with you?" she asked me candidly. Damn, how much had he told her?

"What makes you ask that?" I really should have been a lawyer.

"Just based on what I know about him, and what his ex said to me a few times." Ahh, ok, so this wasn't just me, it was just his way. Good to know.

"Yeah, he was, but I didn't get the feeling that he intended to hurt me. Besides, I'm fine," I said, trying to sound cheery and light.

"You sure?" she questioned me, doubt in her voice.

"Yeah, I'm sure, but I don't think I will be around for awhile. Im not sure how I would feel about being around him, especially after I told him how I feel and after what happened, so I think I will lay low for awhile," I advised her.

"Noooooooo! You can't dump all of us just because of Rick's dumb ass! Screw him, we'll go out without him, its no fun if you don't go," she whined.

She was right, I couldn't hide forever. Long after the bruising was gone, I was still feeling the sting of that night, though. Everything felt unfinished, scattered, and wrong, and I was devastated that I had brought this upon myself. Maybe the whole "open and honest" thing was a big ol' mistake; if I had kept my mouth shut, I could have given him his gift, a warm birthday hug, still had my feelings, and walked out with both of our dignities intact. As it was, mine was torn to ribbons, raw-edged. I wondered if his was, too. Summoning up what courage I had left, I agreed to go out with the group a few weeks later, with the intention of debriefing with Rick.

I walked into the club like I had so many times, and it was nice to be back there, but something felt amiss. The old excitement that I felt was gone, the spark to be there was gone. Before, the excitement kicked in for me even while I was getting ready at home; this evening had been quite different. I wasn't particularly concerned about what I wore, and I wasn't in a big hurry to get there. In short, the enchantment had been stolen away, the magic that had kept me coming back had more to do with seeing Rick than going out and being with my friends.

He was sitting at the table with the rest of the group, as he always did. Impecabbly dressed, looking as handsome as ever. He was sitting in the same chair he always sat in, and there was an empty chair beside him for me. Everyone greeted me warmly, and tried their best to convey how much they had missed me. I sat down beside Rick, somewhat cautiously, but I was struggling to look like everything was fine. Rick smiled and was cordial, and when he stood up and walked away from the table a few minutes later, I was thankful for the small break in the tension that his going to the bathroom or getting a drink provided.

Except he didn't come back.

After half an hour, Mike went out to look for him. It wasn't long before he came back in, saying that Rick was getting some fresh air out in the parking lot.

That was my cue to go. "I'm sorry, everybody. I shouldn't have come. I've made everyone uncomfortable, and I think I will go on home," I announced to the table. Even though they protested and cajoled, I couldn't be persuaded, and I headed for the door. When I swung open the door to step out into the night air, I took a deep, cleansing breath and resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never return to this place. Something felt irretrievably broken. It was the end of an era, of sorts.

The parking lot was silent; there wasn't a sound as I walked toward my car except the crunching of the gravel under my boots. As I put my key into the lock of my driver's side door, I heard behind me,

"Nice night, ain't it?"

It was Rick.

I must had jumped, because he said "I didn't mean to scare you," as he walked toward me. When he got a little closer, I could see that his eyes were bloodshot. Was he drunk? Crying? Both?

"Was my performance acceptable?" he asked me, with a flourish of his hat, taking a deep bow. Yep, he was drunk. Maybe he was crying, but FOR SURE he was drunk.

"Everything is fine, Rick. I'm sorry if I have made you uncomfortable tonight. I think its best if I leave now," I said, hoping to cut this short.

Hearing that, Rick sat down on the curb, his head hung low, defeated. Running his fingers through his hair, exasperated, he looked up at me with a pained, confused expression. "Why did you DO that?! Why? It messes up EVERYTHING! Now, we can't be friends, and I can't pretend I don't know how you feel," he complained miserably.

Forlornly, I turned back toward my car, "Just forget it, Rick," I said over my shoulder. Rising from his seat on the curb, he walked toward me, lightly touching my arm, turning me toward him. He was close, closer than I was comfortable with.

"Can YOU forget it?" he said, looking me in the eye. With a shrug of my shoulders, I said simply, "Yeah, I can. I have to."

Stepping back from me, a huge grin on his face, he pointed both index fingers at me, cowboy gun-style. Laughing uproariously, he declared, "I KNEW it! You don't love me! You NEVER loved me! You USED me!" He was still laughing, shaking his head as he strutted his way back toward the club door.

Goodbye, Rick. Thank you for everything. I'm sorry it had to end this way. I truly am.

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