Much of the news on TV was about the fighting in Iraq, the Summer Olympics and the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign. Locally, the Pirates still had an outside chance to end the season above 500. The Steelers were preparing for their second exhibition game after losing the first game and the coach of the University of Pittsburgh football program was telling the media and his team it was time for several of the players to step up.In the bedroom of Melvin Howard’s apartment, his live-in girlfriend was packing a suit case open on the bed. There wasn’t much to put in the suit case; and the only way either of these two people would see the age of 45 again was to live to be 145.
Carla was saying, “I should have gone by my first mind.”
“Ruthie is no friend,” Mel said. “Why would you listen to a woman that’s been divorced three times?”
“This has nothing to do with Ruthie.”
“Always filling your head with the sisterhood this and the sisterhood that.”
“She’s not the one who comes in here smeared with lipstick. She’s not the one who comes in here smelling of cheap wine every night.”
“I lock the doors and serve my regulars. I make a few extra bucks.”
“I’ve seen your regulars. They only come out at night.”
“I’m running a business,” he said. “You forget you use to be one of my regulars, too.”
“Oh, no, I don’t forget. You won’t let me forget.”
“You walk out that door, don’t come back.”
“‘I can get you dates. I can set you up.’ I must have really been desperate. I must have really been sick in the head.”
He said, “So now that you got a few bucks in your pocket, a few clothes on your back you’re running out.”
“I can’t believe how stupid I was.”
“Well,” he said, “we had some wild times together. I won’t deny it. But where you come from I can get me another.”
She was done packing. Gripping the handle of the suit case she turned to him and said, “I thought maybe you were different. I thought maybe we could make this work. You talk different. You act different. You treated me good. You never tried to get me hooked. I’ll give that much to you. But you’re a user, Mel. You’re no better than the others. You don’t use your fists but you’re no better than the others.”
Melvin Howard stood in the bedroom staring at the white wall. Melvin Howard listened as the apartment door opened and then locked shut. Melvin Howard stood staring at that white wall for a long, long time.
“Damn,” he said.