A Single Man: The King Of The Broken Hearts
The King of the Broken Hearts is what his versed mother called him. A
single man was what he did not expect to be so late in his 50s. He didn't
plan it that way. He sucked in deeply on his cigarette, then put it down to
burn in the ashtray and slowly exhaled the smoke from his lungs to form
near perfect smoke rings. He looked around the room and wondered how
he ended up so miserably alone this way and wondered why he would
have stupidly taken up smoking at this stage of his life.
Jeffrey Martin Barton wasn't always alone, after all. He always had a
string of girl friends, then lady friends, all along the way. He even was
part of the same fairly happy couple for 13 years until he learned that she
was seeing more of his best friend than he ever had. She had children
from a previous marriage. Kids who brought trouble as they grew from
preschool age to young adulthood, he told anyone who listened.
Regardless of how he arrived at what he feared had to be eternal
bachelorhood, he so loathed being there. He disliked not having dinner
with someone and talking. He disliked having nobody to buy a great
Christmas present for and slow dance with to Christmas carols. He
loathed having no companion and nobody to snuggle with overnight. The
King of the Broken Hearts so loathed the very fact that he was a
hopeless romantic so alone, with what he thought was so much good
love to give.
Almost as much, he disliked the extra or empty chair syndrome that he
experienced at his own dinner table and dinner parties. Sometimes even
more than the empty chair itself, he disliked when well intended hosts
thought they had the "perfect single woman" to invite for him. Those
perfect women usually either laughed and cackled like Rosanne Barr or
looked like one of his prettier uncles in drag. He wondered sometime
about the image he conveyed of himself that these well intended friends
thought he and those women ever really shared any common ground or
interests and could make a go of it as a couple.
There was one, though, who might have been perfect for him, but he let
her get away about 4 years ago or she let him let her get away,
depending on how you looked at it.
"Maybe you should try to find her," his golfing buddy told him last week
when they were talking about women and what The King described as
probably being his last and now lost opportunity for happiness.
"She might be out there, wanting you to find her," the golfing buddy said
before sinking his golf ball into the pond. "You were happy when you
were together with her, you know."
"Nah, she's probably married or dead," the King of the Broken Hearts
said as his golf ball hit a hole in one.
"Lucky bastard!" the golfing buddy exclaimed.
Yeah, sure, lucky, I get to go home and maybe, just maybe, have cyber sex
with someone who's probably really a man on the adult chat line, he
wanted to say as he felt his golfing buddy slap him on the back. Yeah,
lucky bastard, that's me, he told himself.
"You really ought to look Angie up, my friend. You two were so good for
one another. You were happiest when you were with her and she
worshipped the ground your ugly feet walked on," his friend said.
"I would have never let that one get away, Jeff. She was the ideal
woman. Beautiful, smart, funny, kind, perceptive and a damn good cook.
You know, she really wouldn't be that hard to find. How many
archaeologists can there be in this country?"
"Four hundred sixty six. I've called half of them and none of them knows
Angie," The King replied.
"You're making that up!" his friend exclaimed.
"How would you know unless you call two hundred and thirty three of
them and ask them?" The King and his sarcastic wit replied.
"Aren't you the least bit curious, though, why Angie's madly in love with
you one day, then stands you up the next, leaves town and returns all
your mail to her? For God's sake, I'm curious what happened and I'm not
you," his golfing friend said.
"Ah, she just got scared that she would be with a miserable old man one
day, look and realize that it's me. She just got tired of me," The King
"No, she was in love with you," his friend state matter of factly. "You
know, I was insanely jealous, by the way. I never said so, but I was so
jealous because you two had so much passion and fun."
"Passion and fun, yes, that we had. But it couldn't have been too real or
she at least would have had the decency to say goodbye before she
disappeared into the night," The King said. Actually, that was the most
that The King had ever said to anyone about Angie leaving so abruptly
without a trace. There was no point in rehashing it all or tracking her
down to embarrass her into saying that she just fell out of love. That's
how The King felt.
The King of the Broken Hearts woke before dawn that Tuesday to hear
the garbage trucks making their loud way through his part of Manhattan
and lift and empty trash dumpsters behind his three story walk up
condominium building. He was up much too late thinking about Angie
and how he really still did miss her. Nobody he met since kissed as she
did or smelled as she did or came close to filling the hole in his heart
with love as she did. He was past the delusion that she would come back
a long time ago.
For the first year after she disappeared, he looked at the clock and
waited at 6 PM for her to walk through the door as she had for five years
to make his house a home just by her mere presence and smile. They
used to wake up early when the garbage trucks woke them and make
love till their alarm clocks rang. Sometimes, he turned during the night to
reach for her and never stopped wishing that she were still there beside
him. Nowadays, he loathed the damn noisy garbage trucks clanking and
the dog barking at the noise because it all reminded him like a slap in the
face that Angie wasn't there. This particular early Tuesday morning was
no different. His bedroom was still dark and Angie was still gone.
When The King turned from his side fetal position to his stomach, he
noticed that a light was flashing on his answering machine. He hadn't
heard the phone ring during the night. He stretched to reach the play
button to hear the message, fully expecting that his mother with the start
of dementia on the west coast forgot again about the time difference to
New York and called him around 3 AM.
No, it wasn't Mom. He sprung up from his bed as though he had overslept
when he heard the message, turned on the lamp and reached for his
glasses so that he could press the right button to save the message. He
listened again to the voice and the message from the woman whose
number and name appeared on his caller ID. He smiled as though he had
just won the lottery.
"Hello, I realized when I heard your greeting that I dialed the wrong
number, but didn't want to hang up. I hate hang up calls on my machine -
especially at night. Sorry."
"Oh, Mary McDonald, I am in love with you!" he exclaimed loudly as he
listened to her voice and message a few more times. Continue