- It’s been 6 years Raz…
- 6 lonely years…
We walked back in silence. My frustration rose to anger, then turned to indifference. I had played my best cards and Karleen still did not want me. Worse, she mistrusted me! My patience had run out. I walked her back to her door and left with a cold good night. Game over.
The next morning Sally was not feeling her best. She woke up sore with a severe headache. Hour by hour, her condition deteriorated. James took her to a clinic to run some tests. They returned with their test results and long faces. Sally had caught a fever, the Dengue fever.
Dengue is to America what Malaria is to Africa. There are no known cure and symptoms vary from muscle ache to total exhaustion. Sally had it all. She slept around the clock while James did his best to attend her needs. Sally’s fever changed the mood in our porch. We all kept a low profile out of respect.
Captain Rich left the porch to hang out with the neighbour, a local fisherman. Their rhythm matched perfectly. Captain Rich was an early bird, and a loyal one. The fisherman worked at night and came home at dawn. Captain Rich would wait for him at the store, ready to crack the first beer… at 7 in the morning.
With no one on the porch, I spent my evenings with Penelope. Her friends were older than me and very funny. They were exploring the area around Mazunte, and planned to spend a few days on the island of Chacahua, three hours north. Chacahua was known for its isolation, fresh fish and capricious waves. If the conditions were good, I would join them in Chacahua.
We had just finished dining when Karleen texted me. My distancing must have done something, she wanted me to come over. Finally, she made up her mind. I could not believe it. I wanted to scream, to jump, to celebrate, to cheer Sally up and revive the porch! Penelope's friends urged me to go pick up Karleen on my white stallion. I rushed home to get la Chichona and saw Rich on the porch:
- Oh Captain my Captain!
He did not move.
- O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN!!!
He did not even look up. I walked up to him and shook his shoulder.
- Rich, are you okay?
- I’m sorry…
He stank of mezcal. His eyes were red and swollen. I sat next to him.
- You’re not supposed to see me like this
- It’s alright man. We all need to let steam off from time to time
- Sorry…it’s just…
- It’s just… I see you and your lady. James and his lady. The fisherman and his wife. And then…then there is me.
I wanted to shout “my lady is waiting for me RIGHT NOW!” but it didn’t sound right.
- I’m lonely Raz. I'm an old, lonely drunk.
- It's a rough patch, you're gonna get through it
- I miss a woman’s touch.
- You’re funny and in good shape. I’m sure you’ll find a fine Mexican lady.
- I’m not the kind to pay, I want the real thing you know
- I know…
- It’s been 6 years Raz.
- I have not been touched by a woman in 6 years.
He gave a long sigh, the sight of a man who carried all the sadness of the world. I had to go but I couldn't leave him like that. I got Rich a glass of water and helped him to his feet. He staggered to his bed and sat down, staring at nothing. I looked at him, miserable and helpless. I wanted to comfort him but no words came. I left Rich on his bed, alone with his demons.
As I drove to Karleen's, I imagined our lives without the bonds that connect us. How would have Sally coped with Dengue if James was not there? How would I have survived my sunstroke if Marco wasn't there? Loneliness was also a disease. A disease that drips unnoticed until it roots corrupts the mind, until it's too late. Captain Rich's didn't have room for a relationship, and he was suffering. I looked at all he had done, and all I saw was what he had missed.
A terrible tragedy it is, to be lonely in old age.