Larry and the kids were gone and Sherry couldn’t help but feel lonely. After some initial reservations, she’d tried dating, but the dates had been lousy. The men close to her in age all reminded her of Larry, even when they looked nothing like him. It was their attitudes: casual and self-assured and passionless. It was as if taking her to dinner and fucking her was just another part of the routine, like golf on the weekends or drinks after work on Thursdays.
Disheartened, Sherry decided to set her sights younger in hopes that a less experienced man would be more enthusiastic and appreciative. It was not a hard adjustment for her to make. She had always been open-minded (Larry was just the opposite: he could be as horny as Jimmy Swaggart at a hooker convention when the mood was right, but he was terribly unimaginative).
However, this experiment too proved to be a disappointment. After one largely unsatisfying encounter, she’d asked the departing 20-something to close the door on his way out. His response – a sarcastic “yes, Mother” — was a verbal harpoon through her tender 37-year-old heart.
If there was one positive to Sherry’s dating disasters, it was that it made her realize she was better off unattached for the time being. It also pressed her to find alternate cures for her loneliness. After vetoing the pet suggestions offered by her friends, she decided she would take in a boarder. The entire upper floor of the house lay unclaimed and she could afford to set the rent low. All she had to do was wait for the right person to come along.
Link was halfway through his first Coke at Spunky’s while he waited for Will to show up. He was in the mood for something harder, but it was still early in the day. He drained the glass listlessly through a clear straw, pausing to look up only when his friend slid into the turquoise-colored booth across the table.
“'Sup?” Will said.
“D’s kicking me out,” Link explained. “I think for good this time.”
“Oh man,” Will offered, shaking his head in commiseration. “She still mad about last Saturday.”
“That and a couple other things,” Link told him. “I tried apologizing, but she won’t budge.”
“Shit,” said Will. “What are you gonna do?”
Link shrugged. “Start lookin for my own place, I guess. I’ll probably be back at my parents’ in the meantime, but I don’t plan on sticking around too long.”
“Yeah, I totally hear you,” Will said.
Link bit his lip and suppressed a guffaw. Will actually did live with his parents, but he didn’t have a clue. Will’s parents were not Link’s parents. Will’s parents were proud of him. They were proud that he was getting high Bs at the community college and held down a job at the college bookstore and had not accounted for any arrests or addictions or unplanned pregnancies.
Link’s parents, on the other hand, had less to be proud of. Their son was school-less and jobless and now girlfriend-less as well. They would be on his case non-stop about making something of himself. They would subject him to a regime of rules and curfews and domestic responsibilities which, at 19, seemed downright oppressive. Free rent or not, his stay would be a short one or his sanity would suffer.
“It sucks, but I’ll figure something out,” Link said.
“Listen, dude, if you need to borrow some cash…” Will began.
Link shook his head. He was no leach.
“I’ve got some saved up,” he explained. “I’ll be alright. Just need to find another job.”
“You sure you don’t want me to get you in at the bookstore?”
He repeated the headshake. Link emphatically did not want to work at the college bookstore. His last retail experience had ended poorly and he wanted to explore his options before subjecting himself to a manager’s yoke once again. Besides, a job at the bookstore would be a reminder of his shortcomings. Link had lasted only a few weeks at the college before frustration prompted him to drop out. It wasn’t something he gave much thought to afterwards, but stick him back on that campus with people saying, “hey, I didn’t know you went here” on a daily basis and it would drive him crazy.
“You wanna go out later?” Link suggested. “See if Steever or one of them can hook us up with a six-pack? All my shit’s back at Ds and she and her friends probably took most of it.”
Will’s face scrunched slightly and assumed a look of worry.
“I dunno,” he said. “I mean, I guess I could. But I’ve got class tomorrow, so it would have to be…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Link interrupted. “I’ll be OK.”
He feigned a smile and tried hard not to think too much about what he would do tomorrow.