Tracey, the interloper (part 4)
“You have bone cancer?” I said, filling my glass from the meter-high cylinder of beer mounted to the side of our table. By this time, we were both feeling a little tipsy and relaxed in each other’s company.
“I have bone cancer.”
“And Tracey knew you had bone cancer?”
“And she broke up with you and left for Morocco?”
“And you two had been dating for how long?”
“Since we were juniors in high school, so just shy of 10 years.”
“God, what a cunt.”
[More…] Over the years I had had women leave me countless times, so I could relate with Daryl’s melancholy. These women had left me when I was broke. They had left me when I was in AA or in the hospital recovering from spinal meningitis. One particularly cruel creature even made a run for it when I was on a camping trip in the North Cascades with her father and brother. Still, Daryl’s lot struck me as especially egregious and any romantic notions I had felt for Tracey previously dissipated.
“Watch it, Knox. You’re talking about the love of my life.” Daryl looked cross.
“It’s been my experience that you can trade that shit in, like a used car, for something newer and better looking.”
“Spoken like a true asshole.”
“Hardly. An asshole would propose we find the Moroccan village Tracey’s living in, sack it like a couple of blood thirsty Huns, and run off with the women, the camels, and the livestock. At this time I propose no such thing. Rather, we should grab some Doner Kebap and then cut loose, maybe make it with a couple of the locals. What you say?”
Daryl opted for the Doner Kebaps, but had no interest in chasing tail. Instead we spent the evening in Madrid, wandering aimlessly and drinking beer, as Daryl talked about his past and I listened. There was nothing novel about Daryl’s love story, save for the fact that every love story is a novel one. Every detail was specifically important, every moment was exact and necessary. It was a story I had either read or heard or lived a thousand times before – a narrative whose thread wove through countless lives, both real and imagined, drawing each and every one of us together ad infinitum – and yet somehow it wasn’t. It belonged to Daryl and Daryl alone. No one else would ever touch it. But we can listen, and in the process try to understand our own love, and loss, and failure a little better. And so I listened, trying my best to wrap my head around the paradoxes I was uncovering, as well the misfortunes I had endured. The whole thing made me fucking depressed.
At some point we ended up at a plaza not too far from that fetid trickle of water Madrilenos call a river. In the plaza there was a large statue of Cervantes riding a horse. Before the statue was a fountain, which I began to urinate in. Meanwhile Daryl carefully examined Cervantes.
“Don’t waste your time with that guy,” I slurred, rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. “He doesn’t know one goddamn thing more than you or I do, man. Besides, I read his book, in Spanish, and it sucks!”
But Daryl wasn’t listening to me. He was looking down at his hand, which was cupped, holding something. Suddenly, he raised his arm and threw whatever it was that he was holding into the fountain, which made a soft plop as it sank.
“Hey, what was that?” I asked.
“That was nothing.”
“Hey, man. I remember a good Cuban place that makes a delicious burger not too far from here. Let’s get something to eat.”
“No, it’s OK, Knox. I think I’m just going to go back to my hotel now. I think I want to be alone.”
“Alright, let me know about heading up to Basque Country to do some fishing. I think it sounds like a great idea. It would be just like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, you being Fitzgerald, given the current circumstances and all.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Shit, maybe I just imagined we had that conversation. Alright, never mind.”
“See you later.” And with that, Daryl walked off into the dawn.
As the sun began to rise I found myself on all fours in the fountain splashing feverishly, scouring for whatever it was Daryl had disposed of. I stumbled back to my hostel with a pocket full of change and a diamond ring. Months later I would learn that he died in a public health clinic in a small town just outside of Helsinki, having never seen nor spoken with Tracey again.
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