I’m not sure whether life clogs up the nostrils, damming them up and slogging in filters, or whether life and love just open the flow, all miry and dank. Maybe both. See, Jimmy has left me. My Jimmy Bob McFadden, tall man, walks slightly hunched over, sports rectangular lenses so chic and cool. He used to say we’d be two rickety old people on an old-time verandah swing, watching grandchildren, and we’d kind of glance at each other and then hobble lickety-split to the shady bedroom behind the kitchen.
Jimmy Bob comes from that bitch called the US of A — let’s put it all in small letters — the us of a. He’s impatient with anyone whose brain is like pink cotton candy. He despises line-ups and makes comments like “It’s just my luck to be here now.” Before Jimmy appears, everything’s all quiet and serene, but when he places his size 15s on the war path, extras materialize from under the front desk, from behind life-size silver urns, swinging in from the streets – all push in line before Jimmy, who is really coming across like an American.
My Jim (he calls himself Jim, and yeah shit he has a right to – seems like every Tom Dick and the H guy have a brother or uncle or pa named Jimmy and then Bob; Jimmy Bob) thinks he’s different, while he’s wearing his telltale madras shorts and orange baseball cap; also, I think possibly a button-down shirt with short sleeves. He’s got buttons at the points of collars, sneaking in at the back, and in the middle of each front pocket. I figure Americans like lots of buttons that have no other function than to stand out looking ornery.
Meanwhile, Jim is saying he loves me. He just zooms right in to my face, staring google-eyed. He’s kinda weird. Once Caroline and I took our Jim to High Park’s restaurant. You gotta drive no more that 20 m.p.h., and that’s a long time to spend in the car in the company of a loon. I bet he was thinking that about Caroline, as he answered all her questions with pertinent details and a good measure of verbal respect, like, “I beg to differ” and telling her she sings like Ethel Merman when all she wanted was to sing “Over the Rainbow” in her special high voice.
Anyhow, we’re leaving the restaurant and Jim’s wincing, feeling sick to his stomach (it’s his old hate punching him from the inside out). We walk from the back with its server-serves policy to the front pay-at-the-counter section, and I see the small head of a baby in a high chair. The mother is sitting on one side of the table and she’s leaning forward talking and laughing with a man and woman directly opposite.
The baby turns ‘round and I see this is a mongoloid baby. So I look again and I’m thinking there is something wise in the boy’s face, an intelligence in the eyes like an old man. Jim follows me, and I follow Caroline, and then Jim starts laughing his loud ha ha ha, just slamming his laughter, bashing it against those four bodies.
“Why were you laughing?” I stop outside on the bottom step.
“You’re not going to like it,” Jim says.
I walk on ahead. No way am I going to look back because then I would see his face and forever link it with this moment when he chooses to show his dark side. He knows, really he does, that he’s got to set something up so that we leave him, and he says, “I was laughing because the kid was a mongoloid.” My right foot that’s about to land full flat on the stone path stops mid-air. Even Caroline hears. “Because he’s different?” she says. “Are you afraid? Like I’m different? Is that funny?”
“I was laughing at my own response,” he says to me and not to Caroline.
“Amounts to the same thing,” I say.
And that’s when things started to go wrong between Jimmy Bob and me.