I had a problem with women, not all of them, just the ones that crossed my path. I loved their sensuality, eroticism and ever so soft skin. Women smelled good, even the scent of their hair excited me. I needed to be around them, regardless of appearance. But my wife disagreed. I thought she'd be like the rest of the older generation wives who waited patiently for their husbands to stop having affairs. But Shana didnít.
I sat in the judge's reception area gazing down at the thick burgundy carpet-adding warmth, but it didn't get my mind off my failed marriage.
The judgeís secretary broke my chain of thought. "Rick Edison."
She held the door to the inner sanctum. Standing tall, wearing three-inch heels put her right at six feet, just two inches shorter than me.
I walked past her and in that brief moment I heard her heart speak to me saying, Hey sexy. Women spoke to me all the time and all different ways. It's a sixth sense I had. I bit my tongue as I entered Judge Allgood's chamber.
The office was a direct contrast to the rich color and ardor of the reception area by the dull utilitarian furnishings. Shana sat in one of the matching leather bound chairs, looking good for a woman divorcing her husband. She sat there like it was a financial planning meeting instead of a divorce. As for me, it was hard to hold on the bad feelings; because I got what I deserved.
When I moved to sit down, the judge stopped me. He sat behind the desk, the folds of his robe looked as if it swallowed him. He reminded me of one those old 'milk does a body good' commercials where the little boy, dressed in a grown man's suit, drinks milk and is transformed into a full grown man by the next scene.
"No need to sit," he said in a surprisingly powerful voice. "We are downhill from here." I wondered how such a little man could have such a voice like that. When he stood up, he seemed even shorter.
A second thought made me slouch down to minimize my imposing height to his. Maybe he would cut me some slack and give me more visitations with my daughter.
Who was I fooling? Why was it that all of a sudden I cared to be a good father to my baby girl? When we were a family, all I did on weekends was nurse hangovers. I canít count the times I melded with the couch instead of watching Dana turn cartwheels in the backyard. But booze helped the guilt subside while sleeping with the others, and I always suffered the consequences the next day.
"Mr. and Mrs. Edison, please stand and raise your right hand."
The seriousness of the situation suddenly hit me. My wife was actually divorcing me. I looked around for the judge's secretary, more out of panic than lust, and could have kicked myself when I saw Shana giving me the eye. I kept hearing the words of my old school buddy, New York, reverberating in my head, "You bought this shit on yourself." They called him New York because he always had something to say about everything, even though heíd never been to New York.
"Do you hereby swear that the petition for divorce in Fulton County Superior Court of Georgia is true and correct to your knowledge?"
"I do," we said.
Shana kept her eye on the judge, standing there swirling the tennis bracelet I bought her a couple of years ago.
"And do you also swear that neither is under any undue influence to sign the divorce papers?"
"Then given my authority under Georgia State Statute, I hereby dissolve the union of Shana and Rick Edison. Shana you may take back your maiden name."
That was it. I was a single man. Somehow it didnít feel all that great. After Trina, the judge's secretary, had me sign the final paperwork, I attempted to catch up with Shana. I didn't know what to say, exactly, but I thought I could make a good start with "I'm sorry."
When I walked out of the court building, I looked for her car in the parking lot. I didn't see her vehicle so I tried her on her cell phone. I wanted to scream into the phone after the fifth unanswered ring, because I knew she was avoiding me.
I left the Fulton County Superior Court and passed all the sprawling growth in Midtown Atlanta. Condos, lofts and hi-rise rentals crammed the streets of what was once a desolate playground for seedy inhabitants. I remember getting excited when I saw all the growth, thinking more women moving to town. But today, whether itís new or old, sex just didnít faze me. No matter how I tried to fend it off, I was pissed off that Shana divorced me.
I took Memorial Drive, headed toward my two-bedroom apartment in Stone Mountain when some idiot in a green Camry jumped in front of me. From my rearview mirror, I could see the white smoke coming from my screeching tires as I pounded the breaks. I rolled down my window and gave the driver the finger. When he had the balls to shoot me one back, I accelerated the Expedition past him and immediately jumped in his lane and pressed my brakes, causing his tires to smoke. I kept my vehicle a safe distance in front of him until he turned off.
I found one of those Post apartment communities that boasted luxury living. The only luxury quality was the luxurious price tag. I signed a yearís lease for nine hundred sixty bucks a month and I wouldnít have been able to make the rent and child support had it not been for my schedule at work. Since firefighters work twenty-four hour shifts, by the fair labor laws, we get two days off for every shift worked. This flexible schedule afforded me the opportunity to work odd security jobs at grocery stores during my forty eight-hour hiatus. In fact, the security jobs played a major role in my divorce. Women loved a man in uniform.
As I entered my two-bedroom apartment, that feeling of loneliness engulfed me. I looked around the barren walls. There were no silk flower arrangements on the coffee table, no pictures on the walls or any sign that a woman lived there. Even though I had been there nearly two months, today felt different. I should have asked Judge Pee Wee whatever happened to, What God bought together, let no man take asunder.
Fuck it! I decided to wound my pride and call her. I hesitated after I yanked the cordless from the charger, but I went through with it and punched the ten digits to what was once my home. The phone rang until I heard her voice on the answering machine.
I swallowed and spoke into the phone, "Hey baby," I said hoping she'd pick up. "If you are there please pick up." Shana never wanted to go with voice mail service because she said the five bucks monthly charge would pay for decent machine in just one year. She was right. "Well I just wanted to call to tell you that I was thinking about you and wanted to know if you want to get together for lunch or something. Call me when you get this. Bye baby."
After waiting for her to call me back, I dozed off and didnít wake up until the next morning. The sun emerged through the horizon as the birds chirped their morning melody. This time of the day used to give me a sense of renewal, but now I wished I could have slept through it.
Having explained my marital situation to my Battalion Chief, he politely demanded that I take the week off. With nothing to do, I thought to check the voice mail to see if maybe Shana called while I slept. All I heard was that familiar smug voice saying, 'You have no new messages.'
I muddled through the morning, keeping a watch the clock for a decent time to start drinking. I wanted forget about the rejection, but I had a motto never to drink before the sun went down. But since it was May in Atlanta, that didnít happen until eight in the evening. So I made adjustments to my motto and went to Duganís on Memorial Drive for a cold one.
Duganís octagon shaped bar smelled of spilled liquor on old carpet. The place catered to no one that particular morning and somehow that was inviting. I sat down at the bar and ordered an Icehouse. It went down cold and welcoming.
After the lunch crowd from the areaís dealerships and industrial parks came and went, I had a mind to go home but I decided to call Shana. After she refused to answer my call, I made another call.
The happy hour crowd sauntered in with their talk of the dayís corporate banter, and I drank with them. The atmosphere offered more vim and vigor and I drank more beers. Then she came and the next think I knew I was in Trina's bed making vindictive love to her, a complete stranger. Then my cell phone rang. Not thinking, I jumped off her and quickly answered it.
"Hello," I said holding my breath.
Before I heard a word from the other end, the long legged secretary spoke. "Come back to bed and finish what you started."
"Same old Rick, I see." And Shana hung up.
I left immediately. I tried calling her back, but she never answered so I went home to a bottle of tequila and four walls.
When I dragged myself off the couch the next morning, I vowed never to drink again because I had a headache the size of Rhode Island. I spent most of the day nursing my hangover with intermittent bouts of sleeping and eating. In between naps, I called Shana and spoke to her machine again. I really needed to tell her that the woman from last night meant nothing to me. After the third message, I was pissed off and went to the pantry for some Cheetos. When I reached in, I saw a bottle of Jose Cuervo that I has forgotten about. So much for my vows.
After an all day drinking binge, my liquid courage doubled that of my actual courage. I decided to call Shana and give that bitch a piece of my mind. I found the cordless and had to remember my old number. I spoke to the machine, again.
"This is your husband and I demand to talk to you. You canít keep putting─"
"Rick why are you calling me?" Shana picked up. "What do you want?"
"I want to talk about last night." I sat up, more attentive. "Turn the answering off machine so we can talk".
"Talk? Now you want to talk? What about when I tried to talk to you about the other women? What about that woman last nightÖ" she hesitated and I could just see her holding the phone and staring at the ceiling, disgusted. "You know what, you don't have to explain anything. We are divorced and you can do whatever you want to whomever you want. Anyway I have to go, I have an emergency at the hospital with one of my patients."
"Fuck your patient. I made you what you are and I can take it away─"
"Goodbye Rick, forever," she said and simply hung up.
I stared at the phone and out of rage, threw it across the room, breaking the only lamp I owned. I stood alone and in the dark, uncertain of my self-worth. I found my way to the couch and passed out.
I was yanked from a bottomless sleep by the pounding sound at the door. For an instant I did not know where I was. Looking around, I found the comfort of my own apartment. Sluggishly, I got off the sofa and tried to flat iron the wrinkles in my clothes with my hands. That did not work. I looked through the peephole and saw two white men dressed in what looked like polyester suits. One wore government issued gray and the other wore a brown polyester blend.
I opened the door and squinted at the assault of the sunlight.
Gray suit backed up ever so slightly as he reached for his badge and offered it. "Iím Detective Leicky with Atlanta Homicide and this is Detective Biddings," he said as he nodded toward brown suit.
"Are you Rick Edison," Biddings asked. He was shorter than Leicky with a full head of salt and pepper hair, though I thought he might be wearing a toupee.
"Yeah thatís me."
They looked at each other. "May we come in?" Leicky asked and motioned forward, not waiting for a nod or any kind of welcome.
I looked at both detectives and thought no harm in letting them in. Probably a burglary occurred in the complex that they were investigating. They walked into the living room. No foyer- that would have cost an additional fifty-five dollars a month. I noticed the one named Leicky had a pear-shaped torso, rounded near the waist and skinny legs that were disproportionate to his upper body mass. His eyebrows protruded menacingly, taking over the other features of his otherwise nondescript face.
"Let me throw some water on my face. Iíll be right back" .
Leicky jumped in without a beat. "Why donít we talk first? Where were you last night between the hours of eleven and two this morning?"
I looked around wildly. I donít know much, but I do know that when a detective asks your whereabouts between a time frame, it's not a good sign.
"I was here with Jose."
"Jose who?" Biddings asked.
I raised my eyebrows and simply said, "Cuervo."
Biddings looked down as if he were checking for dung on his shoes. His slim build went well with the tan he had and the more I thought of his vanity, the more I believed he wore a rug.
"I understand you were just recently divorced," Leicky asked.
Biddings and Leicky looked at each other again and I began to worry.
"Detectives what is going on?" My adrenaline pumped harder and faster. I looked from one to the other. They seemed to be disappointed.
"Mr. Edison, your ex-wife has been murdered. We need you to identify the body."