April 15th dawns clear and cool and the streets and parks are crowded with people. People just finishing breakfast at the local restaurants pay their bills and check their camera batteries, make sure their lenses are clean, and pull off lens caps from cameras and binoculars. Since before dawn that morning, Hinckley, Ohio's population boomed with visitors and vacationers scanning the skies for the first signs of the turkey buzzards that will soon descend on their annual migration. There is a hushed expectancy as though the entire town and its visitors hold their breath wanting to be the first to sight the buzzards.
Without a sound, buzzards arrive singly at first and then in groups and families, a black crowd of majestic wings and naked bloody heads coming to rest on every available perch. On the ground the buzzards are ungainly creatures, but in the air they soar and glide the thermals in balletic display, belying their true nature, that of carrion eaters.
In the cycle of nature, every mammal, reptile, and bird has its niche either as eaten or eater, but all are prey to the buzzard. They are the cleanup crew of nature, scouring the remains of the dead from view and leaving bones picked clean to bleach in the sun.
The buzzard is a cowardly beast in some ways, waiting for death before tearing the flesh from its prey's body to feed itself and its family. Everything has its level. That goes for humans, too.
Every time I remember Nick's brothers and sisters tagging their father's belongings, I am reminded of those buzzards. Mr. Sherwood wasn't dead yet, but he wasn't at home either and unable to put a stop to his children parceling everything out. They hid their colored dots so their father wouldn't see them when -- and if -- he came home, but their intent was clear. They would strip the house to its lath and plaster skeleton before they left if they had their way.
If Nick had his way, everything would remain the same. At first, it seemed as though Nick was thinking of his father, and he was to some small extent, some very small extent. Nick didn't like change. If he could, he would have left the house just as his father left it when he went to the hospital, and eventually to his girlfriend's home when he was released. Mr. Sherwood was one tough old bird and he wasn't going to go just yet. No wonder the dots were hidden from view.
Larry, the second youngest of the Sherwood children, lived in the house alone -- most of the time. He was an actor with the Columbus Junior Theater and not making a lot of money, so it saved him the cost of rent, utilities, and often food. Mr. Sherwood provided all that even though he didn't live in the house again.
Larry was a personable young man and very much the actor. Always smiling, always playing to the audience, even if the audience was just his family or a group of friends. Larry was seldom off stage or out of character. I think the only time he was himself was when he and I worked together on a show. Of all the buzzards, I liked him the best, even more so than Nick. Larry and I clicked the first moment we met as though we had been separated at birth. We recognized each other, or at least he recognized my theatrical past and I recognized his need to be on all the time. It's no wonder he spent so much of his money on drugs; cocaine injected into the veins was his drug of choice. He wouldn't risk his nasal passages when it might affect his voice or its individual quality. He wasn't stupid, just needed a little distance, which the cocaine provided. It's also why he couldn't afford a place of his own -- other than being paid a pittance for all his hard work at the theater running the Saturday acting classes and programs and managing the space when other companies paid to put on their own productions.
Larry and I spent many a night (me as a volunteer) sewing costumes and working on flats and props, and afterwards we would go to the Garage or some other local bar to dance and gather with like-minded friends. Nick was not invited; he had a problem with gays and with anything that wasn't a sleazy dive or a strip joint like the ones he frequented up and down Cleveland Avenue in the north end of town, something I didn't know until after we'd been married for a while. Everyone has their own level.
In many ways, Mr. Sherwood was right. I was marrying the wrong brother. Larry even proposed to me a few times, begging me to reconsider. We wouldn't have a sexual relationship -- or at least not much of one since he was bisexual -- but we would have a deep and lasting relationship because we were the same kind of people.
"I hate the idea of you marrying Nick."
"Don't you want a sister-in-law?"
"Not especially. Not if she's married to Nick."
"What about Thom's wife?"
"Never see her, so she is just fine. I just hate to see you with Nick. I love you so why won't you marry me?"
"We've discussed this before. It's not fair to either of us. Besides, Nick needs me. You don't."
"Not the way he does, no. He needs a keeper."
"So do you sometimes."
Larry laughed and pulled me into a hug. "You'd be a lot happier with me," he whispered. Then he kissed me.
We always had the same conversation when he proposed. I didn't doubt his sincerity, and I was tempted to say yes, but I knew that it would be unfair to Nick. I did love Nick -- not the way I loved Larry -- but Nick did need me and marrying him would get my mother off my back. Mom was certain I'd die alone if I didn't marry again. She assured me I was running out of time. I think my biological clock -- or at least the matrimonial clock -- ticked on her wrist. It didn't tick on mine. I was fine being single and the past seven years had proved that.
Oh, I'd had a couple relationships, but neither of them lasted, and I hated the whole dating game. How many times could I tell my life's story without resorting to making things up? I was getting close to the edge on that one, and I could make up some pretty interesting stuff, not that my own life was devoid of thrills, chills, and a few near death experiences, but no one needs to know everything up front. One should save a little something for the honeymoon.
Single. Married once for seven years, divorced for seven years. Three children living with their father because he refused to honor our original agreement. Like to travel (good thing since I'd spent most of my life traveling) and don't smoke. Seldom drink -- and never to the point of being drunk. Good paying job. Just back in ton after a few years in Florida, Louisiana, and a short stint in Tennessee. Not much to tell really. It's the average American divorced female story. The names, dates, and places are changed, but the story is the same.
Okay, so not everybody ends up making $4000 a month doing nuclear investigations or has to appear in front of a Senate committee, but not everyone seems to have the ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time the way I do. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is how I met Nick.
I had been back in town a couple of days before I headed to Club 3 on Olentangy River Road. It was my favorite hangout when I as last in town about two or three years before, and I had agreed to meet an old friend there. She was trawling. I was there for the dancing and the conversation. I was also hoping I'd run into Darryl, my friendly neighborhood animal control office. As luck would have it, I did see him there and he immediately snagged us a table and brought a couple of friends, one of whom was very interested in Caroline. No matter who Darryl brought along, they would have been interested in Caroline because she put herself out on the table before anyone else could snatch up the available trade.
Darryl and I danced. Caroline flirted and ended up heading home early, which was Caroline speak for caught a one night stand and didn't want to hang around any longer. It's one of the reasons I decided to drive instead of having Caroline pick me up. We'd been out together before and it always ended up the same. Well, except for that one time when the guy had to crawl out the window to avoid running into Caroline's husband, but that was unusual.
This dark-haired stiff (as in walking like he had a metal pole rammed up his backside) kept cruising by the table and once bumped into Darryl when we were dancing. The guy was either drinking by the barrel or had a weak bladder. Turns out, it was neither. He was checking me out.
I had a twinge of interest when I saw he was wearing a sling and swathe on his right arm. It's the broken winged bird syndrome, and I often fall prey. Seeing someone hurt or who has been hurt stirs up all my nurturing instincts.
It was a small twinge because something about the guy set my teeth on edge. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was wrong about the guy. I didn't mind the horn rimmed glasses or the way he walked (like a duck), or even the very evident pole up his backside. He was even good looking: dark brown hair, blue eyes like chips of lapis, and an attractive face. He had a bit of a belly, but not much of one, just enough so that he wasn't sleek and slender, and he had a disconcertingly pointed way of looking at me that made me feel like I'd forgotten to put on clothes before going out. I was not dressed at all slutty (pink silk jacket, shimmery gold top that covered me from throat to hips, and black slacks) and I had showered before I went out so I knew I smelled good. That's probably why he sniffed when he bumped into Darryl while we were dancing. I thought had a cold and he was checking out my scent.
Well, that's just creepy.
Darryl agreed and we danced one more dance before I finished my glass of water (when my ears get warm, I know I've had too much to drink, so I switch to water) and he walked me out to my car. We agreed to meet again later in the week since I told him I'd still be in town and we went our separate ways. Not,of course, without a little kiss down memory lane that left me wondering why I had ever turned him down when he proposed three years ago.
It wasn't the last time I saw Nick either.