The rest of the bus ride went quickly but my workday dragged interminably. I took an early lunch and popped over to the CVS and bought mouthwash, a toothbrush and a pack of dual bladed, green and blue handled Gillette disposable razors. I had plenty of razors at home and the toothbrush that hung from its holder in my bathroom was newish but I planned to spruce up a bit before meeting Winsome Rogers at the Nighthawk Cafe.
During the workday I concentrated far too much on thoughts of Winnie and our growing friendship. Just before work ended I slunk down to the washroom and freshened myself with the aid of the razor, mouthwash and toothbrush. As I left work my spirits were lifted- a new and highly welcome change of emotion from my generally dreary daily demeanor. I hadn’t had much experience in feeling heady anticipation for at least a few years and the uptick in my outlook put a spring in my step.
Hopping on the bus my mind wandered to dating and Tinder and then made a sharp turn to porn; the closest I’d come to dating in a long, long time. Thoughts of porn deflated my ebullience. Recently my son Eddie had confided in me that he was successfully battling a porn addiction; a condition I hadn’t known he suffered from.
Growing up in the nineteen-sixties porn had been girlie magazines. In seventh grade I had found a Gallery magazine thrown on top of the lockers at my junior high school. Naked women! This was a prize worth keeping but I feared discovery if I brought such contraband home. As a high schooler in the pre-internet age finding a Playboy magazine alongside the road was an incredible score and seeing “The Kentucky Fried Movie,” with it’s Catholic High School Girls in Trouble scene, was as close to pornography as my teenage self came. (Until that party at a coworker’s house where X-Rated films were shown.) But these hard to access guilty pleasures were mild as milk-toast compared to what Eddie had grown up with.
Like many parents, I hadn’t realized how different the world of pornography had become. Highly explicit and rather aberrant images had become accessible via a few mouse clicks and the temptation to view the illicit had proven too strong for my son. When Eddie told me that he’d gone over 100 days without looking at porn I hadn’t known what to say. I’d wished him well on his journey of recovery and thought back to the times I had popped adult films into my VCR when my ex-wife Anne, being pregnant with our daughter Lizzie, had been anything but amorous.
I knew toddler aged Eddie had seen me watching those films but figured that since he had no idea what was going on what harm could it inflict? Learning of Eddie’s addiction had me rethinking events from a quarter century earlier and wondering if somehow his exposure to my guilty but very occasional vice had helped create his issues. Cowardly, I had chosen to keep my knowledge of his earliest exposure to porn a secret from him; rationalizing to myself that life is full of dark secrets, isn’t it?
Intellectually I was confident that exposing a barely verbal child to pornography couldn’t really hurt him; but the non-rational part of my brain whispered, “Are you sure? Really sure?” I wasn’t, though I felt I should be. I made a mental note to ask my therapist what she thought.
I literally shook my head back and forth in an attempt to clear my mind. My brooding had filled most of my abbreviated ride home and the Nighthawk Cafe, not the establishment’s real name, was just one more turn away.
Speaking of dark secrets, I have another confession. The Nighthawk Cafe’s two huge plate glass windows on two different streets did more than make me think of Edward Hooper’s painting; it also made me think about committing terrorism.
Every time I drove past the place on my way into town I thought about taking a high powered rifle to the roof across the street and exploding round after round into the innocent little diner. Why? I have no idea.
None, except my ever increasing melancholy and ever rising sense of hopelessness. I don’t own a gun, high powered or otherwise, and I haven’t intentionally perpetrated violence upon anyone in over thirty years but every time I pass The Nighthawk on my way into town I pull my right index finger back and make a little ka-chew sound under my breath. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder just how secure the cords that keep me tied to civility really are.
Heading out of town the Nighthawk’s two windows don’t take on the same perspective as they do in the painting so I don’t feel the destructive compulsion that I do heading in. I pulled the cord on the bus and the driver stoped at the corner. He tilts his head and looks at me funny. “Got a date,” I say in answer to his unvoiced inquiry.
“Well good for you, man. Have a good time,” he says.
“I hope to,” I answer, stepping off the bus and up onto the curb.