I got up from the table and made a pot of coffee; our talk was going take a while. Luckily, I had a groom working for me and I didn’t have to be there first thing in the morning to feed the horses breakfast; but still, I had to be at the track by seven AM at the absolute latest because I was training eight horses at that time and the groom was in charge of four and the other four were my responsibility.
While he walked around the room David continued to tell me about New York.
“I met a lot of guys in the theater and I’ve never had a problem getting laid.”
He seemed kind of proud of himself and he had the right to be. He had been a star. He had made so much money that he was able to buy the restaurant in Baltimore and the Mercedes he was driving that night; but what about his statement, “I never had any trouble getting laid.” How many different guys had he been with? And then there was AIDS. Had he used a condom?
I didn’t know where it came from it just came out. He was looking at the pictures on the wall of the races I’d won.
“David do you have AIDS?”
“Does a bear shit in the woods?”
He never stopped looking at the win pictures. “You won a bunch of races, both riding and training. When does your next horse run?”
I ignored his question, poured us cups of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. David joined me and before tasting his coffee asked me another question.
“How come you never came to New York to see me in any of the plays I was in? My father said he asked you and you always told him, No.”
I didn’t know how to answer him. Should I make up some excuse like until recently I didn’t have a groom and had to be at the racetrack by around five thirty in the morning. No, this time I knew I had to tell the truth.
“I guess I should have, at least one time. But I liked being a jockey and then a trainer. It was all I lived for back then. I guess that’s how you felt about the theater.” He smiled.
“After the first one I was in at Hayward that’s all I ever wanted to do. When I got up on that stage I was hooked.”
“But what about the ones that flopped,” He cut me off before I could say any more.
“It was a job. I wanted to be the best and those roles helped me get there. They weren’t all good parts but I never let that stop me. Just like when you were a jockey. Not all the horses you rode were winners but you still rode them just as hard as the ones that won. Right?”
I nodded my head. I was starting to understand where he was coming from.
“As soon as I turned eighteen and graduated from high school I went to New York. My parents didn’t like it. I’ve been on my own since then just like you. We’ve both made it this far despite what they said. What are you going to do if you don’t train horses?”
“I was thinking about going back to school and study writing. You know finish what I started at Hayward.” His face lit up.
“Do it then! What have you got to lose?”
“All that I have worked for the last twenty years, I’ve got a pretty good horse I’m training right now. The one you saw in those win pictures.”
“What was his name?”
“Captain Jack. He’s won twenty-five races in the last few years. I’m training eight horses right now with the promise for more all because of him, I just can’t give all of that up right now.”
“Now you know how I felt when I left New York.”
I guess I did. I wanted to get off this subject before he tried to talk me into something I was going be sorry for afterwards. He’d only been there in my apartment for a little while but I could tell he’s not the same; being on the stage all those years had turned the little boy I used to love into a hard edge character, with a smart-ass attitude.
“What are you thinking about Rodney? I thought by now we’d be naked in your bed.”
You know for the first time in our lives I felt like slugging him. I had all I could do to keep from knocking him right off that chair. He knew me well enough to see I wasn’t happy about what he’d said.
“I’m glad you came over but I’ve got to be at the track in a few hours and I need to get some sleep.”
“I can’t believe it. You, who used to pull his pants down anytime he could don’t want go to bed!”
“That was then and this is now. We’re not sixteen anymore.”
He leaned over and got right up in my face. I thought this was it. We’re going to have a fight. But he let his eyes do the talking as they got so dark and turned into daggers as his glare tried to pierce my skin. He got up and started to walk out the door. Before he left he looked over his shoulder.
“You’ll never change. The horses will always be more important.”
That’s the last time I ever saw him. I heard his restaurant was doing well and he was there every night. I thought he was going make it. You know, be one of the ones the medicine helped. Then one Saturday a few months later I opened the morning paper and the local section fell out on the table. There it was on the front-page David’s picture and the caption, “Lives Remembered David Foxwell II.” I felt my heart sink down into my stomach. I just starred at those black letters, David Foxwell dead... I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t talk. I felt all numb inside like I had no emotions left.
I got in my car and I drove. I drove the thirty minutes back to where we used to live. To that baseball field where I was supposed to meet him the night I ran away. I stood there with that same helpless feeling and the storm door on his old house opened. I started to walk towards the reflection in the glass. It was blurry but I could make out the figure of a little boy waving. I ran across that street again as fast as I could just like before. When I reached the driveway I looked up and the door was closed. The house was dark. There were boards over the windows. I turned to walk away and I heard the door opened again and little boys laughing. The wind started blowing and it whistled as it went past the house. I felt a hand on my shoulder and swear I heard David’s voice.
I felt chills run up my back. “See y…” the tears took over.