Fleming didn’t deny or acknowledge what Gil said. She just smiled and said “see you tomorrow night.”
Weeks went by and Fleming and Luke were still playing mental chess. A little ground had been broken but Gil noticed that Luke was coming in earlier and drinking more.
He witnessed their tete a tetes morph into real conversation. He was an expert when it came to listening on the sly and hearing Luke’s story, made him feel almost guilty for eavesdropping. He knew that Luke was a private man, as was he, but he continued to listen anyway.
Through the course of several days, Luke drank more and talked more. Gil listened to the sad lamentations Luke spelled out to Fleming, after she once again asked “who broke your heart?”
“It was a girl named Jenny,” Luke said, “and she didn’t break my heart. She left a hole in it.”
Fleming said “wait a minute. You said your name was Forrest Gump and now you’re saying that your girls’ name was Jenny. Are you feeding me a line of bull?”
Luke ignored her question and continued. “I met Jenny at a little coffee shop right down from my office. I thought she was the prettiest thing I had ever seen and we fell crazy in love.”
Then he looked at Fleming and said “you remind me of her. I don’t know if it’s your eyes or your voice, but you sure do remind me of her.”
Fleming thought she caught just the slightest hint of a smile when he said “every time she called, she said “it’s me.” She knew I had caller ID and she knew that I would recognize her number and her voice, but she always said “it’s me. I’d answer the phone and say ‘what’s up?’ and she would still say ‘it’s me’.”
Fleming tempted the polite conversation and made a 90° turn when she asked, “where did you work?” The old Luke returned as he downed his whiskey and abruptly asked “does it matter?”
Fleming said “you opened the line of questioning when you said the coffee shop was right down from your office.” Luke snarled “what are you? Some kind of lawyer?”
Fleming said “you’re right. It doesn’t matter but I’m guessing that you were in some type of law enforcement.”
Luke was silent as he downed another glass. Gil looked at Fleming and held up five fingers. Fleming remembered Gil saying that he knew when a man was trying to drink himself to death and she believed he was right. That was exactly what Luke was trying to do. But she didn’t know why.
Gil poured Luke another glass. Luke held it up and looked at it, almost as if hoping to find absolution in its warm amber color and sweet but bitter taste. Without saying another word, he drank it, got up, opened his wallet, tossed two twenties next to his glass and walked out.
He had opened up a bit to Fleming and Gil was glad but warned her to be careful. “He’s not going to fulfill your hopes and dreams,” he said. “He’s what we call a dead man walking.”
“I think I can help him,” Fleming said. Gil looked at her with stern but compassionate eyes and said “I think you can not.”
Gil had silently wondered but this time he wondered aloud to Fleming. “Why are you so fixated on this man?”
To be continued_____________________