The following weekend you and Heather went to visit her parents as you did at least once a month. You had finally been allowed to sleep in the same room together, but Heather refused to have sex. She said that the idea of doing so close to where her parents slept was icky. You countered that because it was so dirty that you definitely should. It was an argument you did not win.
The routine was predictable. You would drive up on Saturday, spend the night, and drive back Sunday afternoon. Usually, Heather would spend all her time with her mother and you were left to yourself. Recently though, the Colonel had begun to warm up to you. There was an odd look in his eyes. You were not sure if he really liked you or if there was something else going on.
He took you horseback riding that Sunday morning, which was a feat in itself because you are terrified of any animal that has the ability to stomp you to death should it choose to do so. The two of you meandered through trails choked with new spring growth to a lake where you stopped for a rest. The Colonel would often take you aside to share his personal philosophies on politics or the working class, but this time it was much more personal.
“I heard about your family, Mark. I am very sorry.”
“My mother’s death was hard on everybody. You were at the funeral.”
“I know. I can’t believe it’s been what, five months?”
“I mean your financial situation. Heather says you’re poor. You’re father blew all his money and is living in a shabby little apartment. That has to be quite a shock.”
Everything he just said angered you. You struggle to find a diplomatic way to correct his opinions. “We are not poor. My father owns a nice apartment. It is in a neighborhood that needs some fixing up, but it is not some pit. He spent his life savings trying to save my mother’s life.”
“You took that all wrong. Or, I said it all wrong. Let me try again. Son, it is never easy when tragedy strikes only to be followed by more bad news. You spend your whole life within a certain circle and it never occurs to you that you are going to be pushed out of it and have to fight your way back in.”
The fact that he called you son is lost on you because you are struggling to understand his metaphor. “Is this a sumo thing?”
“It can be. It’s also a life thing. Right now you have a big fat Japanese guy pushing you around. You gotta get back in the ring. You were born a child of privilege. Like Heather, you didn’t go to public school. There are worries in life you haven’t had to face until now. I hope you are up to it.”
“I’m doing the best I can.” You have warmed to the fact that he is trying to be sincere even if he is really bad at it.
“This job you have with FTP, is it a good one?”
“I’m making enough money. The longer I’m there the better I’ll do.”
“I’ve checked it out. It’s a good company. Do you like it? Do you think you have what it takes to stick it out until you make the good money?”
“Right now I’m just analyzing bullshit. It’s boring and they have a dozen people doing the exact same thing, looking at the exact same numbers, so it seems kind of pointless. But, I’m not going to quit. I need this job. I have to buy a house.”
He makes an odd grimace and says, “Don’t worry about the house right now. Save your money and invest wisely. In a year or so you’ll have a better idea about what you can do with it.”
On the way back you start to think that you like the Colonel. Even with his gruff exterior he means well. After all, he did call you son. It does not occur to you that this is the last time the two of you will speak.