The way home felt very short as David’s thought were preoccupied with coming conversation with the bank agent about refinancing his house. After losing his job, he tried to find another one, maybe something quick and temporary to be able to pay the bills, but it was unsuccessful.
David lived in Bonny Doon the place in the Bay Area, north of Santa Cruz. It was once a logging camp and grew to three thousand. There wasn’t much in Bonny Doon. It had no city center, no shops, just an old church, a private school and few fire stations, because fire in that area wasn’t a rarity. Though this place was noted for Bonny Doon Wynyard, the Santa Cruz winery. Apparently the combination of soil, climate and sunlight in the area gave the wine grapes very distinctive character.
David was never a social butterfly and preferred to live in this quiet place, far away from crowded city. He lived in a log cabin, shrouded away from outside. He loved redwood forest he lived in. It was a part of his life to go along the trails with his dog, who would chase chipmunks. David enjoyed silence of the forest, fresh air under shade of oaks, the scent of spruce and hemlock, a walk though berry bushes and sword ferns that created a multiple canopies for forest inhabitants. Sometimes walking through the woods he would stop, being mesmerized by beam of sun light breaking up through crown of tree leaves. He would listen to the sound of quells finches and other birds that he could detect by their singing without even looking. His favorite one was long-eared owl, who seemed was calling for him every time he would go deep into the woods.
He couldn’t imagine himself living in apartment. He liked his nice wooden cabin with glass front wall that would give plenty of natural light to the room. Exposed timber framing on the roof added a nice touch to the house. There was a wide deck around it that was built with wide oak boards. He enjoyed sitting outside, relaxing, listening music. It felt like home to him and he didn’t want to lose it…
David didn’t notice how he arrived home. Entering the house he rushed to the shower, shucking his shirt off and ripping the flannel under the arms as he hurried to pull it off. He had only few minutes to be ready to head to the bank which was located in 40 minutes from home. He didn’t want to be late, especially with his serious situation.
The way to the bank was very scenic. The serpentine road led though the woods and had lots of curves and twists along the way. It was hard to drive at full speed. Every year millions of tourist comes to Santa Cruz. There were world class surf breaks, which created the best surfing waves in the world. This month it was a beginning of Longboard surf contest that attracted many international participants and caused heavy traffic, though for David’s luck it was towards the sea coast, not his direction. David looked at the watch and pushed the pedal, leaving nearby cars behind.
When he entered the bank, a young lady met him in the hall, asking if she could help with anything. When she found out that David had appointment with the mortgage agent, she told him to follow her. You are okay, he told himself, heart thumping. At least he was in time.
The bank agent greeted him friendly, but David was nervous. He never so much trusted banks as he knew how strict the system was. Financial services only benefited the wealthy and showed no mercy to people like him. He remembered mortgage crisis in time of big recession. Huge drop in house prices lead to mortgage failure and massive foreclosures. It was a tragedy for many people who lost their homes.
The bank agent was short middle-aged woman, dressed in grey suit. Her eyes looked like big pools though bifocal spectacles. She asked him to take a seat.
– How are you mr Baker? Let me look at your file, – she said turning her head to the monitor on the side desk. David craned his head trying to sneak a look of what was on the screen, but it was covered with security film protecting data from viewing.
– I see you missed two payments. There were penalties involved… What happened, Mr. Baker? – she took in the crestfallen look on David’s face. (depressed look)
– I couldn’t do the payments because I lost my job. I should find another one soon, but for now I want to know how critical is that? Is there a risk to lose my house?
For a moment there was uncomfortable silence. Her myopic eyes blinked behind gold-rimmed spectacles. She looked like she had internal process going in her head where she was gathering some information.
-Sorry to hear you lost your lost job, Mr. Baker. I am sure we can figure something out. There is a process that follows whenever you can’t make your transaction. You won’t lose your home just because you missed two mortgage payments, but after six months the lender may list the home for sale or hold an auction. We might offer you some programs that can help, but it became more difficult to refinance your loan as you lost your job.
David was at a loss. She pursed her lips:
– Before you have to face the possibility of foreclosure you might consider mortgage-backed security. You also can use house insurance to cover some expense. I can give you more details later if you need. Hopefully you will find a new job soon though in your field it might be very challenging, there are not many research centers in the area.
David left the building very discouraged. The picture of his current situation didn’t look good. If he would not find a source of income within few month, he had to sell his home. Of course the agent tried to find solutions, but it would draw even more cost. He needed time to think about it.
The way home was in blur of contemplation, how he made it all happen? He had a perfect job, girlfriend, his house… now he was losing everything. He never thought it could take so little to crush his all stability and confidence. The strong memories of his last day of work suddenly came back.
It was usual day and David was going through daily routine preparing all equipment for work when Jack Miller, director of Research Center, approached him, snarling with anger that he was about to close the project. David just submitted the document about next stage for his research and thought Jack came to discuss the list of items required to approve the budget but instead he wanted to cancel the entire project. He stated that there was no reason to continue the experiments. “Minimum gross and maximum expenses” – he gave categorical statement.
The study was complex to understand even for person with special training, but Jack had no expertise in marine area and was only interested in business side of Research. David planned to go further with analysis and get the stable results of his experiments, document the evidence which could potentially receive publicity and attract attention of press. Fame and glory could be a reason why Jack would want go ahead with continuing the project. But it was hard to persuade him in a positive outcome of time and money investment. They needed advanced equipment and powerful computers to do complex calculations, otherwise it would take years to get the results they needed.
Something has to be done swiftly and smartly. He tried to explain that it was unique study and they were at the door of big discovery that would attract all media. It already got a positive feedback from Princeton University when he presented idea at the “Mind and Matter Interaction” Conference in Baltimore.
The director didn’t want to hear anything. Scientific talk bored him to death. David didn’t want to give up and tried to find another approach. He said that it was Jack’s dad’s idea for this study. He worked hard for it and it was very important to him personally not only for the Center. They should finish the analysis at least for the sake of his memories. Jack said that it didn’t make sense to invest in his dad’s wacky idea. Now he was the director and would tell him what to do.
Conversation got more intense. All arguments in defense were useless, Jack already made his mind and was very stubborn about his decision. David was greatly afraid that closing the project would cause other people to lose their job. For sure Jack would discard all his team that David built himself. They worked so well together and David relied on their expertise and experience keeping everyone aligned and motivated along the way. He felt responsible not only for the scientific research but also for everybody who he worked with. He asked if Jack could wait just for few more weeks, he would brainstorm new ideas how to work it out relying on his strategic thinking to make it benefit for both sides.
Jack lost his patience and blurted out that he didn’t want to hear anything about the research any more. He was sick and tired of the project, David and everything related to it. He said that his dad was a lunatic and all of them were delirious and he would not support bonkers and crackpots.
The insult from Jack was the last straw and David didn’t know how it happened that the next second he punched Jack right in his sweaty face. To be in power didn’t mean to have a right to insult people who worked so hard. Jack screamed and covered his nose. When he took his pudgy hands off his face and saw blood, he screamed his head off – “You’re fired! Call the cops! Get him out of here”
David’s memories were interrupted by road sign with the street name “Howard Drive”. David made a turn to the rural road. He was almost home. He pulled over in driveway and slowly dragged his feet out of his car. He felt exhausted, worn, and drained, at the same time was delighted when he heard his dog barking at the window being excited to see him. David had two years old Rhodesian ridgeback, named Cupid. He was his only family now. He always knew when David was approaching the house and waited impatiently at the window.
Reaching for the phone David pooled something else from his pocket. It was folded dirty napkin. “What the heck is that?”- David though, staring blankly on the phone number written on it. Meeting with the bank agent and heavy thoughts about his work washed out the memories about the girl he met at fish market. He started to recall the event in the morning.
-What was her name? Amanda? – he asked himself aloud and looked at the dog. Cupid tilted his head and started to tap his tail on the floor.
David recalled how scared she looked when asked about the puffer as if it was a drug. He thought it was funny. The girl was cute though. He recalled that he promised to give her a call because she wanted to talk about dolphins. David wasn’t in a mood to meet anyone, especially now when so many things were out of hands.
Spending long hours in research center he was perennially attracted to dolphins. Over few years he managed to built very special relationship and close conncetion with them. He knew them better than people. It was so natural and authentic interraction where their behaviour was easy to understand, whether someone was in a mood to do things or wasn’t. It was so much easier than interract with people. Dolphins didn’t complain about his scruffle, they were not jealos of him playing with other dolphins, they didn’t ask where he was last night or why they had to do the training. They whether did things or didn’t and most of the time they were very responsive and playful. Curious by nature it seemed like they wanted to know David very well too and sometimes challenged him with new riddles. Dolphins were extremely intelligent being able to use four times more of their brains capacity comparing to humans, so David became very attached to them and his research and quite often preffered them to human company.
At the same time it made him feel like he was losing connection with people and their complicated world of intrigues, politics, manipulation, and greed for power. So with time he become more solitary, more focused on other things that were more important to him. The more he spent time on experiments, the more he felt he was on the edge of big discovery. It excited him tremendously. He wanted to exceed what was known, to rise above human limitations, to transcend his own mind. He wanted to confide his ideas and dreams, but there was nobody who cared much. Even his own boss had indifferent attitutde and intollerence with the subject. There were less and less people who could share his interests, who could understand. So there was more growing distance with everyone and that frustrated him. Though for many of them he was always present if they needed him and would go through fire and water if they were in unfortunate or distressing position. That was why they remembered about him when they were in need and other time he was not much fun for them, because there was not much he could say to fascinate them, nothing to impress with as he wasn’t a typical guy with normal usual interests.
He realized that his abandonment and loneliness happened not because there was nobody around him, but because he wasn’t able to communicate the things that were so important to him. Research helped him to be distracted from his personal problems. So it was a viscious cicrle he wasn’t able to break. The more he spent time at work, the more untisocial he became and the more he had problems with others the more he wanted to focus on research.
Now he had to come with a plan how to find a way to save his house and pull everything back together again. There was no time for tourists or amateurs whoever this girl was. David tossed the napkin with Amanda’s phone number into the garbage bin.
When he heard a grumbling sound from his stomach he realized that didn’t eat anything for entire day. He opened the fridge and scanned the empty shelves for something edible. There used to be plenty of food and now the fridge was frightening empty. The thought of dinner reminded him about Serena, his ex girlfriend. He had a sudden flashback to their last fight.
It happened the day when he returned from jail where he was detained for two weeks. It took time for police to investigate what happened, collect facts from witnesses and to interrogate David with all questions and explanations. It wouldn’t be that long if Serena would pay off a bail for him, but he couldn’t reach for her. He called several times but she never picked up the phone. He worried if something happened. What if she got sick and was hospitalized or hit by the car or maybe she was dead… Fear had big eyes and time in the cell felt like eternity. He was oblivious of the fact that she found out what happened to him and was going to use this accident as opportunity to break up with him and move out. So while he was in custody, she was looking for a place to live and when she found it, started to move furniture and all her belongings. Of course David had no clue about all of that and as soon as he was released he was in rush to get home to be sure that she was safe. He wanted to share with her what happened, to get her support and empathy. He had no clue how naive he was.
When he arrived home, he was unpleasantly surprised to see moving track and boxes on the driveway. The next moment he saw Serena walking out of the house and caring a big pot with a plant. She noticed him and her face became a thundercloud. David was appalled by the scene. What the hell was going on?
“What are you doing?” – he shouted. – “Why are you taking the stuff? And where the hell have you being all these days? I called you several times but you never picked up the phone.” – he started to panic overwhelmed by the scene.
She didn’t react like as if she didn’t hear him and started to load the plant into the truck, trying to fit it between boxes. David was about to lose his mind: “What is wrong with you?”
“What is wrong with me? – she exploded. She was absolutely furious. “What is wrong with you, Dave? I got a call from your work about your arrest for criminal assault. I didn’t know you attack people especially if it is your own boss. I didn’t think I would end up living with criminal. It is all your anger management issues, David.
He was outraged:
– Anger management issues? This bustard insulted me. He had no respect to anyone including his dad. All he cared was only money that he sucked from the center like a suckerfish a whale. My arrest was an accident, but you sound like I spent years behind the bars.
Serena ignored what was so important to him and kept blaming:
– You have a compulsive disorder Dave! I am sure it all started because again you tried to prove that you were right and he was wrong as you always do. Am I right? Every time you fight for your ideas to death. You always want everything to be fair. Life is not fair, David. It is always logical. You have to grow up and not be stupid about what you do in your life. I told you million times to put a foot in your mouth, just do what you are asked to do and be quiet and diligent. Instead you started a fight. Of course nobody can tolerate that! You should go back to the Center and apologize to your boss, beg him to take you back.
– Are you insane? I would never go back. I never kissed people’s butts. He brushed me off Center like a flea off the dog and you are telling me I have to suck up my dignity and apologize to him? He is absolutely worthless piece of crap! He has no expertise in biology, no science degree, no marine education, he is the worse manager ever! He never cared for anyone and used all Center for his profit in wich he accused me!
Serena slammed the door of the truck and turned to David, sending fire balls from her eyes. She started to surf a new wave of arguments:
– So what? Suck it up! I also hate my boss, but it doesn’t make me quit my job, I need it for living. How dare you to lose your job when there was so much on a line: we just bought a new car, fixed the house roof? How are you going to pay it all off? We never even went for vacation. I always asked you to talk to your director about promotion, but instead you managed to lose your job! You are so immature and completely not reliable. And now you have a police record. I don’t feel secure with you anymore. How can I trust the person who is so aggressive? What if I don’t do what you want, would you slap me too? You are dangerous if you can’t control yourself. You should have a special therapy for anger disorder. – She couldn’t stop an avalanche of harsh remarks.
He was trying to be indignant to her criticism, searching for logical arguments.
– Who is talking about not being reliable? – Davis strived for justice. – I called you so many times. You could pay off the bail to get me out of there and you never even picked up your phone! I wouldn’t spend two weeks in a dirty cell if you just paid for me.
– What? Are you insane? Are you expecting me to waste 5 thousands on prison? I am not wasting my savings on stupidity. I don’t want to sponsor bummers, especially one who lays the grave with his own hands.
David was stunned! He knew their relationship somewhat deteriorated over few years and loving feelings submerged into tension and coldness. But he had no clue of the degree of her detachment by practically betraying him in critical moment of his life.
– I wasn’t asking to give me your money. I just needed you to help me and to believe in me. Of course I would find a job and return you all. The Princeton University has a Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory. They were interested in my study. I am going to contact them and they might offer me something. – David notices how agonized he became driven by shocking truth, feeling dizzy from disparity.
– Really? – her voice poked him. – “So why didn’t they support your idea when you did your presentation at the conference while you were still working in Research Center? Instead you covered expenses for your dolphins yourself .
Obviously she collected all her venom for a long time and now was attacking him, making him a victim of all their misery.
– Yes, I paid most of expenses for the research. I don’t deny. Jack was very bitchy about every penny given for the project and we struggled to be within the budget. I thought if the results of our experiments would be successful, we could get attention of press and we all would be rich and could return money invested.
She didn’t answer. Instead she looked at her watch and went back to the house. David followed her in despair. She started to pick up thing in the bathroom, collecting her makeup, towels, and perfumes. David was nervously pacing behind her, biting his lips. He felt desperate.
He thought how much she changed over the years. He didn’t expect her to leave him, especially now when he was in big trouble. It deeply wounded him but he tried to fight for the last chance. He needed her help to go through financial difficulties. He tried to suppress his frustration to win time and change the situation.
– I can’t believe you doing that. When you lived in Sri Lanka and wanted to go with me to States, I did everything possible for you to get a green card. I paid for all your study so you can stay in states legally and have a profession, so now when you have a good income you are busting me and leaving me in a lurch!
Her back talk was acidic:
– So now you are accusing me in selfishness, implying that I twiddled you. I thought we came here together because we were in love!
– Exactly! You hit a nail on a head. We were in love and where is that love now? When was last time we had sex, few years ago? It is all because of your weird sex abstinence. What kind of religion teaches to focus on your own needs? The truth is that with learned how to be independent and you don’t need me anymore. As a matter of fact you don’t need anyone!
– It is not a religion, David! And it is not a death sentence. It is deeper than you think. It is very personal to me and I am not about to discuss it with you. You never understood me, never truly appreciated my multifaceted personality. You were always busy with work!
Suddenly she stopped screaming and blaming him. She became still. But something unnatural was in her calmness. It was icy-cold, not human-like.
– We grew apart Dave, admit it. Isn’t it obvious that two people can be together if both of them share the same interests, doing something together to built better life. If one is moving forward, but another remains the same, the gap between them becomes huge with time. We are very different now and it is time to move apart with our lives. You want to stay here? Fine! Focus on your dolphins, but I don’t want to suffocate being far away from real life. I am moving to the city!
David couldn’t belive it! He thought they were friends. Sure there was no more loving feelings anymore, but he thought they still had pretty good relationship and sometimes had a good time together. He thought in general she was ssatisfied with life here in Bonny Doon. Of course from time to time she would suggest to relocate to the city complaining that she was far from her friends. But he had no idea that she would decide to run from him just when he needed her support. He was very offended by that.
– I understand you are indignant over me losing my job, but honestly, I didn’t expect you to plan your escape behind my back. Why you never told me how miserable you were with me. We could try to do something about it.
– Seriously? David? I told you many times that I am so sick and tired of this backwoods where there is no gym, no shopping center. Everything I need is so far away. I told you about that. You just never hear what I tell you becaue you don’t care about me, only about your dolphins. So go and live with them now, but I don’t want to live down here anymore.
With whale of frustration he agreed:
-All right, let’s move to San Jose! Let’s sell the house, search for a new one close to your work if that is so important to you. I hate to live in a city but if gyms and clubs make you happy, fine, I can live with that. Why to ruin everything? Why just to destroy everything we had together?
She sharply interrupted him, giving him no chance to finish negotiation.
– Save you breath David! It is too late to do anything, this is just waste of time on talking about it? I don’t see the point. To continue to live like strangers? We are too different now, besides it wasn’t good idea from the very beginning.
– What are you talking about? You wanted to come to US and now you are telling it wasn’t good idea?
– Yes, now there is a price to pay. I should tell you the truth. I wanted to come to states to be able to escape arranged marriage which by tradition my parents planned for me. The person I supposed to marry was rich man so much older than me. I hated him and would rather kill myslef than marry him. So when I met you I thougt it would be my only chance. Of course my family never forgave me for that and condemned me for being disgraceful to them and for dishonor of their reputation and the whole community. Of course you don’t know what it feels like to be remote from place you were born; to lose connection with your roots and yourself; to have a deep regret about you’ve done and sorrow not to be forgiven. I found Indian community in San Jose that will help me to fill my cultural void. People accepted and embraiced me like a part of family. I found an apartment in the area and I am moving there.
David had hard time to process this awful confession and mechanically mumbled:
– We both could move there.
She came close to him and took his face in her hands, looked straight in his eyes and said:
– You are nice guy David, you never hurt me, but truth is I don’t love you and I never did. I needed you to escape arranged marriage set up by my parents. I also thought you would open me a new world with American Dream, but realized you never will be rich. People like you share last shirt just to make everyone happy even if it is a dolphin. I never understood your weird nature.
David couldn’t move. He was paralized by staggering reality. She left and he became numb and broken inside. He didn’t expect when he hurried home from jail to come to this startling revelation, the bitter truth about their relationship – not that day when it happened and not now, sitting in the kitchen and recalling it all as if it happened yesterday, spinning the details of conversation in his mind in disbelief, that after so many years he was betrayed by the person who never even loved him, who used him in her own selfish interests. How did it happened?