The Adventures of Chartan: Talking without Filters

            (Last Sunday: Chartan dismisses the questioning of the famed therapist, Dr. Kodor, but when he returns to his apartment, Gina, seated at the kitchen table, appears distraught.)

            “I have three things to tell you, so you better sit,” said Gina.

            Chartan pulled out a chair without taking his eyes off his wife.

            “I take it we’re in dramatic mode,” he said.

            “Please sit.”

            He plopped down on the chair. “Hit me.”

            “Okay, try this. I’m an ex-felon, Julie’s not my aunt and I’m pregnant.”

            Chartan watched his clenched fist slide across the table top.

            “Let’s start with pregnant.”

            “Yes, you’re the father.”

            “Is that okay with you?”

            “That you’re the father, that I’m pregnant?”

            “This is too tense for the occasion,” said Chartan as he stood up. “What you were in the past doesn’t mean anything if you want me to be the father.”

            “I’m too tense,” replied Gina. “I shouldn’t have held out about a mistake I made a long time ago. I thought you’d walk out. And when I missed two periods, I knew I’d waited too long.”

            “Was it a violent felony?”

            Gina laughed, but stopped when she realized her husband of less than a year had a pained look. She stood up.

            “Not violent. A misguided Ponzi scheme. Want to know more?”

            “Are you off parole?”

            “”Finished.”

            “Do you love me?”

            Gina took three quick steps and finished by throwing her arms around Chartan. They kissed like they’d never stop.

                                               (Continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: Confronting Dr. Kodor

(Last week: After two months Gina and Chartan have settled into married life as have Brazil and Julie.)

Chartan spotted Minerva in his side view mirror approaching the rear of the limo, her gait slow, her head bowed.  He took a last gulp of his 72-bean coffee, blinked and carefully placed the cup in its holder before flinging open the driver’s door.

            He crossed over to the passenger rear side of the black Bentley and grabbed the door handle. His hand, warmed by the coffee mug, turned cold under the grip of cold steel. Why am I thinking about this?  Ah, I’m slightly upset that my peace in the front seat has been interrupted. She’s early. The sessions usually last an hour—it’s only been 30 minutes.

            “Chartan, I’m not ready to leave.”

            He promptly closed the limo door.

            “I want you follow  me.”

            She spoke as if he were under her command and, in a sense she was—she paid for her power over him. Without questioning her, he followed a few steps behind. He knew the way to Dr. Kodor’s office–Minerva had paid for his sessions with the renowned therapist after Chartan been wounded by a bullet fired by the car window bandit. Chartan shivered slightly. He had forgotten what they had discussed six months ago, but he remembered the wood paneling in the office and the wall of documents showing that Kodor was an honored scholar. I’m married now, months removed from those strange times with Elisa.  Gina had been my turn in the road, that bright light ahead that gives me a purpose in life.

            As Chartan entered the office, he worried that his world was more fragile than he was willing to admit, that it could come undone easily from Dr. Kodor’s first words.The bespectacled gray-haired man stood up from behind the giant desk, exposing his short stature.

            “My dear, Chartan, I had hoped to hear from you again.”

            Why did I stop seeing him? What did I say in this room? I don’t remember anything?

            Dr. Kodor motioned to Minerva with the flip of his hand. She smiled and left.

            “Chartan, please sit.” The former guru turned limo driver nodded and took the oversized leather chair he had occupied six months ago. Kodor sat in the other oversized leather chair. The two were now a few feet away, each pushed back against a thick cushion.

            “There won’t be any fees attached to our talk,” said Kodor. “I simply want to explore why you stopped coming here.”

            “I don’t recall a specific reason. I simply fell in line with a series of events that involved two women and a combat vet. Now I’m married and driving a limo for a living. And that’s my life in 30-seconds.”

            Kodor coughed. “It sounds like you don’t care, that, perhaps, you’ve given up. ”

            Kodor’s words were a punch to the stomach. Chartan straightened himself in the chair, exhaled and tried to regain the will power that had abandoned him.

            His first words were spoken slowly. “I’ve fallen in love.”….”Her name is Gina and I want to be with her now. It’s true that I don’t care about things I once thought important, but I haven’t given up.”

            His statement cleared the fog that had followed him from the limo. He didn’t like Kodor and his brand of psychotherapy. Chartan stood up.

            “Dr. Kodor, I have a limo to drive.”  He turned and left, imaging that the world famous therapist’s jaw had dropped, but he didn’t care to confirm the effect of his sudden departure.

            He returned to the limo, not surprised that Minerva was on the phone in the back seat.

            “That was quick,” she said, lowering the phone to her lap.

            “There wasn’t much to say. Home?”

            “Please.”

            The two didn’t speak again until the limo stopped in front of her mansion. He opened the door for her.

            “My dear, Chartan, I apologize for sleeping on the way home. She handed him a wad of rolled up bills which he stuffed into his pocket as he walked by her side to the front door.

            Twenty minutes later he opened his apartment door. Gina was seated at the kitchen table.

            “We have to talk,” she said.

            His heart pounded. Her voice sounded as if she were in pain.

            (To be continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: Married for Two Months

(Last Sunday: Julie and Brazil tie the knot an hour after first meeting at Chartan and Gina’s wedding celebration).

Chartan, eyes closed with arms extended over his head, took a deep breath to fill his lungs with crisp, fall air. He was standing under a coastal oak by the edge of the river that meandered behind his apartment building. He dropped his arms slowly as he exhaled. It was a glorious moment for him—for the first time in two days, he was alone. Gina was at work. Skyler and Julie were off on a road trip to the mountains. He was scheduled to drive Minerva to San Francisco tomorrow morning. For now, he was…free. No more weddings. No more…what is it that I am free of? Gina? Isn’t it wrong to have even a fleeting thought about the…demands of a commitment to someone else? Skyler’s details have come to roost. How is marriage any different than taking responsibility to drive a person safely 200 miles for a fee needed to pay my, no, our bills? Is it that I don’t want to do any of this: to drive…to love?

            He clenched his fists. His face contorted and turned red as he screamed silently in desperation to will away the thoughts that had invaded his moment of peace.

            When Gina returned to the apartment, she stopped in the doorway, struck by the large vase of flowers that took up half of their kitchen table. She picked up the slip of paper at the table’s edge: Gina, I love you more than ever—CC.  Tears came to her eyes. A few minutes ago with her hand on the outside door knob, she hoped Chartan wouldn’t be inside—she needed time to think.

            “They’re beautiful,” she said to her husband of two months as he entered the room.  They kissed for a time before going to the bedroom.

                                                ***

            Julie and Brazil were the only customers seated at a run down, dimly lit bar somewhere in New Mexico about an hour before sunset. 

            Julie nudged her cocktail glass . “Maybe we should go home.”

            “The last two weeks have been the best in my life,” replied her husband.

            “They’ve been great for me too.”

            Brazil squeezed her hand.  He thought about how well they fit together in bed, how they laughed at the same things like the rooster screeching at daybreak outside of their motel room, or the overdone hamburger that slid off of Julie’s bun at an all-night diner. He liked not knowing much about her—there were no expectations. But they were running out of money—a good reason to go home. He needed to resume his detective work, if, indeed, there was any in Sacramento.

            “Yeah, I guess we should get back,” he said.

            “I wonder how Gina and Chartan are doing? asked Julie.

            “I forgot about them. I bet they’re fine.”

            Julie pulled her hand away from Brazil. “I’m not convinced of that.”

            “Why?”

            “Gina doesn’t stay put. She runs rather than face up to her problems.”

            “What problems?”

            Julie grabbed Brazil’s wrist and brought to her mouth and kissed it. “Honey, I’ve said more than I should. Let’s go home and make sure they’re okay.”

            “What should I know about Gina?”

            “For starters, I’m not her aunt.  But let’s go.”

            “Okay, but know this Julie, “I’m a bulldog detective.  Secrets don’t exist for me.”

            They left for the front door, but stopped in the parking lot to admire the final day’s light that painted the surrounding mountains with a red glow.

            “Quite a contrast to where we just were,” said Brazil.

            “Beautiful. Like us. And I don’t mean to be melodramatic about Gina. We did time together for running a Ponzi. You know about Ponzi’s?

            “I’m a detective, remember. And I don’t do secrets, remember.”

            Julie threw her arms around Brazil and kissed him hard. The driver in a passing semi-tractor trailer blasted his air horn, but it didn’t break up the lovers.

                                                            ***

(To be continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: Another Wedding, Another Pizza

            (Last Sunday: Chartan and Gina get married and share a pizza with Brazil and Julie, Gina’s aunt)

            We close in 30 minutes,” said the city clerk without looking up.

            “Time enough to get married?” asked Chartan.

            The clerk raised her head slowly as if in fear of what she might see. “You!  Sorry, no refunds and I can’t marry you twice in one day,” she replied laughing.

            “Not me—them.” Chartan stepped aside to reveal Brazil and Julie holding hands.

            The clerk waved the couple forward.  “Fill out these forms and pay the fee—you have about 15 minutes—I’ve got company coming tonight.”

            Brazil and Julie stood at the counter, scribbling responses in a rapid fire manner.  Chartan and Gina found chairs a few feet away.

            Julie whispered,” Skyler, what’s your middle name?”

            He continued writing. “I don’t know yours either.”

            “I guess there’s a lot we don’t about each other,” said Julie.

            Brazil put his pen down. “My life has been about details I’d rather forget. How about details later, if at all? “

            With a flourish Julie signed her name. “This marriage is going be fun—and I’m done.”

            At 4:01 p.m., the two newly married couples walked down the steps of City Hall.

            “We could get another pizza,” said Julie,” at least I’ll be on time.”

            The teenage waitress met them at the door. 

            “We’ll take another large with the works,” announced Chartan.

            They returned to the table they’d left an hour ago. They’d only been seated for a minute when Julie said,” Skyler, there’s one detail we should discuss now.” Gina and Chartan squirmed in their chairs. Was the honeymoon over?

            The crew cut veteran with soft eyes leaned forward so his nose was inches from his wife’s face. “Fire away.”

            “My place or yours tonight?” asked Julie.

            “I didn’t make the bed this morning,” he replied. “In fact, I didn’t do the dishes.”

            “We’re a match made in heaven,” said Julie. “My place—you can help me clean up.”

            The foursome laughed until the pizza came.

            Later that night Chartan and Gina sat across from each other at their small kitchen table.

            “I still can’t believe Aunt Julie met and married Skyler in the time it takes to eat a pizza.”

            “Time is a detail, happiness is not,” said Chartan.

            “Meaning what?”

            “It’s a feeling without details until it is over, an emotion that ends when you attempt to define or keep it.”

            (Continued next Sunday)

                                                ***

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The Adventures of Chartan: Wedding with Reception

(Last Sunday: Chartan and Gina decide to get married.)

            Brazil teared up as the city official read the wedding vows. Chartan and Gina didn’t notice him. He’d become lost in thought over the failures in his life: divorced, estranged from his two sons and incessant nightmares over pulling a trigger 40 years ago.  These were the weights of his life. The tears were for simple happiness that never came. He sensed the joy between Chartan and Gina and wished he could share in it –at least he was the witness.

            “Skyler, do you have the ring?”

            Brazil nodded slowly at Chartan. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the ring Chartan had given him yesterday. 

            The ceremony lasted 10 minutes. No photos. Afterwards the trio walked across the street to a pizza parlor where they ordered an extra-large with the works and a pitcher of tap beer.

            They were the only customers—it was 3 p.m. They chose a wood picnic table by the window that gave them an unobstructed view of City Hall with its four gray columns with poorly sculpted nudes at the top, indicative of god rush architecture.

            “Well, do you feel different?” asked Brazil.

            Chartan and Gina looked at each other, then kissed. They both replied “yes” followed by a laugh.

            “You’re in sync,” said Brazil, stopping himself from adding, “for now.”

            “Thanks for being here,” said Chartan.

             “I wouldn’t have missed it.”

            “Oh, my god, there’s Aunt Julie,” shouted Gina. “I’ll get her.”

            Walking slowly up the city hall steps was a woman in a bright blue sun dress. She appeared to be looking up at the nudes.

            A few minutes later Gina returned with her aunt in tow.

            “Sorry I’m late as always,” said Julie, smiling at the two seated men she’d never met.

She sat down next to Brazil and raised her hand.

            “Hopefully, Gina hasn’t said much about me. I’m a talker, one, and two, I have opinions and three, I bake a mean apple pie—won the blue ribbon three years in a row at the county fair. I don’t smoke, but like my booze. I’m independently broke and laugh too much.”

            Gina put a hand by Julie’s mouth. “This is my husband of 30 minutes, Chartan.” She pointed to her spouse. “And this is our friend and witness, Skyler Brazil.”

            Brazil smiled, as much as the use of “our” by Gina as for the vibrant woman seated next to him—her arm touched his side, just enough to make his heart race.

            “I guess this is your wedding reception,” announced Julie as a teenage girl placed a giant pizza on the table.

            ”The best one I’ve ever had,” replied Gina.

            Chartan cleared his throat. “This is more than a reception. “

            Gina gently poked Chartan in the side with her elbow. “Don’t get heavy on us, after all this is a pizza parlor.”

            Chartan smiled to cover up his reaction: I guess I’ll be losing my identity in this journey to be a husband. It’s okay. I want to share life with Gina and that means …
           

            “A toast,” blurted Brazil.

            Chartan eyed his friend—he was smiling with Julie clutching his arm. Brazil and Julie had known each other for a few minutes but acted if they were in the midst of a budding relationship. Chartan clicked his glass with the others, but they were fuzzy to him, instead, he was thinking about how quickly Gina and he had gone from meeting at the restaurant to living together to marriage. Had it been six months? Maybe that is a long time these days?

            “Chartan, are you day dreaming?” asked Gina.

            He looked at his wife. “Of course, I am—I think it’s the beer.” She laughed. He looked across the table—Julie and Brazil were kissing.

            My god, they’ll be married by the time we finish eating, thought Chartan.

            Suddenly, Gina grabbed and kissed Chartan.

            The teenage waitress, mouth agape, watched the foursome kissing in the afternoon. 

            “What’s up with them?” asked the cook, standing behind her.

            “It’s a wedding reception,” she said.

            “Whose?”

            “All of them, I think.”

(To be continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: The Discharge Interviews

            (Last week: Chartan unarms a distraught man inside a donut shop.)

            Chartan with Gina on his arm, stood at the hospital discharge window. “How much do I owe you?” he asked.

            The woman behind the glass shuffled some papers, then grinned. “Nothing.”

            “I don’t even owe you for the meatloaf?”

            “Nothing. Your bill was taken care of.”

            “By whom?”

            “My boss told me a woman covered the expenses—I think her name was Minerva.”

            Chartan nodded.

            “Who’s Minerva?” asked Gina.

            “Someone I used to drive to San Francisco.”

            “You must know her well.”

            “I don’t really know her at all—let’s go.”

            As soon as they went through the revolving door to the outside, they were besieged by a trio of TV reporters. Gina clutched Chartan tightly.

            “I don’t intend to make this a habit,” Chartan said loudly.

            A woman shouted out, “Were you concerned for your safety when you tackled the gunman?”

            He faced the woman who had posed the question. She was shaking slightly—nervous, thought Chartan.

            “I didn’t weigh the options—there were none. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt, so I just went after him. I was lucky again.” Gina squeezed his arm harder.

            The barrage of questions that followed did not advance the basic information that Chartan had reacted quickly and in doing so, he had saved lives. One reporter linked his heroism to the time he threw hot coffee into the face of the car window bandit. Chartan simply added, “Yes, the 72-bean brew to the rescue.” The reporters laughed while the cameras rolled.

            Finally, the woman who had asked him the first question, interjected: “Who is the person with you?”

            Chartan paused. He was about to say Gina was his wife, but stopped himself. “This is my bride to be, Gina.”

                                                                                ***       

            Skyler Brazil sat on his bed, staring at the war tattoos on both his forearms: skull and crossbones on the left, a serpent coiled around a cross on the right. The art was 40 years old, as vivid as the memories he couldn’t forget.

            By his side was the note from Chartan: Please be our best man, maid of honor and our friend this Friday at noon at the city clerk’s office. We’re getting married. Let me know.

            He had one hour to get to the wedding. His first order of business was to iron the long sleeve blue shirt he bought yesterday.

            Fifteen minutes later Brazil started the short walk to City Hall. He was soon overcome with the sense that an important moment lay ahead. Certainly, for Chartan and Gina it would be a special time, but why would it be significant for him? He had no friends, no mission to carry out. He was alone. Yet, there was something making him take each step with…pride. That was it, pride. Where was the usual anger? The hate? Perhaps, it had been taken over by the joy of being asked to be a wedding witness.

            “Cuse me. Got change for a veteran?”

            Brazil stopped at the alleyway where a man, maybe his age, held a can and weather beaten cardboard sign: “Help a vet.”

            Was he a vet? Did it matter? The man was clearly in bad shape. He handed him a dollar and left without waiting for a response.

            His monthly VA disability check assured him that he wouldn’t end up on the street. But what contribution was he making to make life better for others? Nothing at the moment. But something was coming, he could sense it, something that would alter his life’s direction.

            (Continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: The Unexpected

            (Last week: Chartan faces temptation in his Sacramento apartment after a surprise visit from Elisa.)

            When Gina returned from her job, she found Chartan seated at the kitchen table with a blank stare on his face.

            “Are you okay?”

            He turned towards her but remained silent.

            “Chartan, what’s wrong?” She pressed her legs against the side of the table.

            “Elisa was here.”

            “Who’s Elisa?”

            “Elisa is a lot of things: on probation, a nurse and the devil.”

            “Have you been doping up?”

            He held his hand out. Gina sat down in the chair across from Chartan—she didn’t touch him.

            Chartan launched into an explanation of how he had met Elisa, but quit speaking when he could see Gina’s eyes grow sadder.

            “Did you have sex with her?” asked Gina.

            “We were intimate once, but not today.”

            “What about yesterday?” The sad eyes were fired up.

            “It happened once months ago.”

            “How many months?”

                                                ***

            Chartan sat up in bed, unsure of why he was suddenly wide awake. Gina was asleep in the fetal position, her head facing him. The room was lit with a dull white light, bright enough to reveal the darks strands of hair on her cheek. He smiled at the thought of a space ship landing in the apartment parking lot. Life is fuller when there are surprises, he said to himself. He carefully broke free of the sheet and blanket, got out of bed and slowly made his way to the window–no Martians around, only a full moon.

            A few hours ago during the heat of their intimacy, Gina had begged him to tell her she was the only woman in his life. He knew she was upset by the vision he’d created of Elisa, but he thought it was out of character for her to worry about another woman—she was much stronger than that. He did as she asked but took no pleasure from it. He looked at the cars parked below, preferring to dwell on their shapes rather than to continue replaying Gina’s words.

            “I want a child, our child. ”

            Chartan jumped slightly. Gina put a hand on his shoulder—she was behind him—he kept his eye on the moon. He knew she expected a response. It was one of the moments when he had to say the right thing. But he’d never thought of children other than that they might be the result of poor birth control—he assumed she was still on the pill–she had told him that months ago. 

            “Chartan, did you hear me?”

                The tip of Chartan’s nose found the cold glass. His breath fogged up the window—Gina’s fuzzy reflection slowly disappeared. 

            “Say something,” said Gina.

            “There are 17 cars in the parking lot. But that’s not what you want to hear.”

            “You’re insane. Completely nuts.”

            “Sometimes.”

            “Look at me!”

            Chartan turned. Gina’s face wrinkled up before giving way to sobs. Chartan’s wrapped his long arms around her back. She pressed the side of her face to his chest and this is how they stayed for a long time until the sound of an engine turning over broke the silence.

            “Someone going to work early,” said Chartan.

            “Or getting donuts.” Gina’s voice was muffled

            “Yeah, donuts,” replied Chartan.

            Gina pulled away—her voice was clear: “Benny’s is open and the coffee is good there too.”

            Maybe Gina realized she had pushed too hard while Chartan was thankful for a change of venue. Regardless, the couple rushed to Benny’s, acting like lovebirds at 6:00 a.m. 

            “You guys just get engaged?” grunted Benny from the kitchen porthole that overlooked the counter where Gina and Chartan sat, holding hands.

            “It’s the donuts,” said Chartan. Gina laughed out loud as did Benny.

            The one person who didn’t laugh was a long-haired, bearded man hunched over a mug of coffee, giving the appearance he had fallen asleep. He reached in to an overcoat pocket and pulled out a Glock 19 as if to admire it.

            “Too much noise,” he grunted. No one heard him, the first time.  

                                                                        ***

            “He didn’t say nothin’, the whole time, nothin’—he just moved like lightnin’.”

            The detective gently put a hand on Benny’s shoulder. “Benny, calm down– who didn’t say anything?”

            “The guy with the black hair—he was eatin’ donuts with his girl when this moron started yelling’ and shootin’ .”

            The detective walked over to Gina who was with a female officer and a medic,

            “Excuse me, Ma’m, I’m detective Lewis.  The man who stopped the shooter didn’t have any identification on him. Do you know him?”

            “Will he be alright?”

            “He’s in good hands—they’ll take care of him. But his name?”

            “Chartan Chartan.”

            “The teacher?”

            “That’s him.”

            “What’s your relationship with him?”

            Gina wiped some tears away. “He’s my husband.”

            Later that night Gina sat by the hospital bed staring at Chartan who appeared to be fixated on the ceiling. “What are you thinking?” she asked.

            “This is the third time.”

            “What’s the third time?”

            “I stopped the car window bandit—the bullet grazed me. I tackled Elisa’s husband when she was aiming to shoot him. Now I slug the donut guy carrying enough firepower to wipe out my class. I’m lucky”

            “No, you’re a hero and they say you can get out in a day or two.”

            “I’m not a hero—I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just did it.

            Gina leaned closer to Chartan. “I told the police you were my husband.”

            Chartan smiled. “We forgot to get married. We better do it before my luck runs out.”

                                    (Continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: Return to Sacramento

            (Last week: Gina tells Chartan she is done with the mystic.)

            They returned to the motel room to find Brazil sitting on the bed,

             “Check out time?” asked Brazil.

            “Have any ideas? asked Chartan

            “You two are the love birds—I’m ready to spend the night in my bed in Sacramento.”

            “And I’d love a change of scenery,” added Gina. 

                                                ****

            Six months later Chartan and Gina had settled into a comfortable routine in Sacramento. They lived in Chartan’s small apartment where they started each morning off with strong coffee and discussions about where they would move to and what they’d do in this yet to be identified destination. Wouldn’t be in Sacramento, promised Gina, who had little nice to say about California’s capital city. Chartan made it clear he wasn’t opposed to leaving. They saw little of Brazil who busied himself trailing unfaithful spouses for a fee.

            During the week Gina would leave around 10:30 a.m. for a waitressing job at a nearby lunch and dinner restaurant. Chartan still taught his “life restoration” class, although enrollment was down to 20 people, mostly woman in their 50s. He also went back to work as a limo driver, only this time he drove a steady four days per week rather than the last two or three days of the month.  The couple agreed they should save as much money as possible from what they earned. The cookie jar on the kitchen table had $345 in it.

            They also neglected to get married.

            One day Chartan was walking home from the Adult Education Center when his mind drifted to thoughts of Elisa. They had been intimate once during the evening she had stayed in his apartment. He remembered the moments vividly. At first he marveled at her body, but after a time he sensed her aura of evil—it was as if she wanted to take control of him. He wanted her to leave and was thoroughly relived when she did. Gina, on the other hand, was comfortable to be with–their sex had become predictably nice, efficient. He assumed they eventually would move to another level of passion—it would come naturally.

            These were the thoughts that filled Chartan as he walked up the stairs to the second floor apartment where Elisa was waiting by the door. Had she listened to his thoughts? She wore tight blue jeans and a white dress shirt that Chartan noticed was missing a button, accentuating her cleavage.

            “I’m on probation—the least you could do is act pleased to see me,” she said.

            “I’m surprised to see you—there have been changes,” he replied.

            Chartan reached out with a key in his hand, certain that Elisa had pushed her bosom into his arm when he turned the lock.

            “You want to come in?”

            “For a minute. You can tell me about these changes.”

            They stood facing each other in the kitchen. Chartan knew she wanted to have sex with him.

            Why haven’t I thrown her out yet?

            Chartan had studied the phenomena of super performances by athletes who, after their feat, said their moment of glory occurred in slow-motion, as if time had stopped to allow them to achieve perfection. He recognized that time had stopped for him in his kitchen as he faced Elisa. She was a foot away just as she was in another room cast in the gray hue of a dream. She was removing her clothes. She was laughing at him.  She was begging him with tears.

            “Leave, now.” he said firmly, pointing to the door. “

            He watched himself send Elisa away. He swore that is what happened.   But she was no ordinary soul. Even though he was alone in the kitchen, she was still present, watching his every move.  Temptation never leaves.

                                                (To be continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: Decisions

            (Last week: Brazil struggles with his past demons—Chartan asks him to be his best man.)

            Brazil kept his arm straight out in front of him, his fingers squeezing the door knob that wasn’t there. “Yes,” he responded to Chartan .

            Chartan hugged him.

            After the hug ended the two men entered the small motel room. Chartan sat on the bed while Brazil took the only chair—their knees almost touched.

            “So I’ve gone from breakfast at noon to a marriage proposal at five—that’s the speed of love, I guess,” said Chartan.

            “In combat there’s the quick and the dead,” said Brazil. I don’t know much about love. I’m glad you do.”

            Chartan smiled. “ I’ve lost all those voices that kept my cautious. Not going to slow down at this point. “

            “When is the date?”

            “Nothing set. It will happen. Soon.”

                                                                        ***

            Chartan walked up the flight of wood steps that led to the second floor of Gina’s apartment, each step sending creaks echoing through the damp evening air.

            If nothing else, this a noisy ascent into the emotional unknown. I want to marry Gina. I want to be a friend to Skyler. I have no idea where I should be tomorrow. And it’s crazy that I have only been to Gina’s place once before. Do I really know her? Does it matter?

            He knocked twice, careful not to be too loud. The door opened slowly.

            “Chartan, no doubt,” said the man with shoulder length, dark hair.

            Chartan knew this must be Gina’s nameless guru.

            “Yes, and you are Gina’s friend, correct?”

            “Friend is a good word for me. I hope to be your friend as well.”

            Chartan sensed the man was comfortable with who he was and what he was saying.

            “Come in,” said the man.

            Chartan entered the small room highlighted by a plush reddish Persian rug with four large white cushions on it.

            “Is Gina here?”

            “In spirit, yes. Physically, she is walking back from the grocery store.”

            Chartan could no longer hold back the question. “What is your name?”

            “Is it important to you?”

            “It’s important to my frame of reference.”

            “I have been nameless for seven years. In a prior life I was Bellish.”

            “How is that spelled?”

            “Chartan, you concern yourself with that which does not matter. Better to understand why I am nameless.”

            “You’re right. I lost my focus and, to be precise, that is why I am here.”

            “To tell Gina that you do not want to marry her at this point in time?”

            “Is that what you think?”

            “It’s what I know,” said the nameless man with a smile.

                                                                        ***

            Gina stopped at the bottom of the wooden outdoor steps that led to her second floor apartment. On the landing by her front door were Chartan and her mystic—that’s what she called him in her thoughts.  

            “It’s always better to descend than climb,” said the mystic.

            The stairs moaned loudly under the weight of the two men. Gina stepped back to give them room .

            Chartan had never seen the mystic and the Gina together. Would they embrace, or employ some kind of signal to demonstrate their closeness. Instead, when they were on the last step, the mystic stepped to the side away from Gina, putting Chartan closer to her.

            “Hi, how are you?” Chartan sensed his question did not fit the moment, that a platitude would have been more fitting, but his mind was strangely void of directive thoughts. He did, however, give her a long smile without any concern for what she might do. This is a start– be myself.

            Gina returned the smile equally, but then she turned her head away from Chartan who followed her gaze. The mystic was 20 feet away at the edge of the parking lot—he’d become a shadow in the dim light.

            Chartan silently applauded the man’s genius. Without saying a word, he had commanded their attention. Somehow, he was saying to them that he had a higher, purer purpose than whatever they might say to each other, at least that is what Chartan was thinking.

            Maybe there is too much thinking on my part. I need to let it be.

            The next spoken words came from Gina and had she not said them, Chartan believed his life might have turned out differently.

            “I love you, not him—he has sadly become full of mystic bullshit. I’d rather have someone ask how I am than to discover the meaning of life at the edge of a parking lot.”

(Continued next Sunday)

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The Adventures of Chartan: The Second Kiss

            (Last week: Chartan is captivated by the waitress Gina. Their first kiss is a short one in the restaurant parking lot.)

            Gina led Chartan from the parking lot to a short trail ending at the roaring Truckee River. She said she had a deep secret to reveal to him. The trip was long enough for the guru to process what she might say: she has a child; she is married to a mobster; she’s a criminal fugitive; or maybe she’s a guy, but that seemed impossible with her shape. 

            They faced each other at river’s edge.

            Gina touched Chartan’s upper lip with a pinky finger and said, “I have a close friend who I must see from time to time with no questions asked on your part.”

            “What kind of friend?”

            “Not like you might think. Spiritual, in part. Different, to be sure. “

            “What’s his name?”

            “He has none.”

            “What do you call him?”

            “I don’t and that’s the point. He doesn’t need a name, he just is.”

            Chartan wanted to ask her if they were intimate friends, if her orgasms were cosmic, but he stopped short. Gina was entitled to private moments. And as he’d never been married, or had a serious girlfriend, he lacked experience in long-term relationships. Why is she telling me about this nameless friend when I’ve only known her for two hours?

            Gina was unpredictable, she’d be exciting to be with. They would grow together.

            “Chartan, are you lost in thought?”

            “I am.”

            “This might wake you up.,” she said. “When we first spoke  I knew we should be married. In fact, my friend said I would meet someone today. He even described how you would look.”

            “I am fully awake!”

            All he would remember in the evening about this moment was their second kiss—long and perfect if, indeed, a kiss could be perfect.

            “Let’s go to my apartment,” said Gina as she slowly separated her lips from his.

            “What about Brazil?”

            “A friend has a motel—he can stay there.”

                                                                                    ***

                Brazil paced back and forth in the seedy motel room where he’d been deposited three hours ago by Gina and Chartan.  The road trip had been a 105-mile journey cut short by a police stop where Elisa was taken into custody. He’d gone to a mountain top with Chartan and bared his soul—that was good. But then they met a waitress who captivated Chartan. Sure, she was witty and good to look at, but that didn’t help Brazil deal with his past. He may have killed a nameless boy in the jungle 40 years ago and he had kept the shame to himself–for decades it remained in the back shadows of his mind; the flashbacks never went away. The memories were killing him. Chartan was helping him confront the darkness until Gina came along. Or, maybe it it was Elisa. Either way Chartan had hormones to deal with—Brazil had been there long ago. Now, there was no glory, no joy in getting old and realizing you were a second thought at best for the few people remaining in your life.

            He grabbed the car keys and reached for the door that opened before he grasped the knob.

            “Skyler, will you be my best man?”

(Continued next Sunday).

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