I like to be by myself.
For some people, that’s a crime—to be a loner… (I’ve owned that word, since I was in middle school)
or they feel guilty,
when they do things alone.
For me, it’s a pleasure.
I don’t care—
and the less I care about things, the better I feel.
I got a membership at a golf course, thinking… I’ll play golf a lot.
My thoughts didn’t travel, beyond that.
I started playing, with one person at a time
I can write about this,
but what I didn’t know
was they were thinking about me.
Maple Valley is a small town. Like the unknown, you don’t know its borders
until you go there and back again, several times
and you get to know people in neighborhoods,
and they get to know you
and you can’t go to the grocery store, without being recognized.
Being a teacher for 30 years is the worst, because your students populate the town
and rumors fly, like Canadian Geese with poor bowel control
dropping their shit, as you look up with your mouth open
in awe of nature.
I don’t like to be known. I prefer my own company.
I have hidden well.
However, I began writing a blog 4 years ago
and I told two people
and now the whole town knows.
I write about myself, but it’s not me.
I was playing golf alone, yesterday,
same as I always do, reading Bukowski.
It was a slow, cool, day.
Nothing was happening. I got bored.
I thought about going home and eating,
watching a good movie,
spending time by myself, but I kept playing
and pretty soon it happened (what always happens).
A guy in a power cart zoooomed up.
“You want some company?” He asked.
“Sure,” I said.
I played golf with him a few weeks ago, but I momentarily forgot his name.
“My name’s Ken, in case you forgot,” he said.
“My name’s Andy.” I go by Andy and Andrew—this way, maybe I’ll confuse them. I thought about using aliases,
but if I get into a group, with two different golfers who have played with me
and they start calling me two different names
like, “Hey, Jeff” or “Hey, Adam”
I’ll be in serious trouble
and the talk in the town will never die
it will fly
who have just eaten fresh cherries off the tree.
We got to the green, after playing two balls, apiece, and this lady
was standing outside of her house
She was watching us.
Her black fluffy dog was staring at Ken with love in its eyes.
Ken came over. He’s 78, with Alzheimer’s.
He’s the guy, who has had his life together since he was 16. He was the quarterback of the football team. He married a cheerleader. He’s a Christian. He dresses in perfect polo shirts. His hair is white and carefully trimmed. He has never said anything out of place. He is patient and kind.
“My dog likes you,” the lady said.
“Yes—she is. I just had brain tissue taken-out, yesterday. I’ve seen 16 psychiatrists this year. It all started when I got attacked.”
I looked at her. She looked familiar.
“I see you playing golf out here, every day,” she told me.
This is the second neighbor who admitted, they were watching me.
“Do you work in the district?” She asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a psychologist.”
“Oh—that’s how I know you. I was a sub para, when I got attacked 5 years ago. You know, the district isn’t going to pay for my surgeries. I have a lawyer, but it’s not working. 7 psychiatrists said I was fine. I just had part of my brain removed. Fine? They must be nuts. You were there, when it happened.”
“Oh,” I said. “I think I remember. That was a long time ago.”
“I’m taking dozens of different drugs now,” she said. “I keep trying to stop, but my psychiatrist says I’m not supposed to. Can you believe that? He makes 650,000 dollars a year. It’s not fair. I made 750 dollars a month when I was working as a para.”
Ken was listening. Pretty soon his smile was carved into concrete. I knew she was hurting him, but he was too polite to say anything. He was praying for a golfer to come up behind us, so we could stop listening to her.
She got crazier and crazier. She showed us her hideous scar.
“I don’t even have cookies for you two,” she said.
We waved at her and walked on.
“Now, she’ll talk to you every time you pass her house,” Ken said.
The good news was, all the groups in front of us had cleared out. We had the whole course to ourselves.
“If you get a birdie on this hole, you get 25 cents,” Ken said. “If I get a birdie, you owe me 25 cents.”
This was retirement and old age—thrills for quarters.
I knew I had nothing to worry about—Ken was a hack.
“Hey, you play golf with Frank, don’t you?” I asked.
“I know him, only through golf—he has problems,” Ken said.
Even at 78, Ken was worried about his reputation. He was worried that people would talk, and I knew his fears were justified.
“Say, you’re about 35, aren’t you?” Ken asked.
“How did you know?”
“Somebody said you were 35,” Ken said.
My blood ran cold.
People were talking about me. They were trying to figure-me-out.
There is nothing to know, but if people don’t know that
they want to find out.
Why isn’t he married? Why doesn’t he have kids?
Why isn’t he like us?
He must hate women. Perhaps, he’s gay.
It makes me nauseous, just thinking about it.
It makes me sicker, knowing that people live their whole lives, caring what other people say.
Ken started to talk trash about my golf game, while he played worse and worse.
I played about the same—consistently bad.
“I’m gonna play with the men’s club next Tuesday,” I said.
“Oh yeah—there’s not many young guys who play.”
“Rick told me there are a few guys who are really players. Do you know Rick?”
“Sure—he works security at baseball games, and he plays golf, slower than hell.”
“He told me, that he was in the Navy. He commanded an aircraft carrier.”
“I believe it.”
We finished our last hole.
Neither of us birdied.
Ken shook my hand like I was the President. “Can I give you a ride to your car?” He asked.
“Sure,” I said. I knew he wanted to see what kind of car I had. He wanted to know more about me, so he could spread it all over town, like peanut butter on a jelly sandwich.
I don’t care. People draw their own conclusions, like bad cartoons.
Like I said, “I don’t care.”
I waved at Ken, and smiled.
“Nice Playing with you,” he said.
I turned up the jazz music in my truck.
“Life can’t get any better,” I said to myself. “Wait—it can. I can’t wait to write this down.”