First Birthday–Chapter 12

CHAPTER TWELVE

            The warmth of the sunlight on my face woke me up the next morning. I opened my eyes, and surveyed Cait’s bedroom in the natural light.  It felt as warm and comfortable as it had the night before.  I was facing away from her, but could feel Cait’s presence next to me.  I wasn’t sure if she was awake or not, and I rolled over slowly so I wouldn’t disturb her if she was still sleeping.  I was greeted with a close up view of Cait’s hip as she sat straight backed against the headboard.  She was writing in a leather bound notebook, but looked up at me when I rolled towards her.  She was wearing a pair of stylish, black framed eyeglasses that I had never seen, and her hair was pulled into her customary morning ponytail.  I wondered how long she had been awake. 

            “Morning,” Cait ran a hand through my hair affectionately.  “Did you sleep all right?  Seemed like you were out.” 

            “Yeah, fine.  I’m a little confused, though.  The girl I fell asleep next to didn’t wear glasses.” 

            Cait laughed, and shut the notebook, setting it aside on her nightstand.  “I don’t really need them, well I do, but they’re basically just glass.  I try to wear them when I read or write.”  Cait slid the glasses onto the top of her head, as if she was proving to me that they were unnecessary. 

            “I like them.”  I rolled onto my back, and stared up at the ceiling. 

“Right,” Cait slid the glasses back down over your eyes.  “Hey, your phone?  Your phone rang a few times.  You’re not supposed to be at work are you?”  Cait leaned over, and grabbed my phone from her night table. 

I regretted not turning it off the night before, but I had forgotten in the anticipation of the moment.  I had a bad feeling about who had been calling.  Cait handed me my phone.  Two button presses later my worries were confirmed. 

            “So, who’s Avery?” Cait asked tentatively.  Her eyes were gauging my reaction and expression. 

            I didn’t say anything right away.  I absorbed the question, and looked at Cait with some suspicion.  “A friend from home,” I said finally. 

            “I wasn’t looking.  Ok, obviously I looked, but it was vibrating right next to me on the nightstand.  How can I not look over?  The name was right on the screen.   You think I’m nosy.”

            “I don’t think you’re nosy,” I said.  I didn’t.  If a phone had rung next to me I would have looked to see who it was every time.  It was there for her to see, plain as day.  It’s wasn’t like she had to flip it open, and honestly I liked her so much at that moment that I could have found her rifling through my wallet, and I wouldn’t have held it against her.

            “If I asked if Avery was a guy or girl would you think I was nosy?” 

            It was a brilliant way of asking the question without actually asking.   I had to give her credit.

            “Avery is a guy I met in college.  We both ended up around Philly after we graduated.  I have no idea why he called three times.  Probably wants me to make a call, and get him on a golf course or something.” 

            Cait seemed to accept this explanation, and I was thankful for the ambiguity of Avery’s name.  I don’t know why I lied.  I guess I thought that I would never have to explain Avery to Cait, and bringing it up that morning would have ruined something I was feeling between us. 

            “Ok,” Cait said after a moment of silence.  She slid down into bed next to me, wrapped her arms around me, and rested her head on my shoulder.  “I wouldn’t have cared if he was a girl.  I just don’t want to be made a fool of.” 

            She squeezed me a little bit tighter when she said this.  She was saying that she wanted to trust me, and I was lying to her.  I had good intentions, though.  I was going to talk to Avery, go see her if I had to, and she would be out of my life.  Cait was the only girl I cared about at that moment, and I wanted her to care about me, so I lied to make myself more appealing.  Then I changed the subject. 

            “What were you writing?”  I asked. 

            “Nothing really.  I keep a journal.” 

            “A diary?”

            “No, a journal.”

            “So you’re not writing about the boys you have crushes on or anything?” 

            Cait  casually reached behind her, grabbed a loose pillow, and swung it around, grazing my forehead.  “No I don’t talk about crushes, but I might have mentioned you once or twice.” 

            “What did you say about me?” 

            “You’ll never know.  Mostly good things, though.  So far.”

            “Mostly?”

            “Yep,” Cait seemed to entertain herself with this line, and laughed softly.  “Do you have time for breakfast?” 

            I ate a quick breakfast with Cait, sitting on the back porch again.  I made the short drive back to the cabin in the previous day’s clothes, cleaned up, hit the face with a razor, and headed back to the club.  It felt like I had just left, but I remembered that I hadn’t done any real work the day before, and that made me feel a little better.  When I got into the shop Randy was out on the range giving a lesson, but Maureen was waiting with a message for me.  Avery had called the golf shop again. 

            “A persistent young lady,” Maureen said when she handed me the message.  She looked at me closely, expecting an answer of some kind.  

            “That’s one word for it,” I said.  I tossed the note in the trash. 

            “I told her you wouldn’t be in until 10:30.  This was before I was sure who it was?  Should I play dumb next time?” 

            “Hopefully there won’t be a next time.” 

            Maureen didn’t seem to have much faith in this answer, but a customer came in the golf shop that required her attention.  It saved me from having to give any more details.

 While Maureen sweet-talked members into buying shirts they didn’t need I went back in the office, and started working on some tournament preparations for the next weekend.  It was what I had intended to do the day before, but then I was swept out onto the golf course by the McMahon’s.  Randy hadn’t seemed bothered by my absence.   He said I could do whatever I wanted as long as we were ready to go for the following Friday.   That was the day the three day Invitational started, which was the Lake Club’s showcase event, and the only weekend all year they were busy.  There was nothing hard about the work that had to be done.  Pairings, tee times, scorecards, rules, it was all very simple stuff, but somewhat tedious and time consuming.  Thinking about needing to call Avery was distracting me from the work, and in the hours before lunch I had accomplished almost nothing. 

Instead of eating in the comfort of the clubhouse that day I grabbed my sandwich to go, and went out back to where all the kitchen employees took breaks and smoked cigarettes.  I got a couple curious looks when I came out the door, and decided on the spot it wasn’t the right place to make my call.  I walked down to the bag room, grabbed a cart, and drove off looking for some privacy. 

I ended up out by the guest cabins.  Their luxury accommodations went unused for days at a time, but they’d be filled to capacity during the Invitational.  Randy had given me a tour during my first week, just so I was familiar with where they were, and their names in case I ever needed to go out there.  They sat in two separate clusters.  One had cabins named after famous American courses, and the other, courses from Europe.   I pulled off the driveway between Olympic and Shinnecock, and called Avery.   She picked up on the first ring. 

“You need to come home,” she said before even saying hello. 

“Avery, what are you talking about?”

“I’m just not doing so good, and you abandoned me.  I need to see you.” 

“I didn’t abandon you.”

“Yes you did.  You left without saying goodbye.  You’re halfway across the country.  What do you call that?  I thought we still meant something to each other, and I find out you’ve gone to Michigan, and left me here alone.” 

“You’re hardly alone.” 

“You don’t know how I feel.”

“Avery, we haven’t spoken in months.  I don’t understand where all this is coming from.” 

“I knew you were here, though.  I knew if I needed you that you were here.  Now you’re gone.  I don’t see our old friends, your sister avoids me.  I know why you left.  You miss Chris.  Well, I miss Chris too, and I don’t have anyone to talk to about it.” 

***

            Of course I remember the last time I spoke to Chris.  It was the day after the last Q-school flame out.  Four rounds in obscurity at a course in Florida whose name I do not remember.  Four rounds where I cannot remember a single shot, or a single score.  Four days of going through the motions with nothing to show for it, and one moment of realization that I was probably done.  Chris and I had convinced ourselves, or perhaps convinced me that I was on fine form, had as good of a chance as ever, but the truth was I wasn’t ready at all.  If I had had any success that week, it would have been a fluke, an insult to the guys who worked so hard, a group where I used to belong. 

            The year before, I had been playing well entering Q-School.  Chris had left me that summer to spend time with Danielle, and I had left the mini-tour not long after that, but the time off had done me some good.  I needed to get away from the grind of playing for pocket change every week.  It was great competition, and you learn how to go low, and the value of each shot, but when you start going bad it can really spiral out of control.  I wasn’t playing golf.  I was just hoping to hit good shots, and then falling into a bigger hole when I didn’t have any success.  I went home, and after a short break got back to the basics.  By the fall I was playing well. 

            The following year, the year of the flame out, I hadn’t made any kind of commitment.  I didn’t commit to the mini-tours, or working on my game.  I was having some problems with Avery, and Chris seemed content to take weeks off as well.  He was certainly more interested in Danielle than my game, and for the first time I felt like he wasn’t a part of the process anymore.  He wasn’t a teammate.  He was starting to be just the guy that carried my bag.  It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that we found our conversations became a little less natural, and we were a little quicker to get into an argument.  The truth was by the end of the week we were tired of each other.  We just wanted to get back home.  Chris to see Danielle, and I just wanted to get away from a golf course.  I felt like driving North until I saw snow. 

            We had planned on leaving Florida on Monday, but after an early tee time Sunday the thought of sitting around the rest of the day staring at a motel room television didn’t seem too appealing.  We packed up the car, and started heading north.  Chris did some inspired driving on the way home, traversing I-95 like he was qualifying for Daytona.  I relieved him in short stints only, and we were home by Monday afternoon, essentially twenty-four hours early. Chris hadn’t told Danielle that we were coming home early.  He thought he would surprise her.  After spending a couple weeks away, he thought a nice surprise would be exactly what they both needed. 

            There certainly was a surprise.  When we pulled up to the building where Chris and Danielle shared an apartment there was a small U-Haul parked out front.  It wasn’t an uncommon sight, and wouldn’t have warranted a second look if Danielle hadn’t been the one securing the back door.  We saw her before she noticed us in the car.  Chris didn’t say a word, but I could see his entire body become tense.  He suddenly had a suffocating, white knuckle grip on the steering wheel.  Danielle took a couple steps towards the front door of the building before she saw us, and froze in her tracks. 

            “What the fuck?” Chris said quietly, before quickly opening the door to the car, and exiting so he was face to face with Danielle.  He slammed the door behind him. 

            I heard him repeat his initial question, screaming it this time so it was clearly audible inside the car.  Danielle was unable to come up with an answer at first.  Tears started to pour down her cheeks.  I sat in the car while they argued.  Looking away most of the time, because it was so painful to watch, and I was torn between my sister and best friend.  Occasionally I would hear Chris raise his voice, and deliver an insult.  This was usually followed by an apology, and a plea for her to stay, but Danielle kept shaking her head.  She spoke softly, and mostly looking at her feet so I’m not sure what she said to Chris, or why exactly she was leaving, but after about ten minutes Danielle had gone inside the building alone, and Chris was again sitting in the driver’s seat. 

            “Your sister is,” Chris didn’t finish the sentence.  I don’t know what he was going to call her.  Crazy, a slut, a bitch, I’m not sure what was on his mind, but he caught himself, and took a deep breath.  “Want to get a drink?”  Chris asked instead. 

            “I can’t sit around and listen to you bad mouth my sister.  It doesn’t matter what happened, she’s still my sister.” 

            Chris spun in his seat to look at me, “Did I fucking say a word?” he asked intensely.  “Look, I’m sorry.  Sorry.  I’m not going to say anything.  Just come have a beer.  I mean she needs a few more minutes to get the last of her stuff,” Chris shook his head in disbelief. 

            The closest place to get a drink was only about a mile away, and at that time of the afternoon it was practically deserted.  Chris and I sat at a pub table just off the main bar area.  I didn’t want to drink.  I didn’t even want to be there, but I knew I had to be.  I ordered a beer, and a sandwich, and looked at Chris with some apprehension while he pondered his order.  I was expecting him to request a double shot of Jack or something, but he looked at the offerings for a while, and then just told the waitress to bring what I was having.  We hardly said anything at all at first, but somewhere around our third beer, Chris started talking. 

            “How long are we going to keep doing this?” He asked.  “I mean, we were both kind of fooling ourselves weren’t we?” 

            I asked Chris to explain further. 

            “We’re fucking idiots.  Sitting down there in Florida.  I think I have a nice girl waiting for me to get back, and she’s fucking packing up the apartment, trying to sneak out under the cover of darkness like the goddamn Baltimore Colts.  And you Althouse?  Shit, I mean don’t take this the wrong way, but that was a pretty horrid performance this week.  Of course, I’m the one who’s there caddying for you, like I’m going to be Steve Williams in a couple years or something.  So don’t feel too bad, I’m definitely the bigger asshole.” 

            Chris finished off the beer in front of him, and then started peeling at the corner of the label, slowly picking it away from the bottle.  I took a moment before I answered. 

            “Maybe it is time to find something else to do.  I’m sure I could get a club job somewhere.  Get off the road, get away from the grind.  Start teaching junior clinics, organizing shot guns, all that exciting shit.” 

            “Don’t talk crazy, Althouse.  Why would you ever want a job like that?  No, you’re a player.  You’re a player.  Something just hasn’t clicked yet.  You know most of this is my fault.  I’ve been distracted.  Thinking about a girl all the time, exactly what I always told you not to do.  It’s been pretty poor caddying, and I think it rubbed off on you.  But, I’m focused now, and we’ll figure it out.  In a couple more beers, we’ll figure it out,” Chris motioned the bartender for another beer. 

            “I can’t play Q-School forever.  I’m basically broke, every year that goes by it will harder for me to do something else.  If I don’t work at a club, what the hell am I going to do?” 

            “I don’t know.  Don’t worry about it.  You’re a player.  You play golf.  I’ve always known that.  Remember the first time we met?  I thought you were one of the biggest tools I’d ever seen, but then you went and hit that fucking laser beam of a seven iron, and you know what?  It kind of made me want to quit golf, because I knew I could a 1000 balls a day, take 100 lessons, and I’d never hit the ball that pure.  I just wouldn’t.” 

            “You hit the ball pretty well.” 

            “Not like that.  It’s different.  I knew it right away, and luckily you turned out to be not so much of a tool.  At least after we finally convinced Rachel’s sister to take her shirt off for you, show you what was what.” 

            I laughed at this memory. Chris had gone out of his way to hasten my progress with girls.  When the girl in question had removed her top, I didn’t much know where to go from there, but I could at least report back to Chris that I had seen something, and that was a step in the right direction.  I could always laugh at Chris’s stories, but I don’t think I was buying the rest of it that night.  I wasn’t feeling too pumped up to give it another shot.

            “No, I think you can do it.  I think we can.  This might be good for us, this week.  You know aside from you shooting 280 whatever, and me getting my heart torn out.  Hell of learning experience.” 

            “The beers are bringing out your optimism,” I said. 

            “Yeah right, hey you think if I tell the waitress my sob story she’ll sleep with me?” 

            “She might, a lot people out there with low standards these days.” 

            “It’d just be a waste of time for both us,” Chris deadpanned. 

            I sat with Chris for a while longer.  He continued to drink, but I had stopped a while before him, simply too exhausted to push on.  We continued to talk, mostly about old times, and Chris would occasionally let something slip about Danielle, or make a joke that showed how hurt he was.  On several occasions he stepped outside to try to call Danielle, but she never picked up.  The only communication from her was a text that sent to me, simply saying she was sorry.   I didn’t share it with Chris, and eventually I tried to get him to leave.  He didn’t seem interested. 

            “I don’t know if I can go back there.  How am I supposed to sleep?  I’d be torturing myself.” 

            “You have to go somewhere.  You can crash at my place, come on, let’s get out of here,” I stood up from my seat.

            “I’m not ready to leave.” 

            “Well I am, come on.  You’re going to have to face it sometime.” 

            “I know, but I don’t want it to be tonight.  Go ahead and get out of here.  Take the car.  I’ll walk home, or I’ll just get a cab and go to a hotel.  That might be the best idea.” 

            “If you’re not going, then I’m not going,” I said.  I sat back down at the table. 

            “I appreciate that Althouse, I really do, but I don’t think I can stand looking at you sitting there not drinking anymore.  It’s driving me crazy.  I’m fine.  I actually want to be alone.  If I have to keep talking to you, I’m going to be crying in the bar guy.”

            “I don’t think you should be by yourself.” 

            “Don’t talk to me like I’m a fucking mental patient dude.  Are you going to ask for my shoelaces and belt next?  Just take off.  I know it’s awkward for you.  I appreciate you staying this long.” 

            I debated this internally for a minute before conceding to Chris’s wishes and leaving the bar.  Before leaving I told Chris to get a cab no matter where he ended up going, told him to give me a call in the morning, and that was it.  I said goodbye and headed home, and Chris turned his attention to the TV behind the bar.

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