I know that I have not written in a very long time. Deep down, I’ve always known that you have not received my letters. Still, I write to you, perhaps out of some crazy hope that someday you will.
The last time I wrote, I was heartbroken. My so-called wife, Lindsay, was not really my wife after all. She was still married to Jason McDougal.
“We got married straight out of high school,” Lindsay explained. “We were babies. Way too young to know what we were doing. Less than six months after the wedding, we parted ways. Jason ran off to Texas with some other girl, and I moved back in with my parents. We didn’t bother to get a divorce. Years later, you came along, and, well, we got married on a whim.”
I was seething. “And it never occurred to you to tell me that our marriage was a sham? You just let me think that you were single! How could you?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, looking away. “It wouldn’t have been a big deal, you know, not being legally married. But I didn’t expect Jason to track me down.” Apparently, the two of them had reconnected while I was out repairing appliances. Not only were they still married, they realized, but they were still in love, too. “I’m moving to Los Angeles with Jason,” said Leslie. “We’ve decided to give our marriage another try.”
“And the boys?” I asked.
She hesitated. “I’m taking them with us,” she said, her voice firm.
So there was only one thing for me to do. I hugged my tia and tio goodbye. Then I moved across the country to L.A.
In movies, L.A. always seems like a glamorous city, filled with Hollywood stars with bleached teeth and hair, who live in fancy mansions overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The reality couldn’t be more different. I never saw a single real celebrity – only struggling wanna-be celebrities who rented cheap apartments and desperate little bungalows in the cruddy, high-crime neighborhood where I now lived. The only good thing about it was that I was only a few blocks away from Leilani and Jason, so I could come by and visit my sons often.
In time, I found a great job selling cars – not at a used car lot full of lemons, but one filled with shiny new cars with high price tags, which meant higher commissions for me.
I saved my money and bought a home on a nice, quiet cul-de-sac in Orange County. Every Friday after work, I drove across town to pick up Mikey and Dylan. Then the three of us would spend the weekend together. I took them to parks, to Disneyland, and to the beach. We hung out at my house, playing video games and making monster-sized ice cream sundaes.
As the years passed, I was there for my boys. I attended all of their school events, and was there to hear about Mikey’s first girlfriend (and his second, third, and fourth), and Dylan’s first real job, waving a big sign in front of Weiner World. And when they both graduated high school and headed out into the world, I was in the stands, applauding louder than anyone else.
After that, life came to a strange standstill. Everything I had done had been for Mikey and Dylan. My home, my job, all my hard work had been to raise my kids. But now what? I could feel it creeping over me again, that unsettling feeling of emptiness.
And then one day, out of the blue, my phone rang.
“So tell me, Leon,” said a familiar voice on the other end. “Did you ever manage to suck the marrow out of life?”
I couldn’t believe it. It was D.J.
I grinned into the phone receiver. “Hey old friend,” I said.
(Still) your friend,