Every day she sees the old one and the handsome one, along with their buckets and the steady flow of water from the hydrant. The sounds at the corner of Miles and First are not like the huge, overpowering sounds of the city outside where her job was, the Thintons Publishing House. No, here they were pleasant small-town sounds that entered her wide window, sounds and the voices of the so few below, especially the voice of the younger one with the nice tan muscles that look so good when he has his shirt off and scrubs the cars with the wet sponge.
No, Connie and the rest of the single girls can have the beach, but thin, freckle-faced Joyce has her sunny dead-end street.
It was one of those delightful Mondays, hot, and her boss let everybody go at three. Joyce, though the walk was long, didn’t mind carrying the tall plant so many blocks home. Down the avenues she’d peek through the leaves at things and people, a smile on her face as she neared her block.
Just around the corner, and without her knowing it, the younger of the simple car washers sat on a crate with his head in his hands, a half-washed pretty blue car in front of him, water flowing from the hydrant and his buckets flat of foam. The younger one was so sad because of last night. A drunken brawl occurred below the Garden. Police rushed down to the underworld of the derelicts and poor old Bill mistakenly got clubbed.
When the mayhem ended, old Bill couldn’t move the right side of his body or face. They took him away in a police van on a hard stretcher, telling the younger friend nothing. They only shoved him back .Later Sonny made several inquiries about old Bill, but he didn’t know his last name, or even much about himself for that matter.
Joyce didn’t see him yet….. Sonny jumped up, catching her when she tripped over his feet,one arm for her, the other for the plant. Joyce, so very close….. looked into his eyes.
“You’re crying?!” He only put down the plant and began washing for a minute, then dropped the sponge in the bucket and sat once again.
She stood there looking at him as one, then two cars pulled up behind the blue one for a wash. Quickly they turned up the dead-end street, made a U-turn and dropped their keys in his lap, heading elsewhere for a time.
Sonny stared that way a bit, then at Joyce, his face saying he knew all about her, there by the open window, the one who sits and plays music.
“Where’s your friend?” she asked.
He only sighed heavily with a heaving of shoulders. Joyce kicked off her shoes and began helping. Why not, he’s so in despair, she thought to herself. Sonny sat there watching the thin girl in a flowered summer dress sponge along…..slowly he got up and began on the other side.
They glanced at each other, once, then twice, and he told her about Bill, told her his life started with Bill, showed her the scar on his head and told about having no memory of a past life …..only this and now that was shattered.
He sat across the table from Joyce. After the many cars they’d washed, she invited him in. She cooked for them both, even poured the wine. She talked about her real home in Kansas while he talked only about the weeks at the car wash. Joyce was amazed about the underground village he spoke of. He told her of the lives of an underground people, how they descend below at night and rise above ground for the day. He told her there were hundreds like him below the Garden, some not so nice. Some turned, or were turning themselves, into animals.
Joyce couldn’t let him go back there, She prepared for him a place to sleep by the wide bay window. He looked up at the stars and she looked down at him from her bed on the inter-loft. She had to go to work in the morning across town, while he walked just across the street with his wrench and buckets….. In time, she showed him Central Park, the Plaza, and fine eateries. In time they kissed, in time they…..
The end of September, a Sunday, brought much wind and rain. Joyce’s lips were as sweet as her constant love that day. By the wide bay window they laid on soft blankets. He excused himself, just wanting to get a cold drink. Crossing the room, a bang went off in Sonny’s head!…..’ Jeff ‘ fell to his knees, screamed in mental anguish. In a snap it all came back. The death of his wife and children, who he was…..
An hour later Joyce still rocked him in her arms, held him at the very spot he had succumbed in the mental pain. He told her all, even about the day he held the gun in his hand. His telling of who he really was was even more despairing than the life of a humble car washer.
“These weeks you’ve been here, you said you loved me. Now that your memory’s back, that you know who you really are, do you…..do you still lo…..”
He touched her lips gently with his fingertips, brought her face down to his.
“Yesss,” and he kissed her…..
[ The Finale ]
By: George Martorano