20. March 2013 · Comments Off on Mr. Jones · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

It is Christmas.  I suppose it was Linda’s idea to get a few Christians together on this day.   We are at someone’s house with a better view than ours.   We are sitting outside.  We are midway up the hillside, and the city is sparkling and twinkling beneath us like a Christmas tree.

My father has been small talking with Mr. Jones.  I’ve heard my father say more in the last hour than he has in months, although Mr. Jones is the garrulous one.  Mr. Jones is a kind faced American who is almost as tall as my father.  He drinks as steadily as he breathes.

My father does not drink socially anymore.  He doesn’t smoke either.

Mr. Jones turns to me and says he has children too.  Two boys, must be in college now, back in the States.  He remembers dancing the waltz with his wife, and he starts singing Now or never and forever I love you.  Have I told you as I hold you I love you.   He gets up to dance.  He stumbles, and Dolores leaps up and catches the glass as he slumps against her.

It is time to head down the hill.

Dolores lets me hang out in their apartment near the China Fleet Club.  Mr. Jones is always home.  He never talks about his wife or his sons or much of anything.  That garrulous Mr. Jones was a visitation from the ghosts of Christmases past.

I asked around and pieced together Mr. Jones’s story.  I think it is wildly romantic.  He fell in love with a famous courtesan.  She was a White Russian.  She was exquisitely beautiful.  She had a kind of careless, vulnerable quality that drove men crazy trying to take care of her.   But one day she became seriously ill with syphilis.

Mr. Jones stayed by her side until she died in a hotel room.  He has been drinking ever since.

One day Dolores gets a taxi to take Mr. Jones downtown.  She has done this before.   She doesn’t want him to leave her, but she knows that if the American doctor does not put him in the hospital or send him home to America he will die.

Dolores asks me to come along with them.    We stay in the taxi while Mr. Jones goes into the building.  Then she asks me to go inside and take the next elevator up and tell her if he goes to the doctor.   She thinks he just pretends.

I know why she hides in the taxi.  Even though she looks more like the women who carry buckets on their shoulders than the ones who flirt with the sailors outside the bars, she was a professional before Mr. Jones came to live with her.  She did not want anyone to recognize her in this swanky building and make him lose face.

I go into the building, but I stay in the lobby.  I don’t want him to see me spying on him.   I tell Dolores I didn’t see him, which is true.

Not many weeks after, Mr. Jones turned his face to the wall and died.

Men come from the American consulate and ask for his possessions.  They say it is the law that everything be sent to his wife.  I stand in the hallway with Linda and the others.  Dolores points to the wooden box under the bed.  The men pull it out and open it.

They shake out a large, dusty old American flag.  There are a few books and papers.   Is that all?  Dolores points to his shabby clothes hanging in the wardrobe.  They decide against the clothes. They take the box with them.

Dolores is crying again.  She says why did he have to drink so much, he drank so much his liver was hard as a rock.

Mr. Jones died of a broken heart.  His heart never healed, but it didn’t harden.  It was his liver that turned into stone.

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