Johnny Demeter killed himself last night. No, he didn’t put a gun to his head or anything like that. His sports car skidded off the road and into a wall. He always drove too fast; he liked to take risks; he enjoyed the thrill of danger. He was also lucky, but it seems his luck ran out last night on a rain-slicked curve.
We got the call very early this morning. Still half-awake, we barely understood what was being said. When the realization came, Helen and I were devastated. He had become so much a part of our life in the last few months. And then there was the ruin of all our plans for the future.
We had met him six or seven months ago at one of these big family weddings. Someone introduced us; he turned out to be a cousin of a cousin of mine. He stood out in the gathering: young, handsome, fashionably dressed, and with a striking blonde hanging on to his arm. We learned that he was rich; an only child, his father had died some years ago and left him a lot of money and property. People thought he was something of a playboy; he owned several fast cars, and seemed to have a string of girl friends. Later that evening he sought us out again, and we chatted for quite a while. The three of us were about the same age, and we seemed to like each other. Helen is shy, and doesn’t talk much, but with him she was quite animated. We enjoyed our conversation till the abandoned blonde found him and dragged him away.
A few days later Johnny came to our coffee shop. Helen and I had started this business a couple of years ago, shortly after we got married. We were just managing to keep our heads above water; in fact, we would have gone under if some of our loans hadn’t been from our families, which they were prepared to stretch out. Johnny arrived just as we were closing up. He helped us to tidy up the place, and then we went upstairs to the small apartment above the shop where Helen and I lived. He had brought along a bottle of wine, and we sat up late after supper, talking away.
Pretty soon this became a pattern in our lives. Every few days, Johnny would turn up with a bottle or two of wine, and we would eat Helen’s supper and talk and talk for hours. He seemed to enjoy it just as much as we did; perhaps he found in us what he missed as an only child. For us he became a bright light in our rather drab lives. We worked all day, and seldom had the urge to go out or meet people afterwards; we had hardly any friends. Johnny was such good company. Helen, especially, blossomed in the friendship; in the beginning, when he would tease her gently, she would just blush and laugh, but then gradually she opened up, and joined equally in the chatter and kidding around. We all laughed a great deal. We were happy together.
And then Johnny offered us a way out of the dead end in which our lives were stuck. One of the properties he had inherited from his father was a building on the Danforth in which there was a Greek restaurant. This had been running for a long time, and was very successful, but the owner now wanted to retire, and was putting it up for sale. Johnny wanted to buy it, and he wanted us to run it as his partners; his contribution would be the capital, ours would be to manage and run it. At first we thought he was joking, but he was quite serious. We talked about it, we checked out the place; Johnny had his accountant check the books; we talked to lawyers, and they began to draw up papers. From a tantalizing hope, it suddenly became a doorway into a new life full of promise. We were living hand to mouth, and always with the fear that one of the big chains would open an outlet in our neighbourhood and put us out of business. And now here was a way out. Helen and I were so excited; we talked about it all the time and made plans for the new restaurant. We even discussed how, perhaps in a year or two, we might be in a position to have a baby.
Now this terrible early morning call had changed everything. A dear friend, almost a brother, had been torn out of our lives, and so had our future. Bereft, we clung to each other and cried out our grief. Helen could not be consoled; she curled up into a ball on the bed and wept and wept. I sat beside her with my head in my hands and this awful emptiness inside me. But, finally, we had to get up and get ready to go downstairs and open up the shop.