Italian Vacation.

First Installment:

"Freddo" Jack laughed "you never did have much of a way with the ladies."

They watched the receding tide and the backside of the attractive brunette gliding over the sand away from the little beach bar they had discovered on the third day on the island.

"Yeah, well at least I'm still trying. You've gone soft."

"I grew up."

"Stop saying that, Jack! You know we're not even middle aged yet! Stop acting so goddamned old."

"Watch your language, Fred. Besides, Of course I act old. I am old. Age has nothing to do with calendars, y'know."

"You're always saying that." Fred sipped from his Heinekin and stared out across the bay dappled in afternoon sunlight towards the stormclouds. He thought that they seemed indecisive, just like every other day, but in the end they always chose to rain, but never for long enough to inconvenience anybody seriously. He thought there should be an analogy for this in humanity, but he couldn't place it.

Jack's dark eye's glinted as he followed Fred's gaze out across the bay. As had happend so ofter in the decades since they had been roommates, his thoughts cut directly across Fred's. "It's like a happy young couple that pop into a museum on a quiet afternoon and only wants directions to a movie theatre. They don't mean any harm, and half the time the patrons are secretly pleased to have someone to scowl at for making so much noise. But they are always gone quickly and never make too much of a mess."

Fred shook his head. He considered the sunny island lifestyle that he and Jack had adopted for the past month. "How is Angela doing? Have you heard from her?"

Jack shook his head. "Nah. She's probably happily dating again, for all I know. She refuses to write to me about anything except when I demand information about the kids. And she must know I'm talking to them via one of their instant messanger clients anyway. But she humours me and tells me about how they are doing in school."

Fred looked out across the bay, and let his eyes wander across the handful of young women sunbathing just down the beach. "You could at least try to-"

"No, Fred. You know I'm not interested right now."

"I'm just saying try! Get out a little, see if any of the other fish in the sea swim your way. Stop being such a monk! You have the ultimate midlife crisis opportunity here Jackie, and you're wasting it! Your wife kicks you out of the house and wants to be seperated for a while, but the kids still love you and are old enough to understand without being too angry, and you have a comfortable enough business setup that you can leave the whole thing in the hands of your heir on a whim, rent an apartment on an island, and relax on the beach with an expensive-- what the hell is that thing called again?"

"It's an italian vacation."

"an expensive--and stupidly named--tropical cocktail in your hand. Yet you won't so much as consider even taking a girl out for drinks! It's been six weeks we've been here. How long must it be? Another six? A year? When Angela writes you and tells you she filed for and recieved a divorce in your absence? When?"

Jack's frame tensed, and Fred knew that he had struck too close to home again.

"I'm not getting a divorce, Fred."

"I'm sorry, Jack. Look, I know the business took a lot out of you. It took a lot out of me too. We changed the world with Techfile, Jack, and I know that was important, and yeah, Stacy left me a decade ago and it was a stupid try at a life that didn't work for me anyway, but you can't be so bullheaded about all this. Just try, please? For me? Your french is good enough you could pick up a local, but you won't even strike up a conversation with one of the canadian tourists! There's no pressure there, Jack! Just talk for an afternoon, enjoy dinner together, the next week she goes home! You don't even have to bed her. Just have a normal conversation."

"Back off, Fred."

Midlife crisii are like miniature bouts of depression and stagnancy mixed together with equal parts frustration and self-loathing. Fred had a bad case that had started ridiculously early--in his late twenties--and resulted in owning half of a controlling interest in a tech development and financiers firm, destroying his marriage after he grew up and his wife wanted to continue being a third-year college student forever, and the fallout left him with a no house, a small studio and a very nice car.

Jack had the other half of that controlling interest, and his crisis wasn't personal--his wife kicked him out after she became frustrated with his willingness to follow a set routine. 5 years of all-night development sessions and military-style performance reviews had left him used to the processes, protocols and traditions that all programmers aquire, and his wife's appreciation for drama had left them at odds about everything. After she kicked him out he'd found himself adrift and confused about the purpose to which he'd commited his life.

The protege he'd been trainining managed a hat trick that secured political control of the board of the company and jack had tipped his hat, retired from the board and bought a condo on St. Martin. He'd called up Fred and convinced him, against his better judgement, to abandon his piano classes and kickboxing lessons and come along to enjoy the island.

Now Fred reconsidered his choice to tag along on this search for identity. "Y'know, I came along because I thought I might be able to make things interesting for you here, not because you'd just try to retrain me to your monastic mentalities and ultra-serious lifestyle."

"well" Jack mused over his cocktail "You're not doing a very good job."

"That's because you're not taking any of my advice."

Monday, February 14, 2005


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