Emerich Crow remembered one particular Friday night in 1989 when he was in high school. All day the high school junior had anticipated the line up of sit coms on ABC that he would be enjoying that night, particularly his favorite, Perfect Strangers. When the opening theme for the show came on at 9:00, young Emerich buzzed with excitement. He sang along and with particular gusto to the lines: “Standing tall, on the wings of my dream. Rise and fall, on the wings of the dream.” Once the show started Emerich’s attention was fully on the TV. Nothing else existed for those 30 minutes. He was in a state of bliss. He loved all the characters, but especially Balki the wacky cousin from the fictional Mediterranean Island. Who wouldn’t love, Balki? He often wondered. In this episode Balki had a tooth ache and was reluctant to go to the dentist but his erstwhile cousin, Larry persuaded him that it was safe. It was a particularly funny episode. Plus he enjoyed the sweet relationship of the mis-matched pair of cousins. Inevitably the episode ended. Always a bittersweet moment. Emerich had thoroughly enjoyed the episode feeling forever connected to the characters as he always did. But now there was another week to wait before the next episode. Sadness. The rest of the ABC’s Friday night lineup provided a pleasant distraction but nothing could quite assuage the pain of Perfect Strangers being over for another seven days.
That was 29 years ago. How, Emerich Crow wondered, had he happened to have remembered that one particular night, that one particular episode? He even remembered that it was in October and that it rained that night, adding to the coziness of being ensconced in a blanket on the playroom sofa.
It was another universe, another epoch, he’d been another person. A shy virgin with few friends who earned excellent grades but was estranged from the school’s social life. Since then. My god, since then it had all been so different.
Now he was 46 years old. Recently separated. Of course. He owned his own home. Paid for. He’d had a lucrative job. Fired. His bank account was flush. Thankfully. Emerich had not just changed a lot in the intervening 29 years, but he had in the two years after that Friday night watching TV. By the end of his freshman year in college Emerich was no virgin and neither in regards to sex nor to drugs and alcohol. TV shows were all but forgotten.
Emerich shook his head at how fast he went from the lonely boy reveling in sit coms to the wild college freshman. Then he bent his head down and snorted another line of coke. Now he shook his head for a different reason. It was excellent coke and it soared through and around his brain, made his heart pump and gave him an overwhelming sense of euphoria and the conviction that he was invincible, never mind his current circumstances. Emerich chased the cocaine with a shot of scotch. Johnnie Walker Black. He smiled.
Sure he was alone in the house. Meredith had left him and taken the kids. Sure she was right, he couldn’t argue with her. Not for a second. It had happened. It wasn’t just getting fired, of course, it was the accusations. The accusations had been sufficient for the bosses to can him, without so much as a by your leave. The women were credible. Not to mention angry. Really, Emerich had no defense. He remembered a quote from Euripides: “No one is truly free, they are a slave to wealth, fortune, the law, or other people restraining them from acting according to their will.”
“You said it, pal!” Emerich bellowed. But he marveled at remembering that line.
Maybe, he thought, I should try to get laid tonight. Go to a bar, pick up some floozy. Or there was Janice from accounting who’d left the company a few months before the shit came down. She’d been good for a tumble in the past. Emerich pondered his next move, then snorted another line, then had another slug of scotch. Say, I feel pretty good. Damn good, as a matter of fact. Emerich called Janice.
“I’m really not interested, Em. Plus I’m seeing someone now. But — ”
Emerich hung up. If Janice was a no, he wasn’t interested in her life story.
Screw it. Emerich could entertain himself and anyway wasn’t it an overactive sex drive that had gotten him into this pickle? Yeah that was all it was, a lot of the stuff they said was horseshit.
Balki was kind of funny at that, at least for a kid.
Another line, another slug of good old Johnnie Walker Black. Maybe hit the links tomorrow. Nahh it would be Saturday, wait until during the week when it wasn’t so crowded. Have to find someone to golf with. Bunch of so-call friends had suddenly gotten busy when Emerich got into his little mess. Fuck ‘em.
Emerich got up to put some music on. Stood. Wobbly. Teetered a bit and fell on his ass. Helluva time getting back up but he managed. Staggered to the head and took a nice long piss. Balki. He chuckled. Damned if he wasn’t peeing all over the toilet and the floor. Well hell can clean it up in the morning. Zipped up. Checked himself in the mirror. Looked okay. Not bad. Holding up. Could use a shave. Stumbled towards the sofa, grabbing his bottle of scotch on the way. No more blow for now.
Maybe turn a goddamned light on. Or the TV. Rent some porn, better on the TV than on the computer, bigger picture. Could never rent it at home when Meredith was around. She’d a had a fit. Prude.
He remembered something from the bible, from Ecclesiastes: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” How and why do I remember shit like that? As useless as Balki. No, no, no, no, no, Balki was cool, he was funny, the show was funny at least at the time.
Women. There was his problem. Damn it, it was the ones who dressed sexy and flirted who were the first to complain if you actually did anything. Why didn’t they just wear burlap sacks over the bodies with eye holes? Couldn’t compliment ‘em, even that was harassment. That whole me too business was changing the world and not in a way that Emerich Crow liked. Every woman was believed no matter what she said and who she said it about. Emerich slammed the coffee table in anger. Now what was he going to do? He was tainted by the accusations and his dismissal. Everyone knew. He may even have to face legal charges. Fuck that.
Balki. What a crack up. That goofy accent. Emerich still remembered it. What the hell was the actor’s name who played him. Began with a B. Bertrand? Bradley? Maybe it was a P. Peter? Porter? Too lazy to look it up. Another swig of scotch. Immanuel Kant said: “Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world.” Why, Emerich wondered, am I remembering all these quotes? I think I’ve got them exact too. But I can’t remember the fucking name of the guy who played Balki. But I can remember watching that one episode about the dentist on a rainy October night. But I can’t remember what those women claimed I did and why it was supposedly so damn bad. Yeah he'd been a little rough, a little crude, but they seemed into it. And that one broad, Larisa, that was like five years ago and she just brings it when the other gals opened their big mouths. What a dirty frame-up.
Lately Emerich hadn’t known what to feel. Pissed about the job and Meredith leaving with the kids, but glad he was free of all encumbrances and could still make a good life for himself. But then…
Emerich started to weep. First time he’d cried, really cried, since he was a kid. The tears poured out. He heaved with wracking fits of sobs. It went on for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. When it was over Emerich felt stone cold sober and a crystalline pure depression like he’d never forget rose up his spine. He knew another drink or another line wouldn’t help. It had finally hit him. He’d fucked it all up. Why pretend anymore? I shouldn’t have been messing around with those women in the first place let alone doing….what I did. Fuck me!
Emerich stared at the floor his mind a blank except for the pulsating depression that inhabited his every breath. Shit, guilty, guilty, guilty. Might as well face it. I did what they said, I am what they said. That’s me. All at once here it is and there's nothing to be done. Nothing to take the pain away.
Finally Emerich rose and fetched his laptop. A quick search revealed that Amazon had every season of Perfect Strangers available to stream. He’d start from the beginning and watch every episode. Emerich cheered up. He nestled in on the sofa with a blanket. It started to rain outside. Perfect.