Sometime later, although Matt was unsure how much time had passed, he began to realize how hungry he was. When he looked at his watch and saw it was now 2:30 in the afternoon he understood why he was racked with hunger pangs. With the way the morning had gone and his need to get out of his apartment, Matt never stopped to eat before he left. He spent the last half of yesterday sitting on a barstool in one of the local pubs, and drinking the night away without putting anything in his stomach but the liquor. He was surprised he was able to function at all. But no matter what, he couldn’t shake out of his somber mindset. The hunger only seemed to increase the despair he felt over the loss of his friend. At that moment he thought back to the conversation he had on Facebook with John, another of Matt and Matt’s childhood friends. John was the third pea to their pod, and he was the one who broke the news that their friend was dead.
John Franks was another friend that Matt hadn’t spoken to since he left Brooklyn, which made the news more difficult to accept. A long time had passed since these two formerly close friends had spoken, and the first time they do Matt was blindsided by horrible news. Where’s the justice in that? Matt found himself thinking as John relayed the news to him about the passing of their mutual friend. Over the years since Matt had left Brooklyn and in turn his life and friends behind, John Franks and Matt Nicholas continued on with their friendship. Both the Franks’ and Nicholas’ families stayed in Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn neighborhood where they all had grown up
When the Edwards family first moved to 73rd street the other two families were already there. Matt and Matt lived on the same side of the street and became friends first when Matt Edwards was 6, and Matt Nicholas was 5. A year later they would meet John who lived on the other side of the street. The M&M boys had to wait to meet the boy who lived on the other side until their parents allowed them to cross the street. Once they did, all three became as close as three friends could become. Of course, their friendships were challenged by all the fights they would get into over the years, a few of which would come to blows. But through it all the M&M boys along with John would later become known as MJM… a play on the famous MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas. Where one went the other two were sure to follow. Looking back now, Matt hated himself for allowing the time and space to come between the three of them.
Now after picking up his MyPhone, Matt had to decide which of his friends he should invite to lunch? He knew he didn’t want to be alone and at the same time he knew that most of his friends wouldn’t be around to meet him. There were only a few he could count on, and even those few were suspect at times. Before he knew it he was dialing the number for his friend Brian. Matt thought that if any of his friends would be able to take his mind off of things it would be Brian Mitchell, the perpetual partier and always the life of the party. Brian had a way about him that seemingly made the problems of life go away… then again, maybe it was all the alcohol that Brian always said was “waiting to be drunk” that accomplished that.
After three rings Brian was on the other line, and Matt’s day finally started to brighten up. “What up bro, how’s it going?” Brian said as soon as he was on the line.
“I’m doing… you know how it is. I actually just called to see if you wanted to meet me for a late lunch.”
“I already ate lunch bro, but I could always eat again. What do you have in mind? When and where?”
“How about wings at Flood’s?” asked Matt since he knew it was an offer that Brian would not turn down. Flood’s was one of the bar’s on Main Street in Stroudsburg that Matt, Brian and the rest of their friends frequented quite often. They boasted the best wings in the Poconos and had a very large and unique beer menu that encompassed beers from almost every country. They even had a checklist instead of a placemat that listed each beer and its country of origin that challenged any and every drinker to try them all.
“I’m down for that,” was Brian’s reply and Matt just smiled on the other end knowing what was coming next. “You called me, so you’re buying, right?” said Brian.
“Of course bro. Its 2:35 now, meet me there at 3. I am still at the office but I’m about to leave.”
“Always working… no wonder you’re such a bore,” said Brian, laughing loudly in Matt’s ear. “Ok, see you in a bit, I just gotta hop in the shower and throw some clothes on. Later bro.”
“Later B, see you soon,” Matt said as he hung up the phone. After shuffling through some papers that he’d been looking over, and signing what needed to be signed, Matt headed for the door. He was looking forward to a reprieve from the thoughts that racked his brain. The wings would serve as an added bonus and help lighten the burden of his empty stomach, but Matt was really after the distraction that was bound to follow after meeting up with Brian at the bar. Hopefully it will be a good one because that’s what I need. After checking for his phone, wallet and the remote to his car, Matt shut off the lights and closed the door behind him hoping that Brian would do what he does best, bring the party.
Leaving the spacious and very luxurious offices of Wilmo and Wilmo always acted as one of many reminders to Matt of just how far he’d come. Everything was state of the art and top of the line. Even the waiting room was exquisitely tailored to suit the likes of the wealthy clientele that used the firm for their accounting needs. Instead of padded benches or chairs that usually crammed the walls of other establishments, Wilmo and Wilmo’s waiting room was set up with an open floor plan and Italian leather sofas, armchairs, and lounges that surrounded a huge stone fireplace. Hanging above the fireplace on each side was a 60” LG Class Cinema 3D Smart TV that boasted best in class graphics and crystal clear 1080P resolution at 240Hz. Along with the furnishings and TV’s the Wilmo and Wilmo clientele were treated to the finest Italian cappuccino or espresso, every cup brewed fresh by the firm employed Barista.
The client base that used this firm for their business accounts or personal accounting needs were afforded the best at every avenue. Of course they paid for it, Matt always thought to himself. But why would any of them ever go anywhere else? he would find himself asking. Of course, most did choose Wilmo and Wilmo, and Matt was the beneficiary of their choice. As the top accountant in the firm and next in line for a firm partnership, Matt lived like they did. Even though he wasn’t at their level yet, he was on his way… One day, he always promised himself… One day. Until then, why not fake it. Who would ever know? This line of thinking was what led him to lease the brand new Mercedes CLS550 4 door Coupe. It was one step below the top of the line model which was a bit out of his price-range, but none of his friends, or the women he dated, would ever know the difference. But the CLS550 was also a bit out of his price-range, which is why he had accrued a serious amount of debt. His lifestyle choices sometimes left him needing to charge his lease payment just so he could continue trying to hold the charade together.
Living the lie has wound up putting Matt under some serious stress as he tried to figure out how to manage his own finances and make ends meet month after month. It’s odd; he always thought to himself, that people would come to me for advice about their finances. If they only knew, he would laugh to himself. The $15,000 Rolex was a necessity in his eyes even though he was paying 14.9% interest on his credit card for that purchase. But the car was the final piece to his façade. The Mercedes Benz CLS550 was an amazing piece of machinery.
Matt could remember the day he walked onto the lot thinking to himself, I’m just here to browse. He was surprised that he was left alone as he made his way around the lot, stopping a few times to check out a couple of cars more closely. Two models caught his eye; one being the S-550 4MATIC Coupe that he knew was out of his league. I’m here, so I might as well look at my future car, he hopefully thought. The other was the CLS550, and it was beautiful. “But I didn’t come here to buy,” he mumbled to himself as he began walking back to his car.
“Leaving so soon?”
Matt turned to see a salesman coming his way. “Yeah, I only had a little bit of time, and it’s now up.”
“You sure you don’t want to take the CLS for a spin?” The salesman said. As he drew near, Matt could see his nametag which read, Josh Smith. “My name is Josh, how ya doing? Are you sure you don’t have a few minutes? I could go get the keys and a plate right now.”
Matt wondered if they planned on having Josh come out to meet him since he looked to be the same age. Josh was well dressed, well groomed, and could be smelled from a mile away. Too much cologne bro, Matt thought. As he toyed with the idea of just making a break for it, the possibility of driving the CLS was too appealing. “OK; that sounds great. I only got a few minutes though.” He said as Josh smiled, and then ran to get the keys. “And I won’t be buying anything,” he said as soon as Josh was out of range to hear him.
When Josh came back he slapped a Dealer plate on the back of the car and then tossed the remote to Matt. “Where’s the key?” Matt asked.
“There is no key. Just put your hand behind the handle and it will unlock.”
“And how do I start it?”
“Get in and I will tell you. You are going to love this.”
After getting in behind the wheel Matt rolled the remote over and over, trying to figure out how to make a key appear. When he couldn’t figure it out, he looked for an ignition. Unable to locate where to put a key, he gave up and turned to Josh. “Ok, so how do I start it?”
“I was waiting for you to ask. Just put your foot on the brake and press the “On” button.
It took Matt a second to find the button, but once he did and the car started, he was immediately impressed. The sound of the engine was incredible. It was full of power, but at the same time full of finesse. The car hummed as it idled, and seemed to be begging for him to depress the accelerator. “Well?” Josh said.
“Are you going to drive, or just sit here listening to the engine purr?”
As soon as he put the car in gear using the paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel, he was in love. He was easy on the pedal since he didn’t own the car and didn’t want to be responsible if something happened to it; but he was aching to let it loose. Josh seemed to be able to read his thoughts and he said, “Are you going to open this baby up, or do I need to get behind the wheel?”
That was all Matt needed to hear. As he drove along he saw an on-ramp for the interstate and he took it. Once he merged with traffic, he shimmied his way through a few cars until he had some space, and then he floored it. Shifting his way up through the gears was a lot easier that downshifting. But after a few minutes he had the hang of it. “How fast dies it go?” he asked.
“Oh, it’ll go 0 to 60 in 5 seconds once you master the shifters. The engine pushes out 402 horsepower and the V8 still gets 27 MPG’s on the highway.” He said with a gleam in his eye and a crooked smile on his face. “How about we turn on the radio?” Josh said as he gave a voice command to play the CD that was preloaded.
As Matt drove along, josh started explaining the features of the car. “Stock, this car comes with the 19” alloy wheels, although those can be upgraded. The Harmon/Kardon system you now hear, which is second to none; has built in surround sound, and an 80GB hard drive so you can save all of your music.
But Matt didn’t need to hear all of that since he was already hooked. The incredibly supple heated leather seats seemed to mold to him as he drove along. While he didn’t go to the lot to purchase a car that day, he knew he was leaving with one.
So what if it cost a little over a $1,000 a month on a 24 month lease, he reminded himself, you got to look the part to play the part. Whenever he sat down in the car he always felt like he had finally arrived. You’ve done well for yourself Matt… real well, he would think as he patted himself on the back. He had to continually push aside the nagging thoughts of how foolish he was to actually think he could afford his lifestyle... or the car. One day, he had to keep reminding himself.
A short while later Matt found himself waiting outside of the front door to Flood’s for Brian who was already 15 minutes late. Brian being late was something that Matt expected since he rarely ever arrived anywhere on time. What he didn’t expect was that Brian would be bringing a few friends along with him. Great, Matt thought to himself, I hope they don’t expect me to pay for them too. Heading his way along with Brian were two other guys that Matt was not all that fond of. Both were known to be loud, obnoxious and quite the rabble-rousers. As they walked up to the bar one of the loudmouths, Danny, was on Brian’s left while the other loudmouth Manny was on his right.
Danny was 6 feet tall and weighed about 250. He spent most of his free time in the gym building his body to what he thought perfection should look like. It was the muscles he built over time that gave him the confidence to open his mouth to speak whatever it was that was on his mind. In most cases whatever was on his mind was going to offend someone and he could care less. Manny was quite the opposite when it came to appearance. He was 5’9” tall and weighed about 150 pounds soaking wet. Oddly enough to Matt, it seemed as if Manny’s confidence also stemmed from the physique of Danny. Everyone knew that Manny was Danny’s best friend and if you dared to mess with Manny, you wound up getting pounded by Danny. To Matt’s dismay they were already making a scene. This isn’t what I needed today, Matt thought to himself. The scene they were causing was starting to get out of hand after the boyfriend of the girl they were hooting and hollering at stepped away from the ATM. As he was putting the cash it dispensed into his wallet, vivid images started to fill Matt’s mind as he imagined how this would turn out. Sirens, police cars, and jail cells were some of the possibilities he could see coming to fruition. Why do I still get involved in stuff like this? When will these guys ever grow up? Matt thought to himself.
The girl’s boyfriend stood about 6’3 and looked like he lived at the gym. His t-shirt seemed a few sizes too small unless his muscles were just a few sizes too big. As he approached the two loudmouths with a hand raised and a finger pointing, Brian, the former Army Ranger stepped in front of his friends. Brian was a guy you didn’t want to mess with, but the finger pointing boyfriend didn’t seem like he cared the slightest bit. As they began arguing Manny instigated the altercation with frightening speed, while Danny just stood there staring down the other guy, daring him to make a move.
“Listen here meathead, you take another step and my boy here is gonna flatten you,” Manny said raising his fists like a boxer, taunting the muscle bound boyfriend who looked at him with disgust.
“You mean your boyfriend here,” pointing at Danny “or your other boyfriend right here,” he said waving an angry fist in Brian’s face. At that comment Danny’s feathers began to ruffle. Danny was the more mild mannered of the two, although, not by much. But he never backed down from a fight and to him that sounded like a challenge. As he stepped closer Matt could only imagine how this was going to turn out, and in his mind it wouldn’t be good for any of them. I don’t want to have to bail anyone out of jail, he thought. When the boyfriend took his shirt off and asked his girlfriend to hold it so he didn’t get any blood on it, Matt made his move and headed straight for the pack. He was hoping to bring a calming influence to the storm that was brewing. As the melee escalated to the point where fists were about to start flying Matt jumped right in the middle and looked Brian dead in the face.
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Excerpted from "The Search for Reason" by Michael E. Dreher. Copyright © 2015 by Michael E. Dreher. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.