Thursday, December 09, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Step by Step...Slowly I Turned

She seems a million miles away
When she walks by you don’t know what to say
You gonna make a move, you better make it now
Don’t be afraid, cause love will show you how

You take that first step
Ask her out and treat her like a lady
Second step
Tell her she’s the one you’re dreaming of
Third step
Take her in your arms and never let her go
Don’t you know step by step
Step by step
You’ll win her love


I think I’ve found in life that many little steps lead up to a point and then there is the final step, the big step it’s called, but sometimes it’s really just the final little step that leads to the big change. Sometimes, it’s so small, we don’t even know that we did it and sometimes, that last little step looks like you are about to take a header off a thousand foot cliff.

I don’t remember exactly how I felt that week, but looking back now, I’m sure I was thinking, in the words of an infamous cartoon character: “Do I do’d it? If I do’d it I would be very bad. I do’d it.”

Come that Thursday, Lisa had done her part and needled me about my inability to take risks. How would I know if I didn’t go? If I did go and nothing came of it, so what? We’d have fun right? So, why don’t I go? Worst thing that could happen is that he’d totally ignore me, I’d dance with a bunch of other guys, enjoy the evening and talk about how fickle men were with my girlfriends over Margaritas the next day.

Thursday night I got out my best black Gap jeans, put on my favorite black knit shirt, the purple bolero jacket that I’d cannibalized from an old suit and little half black boots. I hadn’t gone completely country yet. I was from Kansas, but I’d lived in New Jersey for three years and I lacked appropriate attire. It hadn’t been necessary during those long nights in the hip-hop clubs. I hadn’t owned a decent pair of boots in years. My little half black boots were actually Bon Jovi rocker style boots and my jeans came down to a narrow ankle opening, skin tight and tucked into the boots like the rock stars I watched on MTV. My hat was actually a “gamblers” hat with a round crown and round brim.

I was torn about my clothes. Did I look okay? Was it too much? Do I need more lipstick? If I was going down to the club to get somebody’s attention, I wanted to look my best. And, if I didn’t get his attention, I still wanted to look my best because I intended to get SOMEBODY’s attention, even if it wasn’t his. Ego is such a delicate thing.

We got down to the club a little early so we could get a good spot by the dance floor. Early for us was eight pm. The club didn’t get going until around nine. I got a Sprite, Lisa got a beer and then we hung out. For about an hour and a half. Great. He’s a “no show”. Lisa was giving me apologetic looks, “Sorry, Kansas.” Sorry she had pressured me into coming down when I was inclined to stay away. Really, she had nothing to be sorry for because, in the end, it was always my decision.

The club had started getting crowded and it was hard to keep track of all the people there. Eventually, I just gave up and started flirting with the cowboys beside us. One of them was a really tall guy that I can only refer to as “beefy”. Everything was “beefy”. A fast song came on and he asked me to do the shuffle or “triple step” which is just a little half beat more than the polka and involves a lot of spinning if your partner is good. We started flying around the dance floor. Flying because, once again, as we spun around, my toes were barely touching the floor. As a matter of fact there were several occasions I don’t think my feet actually touched down. We were going so fast that I felt them starting to fly out behind me like helicopter blades and I knew I was dangerously close to kicking some other dancers, the spectators and their beer bottles off the rail.

Then he started to twirl me around and every time he did it, he turned me a little to the outside and then spun me around like winding a top and letting it go. Finally, I was so damned dizzy, my feet tangled up and I hit the floor with my ass, black jeans picking up the light colored saw dust off the floor. I didn’t actually stay down there very long because the guy kept a hold of my hands and pulled me up so fast that I shot up like a rocket, making me near as tall as he and then hit the floor with my feet. He didn’t even pause, but kept us moving in the dance like it was part of the show.

One of the other lessons I learned about dancing. If you mess up, don’t stop, you’re likely to get ran over by the other dancers on the floor and, if you’re good enough at counting and get back in step, people don’t even notice or think that little mis-steps were planned.

As we circled the floor one last time, I saw Carlos and a few of his friends at the end of the floor, drinking and laughing together. We spun by so fast that I didn’t even know if he saw me in the crowd of dancers. When the song was over, the tall, beefy guy took me back to my space beside Lisa and I stood there, drinking my soda and looking over to that side of the club to see if I could catch his eye or something.

Lisa had seen him too, “Carlos is here.”

“I noticed.”

“Go over and talk to him.”

“No way. It looks like he’s been here a while and it doesn’t look like he was looking for me.” Now I was starting to doubt the intelligence of coming down to the club on a few dances from the Sunday before.

“Go ask him to dance. You danced with him on Sunday, so you can ask him to dance. It’s not like he doesn’t know you or something.”

I was standing there warring with myself again, “chicken”, “am not”, “are too”, “if you’re not a chicken, you’d ask him to dance” at which point I noticed that he came out on the dance floor with another girl, slow dancing. “Chicken”.

I looked down at my half full glass of Sprite, “Well, that’s that.”

Lisa was sympathetic, “I’m sorry, Kansas.”

“That’s okay. I think I need another soda. You wanna beer?”

“Yeah, I’ll go with you. You know, if you want to, I’ll be the designated driver tonight.”

Ahh, friends. Now you know how enabling they can be. “Nah, that’s okay. You’ve already had a couple. I’ll stick to the soda. You can drive tomorrow night.”

“You sure?” She said as we wedged our way up to the bar.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” We ordered our drinks and then meandered our way through the club saying hello to some of the people we knew before making our way to our places at the floor. The DJ started playing Brooks and Dunn, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and we went on the floor to line dance.

We came back breathless and laughing. I was leaning on the rail, facing up towards the DJ when I felt a touch on my arm and saw a very large shadow on my left. “You want t’ dance?”

Carlos had finally come over to ask me to dance and right that second, I was tempted to say “no”. I mean, I’d been there for three hours, he’d been there at least an hour and NOW he comes over to ask me to dance after dancing with any number of girls before he did. I was pretty much thinking that I was right on Sunday. I’m just one of the many in a long line of girls he’d been flirting with. He seemed obviously intent on keeping everything light and not making a habit of any of the girls, just there to have a good time. That’s a tough blow to the ego, too. You’re just one and not even the most important one.

But, what the hell, I was there to have a good time and I had decided that that was all it was: a good time and I could play it cool with the best of them. I had decided that he went on the list of: guys I could dance and flirt with, but not boyfriend material. “Sure.”

We danced several two-steps and he showed me a few more moves. He was a good dancer and it was very easy to follow him. When the last song was over, he took me back to my space and then went back to where his friends were standing at the other end of the floor.

“Now see, Kansas.”

“See what?”

“I think he likes you,” she said, with a big silly grin and tipping her beer bottle up.

“Whatever. What are we, in high school? He’s just here to have a good time and so am I.” About which time he came out on the floor with another girl and started dancing. “See? I’m just somebody to dance with and so is he.”

“Kansas….” How many times Lisa would say that to me in just that tone, admonishing and exasperated with a little lopsided grin. She was my alter ego. The outgoing one, the flirty one, the one that got me to do things when I would have just stood back and let things pass me by. The one that got me into trouble and then pulled me out again. What are friends for?

“Kansas nothing. I’m not gonna get all crazy over somebody like that.”

She let out a little huffing sigh and rolled her eyes. We watched the dance floor for a bit and then went out and did another line dance. Carlos came back up and asked me to dance again and I did, then, when he brought me back he took Lisa on the floor and they circled the floor a couple of times and they were laughing. They came back and he went on to his friends. We repeated that a couple of times until eventually he left his drink by our little section and came to stand with us when the dancing was done. Eventually, some of his friends came over. We all laughed and talked about our experiences in the great northeast, how we got there, what was funny and interesting. Lisa was a transplant, too. She was from Illinois and her dad raised sheep.

Sometime later in the evening another guy came over and asked me to dance. I remember he was standing on the other side of the rail on the dance floor and I turned to look at him. Carlos was standing on my left and I felt more than saw him straighten up and step up closer to the rail. I really felt like he was looming over me. I couldn’t see his face (he was almost a foot taller than me), but I knew he was looking at the guy, I just didn’t know what the look was saying. It also seemed that his three friends were suddenly not as rowdy and loud as they had been a minute before.

If it hadn’t got so quiet, I don’t think I would have thought twice about my answer. I probably would have just gone out on the floor and danced. As previously mentioned, dancing with other people, even if you WERE there with somebody was not unusual as long as that’s all it was and I had decided that I was just going to take it easy and have a good time, no expectations. Right that second, I felt like all eyes in our group were staring at me and that I was a juicy bone that was being growled over by two burly dogs. I could see the other guy’s face and he wasn’t looking at me anymore, but was looking at Carlos.

It was a really odd sensation because I felt like I was going to make some sort of really important decision. Part of me said, “Say “no”. You’re hanging out with this guy”. Another part of me said, “What the hell. Go dance. Remember you’re just there to have a good time and just because you’re hanging out doesn’t mean you’ve got a “thing”.” Then I was thinking, “I’m not a bone to be growled over.” Then the cautious side of me, “Yeah, but all these guys seem like they’re waiting for something to happen, something not good. Maybe I should just say no and keep the situation cool.” The devil in me, “For a dance? These guys aren’t going to fight over a dance. Go dance if you want to.”

Decisions, decisions.

“Thank you, but no. I’m hanging out with my friends right now. Maybe later?”

He seemed a little bemused, but my friend Lisa jumped into the breech. What are friends for? “I’ll dance with you. C’mon!” She said with a big flirty smile, grabbed his hand and dragged him out to the floor.

All of a sudden, the tension in the air was gone, like everyone just let out the breath they were holding. Carlos’ friends went back to drinking their beer, he leaned his hip on the rail next to me and I was going over it in my head telling myself I was imagining the whole tension thing.

“You wanna dance?” Carlos asked, putting his beer down on the rail, “C’mon,” and he grabbed my hand and led me to the floor where we did a quick two-step.

The music slowed after that. I remember the song and the dance. He took my hat from my head and handed it to me. I was embarrassed for a moment because I knew I had to have “hat head”, but he just tipped his hat to the side, pulled me in real close, leaned down and rested his cheek against my hair. He was so tall I really couldn’t put my arms around his neck so I put my right hand in his and my left arm around his waist holding my hat behind him as we started weaving in and out of the crowd on the floor, dancing cheek to hair.

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars alone
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance



Something changed during that dance. I felt like I had made a big decision, but I didn’t know what it was that I had decided. At least, my mind wouldn’t let me think about it. Except the part of my mind that kept thinking, “Oh my God. What am I doing here?” Then the other part of me, “You’re not gonna fall for this guy. It’s just a dance like the thirty other dances that came before. Don’t get your expectations up.” “Yeah, but if FEELS different. Like I just made some sort of big leap off a building and I’m waiting for my parachute to open and catch me.” The cautious side of me, “You didn’t leap off of anything. You’re just dancing. You’re just dancing.”

We were just dancing, but it was a lovely dance. I had never danced with anyone like that before. I could just lean in to him, close my eyes and just follow where he was going. It was smooth and beautiful, like the people I would see dancing in those movies from the 40’s and 50’s where it seemed they never looked where they were going, but never bumped into somebody else, never stepped on the other person’s toes, made it look easy. It felt like that. Like I could dance forever. Like it was easy.

When the song was over, I lifted my head and blinked a few times. It seemed like the lights were too bright and I could see flashes of white. Like the stars had fallen into my eyes. All the guys standing over at the rail started yelling, “Woooohoooo!” and waving their hats in the air. All of a sudden I was embarrassed. I realized that I still had “hat head” and I jammed my hat back on my head. I could feel may face getting red. He had kept hold of my right hand and started pulling me back towards our place at the rail where the guys handed him his drink and were clinking beer bottles and glasses then taking a big swig.

I was even more embarrassed. I looked at Lisa and she was looking at me with a half smile and half concerned look on her face. It must have been because the thoughts that were going through my head were showing on my face, “what am I doing here?” “Lisa, stop me. I’m scared shitless. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

The DJ had started playing some hip-hop music and Lisa said, “C’mon, Kansas. Let’s dance.” What are friends for?

I started to disengage my hand and follow Lisa on the dance floor, Carlos gave me a quizzical look, but kept hold of my hand, “I’m gonna dance with Lisa.” He just put his drink down and pulled me with him on to the dance floor. A bunch of the guys followed and we all started “gettin’ down”. It was pretty amazing. Not that I hadn’t seen it before, but the fact that a bunch of cowboys that could two-step and waltz could also “get down” without looking like a bunch of scare crows with sticks up their asses always amazed me. They did not suffer from “white bread” disease.

Then the music switched up:

She was a fast machine
She kept her motor clean
She was the best damn woman I had ever seen
She had the sightless eyes
Telling me no lies
Knockin' me out with those American thighs
Taking more than her share
Had me fighting for air
She told me to come but I was already there

'Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were makin it and you -

CHORUS:
Shook me all night long
Yeah you shook me all night long


Yeah, I was losing “me” and fast becoming “us”. I told myself to loosen up. Let it roll. Just have a good time and I could figure out if it really meant something later when I could knock it around in private with my friend Lisa and convince myself it was just a good time.

We closed the place down again. That night instead of going to the diner, we parted company at the club. All the guys had to be up in four hours to make their seven a.m. roll call. He walked me to the car again. Before he opened my door, he pulled out a cocktail napkin and a pen that he’d swiped off the bar before we left, “Can I get your phone number?”

“Oh…sure.” I took the napkin and pen and wrote my number on it then handed the napkin back to him where he tucked it in his pocket.

“You can keep the pen.” We both laughed a little. It was early April and the evening was still chilly enough we could see our breaths. He stepped in a close and leaned down a little, “Do you mind?”

I think I was holding my breath. What was I going to say? “Yes, I mind?” because, of course, I didn’t. Then he tipped my hat up, leaned down slowly and kissed me gently on the lips. More stars were flashing behind my eyelids. When he lifted his head, I opened my eyes and I felt my breath leave me in a long sigh. Oh my God! I was becoming one of those girls that got all goofy over a guy. I think I even had a silly smile on my lips. “So,” he said, blinking a little too, “I’ll see you tomorrow night?”

“Yeah. Are you all coming down tomorrow?” I didn’t want to assume that he was picking me up.

“Yeah. I’ll meet you down here. We probably won’t be down until around nine. The guys will probably want to take a nap or something when we get off shift. I’ll call you before we leave.”

“Okay.” More goofy smile.

He opened my door for me and handed me into the car before shutting the door again. I rolled down the window, “See ya’ tomorrow.”

Lisa and I waved good-bye to him and the guys that were waiting to get in the truck then I put the car in gear and started rolling out of the parking lot.

“Oh my God, Kansas. You go girl!” Lisa was laughing.

I laughed a little, too. I was still floating, but I was still confused and a little shaky. I mean, what the hell was I doing anyway?

“Did he kiss you?” Lisa asked, like she didn’t know.

“Yeah.” I answered simply.

“Well?” she had an expectant look on her face.

“Well what?” I wasn’t sure if I was ready to dissect the whole thing, but my friend wasn’t exactly the kind to let go of something.

She was like a dog with a bone. She was not going to let it go, “Was it good?” she asked getting a big goofy grin on her face.

I felt the same goofy grin on my face, but I was a little embarrassed, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Kansas….” I knew I wasn’t going to get away with that answer.

“Well, it wasn’t like we did a full on lip-lock or anything.” I was even more embarrassed. I hadn’t gotten quite used to sharing all my deepest thoughts with anyone, even close girlfriends. I’d never really experienced those kind of relationships before. I mean, we’d laughed and joked about our nights out, the guys that hit on us, the dates we had, but this seemed different. I wanted to hug it to me and at the same time run like hell.

“Kansas, you mean to tell me you don’t know if it was good or not?” yeah, a dog with a bone.

“Okay, okay. It was…nice.” What was I going to say? That I saw stars? That sounded even too goofy to me. I mean, who says that kind of stuff? You might read it in a book, but nobody walks around actually saying it, do they?

“Nice? It was just nice?” Now she was getting a confused look on her face.

“Yeah,” I said and I felt my lips smiling so big I felt my cheeks were going to crack, “it was nice.”

Then we started laughing again. We were talking about the guys, the dancing, the fun, the moment when the other guy came over and asked me to dance, “I thought Carlos was going to punch that guy.”

“Nuh-uh, Lisa. He was just asking for a dance.” I didn’t really believe it. Nobody was going to get in a fight over a dance.

“Uh-huh, Kansas. You didn’t see the look on his face. Good thing you said “no”.”

“Get out of here. Nobody’s gonna fight over a dance.” I had convinced myself that that moment was just a figment of my imagination.

“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.” She sat back in her seat and looked in her side mirror, “The guys are still following us.”
I had noticed the truck in my rearview mirror, too. When we were almost to the Walt Whitman Bridge exit, the truck flashed its lights and then sped around us to the exit. They had their windows down and were hooting and hollering. We laughed and honked the horn back. When we got home we went upstairs, said goodnight in the hallway and went to bed.


I lay there in the big creaky iron bed and I couldn’t go to sleep. I kept going over it in my mind. It was just a dance and a kiss, that’s all. It doesn’t mean anything. So he asked me for my number. That doesn’t mean anything either nor that he wants to meet me down there again tomorrow night. Don’t get all goofy now.

Well, he walked up to me and he asked me if I wanted to dance.
He looked kinda nice and so I said I might take a chance.
When he danced he held me tight
And when he walked me home that night
All the stars were shining bright
And then he kissed me.


I finally fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling groggy from the lack of sleep and looking like I had a hangover. Lisa and Diane were up in the kitchen drinking coffee when I came down, “Kansas’s got a boyfriend.” Lisa said teasingly over her cup of coffee.

“Shut up. I don’t have a boyfriend.” I could feel my face flushing. God, were we still in high school?

“Kansas, you got a boyfriend?” Diane had to jump in, but she was slightly more serious than Lisa.

“No. He’s just some guy I met the other night.” I was trying to play it cool. We weren’t exactly dating or anything. We had really just met and I had decided the night before that I was going to play it cool. No expectations, no heartbreak. Play it cool.

“Just some guy? He got her phone number and kissed her in the parking lot.” Lisa never did know when to let something go.

“Oooo…Kansas’s got a boyfriend.” Diane said in a sing-song voice, rubbing it in now. I think they could tell I was embarrassed and they were getting their licks in while they could.

“You guys, knock it off. I just met him for cripes sake.” My face couldn’t get much redder.

We went to work and Lisa was still teasing me. We were working at a little place over in Mt. Laurel. We were both pharmacy technicians and we mixed drugs for intravenous infusion under special anti-microbial hoods.

I remember Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent about six weeks before this incident. Everybody in the place was Catholic except me, Lisa and this one black guy named Billy that worked in the warehouse. Billy and I were both Baptist and Lisa was a Methodist. It was funny that everyone assumed that Lisa and I were Catholic, too. My real name sounded as Irish as you could get I suppose. I have no idea why they assumed Lisa was Catholic. For days before Lent everyone kept asking us what we were going to give up for it. The women in our office were talking about giving up chocolate and cigarettes and things like that.

Finally, that Wednesday, I had asked one of the girls about the ashes everyone was wearing. I was from a predominantly Protestant part of the country and I had no idea about Catholicism. She explained that to me and Lent. “So, you’re supposed to give something up for Lent?”

“Yeah, but not just anything. It should be something that means something to you. Something you think you can’t live without. C’mon. Are you going to do it with me?” She was giving up smoking and was looking for some moral support. Not that I smoked at that time, but I was sure I could find something.

At that time, I was about twenty-five pounds over weight and had been contemplating changing my habits. My doctor told me that I drank too much coke and needed to stop it. I decided on Wednesday that I would stop drinking caffeine. I didn’t know how hard that was going to be. I didn’t know that I was a “caffeine addict” even though I knew I drank about five cokes a day, maybe six.

By Friday afternoon, I had the shakes and a headache. I had drank almost a gallon of water and had to pee every hour. I was snapping at everyone. Lisa finally couldn’t take it anymore, “C’mon, I’ll buy you a coke.”

“Lisa, I can’t. I told Jen that I’d do this with her and I’m going to do it.” Oh, God, I wanted a coke so bad.

“Well, if you keep this up, you’re going to stick yourself, so let’s take a break and I’ll buy you a Sprite. How’s that?” We went to the break room and she bought me a Sprite. I was hoping the fact that it was carbonated would fool some part of my brain into thinking that it was “soda”, caffeine, something so I wouldn’t completely come unglued. “Kansas, you gonna be alright to go out tonight?”

“I don’t know. I think so. But, if I started acting crazy or look like I’m going to faint, slap me and make me drink a coke.”

I took some painkillers, walked around out back for a few minutes and then went back to work. Friday seemed so damned long, but I made it by the end of Lent I had lost ten pounds and was trying for another ten.

There I was, forty days later, feeling so much better and excited that I had lost those few pounds. I was looking forward to buying some new clothes. Maybe that’s what was giving me my confidence? I don’t know but I was looking forward to Friday night.

Friday night rolled around and I was just as nervous as the night before. He called around eight and said they were going to be there about nine and he’d see me there. We got there first and took our normal spot and the top of the dance floor after Lisa got a beer and I got a Sprite.

The guys finally showed up and they made their way to our area after stopping at the bar to get a drink. When he walked up, I felt all nervous and goofy inside again. What was I supposed to do? Do I hug him? Kiss him? Just say “hi”? What should I do? He had a goofy grin on his face, too, “Hi.”

“Hi,” I replied, standing there holding my drink with both hands, I thought I was going to squeeze the damn thing in half.

“So, you wanna dance?” he asked putting his glass on the rail and holding his hand out.

“Sure.” I still had the goofy smile on my face even though I was saying to myself, “you’re playing this cool, right? No expectations. Just be cool.” Riiiiight. How cool can you be with a big goofy grin on your face?

We danced and laughed and everyone had a good time. When we would go back to our space at the rail, he would keep his arm around me or stand behind me. I knew it was saying, “couple” and it was exciting and scary. Several times some of the guys that I had danced with before came over to ask me to dance, but they all seemed to defer to Carlos, “Do you mind?” The first couple of times I was thinking, “What am I, unable to speak? I can decide who I want to dance with and who I won’t”. But, that’s not the way it worked down there. Courtesy kept the fistfights from happening. If somebody was “with” somebody, you always deferred to that person to indicate you understood they were a couple and this was just a dance.

He would then look at me and I’d say, “If you don’t mind, I’ll be right back.” with a smile and I always came right back. We developed a little pattern that way and it worked the same with the girls who came to ask him to dance. He was fairly popular since he could dance so well. The first girl that came up and asked him didn’t give me the same courtesy and he turned her down, “Sorry. She’s got this dance,” and he took me on the dance floor leaving her standing at the rail. After that, the rest of them got the picture and deferred to me. The only people we asked to dance ourselves were our friends standing with us. He would dance with Lisa and I would dance with the guys from his ship.

During the evening, one of the guys that asked me to dance was spinning me around the floor, “I thought you said you didn’t have a boyfriend.”

“I don’t, I mean I didn’t when you asked me.” What was I supposed to say? Last week when I met you I didn’t have a boyfriend, you were too slow and now I have one?

“Uh-huh,” was all he said.

Well dammit, I didn’t, but I obviously wasn’t going to convince him of it and, besides, I really didn’t care.

When we slow danced, it was like that first time. He would pull my hat off and hand it to me and lay his cheek on my hair and press my head to his shoulder, weaving us around the dance floor. I could dance like that all night.

We went to the diner that night after the club closed. There was about ten of us that ended up going down together. We went through the same ritual again, he pulled out my chair, asked me what I wanted, ordered for me and even poured my coffee. He was sitting at the head of the table and I was sitting on the right. It’s funny how that became our positions at the table and that table became “our table” when this whole group would get together. The hostess would see us coming and put us in the back, the rowdy cowboy club. And, the guys were rowdy and so were we sometimes.

I remember that night because the guys decided to play coffee creamer football with the little individual sealed creamers the waitress had given us. They would hold it between their thumbs and index fingers and then flick it with their other hands. I thought they were being juvenile and told them to knock it off. They just laughed and kept flicking them, right until the waitress came around the corner and our newest acquaintance, Hank, flicked the damn thing and it flew up into the chandelier and stayed there.

“Now, look. If you guys get too rowdy the manager’s going to ask you leave.” She was smiling and shaking her head when she said it and all the guys were apologizing up one side and down the other, “Sorry, ma’am, we didn’t mean no harm. We won’t do it again.” “Yes, ma’am, sorry ma’am. You guys knock it off now.” They were “yesing” and ‘ma’aming” all over the place.

When the waitress left, they all started laughing and Lisa and I were smacking as many hands as possible and grabbing all the creamers up off the table.

When he walked me to my car that night, he kissed me again. This time with a little more “umph” then we parted and he asked me if we were going to come down again the next night, Saturday. “Sure.”

That night, when I was driving home, with another big goofy grin on my face, Lisa said to me, “Well?”

“Well what?” this time I didn’t have a clue what she was asking about.

“Well, do you like him?”

“Well, I think so.”

“Kansas, you think so?” she was rolling her eyes and sighing.

“Yeah, I think so. Whatta ya’ want me to say? I just met him last Sunday for God’s sake.”

“Are you gonna keep seeing him?”

“For right now.” I knew I sounded non-committal, but seriously, I was still thinking I should keep my expectations down.

“How did he kiss this time?”

“Lisa…” Gees, friends could be so embarrassing.

“C’mon, I wanna know.”

“If you must know, sloppy.” I laughed.

“Kansas!”

“Well, he did. I felt like I needed to wipe my face off when we were done.”

“Maybe he was nervous.”

“Maybe.”

“You are so bad.” Yeah, bad.

You know, nothing can ever be perfect though. Into each life a little rain must fall and one day it rained.

Lisa had left the little company over in Mt. Laurel and started working for a company over in Broomall, Pennsylvania about two weeks into my little adventure. I was riding to work with another of the girls until Lisa called me on the third week and told me they were hiring another person and they would pay a dollar more an hour. For girls making about $11/hr, that was a lot of money. We had also heard that the little company we were working at was going to sale, so I applied and got the job and we started riding in together.

Diane was starting to see somebody and there was a possibility that the guy was going to move in with her. At the same time, Lisa and I decided that we were going to get an apartment together. The drive over to our new jobs was taking almost fifty minutes everyday and Lisa’s little Escort was on its last leg, so we decided that we would look for something closer. It was the first time either of us had to go looking for ourselves. We had no credit to speak of, no furniture, but we had some money saved up.

We found a place over in Media, PA. A two bedroom apartment on the ground floor with sliding glass doors that went to a little patio. The other apartments behind us were blocked by a row of pine trees that provided privacy if we wanted to leave the blinds on the sliding glass doors open. We had to pay a double deposit to get them to take us with our lousy credit, but when we signed the papers, we were really excited. We got our move in date and begged to borrow one of the vans from our office since all we had was Lisa’s little Escort.

I asked Carlos and some of the guys if they would come over and help us move. They all agreed that they would.

Our move in day was Sunday. We spent Saturday night packing instead of going out. When we got up that morning, it was misting a little. I tried to call Carlos at his apartment that he was now sharing with four other guys, but the phone just kept ringing. Lisa and I decided to go ahead and put some of our stuff in the van and take it over. We left a message with Diane should the guys show up.

When we came back, it was raining hard, but we wanted to get everything moved. Since it was early May, the rain was warm anyway. Not the kind you’d get a cold over. None of the guys had shown up, so I tried to call his place again. Still no answer. We were moving the beds and dressers from upstairs and my bed in particular was really heavy and awkward to bring down the narrow stairway, but we got it done. We were soaked to the bone. The new boots I had bought were soaked. We looked like a couple of drowned rats.

Just as we were putting the last thing in the van, our friend Dawn pulled up. She apologized for being late, but she didn’t know until Diane called her that we were going ahead and moving. Then she told me she had seen Carlos last night at the club.

“Really?” I said. I wasn’t too concerned except he wasn’t returning my call.

“Yeah. He was dancing with some red haired woman.”

“Hmmm.” Now I was wondering why the hell he wasn’t answering the phone.

“It was probably nothing, Kansas.” Lisa tried to re-assure me.

“I dunno,” Dawn was skeptical, “seemed awful chummy to me. He seemed really drunk, too.”

Well, now you can understand I was getting a little pissed off. I had been seeing the guy for almost four weeks at least three nights a week and he was supposed to be over at my house helping me move along with at least three other guys and, to top it off, I couldn’t get an answer at his place.

“Excuse me a minute.” I went into the house to make one more phone call. If he didn’t answer, I was going to be pissed. If he did answer, I was going to be pissed. The question was, how pissed was I going to be. I heard Lisa telling Dawn she shouldn’t have told me that and Dawn responding that I should know if that’s who I was looking for.

I rang his number one more time and one of the guys at the apartment answered, “Let me speak to Carlos.”

“Just a minute. Hey, Carlos, some girl’s on the phone for ya’.”

I heard some muffled words like “who is it” “I dunno” and then Carlos got on the phone.

“Hello?”

“Carlos, it’s me.” I’m pretty sure my irritation was apparent.

“Kat,” he was the only one that called me by my other name, “what’s up?”

“What’s up? I’ll tell you what’s up. I’m moving and you said you were coming over to help and you’re not here. That’s what’s up.”

“You’re moving?”

“Yes, dammit, I’m moving. I told you that Friday and you said you were coming over.” Wow, I was getting mad. I could feel my face getting red.

“But it’s raining.”

“Well no shit Sherlock. Lisa and I’ve just spent five hours moving in the rain. Without any help, by the way. Did you have fun last night?”

“Last night?” Now he was being the cautious guy.

“Yeah, last night when you were whooping it up and I was here packing. Is that the reason you didn’t come over?”

“Well...actually, I did get a little hammered and I passed out over at Hank’s. I didn’t get home until about an hour ago.” He finally admitted omitting any mention of the red head he’d been talking up.

“That’s nice.” No, it wasn’t. I was really pissed. Maybe unreasonably pissed, but pissed just the same.

“What are you doing now?”

“Finishing moving, what do you think I’m doing? Are you gonna come over to the apartment and help us get this last load in?”

“Well…uh…me and the guys just ordered Pizza and we were going to watch a movie. Why don’t you come over?”

“What part of “I’m moving” didn’t you get?”

“But it’s raining.”

“You know what? Just forget it.” I hung up the phone, stomped outside and jumped in the van with Lisa.

“Did you get Carlos?” Lisa seemed almost scared to ask, as if she didn’t know that’s why I was pissed.

“Yeah.”

“Is he coming over to help?”

“No.” I was staring out the window pretty hard.

“What’re you gonna do?” she asked tentatively.

“About what?”

“About Carlos.”

“Nothing.” I really didn’t want to talk about it. I was seething to say the least.

“Nothing?” She was looked at me confused as she put the van in gear.

“Yeah, nothing, as in “we ain’t got nothing going”.” I crossed my arms and kept looking at the window.

“Kansas…” I could tell she wanted me to give the guy a break, but it was not going to happen.

“Lisa, the guy just spent the better part of four weeks trying to get in my pants and then, when I asked him to help us move and he agreed to it, he goes out the night before, drinks himself stupid, does who knows what with some other woman and then doesn’t show up, doesn’t call and when I do get him, he tells me he and the guys are going to watch a movie and eat pizza. As far as I’m concerned, he can lose my number.”

Lisa wisely let the subject go.

We finished moving in the rain. Surprisingly, even though I was irritated about the whole Carlos thing, when we finished moving into the apartment, I felt really happy. This was the first apartment that I had went out and gotten by myself. It wasn’t anybody else’s. I wasn’t a mercy roommate. It was Lisa and I against the world.

We ordered Chinese food, delivered. We didn’t have a table or any chairs or a couch, just our beds and dressers and a TV that we sat on our cooler. Fortunately, we had bought some dishes, glasses and flatware. We laid a clean white sheet out on the living room floor and dined al fresco in doors with the blinds opened on the sliding glass doors so we could watch the rain continue to pour.

Lisa popped the bottle of Dom Perignon that she had gotten wholesale from another friend of ours that worked at the state liquor store. We drank champagne and toasted to our new home. While we ate, we talked about what kind of furniture we would get. We wanted to do the place in black and white.

Finally, we were so tired and we had to get up and go to work the next morning, so I just laid the mattress to my bed out on the floor and lay down to go to sleep. I thought about the whole Carlos thing. That was pretty short lived, I thought. One night I don’t go out because I’ve got things to do and he’s already running around with his friends and some other chick and can’t find the time to come over and help me. The other part of me was telling me I had expected too much. But the saner, harsher side of me said that when somebody said they were going to help you and had been slobbering all over you for four weeks, it wasn’t too much to expect some common courtesy.

One thing was for sure, he didn’t have my new number, but I had his and I wasn’t planning on using it. If he wanted to run around and see other women, that’s fine, but I wasn’t going to play that game. Better to find out now rather than later after I was hooked on the guy.

In the morning, I thought, I’ll toss his number in the trashcan.

Jenny Jenny who can I turn to
You give me something I can hold on to
I know you'll think I'm like the others before
Who saw your name and number on the wall
Jenny I've got your number
I need to make you mine
Jenny don't change your number
Eight six seven five three oh nine
Eight six seven five three oh nine
Eight six seven five three oh nine
Eight six seven five three oh nine

4 comments:

MichaelH121 said...

I seem to be one in a few "guys" who keep a promise made. Least from friends I know. Most of the girlfriends over the years were always mad at me because I always show up early.

I get to work early. I got to formations in the Army early. Got to class early. I start work at 9:00 am takes me 10 minutes to get there I am up at 4:00 am and leave at 8:30 am. I do not believe in rushing when you knew you had to be there.

I am nicknamed "reliable" cause I am. Had to get rid of a guy who would call at 10:00 am already an hour late and say he was going to be late. He called one morning and could not find his car.

When a promise I do make
I always keep it, that is me
If I say I will be on time
You can bet I always will be

MichaelH121 said...

By the way there are some more pages and the poem to match posted.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

I prefer moving in the rain, because then the rain cools you off. The dead of winter is even better temperature-wise, but then ice slicks up the walkway and makes it more difficult to keep on-balance (although ice does make a good conveyer belt for the heavy stuff).

Too bad Carlos flaked on you. As you said, better you find out sooner rather than later, that he would be that way.

Pat in NC said...

I had any number of experiences like that. You begin to get interested and then something goes wrong. Finally, through a friend from church, I was introduced to a really great guy. Met him in December, in January he said "it is too soon, but I really would like to ask you to marry me" and I said "it is too soon, but when you ask the answer will be yes. We were engaged offficially in April and married in June. For the years we had together we never regretted our decision. It just takes finding the right one.