My attempt to shed desires to call her were reinforced by the established rule of the initial dating sequence which advises ever eager souls such as myself to wait an allotted period of time between phone conversations. I was certainly aware that if I really wanted this woman, phoning her continually, leaving messages of stutters, stammers and goofy tidings was hardly the means to achieve the image of aloofness. Why aloof? Well, I must admit that my peers had persuaded me toward this male manner of reasoning.
My father used to teach me that a delicate balance was necessary in all aspects of life. Don't walk on the brink, but maintain equilibrium; in love, work and money... not to forget to go with your gut and remain true to yourself. Needless to say, I wasn't balancing, I had succumbed to the prods of advice my friends provided and hadn't phoned her at all. I was waiting for her to call me.
One Friday evening, lethargic, overwhelmed with the anxiety of being alone without a love to share and preparing for a usual night out swilling Summit down my gullet and playing foosball, she called.
'What are you doing tonight?' she asked.
'Just going to Mortimers with Sean and the riff raff. Why?' trying to cover the eagerness in my voice.
'Oh,' she said, pausing, 'It's so smoky there.'
I took the hint, having paged throught the City Pages earlier, I knew that one of the former Replacements was playing at my old universty haunt later that night.
'Hey, well, Slim Dunlap is playing at the Turf Club tonight, I spent ages there back in the day, it's a ton o' fun and the show is great.' I felt confident, what better circumstances for a date could have fallen into my lap?
'Sounds fun, I'd love to go there, are you sure you don't want to hang with your friends?' she asked.
'Are you kidding?' I chuckled
, 'I am
capable of altering my routine once in a while. I even think it good for me.'
'OK, what time do you want me to pick you up?'
'It's just off Snelling in St. Paul
and the show starts at nine, but there should be a cover band, so how 'bout just before nine?' This provided enough time to clean up the place, change my sheets and shower.
'See you then, #105 right?'
We arrived at Turf Club at nine, but I wasn't paying attention to the time. I paid the cover and we walked into the art deco world of mood lighting and a time gone by. The Turf Club had been a regular neighborhood bar in the pregentrified Midway area, back when gradma used to serve you beer and they had square dancing on Sunday evenings. Now the Turf was a college bar of the MCTC schools with live music booked by the St. Paul Music Club. All night every night.
She was wearing a black stretch top, khaki shorts, and a blue bead necklace to match her eyes. I had on my lucky Piet Mondrian Broadway Boogie Woogie pants and a Walker Art Center shirt.
The music wouldn't start until 10:30 No opening band, just Slim. This provided ample time to just sit and talk. We saddled up to the bar and she ordered a pitcher. We sat and drank, her legs crossed under her seat. Moments were so facile, effortless with her. My nervousness faded without warning and I fell into the comfortable bliss I always felt in her presence. She excused herself to the rest room revealing an acquaintance of mine on her other side at the bar. Looking at me, drunk he said, 'You're Bob right?'
'Yeah' I replied, 'How are you Jeff? Seen Jim lately?...'The small talk continued for a bit, but I was experiencing an extravagant elation knowing that I had been seen with this flaxen haired siren. Upon her return, she stood next to her stool and asked the bartender for three dollars in quarters and a pack of American Spirits. Turning to me she asked, 'Want to play some pinball big shooter?'. No need to state my reply, just the fact that one of my favorite games was in the corner and I take pinball complete with all its conspiracies quite seriously.
A variable I attribute to the theoretical nature of the game is the full moon. I seem to believe that the moon, as it changes tides and the statistical increase of hospital visits (more babies being born etc.), also contributes to my pinball game. My reasoning being that it effects the magnets inside the machine. This night was no different, there was a full moon I was wreaking havoc on the silver ball, she standing beside me, waiting her turn. I let the ball go down the sacrilege drain. Priorities.
After a few games, the music started and we were halfway through our second pitcher. We set our beer down and gathered up to the stage with a handful of other people. The music began and so did our dancing of swirls, whirls and twisting spins. I'm not a dancer, I make the effort. Feeling the Summit catch up to me, I rolled with the inebriated effects I had grown accustomed to and just danced. Minutes gained speed and bar time came with the abrupt glare of lights and shouts of "Last Call!". The music was over and we leaned against the stage, sipping the last of our beer.
'Want to get some pizza?' she asked. She had read my mind. Walking out of the bar, there was a slight drizzle and the sound of thunder treatened a true Midwest early summer downpour. We hurried to the car. On the way, I ripped up a lone weed flower, roots and all. The flower had beaten odds to grow through a crack in the middle of the lot to display its simplistic beauty. Getting into the car, I handed her the stalk with a gentle kiss on her wet cheek.
The pizza place was closed. Frickin' Minnesota, everything closes early here. I suggested we go back to my place where I could whip us up some meager grilled cheese and tomato. By this time it was pouring.
Stumbling into my building, I got to work in the kitchen as she looked through my books. Distracted slightly, the sandwiches cooked too fast. (I put the black edged side down on the plate). We ate. Clearing the plates and practically throwing them into my sink, I returned to the living room to find her standing, ready to go. My head felt heavy.
The rain was comming down in sheets and looking out the windows was like looking into a washing machine. 'Want to go out into the rain?' she asked. We ran out into the wet wonder of youth, splashing in puddles and enjoying the relief from the heat of the day and our dancing. We ran around the corner to Loring Pond, we stood at the edge looking at the distorted light of the reflective image of the castle like bell tower of St. Marks Cathedral. The ripples bent the light into waves to complement the static ring of the rain pounding the water. We paused for a moment I wanted to kiss her, then we ran back hand in hand. Stepping through my door, I shed my shirt with a slop splat sound and immediately produced a towel and dry shirt for her. She smiled, her hair plastered to her cheeks. I could see small drops clinging to her ear lobes. Going into my bathroom, she closed the door halfway as she changed and dried off. I too got into some dry clothes and put the stalk flower into a bronze vase on my draft table. I relaxed on the couch. She came and sat next to me tucking one leg under her, running her fingers through my wet hair and said, 'Hey, it's really late and I have to be up in three hours for my niece's birthday party. I have to go, but I had a wonderful time tonight.'
I walked her outside with the flower, vase and all, hugged her in the light of dawn and kissed her goodnight. Returning to my apartment, tired, lost and full of sighs I prepared for bed. Wiping my face after my teeth brushing, I noticed her shirt hanging on the back of my bathroom door knob. I put it to my face. It smelled of rain, her skin and my lost opportunity.
never should have picked the flower...