I feel okay with this, which is good. I feel better that I don't want to abandon what I've written in that time, not entirely anyway. But most of all I feel fantastic that writing is really all I want to do right now, really all I've been doing. So, bravo to that.
Here's the last 1,000+ words I wrote in a late-night, last-ditch effort to get to 25,000 before midnight. I was too distracted and failed miserably.
- - -
The night that Marianne called, I first had thought it was Kate. I thought this because when I answered the phone, she only said, “Hi.” And plus, I was hoping it was Kate, anticipating her.
I said, “Where’ve you been?”
And that’s when, after some hesitance, Marianne said, “I don’t think you know who you’re speaking with.”
I stopped myself, processed the voice. “You are absolutely right,” I said.
That night we talked a lot about me, which at first was uncomfortable, but then relaxing. With Kate I talk a lot about us, with Oona a lot about Oona, and with my parents a lot about me, but in a different way. For Marianne I answered questions about my job and why I liked or didn’t like it, the reasons why, what my major had been, the person I considered my best friend, my favorite artist, my favorite band and color.
Marianne said, “I now have a full-page piece for Teen Beat magazine,” and I remember smiling and laughing, and not in anything close to a forced way.
She told me that she knew about my history with Oona, and that Oona had mentioned Amber, and that Amber was both the woman who had been the reason for our break up and the one that had died in the car I was driving. She said, “How badly were you hurt?”
This is a question I never get. No one asks the living about their injuries because they are inconsequential—you are living, alive. But everyone asks the living about the dead, especially when you’re the one that had your hand in that pot, the one that offered up that end result, the only result.
I said, “Not badly.”
She said, “Really?”
I sat on my sofa, looking at the cushion were Kate had sat some nights before. I said, “Sometimes in bad weather my jaw hurts. I broke it. I bruised some ribs, other cuts and bruises on my face, but otherwise I was okay.”
Marianne said, “I broke my wrist once.”
And I said, “How?”
“Falling weird. I got pushed down when I was playing soccer in high school. I got pushed down, and then the pusher fell on me. That fucking hurt.”
I sat smiling.
Marianne said, “Can I ask how old you are?”
I said, “Thirty-one.”
“Hunh,” she said. “Are you sure?”
“How could I be wrong?”
“You don’t look thirty-one. Not at all.”
“How old do I look?”
“ I don’t know—mid-twenties, maybe?”
“Younger or older than Oona?”
She paused only momentarily. “Younger?”
I said, “I’ll have to take you out sometime, to thank you just for saying that.”
And Marianne said, “Do you think I’m attractive?” and it was said so plainly and and matter-of-factly, I was wondering exactly what Oona meant by younger women having no real comprehension on life.
Marianne said, “You can say no. I’ll still go out with you.”
I said, “You make me smile a lot,” and I said it because she did and I was.
“Get back to my question.”
“Yes. I’m finding you attractive right now.”
“Hm. That’s not what I meant, really.”
“Let’s save that for later.”
And then Marianne said, “So who did you think I was when I called?”
* * *
I took Marianne out on a Friday night. I remember the day because that morning, as I had my hand on the handle of the door to Kate’s café, had my hand on it but hadn’t even contracted the muscles in my arm, my shoulder, to pull it open, she pushed it from the opposite side, pushed it open and grabbed me by my jacket to push me back and to the side of the café, away from its windows, away from the eyes of the people in line, the eyes from the people behind the counter.
She said, “Let’s go up the street.”
And once again I walked with Kate, me in my winter coat, her in the green t-shirt, in 20-degree weather.
I said, “How do you not get pneumonia?”
“Oh, you’re not a worrier, are you?” with a wrinkle in her brow.
And I didn’t know what to say, so I kept my eyes forward, trying to guess where she was leading us.
Kate said, “Do you want fast-food coffee or gourmet?”
“Why not coffee from your place?”
“I’m having one of those mornings, at 6:30 a.m., if you can believe that. So let’s say it’s best that I’m out right now.”
“Gourmet then,” and I waited with her for the signal to walk, to cross the street three streets up from her café to the big chain shop, just the two of us. I waited and watched the cars pass over the salty gray roads.
She said, “It’s really good to see you,” and she pulled twice at my jacket sleeve.
I looked at Kate. I looked and watched her hair blowing again in her face, her struggling to keep it away with one hand flat on the top of her head. I watched the goose bumps rise on her arms as I looked, her nipples beneath her t-shirt hardened in the cold morning air.
When I put my arms around her, I half-expected to pull toward me a stiff and resistant body. I expected this from the sheer embarrassment of showing affection to someone you hardly know in a public place on a city street during rush hour. I expected this because we weren’t even a half-mile away from where Kate worked, and people, her staff, could have left the café, too, in search for her, to bring her back to where she belonged, to get them quarters or brew more coffee, refill the napkin dispensers. I expected this because I knew how important Kate was, and since she was of such importance, she probably had a reputation to protect.
But in my arms she was cold but soft, her hands light on my back, her head against my shoulder, face turned down.
I said, “Do you want my coat? I have a sweater on.”
Kate said, “No, I don’t want your coat,” and then I let her go.
* * *
She bought me coffee with one-dollar bills she had folded in her pocket, money she swore was not from tips. Before we left, I convinced her to take my hat, my scarf to wrap around her neck, to wear over her t-shirt.
Kate said, “You don’t order coffee the same way here as you do at my place. I don’t know what to think of this.”
I burned my tongue, the roof of my mouth, with my first sip, said, “Think nothing of it. Fuck.”
Kate watched me take my tongue, squeeze it between my gloved fingers. She said, “What are you doing tonight?”
And that’s when I remembered Marianne. Not that I had forgotten about her entirely, or what I had promised, but with Kate she was not at the forefront, much like the concern about getting to work on time, or, once there, getting any work done at all.
I said, “I have a date. A dinner date.”
Kate, with my hat down over her ears, my scarf tight around her neck, her hands kept warm in her pockets, with all the loose dollar bills, a heavy gathering of quarters, said, “You’re kidding.”
Her hands free of her pockets, now out by her sides. She said, “When did this happen?”
“On the phone early this week. It’s not what you’re thinking.”
“Tell me it’s with a relative.”
“No,” and at this, her words, I smile.
“No. An 18-year-old.”
“I want to ask, but I won’t.”
We stop in front of my office building, across from her café where the lines stretch now, stretch back to the door she pushed me away from. It is Bridget and the older woman, who’s name is Sue, so I’ve learned, making change and filling cups. I watch Kate watch them through the window.
She turns to me, says, “Can I see you this weekend?”
I say, “You know where to find me.”
“Have a good time tonight with,” and she waits.
“With Marianne,” she says, and I let her walk away wearing the stuff I own.