Here's the next installment. Some adolescent male humor ahead. You have been warned.
Wednesday came, and I spent the day knowing that I would be calling Rosalie that evening. She had been playing at the corners of my mind all week, now she was taking center stage. What would I say to her after hello? I had questions. Lots of questions. I wanted to know everything about her, but especially the things that puzzled me the most. Such as why she had wanted me to wait to call her until today.
At seven, I went downstairs to the lobby of the dorm and took the last public phone, the one that gave the most privacy. I could have made the call from Eddie's phone, but that would have come with the price of having to let Eddie listen. I wanted to be a little more cool than that. I put two dimes into the phone and dialed her number, and let the phone ring a dozen times before hanging up. Obviously, she wasn't home.
I went back to my floor and killed some time, had a couple of cigarettes and shot the bull with some of the guys there, then went back downstairs to the phones. All three of them were in use. I remembered that there were more phones in the cafeteria building, and walked over there, only to discover that the doors were chained shut. It was 8 o'clock, and I knew that I was going to have to make this call soon. My mother had always said that no polite person calls after nine, and I didn't want to run afoul of that rule. Not when a relationship was on the line.
I went back up to the phones and one had opened up. It was the one in the middle, but that was OK. I put in my money and tried her number again. This time, the phone was busy. A girl was waiting to use the phone, so I relinquished the phone, and waited in line for the next one to open. By the time I got to make my call, it was five to nine. I was nervous about calling so late, but I dropped in my money and made the call. She answered on the third ring.
"Rosalie? It's Tony," I said, my voice cracking.
"Hey! You called!" I could feel her smile in her voice. It felt nice. "Have you been trying me for long?" I started to tell her the story, but she cut me off. "That's OK. I was on the phone with my mother, and I remembered you'd be trying to call."
"I hope it's not too late..."
"Oh, no, it's never too late for you. How are you? Did you get that paper written?"
We spent the next twenty minutes chatting about what had gone on for the last several days. She told me that she was a clerk for a law firm on Clark Street, and that she knew that there was a big case coming up that she was helping to write up, which is why she asked me to call her tonight and not sooner. Her tone shifted suddenly. "You know, it feels so nice to have someone to share my day with. Since my divorce, it's just been me and this big apartment. It's lonely. Do you know how that is?"
"Yeah, I think I do. I feel the same way, even though I live in a dorm with a bunch of guys. It's like, I'm not alone, but I'm lonely." I looked to my right, and Eddie and Will were standing there, making faces at me. I gave them the finger and they both gave it back, then Eddie made motions like he needed to say something to me. "Hang on a sec, Rosalie," I said, and covered the mouthpiece. "What, Blaskowski?"
"Nothin'. We were just going to the Campus Room. Wanna come with?"
"How about if I meet you there?"
"How long you gonna be?"
"A'right, we'll see you there," he said.
I waited until they left through the revolving door. "I'm back," I said.
"Everything all right there?"
"Yeah, just taking a ration of shit from my roommate and one of the other guys. They're gone now. Where were we?"
"I was just saying that it's nice to have someone to talk to at the end of the day. You said that you felt the same. We have a lot in common, I think. Maybe that's what drew me to you. Kind of like kismet."
"Kismet?" I had never heard that term before.
"Fate. The alignment of the planets. Lightning striking twice in the same place. I mean, you have to admit, it was pretty interesting, the two of us running into one another on Sunday like we did, especially after seeing each other the night before. I've been going to Butch McGuire's for ten years now, and I've never run into a guy there that I've seen later, unless I knew the guy to begin with. That's why I said something when I saw you on Sunday. I could tell that there was some chemistry between us on Saturday night."
"Wow. No one's ever said anything like that to me before." What she said sent a warm shiver down my spine. It was like my whole body went pins-and-needles for a second. I leaned up against the wall and shut my eyes.
"Tony, you're a special guy, you know that?"
"What do you mean?" How would she know that?"
"I mean, I can tell that you're a warm and gentle person. There's a real honesty about you that comes from deep inside. I guess I haven't felt that in a long time from a guy. It's like you've never learned to play any of the games that guys play. And I hope that you never do."
"Thanks, I think." My mouth felt dry and I was stuck for something to say.
"Am I going to see you this weekend?"
"Well, I have to work on Saturday and Sunday..."
"Of course." She sounded like she was smiling.
"But, yeah. I'm free any of those evenings." I'll ditch school for you, lady, just say the word.
"What time are you done Saturday?" she asked.
"Unless your boss keeps you after, right?" She laughed, and I laughed along.
"All right then. You come out onto Michigan Avenue, right? I'll meet you there at sixish on Saturday."
"Sounds great. Hey, let me give you my numbers." I gave her the number for the dorm and for work.
"I'll call if anything comes up. Otherwise, I'll talk to you Saturday. Kiss kiss, sweetheart. Pleasant dreams."
She hung up before I could say goodbye. Not to mention before I could ask her any of the burning questions on my mind.
So, what did I know now that I didn't know before? She's divorced, which will play really well with Mother. She said she's been going to Butch McGuire's for ten years, which means that she's at least 31. And she'll be waiting for me on Saturday after work. Beyond that, nothing. This mystery woman in my life was becoming too much of a mystery for me. I asked myself what I was doing for the umpteenth time. Did I really want to get involved with her? She sounded like trouble, and I didn't know her that well.
I glanced at my watch, and it was only 9:30. Plenty of time to go get a couple of beers and shoot a couple of games of pool with Eddie and Will, maybe get a gyro and fries after that. I didn't want to hang around my room. I walked out the revolving door and headed for the Campus Room.
I wasn't much of a pool player, but there was something about hanging out at the Campus Room that I really liked. Maybe it was just that they sold beer and didn't care how long you hung around, because they charged for pool by the hour. The equipment was all updated on a regular basis, the floor was level, the lighting was good, it was clean and the air circulated well, so people who didn't smoke weren't saddled with much smoke from those of us who did. Twenty four tables, their felt alternating between green and orange, formed a checkerboard pattern in the room. I stopped at the bar and bought three bottles of Budweiser, then joined my friends at the corner table. Besides us, there were two girls playing at a table toward the front, and a couple of older men playing in the middle of the room.
"Hey, Reardon, we're just racking up here," Eddie said. "You play winner, OK?"
"Sounds fine to me," I said. I went over to the wall and found a straight cue stick, then dragged a stool over so that I could watch them playing."
"So, did you get a chance to talk to her, Tony?" Will was racking up the balls for Eddie, who probably had won all of the games up to this point.
"Yeah, I did. She's doing great. We have a date for Saturday."
"Ooh, someone's got a date this Saturday after work!" Eddie lined up his first shot. One powerful stroke and the balls scattered all over the felt. Two of them dropped, the seven ball into the right corner pocket, the five ball into the left corner. "Think you'll get in her pants?"
"Eddie," I pleaded. "We just started seeing each other, and we damn sure haven't gotten that far just yet." I lit a cigarette and swigged on my beer.
"What? Hey, these are days of free love, roomie. What else could she be interested? Probably not your stellar personality."
"Why not? I was nice to her, I bought her a beer, I lent her a cigarette..."
"Neither of which you can remember, buddy. I think she came into the store, saw you, decided you'd be easy, and she's just stringing you along until she can figure out a way to get you to paint her apartment." He lined up a shot at the one ball and hit the cue ball at it, hard. The one caromed around the table, eventually settling in the middle. "Damn!" he swore.
"Hey, what are those apartments like, anyway?" Will said, aiming at the eleven ball. "They anything like they talk about in Bagtime?"
"What, you mean with baseball players and hockey players having orgies in there all the time?" Will was talking about the series that had run in the Sun-Times that summer, featuring a character who was a bag boy at the Treasure Island food store. "I didn't see any of the White Sox there, if that's what you mean."
"I bet her place is really ritzy," Eddie said. "Those places are supposed to cost an arm and a leg. How do you think she could swing it?"
Good question, Eddie. "I don't know. She said she was divorced, maybe she got it in the settlement."
Will sank the eleven ball, and the cue ball. Eddie pulled both balls out of the pocket, set the eleven on the spot in the middle of the table, and lined up the cue ball. "All right, so let me see if we got this straight. You're trying to tell us that this rich divorcee walks into Marshall Field's, sees some poor college student trying to make carfare money by selling wine, falls in love, and decides she wants him?"
"That wasn't where we met, Eddie," I said. "I told you, we met at Butch McGuire's."
"Which you can't remember."
"I can't remember much of what I did last night, let alone what I did under the influence of a lot of really expensive beer."
"You want me to tell you what you did last night?" Eddie had a devilish grin on his face. "You were pulling on yourself and moaning the name of that boss of yours that smells like a Forest Preserve outhouse."
"Eddie! That's disgusting," Will said. He lined up a shot at the twelve ball and hit it off center, so that it bounced into the eight ball and knocked it into the side pocket. "Son of a bitch!"
"Hey, you boys watch your language back there," the attendant called from behind his counter, pointing at the sign above our heads that said "No Profane Language".
"Sorry, sir," Will said.
"Hey, listen, let's get out of here," Eddie said. "I'm hungry."
"What, you're not going to give me a chance to kick your ass at pool?" I nudged him with my stick. I didn't care. I was hungry, too.
"Nah, I'll spare you this time," he said. "Seriously, when am I going to get a chance to meet this girlfriend of yours?"
I just smiled, and shrugged. As my buddies settled up with the attendant, I mulled over what they had said. The more I thought about it, the weirder it seemed. I resolved not to think about it again until Saturday.
I finally figured out where this is going. You'll just have to keep reading to find out. Heh heh heh...