And while we're on the subject of Chicago, and neighborhoods, here's the next part of the story...
Eddie walked into the room as I was getting ready for Kate's party. "Ooh, aren't we pretty!"
"I'm going to a party, OK? Might as well look good." I had on a flowered satin shirt, a pair of Britannia jeans, and a pair of dress shoes.
"Looks like you're trying to impress the ladies, my friend. Who's throwing this bash?"
"It's at some church way out near Niles. This girl that I know invited me."
"You know a girl? I'm impressed." Eddie smiled this silly grin that let me know that he wsan't all that impressed.
"Yeah, I run into them all the time, asshole," I said, fighting with my cowlick to try and get my hair to stay down. "I don't just buy them on the newsstand."
"Screw you," Eddie said, not angry as much as sarcastic. "So, who is this mystery woman?"
"Her name's Kate Molloy..."
"NO!" Eddie dropped onto his bed. "Red hair, big green eyes..." He cupped his hands about a foot in front of his chest.
"Sounds like you know her."
"Oh, shit, Tony, everyone knows her."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, I'm not saying anything bad. I'm just saying that she's gotta be the hottest girl on campus. And she asked YOU out?"
"It's not like she asked me out. We work together at Field's. She takes some classes down at LT a couple of days a week. We ran into each other on Monday, she invited me to this party. So what?"
"Ooh." Eddie was clearly impressed. "What about Rosalie?"
"She's fine with it. She's working this weekend, and besides, she thought it was a good idea."
"So, she gave you permission to go?"
"Eddie, it's not like that, OK?" I shook my head and sighed. "Rosalie and I are friends. We get together once in a while, but it's not like I'm married to her or anything. It hasn't gotten that far with her. Hell, I've only known her a couple of weeks. It's not that serious. So, what are you going to do tonight?"
"Bunch of us are going to Huey's. You know Jeff in the next suite? He's got a brother who's in a band that's playing there. They're playing from 9 to 1. Hey, if you get back early, which you probably will considering that this party is at a church, why don't you come down and join us?"
"I might. I've got work in the morning, though."
"You don't have to stay all night. Just come on down if you feel up to it, all right?"
"That could work. OK." I grabbed my windbreaker off of the back of my chair. "See you later."
It took me over an hour to navigate the buses to get out to Kate's church. Fortunately, I saw some people around my age when I got off the last bus and followed them to where the party was being held. I paid my admission and looked around for Kate. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be; every other girl in the place seemed to be a redhead. Someone came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and she was there.
"Hey, Tony! I'm glad you could make it. Come on, I'll introduce you to everyone." She led me to a table in a corner, where I counted six girls and six guys. "Everybody, this is Tony Reardon." She pointed to a tall blond guy. "This is my boyfriend, Rick..."
"My pleasure, Tony," he said.
"Yeah, nice to meet you. Kate's talked about you," I said, mustering as much enthusiasm as I could.
Kate introduced the other five couples at the table, then said, "and this is Esperanza."
I turned and met the eyes of a stunning Latin girl, who smiled up at me. "Hi! You can call me Hope," she said, extending her hand to me. She had a faint trace of an accent, which made her even more appealing.
"How do you do?" I said, taking her hand. "It's a real pleasure to meet you." I pulled up a chair beside her and sat down. I was feeling a whole lot better now.
The evening went slowly downhill from there. For one thing, nearly everyone at the table, being north siders, were Cubs fans. I, being from the south side, was the lone White Sox fan. This put me on the wrong side of most of the conversation at the table. Then, twenty minutes after my arrival, Hope decided that she wasn't feeling well and left for home just before the band started playing. Needless to say, when the music started, everyone but me got up to dance. I sat and watched for a couple of minutes, trying to think of a good way to excuse myself. I glanced at my watch, and saw that it was only quarter to nine. I figured, if the buses were running good, I could make it to Huey's by ten, maybe ten-thirty. I decided to go out and have a cigarette, then come back in and make my excuses.
I went outside and lit a cigarette, and found a place to sit along a low wall near some bushes. It was a nice night, cool and a little breezy, but clear so that I could see the stars. A jet flew overhead, probably on its way to O'Hare, which I knew was only a few miles away. I wondered where it was coming from. I put out my cigarette and stood up to go back inside.
"There you are!" a cheerful voice called out to me. "I figured I'd find you here." Kate was approaching.
"Hey, what's going on?" I asked nonchalantly.
"Nothing. Just figured I'd come out for a cigarette. They don't allow smoking in there and my crowd doesn't really like it, anyway." She pulled out a cigarette, and I lit it for her, and lit one for myself. "Thanks, Tony. Listen, I'm sorry..."
"For what?" I asked. I knew, but I wanted to hear her say it.
"Oh, that this evening turned into such a disaster."
"It wasn't a disaster. Not much of one, anyway. Hey, I got to see you, and I got to meet your boyfriend..."
"Could I talk to you about that for a minute?"
She took me by the hand and led me around to the back of the building. There was a bench there in a small garden. She sat down and motioned for me to sit next to her. "Tony, I think I might have given you the wrong impression on Monday. Did you think that I was going to be your date this evening?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, you asked me to come, I naturally assumed that you were asking me to be here for you."
"You knew I had a boyfriend, didn't you?"
"I asked you out once, you said you had a boyfriend, I didn't pursue it any further. I guess when you asked me here tonight, I assumed that you two had broken up, or he was busy or something, and you didn't want to go to this thing alone. I don't know what I was thinking. You don't normally talk about him. It's OK."
"No, it's not OK. I should have been clearer with you. You're too nice of a guy to treat like that." She sat back and sighed.
"Your friend was a real sweetheart. I'm kind of sorry that I didn't get a chance to get to know her better."
"See, that was the idea. I was trying to fix the two of you up together. I mean, she just broke up with her boyfriend and was really bummed by it."
I wanted to smack her in the head when she said that. She probably hadn't told her friend that I was coming. I didn't say anything, just shook my head and smiled.
"Listen, I feel bad for dragging you all the way out here and doing this to you. I want to make it up to you somehow. You want me to give you a ride home?"
"Tell you what. Buy me lunch tomorrow, and we'll call it even."
She smiled. "It's a deal."
We sat and had another cigarette together, then I walked her back to the dance. "See you tomorrow, OK?" I said.
She put her arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek. "OK! Don't be late, all right?"
"I won't." I waved to her as she went back inside, then I went out to the bus stop. A bus came right away. Well, there was one thing that went right.
I know that the preceding seems a little off-track, but it'll all make sense tomorrow.