Nothing makes sense
I have no idea how I made it to work on Saturday morning. I discovered, half way home from the party at Kate's church, that one of the bus lines didn't run after 9 o'clock, and ended up having a two-mile walk to catch the next bus. I did my best to walk past Huey's on the way home, but a couple of my suitemates saw me and pulled me in. I then spent the next two hours drinking and listening to perhaps the worst band I've ever heard. I finally tumbled back into bed at around 2 AM, only to have the alarm blast me out of bed at 7. I was still woozy from the night before when I walked into work, just in time for the weekly meeting at 9:30.
I fell in beside Kate. "Have fun after the party last night?" She could always tell when it was the morning after for me.
"Not really," I said, turning toward her. I noticed a bruise under her right eye. "What happened to you?"
"I'll tell you later. We have lunch together at 11:30. I owe you, remember."
Kate came and got me at lunchtime. "Any idea where you want to go?"
"I don't know. We could go to Orange Julius, or run over to Jack In The Box."
"It's kind of chilly out. Let's stay in and go to Orange Julius."
We walked out into the mall and started down the escalators toward the third floor. "So, you want to tell me what happened?"
"Well, let's just say that last night wasn't a really good one for me. After I went back into the party, Rick and I had a huge fight, and we decided not to see one another for a while."
"Did he give you the black eye?"
"No. I got that at home. I don't want to talk about that." She bit her lip and I could tell that she was upset by it, so I didn't force the issue. "So, anyway, um..." Her eyes were getting wet. I pulled a packet of tissues out of my pocket and offered them to her. She took one and dabbed at her eyes.
"We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," I said. Of course, if whoever had done this to her were in the room with us, I'd have a few things to say.
"Do you ever have days like that, where it seems like everything goes wrong?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah, all the time. I think everyone does, once in a while." We stepped off the escalator on the third floor and checked out the line at the Orange Julius. As usual, being one of the few inexpensive places in the mall to eat, it was long. We stepped in at the end and stood there quietly. I felt her hand brush up against mine, and I took it. I looked at her, and she smiled up at me.
"You think Rosalie will mind if I do this?" she asked.
"Nah. She's actually pretty cool about this kind of thing. She actually encouraged me to ask you out."
"Really?" Kate smiled more brightly.
"She did. I told her you already had a boyfriend, but she said to ask you anyway. I don't know her that well, but she's really nice."
"She sounds nice. You've only known her a couple of weeks now, right?"
"Uh huh, and it seems like the longer I know her, the more questions I have. You know how two people in a relationship are supposed to get to know each other better? By the time I get off the phone with her, or leave her after we get together, I feel like I know her less than I did before."
"That's weird. So what do you think is going to happen between you two?"
"I don't know. Whenever we talk about that, she says 'it's going where it's going,' and that's where the conversation ends."
"Where would you like it to go, Tony?" She drew a little closer, and tipped her head inquisitively.
It was a good question, and I wished that I had a good answer for her. "I don't know," I said. "The longer I stand here, the more I think that maybe it won't go all that far."
By now, we were at the front of the line. We placed our orders, Kate paid (as she said she would), and we took the escalator up a level and found a bench near an ashtray. We finished half of our lunch before she asked me, "So, are you going to ask me out?"
"I was just getting to that," I said. She smiled. "Do you want to go out tonight?"
"Where would you like to go?"
"Anywhere. I just don't want to go home. How was that band that you saw last night? You said something about going to Huey's..."
"They were terrible. I wouldn't want to go see them again. How about a movie?"
"Mmmm. I'm not a big movie kind of person."
"Neither am I."
"You know, I think I'd just like to go somewhere quiet and talk."
I thought for a minute. "You know, there's a coffee house north of campus. I think they have someone playing there on the weekends, but it would probably be pretty quiet, at least for a while."
"That sounds like fun," she said. "Then, afterwards, who knows?"
I smiled. I liked the sound of "who knows".
We finished lunch and had a cigarette, then started back up to the seventh floor. As we were going up the escalator, I saw something that surprised me: the guy who had been tailing me on Sunday, riding down the escalator and chatting with the boss. They both smiled and waved at Kate and me.
"Who was that guy with the boss?" she asked. "It looked like he knew you."
"I sold him a bottle of wine last week. That's all."
She looked at me funny. "Are you OK? It's like you got pale all of a sudden."
"Yeah, I'm fine." I hoped that she couldn't tell that I really wasn't. "Just have to go to the bathroom, that's all."
She laughed. "Oh, well, thank you for sharing that." Just as we were ready to go back into work, she stopped suddenly and kissed me on the cheek. "Talk to you later."
In the restroom, I washed my hands and splashed some cold water on my face, then took a couple of deep breaths while I dried off. There had to be a logical explanation for what I was seeing, but I couldn't figure it out. What was the connection between the boss and this guy who was tailing me? Were they friends? Lovers? If so, why was this guy tailing me around? I went back out onto the floor and spent the rest of the day hard at work, trying hard not to think about it.
I just had to say something about this: I'm sure that most of you have heard by now about the disaster in the DePaul University area of Chicago, where a back porch collapsed, killing 12 students and injuring 45 others. As a graduate of Loyola, the other big Catholic college in Chicago, my prayers and thoughts are with their families and their friends.