love and like

dog-on-couch

Friday night.  

I had decided to tell Ann about the Corral Show, and maybe even the WAIF shows.  The Six Pistols had a show coming up Saturday night which I hadn’t even written yet.  Maybe I’d bring Ann to WAIF and show her off?  But no, that’d be a mistake.  The studio itself would skeev her out, if the Pistols themselves didn’t.  And all I needed was to get into a fight with Bob in front of her.  Wouldn’t that be perfect?  

Friday was a heady evening and moving in the same direction as our previous two dates.  We went to dinner, then found ourselves making out in some abandoned parking lot somewhere.  She had wanted to go home early.  But not to get rid of me.  Her mom was out for the evening and she thought we could relax at her place for a change.  

While I couldn’t get far enough away from my own home, and would have never brought any girl there, Ann was eminently comfortable in her own home.  Was it the security of the nest?  Access to a full bar?  Who knows.  Chemistry and cutting jokes and a looming Six Pistol show were making me anxious.  But anywhere with Ann, I felt I could relax.

Outside, the house glowed from Christmas lights still lit up several weeks into March.  We came inside, leaving the interior of the house dark.  The living room was chilly and I slumped onto the couch.  Ann went to the kitchen, then returned a minute later with drinks.  

“You’re nervous,” she said.

“No.  Not at all.  I love it here.  It’s great.”

She climbed over and kissed me.  And she was ravenous, suddenly, a wild look in her eyes.  

“I wanted tonight to be special,” she said.  

“Yeah?”

“So, I’m speeding.”

I stared at her.  

“Please?”

“I’m speeding.  I took speed.  I’m totally wired right now.”

“Oh.”

She kissed me again, and had her blouse off and was fumbling with her bra.  And my mind rocketed forward.  

Speed?  She took speed.  I’m 17.  She’s 16.  And she took speed.  Not even “amphetamines.”  She actually took speed!

Years of half-ignored health ed classes washed over me like angry, punishing waves.  

Pills.  Uppers.  Like caffeine.  But lasts longer.  I think.  Right?  So, she’s wired – hyper – and she’s drinking – she’s drinking one of her everything-she-could-find-in-the-kitchen concoctions – mixing booze – a downer – with uppers – so so so so – what if she O.D.s?  And her mom comes home and –

“Ann?!”  

My eyes went wide.  Her mom was upstairs.

“I thought she wasn’t – ”

Ann covered my mouth, rolled her eyes, annoyed.

“Ann!?  Are you home?!”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Is that Glen?”

Glen?

“It’s Alex, Mom.  We just came in!”

“Wonderful!  I’ll be right down!”

“Mom!  Please!  We’re fine!”

“No bother!  I’m getting a robe on.”

“Shit!”  Ann knocked her glass off the table, pissed.  “Goddammit!”  

Imagine how cute and surreal it would have been if a large sheepdog had suddenly barreled into the room, leapt onto the couch and started licking Ann’s face.  But of course, there was no dog.  No timely interruption.  No comic relief.

“Ann, dear, fix me a drink?”

“Whadda you want?”

“Whatever you’re having.”

Glen?” I mouthed.  

Ann shook her head:  Not now.  She got up, casually, bra half-off, and went to the kitchen.  I sat upright, and arranged myself.  

Ms. DeAngela came down in a robe, sleepy, but enthused.  

“Hel-lo, Alex.  How are you?”

“Great.  Fine.  Great.”  

And certainly not raping your daughter.

“Ann!” she shivered.  “It’s so cold!  Let’s heat something up!  How ‘bout spiced cider?”

“I was – actually – just heading out,” I stammered.

“Already?  It’s early!”

“Yeah.  Late night.  Big show coming up!”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad.”

“Yes.  Yes.  It is too bad.  It is.”

And Ann came back – clothed, thank God – with more drinks.  

“I think – I’ll just be heading out, then,” I said, inching to the door.

“Jesus,” said Ann, glaring at her mom.

“Yeah.  Yes.  Well.  Good night.  G’night, Ann.”

Don’t leave,” they both said.

“G’night,” I said.

“Drive safe,” called Ms. DeAngela.  

 

I drove aimlessly for an hour before finally pulling into my driveway.   The house was quiet, but Dad had left me a note:  Call Ann.

 

“That was so stupid,” she said.  “She’s so clingy.  Honestly, I really didn’t know she was there.”

“I know,” I said.  “Sorry I left.  I panicked.”

“That’s okay.”

“Who’s Glen?”

There was dead air on the line for a second.

“Didn’t I tell you about him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“He’s a – he’s just some guy at school.  A normal guy.  He wrestles.  He’s really quiet.”

“And – are you seeing him?”

“No.  No.  I mean – a couple times.  That’s all.  Nothing serious.”

“Oh.”

“He’s not like you.  He’s not at all like you.  But – ” she trailed off.  Her voice was shaky.  

“What?”

“He told me he loves me.”

“Huh,” I said.  “Huh.  Wow.”

“Yeah.  Wow.”

“After two dates?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.  Do you – love him?”

“He’s very nice.”

“Uh huh.”

“What about you?” she said.

“What?”

“Do you love me?”

And.  And there was nothing then.  Nothing but still air in the still night.

“I – I like you, Ann.  I really like you.  I’ve never met anyone like you.”

“But – ?”

And we were quiet and awkward.  Till now, this may have been the longest unbroken conversation we’d ever had.  Followed by the longest silence.

 

I did like Ann.  A lot.  I can’t imagine that she liked this Glen guy remotely as much as she liked me.  Or as much as she believed she liked me.  But I had nothing to trump I love you with.  Something about I love you was exactly what Ann wasn’t getting from me, maybe wasn’t getting from anybody.  She needed I love you from someone within reach, the same way I needed it from a roomful of strangers week after week.  

But I couldn’t lie to her.  I liked her too much for that.  And I honestly don’t think I had I love you in me for anyone or anything at that point.  And it would’ve been cruel to pretend I did.  

 

Living room.  Two a.m.  

I sat at the typewriter, working.  Dad came in, bleary-eyed.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Writing Saturday’s show.”

“The whole show?”

“Mm.”

“Can’t someone else write the show?”

“Bucky gave me a page – it’s here somewhere.  Dave gave me this.”  I held up a half-torn scrap of loose-leaf notebook paper.

“God.  You have to do the whole thing yourself?”

“If I don’t write it, it doesn’t happen.  Y’know?  They’ll just play records.  That’s the way it is.  It’s my show.”

“How longer you gonna be up?”

“I dunno.  Half an hour.”

“Heard from any of the schools?”

“I – no…not yet.  I’m working on it.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“No.  No.  I’ll go to bed soon, Dad.  I promise.”

He stood over me as I typed.  

“Y’know,” he said, letting out a long, deep breath, “UC or Miami – they’re okay schools.  It wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

I looked up at him.

“I know.”

He nodded, emphatically, and shuffled off to bed.

But now, more than ever, I wanted to get out of Cincinnati.  

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