An "Un-Remarkable Girl"
Part Two -- Perennial Dusk
I don't know whether it was nerves,
the strangeness of being in a place I'd never been before- a little extra
bit of awareness I absorbed from Randy and Cheryl, or what- But by the
time the woman's shift at the pizza place ended, everything felt and almost
different- The night took on a 'dream like' quality. I got the distinct
impression that everyone who walked by us was shuffling through a dream-
and none of them had any control over their actions. Luckily, I thought,
none of them were being controlled by any violent urges.
I glanced at Cheryl and she looked
like she was aware of my discomfort with the idea that none of the people
out there were actually in control of their lives or themselves.
Her eyes looked like they adjusted
to register pleasant surprise at something she saw in me- Then she leaned
back into the shadows and almost disappeared.
When my eyes registered the presence
of her shadow within the shadows of the back seat, I may have sighed audibly.
I'm not sure. I know I was relieved to think that she couldn't actually
make herself literally invisible.
Randy half turned toward the back
seat as he watched the pizza woman and her current man friend say good
night to the man who locked the door behind her, "The apartment on the
second floor's still vacant, isn't it? Think Geoff would let him stay there
a couple days- until his car is ready?"
The shadow nodded, "He even mentioned
that- I think we have clean sheets and blankets and towels- It would take
me, maybe two minutes to gather up that stuff and it's just across the
I realized they were talking
about me- arranging a place for me to stay. I don't know whether I was
happier about them caring about me or my figuring out what they were talking
about,. "I'm exhausted-"
I could feel Cheryl smiling
As Randy drove us back to the restaurant/apartment
house I felt a little apprehensive that I didn't know my way around this
city at all. If left on my own, I would be completely lost. But I also
felt more relaxed than usual, almost as if friendly molecules of air were
rushing toward my forehead and running down my temples and almost tickling
me as they passed.
He turned a corner and drove
up, onto the sidewalk, and stopped about six inches short of a wooden fence
between a Brick wall and a stone building. His sideways grin gave me the
impression that he'd been hoping I'd be at least slightly shocked by his
driving, "Don't go nowhere-" he had an amused tone to his voice.
Randy turned sideways, kind
of glided out of his seat and took a few steps toward the wall. I couldn't
see exactly what he did, but he must have unlatched something. The wooden
fence became a gate when he picked it up and pushed it back into the night.
Headlights revealed a narrow alley and then a wider area of darkness ahead.
And Randy slid back into
his seat and eased his vehicle forward. A motion detector lit a light on
a wall that was back about six feet from the outside edge of a wooden porch-
Wooden beams cast shadows, I realized a fog had gradually stated itself.
Bits of moisture in the air caught the light and almost twinkled-
"Here's where we get out-" Cheryl
almost giggled, like she was reminding herself and found that amusing.
I sort of automatically guessed
I was part of that 'we' and opened my door, stepped out and pulled my seat
back out of her way so she could climb out through my door.
She was not as tall as I'd
thought she was. Her eyes were not as small as the eyes of the girl in
Geoff's sketch- It did register that there was something remarkable about
her eyes- but I couldn't tell what-
She stepped around me as
I closed the door.
The door closed with a solid
thud that sounded a bit 'removed', distinct but distant? Randy stepped
on the gas and the vehicle quietly moved backward and then angled toward
the brick building, where several garage doors hinted at that building's
Cheryl laughed through her
nose and I turned to see her open the door with a key. I got the impression
that she was having a bit of difficulty getting used to the idea of carrying
a purse around with her.
Subdued lighting in the hallway-
The odd impression that echoes from our feet went on forever- I followed
her into a world that was relaxed, but alien- If someone told me I'd been
drugged at this point I would have believed it.
She opened a door into a
stairwell and we climbed. Our echoes didn't continue on into forever any
more, but they seemed unnaturally crisp.
The turns at the top of each
leg of the climb made me feel like I'd spend the rest of eternity turning
around.(There was a landing halfway to the second floor- a glance up near
the railing gave me the impression that there might have been four stories
to this building- I wondered why I hadn't stepped outside in the daylight
to figure that out. Then I wondered what I'd done all day. -followed Geoff
up into his studio- got a look at the portable room on wheels he'd built
for Cheryl- did not have the guts to actually go inside the thing, (felt
too much like trespassing in somebody's private world) but I did look inside
and thought it looked 'cozy'. I sat on a chair that had been a car seat
and watched Geoff put on a welder's mask. I sat there, half in awe, as
he fiddled with hunks of metal and rods and created a fairly large wall
hanging that looked like metal ivy- We went down into the restaurant to
eat something, I got out my credit card, but Geoff wouldn't let me pay
for it, "You're my guest-" and then Randy came in, dressed in black (or
real dark blue?) with his little Karate patches and his night stick and
looked at me with his hawk like eyes. I think we ate some kind of brown
rice and big chunky vegetable thing and I called the auto repair place
and got a recording and Randy asked me if I wanted to go sit with him while
he kept an eye on a woman who was afraid she was being stalked.)
Here it was, almost midnight,
and I was following Cheryl around like an overgrown puppy.
She led us out of the stairway,
walked to a door, unlocked it, "Just a second, let me make sure Geoff isn't
sitting around naked or anything-" She disappeared for a moment into a
grey mist and returned with a smile, "It's safe-"
She flipped a wall switch
as I walked into the grey mist and a room materialized around us. The lights
she'd turned on were fake candles in a candelabra in the wall. All the
walls were white or off white. There was a fireplace (painted white) which
had a large square of metal (painted white) bolted in place to render it
useless, a pretty large mirror over the fireplace with a lot of tiny squares
of mirror all around the edge- I took a couple steps toward the mirror
and realized the ceiling was very high and then realized that the little
guy looking up at me was me, in the mirror.
I heard the floor creak and
turned around as Cheryl handed me a pile of sheets, blankets and towels
and then I was following her again- out into the hall, a couple more steps-
she stopped at a door that was almost directly across the hall from the
door we'd just been through and back- I glanced sideways and wondered how
far the hallway went, and wondered if the inside dimensions of this building
anywhere near matched the outside dimensions...
She tried a couple keys,
shrugged, might have blushed and then got it right-
It took her a moment to find
the light switch and the light in there was too harsh-
She turned and stepped into
the room. I took a step forward and glanced down at a rather unique, probably
antique, end table- it was curved like it was supposed to fit in a corner,
had what looked like leather built into it, had a pair of drawers above
the largest flat area and an open space on either side of those drawers,
I guessed, for books- I don't know whether it was the lighting, or my state
of mind or what, but I could swear the darned table was sentient. If it
sighed and walked away I might have taken that right in stride. It seemed
surprised to see me- I blinked and stepped sideways into the 'living room'.
This living room was basically
a mirror image of the one across the hall (without the mirror- I thought
would have been spooky). The floor was mostly covered in a brown linoleum
thing that was in pretty sad shape (black, worn spots abounded). The walls
were white, but sections of the walls had just been fixed and the white
in these spots was a whiter, chalkier white than the rest of the wall.
The fire place here, almost identical to the one across the hall- had not
been painted white, but had been stained a chestnut brown. There were sections
where the stain needed help- it looked sad. The metal plate bolted in place
to cover the area where a fire could have been was rusted brown and black.
There was a black fake leather couch in the center of the room with a couple
tears in its fabric through which white cotton stuff was trying to escape.
There was a hexagonal extension
to this room that I hadn't noticed in the room across the hall. Large,
thin pieces of material (that almost resembled Persian rugs) had been tacked
up inside the windows of this hexagonal area and kind of lent their blues
and browns to the whole room.
I followed Cheryl through
a kitchen with a breakfast nook (and another thin piece of Persian inspired
cotton in the window) past a bathroom and into a large bedroom. The bedroom
had a double sized mattress on the floor and a blue corduroy covered recliner
and a tall dresser that needed a bit of attention (broken bits of the curved
stained facade were missing- It looked proud of itself and I got the impression
that it was trying to pretend that it hadn't suffered the indignation of
any broken pieces of its brave front-
Cheryl pointed at the bed
and I set the blankets and stuff down on the recliner, looked around, She
said something, but the echoes in the place garbled ever word and I followed
her back to the door- She made a side trip to a thermostat and I caught
a glimpse of dust swirling through a ray of electric light that managed
to sneak in around the slight curved opening between the fabric and the
wooden edge of the window-
In spite of the sad fixtures
and furniture, the place had a 'safe' feel-
I blurted as Cheryl was about
to open the door and escape, "Is this place blessed?"
She turned and her eyes widened-
"You can feel it? Yes- Our former tenant was superstitious and went and
got a Catholic priest to bless the place before he moved into it."
"Why did he leave?"
She shrugged, "Transferred
to another college- I think-"
She smiled- "See you in the
She kind of bowed and left.
The door closed with a quiet,
but somehow 'final' click.
I reached out automatically
and locked the locks (three of them.)
I don't know whether I had
to go to the bathroom, but I sort of watched myself walk into that room
and turn on the light. Blinded by what looked like brand new (or newly
polished) white tiles (with a border of smaller, two-tone blue tiles).
I wondered if I'd heard her say something like, "The bathroom is all newly
cleaned and restored-" The tub had sliding glass doors (and a mat with
suction cups lying upside down on the wide flattened top of the large porcelain
tub itself-) I saw my hand go out and touch the old style spigots and 'heard',
"Be careful about the hot water- it's very hot- and don't worry about running
I turned around and almost
thought I saw a black and white sketch of a nine year old girl come to
life. That girl in my imagination was standing there looking at me. That
portrait was haunting me-
The shower was magic- I could
have stood there forever- then I panicked and wondered if I'd had enough
sense to go get the towels- Turned the water off, opened the door and yes,
there were towels there, on the white pre-sentient marble over the
chestnut (restored?) cabinets near the oversized shell motif sink- I imagined
the room in green and almost thought I was in a forest where a magical
set of bathroom facilities had materialized out of nowhere-
Dried, wrapped in the largest
towel, I walked barefoot to the bedroom. I grabbed the blankets and turned
around in time to watch a mouse see me and turn and run across the mattress.
I froze for a moment, turned and looked at the recliner and the next thing
I knew, I was wrapped in blankets, reclining in the recliner with my clothes
on top of the dresser and every light in the apartment was out- A blue,
white and brown pattern from the fabric covering the bedroom windows felt
like it became three dimensional and filled the room. I could have sworn
the recliner turned and floated out into the night. I know I went somewhere-
but I blinked and it was getting lighter outside- I felt cheated- like
I hadn't really slept- so I yawned and closed my eyes.
A while later I opened my
eyes and jumped, looked at my wrist- 10 A.M.
At ten fifteen I was dressed
and wandering around, lost in the first floor hallway. I found a door to
the street, stepped out, realized I was locked outside when the door shut-
So I wandered around the block, more terrified with each step that I'd
stepped into another dimension and might never find my way back-
But then I turned the right corner
and saw the restaurant right there and solid in front of me.
Geoff looked up when I came
through the door, grinned, glanced at the door that Randy had come through
the evening before.
I turned around and assured
myself that the sun was shining out there somewhere and the sunlight actually
touched the sidewalk I'd just been walking on-
I nodded, sat down at the
I was almost finished with
the eggs and toast when somebody sat down beside me, "Call about your car
I shook my head and turned
to recognize Randy.
Geoff set a plate full of
toast and a bowl of hot oatmeal in front of Randy and refilled my coffee
"Did you say you had to be
anywhere in the next couple days?" Randy sampled his oatmeal.
I shook my head, "As a matter
of fact, I was on my way home from a weekend at a friend's- I've got like
two weeks of vacation before a severance check comes in- pink slip time."
Randy raised his eyebrows
as he stared at his oatmeal, "Think you could handle a night job, wandering
around an empty warehouse, punching time clocks every fifteen minutes?"
"Pay isn't bad- Right now,
this job is a fill in- ten hours Saturday night, ten hours Sunday night
and Eight hours Monday night."
Randy nodded- "Guy just quit
last night- One free uniform if they have your size- then a uniform allowance
if you last six months-"
He shrugged- "After Breakfast-
I can drive you to your car and over to the agency, we can fill out the
paperwork and you don't mind being finger printed, do you?"
I shook my head.
"Ever taken any Martial Arts
I shook my head, "Used to
drive my neighbor's kids to their Karate Classes and the instructor had
the whole class show off their warm up routines in front of me a couple
Randy shrugged, "I'll tell
the boss you're a beginning student of mine- he pays an extra buck an hour
We got the keys to my car
while the mechanic was busy with another customer. I almost choked at the
smell inside the car. One suitcase in the back seat, two in the trunk.
I noticed Randy and the mechanic talking and grabbed my tool box, jack
and lug wrench.
Everything safe in Randy's power
wagon, I walked in on their conversation.
Randy noticed I was there,
"Oh, Jake, this is Jack-"
I offered to shake his hand.
Jake scowled at the layers
of grease on his hand and shook the air a few inches in front of my hand-
"One of Randy's students, huh? My kid has improved from a C average to
A minus since we been taking him to Randy's 'Karate for Kids' class- broke
a couple lamps, but I think he's a lot happier than he used to be-"
Jake sighed, "Anyway, I told
Randy, your car ain't worth fixin- cost more than its worth in just labor
to rig a whole new electric harness and all the hoses and belts are melted-
I tell ya what though- I got this blue four wheel drive automatic Subaru
station wagon that needs brake lines, it's got a fairly new motor and doesn't
look like much, but its good for another hundred and fifty thousand miles-
can't kill them suckers- it's yours for a thousand-"
I did some quick calculating.
Severance pay would more than cover that- Insurance? Registration? I could
see the car outside in a line with three other cars- "How old is it?"
We walked outside-
Unlocked it- smelled like
air freshener- cloth seats. I moved the seat back and liked the feel- flipped
open the compartment behind the shift lever, opened the glove compartment-
"...Passed inspection- no
problem there..." floors and behind the back seat- also spotless, I glanced
toward the odometer- "Eight hundred is as low as I can go- but then, if
anything strange pops up when I'd doing the brakes, that'd have to be extra."
I looked at Randy. Randy
More calculation- "I've got
a check that will more than cover that coming in about two weeks- right
now...I, um, think I have about three hundred available on my credit card-"
Jake blushed, "Eight hundred
includes your car as a trade in- I have a friend who can use the parts-"
he glanced at Randy.
"Two hundred on your card
and six more in two weeks, when your check comes?" Jake looked thoughtful,
"Might take me a couple days- to get the parts and get to the brakes-"
I noticed clouds reflected in the station wagon's window- looked around
and everything was kind of grey and subdued. Jake was wearing greasy grey
coveralls, Randy was dressed in black jeans and a black jacket and wore
mirrored sunglasses-. I nodded. Randy grinned.
The sound of the credit card imprinter
was a little too final for me, Jake scribbled something on the receipt
and then ran the card through the telephone thing and punched in some numbers,
"Receipt function on this thing here's on the blink, glad I found this
old piece of- junk-" he nodded and wrote a number on the receipt- "Okay,
I'll give Randy a call when it's ready- or if, God forbid, I discover anything
else wrong with the car- oh, anything I do is guaranteed for a year unless
the manufacturer's got a better deal- then it's longer- I can give you
lifetime on front disk brakes- even with four wheel drive-"
Randy didn't like the smell when
we climbed back into his truck.
"Electric fires-" he shuddered,
opened his window. We drove through the grey universe, parked in front
of a grey stone building, walked down an alley and into an office.
A woman with curly brown hair and
huge brown eyes looked up, grinned at Randy, "This the new guy?" she handed
me a form to fill out and a pen, "Go right in- he's ready for ya-"
I followed Randy into a small
office with a large desk. There was a small, balding gentleman in an older
suit jacket glaring at a computer on a second desk that had been squeezed
in, along the side wall, "Oh now what the fuh- oh-" he noticed us there-
"Hi Randy- this your friend?" He did stick his hand out.
"Yes, Jack Owens, this is
Fred smiled warmly at me,
"Always like a man with a strong grip-" then he shrugged toward his computer,
"Froze up on me again-"
I looked at the computer,
"What is it, a 486?"
Fred Scowled, "No- it's a
Randy tried not to laugh,
"He means what generation is the chip inside it-"
Fred shrugged, "It was fine
before we upgraded to windows 98-"
I tried not to sigh too loud,
followed the phone line from the back of the computer to the wall- "You're
not on line with printer sharing turned on are you?"
"Huh? You know something
He pulled the chair in front
of the computer out and indicated with both hands-
A couple clicks later I was
looking at his system's settings, trying not to roll my eyes, "Okay if
I fire up your virus checking stuff?"
I reached behind the mini
and unplugged the phone line, "Just a gut feeling-"
He nodded-"Yes, run that
Almost immediately we had
a flashing red screen telling us he had a Trojan Horse program running
through his hard drive.
"What's that mean?"
"It means somebody is looking
through every file you've got and may or may not already know about everything
you've got in there- It has to email its results back to the sender."
"They can do that?"
Randy and I nodded in tandem.
"Where'd you learn this stuff?"
"I won a free course in programming
at a company party- Before that I was just a computer nut, now I'm a certified
Fred let out a nervous chuckle,
"You got a degree in computers and you're working as a night watchman?"
I shrugged, "Not a degree,
just a certificate."
The screen came up that said,
"Click here to remove Trojan Horse."
"Okay to delete the trouble maker?"
"Just what exactly can you
do with a certificate?"
I laughed, "Pin it up on
a wall and hope nobody laughs too hard when they read it? We learned how
to write database programs to store information- keep track of employees
hours and figure in the withholding and all that- print checks..." I shrugged,
"keep everybody's names and addresses on file- print out route sheets for
everybody- make invitations to parties and all sorts of useless gimmicky
"You could do my payroll
"How much would that cost
"To set up the program? Almost
nothing- take me a couple hours to set up the specifics... How much to
make the program work? - depends on whether you have a time clock connected
to the computer doing the work or somebody entering all the information
by hand- a couple minutes a week to push the right keys to generate the
reports, keep a running total of each employee's time and totals and print
the checks, with all the important information on a second form above the
check or beside it, depending on the printer- maybe half an hour if the
time clock is connected to the computer and the times are either all entered
here- or by remote- Maybe a couple hours if your secretary or somebody
has to enter every thing in by hand-"
Fred looked confused,"You
could do that, though- you're sure?"
"You can hook a time clock
up to the computer, no problem?"
I nodded-"Depending on the
time clock, it might need some kind of device to go between it and the
computer and some of those are cheaper than others-"
Fred covered his chin with
one hand and walked around nodding- "How long will it take you to do that?"
I shrugged, glanced toward
Randy, "I've got a program that I did for the course sitting on a disk
I could probably have here and installed by tonight- take me a couple hours
of driving to go get it and a couple hours back- That would be the 'somebody
types the times in manually' version- If your time clock works with this
computer as is- I could spend a couple hours on that tomorrow- and get
"What's the most it could
I rolled my eyes, remembered
a commercial for a new computer, "The most it could cost would be the price
of a new computer with enough memory to run your whole business, including
keeping track of the hours and all that."
I nodded, "Fifteen hundred
to two thousand, five hundred- with firewall hardware and exotic connections
Fred walked around in a circle,
nodding, "And I'd still be ahead of the game- How about you work on the
details? We have that other office in there that isn't doing anything-
Call around, find out everything you need to know about time clocks and
connections and tell me what I need by tomorrow evening? Meanwhile, fill
out that form and we'll still have to check your fingerprints- policy...
So- unless you're a serial killer, you got a job- want to cover that watchman
job until we find somebody to replace you?"
I blinked a couple times.
Fred was off in the ozone-
"You can get me a new computer that will do all the scheduling, keep track
of everybody's hours, save me at least ***three grand a year...Where the
hell have you been hiding all this time?"
They did have a uniform that
Randy and I drove to a computer
place where one of his students worked as a computer security specialist.
This guy called Fred and sold him a server, running linux, with a dozen
time clocks activated by key pads that would dial up the server whenever
a specialized plastic card was inserted- Three thousand dollars. Worked
with Fred's printers, had enough security to make a bank happy- And he
tossed me a program that would convert any of my old C++ Windows programs
into Linux programs. No charge.
The three of us popped most
of that stuff into the back of Randy's truck and had it installed by three
pm. At four the first remote time card entry registered. Fred almost squealed
with delight. He went into the next room and growled on the phone for half
an hour with the company that was doing his payroll and came back grinning,
"They said they were going to sue me. I reminded them of their errors and
we discovered the damned contract's up next month anyway- This will be
ready by next month, right?"
We all nodded. Fred looked
around this (shabby) office, "A little paint, some better furniture, Hell,
I can almost afford to hire you a part time secretary-" then he frowned,
"Don't quote me on that- lets see how this floats first-" he walked away
chuckling to himself.
Six pm. Randy and I walked
into the restaurant through the inside door - I was telling myself I could
probably remember the way in-
He headed right for a table where
Cheryl and Geoff were sitting, facing us and somebody with blue and green
(half and half) hair was sitting facing them.
Randy pointed to the two tone hair
do and whispered, "Angela-"
Cheryl looked up and smiled. Angela
must have realized we were coming up behind her- she started to stand up.
Geoff grinned, "Angela- this is
Jack- He might be moving into the apartment across the hall from us-"
Angela stood up slightly straighter,
turned and offered her hand, then took one look at me and her jaw dropped.
she fell into the chair and gasped, "Oh my god-" stared at me- I couldn't
tell whether she was terrified or just stunned- "I've been dreaming about
you- she shook her head, then blushed, "You don't want to know what we
were- " she clamped her hand over her eyes, "I don't believe I almost said
Randy pulled a chair from another
table, plunked it down facing her and pointed- He had a grin that was much
too big for his face-, "Jack, this is Angela- she has most of her screws
and bolts and at least half of them are connected and screwed down tight
She kept her face in her hands
and kept her head shaking, no, I don't believe this.
She peaked out between her fingers
at me as I sat down, "Did he run away yet?"
"No," I said, "He's still here."
Randy sat on the other side of
Angela and announced, "Jack might just have waltzed into a full time job
in the office- we talked Fred into a secure server with dedicated time
card remote gizmos and Fred's day dreaming he might have Miss January for
a part time personal secretary with the money he saved.
Angela turned her head and peaked
at Randy through her fingers, "What are you, ganging up on me? Did my mother
pay you to find this guy and fill my head with dreams of- never mind, if
my knees would hold I'd run away-"
She turned back to me and let one
of her hands down from covering her face- she touched my arm, "You're real?
I'm not hallucinating. It's Monday- I'm not upstairs dreaming- will you
help me get my foot out of my mouth?"
I laughed, "Relax- I only bite
on Thursdays and full moons."
She grinned from ear to ear.
I got to see her face. She had
the kind of clear skin that almost looked like she just climbed out of
a pool? Her eyes didn't match. One was Emerald Green, the other was almost
She must have seen confusion on
my face, "Contacts-" she said, leaned forward and popped one of the contact
lenses out, glanced up at me with one normal green eye and one purple-,
"They match- I promise-"
I stared into her eyes, shrugged,
She swallowed and shuddered, "Scuse
me while I melt- damn-" she licked her lips, "If you're a serial killer
I'm in trouble-"
Randy laughed, "Not a chance-"
Angela grinned and shuddered again,
"Oh god- I'm in trouble anyway-"
I swallowed, "I have to work later
tonight- uh, with Randy-" shrugged, "You want to go somewhere- find a movie
that takes a credit card or something?"
She blinked, "sure you don't want
to just come up stairs and go to bed with me?"
I swallowed, "Well, that too- but-
don't you want to make sure you won't hate yourself in the morning first?"
She shook her head.
I shrugged, noticed Randy beyond
"What are you looking at me for?"
Randy cackled, "looks like Angela's got a date- what's your mother's phone
number? Should I tell her he's black or something so she won't drop dead
when he isn't Jewish?"
"You're not Jewish?" she looked
I shrugged and shook my head, "Does
this mean we go out to a movie instead?"
She shook her head, "Well, yeah,
if that's what you want."
I shrugged, "Can we play it by
She reached up and touched my ear,
"I might need help finding your
apartment- I seem to have instant dyslexia when I'm in this building-"
She chuckled, "Suppose I sit here
and melt while you eat, you might have to help me walk when it's time to
He eyes sparkled (it was easier
to tell with the 'naked' green one.)
She swallowed and pushed her hair
back, "My, um, hair doesn't bother you, does it?"
I shook my head, "It's attached,
I sighed, "Just don't go pulling
a wig off without warning me- a guy did that once and I almost died on
She looked concerned.
"Shock-" I nodded.
I think I ate something. I think
she liked the looks of something on my plate and I gave her a forkful.
I think we fed each other pudding, using our fingers. She swore her fingers
were clean and didn't want me to get up and wash my hands to be doubly
I have no idea whether Geoff and
Cheryl got up and left or stayed there with us.
When we stood up, she did manage
to stay on her feet.
Again, when I tried to pay for
the meal, I was told that Geoff wouldn't allow it. I had a couple bucks
to leave for a tip, though.
Angela opened the door and stepped
into the hallway beyond.
I closed the door and turned around
and she was staring up at me, "You're taller than I thought-"
I shrugged, "Sorry-"
She shook her head, "None of that-"
glanced down at my crotch and then up at my mouth.
"Want a hug?"
"Oh at least-"
I leaned down and picked her up,
she wrapped her legs around me, "If you don't like me you better take me
right to the hospital- I can't stand this."
She stared shaking, "What?"
"If I didn't like you that would
sound an awful lot like emotional blackmail."
"I can't help it, dammit, this
never happened before-"
I tipped my head sideways, "Kiss
me- see if it's real-"
She looked terrified, nodded, then
sighed- Kissed me. "Again?" kissed longer- "This is fun- you even taste
The door opened, Randy patted my
shoulder, I could almost hear him thinking, "Better you than me, pal-"
Angela laughed, "There's an elevator,
but it doesn't work- If we climb the stairs like this you might not have
enough strength left-"
"Does that mean I should put you
"No- that means I'm trying to think
into the future-" she kissed me again, "I love this- damn."
"That tickles, laugh again."
"Wow- lets get nuts- ooops, can't,
we're already there-"
I let her down.
"Oh shit- I'm already planning
wedding gowns- what are you doing to me?"
"I'm still trying to figure out
what happened last night when I was trying to sleep-"
She grabbed my hand and pulled
me toward the stairs, "No kissing on the stairs, if we fall down they might
not give us beds in the same hospital room-"
So she climbed a couple steps,
turned around and leaned forward.
I caught her.
This works, she tipped her head
"So what happened while you were
trying to sleep?"
"First, I slept in the chair because
a mouse ran across the bed-"
"Ewwwww-" she kissed me, "I'm not
like this with anyone, you gotta believe me-"
"So you slept in a chair?"
Her forehead was against mine so
her head rolled up and down as I nodded, it tickled. "So then what?"
"You slept in the chair, want a
cat or do you think we should try to use Geoff's have a heart trap? Are
you a vegetarian?"
"Almost-" I sighed, "There's a
fabric thing in the window- I felt like it expanded into three dimensions
and filled the room-"
"Then I felt like the chair spun
around and me with it- we flew out through the window and out over the
city at night."
"Oh that's wild, can I come with
you next time?"
"Sure- if it ever happens again."
She laughed, "Ya never know around
here- I like this place so much I thought I'd never go anywhere and find
a boy friend. It's been years-"
Second floor- "That's where You're
going to be staying? I love those hexagonal rooms- I'm right above you-
Wanna grab any clean clothes for later?"
"Randy had his boss give me a new
She nodded, wrinkled her nose,
"Randy's a decent guy, underneath all the bravado and stuff. I think he's
the only straight one here-"
"You haven't noticed? Everybody
in this place is some kinda weird-"
She laughed, "So do you wanna grab
your uniform and bring it up so we'll have that much more time together
I shrugged, wondered what I'd done
with the key and found it in my hand, "How long have I been holding this?"
She shrugged, "I'm clueless-"
We blitzed into the apartment and
to the bedroom and grabbed the uniform and I opened one of the non- stinking
suitcases and grabbed some clean underwear. She looked like she was fascinated
by what might be in my suitcases, "I never could imagine myself washing
a guy's underwear-" she shrugged, "I've had women lovers- you okay with
I swallowed, nodded.
"Couple guys too- last one beat
me, I swore off men- how do I know you're not another Jeckel and Hyde?"
she shrugged- glanced toward my bathroom, "Oh-" she giggled, "Geoff just
paid some guy to clean my bathroom when he finished renovating this one-
so I can swear it's cleaner than ever and you don't have to worry about
any kind of blob things crawling up your legs or anything-"
She was holding her hair in two
sort of pony tails as she said that. I thought that was the cutest thing
I'd seen in years, reached over and touched her cheek. She closed her eyes
and rubbed her cheek against my hand, opened sparkling eyes (both their
natural green now) (contacts in a container in her pocket.)
"Tell me I'm crazy-" she kissed
She looked confused, shrugged,
"That would explain everything."
"I'm not going to figure out any
of this for years- save the explanations for later."
She raised her eyebrows, nodded,
"Sounds good- lets make love."
She looked around, wrinkled her
nose- "Can we go upstairs? I feel real safe in my own world up there- I
don't know, if the mouse sees me naked and laughs it might break the spell
"No mice upstairs?"
She shook her head, "The cats chased
them all out, I don't want to think they ate them- stupid cats- you're
not allergic to cats are ya?"
I shook my head, "Would you get
funny about cats laughing at you naked?"
She laughed, "They do it all the
time- We dance around and sing and they meow- it's great."
So we walked out of my apartment
and locked the door and we made a mental note of which pocket I put my
key in and almost raced to the stairs where she spun around and kissed
me once on the nose and then raced up to the landing.
She turned around and leaned on
the bannister and watched me climb, "What are you grinning at?"
"I'm remembering you playing with
your hair, like you made two pony tails? I liked that-"
"My hair's too short for pony tails-"
"Nahhh- would you be mad at me
if I said I just made a connection and thought you almost looked like the
girl clown on that television show for kids?"
She tried to look serious, crossed
her eyes and focused on her odd colored hair, "Me, a clown, whatever gave
you that idea?" she grinned, "the one with the couch? I love her- my favorite
show- I think, she has to be some kind of yoga nut or something to do some
of those things she does..."
"You don't watch it that much?"
she shrugged, "No problem- The only way I know what channel it's on, well-
that's the only one I watch- no cable- no antenna, nothing else comes in,
and it's free- what a concept-"
She turned and started climbing
the second half of the stairway to the third floor, "I'm not talking you
into something, am I? I mean- well, am I?"
I shook my head, "I don't think
you could talk me into anything if my heart's not in it- tell me you didn't
notice me squirming since the first time I looked into those emerald and
purple eyes of yours."
She laughed, "Oh, I have that effect
on you, do I? Is it entirely physical?"
I shrugged, "I don't think I can
be entirely physical about anything- Just don't work that way."
"Okay- he looks and sounds perfect,
what's the catch?"
"I turn into a pumpkin at 11 PM
and won't get home until 8 tomorrow morning-"
She looked thoughtful- "So- if
we still like each other, wake me up when you get home and screw my eyes
"Why don't we see if we can stay
focused enough to get to first base before we give the signal to steal
She laughed, rolled her eyes, "Oh,
god, a freakin baseball player- I shouldda known-" she sat down on the
stairs with her chin in her hands and her eyes sparkling. "My uncle gets
season tickets every year- First base line okay? We gotta check ahead of
time, usually...You root for the wrong team and I'll kill myself-"
"Don't even think about it-"
"I did- I couldn't try it though-"
she shrugged, "I felt too sorry for anybody who'd have to clean up the
mess- and when I thought, hey, maybe I could hitch a ride on an ocean liner
and jump off in the middle of the night- I thought- well, shit, what if
it only gets worse when I get to the other side and they're mad at me for
killing myself-" she sighed, shrugged, "Not a chance- I mean- not even
are worth that- I don't think."
She grinned, "You think I look
good in pony tails? You wanna wash my hair and brush it every night?"
I shrugged, then nodded.
She licked her lips, pouted, drew
a slow deep breath in through pursed lips, "Uht, oh- he's serious-" she
stood up and kissed my cheek and ran up the rest of the stairs.
Again, at the top of the stairs
she leaned on the bannister and watched me climb, swallowed, "I like the
way you look at me- Man I can almost feel the magnetism-"
"Ya know? Randy almost believes
this building has some kind of super secret experimental metal beams that
make everything that happens in here seem more intense?"
I shrugged, shook my head.
"Give him a chance- he'll tell
you all kinds of crazy stuff- He only looks normal."
She unlocked her door, looked worried,
poked her head inside and then opened the door- grinned, almost blushed,
"I forgot. I have a roommate- she's not here this week- we're safe."
The living room, same size as mine
and Geoff's. Had a bit of stage scenery, a forest and a castle sort of
cut out and nailed to a two by four frame that had a rather solid looking
pair of support beams- two by fours, holding it upright between the windows
and an area where an overstuffed couch was covered in what looked like
dark purple velvet.
"You like it!?" she sounded tentative.
I pointed at the scenery, "Don't
She shrugged, "I think I want to
paint the leaves off the trees and make it a winter scene, but I was sick
of winter when I put it together. Janice hates it. but it blocks the sunlight
when she wants to watch her morning teevee, so she tolerates it. She looked
suddenly guilty, "Why don't you stay here for a couple minutes while I
go shovel a lot of my mess into the closet...Unless you're crazy about
water beds, then we can go mess up Janice's bed and she'll never know the
difference. Sure you wanna make love?"
Beams of pure adoration shot from
her face, "You're not just saying that to make me feel okay are ya?"
I shook my head-
She grinned, kind of half inwardly,
"Wait here-" she pointed at the couch and pranced away sideways. Then she
pranced back and either flipped a couple switches or messed with plugs
or something. A couple seconds later a bunch of strings of Christmas lights
came on and started blinking, all out of sync with each other.
I sat down on the couch and stared
at the blank television screen and watched bits of various coloured lines
flash on and off all around me.
She was back a lot more quickly
than I'd expected, barefoot, her denim shirt open most of the way. she
had a couple small bottles and sprayed both wrists (one at a time) with
one squirt from either of the bottles, "Perfume ever put you in the mood,
here-" she sat on my lap and put one wrist at a time up near my nose- I
shrugged after the first one, but the second one- I nodded.
"Cool" She hopped backward almost
pulled me to my feet, "Good, you can leave that stuff here on the couch."
The phone rang.
Her shoulders sank, she looked
like a marionette whose strings had just been cut, "Not now-"
Two rings later, "This is Angela-
I'm busy. Call later or leave a message, I don't want to get paint all
over another new phone-"
Laughter- "This is Randy- I'll
give you guys a wake up call an hour ahead of time- Don't you dare feed
Jack anything in your refrigerator- We'll get something to eat on the way
to the job-"
She grinned at the answering machine,
"God Bless answering machines-"
Now she tugged on my arm and I
followed her. Kitchen appliances on one side, breakfast nook on the other.
Bathroom right over mine- but then, where my bedroom was, there was a hall
way- She crooked her thumb- "Janice has the windows." She pulled me a little
farther down the hall- flipped a light switch on and then off- "that's
my studio- don't look-" I had fading impressions of a couple easels and
some huge pieces of plywood and that's all that registered. She tugged
me toward the room across from Janice's, "I sort of have a window-"
She flipped a light on- a
couple of cat sized blurs ran away. She pointed, "That's like a ventilation
shaft or something that goes right down to the basement- It's just real
creepy to think that somebody over there can look into my bedroom, so I
painted it solid indigo- I thought maybe a happy face would drive whoever
was over there nuts, but I never got around to that-"
She had a king sized mattress on
the floor, hastily made with a blue, purple and black, thick blanket or
maybe even a thin rug over everything- she also had a black and brown leather
thing that looked like a stereotypical psychiatrist's couch- covered with
a purple Persian rug inspired velvet blanket, "I'm not anorectic-" she
pushed me toward her bed, "I just don't really have a good schedule and
I keep forgetting to eat like three solid meals a day. I'm actually a pretty
good weight for my size and whenever we go out anywhere I wear baggy stuff
so people think I'm fatter than I am-
I sat down on her bed. There was
a bureau beyond the couch and another bureau with a mirror near a closed
door that I guessed had to be the closet- "I'm starting to feel like I'm
making a fool of myself, so you better kiss me or run away-"
I reached for her wrist, she hopped
to one of her bureaus and stood poised by a small stereo- "I've got three
cd's of space music ready to go or we can argue over a radio station-."
"Space music's fine-"
"Continuous or continuous shuffle?"
She nodded, "Black light? If we
get bored we can paint each other or something."
"If we get bored you better shoot
She laughed. Kicked the door shut
and flicked a black light on. Something spun past me and she bounced on
the bed, "You really think I look good in pony tails?"
We nodded as she brought her mouth
She did not look anorectic (she
looked better, and 'curvier' than I expected) She also had a lot more energy
than I thought I did. Neither one of us was thoroughly worn out (thank
goodness) and when after a couple hours or laughing and bouncing around
we settled down and stared at the ceiling together I asked, "Are you always
this energetic? or is it nervous energy or what?"
She sighed, shrugged, "That's like
asking me what I'm like when I'm in love- last week I thought I knew- after
tonight, what happened before seems like I was lying to myself- ya know,
all I want to do for the rest of my life is lie here and listen to your
voice and I want to know everything there is to know about you- and I have
no freakin idea why? I mean, who are you? Where did you come from? How
did you know I needed you now? Of all times? Why the hell didn't you show
up last year when I was almost suicidal? I mean, I decide, hell- I can
live without love and dream about you and figure you're my subconscious
mind tempting me, so I let it happen, I mean the dream was almost as good
as the real thing- and when I wake up I shrug and say, what the heck- something
like that would be pretty damned good, but I'm not gonna hold my breath-
I think I dreamed about you three or four times in the last two weeks-
you always seemed to be just there- I mean, like I could have told you
to go away and you would have? but I kind of always broke down and said,
what the hell- and reached for you and you always looked like you hoped
I would? Do you have any idea what I'm saying?"
"I think so-"
"Good, because I don't-"
"Think maybe you're happy that
I let you make the decision?"
"I don't know- I would have said
yes, but sheeesh- it's like, are you a robot, I put a quarter in a slot
and push a button that says 'sweep me off my feet' and you do? Do you have
anything to say about this?"
"You always this passive?"
She laughed, "Now that you mention
it- Well, I'm glad you took the initiative- but- this is scary- I never
even tried to pick up a guy before, never made the first move in my life.
I mean- no girl likes the way she looks, I figured it was hopeless and
maybe I'd never miss what I never had- then one guy with thick glasses
and bad skin asked me out and the first time he touched me I liked it too
much. So we never went all the way, he moved on to Jordanna Levine, a cheerleader?
and a couple weeks later Jordanna came to me and said he told her he thought
I was a lesbian and I didn't think so, but she thought she liked me so
we gave it a try.It worked- I wasn't too crazy about kissing her, but I
got to like it-" she shrugged, She did things that he didn't have the nerve
to do- you're pretty good at that, had lots of practice?"
I shook my head.
"Once or twice-?"
"Half a dozen times with the same
"She dumped you?"
"For a lawyer."
"What a jerk-"
"Me or her?"
"Her-" Angela leaned up and over
and kissed me on the forehead, "Her loss, my gain-"
So I turned on my side and stroked
She grabbed my hand cupped it around
her breast and squirmed backward against me. I covered us with blankets
and the phone rang.
"It can't be ten o'clock-" she
"Hello, Angela, it's your mother,
just thought I'd give you a call- Your cousin Josephine got engaged last
week- okay- I'll pretend you're out on a date with a doctor- give me a
call when you get home."
We both laughed.
"You'll hate my mother- I do-"
"You do not-"
"Well, I try real hard- The weirdest
part is- she takes it so seriously- she's a freaking joke and she loves
"Nice, easy, well defined role-
She's got a dozen women comedians telling her how to do it."
"Maybe- at least a dozen."
"So are computer geeks a couple
steps down from a doctor in your mother's world?"
"Hard to say. A Jewish computer
geek would be about even with a Christian Doctor- I might have to show
her a pay check or a bank account balance to get her to believe you just
might be human."
"Uh...maybe, but not until there
is a balance, okay?"
End Of Part Two -- Part
Three of this Story