Monday, March 1, 2021

Fifteen

2019

The phone rings in my office. I say, hello.

“What is it, Alan?”

“Becca?”

“Rebecca.”

“Rebecca?”

“At work I am called Rebecca."  

“Are you being paid by the syllable?"

“What is it, Alan?”

“’ What is it Alan?’ No hello. No how are you?”

“Alan, we haven’t spoken in years.  The last time I saw you was in Harvard Square and, if you want to know, you were not exactly welcoming.”

“You were with Richard.”

“Yes. I was married to him.  We are allowed to go out together.”

“Was?”

“Am.  I meant that at the time I stopped to say hello to you in Cambridge and you barely acknowledged me, I was married to him.  Look, I feel a little uncomfortable talking to you.  But, the message you left sounded like it might be important.”

“It is.”

“Okay.” She said.

“Okay.  I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.”

“Your kind of town.”  Becca had little use for Las Vegas. People throwing their money away, and half-clad women serving free drinks to keep people gambling, sports betting, and late nights.  Nothing about Las Vegas seemed to be attractive.

“I was there for a conference.”

“Bet they had to drag you there.  What happened in Las Vegas?”

“I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight and I saw a newspaper article about some parents who have been looking for their daughter for 40 years.”

“Ok. Yeah, So.? Get to it. Richard is nearby and he doesn’t like me talking to men”

“Any man?”

“Look what is it?

“Any man? That limits networking some.”

She snorts even though she did not want to. “What is it?

“Do you remember when I came back to Buffalo after hitch-hiking across the country”.

“Yes. I remember how you left me for the month we would have had together, before you went to work in Pennsylvania for the rest of the summer.  I remember that you came back for a week for sex and then left.  Is that the time to which you refer?”

This was not getting off to the start I’d hoped, but it was not far from what I thought would happen when I called.

“We were not exactly getting along before I left for California.”

“We never got along except for when we were having sex or about to have sex or had not seen each other for a while and therefore had forgotten how we do not get along.”

She was not off target with any of this.  But still. “There was a there, there.”

She paused. “Yes, Alan. There was a there, there.”

“Can we meet somewhere?”

“Not sure that is a great idea.”

“I need to talk with you about this.”

“What? What is this about?  So, you read an article and it reminded you about your hitch-hiking trip. And what?”

“Do you remember what I told you about the trip?”

“Some.”

Then I asked her about a few events that I had relayed when I returned.  And then I described the article I read in the newspaper.  It took her a while to get the connection.  When she did, she asked the same questions I’d had that prompted my computer searching.  When I told her what I had discovered there was silence for a spell.

There was a joke that had circulated when we were together that we both had gotten a kick out of and repeated now and again when apt.  The joke was about newlyweds. The woman was shy and inexperienced. She did not want to talk about sex and was totally frightened about failing at intimacy. She asked her husband not to initiate sex by speaking openly, but by asking in code.  

“If you want to, you know do it, say something else, say ‘you want to do the wash.”  So, on their wedding night, the husband asked if the wife wanted to do the wash. She said that she was too nervous, another night. The second night he again asked if she wanted to do the wash, again she asked if it could be postponed.  This happened for an entire week until such time that the husband just gave up.  But by the end of the week the newlywed wife was getting frisky herself, so when the husband failed to speak the code words, she asked slyly, “don’t you want to do the wash?”  His response: “No, I already did it by hand.”

We had gotten a charge out of that joke.  And Becca apparently remembered it. When I asked her again after the silence if she would meet me for coffee, she said she would. But then added quickly, “I’ll meet you for coffee, okay, but no doing the wash.”  We both laughed at that, agreed on a place and hung up. Damn if I didn’t feel a buzz after the call.

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