Trick or treat – ch22

Sitting in front of the apartment building passing out candy with Harry (who is bald), Loretta (not affiliated with Harry, yet), and Harry’s dog Roscoe.

Harry is a widower of ten years and Roscoe has been with him for the past twelve years. Harry is young to be widower, he is 50 and works for the city on the road/property crew. He is the team leader and the job suits him well.

Loretta is a widow of almost twenty years, she is – I am guessing – around 60 because we all know the rule. She works as a book-keeper for several clients. She is her own boss and that suits her well too.

Tess and I have begun to think of trying to hook up Loretta and Harry but we are still cowards in the match making business. Understandable but we are sure these two souls were meant to be together and we have each caught them at different times looking at the other with “that look” which quickly gets shook off.

“Roscoe here was the cutest puppy you’d have ever seen,” Harry said as he was patting Roscoe’s head. “People think he is too big to live with me here but he is rarely here. I take him to work with me, the store, walks, the park, heck even to restaurants during the Spring thru Fall seasons when I can eat outside.”

“He is a handsome dog Harry,” Loretta said, “aren’t you Roscoe?” Which was all it took for Roscoe to move over and cosy up to her. She patted his head and rubbed his ears, “Dashing Roscoe”.

“Trick or treat” said a masked musketeer.

“Trick or treat” quietly almost whispered by the little blonde princess.

“Trick or treat” bellowed aloud for the neighborhood by the little kid in the full mask of Frankenstein.

We all acted startled and chuckled. Roscoe barked once his approval. It was a busy street of characters looking for their share of the candy loot. We saw old favorites like Frankenstein, Mummy, and vampires but more of the characters of today who I recognized but did not know their names. It was an enjoyable evening and it had just begun, a little over an hour had passed and the sky was just now getting dark enough to actually feel like it was Halloween night. Something about Halloween occurring in the daylight just isn’t “right”.

“We always have a good turn out on this street,” Loretta explained. “The majority of the buildings on this block our 4 unit apartment buildings that have been here for over 75 years. They are taken care of by the landlords and the tenants, we all take pride of our places and our place here on the block.” Tess and Harry nodded.

“I fell in love with this block as soon as I arrived to view the vacant apartment. I was sold before I came inside,” Tess shared. Harry and Loretta smiled like proud parents.

“Trick or treat” said Buzz Lightyear.

“I’ll be…” Harry began to say when my eyes moved over to see what he was looking at. Tess grabbed a hold of forearm as she saw the scary sight. It – for whatever reason – felt like we got caught. I don’t know why, we were not doing anything wrong. But “gotcha” was word for the moment; the other was “ugottabekiddingme” (I had to make it one word, sorry Webster).

Up the sidewalk with plastic pumpkin containers for candy strode our parents. Dad with his glow in the dark vampire teeth in muttered, “Trick or treat” while mom just beamed a big  smile.

Fact & Candy Fairies – ch21

Evening finally arrived which meant now to the time of the good stuff. Leave work. Leave cubicle-land. Leave the mind numbing job. Leave the condescending boss who is unprofessional and disrespectful. Leave the place of masks and fakes. Leave all the bad, the necessary part of life – for now. Onto the purpose of life. Onto the times with Tess. Onto holding her delicate hand and looking into the green eyes of love. Onto being who I really am, I have discovered – not the job guy. See I realized that was the problem, my personal life and work life shared the same guy. That guy at work who is shackled to a desk and computer. Shackled by bureaucracy and lack of common sense and honesty. Yes, honesty. The place breeds name sake only culture and beliefs. Words only. It is so heavy, suffocating my spirit deliberately, steadily, and quietly. But – Tess – a breath of fresh real air. My spirit realized before it was too late that I am not the job guy. In fact personal life guy is beginning to lead a revolution inside job guy. But I digress….

I arrived at Tess’ apartment building on time armed with costume in my pocket and on top of my head. I was wearing my tall top hat which showed much wear and in my pocket my Groucho eyeglass/nose piece and the glow in the dark vampire teeth. Wearing my black suit and tie with my red and white pinstripe shirt – I was an icon of my humor. Dark and silly. I slid the glasses on and teeth in and knocked on Tess’ door. She opened and almost lost my teeth. Tess was dressed as Snow White and she was breath-taking. She giggled when she saw me and I stood in the door way like Lurch unable to move. Personal guy was counting his blessings and she was the source of the majority of them.

“Come in silly,” she said as she pulled my hand trying to move me. “Will you grab the purple and red bowls over on the table?” I could not get my eyes off of her, heck – I could not get my mind off of her. Not because of some sicko Snow White thing but because it hit me so hard this one thought, no – one fact. It had been a terrific three months but now I knew. I want to marry her. I want to be with her for the rest of our lives. She is the one. The one I never thought I – me – would ever have. She was wife and the fact made me so thankful. Thankful to God for the paths of destiny crossing. Thankful to her parents, for having raised such a precious lady. Thankful.

“Um, yeah sure, I got those, anything else?”

“I already have the chairs pulled behind the stairwell so I will take the refill bags.”

I picked up the bowls and it was like the candy fairies sent me a sign of approval – a bowl of Smarties. My favorite. She could not have known that, I don’t think I ever mentioned it or ate them when we were out. Smarties. I chuckled to myself, nodded to the candy fairies – ok I get it and walked out the door to the front steps.

Bullseye – ch20

The days went by and they were much happier ones than all my days in the past. We met for coffee, dinner, lunch, movies, shopping, and any other reason I could come up with just to be with her. Before I knew it the summer had passed and Halloween was next. In our conversations we each shared the pressure coming from our parents to meet the other and for the families to meet. Some parents are subtle (not mine) and some are more direct (not hers). We tried to discuss the “event” but it always became a time of nervous laughing and exaggerations of the impact on everyone’s lives.

I am not sure why what happened on Halloween happened but I do know that Tess and I stood in the grips of a horrible monster and we were being held over a cliff to which we could not see the bottom. Honestly as I sit here trying to share with you the story I can feel the same emotions of that moment.  We would learn later just how desperate and resolved our parents were.

A couple days before Halloween I received a call from my mother, you KNOW how THOSE calls are.

“Hello honey how are you doing?”

“Um, fine mom I saw you and dad yesterday; nothing’s changed.”

“I know, I was just wondering if you will be over to pass candy out to the kids this year on Halloween.” Before I could answer, “You know how much that means to your father, it is you fellas ritual. He has dug up his glow in the dark vampire teeth and black top hat.” Whack – daggers one & two reach their mark.

“Actually mom I was going over to Tess’ this year and we were going to hand out candy at her apartment.”

“Oh, your father will be so disappointed…”

“Mom will you tell him, it will be much easier coming from you. You know how I feel about Tess…”

“Why don’t you two come over and hand out candy over here? Oh, that would be wonderful and your father won’t be disappointed and we can finally meet Tess.”

“Mom you know who Tess is, you go to the grocery store…”

“That is not the same, we can never talk. Why don’t you want us to officially meet her? Are you ashamed…” (No my mom is not a Catholic or Jewish mom. I understand that they are masters of the craft of using guilt to accomplish their wishes.)

“Mom stop you know I am not ashamed of you and dad. Gads – we are just taking things really slow, that’s all.”

“Slow? You guys are together just about every day. It would mean so much to your dad and me, please ask Tess.”

I was completely exasperated and I know that you definitely KNOW the feeling. When did the shoes get put on the other feet? I remember using the tears and eyes and limited vocabulary as a kid to guilt my parents into getting me baseball cards, candy, baseball hat, going to movies without their attendance, money to go to the store with a couple fellow outsiders at school. When exactly did the parents become the bearers of the guilt tool? Come to think of it when did they become the children? Knowing what I know and how this story ended when did it occur that we “protect” our parents from the truth? Watch out for them, making sure they are well, taking them to the doctor, exactly when did the roles get reversed? But I digress…

“Mom I am not going to ask Tess because she has really been looking forward to us doing this together at her place. I don’t want to make things awkward for her.”

Fine son” (the three-letter word that advertises dagger #3 is on its way) “I will tell your father. Don’t worry about us we will handle Halloween alone.” Bullseye.

The pregnant pause but I did not waver. “Thanks mom but I need to go now. Love u and tell dad I love him too.”

“We love you too, son.” Click – no that was not just the phone hanging up, it was also the sound of fourth dagger nailing its mark.

Priceless – ch19

The rest of our evening went well, actually it went terrific. We laughed with each other about stories, coincidences, and the grandpa who came in to order – and I quote, “a cup of coffee”. He got the typical blitz of questions and terms and when the girl was finished he looked at her and said, “Yeah, I want a cup of coffee.” Of course we were not laughing at him, we were laughing at the girl behind the counter who refused to understand and translate what he wanted into her language. She expected him, in his 70s at least to change his expectations and language at that moment. The guy at the cappuccino machine told her to “ring up a short coffee of the day” and he got the coffee and handed it to the gentleman who thanked him, paid him, and sat down next to us picking at the newspaper someone left on the table. He could be anyone’s grandpa or father and we each knew that and I think that is when we each recognized we (her and I) had a connection.

When I had chances I took them – just to look at her. To see – – her.  As we talked and then later I get another chance, unobserved to see her, I began to see the real her. The beauty of her soul or spirit; I always get those two mixed up. I tried very hard to keep my feet out of my mouth or have coffee or anything else from dribbling out of my mouth. (Am I the only guy who worries about such things? Really – I have this whole list of things in my head that I keep check of: hands not too busy, not overly talking with my hands, nose clean, not spraying when talking, zipper zipped, hair without a cow-lick or worse, fingernails clean, where is my book bag, hands clean, focus on her eyes, notice her shoes and clothing, make sure no one is eavesdropping, don’t speak loudly, don’t mumble, don’t use non-words, and so on; but I digress…)

When it was time to call it an evening we got up and headed out. I offered to drive her home and she passed saying she would enjoy the quick walk. I looked at her not sure what to say and when I was about to say goodbye she said, “If you want you could walk me home.” I know for a brief couple seconds I had the deer in the headlight look on my face. I know it as sure as I know my name. “Sure” was all I could eek out of my mouth. I put my book bag in the trunk and made sure it was locked up tight and we proceeded to walk her home. The walk was pretty quick and we really didn’t speak much we just enjoyed the walk together. When we got to her place I stumbled and mumbled trying to say the perfect thing because this is one of “those” moments which is a test. “I had a great time tonight,” I said and shifted my weight to another foot.

“Me too” she said (she passed her test in my eyes).

 “Would you like to get together another time soon for maybe dinner or coffee?”

“Yes to both questions. I work tomorrow till 6 so you could meet me here at 6:30.“  

“Absolutely” I said and felt the need to flee before I made a mistake and ruined the evening.

“Okay, see you tomorrow” and she turned to walk away but then turned again toward me and gave me a peck on the cheek (The flee command was now aborted). I watched her walk up the steps and onto the porch and then we waved after she opened the door.

Is music ever just music? – ch18

Settling down in our seats I got the wise idea to keep sipping my coffee thereby she would feel the need to start the conversation. Conniving?  Not at all, actually I surprised I had such a thought in complete clearness and on-time. You know what I mean, AFTER you said something stupid you realize you just said something stupid. Example, “ah, when are you expecting? Is it your first?” These are two questions that a man should NEVER allow to leave his lips. Guilty? My hand is up – been there, done that. I was not trying to be a crushing instrument to one’s self-esteem. (I will never forget the look on her face.)  See, now you know why me getting the “sipping idea” was such a break-through.

Ended up I did not need the sipping idea because we weren’t in our chairs thirty seconds when she looked over at me and said, “I love this song? You?”

I had not noticed it but I did not share that. I took another sip and this time tried to get my ears and mind to focus on the noise, I mean “music”. It sounded like something current. How do I know it was something current? Because I had never heard it before; current music fads were not something of interest to me. What came out of my mouth was, “Honestly, I have not heard it before. Is it new?” That question unleashed five minutes of information about what kind of music made Tess tick. She had to have named close to twenty bands and only one had I heard anything of – the Beatles. “What about you?” she said now putting me in the driver seat or better yet – you know the booth where the person sits waiting for someone to throw the ball and hit the target thereby dropping the chair sitter into the water? Chair sitter – me/ball – my answer.

“I like” (just be honest) “what some people consider classic rock as well as some of the 80s rock.” (Sip your coffee)

“Ok, so you like the Beatles then?” I nodded. “Would you name some of your favorite groups?”

“Um…”

“See, I really enjoy music and I think music can tell you a lot about a person.”

“Um” (Apparently coffee is just coffee; it is music that is not just music. What happened next I can only explain by saying I must really like Tess.) “Um, now I am intimidated,” I said with a bit of a chuckle. She laughed to which I guess that means I should be intimidated because she is analyzing my choices. “How about I show you my Zen and you can see the groups, because under all this pressure I am sure I will forget some groups that may impress you?” I took my Zen out of my pocket and handed it to her. (Gee that almost sounded like something TMI.)

She snatched it playfully (again with the innuendos) and scanned through the groups periodically saying things like “Oooh I love them”, “I have not heard anything by them” or “I have never heard of them”. I decided to play the analyzing game too by following up her audible clues with “what song, group are you referring to?”

Tess had never heard of groups like Thin Lizzy, Roger Waters, Triumph, or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. CHA! She did exclaim “Freebird!” which made me laugh. I was surprised though because she seemed to have heard of a lot of my favorite groups’ names but just did not know the music. She passed the Zen back to me and said, “Ok my turn” (yet again with innuendos!).

This was horrifying because I was completely clueless. Most of the groups names sounded more like the title of a poem or short story. If it was not for the couple songs by the Beatles on her iPod I would not have known anything she was listening to. The whole time scanning I was “umming” and when I handed it back to her I said “Beatles!” She laughed. What was now going through my head was is there a huge age difference between us? I did not see how that was possible but I could not get my head around the huge disconnect on my part about the music end on my part (or her part – depending how you would look at it).

(You can calm yourself I know the adage that you never ask a woman how old she is.)

“So when did you graduate from high school?” is what I said. I know, I know.

She said, “2001, how about you?”

“1999 but it seems like so much longer. Did you graduate from around here?”

“Yes, Princeton – you?”

“Me too!” Finally I got a question right.

Is coffee ever just coffee? – ch17

 Let me get to the date. I will skip past the fretting, worry, stress, anxiety, and giddiness. What does that say about me – four negatives to one positive? Truth I guess.

I went to café and did not order anything. I found two squishy chairs where we could sit comfortably and plopped. What does that say about cafés – eighteen hard chairs to four squishy comfortable ones? They want customer turnover.

I sat and tried not to look anxious which always presents a problem. Fidgety and anxious, good companions like peanut butter and jelly and the vanilla filling with the chocolate cookies of an Oreo. What does that say about me – food descriptors? Or better yet, not thinking of the right word I wanted to use right there?

I did not have to wait long (thank God) after five minutes of fidgetiness she arrived. (Can you hear the angelic choir and feel the beam of light upon your face?) Instead of showing my keen awareness to her fashion sense and presence I will summarize it with one word; she looked – adorable. She saw me (waving like an Arnold Horseshack) and smiled and politely waved back. I put my jacket in my seat and my backpack in hers – should I do that the other way around?

“Hi”

“Hi Tess”

“Did you order yet?

“No, I was waiting to place my order when you did. Um,” (brain don’t fail me now) “what are you going to have?” as we walked to the register.

“My favorite, Chai Tea Latte w/skim milk; you?”

“Well,..”

“What can I get for you today?” said a caffeine hyped employee whose face was studded, pierced, tattooed, and dyed.  I made the gentlemanly gesture of lady’s first and Tess told her what she wanted and then they both looked at me. Now this should have been the easiest question for me to answer this evening but my mind began analyzing my selection for faux pas.

Tall dark roast means – what? I like things strong? I think I will impress her with my strong coffee choice? She likes tea maybe I should order something tea? My eyes darting back and forth over the panels looking for tea – heck – even where her drink was listed. No, that will be like I am trying to imitate her so I should order the dark roast, but that is simple and she will think I am simple…

“Hey!” said another employee who is usually here when I order. “You in for your usual?” Sigh, “Yes” I said with relief, God had thrown me a life-line. The employee at the register looked at what he picked up and where he went and then rang in the tall dark roast. “That will be $4.50” I fumbled around inside my wallet trying to get my debit card.

“Here it is” I said as I handed it to the cashier; Tess had walked down to the end waiting for her drink. With the financial part of the transaction over I looked again at Tess and this time when I saw her my heart skipped a beat. She was standing watching the guy fix her drink and they were chatting, she of course had a smile on her face and once again Heaven’s light highlighted her presence for all to notice (or maybe just me). I was past anxious and past nervous, I was now in the panic zone. Just when I thought to myself what am I gonna do – she looked over at me and smiled and waved me over to her. I melted but at least I poured down the floor in her direction.