Lesli walked up to Keith at the window, grinning wrist to wrist. Sidling, she reached an arm around his waist while peering down at the street and across rooftops as they’d often done. Stories below, cars, cabs and trucks rolled back and forth on 2nd Avenue.
On rooftops, several pigeon coops, a kid flying a kite. Nothing much unusual. But something about this, he could tell she sensed, wasn’t the same. She nestled against his chest. Idly asked, “What, sweetie…? What?”
“You’re out here staring a hole into clear space. What’s wrong?”
“Baby…” he began. Keith’s voice held a weight he’d never before heard. Lesli stepped back to see his face. As she did, the robe slightly parted. Just enough to hint at her body’s contours. He knew full well what the robe hid.
That tantalizing glimpse pained him. The idea of never seeing her naked again hurt like hell, wrenched him to his heart and soul. The idea of no longer having her in his life. Which, if he didn’t handle this right, was entirely possible.
“I’m not sure how to put this.” He saw a frightened glint come to life in her eyes and wanted to be anywhere else in the world. He watched as she looked at him in confusion. Then she focused, gathering her wits, an unpleasant intelligence steeling her expression. He needed to say something sensible and say it fast.
“Look…” If his life depended on coming up with the right words, he was breathing his last. Trying to shake it off, he managed to say, “It’s…well, it’s too soon.” How else could he put the plain, simple truth except to just come right out and say it?
If there was a better way, he sure wished he’d’ve come up with it, because, from the way she glowered at him, instead of things staying on as even a keel as possible, this swiftly was going straight to hell. In a hand basket.
She cinched the robe closed, angrily knotting the belt. “How the hell much time do you need? What’s it take for you to make up your mind?” Starting to pace, taking a few steps this way, a few steps that, then standing still, she was working up a head of steam.
“And, damn it,” she snapped, glaring, brow furrowing, “exactly how many years do you think I have to spend with my thumb up my behind waiting for you to shit or get off the mother-lovin’ pot? In another few months it’ll be two years we’ve been together. That’s not even counting all that time hop-scotching back and forth across the country like it was a commute. I’m not getting a day younger, mister. And whether you’ve notice it or not, neither are you.”
He’d noticed, alright. With no illusions about the supposedly free-as-a-bird musician’s life keeping him a kid. He knew guys who thought that just because the profession paid well and attracted women who liked musicians, men with money — who truly had an affinity for both — they were Peter Pan. Life works a different way, though, as most of those fellas were beginning to figure out.
They had fun war stories of life on the road and tall tales about fetching wenches — but, at the end of the day, that’s about all they had. They spent what was left over of their lives rattling around expensive homes, wondering what to do with themselves, at a loss to understand why the good life wasn’t enough.
An insanely successful producer had, at one point, imparted what Keith’d pretty much figured out: “It doesn’t matter how well you live,” the guy reflected one way-early A.M. as Keith helped him knock a hole in a bottle of Jack Daniels right here in this very living room. “If you can’t share it with someone who gives a…damn about you, who…who cares. Who love…loves…who—”
Upon which his eyes crossed and he was about to pitch forward off the sofa at the perfect angle to crash the bridge of his nose into the edge of the coffee table. Keith’d caught him, pushed him back and stretched him out on the sofa to sleep it off.
Here was a cat who had, for crying out loud, been to the Playboy Mansion, hung at A-list Hollywood shindigs, had more honeys than the law allows. Keith had cut the stereo off and, as he headed in to crash, heard his guest mutter “I wish…” slurring his words, “…wish I’d married Lydia. Dianne. No, Gretchen. Could’ve had my pick. Too late now.”
He’d kept on as Keith shut the bedroom door and hit the hay, clothed, not bothering to take off his shoes. Next day, it’d been just one more unremarkable night of hedonistic carousing behind him. He thought back on it now without pleasure.
Fact is, he cottoned to the notion of finally settling down. Setting up house. With a good woman. With Lesli.
Just not yet.
Next week: Yet more hell breaks loose.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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