Many a man in his right mind would give an arm, a leg, and quart of blood to be in Keith’s shoes with a woman this wonderful asking to move in. Asking? Lesli was demanding it. They’d be happy as hogs in slop.
He had his reasons for declining the offer.
It sure wasn’t that he didn’t want her. And it wasn’t that, even with someone this great, he expected a perfect, trouble-free relationship.
They’d hit glitches and got over them without batting an eye. Routine relationship stuff. Different tastes in movies, for instance. She loved documentaries, it hardly mattered about what — the woman was a fact-aholic and history junkie who never passed up an opportunity to learn something. Except for music and baseball — especially anything on the old Negro Leagues — her tastes in DVD viewing bored him beyond belief.
Give him a good monster movie. Something like Alien or Underworld. In which, of course, she hadn’t the slightest interest.
When they ate out, Lesli insisted on arriving at a criminally expensive restaurant right on time for their reservations, whereas he’d get there as close to on time as possible. Which meant, if he ran into an old acquaintance on the way and got caught up chewing the rag, he’d get to the restaurant when he got to the restaurant, so long as she wasn’t left stranded.
On such occasions, she would declare him cut off from any horizontal hi-jinks for the evening, order the priciest plate on the menu, and stick him with the tab, including tip. Sometimes she would make good on her sex strike threat, just to teach him a lesson. A lesson he had yet to learn: The only thing you’d ever be able count on Keith getting to on time was work.
They’d even had something of a knock-down-drag-out about gay marriage. His take on it was, “Anybody have a problem with gay or lesbian marriage, next time somebody gay or lesbian asks to marry them, just say no thanks.” And he left it at that, not really giving a flying figure-eight one way or the other.
She wanted him to take proactive stand: “How can you be so blasé about such an important social issue?” His blithe response went, “Because, baby, it ain’t important to me.”
Wrong answer: She went off on a rant that lasted a good half-hour with Keith sitting at the end of the bed, Bruno curled in his lap as both cat and man watched this woman pitch a fit, strutting back and forth, pausing every now and then to gesture or otherwise emphasize her point.
Eventually, she ran out of gas, told him and Bruno where they both could go, and flounced out of the room. He’d stretched out, fluffed a pillow, turned on the television and, petting the cat, simply waited until she forgive him for having the audacity to not be of the same frame of mind as her.
God knows he had his own flaws. It’s courteous, if you don’t like someone’s friend, particularly the friend of someone with whom you’re in love, to be nice and try to get along. To Keith, courtesy, beyond not farting in polite company, was overrated. If he didn’t like you, he ignored you.
And he detested Lesli’s best friend Yvonne, a coal-black, blue-eyed-contact-wearing, dead ringer for Whoopi Goldberg who lived to look down on others. She called the street musicians “common beggars” who worked Greenwich Village corners with their guitar or violin cases open for spare change. “Why don’t they get a job?”
Keith knew damned good and well jobs don’t grow on trees. These guys and gals weren’t begging. They were doing what they could in the face of hard times. And trying to do it with what they loved.
When he tried to explain that to Whoopsie (Lesli always punched him on the arm when he called her friend “Woopsie” behind her back), Yvonne sneered, retorting, “It’s a public disgrace.” Whereupon he’d quit giving her so much as the time of day.
When they went anywhere on a double date, Yvonne leading her Wall Street broker husband around by the nose, Keith wouldn’t say boo to either one, just looked at them like they were flies on a wall. At length, Lesli decided she could have both Keith and Yvonne in her life but not at the same time and place.
That, he concluded, was her call. So far as he was concerned, the witch was using up perfectly good air someone else could be breathing. He was wrong to be so rude to her, wrong as two left shoes, but truly he didn’t give a damn. Yes, he had his flaws. Which, God bless her heart, Lesli hadn’t held against him. Yet.
Glitches were one thing. This matter of agreeing to live together was another. And the fact that he was so crazy about her made it all the more important.
He figured she was right about it being time to fish or cut bait. Everyone he’d ever listened to pretty much agreed that two years is the rule of thumb on the make-it-or-break-it point in a relationship. Well, rule or no rule, he would not be pushed into anything.
And rule or no rule, much as he hated the thought, this also meant Lesli or no Les.
Next week: Keith stands his ground.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.