Three in the afternoon. Keith sat with his bare feet propped up on the coffee table, hung over like hell, nursing a beer, watching the Mets lose their fourth of the last five games. On top of which, he had lost Lesli. What the hell else could go wrong?
He had managed, by the skin of his teeth and Helen St. James’ good graces, to not foul up a gig. But that didn’t make the drinking problem go away. Or the Lesli problem.
Looked at his watch, finished off his beer, cut the game off, tossed the can in the kitchen, went downstairs, hit the bricks. Walked a block or so to meet Luis. To grab a bite, bitch about the Mets, damn the Yankees, and figure out the trickier parts to the charts for Helen’s music.
So he told himself. They could’ve done that over the phone. Or by email.
That rascal Luis wasn’t doing bad for himself. Married his last girlfriend, Esme, a cute, tiny little slim piece of work who cooked a mean plate of rice and beans and kept that rascal on a tight leash. The closest Keith had come to making it past the rule-of-thumb, two-year, make-it-or-break-point was — God, how it hurt to so much as hear her name, even in his head — Lesli.
Why couldn’t he get and keep her off his mind? That’d never been all that much of a problem with anyone before. Sure, some had stuck stronger than others. But, nothing like this one. Why? He had to talk to somebody.
Luis had hipped Keith to this luncheonette just off Central Park. Where burritos and tortillas spilled meat and onions and the flan was sweet, tasty as caramel can be. He was there now sitting by the window munching corn chips, looking at women passing by on the sidewalk, when he saw Keith coming and visibly cracked up.
This, Keith ruminated, is going to be a whole lot of fun. He went in and sat down, clasping hands with his hang-out buddy. “So,” Luis started in, “you forgot how to read music?”
“Go to hell. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go straight to—” The waitress appeared, handing them menus, replacing the small, half-empty basket with one full of more corn chips. Giving them both a wizened look.
“Hi, Maria,” Keith said.
“Don’t ’Hi’ me, you scoundrel. Louie says you let a good one get away.”
“Damn. Does everyone in New York City know my business?”
Maria had to be pushing 50 and gave any woman within eyesight a good run for the money. Appraising with a glance up and down, Keith finally figured out what that term “cougar” was about. Grey around the whiskers as she might be, Maria, still fit as the proverbial fiddle, could and would rock you into next week. She chuckled and said, “Yeah, baby. Pretty much. Even if they haven’t talked to big mouth, here.”
Luis smiled. “I told her in strict confidence.”
“Yeah,” Maria said. “Me and who else? Look, I got other customers. You guys gonna order some food?”
“Yeah, bring us some food,” Luis said, handing the menus back to her. He and Keith always ordered the same thing: burrito for him, tortilla for Keith. Both with extra sour cream and fries on the side. Great big glass of iced Coke to wash it down.
Soon as Maria walked away, Keith started staring out the window. If the East Side of New York didn’t have anything else, it had hotties strolling to and fro on the sidewalk. He glanced over at the corner and, gazing at three amazingly endowed women crossing the street, seriously wondered why there weren’t more accidents recorded at traffic lights. Then, picked a chip out of the basket and asked, “How’s things with your lady?”
Luis was never one to mince words: “Better than they are with you and yours. Man, what the hell happened? Me and Gerry had bets down that she was the one.”
Next week: Luis offers sage advice on getting over Lesli.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
To see more stories by Dwight Hobbes stories click HERE