Leaning on a telephone pole

All the cards and flowers have been taken down from the side of Sam's newsbooth, and this morning a new man was inside, drinking RC Cola and fanning himself with the classifieds. Less than two weeks after Sam died, he's been replaced by some new guy, and all references to the old guy are gone.

Two weeks to be forgotten? Yeah, that seems about right. It's longer than anyone will remember me.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Someone named Roberta called my voicemail on Tuesday, said she'd bought Pathetic Life and liked it, and my number is in the zine, so she left her number, and offered me noodles at Saigon Express in Berkeley. I like a free meal even more than I hate people in general, so I'd called back and accepted the invitation.

As always when people reach out like this, I warned her that I'm not the talkative type, and I might just slurp noodles and stare at the wall and have nothing to say. She laughed and said to be there at 6:30 on Friday night.

Is it a date, or only a meeting? I thought about asking her, but didn't.

Today, after six hours of washing Judith's dishes, sweeping Judith's stairs, and playing with Judith's dog, I said goodbye to Judith and the dog, and walked to the restaurant.

We'd agreed that the first to arrive would lean on a telephone pole, and all the nearby poles were unoccupied, so I leaned. 

A few minutes later, a young woman approached, and I hoped it was her, but remained leaning. "Are you Doug?" she asked, and I nodded.

"I have a cold," she said and sneezed.

"Me too," I replied, but mine is only a slightly plugged nose. Whatever she had involved serious coughs and sneezes.

"I would've backed out," she said, "but from the zine I knew that you don't check your messages often, and I didn't want to be the girl who stood you up."

"Well, I appreciate that," I said and did and do, "but if you're not up for it, the telephone pole will be here some other night."

"We're here," she said, so inside we went.

Saigon Express was wonderful. It's nice but not swanky, with good prices, very good food, and large portions. I love large portions, and ordered two spicy sandwiches that were twice the size I'd expected, plus a bowl of noodles that was dang fine, but so big I couldn't finish it. 

Roberta was open and affable, interesting despite frequent sniffles, coughs, and noseblows. She's an anarchist and atheist like me, and either gay or bi — we both mentioned ex-girlfriends. Being my introverted self, I didn't ask for clarification.

Mostly I didn't have much to say. She's pretty, which made me even quieter. She did 3/4 of the talking, but it wasn't the kind of talking where I wished she'd shut the hell up. 

After the 45 minutes or so that it takes me to even begin thawing for conversation, she said, "Sorry, I'm so groggy," though I hadn't noticed that particular symptom. "I'm not at my best," she added, "with this cold and all."

"Should you go home and get some rest?" I asked, mostly just to be polite, and hoping she'd say 'No, not yet'.

But, "Yeah," she said, so we started gathering our stuff. As I poured my leftover noodle soup into a doggie bowl, she offered to add her infected noodles, which was generous, but I said no, thanks. 

We walked to the BART station, and all the way down to the platform, still with her doing most of the talking, but occasionally i had something to say. Then her eastbound train came, so we shook hands and that was the evening.

So, she met the guy from the zine, and I met the lady who'd wanted to meet me. I liked the restaurant and liked the lady. The conversation wasn't boring for me, but it probably was for her. Wouldn't say we hit it off splendidly, but she's likable.

Here's a thought that smacked me, though, as my westbound train dipped underwater for the long ride home— 

Even before calling Roberta back on Tuesday, I'd deleted her voice mail. What am I gonna do with old voicemails? I delete 'em by habit.

I'd written her number on a scrap of paper, but by now I have no idea where that paper is.

And it never occurred to me tonight to ask for her address, so I can't write her a charming thank-you post card.

All of which means, it's entirely up to her whether we'll ever or never see each other again.

From Pathetic Life #25
Friday, June 7, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

No comments:

Post a Comment

🚨🚨 BY THE WAY... 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.