The Not Entirely Complete Works of Peter Schulman

©2011 Peter Schulman
 

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He Said, She Said

Chapter

Annie

“If he hadn’t thought I was out of his league before, being a year younger certainly wasn’t going to diminish his apprehension. I had to do something. I said, ‘Wow! That’s a long ride from here. You must be awfully smart.’”

So, it seems, was Annie. It was remarkable that she could anticipate his dilemma and find an approach to defuse it at seventeen.

“He smiled and seemed to relax a bit. ‘It’s about an hour and a half each way including the mile I have to walk to the bus,’ he told me.

“He didn’t have a car to drive to school. I wondered if he thought I would be shallow enough to care about that. I said, ‘You must think it’s pretty important to spend all that time to go there.’

“‘It’s a really good school,’ he said. ‘And I get to know all the bus drivers. They let me go through their change for my coin collection.’ He said it so enthusiastically it was endearing.

“If he could establish that kind of rapport with strangers, he must be pretty easy to talk to when he wasn’t approaching an older, knockout woman. I asked him where he had learned to play the guitar so well.

“He said, ‘I pretty much taught myself. I read a book about it too.’

“Can you actually learn to play guitar by reading a book, Rose? That’s impressive.

“Anyway, I said, ‘That’s so cool. I wish I could play.’

“He said, ‘It just takes practice though I don’t know if it would work with your nails. They’re very pretty, but I think they would make it kind of hard to hold down the strings.’

“I was really starting to enjoy this conversation. He was talking to me as if I were just an interesting person and not a celebrity to be approached with caution. I don’t think I’d met another boy back then who talked to me that way. Unfortunately, Shelly walked up to us and said we had to be going.”

Both of them remember this conversation almost verbatim fourteen years later. It’s pretty clear that what happened was the pivotal event in both their lives. Is the fact that both of them wound up coming to me a sign that they are destined to figure it out and wind up together? Does this guarantee that I am not going to get the guy, again?

* * *

I met Bart at a party thrown by my friend Jason.

It was clear Bart didn’t have a girlfriend. No woman would let him go out dressed like that, not even his mother.

Despite that look, he was talking with a group that seemed engaged by whatever he was saying. There were frequent bursts of laughter and he seemed to be the source.

After the group broke up, Bart wandered over to the window, looked out, then turned and leaned against the wall. He watched what was going on, making no attempt to approach anyone.

An attractive blonde woman came over to him and started to flirt. They talked for awhile but his body language didn’t suggest flirting. He didn’t even seem to recognize that she was flirting with him.

She brushed her hair back. She tilted her head as she laughed at many of his comments. She touched his arm as she spoke. She touched his chest. He was not responding. She walked away with a bemused look on her face.

A beautiful brunette walked over to talk to him. She had a sensational body. She must have started with her name because they shook hands as if it was an introduction. Not only did she touch him every time she spoke to him, she touched him in response to most of the things he said.

He wasn’t getting it. She smiled and walked away. With her back to him, her face took on a look of frustration.

Jason stopped by to talk to me. I told him I was having a very nice time. After some conversation, I nodded my head toward his friend against the wall.

“Doesn’t he like women?” I asked.

“Bart likes women quite a lot,” he said. “He just doesn’t seem to like them for very long.”

“He got hit on by a couple of really hot women and he acted like he was talking about sports with one of the guys.”

“Oh, he can be oblivious sometimes. He’s fairly shy and gets kind of uncomfortable when he doesn’t know many people. Get him involved in a substantive conversation and he’s unable to restrain himself. But if you wait for him to get things rolling you could be in for a long wait.

“Why don’t I introduce you? Maybe you can bring him into the flow of things.”

I shrugged. “Why not?”

We walked over to him.

“Bart, I’d like you to meet my friend Rose Adelman. Rose, Bartholomew Fedders.”

“Uh, nice to meet you, Rose.”

“Likewise, Bart.”

“If you two will excuse me, I need to make sure I have a continuous supply of things to eat coming from the kitchen,” said Jason.

I fell back on the tried and true, if trite. “So, Bart, what do you do?”

“I’m a teacher,” he said. “You?”

“I’m a therapist.”

“So does that make it Dr. Adelman?”

I laughed. “I’m afraid it does.”

“What made you decide to become a therapist?”

“When I was a kid, all my friends used to pick me to talk to when they had problems and it made me feel really good. I just kind of gravitated naturally to a profession where I could help people.”

“That’s a nice story. Are you any good?”

“I like to think I am. Nobody has sued me yet.”

He laughed. “Gee, I hope that doesn’t become the standard for excellence.”

I shrugged. He got a look in his eyes that was far away.

“What?” I asked.

He hesitated. “Oh, nothing.”

“You can’t fool me; I’m a therapist.”

“Perhaps I’m an actor. Or a secret agent. You’ll never know.”

“I don’t think so. I suspect you’re not telling me the complete truth.”

“Well, it’s never a good idea to tell the complete truth to a beautiful woman. It can get a guy in a lot of trouble.”

His eyes sparkled. He did know how to flirt. He just didn’t always recognize when it was being done to him.

I looked at him carefully. He was quite good looking. His unkempt hair actually contributed to his looks, though I was sure he had no clue. He was charming and delightful to talk with. Persistence does pay off. If you go to enough parties, you’re bound to meet someone worthwhile.

“Well, we know that, so we never believe everything you tell us.”

“We don’t believe a lot of what you tell us either,” he said. “But it’s so much fun to listen, I’ll pretend to believe you.”

“Are you one of those bad boys women just can’t resist?”

“No. Women find me quite resistible. I’ve been resisted by a diverse population of women.”

I was in trouble. I find a good sense of humor compellingly sexy.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m sure some day you’ll find a woman charitable enough to overcome your resistibility.”

He smiled. It was a very warm, engaging smile.

Go ahead. Ask me if I’m seeing anyone, please.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If it were to happen, who knows what would become of the poor woman.”

Draw him out. Most of the conversation had been about me.

“What is it you teach?” I asked.

“Uh, economics.”

A teacher? I don’t know of anywhere that’s taught below the college level.

“Where?”

“Penn,” he said shyly.

That might be something you want to mention if you don’t want women to resist you.

“Impressive,” I said.

“Ah, it’s nothing. The school needs somebody to teach. It is a business after all.”

Shy, self-effacing, humble, good-looking; he had lied to me. There were not large groups of women resisting him. I certainly didn’t plan to resist.

It didn’t seem like he was going to take the initiative so I decided to do it.

“So, are you seeing anyone?”

He thought about it with that faraway look in his eyes again. He seemed to come to a decision.

“I’ve never been involved with a therapist before,” he said. “I think it’s about time.”

Thank you, God.

“Do you have any open time in your schedule for a new patient?”

Shit!