The Not Entirely Complete Works of Peter Schulman

©2011 Peter Schulman
 

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He Said, She Said

Chapter

Annie

“I told Shelly I’d be with her in a minute. I tried to give her some body language to let her know I needed to finish our conversation with a little bit of privacy. He was a nice boy and very bright. Even better, it seemed that he might have the courage to actually ask me out on a date. I didn’t want to make it any more difficult for him by making him do it in front of a third party. It seemed to be difficult enough.”

Annie wants to tell this story; needs to tell this story. She speaks with great relish about it, as if, somehow, the telling will change the outcome.

“He said, ‘So, uh, would you like to go out some time to a movie or something?’”

She does a close approximation of his voice, with all the uncertainty and lack of confidence. It’s pretty funny, but my training keeps me stoic.

“I told him that would be nice. I didn’t express my elation. A nice, shy boy who wasn’t part of any popular crowd had asked me out. I could go on a date with him and have a conversation where the most frequent word from him would not be ‘I.’ I opened my pocketbook, took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down my number for him. He took if gently from my hand. I smiled and said, ‘I’ll talk to you. Bye.’

“He said, ‘Bye.’ He seemed almost in awe that I had agreed to go out with him. He had no way of knowing I wanted it just as much as he did unless I told him. It was too early for that.”

* * *

Bart

“All week I was distracted from my schoolwork thinking about Annie and our date. Not that it suffered because I paid so little attention in class anyway.”

I’d had much the same sense of anticipation, Bart waiting for his date, me waiting for the rest of his story.

“I called midweek to talk and to confirm that we were on partly because I was astonished that I was actually going on a date with this captivating creature. Thankfully, I also remembered to ask for directions or I would have had to call Friday night and ask where she lived.

“I enlisted my mother’s help in picking out something to wear because I was clueless as to what would be appropriate and effective. I’m pretty sure she was amused. I had gone out on dates before, but she had never seen me this stupid.”

He was still clueless about how to dress.

“Annie answered the door herself and I didn’t have to meet her parents. She looked wonderful. She was wearing a beautiful smile, those blue eyes and that captivating red hair. She could have been wearing mud and bark for all I know because I just looked at that face and it pierced my soul.

“I told her, ‘Wow! You look great.’ She thanked me.

“The conversation on the way to the theater has left my mind. Perhaps it was never there. The only thing I was experiencing was soaring joy. I had never felt so good in my life.

“I parked and we went into the theater where I paid for the tickets. Price was no object for me. I would have paid anything to be there with her.

“We walked toward the door which separated us from the seats, Annie on my right. As we neared the door, Annie held out her left hand to me. I still remember the surge of emotion as I saw it coming my way. Life could not possibly get better than this. I took her left hand in my right. It felt warm and firm and a feeling of energy coursed through my body from that connection.”

Even I was feeling the magic as he told his story. I was almost falling in love with them as a couple.

“Then Annie said the words I will never forget no matter how long I live, in a matter of fact voice devoid of emotion. ‘No. I wanted the tickets.’”

Bart gulped, momentarily unable to go on, still feeling the effects of her words almost fourteen years later. He exhaled a deep breath.

“I was sure that everybody in the theater could hear them over the speaker system. I was sure that the connection of our hands was showing on the screen. She did not want to be holding hands with me. She found the physical connection offensive. Despite the years that have passed, I still cannot find a word to adequately describe how I felt. Humiliation would have been a much milder emotion than I experienced in that moment.”

Bart’s voice sounded sad as he completed his story.

“I have no idea what the movie was. I sat there, knowing everyone else in the theater saw me as an object of abject pity. I made no attempt to hold her hand or put an arm around her after I handed her the ticket stubs.

“I don’t remember if we went for something to eat. I made no attempt to kiss her goodnight when I dropped her off.

“It hadn’t occurred to me until very recently, but I suspect that much of my shyness with women is a result of that night. I don’t know if she had any malevolent intent. I don’t know if she realized what she had done to me. I was just another date in what I’m sure was a long line of dates; another opportunity for somebody to take her out and spend money on her; to ease the boredom.

“I never called her or saw her again.

“But I will never forget that red-haired girl,” he said wistfully.

We sat for awhile in silence.

To him, this was a fact of his past with an impact on his future never to be repaired. There wasn’t anything he could do to change it. He just wanted to be able to say it out loud and continue to mourn for the loss and lament the cost.

I knew there could be alternative reasons for her behavior. Given that he had nurtured this story for so long, I would have to be careful about how I helped him to understand that.