The Not Entirely Complete Works of Peter Schulman

©2011 Peter Schulman
 

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He Said, She Said

Chapter

Annie

“Unfortunately, being the girl, I had to wait for him to call. Fortunately, there was no possibility that he would not. Still, waiting passively was not a role for which I was well suited and I felt a mix of frustration and anticipation as I awaited our next conversation.

“Sunday night he called.

“When I answered, he said, ‘Hi. Is this Annie?’ I told him it was.

“‘This is Bart. From last night.’ It was adorable the way he was so unsure of himself, yet plowed right ahead.

“I told him, ‘I knew who you were.’

“He asked what kind of movies I liked.

“I told him comedy, drama and romance. I asked how about him.

“He said comedy and drama. He didn’t think he had seen enough romance to have an opinion one way or another.”

“The conversation went on quite a while. We talked about our tastes in music and films. We talked about what kinds books we liked. We both read a lot, which didn’t surprise me at all.

“We talked politics. We talked about what we would like for our futures. We talked about our schools and assessed the quality of the education we were receiving.

“Bart may have started out shy, but the more I got to know him, the better I liked him. He got pretty comfortable talking to me, which was nice.

“Eventually, our parents told us to get off the phone because we had school in the morning. We had succeeded in the initial purpose of the phone call. We were going to the movies on Friday night.”

She talks about this as if it were a major milestone in her life, like getting her Ph.D.

It’s easy to see why he was drawn to her, independent of her compelling looks. She is comfortable with herself except for the problems this incident has caused her. She’s very bright and a pleasure to talk to. Her body language, eye contact and expressiveness draw me in, as if we were forging a relationship, even though she is just telling me her story in an effort to get help. That ability must serve her well in her business life as well as her personal life.

* * *

Bart

“No. I definitely remember her tone being emotionless,” Bart said. “What else could it mean under those circumstances?”

“Look,” I said, “I wasn’t there. I have no idea how she sounded. You see this as possibly the most traumatic event in your life. If someone were to tell you something comparably traumatic, like that your parents were just killed in an automobile accident, do you think you would remember clearly the tone of voice they used? Would you remember it just as clearly fourteen years later? Or could what you remember about how they said it be a product of the news they brought you?”

Bart didn’t answer immediately. He rarely did. When faced with a meaningful question, he gave it the consideration it required.

“I guess it might have happened that way,” he said, not convinced.

I asked him to just let his imagination go; to try to come up with alternative explanations for Annie asking for the tickets. He didn’t need to come up with anything he considered plausible, just another way of looking at it.

“Try looking at it with a fresh mind the way you do when you consult with the Governors at the Fed.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“I’m a teacher,” I mocked. “You were full damn Professor at twenty-six. You had governments asking you to consult even before you got your Ph.D. You have two-semester waiting lists to get into your classes. You didn’t get that way by just accepting the conventional. Let’s see some imagination.”

“Where did you get all that stuff?”

“Jason filled me in. You’re allowed to have a little pride in your accomplishments.”

“Pride goeth before a fall,” he said.

“You weren’t prideful and you didn’t have a fall. You just had something happen that you don’t understand. That’s what we’re trying to work through. Participate.”

“Okay,” he said, exasperated. “She wanted the tickets to try to bluff her way in to see the movie again with somebody else, just in case she really liked it.”

“Not a likely scenario, but good. At least you’re being creative. More.”

“I don’t know. Maybe the movie was a romance and she wanted to use the tickets to make fun of me as a romantic.”

“Can’t you come up with anything that isn’t sinister?”

He shrugged.

I could understand how difficult it must be for him to come up with any scenario that allowed him to see in a positive way the words that had crushed him and kept crushing him every time he remembered. It was as if he had lost a limb and I was asking him to talk about all the positive things that resulted from that trauma.

“Let me give you a few off the top of my head. She keeps tickets from all of her first dates.

“She’s shy and used it to cover up her embarrassment at being too forward.”

I paused after each possibility I suggested to give him time to evaluate it.

“She needed the tickets to prove to her parents that you went to the movies because they don’t trust her.

“She wanted them to prove to her friends she didn’t go to a make-out date.

“Aren’t all of them reasonable?”

I waited for him to answer. He seemed reluctant.

“I guess so.”

“Do any of them say anything about how she felt about you?”

Again, he was hesitant.

“I guess not.”

“So maybe it’s not the horrible experience you’ve seen it as. Maybe it’s just a small speed bump you crossed on the road of life that allows you to keep going forward; not a horrible accident that forces you to give up driving forever.”

He glanced down at the floor. He ran a hand through his hair. He tried to take a deep breath but came up short.

“I hear what you’re saying. I understand that this may just have been an ordinary event. I understand it intellectually. But I’m not near getting it emotionally. It … still tears at my guts.

“I was so open; so innocent. I was completely unprepared. I don’t ever want to be in that position again.”

We had more work to do. Maybe a lot more work.