Honest, I am. I can tell you, in full detail, my mental catalog of fantastic outfits I have worn-by pattern, color and designer, and from what season. I also have no trouble describing the play-by-play of a prior evening's dinner date. But give me a sheet of lined paper, or in this case, a stark white screen of an empty word processor document and nothing, blank. I'm an old-school Joe, hide my feelings underneath a gleaming smile and mega-watt ensemble.
photo courtesy of Joey Adami
Conversation between Chance and me, in a candle-dim corner spot, flowed like the cocktails of a second round. I found myself actually listening to him and not turning my ear toward the faint conversations and faces around us. I was interested, willing and, after a shaky start, able.
"Math has never been my strong suit," I laughed, picking up the check.
"Neither is pretending, with that look on your face about the bill," he smiled.
"This one is on me," I replied, digging for my wallet.
His hand stopped mine from going into my coat pocket, which held three twenties.
"This one is on me," I repeated in a whisper, giving him a quick wink.
In the scene of the waitress taking his money and extending a good night, as she made her way past us, no words followed, just my very apparent frown....
At the same time, my friend Luke Yates tossed his toothbrush into the sink, crossed his apartment, already stripping out of his purposely too-tight t-shirt and Pumas and, answering the knock at the door, unlocked and opened it to find him just outside. Luke rarely went home empty-handed after a late-night encounter. One of two scenarios was possible: a hand was filled with Luke's package and they topped off the night in one or the other's bed, or this date was coming back for dessert. "Please say I'm still in the right time zone," he gasped instead, expecting an entirely different body in front of him.
" Wrong time zone, no, but right, about that the look on your face."
It was Will O'Neil, back from California.
"You haven't said two words since we left dinner," Chance observed, watching me clear the toss pillows from my sofa.
"I wanted to pay for dinner. I told you that," I replied.
"What's the difference? I paid, so forget about it," he added.
I couldn't just forget about it. I had earned enough money from my first paycheck to cover the cost, to do something nice and pay the tab.
Chance again spoke. "Besides, you just got your first check."
"The difference is, I wanted to treat for dinner, and you embarrassed me by assuming I could not cover the bill," I said.
"You had an extra sixty bucks?" he asked, looking in my direction. I didn't look back, but focused on Jinx, my cat, sitting on the windowsill.
"I had credit cards and my ATM card. I had enough," I blurted back.
"You're so damned independent," Chase cried.
The words rushed out of me. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time. I let you take me out to dinner. You stayed in my bed. What more do you want from me?" I knew when I said it-and how I said it-that I would regret every word.
"So after Marc took the last of his stuff from the apartment, I couldn't stay there," Will told Luke. "It was so quiet and empty," he added.
Fourteen hours ago, he packed his life into three suitcases, and left from LAX to go to New York, walking away from his life with his cheating boyfriend.
Luke, utterly silent and frowning, sat watching Will as he talked. This is the part where, when your friend tells you a story, you say everything is going work out, will be okay, but Luke couldn't find it in himself to do that. "Did you ever really see who he was?" Luke then injected. Will sat there, shaking his head as he stared into the floor. The shiny leather of his Calvin Klein loafers returned a dismal, fuzzy reflection. "If you're going to cheat, do it with a guy who's at least a ten," Luke added.
Will gave him a warm smile, knowing that Luke just assumed his breakup was over Marc's cheating with a guy that had nowhere near Will's looks or personality.
"I hit the gym at 7:30, so lights outs," Luke winked. He threw a blanket and pillow in Will's direction, turned off the lamp, and went to his room. There, despite, confident, egotistical shell, Luke muffled his sobs with his pillow, never allowing Will to hear the sadness he felt for him.