I have a friend—a girl. I’m not sure if she’s imaginary or real, but when I shut my eyes I see her looking back at me.
I tell Jack, my roommate, about her and he wants me to see Father Tom. You see—that’s the problem with Catholic colleges—they think every little problem can be solved by a trip to the chaplain’s office.
Well, I’m not going to do that.
“You probably think she’s hot,” he drawls, staring out the dorm window. Jack’s from Tennessee and spends hours at that window checking out chicks passing by outside.
We live on the second floor of an old Victorian manse. There are ten of us; not counting the don whose office is on the first floor—right beside the door, of course.
The don happens to be Father Tom McKillop, the chaplain.
I think it’s a conspiracy hatched by God to trap me into a vocation to the priesthood—but I’m not buying what he’s selling. I tell him that all the time at night in the darkened chapel while the votive candles softly flutter.
“You’re free to do what you like, Stephen.”
“Oh yeah, sure—no Hound of Heaven chasing me—no siree bob.”
“Do you want me to chase you?”
I hate it when he does that—as if I want him to chase me. It’s one of those rhetorical questions and he knows it. It’s kinda like the Bible—all riddles and enigmas and you can’t sort it out.
“I just want to have a life.”
“Go ahead—who’s stopping you?”
I roll my eyes and shift from knee to knee—those kneelers are padded but they’re mighty uncomfortable after a half hour.
“I want to go out on dates.”
“Anyone in mind?”
“No, not really. There’s this one girl—short dark hair, big eyes.”
“Oh, Pat Shaunessy—nice girl—good family.”
See what I mean. He knows darn well I’m not going to ask her out, so, of course, he’s good with that.
“Maybe I should consider Rita.”
He goes quiet. I figured he would. Rita’s a blonde runaway from Boston—her daddy’s rich and her momma’s good looking—Ya, I know it’s lame, but true. Her dad made a bundle in real estate. He’s a real controller—except when it comes to his daughter. Rita’s a real wild child.
“Hey, Lord—you still there?”
I get up, rubbing my knees, grumbling under my breath. I really do need to get a life.
It’s raining and Jack’s bored. He can’t see out the window for the raindrops and even if he could, no chicks will be out in this storm.
“You know, this is getting to be a real drag.”
I put down my copy of Aquinas and give him an open-blink stare.
“You don’t get body language?” I growl. “I’ll tell you what’s a real drag—sitting here day after day watching you at that bloody window.”
“Wadda ya mean?”
“I mean, why don’t you get the hell of here? Go to the pub—meet a few girls—get drunk, get laid.”
“Hey now, Stevie, boy—you okay?”
“It’s not like you to talk like that—you’re not like the rest of us.”
“I’m exactly like the rest of you.”
“No you’re not.”
“Aw, hell—how would you know?”
“I know—I don’t spend hours in the chapel praying.”
I pitch my book at him—it misses and sails out the window.
“Aha—see! Just like Martin Luther when he threw the ink well at Lucifer—who does that?”
“Somebody who’s pissed at having a loonie for a roommate.”
I go over and stick my head out the window. Raindrops pelt me.
Father Tom’s standing on the front lawn below, fishing a copy of Aquinas out of a rain puddle.
—See what I mean? It’s a conspiracy.
Later that evening, I’m back from chapel, grumbling and slamming doors—looking for anything to get in my way, so I can slam it.
“Someone take your book?” Jack drawls.
I waver between slamming the drawer and smashing my fist into his face.
“Let’s go The Pig,” I sigh.
His face lights up and he’s wearing a crooked smile. “You’re kidding, right?”
I’m not and my expression tells him.
The Pig’s short for The Place Pigalle, the local campus watering hole and a notorious pick-up joint loaded with chicks—not the kind who read Aquinas.
He reaches into his jeans and pulls out a crumpled five-dollar bill and gives me a sheepish grin.
“I’m buying,” I reassure him.
He’s out of the chair and to the door faster than a bellhop spotting Donald Trump.
Hey, big spender!
What the hell! Who said that? It wasn’t me and it sure as hell wasn’t ole Jack, looking like a hound dog on a scent.
I choose to ignore it.
I am a free agent in the universe. Who am I to resist the cosmos?
We get to The Pig and the joint’s hopping—it’s a big cavernous hall, divided into two sections by a low half wall. The left side’s like an old fashioned beer parlor and the right side’s where the action is. There’s a line-up to the women’s section, so we go to the left, to the men’s side, knowing what courage a glass of beer can light in us.
Fast Eddie drops a tray of drafts and Jack hands him his fiver—that’s it for him for the night. I’ll be buying until lights out, unless we get lucky.
Jack chugs two drafts in quick succession and gives a satisfied belch. “Nothing like cool draft and hot chicks,” he says and his eyes are already glassy. I smile. With any luck, he’ll pass out after the second round and I’ll save some cash on the evening.
“They’re going to put strippers in here, “ he enthuses. “I’ll be here every night.”
I believe him. He’ll be one of the pitiful regulars nursing their beer and hoping to win a few bucks by betting on the shuffleboard. I’m beginning to feel a little nauseous, but I force myself to have fun.
Jack’s struck up a conversation with a dude at the next table and they’re going on about the Varsity hockey team. My eyelids are starting to flutter—like the votive candles in the chapel.
I glance over to the women’s section and see Rita sitting at a mixed table of girls and guys. She waves me over and I leave Jack engrossed in his hockey dream while I navigate through wobbly tables to the doorway where I’m confronted by a huge bouncer.
“He’s with me,” Rita smiles up at him and grabs my arm, pulling me across the divide that separates the men from the boys.
“I never see you in here—what brings you out tonight?”
“Aw, c’mon—a handsome guy like you? Don’t give me that.”
“Well, to tell the truth, a friend’s been ignoring me.”
She assumes I mean Jack and she looks over at him in animated conversation with the guy at the next table.
“He’s a loser anyway. You shouldn’t hang around with losers, Stephen—it’ll give you a bad reputation.”
Fast Eddie appears and his eyes widen seeing me here. He drops two trays of drinks and I pay the tab.
Hey, big spender!
“Did you hear that?” I look around wildly.
She shakes her head. “How can you hear anything in this joint?”
Her eyes widen. “I’ve got an idea—let’s go back to my place!”
Mom told me about girls like Rita, but the mood I’m in, I don’t give a damn.
Ten minutes later, we’re walking under Maple-lined streets through a quiet residential neighborhood toward Rita’s flat.
“I’ve gotta roomie—she’s kinda like Jack—a real nerd. Hey, maybe we should set them up? —They might hit it off. Who knows?”
I’m listening—kinda. I’m wondering about the voice and I’m beginning to doubt this was such a great idea.
We arrive outside Rita’s house and she turns to me and says. “You wait here, Stephen. I’ll go and convince Irene that she needs to study a few more hours in the campus library. When the coast is clear, I’ll wave you up.”
She points to an attic window. “Just watch up there and when you see me wave, come on up to the third level.”
She may as well have said the seventh heaven. Are there levels in hell, I wonder?
I watch her lovely sylph-like figure as she melts through the doorway and I wonder what I did to deserve this gift.
Hey there, big spender.
I whirl around in the direction of the voice and there’s the girl of my dreams, standing there, her white dress shimmering in the moonlight.
She smiles and every nuance of expression melts my heart. I dreamt of being in the moonlight with her and now, here we are.
“Well, here we are,” she whispers and gives me a trembling smile.
I feel an aching so deep inside me. I want to ask her forgiveness for being so blind and stupid and insensitive.
“I’ve wanted you my whole life,” I tell her and I mean it with my whole heart. Above us, a widow sash raises and Rita rasps in a hoarse whisper, “Hurry up!”
“I’ve go to go,” I tell my girl.
“No, you don’t—you’re better than this, Stephen.”
Every word out of her mouth is a caress.
Have you ever met someone who is so genuinely nice they make you want to cry? She made me want to cry.
“You’re right,” I tell her, “I can’t do this.”
I turn and look up at Rita’s lighted window, but she’s gone. If I walk up those stairs, I’ll make it worse. I turn back to my girl, but she’s gone.
I am a free agent in the universe.
I go home.
When I get back to the dorm, Jack’s sleeping in his Nashville Predator’s hockey shirt, snoring.
The window’s open and white curtains billow on the breeze.
I sit and stare up at the dome of the Moon.
I don’t understand what just happened. I don’t understand where my life is headed.
One thing I do know for sure and I can feel it deep within me—
In the depths of the sleeping night, my love is waiting.
She’s sheltered from storms of feverish flesh and waiting for me in her shimmering white dress.
© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.