House Party - Part VII
Tom was sitting alone, enjoying a glass of cognac. The fairy lights cast a gentle glow over the patio. Everyone had gone but the buzz from the night’s music and talk still rang in his ears.
“Hey!” said Irene as she walked out where Tom was sitting, “Aren’t you the sophisticate, out here, enjoying a digestif?”
“Busted,” said Tom, “I thought I saw you leave. Are you the only one left, ‘I’?”
“It is I, and only I, and you’re stuck with me.” Irene‘s eyes glittered as she spoke, “I was sitting in my car. Thinking about how it would be nice not to have to drive home, so I came back in. What does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?”
Tom went into the kitchen and filled her a tulip glass of Hines.
“It’s not Blatz, but this spirit does have a royal warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II… ”
“I figured you had room… ” she said with a smirk, “But… that thing that you’re thinking right now… no.”
“Beware of Widows,” said Tom, “That’s Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, some advice I’ve taken to heart, and you’ve managed to resist my formidable charms for more than forty years, I’m sure you’ll be able make it through one more night.”
Tom and Irene had both lost their spouses; it had been three years for Tom and five years for Irene. Neither one had remarried; they had remained friends but it never went any further than that.
“Are you still grieving?” said Irene, turning serious.
"No, not much grieving, June’s death was a great loss, but our marriage was good to the end. You can’t mourn that. She isn’t suffering anymore,” said Tom, “How about you? Any prospects?”
“I’m happily unmarried. Karl was a good man, and he gave me his all. I couldn’t replace him… but I’m doing OK.”
There was a pause in the conversation.
“This is a nice place,” said Irene, “Modern. I don’t know if I could live in a house like this. I like my ‘granny house.’
“I probably bought this place to make a break with the past. That old house was a big part of my life-story, but that chapter is closed now. It does show up in my dreams now, it never did when I lived there.”
“I can appreciate that, once in a while the duplex where where we lived in North Minneapolis years ago show up in mine.”
“You too? Do you have any ‘secret room’ dreams of that place?”
“I’ve dreamt of discovering a third floor, fully furnished, I wonder what that means?” said Irene, “Some unresolved issues from my past, probably?”
“Well they aren’t as disturbing as my dreams of my exes.”
“No, but that’s a funny thing. My sex dreams are of women I haven’t had sex with. Definitely some unresolved issues with the past, there.”
“Hm… I must be included in that lot… What ever it is you’re thinking now, STOP!”
They both laughed.
“I don’t dream of my exes,” said Irene, “But I do think about them sometimes.”
“My only regrets are of the time I wasted being miserable with them.”
“How many of them are still alive?”
“Well… you know Rod, he’s still out in Brooklyn, but the others I’ve lost track of, I suppose I could look them up, but no, I’m not going to,” said Irene, “How about you? Or maybe I shouldn’t be asking?”
“No, that’s all right. My college girlfriend, Wren, has been dead for over twenty years now, you never met her, I think about her.”
“How about that woman you were living with when we started hanging out together?”
“Denise? She’s a retired attorney, she called me once about thirty-five years ago. A ten-minute phone conversation was enough to remind me why I had broken up with her.” Tom was quiet for a minute. “There was someone else… Zina. She came with me to one of the parties that Eddy threw at his old place off Franklin. The ‘fry baby’ party. You might remember her.”
“I remember the party, It was pretty rowdy. But she doesn’t ring a bell, what was she like?”
“She was petite, dark hair, mousy. I met her when I was working for the city. I think that party terrified her. I ended that affair badly.”
“I never thought of you as a heart-breaker. Do you have any pictures of her?”
“Just one. It’s a photo of her naked, talking on the phone. I’m not much of a phone person, but she had several ‘phone friends’ who she never talked about. We never did too much talking, anyway. Not when our clothes were off, which they usually were when we were together. But she would always answer the phone, no matter what stage of intimacy we were in. After a couple of months of this I could see that our relationship was going nowhere; I broke it off. I was hanging around with you girls then, you were a lot more fun. I got a new job and a couple of weeks later she called me, she begged me to come back. I said no. She was crying. That was the last time we spoke.”
“Have you thought about looking her up again?”
“Just a cursory internet search. Her name is pretty unusual, but I got nothing, even if I had found her, what would be the upside?”
They sat in silence for a while.
“You were always an upside for me,” said Tom, “You helped me straighten myself out, and when I met and married June you and ‘the gals’ were always supportive and invited her into your circle as well.”
“I don’t know about me being an ‘upside’, I was just looking for a way to become something, something besides being some man’s girlfriend; a possession; like his car. You guys in the band helped me too. I finally figured out that there was no upside in fucking assholes. Did I just say that? I think it’s time ‘I’ went to bed.”
“You can have the guest bedroom, at the end of the hall. The bathroom next to it should have everything you might need. Breakfast is self serve in the kitchen… whenever.”
After Irene left Tom turned off the patio lights. In a couple of minutes, after his eyes had adjusted to the dark, he could see stars peeking through the trees. He raised his glass to the heavens and spoke:
“Here’s a toast to all the lovers: the brokenhearted; the unrequited; the lost; each one a lonely star adrift in the infinite cosmos of humanity.”
More short fiction on FITK…