California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 Chapter 2 – On The Road

After working through the Fall after the Summer season was over, I was itching to get on with the next chapter of my life. I had stayed on at Hunt’s Pier and worked on the maintenance crew. I think they laid us off around the holidays and we all just went on Unemployment. I planned my trip and kept in touch with Frank.

Back in 1981 the best way to plan a trip was to be a member of AAA. (Automobile Association of America) You went into the office and told them where you were planning to go and they would literally map out the entire trip for you. Maps, Tour books, something they called a Trip Tik, (Which was little notebooks that blew up your route on a series of maps.) It was really thorough. Using the tools provided you couldn’t get lost. They gave you info on everything. Gas stations, hotels and motels, facts about each town you were passing through. Just a wonderful service for travelers.

So I tell them what I’m doing and give them a week or so to put it all together. I had used their services before for short trips to Baltimore and Washington D.C. Kind of like, let’s take a few trips and see how we do before we take the epic journey to the new world.

Frank tells me he’s leaving Fort Lauderdale the 1st week of February and heading up to his Aunt’s house in Atlanta. I tell him I’ll come down and meet him there. He says we can hang there for a week and then head out West from there. Sounds like a plan to me. He provides me with her address and I tell him I’ll see him then.

That’s how people communicated long distance back then. Just a couple of phone calls and usually letters. Yes, we wrote letters. I’ll write about that in another post.

____________________________________

It was a cold grey morning in February, 1982. The VW minibus was all packed, and I was saying goodbye to my parents and sisters. I remember my mother crying, and my dad giving me some extra money. I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and I left home.

It was a tough morning and I was scared shitless. I had never done anything like this before, let alone by myself. I drive South to Cape May. I am catching the first Ferry to Lewes Delaware. It’s the shorter route. I’ve never been on a ferry before so I’m terrified of that too. I decide I’m going to stay in the car the entire trip and listen to my music. It’s freezing outside anyway. I drive in with the rest of the cars. We wait a few minutes and then the ferry moves out into the Delaware River. Everybody gets out of their cars and heads upstairs to the inside upper deck.

I’m alone in this hollow dark place in the middle of a ferry surrounded by a bunch of empty cars. It feels like everyone’s gone and I’m left behind. fear and anxiety clutch me.

I change my mind. I get out of the van and lock it up. I go upstairs. People are in there and it’s warm and people are drinking coffee and eating and chatting. I’m so alone and I’m barely out of Jersey. I decide to go outside to get some fresh air. I’m the only one dumb enough to go out of the main cabin this time of year. But I want to feel it.

I step out onto the deck. The February wind bites my cheeks. The sky is grey like my spirit. I walk to the bow of the boat and look down. The boat is literally crunching through the ice coated water. I can see ice breaking up right in front of me. I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, I’ve seen Tookany Creek frozen in the winter but that was just a little creek that we used to play near when I was a kid back in the 1970’s in Northeast Philly.

I am terrified. I’m alone. What am I doing?  I’m so scared.

But I must go on.

The ferry lands in Lewes, Delaware and everyone embarks.  I’m in my VW minibus and off I go. I’m driving South and now it’s on. I have to push on through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and I’m just scared. Simply frightened.

I remember my mom had packed me a little lunch for the trip. A little sandwich, chips and a soda. I went through the Chesapeake Tunnel and came out on the other side. I had so much anxiety going through that when I got to the other side I pulled over one the side of the road and threw up. That was my life back then. I couldn’t do anything without getting sick. My whole life was sickness. Think about that. All of the fun adventures you look forward to and are excited to do paralyze me.

You’re hot for your date with a new girl? I’m dying inside. I love her just as much and took the chance to get her but when the time comes I’m dead inside. A sea of nausea and fear. I can never enjoy any of the things you love. it’s all fear and sickness,  all of the things you take for granted and have fun with, I and sitting there on the sidelines dying.

You look forward to getting into the pants of the girl before you. I’m just happy she isn’t revolted by me and when I finally drag myself forward to ask her out I am almost to sick to take her out.

But I love her so much

And I will dry heave myself away to take her on a date. why? No idea. Just something in me. A weakness. a sickness.

I end up in a hotel in South Carolina and I am drained from the drive. I call my parents and cry on the phone to them. They are sweet to me but I know I must do better tomorrow and make it to Atlanta before I perish on this journey.

I fall asleep in my hotel bed. I’m scared and alone. I am breaking the shell of my anxiety and understanding. I have to do this. I know it. I have to do this. I have to go to California, if nothing else.

I’m a loser and have nothing else left in my life to do.  I have to do this now because there is no alternative.

_____________________________________

I wake up in my hotel room in South Carolina. I can’t even tell you what it was like because I am in a daze. I just need to get back on the road and get to Atlanta. I’m close. I’m one state away and I’m still really scared. I have to push forward. I’m going to see my friend. It’ll be great. That’s all I need to do.

I fire up the VW and off I go. I drive for hours and finally hit the outskirts of Atlanta. The directions they gave me back then were so good I actually pulled up on Frank’s aunt’s street by dusk that day.

I was so relieved I got to the house It’s like I was home again. but in a stranger’s home. but frank was there and a nice old lady and they were all very Irish and beautiful. the warmth and welcoming was overwhelming that I had made my trip was magic.

I was so happy to see Frank and his aunt was so welcoming. My fear turned to safety. I knew id be okay. We catch up over dinner and a few beers. I find it hard to believe this is all happening.

I knew our adventure was just beginning and we’d go and do that but for now we would rest for a week and just let the journey happen when we wanted it to. I was still having a lot of anxiety but was happy that I had moved forward with my life and I was with my friend.

I was away from shitty Wildwood a the dead-end that it had become. I was away from Hunt’s Pier and my dad and my family completely. Gone. I loved them but that wasn’t for me any more. I was going to California to be a metal god and that was the end of it.

I tried to keep a diary on the road but life became to interesting for me to even bother.

I settled into my bed and knew there was fortune to be had.

 

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California Dreamin’ -1982 to 1984 – Chapter 1 – The Idea

Back in 1982, I left New Jersey in my ’69 Volkswagen mini bus for Los Angeles. I’ll tell the whole story of that journey at some point, but I wanted to intro a new series that tells some of my interesting dating and social interactions while out in California. I was only 19 years old when I left, so these stories come from a younger man’s life. We got up to some wild shit back then.

These stories contain a bit more sexually explosive content so beware fair readers.

We were young, in a band and living in L.A. What could happen?

It was a long time ago but some of these tales are worth telling.

I’ll kick it off with this one.

 

I was sitting in a little tavern with my friend Bill in North Wildwood back in the summer of ’81. It’s a nice little beer and shot neighborhood bar. Woody’s is located at 19th and New Jersey Ave. It took me a moment to remember the name and location. It was a good lunch spot and also cool to hang out at night if you wanted to stay away from the club scene.

I met Bill working on Hunt’s Pier. It’s an old amusement pier on the boardwalk. I worked on The Golden Nugget Mine Ride, which was an old roller coaster enclosed in what looked like a big old western type mine. People road in little mine cars through the ride and stuff popped out of the darkness to shock and surprise them. It’s been torn down for many years but I have so many wonderful memories to write about regarding this period of my life. I can still smell the grease of the chain that carried the mine cars to the roof of the building.

Bill worked one of the games at the front of the pier. I don’t remember how we met, but we became good friends because at the time he was the funniest guy I had ever met. We hung out outside work and Bill was just so funny to be around. Usually I’m supplying the laughs but he just had a quick wit and I loved that about him. Bill wanted to go to California and become “the next Robert DeNiro” at the end of the summer season.

I tell him I want to go to California and become a metal god. (guy that plays hard rock and metal in a band) I suggest we save our earnings and go out together. He agrees.

I was a young naïve teenager back then and fell hard for people I met. We talked all about how great it would be when we got to L.A. and became stars. We did this most of the summer.

At some point I remember my dad chatting with Bill about our plan. I had him over to meet my Dad because I was so taken with my funny amazing new friend. My Pop has a lot of experience with people.

My Dad later told me that it sounded like Bill, was a bit of a feather merchant. Someone who could attach himself to me to get a free ride out to L.A. He also said that the stories Bill had told him about things he did and said back home in South Philly, and my Dad felt those stories didn’t wash. He also felt that Bill wasn’t really saving any money for this trip that I had already saved a thousand dollars for.

Well I think somehow Bill caught wind of what my dad was feeling. (Just looking out for my best interest) and got pissed off.  I remember him saying how he really hated my father and the trip was off.

I was crushed. I loved Bill and it was like he was breaking up with me. But as I write this now, I know my Dad was right about him. Bill’s pride was hurt, he was kind of a blowhard, and he hadn’t saved any money all summer. This was his immature boy’s way out.

But all was not lost. There was another guy I worked with on the ride. Frank. He was from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was studying law and taking a year or two off to travel and have fun before he entered law school in London. We worked together every night on the ride and became good friends.

I remember telling Frank what had happened with Bill, and he said he’d go to California with me. He was going down to Florida with some of his mates in October and they were just going to work there for a bit. Irish people can get jobs like crazy. Great people! He said that he’d be coming up to stay with his Aunt and cousin in Atlanta after the holidays. So we started to plan for that. I was happy to be going with Frank, because I liked him and knew he was trustworthy and reliable.

I never really saw or spoke to Bill ever again. Not that I hated him or anything. We just lost touch after the incident and I guess he went back to South Philly.

But I was excited that the trip to Cali was still on!

 

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Sheryl – The Past Revisted

“I wish I could find a guy I could trust to blindfold me, restrain me and have his way with me, but in a safe way.”)

So I reluctantly sent a text to Sheryl about how I’m writing a blog and she’s going to be in it.

(See: Sheryl – Not The Muse) to get the full history.

I wish this had gone better, because it could have been so much better!

I was torn with the decision to contact her due to the 20 year gap and the history there. But the blog won’t write itself and I did it.

She responded positively and really wanted to re-connect with me and meet up this time. I tried a year ago, and it went to shit because she bailed on the last-minute because she said her ex husband was going to jail and her son was upset.

Red Flag.

But it’s been a year and I wrote about it and figured why not, at least meet with her. She was the inspiration for a character in a book I wrote in the 90’s and she was fun to be with then.

We set it up and instead of me meeting with the 22-year-old girl I knew back in the day I am now meeting with the divorced 42-year-old mother of 2 in 2018.

No big deal. I’m divorced and Lorelei is with me at 22.

We set it up for a Sunday at 4:30pm.

I’m picking up a shift at the tanning salon from 11 to 4pm.

She has anxiety about travel but caught the PATCO line from Jersey and I tell her I’ll be there to meet her at the station at 16th and Locust.

I finish work and head to the stop. Some guy begs for change and I blow him off just like all of the grifters I can’t help in this city as I descend the steps into the final stop for PATCO.

 

I hear and feel the rush of hot air as the train rushes into the station. I stand in a spot where I’m easily seen from all exits.

 

People pour from the train and rise on the escalators and climb the steps to the sidewalk above.

I’m waiting.

I watch for her. Many people pass. A crowd of commuters roar past me and I stand there like a statue in the middle of the terminal.

Once the people are gone I remain thinking maybe she’s on the next train, but based on her texts she should have been on this one.

I walk down the hallway, and there is one woman standing there in a long dress looking at the city maps and frantically texting.

I walk down and look through the bars and speak.

“Sheryl?”

“Oh Hey! I didn’t know which way to go. I was just texting you.”

Sheryl is much older than I remember her. The youthful curvy blonde is gone. Here is a dyed red-haired middle-aged woman who has a considerable number of miles on her. This is not just age. This is bad experience and a collection of bad decisions. Decisions  that have been made over and over. Bad men, alcoholism, crime, abuse, poverty, children and bad lifestyle decisions.

We hug and it’s nice to see a ghost from my very distant past that isn’t dead.

 

We sit outside at Fado, a really great Irish bar at 15th and Locust. (The food and service is terrific!)

It’s all a little weird so I order a Manhattan to take the edge off. She goes with a Jack and Coke.

We catch up and I tell her everything that’s been going on in my life for the last 20 years and she does the same.

But I hear how bad it’s been for her. I know things were bad in her life when I met her 20 years ago, but it hasn’t stopped.

 

Her whole life has been poverty, baby mama drama, shitty family, alcoholism, abuse, kid problems, horrible men, and employment struggles.

It’s sad but true.

But it seems nothing’s changed in Sheryl’s life as she’s grown older.

But I will say this. Hanging with Sheryl, and drinking and smoking and reminiscing about the old times was really nice. We picked up like in was 1996.

 

But it’s 2019.

 

I’ve evolved beyond all of the trappings of all of my old life. So much has changed in my life. No more anxiety. No more depression. Love to work at my job. Love to be busy. Great friends and all is good with my family. Daughter is fine and happy. We live in Rittenhouse. We’re firing on all cylinders here at camp phicklephilly.

But when I listen to Sheryl, she still sound like she’s struggling with all of the trash from her past that sadly is still sitting front and center in her present life. Her whole life is in a stinking bag someone left at the curb.

As the drinks flowed, of course the conversation turned sexual.

Sheryl is still trapped in making bad decisions in regard to bed mates.

I know Sheryl very well and the things that will ignite her libido, but at her current age I have zero interest in approaching her.

During our meeting I could tell it was made clear to me she wanted me to meet her at some future date and perform a certain deed that would have fulfilled her desire.

“I wish I could find a guy I could trust to blindfold me, restrain me and have his way with me, but in a safe way.”)

I love the idea of what we discussed, but sadly, I’d rather act that play out with a much younger and prettier victim than this target.

(To be honest with all of you my faithful readers… I just want to live my life and have no interest in doing anything with anyone kinky anymore. That’s all behind me now.)

Here’s the worst part.

(Not really)

The first server comes out and tells me that her shift is ending and we can close out so she can transfer the check to the next girl.

Of course knowing the industry I want to cash her out and tip her.

Sheryl offers No Quarter.

No offer of cash or help with the tip.

 

Okay. No big deal. She took a train out of her bubble and came to Philly on a Sunday to meet with me.

But we continue on with another server and Sheryl wants food. She gets Salmon and I get chicken fingers.

The drinks are still flowing and she’s pounding Jack and Cokes.

 

Everything’s great, and it feels like the old days…. but it’s 2019 and so much has changed for me, but it seems like nothing’s changed for Sheryl.

If anything, it’s gotten worse for her. She’s great at her job at the bank and is very much-needed but it’s obvious why she never gets a raise or is promoted.

The corporation is ashamed at the way she looks.

Sad but True.

Sheryl is still driven by her sexual urges and that was the thing that drove us together 20 years ago, but for me I have grown past that in so many ways. Sadly, Sheryl’s life is still ruled by that nonsense.

I am light years beyond all of that, and I now look upon these meetings as only fuel for this blog and novelty.

But here’s the worst part for me.

It was nice to reconnect with my former friend, but after the second round of food and drinks, there was no effort on the part of Sheryl to kick in for the bill.

 

All of the best people in my life at least offer.

 

I have friends where I’m actually surprised when they even try. I love them dearly.

Sheryl texted me and wanted to pencil in the last Sunday of every month to meet up and hang.

I can’t afford that. $80 a month to circle the drain? No fucking way. That’s a thousand dollars a year.

I’m offended at this point.

Thank you for your time in the 90’s. I really enjoyed our conversations and the sex.

I’m glad I got to see you, but I expected you to be a bit further along.

I know we could have had some fun together this year, but I’m going to pass Sheryl.

 

You’re cut off.

 

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Racquel Writes! Breaking the Friendship Rules

via Breaking the Friendship Rules

 

http://www.racquelwrites.com

 

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Another Life – Chapter 3

We took them to a movie – Dutch treat. I didn’t catch much of the film: Sam kept leaning over to whisper in my ear. “Who is that?” she’d ask. Or, “Why is he doing that?”

She had a hundred questions. Some of them were truly stupid. I think she genuinely had trouble following the plot. Or maybe she thought she had missed something important.

But it didn’t escape my notice that every time she had a question, she leaned over, rested her hand on my arm, and put her lips next to my ear. Once I even felt the pressure of her boob on my shoulder. Sam wasn’t skinny everywhere. Tanya kept shushing her. Sam tried to justify herself. I had to promise to explain the movie to her afterwards.

We went for ice cream (Marty’s idea). I kept my word, and summarized the film’s plot for Sam. It turned out that she really did think that she had missed a key scene, near the beginning. After that, she felt like she was struggling to catch up. Tanya rolled her eyes so energetically, I was afraid she was going to hurt herself.

I wasn’t sure that I believed Sam – not entirely. But while I was explaining the movie, I discovered a few things. For one, if I was doing the talking, that shut off most of Sam’s inane chatter. She listened attentively, with a big smile, her eyes never leaving my face.

It’s flattering, for an 18-year old guy, to have a girl focus on him like that – no matter how dumb she might be.

Besides, I had no problem looking at Sam. When she wasn’t saying something stupid, she was actually quite pretty: long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a cute face. In fact, if she wasn’t talking or giggling, Sam was downright attractive.

She had narrow hips, and not much of an ass, but she was far from flat-chested. Then she giggled, and put her hand on mine. “You’re so smart!” she said.

It was like throwing a bucket of water on me. I immediately remembered where I was, and who I was with. I wasn’t immune to flattery, but …

– “I think she likes you.” said Marty, after we had dropped them off.

– “Great deduction, Sherlock.” I said, with a snort. “Lucky me.”

– “Come on, Joe – it’s not so bad, is it?”

It wasn’t. That’s why I agreed to go a party with Marty and the two older sisters a few weeks later. Tanya was there when we picked them up, and from the expression on her face, she wasn’t too happy to be excluded.

– “Don’t be late!” she said.

Marty drove. I picked up a case of beer. Caroline sat quietly; she didn’t say much at the best of times. Her older sister made up for it, with a non-stop flow of questions: who was hosting, would they know anyone there, could she have a beer – or two …?

The host was a friend of Marty’s, a guy from our high school named Jim. He had a cute sister, who had been a grade behind us. But if I had had any plans to check her out, those were immediately torpedoed.

Sam attached herself to me like a barnacle. She kept one hand on my arm at all times, as if she was afraid to lose contact. I couldn’t entirely blame her: she didn’t know a soul at the party. It didn’t stop her from asking questions about every single person there, though.

Did I know him? Did I know her? Had I dated her? Would I date her? Did I think she (another girl) was pretty? Could she (Sam) have another beer? Half of her questions I couldn’t even hear, because the music in Jim’s basement was on so loud. They were playing the Cars album – I’d heard it too often on the radio.

I steered Sam up the stairs, and into the backyard. It was a nice autumn night, with a clear sky. We sat down on a bench. To keep Sam from talking, I told her a long story, about how Marty and I had met, and become friends.

– “He likes Caroline.” she said, with a giggle.

– “Yeah, he does.” I agreed. “Does she like him?”

– “I dunno.” she said, with a shrug. Well, that made sense. I doubt that either of her sisters ever confided in her. Telling Sam a secret would be the equivalent of putting it on a billboard.

At that point, Jim came out into the backyard with a buddy of his. Introductions were made, and Jim said “Hope we’re not interrupting.”

– “Not at all.” I assured him. I didn’t want Sam to start chattering, so I asked Jim what he’d been up to since graduation.

– “Working with my Dad, mostly. Learning the ropes. Have to get started, if I’m going to take over the business some day.”

– “What kind of business?” asked Sam. I held my breath when she started to talk, but to my relief, it wasn’t a stupid question at all.

– “Men’s clothing.” said Jim.

– “Is it hard work?” she asked. I had to turn, and look at Sam. She worked in a major department store – in the women’s clothing department!

Jim started explaining the trials and tribulations of selling suits to ignorant customers, or cheap customers, and working with temperamental tailors.

– “And then you have to deal with the Jews …”

My eyebrows rose.

– “I’m Jewish.” I said.

Jim stopped dead. Then he started backtracking. “I was just … umm … I didn’t mean …”

I didn’t say anything. I just let him squirm. His buddy looked embarrassed. Finally Jim remembered that he needed to refresh his drink, and went inside.

– “I didn’t know you were Jewish.” said Sam.

– “I’m not.”

Jim’s buddy grinned. “Nice one.” he said. “Have to remember that.” Then he excused himself, and left us alone.

– “I don’t get it.” said Sam. “Why did you say you’re Jewish when you’re not? Was it just to make him stop? Oh … that’s it, isn’t it?”

I told Sam another story. “There was a kid in Grade 4 who got picked on, just because he was dark and had kinky hair. I didn’t stand up for him, then – but I knew I should’ve.”

“My uncle Ray lives with a woman from Guyana. Nice lady. My stepmother calls her names, makes fun of her. I call her on it. I can’t stand that shit. One more reason we don’t get along so well.”

Then I remembered something. “Sam, you work in clothing.”

– “Yeah. In a department store.”

– “Why did you ask Jim if it’s hard work? If anyone would know, you would.”

– “I know.” she said. “But … I didn’t want to start talking about my job. It’s not very important. Besides – I can tell … you don’t like it when I talk too much.”

“I know I’m not very bright.” she continued. “I say – and do – silly things. My sisters tell me, all the time.”

– “What about at work?” I asked.

– “I’m fine at work. I know what I’m doing. And if I have a problem, or a question, I can just ask Mrs. Maguire – my supervisor.”

This came as a revelation to me. Sam was … well, pretty dumb. But she knew it. In my limited experience, most stupid people have absolutely no idea just how ignorant they really are. On the contrary, many of them actually believe that they’re smart.

“I just … I guess I try too hard, sometimes.” said Sam. “I just want people to like me.”

– “I like you, Sam.” I said. At that moment, it was no more than the truth.

– “Really?”

– “Really.”

– “That’s nice.” she said, with a smile that didn’t look goofy at all. “You know, I was really impressed – what you said to that guy.”

– “Let’s get you another beer.” I suggested.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 4

I offered to show Craig a good place to get costumes. But I had to practically threaten Eric to get him to show up. The three of us went to the Lido, the costume supplier for several downtown theaters.

Some guys would roll their eyes at the thought of going into such a place. But Craig and Eric were pleasantly surprised. First of all, the place was immense, with an incredible selection. Second, the mannequins on display looked fantastic. There was a roman centurion, a renaissance courtier … And third, most of the costumes were real. Not cheap plastic, not imitation, but real, quality cloth.

Craig was impressed by a Captain Morgan outfit, but wouldn’t rent it.

– “That looks too fancy. I think I’m just a common sailor.” He settled on an oversized, brightly colored, striped shirt. It looked like a rugby jersey, to me, except that it had laces at the throat. He liked the look of a polka-dotted headscarf, too.

We found him some black boots made out of soft leather, and a wide sash to wear around his waist. Black pants that he could tuck into his boots completed the outfit.

– “I like the sash. Good for tucking a knife in, or hiding your driver’s licence.” I told him.

– “Should I get an eye patch?” he wondered.

Just then Eric came around the corner, with a bundle of clothing over his arm. He was wearing two eye patches – one over each eye.

– “Where are you guys? Ahoy, mateys!” he called.

Craig and I exchanged a look.

– “Maybe not.” he said.

Eric fell in love with a dark grey thing that looked like a vest. It was long enough to reach below his knees. It might have been appropriate if we were doing a samurai murder mystery.

But he had found a pair of boots from the Three Musketeers era, and a huge tricorne hat. I left Craig to help him find a shirt and pants, and wandered off to find my own costume.

Some people would hesitate to spend $200 – or even $100 – on a costume. I’m not one of them. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve spent that much on a fancy restaurant meal, or a sports event, or concert tickets. Some of those outings were memorable, others not so much. But a really cool costume can create a memory that will last a lifetime.

I found what I wanted: a black coat with silver trim and enormous cuffs, a soft tricorne hat, soft black boots, and a wide black belt with an ornate silver buckle. Add a large white shirt with a high collar and black knee-breeches, and I was good to go.

Perhaps a bit too splendid for Ned Mulligan, you might say. Too bad. Let the others think that I was some sort of gentleman pirate. A little deception can go a long way. Besides, when I tried it on, it felt remarkably good. And a glance in the mirror confirmed that it looked great, too.

Eric had somehow found a scruffy grey beard.

– “Doesn’t this look awesome?” he asked me.

– “It looks itchy.” said Craig.

– “How can you put a price on art?” retorted Eric. It made no sense, of course, but he never let that hold him back.

– “You look like Captain Child Molester.” I told him.

– “Precisely!” he roared. “I’ll take it!”

I took them out for beer and wings afterwards. Craig turned out to be a decent guy, as I had anticipated. He found Eric funny, and we had a few laughs.

 

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=256

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 3

Just before we got to her apartment, Teresa stopped, and pointed to a park bench.

“Can we sit here for a minute?” It was a lovely spot, opposite a pretty little park. The late summer day was bright and sunny, without the excessive humidity that had tortured us through the month of July. Yet I felt a sudden chill.

We sat down together. Teresa slowly swept her long hair back, and turned to face me.

“Colin, I have to tell you something.” she said. Normally, I’m a pretty optimistic guy, but those words sounded like the footsteps of doom. I swallowed, and nodded.

“I really, really appreciate your help with this.” she continued. “And I’m looking forward to seeing how it will all turn out. But I have to tell you now: this weekend won’t be about you and me. Do you understand?”

I didn’t understand at all, but I nodded as if I did. Teresa was watching me closely – did I mention that she was very bright?

“We aren’t going to be getting back together this weekend, Colin. I’m going to be very busy running the game, for one thing. And then there’s Lena to look after – she won’t know anybody else but me, at first. You could help me out there – be nice to her.”

“I want you to make this long weekend about you. Have fun. Solve the puzzles. Don’t spend your time flirting with me, or going out of your way to be helpful. You don’t have to try to impress me. I want you to just relax and enjoy yourself.”

“Flirt with the other women. Sleep with them.” Teresa saw the look of surprise in my eyes. “I mean it, Colin. We’ve always been frank with each other on that subject. I don’t want you to think about me romantically this weekend. Get drunk, if you want. Have a fling. Flings.”

– “This is one of the weirdest conversations I’ve ever had.” I said.

Teresa took me by the hand. “Colin, please. This is very important to me: tell me that you understand.”

– “I do. I get it.” I told her.

And I did understand. If I was busy chasing Teresa all weekend, trying to get back together with her, it would interfere with her running the murder mystery. It would also leave me frustrated; she was making it clear.

But I did say that I was an optimist. I understood something else very clearly: Teresa said that we weren’t ‘going to be getting back together this weekend‘. She also said that she didn’t want me to ‘think about her romantically this weekend‘.

Those were her exact words.

Why would she specifically say ‘this weekend’? Not once, but twice. She could have said that there was no chance of us getting back together, ever. Period. But she didn’t.

Which meant that there was hope for us yet.

We parted with a hug, and a kiss on the cheek. Then I went on my way. I waited until she was out of sight before I started to smile.

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