I called Betty and assured her I was on my way. I had the necessary videos on the front seat of my car.
Betty lived in a nice house in a lovely neighborhood in Absecon. As I pulled into the development, it was as if they had simply poured asphalt into the shape of a road through the woods and dropped a few elegant houses in there.
I parked away from the property and approached her house. (What if something crazy happens and I have to make a quick getaway?)
Betty Knight. The prettiest lady that came in our video store. How was this different from California? Those days in the early 80s were full of debauchery and recklessness. I was back. But I lived with my parents for god’s sake. I failed out there in L.A. My career or, my imagined career in music was already over. Why? How did that happen? All I ever wanted was to be a rockstar and now here I am.
I sang in a band in Philly, played guitar in a band in Wildwood, and played more rock in L.A., and none of it amounted to anything. My favorite thing in the world wasn’t going to happen to me. What was to be my fate now? Was I just a leaf cast upon the winds of my whims and dreams only to be cast asunder in some grinding domestic life from now on?
But all of the magic things happened in the summer of 1977, 1980, and 1983. I was on a 3-year success cycle there. What happened? It’s 1984, and I thought my luck had run out. My transformation was over. I’ve had my laughs and had my fun with all the girls, I need to buckle down and fly right.
But here I am. Walking up the pathway to this lady’s house. This stranger. This beautiful woman that looks like a Mayan queen and smells like the first day of spring. No matter what I do I always end up here. Walking up to the next adventure. The next extraordinary affair in my life. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe it’s not me, and it’s the forces trying to get me back on track as to where I’m supposed to be.
(This is her front porch. What’s behind the Green Door?)
I was nothing in the ’70s. Then I rose up. But there were those who seemed superior to me. Undoubtedly these things had been allotted to the beautiful, the athletic, and those with clear skin. This stuff was for them. Not a loser like me.
But here she is. I’m at her house. Not a girl. Not some teenager hanging at my side by the pinball machine. This was a woman. 10 years my senior. For some reason, she’s chosen me. It can’t really be happening.
Is my co-worker Tyrone some sort of cupid or even a wizard in matters of love?
I didn’t know what love was back then. Any love I ever felt for anyone came at a price. Whether it was scorn or the sweetest touch of a hand in mine.
I knocked on the door. There’s the moment. You’ve made a sound. Has it been received? There is nothing in the world right now but you and your waiting.
Do you knock again?
Knock again. Use the brass knocker on the door this time, buster.
I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. In this neighborhood, knocking on this customer’s door. I look down at the two plastic tape cases in my hand. Rod Stewart and Eddie and the Cruisers on Beta.
The door opens.
Betty is dressed in casual clothes. Light blue button-down blouse and jeans with white Keds. Those dark eyes and raven mane though…
Nothing alarming here. Gotta stay cool. She welcomes me into her home.
She’s lovely and relaxed. I on the other hand am a cluster of nerves and anxiety. I almost can’t describe the feeling. It’s as if I’ve been the miraculous winner of some exotic lottery.
We exchange pleasantries and I set the vids on the table. Her house is how one would picture the home of what appears to be a wealthy person. I know she drives a light blue BMW 5 series, but I don’t know what Betty does for a living.
She takes me on a tour of her house. It’s clean, neat, and nicely appointed, but nothing that points to extravagance. But it’s a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood. We go down a flight of stairs that lead to the basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the basement in some John Carpenter film, it’s a finished basement. As we head down the steps I see some framed photos that appear to have been taken at the Grand Prix. This part of the house is giving me a strong male vibe here. We walk through a finished playroom area complete with a bar and pool table. Spider sense is tingling like mad now.
“Well, I guess you know I’m married.”
“Umm… No, I didn’t. I hadn’t thought of that, Betty.”
To be honest, if a lady is renting little mermaid videos she obviously has a little daughter. If she has a little daughter, she might be married. But in my blind desire for her back at the store, I can honestly say I didn’t think about any of that. I know I should have, but at that age, I only saw what was before me and what I liked and wanted. I think that’s simply a trait of youth. You act before you think of the repercussions of your decisions. I know I did that well into my 40’s! You want what you want when you want it, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You only see the end goal and not all the hazards along the way to your destination.
“My husband, Dick works at the Showboat Casino.”
“Is he in the mob?”
“Oh gosh, no. I wish everybody would stop assuming that just because someone works at the executive level in a casino they’re associated with the mafia.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Follow me.”
Betty then takes me into the laundry room. (Is this where I get murdered and no one ever hears from me again?) I doubt it. Betty is 5’3″ and 100 lbs. She reaches into the dryer and pulls out a man’s dress shirt. She holds out the collar to me.
“Look at this.”
“What does that look like to you?”
“That looks like lipstick, Betty.”
“Yea. The lipstick on your collar always tells the tale on you.”
“I suppose so… I wouldn’t…”
“And look at this.” She reaches behind a cup on the shelf above the washer and produces what appears to be a woman’s earring.
“I found that in his car.”
Things don’t look good for Dick at this point. Who named Richard goes by the name Dick anyway? I would love to know the question’s when, how, and why.
“Yea, what does all of that make you think of?”
“Well if that’s not your earring and that smear on the collar of his shirt is clearly not your color, I’d say your husband is probably cheating you, Betty.”
“Yep. That son of a bitch.”
Clearly, she’s pissed.
Why is she showing me all of this so early in our first meeting? It’s as if a message and a motive need to be sent. As nervous as I am at this moment, I kind of like the rush and intrigue of my current situation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like this. The nice innocent guy who is somehow drawn into the darker aspects of existence. This is a precarious position I’m in and the bigger question is… where is Dick right now? Cheater or not, I’m in the basement of the guy’s house with his wife right now. I don’t know where the escape routes or heavy sharp objects are in the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Where is he right now?”
“He’s in Chicago on business until Tuesday.”
(Sigh of relief.) Oh… okay. Well, I’m sorry this is happening to you, Betty. You seem like a really nice lady.”
“I am, but I should have expected something like this to eventually happen. Let’s go back upstairs. Would you like a beer?”
“That would be awesome.” (Alcohol would be the perfect remedy for my nerves right now.)
We get up to the brightly lit kitchen. “When you said you should have expected this, what did you mean?”
She takes a bottle of Heineken from the fridge and pops the cap. Pouring it slowly into a pilsner glass I notice how dainty her hands are and how lovely her vermillion nails are. “Well, that’s how I met Dick. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.”
“I was his secretary. He was married before. I worked for him in my early twenties and he started having an affair with me.”
“He left his wife and married you?”
“Yep. So I suppose I should have seen this coming. Maybe he’s tired of me now that I’m 32. I wonder who he’s fooling around with this time.”
Her sadness mixed with betrayal and scorn flashed before me. She’s so beautiful and perfect that I can’t imagine a man wanting anything but her. But I was young. I’m jaded from being in bands and living in L.A. for a couple of years, but youth is still a place I can’t escape. I take a deep swig from the ice-cold beer for solace.
“I’m sorry, Betty. I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me how you’re feeling.” (I’m navigating new waters at this point.)
“Yea… Hey, come look at my cul-de-sac. I love my cul-de-sac.”
Okay, at this point I have no idea what a cul-de-sac is. Is it french for some sort of sexual thing? No. Can’t be. Is it something in the house? I’m lost here. I had heard the word but never knew what it meant or what it was.
She walks me over to the kitchen sink. I look down. Okay… drain, spigot, dish sprayer thing. What am I supposed to be looking at?
She points out the window over the sink. “Look. Isn’t that a lovely cul-de-sac?”
All I see out there is the end of a street surrounded by other nice houses in a circle with no apparent exit. It’s just a street that ends with no passage. I’m confused but I have to play along. I look intently out the window at the view. “Well, I must say, Betty… that’s about the best-looking cul-de-sac I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“I know, right?”
But as I turn around and away from the window, Betty is standing right there in front of me. Like, right there. Like six inches in front of me. My heart quickens as I look into her dark eyes. I can feel the familiar searing burst of warm color that explodes in my mind and heart.
This is ignition.
I set my glass on the counter and kiss her lips. It feels like I’ve kissed her before. But it’s brand new. But there’s a friendly familiarity to her kiss. We fit naturally together like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe right now. I take her in my arms and we kiss deeply. It’s amazing. I’ve been kissing girls all of my life. but now I’m kissing a woman. A beautiful, exquisite, experienced woman. My god, she’s beautiful. If Dick walks in here right now and shoots me dead, I’ll die willingly knowing the last thing I ever did in this life was to kiss this lovely woman.
The kiss comes to a conclusion and she hugs me tightly. She smells incredible. What is that fragrance? Is that Red Door? I don’t know. I can’t think straight. There’s too much dopamine firing in my brain. I lean back on the counter and look at her. She smiles and her eyes twinkle as she tosses her raven mane to the side. My god… what did I do to deserve this moment?
“You’re cute, Chaz. I like you. Bonus points for being a great kisser.”
I blush like mad and look down. “I always liked you, Betty. Ever since the first time you came into the store. You were my favorite. You’re the prettiest girl that comes in the store. I’m glad Tyrone said something to you now.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but this is probably what she needed to hear from her husband. She was over 30 and had a 5-year-old daughter now. No longer the spring chicken she was when she met her husband. No longer the forbidden fruit that he spent time with at the office every day. Most men never leave their wives for the mistress, but this guy did, and then cheated again.
“I always thought you were cute and nice, Chaz.” Get your beer. Let’s go into the living room. and watch a movie.”
We watched Eddie and the Cruisers. It is a cool story, with a great soundtrack, but is a cliche-ridden mess. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch with this pretty lady. There were more beers drank and more sweet kisses stolen.
We watched some of the Rod Stewart video because she loved him. Most girls from that generation loved Rod Stewart. I never understood it, and neither did my mother. “What do they see in that skinny big nosed Scotsman?” she would say. But what was happening here now was no place for thoughts about my mom.
After some cuddling on the couch and more kisses, it was time to wrap up the day. I smooched her one more time before opening her door and making my departure. We planned on getting together soon, and I didn’t ask any questions. It was her movie and I was merely an actor in this one. A very willing actor.
I think this was an audition for me. Betty wanted to see what I was like outside of the store. She felt comfortable enough to bring me to her home, so at least there was that. But would I get a lead role in this affair?
Only time would tell.
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