I was supposed to meet Ron and Laurie at the Lion. My cousin wasn’t there yet. On the plus side, that gave me a chance to talk to Laurie. I started by apologizing again for Sam’s latest gaffes.
She had started phoning the apartment repeatedly, trying to reach me. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, I wasn’t there – and one of my roommates had to answer the phone. Rose was assiduous about taking a message for me. She would leave a little note on my desk.
Laurie was 50/50. She would scribble me a message, if there was any paper handy, and she could find a pencil. Twice she left me cryptic messages on the wall. If not, she might remember three days later. Ronnie would chat with Sam, but couldn’t be bothered to let me know that she had called.
– “Why does he always ask about Tanya?” Sam wanted to know.
I told her my schedule – school and work – but she got impatient, and called even though she knew I wasn’t home. I apologized to Rose, and to Laurie.
– “Don’t worry about it.” she said.
– “I do worry about it.” I admitted. “I like Sam, and … there are lots of good things about her.”
– “Great sex?” Laurie wasn’t shy; that much I already knew.
– “Yeah. But … she’s completely different when it’s just the two of us, you know? Not so goofy, and she doesn’t do that annoying giggle …”
– “That’s messed up.” said Laurie. “Even when she’s at home?”
– “It’s worse when her sisters are around.”
– “I dunno, Joe. Not sure you can fix that one.”
– “What do you mean?”
– “Men’s fatal delusion. Guys think they can fix things. You’re a mechanic, right? Men think that if there’s a problem, you just get the right tool, and you fix it. But people aren’t like cars, or toilets. Well, some people are like toilets, I suppose …”
– “They deserve to be shit on?” I guessed.
– “Right. You’ve got a wounded bird, there, Joe. I don’t mean a mother bird, dragging her wing to lure you away from her nest. I mean an injured bird, with a broken wing, or something.”
– “I’m listening.”
– “Women think they can change their man. He cheated on his last girlfriend, but he won’t cheat on me. He hit me – but if I love him enough, I can change him.”
“Guys figure they can fix things. She has issues? I’ll be there for her, and we’ll turn this thing around.”
– “I don’t know, Laurie. That doesn’t sound like -”
– “Do you feel guilty, Joe? Like you should be doing something to make everything better?”
I couldn’t answer that. It was a little too close to where my head was at lately.
– “You’re a nice guy, Joe.” said Laurie. “Unlike that cousin of yours, who’s 45 minutes late. And Sam seems nice – when she’s not … you know, saying something bizarre.”
We ordered a second round.
“Do you know my sister? Jen?” asked Laurie.
– “I think I met her at the Christmas party. Last year’s.”
– “That’s right. Well, Jen’s got … issues. She keeps them under wraps pretty well. She’ll find a guy, fuck him, and get him hooked. Once he’s committed – that’s when she dumps all of her phobias and anxieties on him.”
“She makes the guy feel guilty if he doesn’t cater to her, and try to help her out.”
– “The guy doesn’t dump her?”
– “Once or twice. Jen’s pretty good at picking out the nice guys. You’d be surprised how often they stick around – and for how long.”
– “That doesn’t sound like Sam.” I said. “But I appreciate you worrying about me.” Laurie was just guessing, and trying to warn me to be careful. She was wide of the mark, though.
Except that … Sam had said that I was nicer to her than anybody else had ever been.
Laurie changed the subject – sort of.
– “So did you talk about this with your friend Eli?” I had told my roommates about Eli, and his uncompromising approach to the truth. They hadn’t met him yet, but they all found my stories about him incredibly funny.
– “Not really – none of the details. Three guesses what he said.”
– “Oh man.” laughed Laurie. “Tell the truth? How’s that working out for him?”
– “He’s still single, if that’s what you mean. And he has a mean bruise on the side of his face.”
Laurie and I had a few laughs. Ronnie never did show up that night.
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