THE NIGHT I MET THE LOVE OF MY LIFE
I will never forget the New Year's Eve I met George for the first time. I had recently left my husband of five years. I was 23 years old. I was broke as I could be, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from going to college. I had lived near this college town, Carbondale, Illinois, for the past five years and I was tired of just sitting by envying all those kids who got to go while I was stuck in my hum-drum boring life. I had read in the local paper that, thanks to the Democratic party, anyone who wanted to go to college now could. I took them at their word. So far they had done well by me. I had enough loans and grants to get started. There had been a problem figuring out where I was going to live and how, but then I saw an ad for someone to be a personal attendant to a paralyzed woman in return for room and board. I had never taken care of more than a turtle and it died, but I was game if she was. So I moved into her apartment out on Lincoln Avenue where mostly grad students and alumni lived. It was kind of quiet and I liked that. The only wild one was old Janet, the quadriplegic woman I was caring for. Turned out she was a nymphomaniac which I hadn't been aware paralyzed people could be. Oh yes. One night she had invited over a man, also in a wheel chair, with cerebral palsy, and she wanted me to stick his penis in for him. I had to refuse. I tell you that nowadays after having lived quite a few more life experiences and losing most of my prim and proper mind sets, I would do it. But then I was shocked and repulsed, I'm embarrassed to say. Anyhow I wasn't looking forward to anything out of the ordinary happening on New Year's Eve. Same old same old, but then old Janet up and surprised me. She had gotten one of her lucky wrong numbers, kept the guy on the phone, and convinced him to come over and have sex with her. I don't know how she did it, but 99% of the time she was successful. I guess it was the advantage of living in a college town full of horny young men. So this meant, she told me in no uncertain terms, I had to get out, but I wasn't to go too far in case he turned out to be a creep or she needed me for some other reason. This meant, in other words, I was to spend my New Year's Eve sitting in the most depressing, dreary "lounge" of a TV room tacked on to the front of our apartment building. Most people wouldn't be caught dead being seen there any day, and I would be there on New Year's Eve. What the hell. So far most of my life had been spent not really giving two shits what people thought about me. I had grown up the poor and ill-dressed daughter of raging alcoholics who embarrassed me daily, and then as I grew, I became an outrageous "freak the people out" hippie myself, so I was really beyond caring very much. I got my special celebratory bottle of Cold Duck that I had paid less than five dollars for, and a book and headed on down there. I hoped nobody would be sitting in there watching the damn TV. Watching Lawrence Welk or some damn thing--now that would be depressing. But the coast was clear. I set out my cigarettes and filled up my water glass with the Cold Duck. Could be worse. I could be back in Sand Ridge, pop. 50, sitting with my ex-husband watching the geese run down the street, which was about the only action in that one-horse town. I'd no doubt be drinking suds from a quart bottle, and he, abstaining as usual, would be launched into his routine about "whatever happened to the sweet flower I married". It was enough to make me puke. I was so sick of him running his mouth on the same old subjects. I tell you nothing could get so bad in my new college life to equal the misery of my old married life. I had gotten married at 18. That shit ought to be illegal. Everybody and his uncle tried to warn me against it, but I knew better. I was so damn smart. I filled my glass again and got out my book. This kind of thinking was going nowhere but down. The book was a novel by Kurt Vonnegut for English class. It killed me how they were giving me college credits for reading books I would be taking out of the library and reading on my own anyhow. What a scam--giving me loans and grants to do it too. What a wonderful world. So I sat and read for a couple of hours. Once I got up and stood outside of Janet's door. I didn't hear anything suspicious so I guessed she was alright. Just before midnight a man walked into my solitary confinement. He turned around a few times, as though he wasn't sure where he was or why he was there. "Hello," he finally said. "Hello, to you," I said in a friendly voice. He didn't look like he was out picking up women that night. In fact, he was carrying a briefcase. He was also wearing a wrinkled, old black trenchcoat that Columbo would be proud to wear. "Are you waiting for someone?" he managed. I guess he was trying to figure out why I was sitting in there by myself on New Year's Eve at midnight. "No, well, I'm sort of waiting for my roommate to be finished with her personal business so I can get back into our apartment." "Oh, is that right?" He had a nice country drawl to his speech that drew out his words and sentences and made it seem as if you were saying the most interesting things he had ever heard. "You know I live here too. Right across the hall from you, in fact." "Is that a fact," I replied. "Want some of this warm duck?" "No, no I don't believe I do. Would you like to go out and get a real drink--it being New Year's Eve and all?" I thought about for about two seconds but made it look like two minutes. He had such beautiful blue sparkly eyes. I imagined angels had eyes like his. And when he talked to you, he looked full at you as though he could see into your soul. "I'd have to ask my roommate if she'll be alright without me first," I told him. "Why don't you just go do that," he directed. When I got into the apartment I saw that a little party had formed without me being invited. Oh, well, I was the newbie. What did I expect? Maureen, her last personal attendant was there and she had brought some mutual friends. Janet was pretty well smashed, but she assured me that Maureen would look out for her. I went in the bathroom and tried to do something about my plain-Jane weekday looks. It was kind of hopeless without attracting unnecessary attention. What was I going to do at this late hour? Put on a sparkly dress? I put on some lipstick and some blush and went back to the lobby. Surprisingly, he was still waiting for me. "What's your name, anyhow?," I asked him. "George, George Mack." "I'm Jeanine Casper. Nice to meet you." We went and got into his very cute little orange and black, convertible Kharmin Ghia. I was such an old hippie hick it might as well have been a Jaguar for my excitement. It was then that I got wind of his pheromones. Now I had been a hippie chick hanging out with the unwashed often enough to recognize pheromones from a good, long distance, usually to my great revulsion, but these were angelic pheromones. If I guessed right he was an all-natural kind of guy and knew his natural scent was a giant turn-on and so didn't use after shave or even deodorant. And why should he? He smelled of a manly scent that reminded me of sex and heaven. I wanted to just sit and smell him forever. I was nervous with him. He'd told me that he had been at work that night. He worked at the state hospital with alcoholics. He was a psychologist. He had just gotten his Ph.D. from S.I.U. a couple of years ago. He had been working that night with his alcoholic social club that he'd set up. I was touched with how much he genuinely seemed to care about his clients. I felt very unworldly and unsophisticated with this man with a doctorate. I noticed I was trying to clean up my language and to speak English the way I know you're supposed to. I even minded my manners and let him do things like open the car door for me and pull out a chair at the restaurant. When he ordered a rob roy, I said I'd have one too, although I had no idea what it was. I really didn't care for hard alcohol and liked beer and wine better. But I sipped my rob roy and found myself telling him the story of my life. He knew all the right questions to ask. He acted so interested. You would think that I had about the most interesting life story he had ever heard. I chalked it up to his being a psychologist. I guessed they were just really interested in people. Our hands brushed briefly one time when he was lighting my cigarette. I felt a spark. This man who looked like an angel with his long natural ringlets of golden brown curls could be dangerous for a nobody like me i told myself. For him it was New Year's Eve and he had missed all the regular dating and parties because of having to work. Tomorrow he would get back to his real life and forget all about the nobody across the hall. I told myself I was alright with that. We had two drinks apiece, barely enough to get me started and I wasn't even counting the Cold Duck, but suddenly I didn't want to look like a lush. We drove back the long way. When we got to the building, he invited me to come over for a nightcap. I was kind of surprised at the starkness of his apartment. It made me feel sorry for him. He admitted he had recently been divorced, and that his wife had taken pretty much everything. He actually used cement bricks and pieces of lumber for bookcases just like the college kids. He had a couple of director's chairs for furniture and a couch that pulled out to a bed. The rest of the place was kind of empty. He apologized for it, but it endeared him to me. I realized then I couldn't have dealt with a swanky bachelor apartment. I liked good old honest humble living. He put on some Bob Dylan. Then later he took it off, got out his guitar and played "Lay Lady Lay" for me. It was about the most romantic moment I had had since I couldn't remember when. Then he surprised me by putting some soul into "Give Me That Old Time Religion." I liked it that he liked that old standard so much. Then it was time to call it a night. He made some moves that I ignored. Finally I just came out and sort of told him that I hadn't been with anybody but my husband in five years, and I wasn't likely to start hopping into beds with men I barely knew now. He accepted this. In fact, he gave me a smile that seemed approving, and I went home to dream about him all night.