On Wednesday evening, The Marquis rebelled against Louis XIV.V, refusing to even keep up the pretense of doing more work. In one fell swoop my dispassionate research of backwater French history was relegated to the trash bin. Well, not literally the trash bin—I crammed all my note cards and draft pages into a shoe box, taped it shut, and stuck it way back on the shelf in my closet.
I didn’t really blame him—I felt exactly the same way. We were living smack in the middle of the historical revelation of the millennium. Ten times more important than the discovery of Troy and King Tut’s tomb all rolled into one. By comparison, what had once seemed a suitable if somewhat mindless academic pursuit was now an utter waste of my life. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that realization, but sooner or later I was going to have to deal with it head-on. Sooner, if I didn’t want to piss away any more months toward graduation on top of those I’d already spent on young Louis.
* * *
That night I woke up dreaming about Anne. And in the clarity that comes only in the wee hours of the morning, I realized that I had been dreaming about her a lot. Over Cheerios the next morning, the Marquis began a propaganda campaign to get me to ask her out, a crusade that he kept up off and on the rest of the day until I finally agreed to call her just to get him to leave me alone (it perhaps wasn’t as big a fight as I’ve represented).
Later that evening I did as I’d promised (if you’re smart you don’t break promises you’ve made to the Marquis), but I left The Grail in the other room. That didn’t please The Marquis one bit. He accused me of not putting my best effort into getting this date, but I didn’t back down. I floated the excuse that we really didn’t have a shred of evidence that The Grail worked over the phone. But the reality was, I didn’t want to deceive Anne again. Even at the cost of having her scream that I was fouler than camel sputum and she never wanted to see or hear from me again before slamming the receiver down. I would chance it, and if she gave me the opportunity I would have to make do with my own elegant babble.
“Anne, hi, this is, uh, Brad Schuster,” I started off babbling when she answered, panicking just a little and wondering why the hell I’d let The Marquis talk me into this.
“Brad,” she said way too loudly, but at least the reverberations helped fill the silence that followed.
After a minute I decided that it must be my turn again. “Uh, I just called to say hello and ask how you were doing and see if you, uh, wanted to go out to dinner sometime.”
More silence, but I had made my pitch, and the ball was in her court (to mix a pair of not too dissimilar sports metaphors). If she wanted to just sit there and say nothing, well, it wasn’t long distance and I had a book within reach.
Finally, “Brad, I’ve been afraid you’d call and terrified that you wouldn’t. And yes, now that you have, I guess that I would like very much to go out to dinner with you.”
“Great. How about tomorrow?”
But she couldn’t because she was going home for the weekend. “Ah, shit,” The Marquis bitched. “Just what we need, another woman who lives close enough that we’ll eventually have to dine with her father, who probably owns the Maytag franchise in Beaumont.”
I snapped that this was his idea and why didn’t he just shut up. My testiness surprised us both, but at least it quieted him down. He’s as demanding as a two-year-old sometimes, and occasionally I have to slap him around.
While he was sulking, Anne and I made a date for the following Saturday night. After another notable lingering silence, we ended the conversation without any of the keen repartee that marked my calls with Judy Blue Eyes, or any further ado of any sort.
But at least it was done.
And yes, I was still officially in a . . . what? Not committed, certainly. Exclusive, maybe? . . . relationship with Judy Blue Eyes. Common decency demanded that I tell her before I went out with somebody else. I wasn’t positive how she’d take it, but didn’t think she’d get too bent out of shape. We did stuff together because we enjoyed each other’s company, could talk about deep things without embarrassment, and shared a number of common tastes and interests; we slept together because we were vigorous and well-matched in bed and it scratched a mutual itch. We were exclusive, not because either of us mistook ourselves as the latest incarnation of Romeo and Juliet, but because we were both too lazy to go out looking. But nobody was going to write some great tragedy where she stabs herself because I had taken poison because I thought she was dead instead of just sleeping (I think that’s how the plot of Romeo and Juliet goes. Something convoluted like that). She would be graduating in another month and had a decent job offer in Houston. If she accepted it, our continued dating would be business as usual, but I wasn’t a big factor in whether she took that position or the one in Des Moines.
Common decency suggested that I consider telling her before our date on Saturday. But I judged—or maybe rationalized—that to be the least productive and most hurtful of the options. So I didn’t.