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Posts: 77
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Disconnected- (rest of Chapter One)


I sat huddled in the plush leather passenger seat, cupped my hands and blew into them, then rubbed them together for warmth. Lee retrieved a pack of Marlboro’s from his visor, took out a joint among many, and with a quick glance around stuck it between his thick red lips and lit it. He took several hits and handed it to me. The smoke drifted off the end of the joint in a thin, graceful stream until he turned on the car and unrolled the sunroof. A warm gust blew in and cleared the air. I looked around before taking the joint. Cars whizzed along Ventura Blvd. on Lee’s side. Only someone on the sidewalk could see into his car. And no one walks in L.A., especially at night.

We spent an hour in his car getting high and talking- about nothing really, just general jive about current events, favorite movies, books, sports. Again, the conversation flowed easily from one topic to another. My body warmed and relaxed into the soft seat. My world slowed with the smoke and details became vivid. The car was clean, unlike mine. The interior was done in burl, with a high gloss polish to show off its tight, twisted grain. The stereo had a CD changer in it, and was Boise. Lee sat sideways with his back against the edge of his seat in an attempt to face me. His left hand rested casually on the steering wheel. He brought the joint to his mouth with his right, pursed his lips softly in what looked like a sensual kiss, and hit it. His hair hung in his hazel eyes. And honestly, he really was quite charming.

“Favorite sport is definitely racquetball.” His dimple appeared. “Started playing in high school. Kind of gave it up with college but would love to get back into it. It’s a great game. Fast. Focused. A lot of fun.”

It was my game too, my only game since I’ve never been very athletic. And Lee was right. It is fast, and fluid, and fun. Racquetball was trendy then, though still on the fringe. Good players, who weren’t out for blood, were hard to find and even harder to keep. “I love racquetball. It’s the only sport I’ve ever really liked to play. Except finding consistent partners is like trying to find a good connection.” I gave him my ‘quirky’ grin.

He laughed. “I’ll play you. Anytime. As much as you like. There are courts in Studio City on Ventura near Vineland. It’s a private club but you can rent court time. It’s on me. And the courts are all regulation, great floors. We can play tomorrow. I’m off by 3:00 most every day.”

God, it was tempting. I really had been looking for a consistent racquetball partner almost as long as I’d been looking for weed. Up until about mid-summer I’d been playing with my friend Jon, two, three times a week for years. But he’d become flaky with his latest romance, so I was desperately seeking a new partner I could count on. For months I’d been feeling gross, bloated, flabby, and racquetball was a quick and healthy fix over starving myself chasing thin. “Okay. I’ll play ball with you tomorrow. I know the courts you’re talking about. I can meet you there at 4:00.”

He smiled, victoriously(?). “Great! I’ll be there.”

“I’m only talking about racquetball here.” I kept my eyes on his. “We met at the courts. We leave after we play. We don’t hang out. Just racquetball. Okay?”

“Fine by me.” He hit the joint again, sucked on it a few times and inhaled deeply. Then he blew a thin, tight stream of smoke out the sunroof. He handed the end of the joint to me but I declined.

“Thanks, but no. I really should go.”

He stared at me with glassy eyes and frowned. “If you feel you must.” Then he dropped the roach in his ashtray and took his Marlboro pack from the visor and handed it to me. “As promised- for you.” He gave me a gentle smile. “It’s just a sample, few joints, no charge. If you want to connect for more let me know.”

“Thank you.” I took the cigarette pack and put it in my blazer pocket. I felt small right then, though I don’t know why. The original agreement for meeting was to connect. I’d been totally up front about that. I abhor the idea of a prick tease. “I had fun tonight. Thanks.” I meant it.

“So we’re on for a game tomorrow?”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you tomorrow at the courts at 4:00.” I opened the passenger door.

“It’s Halloween. It’s L.A. The Santa Ana’s are up. The Lunatic Fringe is out tonight. I’d like to walk you to your car.” Lee stared at me. His head was cocked to the side. His hair hung in his eyes and caught up in his lashes. “May I?”

“Okay, I guess. But I’m over in the business park on the other side of the world.”

He grinned and got out of the car and came around to the passenger side as I got out. Then he took my hand and we ran back across the street. He guided me through the crowds, past Jerry’s parking lot to the business park’s lot. His grip was firm. His hand was warm, and soft. His touch was familiar, not invasive. He let go of my hand when we got to my Civic and I was suddenly chilled.

I stared at him an awkward moment before opening my door to get in my car. My dog leaned out to greet us. “This is my dog, Face.” She wagged her tail wildly.

Lee gave her the obligatory pat. “Hi Face.” He looked at me. “She’s Shepard but mixed with something. Do you know what?”

“She’s a pound hound. Could be a lot of things. I’ve seen her go into a full point when she’s after something, so it could be some kind of hunting hound, especially with her thin hindquarters.” I stroked my dog and felt her calm with my touch.

Lee watched us. “Well, I’ll admit it. I’m jealous. Backrubs are my favorite too.”

That was about as far as I wanted to take that conversation. I said good night and got behind the wheel.

“See you tomorrow.” He stood a few feet from my car with his hands shoved in his pockets. “Drive safely.” He smiled again, like he had a secret, the dimple cutting deep into his left cheek. He really was adorable. He watched me back out and pull away before I saw him start back to his car in my rear view mirror.

The smoke let my guard down and my mind wander on my drive home. I rolled all the windows down, let my hair blow around and tingle my scalp. Too much wind noise for music. As I turned right onto Coldwater, lined with old pines and two-story apartments, the quiet got to me and The Wish Factor crept in. It was nearly impossible for me not to play the Mr. Right game. Lee was cute. He was funny, articulate, attentive, and he seemed kind. Most first meetings with men from the ads turned into interviews. Unless I was constantly asking them questions there was virtually no conversation. But Lee actually asked me questions, and listened to my answers. We had an even exchange. And that felt nice, empowering. He saw me. I mattered. For that fleeting moment I wasn’t alone.

Twenty feet tall Liquid Amber trees lined my street and their tops bent with the strong easterly winds. Twigs, small branches and lots of leaves swept down the street in twirling gusts then settled before scattering again. I rolled up the windows to shut out the debris. The air felt charged and in fact was electric. I got a hell of a static shock when I pushed on the stereo- yelped and recoiled, then Pete Townsend’s acoustic guitar commanded my attention and I got sucked into his music until I pulled into my driveway, drove all the way back and parked in front of the detached garage.

I sat in my car and stared out at my long, dark backyard. The wind whistled through the old oaks and pines and bucked the two-door Civic around. I played out the evening in my head and flashed on how adorable he was. Then I felt the cigarette pack in my blazer pocket. I pulled it out, Marlboro Red’s, and opened the box top. Three, four, five joints. Last me about four days. And Lee was the connection, who five minutes ago was getting me high. And his Prince Charming image popped.

Face stood and shook out sending dog hair flying everywhere. I got out and she followed and we crossed to the back door of our rented 40’s Spanish bungalow, 3-bedroom, single story ranch. I tread through the empty kitchen as quietly as possible even though I knew my roommates were gone for the night, crossed the creaky wood floors of the small dining and living room, got to my room and turned on the light. I stood in my doorway and listened to the trees scratch against the metal framed French windows. A double bed with a light blue down comforter; an art deco dresser with a 27” TV on top, and a huge round mirror in the center; and a drafting table and stool were all that occupied the textured stucco bedroom. Other than the rustling from the wind the house was dead quiet. And lonely consumed me.

For a minute my mind played out a different scene, coming into my own home, filled with the noise and frenzy of family. My husband cooks dinner- teriyaki salmon. The kids are setting the table. The dog is curled in her beanbag bed. I smile. I have it all. No more searching. No more waiting. No more lonely. And for a second I’m filled up. Then a branch scrapes the windowpane in that nails-on-chalkboard type way and I’m back in the sparse room and falling into the black hole of want.

God, I need someone to save me.