Hummingbirds On The Yellowhead Highway
The motto of Framingham State College is "Live To The Truth". I was a freshman English major there in 1971 and I thought it was as meaningless a suggestion as I had ever encountered. I had graduated from a Jesuit high school (where I became an atheist) and I was familiar with Buddhism, Confucius and Lao Tsu. I'd read Karl Marx, Satre and Nietzche. I'd also read Jerry Rubin and Eldridge Cleaver. What the hell was the truth? The Upanishads said that all is an illusion. So who knew? Certainly not me. So how was I supposed to know how to live to it?
The truth is I wasn't really interested. I was only interested in two things: music and sex. Of course I was far more poetic and romantic whenever I was asked what my interests were. I would say, "Love and art. I'm cultivating my sensitivity out of the love of art and for the art of love." Before the academic year was over at Framingham State, I'd made arrangements to transfer to Emerson College to study acting.
Emerson proved to be even more frustrating than Framingham, however. I found it to be full of would-be prima donnas and for the first time in my life had difficulty making friends. My faculty adviser misadvised me, with the result that I was cut out of any chance of taking acting classes for a year and the head of the foreign language department told me that the gentleman who helped arrange my transfer had spoken beyond his authority when he told me that since I had passed second year German during my freshman year at Framingham, I would not be required to take any more foreign language classes at Emerson. I hated studying foreign languages.
By the time Christmas came, all I had gotten out of Emerson was learning how to play soccer, learning about Einstein's theory of special relativity (I was overjoyed that I fully understood the math involved and was dazzled by what it implied) and experiencing my first exposure to Boston's Beacon Hill, so I decided to take a year's leave of absence from the school, get a job and a car and try to enjoy the real world with a new girl I was seeing and had become very serious about.
The entire time I was attending Emerson, I had entertained the fantasy that I wasn't really there. I played with the idea that my affair of the previous year with a Framingham coed, who I privately called Snow White, had been so heartbreaking and confusing that I had suffered a nervous breakdown and what appeared to me to be Emerson College was in fact an insane asylum. Fantasy or not, I wanted out of it.
It has been said that life is what happens while you're making other plans. I had, for a while, been toying with the idea that, for myself at least, all important knowledge was obtained while I was pursuing other studies. As I've already stated, I was dazzled by Einstein's theories implying that if you could travel at the speed of light, you could transcend space and time; impossible to do with your body, but what if your mind could do it? You'd be aware of everything, wouldn't you? I decided that I could leave Emerson College without regrets, because unknowingly my destiny had brought me there to learn about relativity and now that lesson was over.
One more thing:
While still in high school I had smoked marijuana exactly three times and it had scared the hell out of me. I became so paranoid that I hated it and refused to do it anymore, even though all my friends smoked it all the time. While I was at Emerson, I read a long excerpt from a book called The Natural Mind, in an issue of Psychology Today, that convinced me that pot was just an amplifier. If you were predisposed to feeling bad, it would make you feel worse. If you were inclined to feeling good, it could enhance that feeling. I realized that, for whatever reasons, I was fearful to begin with and I was just going to have to get over it. So, one night, after winning our first soccer game, I smoked a joint with some of my teammates while riding back to our campus from Boston College in the back of a Volkswagen Microbus. We had a howl! Jay, one of the few friends I had made at Emerson, had me choking with laughter. After that I loved grass. I was sure it had not effected my decision to leave school. I did believe, however, that altered states of consciousness just might help me to learn how to project my mind at the speed of light.
----------------Albert J. Theregeau - May 17, 1985
Nonantum, or The Lake, as it is more commonly called and ALWAYS so by those who have resided there, is one of the thirteen villages of Newton, Massachusetts. The Lake is an Italian neighborhood and this can be witnessed everywhere from the green, red and white line that runs down the middle of Adams St., to the "corri talk" one hears being spoken, the slang invented by the men, mainly so they could talk dirty in mixed company. The men were, of course, mistaken in thinking they could elude the perceptions of their women for even an instant with corri talk, however it does create mystery in the the ear of the uninitiated.
The line running down the middle of Adams St. is repainted every year for the annual festival held by the Saint Mary of Carmen Society, by the Virgiani twins, Tom and Dom (Ground Beast liked to call them "Tom and Dom Again"), or, to be more accurate, repainted under their supervision. Tom stands lookout for the cops at the corner of Watertown St. with Dom stationed at Washington St., while a small army of their goombas, armed with five gallon paint buckets and rollers on poles, quickly transforms a double yellow line into a half-mile-long Italian flag. At some time during the following year, The Public Works Department gets around to changing it back to yellow on black, but come the first morning of the festival, it is invariably green, white and red again.
On the northeast corner of Adams and Washington streets stands a Dunkin' Donuts and just to the east of this is Needle Park. Its actual name is Magni Park, but, like most things in The Lake, it is better known by its nickname. There is always a story behind a name and according to Nickels (Natale Novello) the story behind Needle Park has nothing to do with the Al Pacino movie of the same name, but, as he he is informing Albert Theregeau on an afternoon in 1985, while they are drinking beer in Salty's Saloon directly across the street, "it comes from one night...Tom Virgiani was over there" (eight miles from downtown Boston, this actually sounds more like: ova theyah). "You see, every year for Christmas, they put this big twenty foot Santa Claus over there" (Y' see, ev'ry ye-ah fa Chris'mas they put this big twenny foot Sanna Claus ova theyah; you get the idea) and they put Christmas trees all around it and all around the park. Well, one night, Tom was jollin' some jivle over there..."
Al turns to March Federalli on his left and asks, "Jollin' some jivle?"
"Drillin' some bitch," March quickly interprets the corri talk.
"...and even though it was the middle of Summer, he got so many pine needles in his pants that he started calling it Needle Park."
Nickels and March are Lake natives. Al has only recently moved to the neighborhood, but he grew up only two miles away in Waltham, which is just north of Newton. As far back as he can remember, he had always thought of Needle Park, when he thought of the Lake, except where he came from, people called it Santa Claus Park (Sanna Claus Pahk), this having something to do with the fact that the Santa Claus was left standing for a truly absurd period of time every year after Christmas.
He could remember the confusing conversation he'd had with his friend Keith Sullivan as a boy, when Keith told him his older brother was driving over to Guiseppe's Sub Shop in The Lake and asked if he'd like to come along. It took quite a while to sort out that The Lake was the neighborhood just south of the Charles River and not a body of water.
You may well ask why most people thought of Magni Park, when they thought of The Lake and considering that nearly everyone in the neighborhood could tell you that it was short for Silver Lake, it's a damn good question. Al puzzled over this for years and when he finally moved there, when he was thirty one years old, he had not yet discovered the answer. The question, of course, was: where the hell is Silver Lake? For a while, he thought he'd never solve the mystery (maps were no help) and he suspected it might be a "Lake secret" and a Lake secret, though often well known among a given circle of people, could be a very well kept secret. More than once he'd been told something in confidence by March, followed by the caveat, "Don't never say nothin' to nobody about nothin'."
To the east of Needle Park, across Bridge St., stands a small, brick building that is the Nonantum branch of The Newton Public Library. In front of it, between the building and Bridge St., is a small parking lot and the entire property is surrounded by a chain link fence. Just north of the fence is a dirt driveway, which leads to two rows of single story, cinder-block garages. North of the driveway is "The Ranch", an odd looking, blue-grey, two story, house that Jack built, with white shutters, a screened porch facing Bridge St., a crumbling chimney and as many cracked or broken windows as intact ones, all teetering on the southwest corner of an acre of lawn and untended garden. This entire chunk of real estate heaven, The Ranch and the garages (and the landscaping equipment they housed) is all owned by Tony Morale, a man who, unbeknownst to Al, is the father of a boy who played on the Junior Varsity soccer team that Al had coached at Weston High School, in the Fall of 1979, several months after graduating from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with a bachelor of science degree in physical education. It's a small world.
Through a kitchen window, towards the rear of the house, facing the library - quiet, please! - a radio and a blues harp seem to be competing to see if one of them might finally blow loud and shrill enough to either deafen the old, black, long-haired German shepherd that stands panting at the end of his chain in the back yard or drive him mad. The dog's name is Satan. It's a name he doesn't deserve, for he is docile and friendly and tired and half blind and lovable and still quite interested in playing Frisbee catch and with all his infirmity, he is still quite good at it, but The Invisible Man, who is his owner, is an angry and tough young man, so he saw fit to name him Satan.
Suddenly, the harmonica music ceases its wailing and the radio falls silent. Satan turns toward the house and offers a single crisp bark, as if he had been waiting all this time just to get in the last word. The door next to the kitchen window bangs open and out steps a tall, red bearded, pony-tailed man wearing blue jeans, a sky blue tank top, dirty, white, hi-top, basketball sneakers and aviator shades. His name is Peter Paradise Jr., or Pete, though he likes to refer to himself as Uncle Flexible and lately (he would never admit this) some of the guys have been calling him Ground Beast.* He slams the kitchen door and quietly closes the aluminum screen door, then he bends to pick up seven cases of empty beer cans, which sit stacked on the low concrete porch against the peeling gray painted wall. After he deposits the cans in the trunk - he has opened it with a huge screwdriver - of a white 1970 Doge Dart, which sits in the middle of the three dirt parking spaces, behind the house, he snatches a yellow Frisbee out of the dirt, in a voice like a demon queries, "Who's a good dog?" and sends the disk soaring along the path of the dog-run, with the command, "Fly, Satan, fly!"
Then, without watching to see Satan take to the sky, he turns and pulls open the driver's side door of his Dart, which releases a shriek startlingly similar to the Japanese movie monster Rodan, plomps himself on the dirty, brown, woolen blanket, which covers the the worn out upholstery and tired springs of the front seat, slams the door, inserts a key into the ignition, guns the engine, throws the car into reverse, scatters gravel and a cloud of dust backing up, shifts into drive, spins the wheel clockwise, scrubs down the driveway and comes within an inch of side-swiping an upstairs bathroom blue, Ford Econoline van, which is pulling in, while he is pulling out onto Bridge St.
"Swing-," he says, swinging the car to the left and, "-ging," he finishes, straightening it back out and he goes Darting down to the corner, hangs a left and goes Darting away east on Watertown St.
*Also, Lank Dupre, the thin, handsome, young caricaturist who tends bar at The 50 (American Legion Post 50) has begun referring to him as Bar Pie.
"...and the moosh is divya for this jivle...," Nickels is almost slobbering with enthusiasm. It's part of his schtick. More than anything, he wants to be a stand-up comic and he has even given it a try at a few local "open mike" nights. He looks and acts sort of like a twenty-five year old Italian Jackie Mason, enhanced by alcohol and possibly cocaine ("possibly", because Nickels could become as hyperactive as this without cocaine, though he did often snort what was sold as cocaine, though in all probability, if there was ANY cocaine in it, it was certainly not the greater percentage of the powder that was being called cocaine, but it's not the time for the math and chemistry involved in that, just yet).
Al, still seated to Nickels's left at the bar in Salty's, remembers "moosh" (pronounced like push) from last weekend when, after fifteen of the regulars had played capture-the-flag with paintball guns and defeated their rivals, the regulars from Salty's II, in Watertown, they were all here celebrating and Tom Virgiani kept calling him "moosh". He had turned to Ground Beast (Ground Beast was the name Al had given to his fictionalization of Pete Paradise and, partially because his new friends in The Lake had seemed enthusiastic about seeing what he always seemed to be writing and he had therefor shown it to them, so they all knew about the name, and partially because Pete was such a character in his own right and the name seemed to apply somehow, it had stuck and spread quickly in this place that loved aliases) and said, "If he calls me 'moosh' one more time, I think I'm going to clean his clock." Ground Beast had told him that it would be a mistake to tangle with Tom Virgiani and that moosh simply meant guy. He said that Tom was being extremely friendly, in fact, and probably had been impressed by Al's skills and tactics in the Hopkinton woods that afternoon and considered him an able teammate. "Weren't some of these guys calling you 'aqauman?' " Pete had asked in that gravelly voice of his. "What's that all about?" Al had waved it off. "I took a little swim." He had felt pretty silly then and even wondered what had made him feel so defensive in the first place. It wasn't like him. Was he, maybe, defending his "new kid on the block" status, some macho thing brought on by the environment and the adrenaline hang-over from the game? It wasn't like him to become so aggressive in a bar. Though he knew he was an alcoholic, it wasn't, until that Summer, like him to even hang out in a bar. So, all moosh meant was guy and March had just told him jivle (jivv-ull) meant girl, but "divya" (divv-yuh, or divv-ee-uh) was still a mystery.
Al pokes March, who is grinning away, listening attentively and asks, "Divya?"
"Crazy" says March.
"...'cause she's got quischa quivas!" sputters Nickels.
Al looks again at March with a look that says, "Well?"
"Pissa T & A!" quacks March.
The front door of Salty's Saloon swings open letting in a blast of Summer heat followed by the shuffling gaited Mikey McGinty and his girlfriend Jill Barlow. Al and March turn to meet Mikey's eyes, which are on fire. Along with his flaming orange hair and his freckles aggravating his flustered complexion, he looks ready to touch off the room.
"The fuckin' prince of paradise just almost scratched my brand new paint job!" he erupts. He has only known Pete Paradise for a few weeks and is not well impressed. He thinks perhaps Al's favorable assessment of his robust and generous new house-mate is distorted.
"Slippery nipples for the five of us, Dave," he shouts to the stout blonde bartender, who sighs and shakes his head knowing it will take him several minutes to make the complicated drinks. One has to top a shot of Sambuca with a shot of Bailey's Irish Creme, being very careful not to mix the two liqueurs, then add a drop of grenadine to the center, which will drop to the bottom of the double shot glass creating the nipple. Then Dave remembers that Mikey appreciates both hard work and quality and in the couple of weeks he has been coming into Salty's, he's thus far always rewarded Dave with healthy tips, so he looks at Mikey and says, "Five slippery nipples, fresh squeezed." They all laugh.
"Ground Beast nearly scratched your truck, so you're buying a round. Are you going to buy me a case, if he hits it next time, or are we celebrating because he missed it?" Al asks. He is used to Mikey's always having good AND bad news, often in the same sentence and, just as often, unrelated.
"Screw him. I'm buying a round, 'cause I've got work for ten guys up in Beverley tomorrow..."
"Well, alright!" shouts Al.
"...and it won't include that reckless prick, if I can get by without him."
For a moment, Al thinks of Ground Beast, because this was about work and their relationship has grown out of a work situation; they met while doing a contract labor job and had a standing agreement to share all work opportunities whenever possible. Thus far, it has been a mutually beneficial deal. However, Mikey was an extremely cautious individual (he didn't even like to get in a vehicle, unless he was going to be the driver) and if he wanted to exclude Ground Beast, because he thought he was reckless, it was his show and he could run it as he pleased. Besides, Ground Beast has a regular gig at this point, which Mikey found for him. Mikey, Jill and Mikey's dog, Adam, had been living in the basement of a paint store in Waltham and the store's owner had done some remodeling for a large chain of hair salons, which needed a delivery driver. Mikey would have seen to it that the job went to Al, but Al didn't have a car to get to it, so it had gone to Ground Beast. Ironically, once he had the job, he finagled the use of the company van during the workweek. On his first payday, Al and March had ridden into downtown Boston with Mikey, to pick Ground Beast up at the salon's Newbury St. location. They sat down at a table in a sidewalk cafe next door and ordered a round of Samuel Adams beer. Samuel Adams was a new beer on the market and they were all curious about it. Yes indeed! It seemed a fitting way to celebrate Ground Beast's new job. The Sams were outstanding. They ordered another round. When the check came, figured at $3.25 a pop (serious money for a domestic beer in 1985) and Mikey made it clear and the others agreed that, being the beneficiary of this great new job, it was assumed Ground Beast would pick it up, it was all he could do to try to hide his resentment. Al knows this incident is the source of the bad blood and he can see the animosity is growing between his two friends. He doesn't like the uneasy feeling being in the middle gives him. He considers each of them to be a good friend and it is disturbing to him to see that they are becoming less friendly with each other daily, but he doesn't see why he should argue about it at that point, especially over a round of slippery nipples, so he says, "Beverley, huh? For ten guys? Well, what's the job and who else are you gonna get besides the four of us?"
Dave calls out Mikey's name and hands him his drink, then gives one to each of the others.
Mikey raises his glass, says, "Damn the torpedoes!", clinks glasses all around, then sits on a stool next to Al and proceeds to tell them all his plan.
One night Al looks up from his Long Island iced tea to see what time it is and is surprised to find that there's no clock on the wall behind the bar. Then he realizes that the problem is he's not in the bar he'd thought he was in. Looking around, he immediately sees that he's in The Adams Place and over by the television is a double image of the familiar blue neon clock. Struggling to focus, he's finally able to make out that it's twenty minutes after twelve. Last can recall he'd been sitting directly opposite from the clock on the wall behind the bar in Salty's, waiting to see the eleven o'clock news, which had been due to come on in a just few minutes.
Leaving Salty's at eleven-thirty, after last call, and going around the corner to The Adams had become a routine that Summer, but tonight he has no recollection whatsoever of having done so. This must be what a blackout is he tells himself. Then he turns to his left and looks toward the front door and she is looking right into his eyes.
Occasionally one has the experience of looking a stranger in the eye and feeling pretty certain that very soon that stranger will be one's partner in bed. It had happened to Al once or twice before that upon first eye contact he had wished it to be and it had worked out that way, but this is different. This is an immediate understanding, an unspoken agreement. So he smiles, stands up and turns to face her, silently mouthing and motioning c'mere with a crooked finger and sits back down at an empty table to his left.
She comes over and sits down. He knows he's right.
"What's up?" he asks.
"I had a fight with my boyfriend." There seems to be a tear in her eye.
"Oh, that's too bad," he unconvincingly feigns sympathy.
"No it's not! He's a stupid old son of a bitch." She means it.
"Oh. Well, that's REALLY too bad. Maybe you need a change," he offers.
"Maybe I do," she smiles.
"My name's Al,' he says. "Do I know you?"
"I know who YOU are," she answers. "You hang out with those guys from the house next to the library."
"That's not a ranch."
"I know. That's just what we call it. You know. Like 'meanwhile back at the'? I live there," he explains.
"You live there? With March Federalli and that old hippie guy? What are you living there for, with those greenhorns?"
Al sniffs a little laugh, gives her the once-over. He'd always favored blondes and had therefor often failed to appreciate the looks of many women of ethnicities one tends to associate with darker features, but here and now he understands in an instant what other men see in women with classic Mediterranean characteristics. Her hair is short and dark, her eyebrows even darker and her eyes are almost black. He thinks she looks like Isabella Rossellini would have, had her mother been Italian.
"So you know March, huh?" he asks. "What makes you say he's a 'greenhorn'?"
"Yeah, I've known March all my life. I grew up in The Lake."
In the lake, he thinks and he laughs inside. Only that morning he had consulted his road atlas in pursuit of Silver Lake. Where the map indicated a body of water occupying the entire block between Adams St., Watertown St., Nevada St. and Linwood Ave., in reality Al had found this block to be filled with businesses and homes with neatly manicured lawns. He'd concluded that Silver Lake had been drained, filled in and built over. Some of these homeowners actually did live IN the lake! Al got a hoot out of the irony that this highly ethnic neighborhood, where everybody knew everybody and most of those everybodies proudly displayed bumper stickers on their cars and elsewhere, with little green, white and red flags and the words "The Lake" on them, was named after a body of water which no longer existed, just as all these people were holding on so tightly to a country in which most of them had never even lived and, certainly, none of them did any longer. In Al's mind, this was a terrific illustration of the silliness of territoriality, ethnicity and what he liked to call "us and them-ism".
"And you think he's a greenhorn," he says.
"Not really. March is a little nuts, but he's alright. That hippie guy, though..."
"Pete. Ground Beast."
"What?" she blinks.
"Ground Beast. It's what we've started calling Pete."
"Well, it fits. He's pretty fuckin' weird."
"Well, you obviously don't know Ground Beast very well. He comes off a little abrasive sometimes, with that loud, gravelly voice and his sarcastic sense of humor...but I'm sure that's all a defense mechanism. He's really a pussy cat, underneath."
"He's a greenhorn. Doesn't he know what year it is? What's with the hair and the beard, like he's a frozen hippie? And that house is a dump. Why are you living there? You don't look like a loser. What do you do?"
Babbling, he thinks.
"Well, I write. But right now I'm doing carpentry. I work with Pete and March and Nickels. You know Natty Nickels?" She nods. "Of course you do; you grew up in The Lake. We all work with Mikey McGinty. Three Dudes Construction."
"Oh, Jesus." She rolls her eyes.
"It's not really the company's name, just something we've started callin' ourselves."
"Three Greenhorns Construction," she suggests.
"Hardly! We've all had plenty of experience."
"Yeah," she agrees, "we've all had plenty of experience."
It occurrs to Al that this girl is probably as drunk as he is. He sniffs again and grins. He catches March's eye, at the bar behind her. March lifts his glass, as if giving a toast, and nods. Al looks at her again and she is looking at him.
"So...," he says and at first he isn't sure what he's going to say next, but finally asks, "What's your name, anyhow?"
"Toni." She smiles.
"Toni," he echoes. "Antonia, right?"
"Well, it isn't Anthony!"
"I can tell to look at you that it isn't Anthony. Toni what?" In this neighborhood, it's a good idea to find out if you know a girl's brother or father, before you get too involved.
"Toni Centola," she answers.
"Last call!" hollers Linda, the barmaid, from behind the bar.
"Well, Toni Centola, how 'bout we catch last call and then go take a look at the dump I live in?"
"Okay," she says. Her eyes suddenly look even darker. Fearsome. Al asks himself if that might be a look of anger.
"Great. What are we drinking?" he asks her.
With a well-practiced, pseudo-mature, flat nonchalance, she replies, "Tanqueray and tonic."
I'll bet she's not even twenty-one, he thinks as he stands and starts towards the bar.
"You met someone else named Toni Centola just the other day, huh? Are you kidding?" Toni and Al are walking across tiny Needle Park, after The Adams Place has closed.
"No, I'm not kidding. Little Petey introduced me to him."
"Who's Little Petey?"
"One of the guys who lives at The Ranch; in fact, the only one on the lease..."
"And he's a writer like you..."
"No, Little Petey's not a writer..."
"No, not him! The other Tony Centola you met is a writer?"
"Yeah, he said he was a writer. He didn't show me anything..."
"He didn't show you his, so you didn't show him yours!" she cracks herself up. Al finds this adorable. He laughs and thinks: what the heck, go for it, and he says, "Yeah, but I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours."
"Okay," she says, like she'd been expecting it, but there's that bottomless black-eyed look again. Then, in a moment she's laughing again. "So did you show him what you write? What do you write?"
"I'm writing about women...about men and women, but really about women and men's reactions to women. I'll show you some stuff that I did show him, if you want."
By this time they have arrived at the back door of The Ranch. Al opens the door, they go inside and she comments on the filth of the kitchen. They cross the kitchen floor and climb the kitchen stairs to emerge in the second floor bathroom and she exclaims, "Oh! This is nice. The bathroom!"
Al takes her hand and leads her through the bathroom to the hall, where they immediately turn right and enter his room. He twists a switch on a lamp, another on a radio and tosses his keys and pocket change in a small wooden bowl, all of which share the top of a short chest of drawers, which is built into a corner of the room, adjacent to a small window, which looks out on a yard at the back of the house and its parking area.
"This is your room?" she asks what is obvious, so he figures she's really asking why it is his room.
"I like little rooms."
"Well, then you must be as happy as a pig in shit!"
Al thinks her casual foul mouth is all part of the "tough" act he's seen performed by ladies of The Lake (and elsewhere).
"Yeah, if the shoe fits and all that, I suppose." She bounces on his bed as he picks up a notebook from the table. "And this must be your be-ed," she teases, musically.
He turns to her, holds out the open notebook and says, "You wanna see something I wrote?"
She can hardly believe he's handing her a notebook. This guy is REALLY a writer, she thinks, but she takes it, half out of amazement. The open page is dated May 17, 1985. She reads: The motto of Framingham State College is "Live To The Truth", but she is finding it difficult to maintain focus and doesn't read further.
"I gotta tell ya...", she looks at him apologetically and wobbling for emphasis says, "I'm too drunk to read this now."
"That's okay," he says and takes the notebook, throws it on the table and sits on the bed beside her with his right leg curled up between them. He reaches out and cups her jaw in his right hand, slips it behind her neck, which he begins to massage, then he leans toward her as he pulls her to him and kisses her. Her lips are full and soft, so soft he is surprised. Soft and full and wet. Soft. But her tongue is fierce! He opens his eyes and finds her looking at him with that look again. She closes her eyes and pulls him tighter and over on top of her.
He finds her whole body is also soft. But her passion is fierce. Soft and fierce, he thinks. Soft and fierce and...afraid?...angry?
"Lift your butt," Al requests. He is trying to take Toni's pants off.
"No," she answers flatly.
"I don't want to."
She doesn't want to, he thinks. That's really it, isn't it? The look in her eye. She loves to play this game, but she really doesn't want to . . . to do it. He settles himself on top of her, kisses her ear and whispers, "what are you afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid of anything," she answers defiantly.
"We don't have to make love, if you don't want to," he murmurs. Al wasn't ever forceful with a woman. He told himself it wasn't worth the struggle, if it wasn't freely offered. He also believed that women were made to say no, but he believed those who indicated yes and then brought you this far to say no had bigger problems, so he switched to the "understanding mode".
"Oh, is that what it is? Making love?" Toni asked.
"It is with me. I mean, I can just fuck too, but I'd rather make love. In fact I'd rather make love WITH you than make love TO you."
"You're so romantic," she said sarcastically.
""Actually I am. I'm one of those 'sensitive guys' that women always claim to be looking for," he says and he thinks, though they never seem to know what they really want.
She looks him hard in the eye. It's her turn to sniff. She smiles. " You really are, aren't you?"
"Yes," he replies. "When I was at UMass I used to say that my roommate, Kevin Peabody, was the only guy in the world nicer than me and I meant it."
"Do you really want to be my friend?"
"Yes. I AM your friend."
"And I can trust you?"
"I wouldn't be a friend, if you couldn't trust me."
"Well, you could be my friend and I still might find it impossible to trust you just because I can't trust anybody."
"Well, maybe then you can begin with me. I have a theory about friendship," he says and he proceeds to tell her that he believes the spirit of true friendship is based on an agreement to look out for each other's interests and that telling each other the truth is essential to it.
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