I had written my quota of pages for that day. I left my apartment and a few minutes later I was walking around the big bend in the avenue. The Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh stood tall and gray against the bright sky. There were lots of other young people wearing shorts, holding hands and eating ice cream cones. Someone called my name.
It was Lisa Graham. She was a friend of Sandy’s. Lisa’s dark hair was cut close to her skull in back and at the sides. It was full and curly on top and swept forward down over her right eye. She wore a white, sleeveless T-shirt with RELAX in red on the front, black lace gloves with no fingers, and black cloth stretch pants ending just below her knees. Some sort of black boxing shoes were on her feet. Her socks were bright red.
“What’s amusing?” she said.
“The way you dress. I like it. Come down to the place with me.”
I bought a newspaper along the way. I liked Lisa and her punk friends. I didn’t like the way there always seemed to be something strange about her eyes. I didn’t think she needed glasses. We sat at a table next to the big window on the Bouquet Street side. Lisa seemed younger than Sandy though they were the same age. We each had a mug of beer.
“Sandy told me you work for a supermarket chain,” she said.
“I can’t imagine working anywhere five years.”
“It’s only three nights a week and four hours Sunday mornings. I saved my money while I was in the army.”
“I’m just floating through school. I don’t know what I want to do. I might be dead next year.”
“I’ll stay in school as long as my parents pay for it.”
I took a drink of my beer and looked out the window.
“Do you party?” she said.
“I like to have a good time.”
“No. I mean do you party?”
She laughed, sipped some of her beer and looked at me. She said, “Is beer all you do?”
“If I’m smart.”
“I have friends who can get you anything you want.”
“Did you do anything in ‘Nam?”
“My unit was clean.”
She shrugged and finished her beer and left a little while later. It was a lovely day. I had done a good amount of writing that morning and now the sunny day made me happy. I opened the newspaper. A man confessed to slaughtering his wife and children. A chemical spill had forced an evacuation. A woman police officer emptied her revolver into her sleeping live-in boyfriend. A rapist claimed his fifth local victim. A family of seven was found killed execution style. Americans were reported still being held prisoners in Vietnam. I got up and threw the paper away.
The place got crowded. When Henry came in he didn’t see me. He started to walk back out. I called to him and he came over and sat at my table.
“What’s up, Henry?”
“Everything’s turning to shit. I need some bucks.”
“You had three gigs last week.”
“They didn’t show.”
“I’m sick of bands. No body wants to practise. They just want to jam. The bass player can’t get along with the drummer. The manager is screwing the chick keyboardist. The guitarist wants to sing more lead.”
“Will a twenty help?” I gave him the money.
“I had some people lined up to see us. The band said they were tired of playing the same place every week. It was a paying gig. So what if it is the same place. It was packed every Saturday night. You’ve seen it. We were bringing in an extra two thousand dollars every Saturday night. Manny loved us. There was never any trouble. All the frat parties lined up for the fall. They were going to give us a shot here on Wednesday nights. And the band doesn’t show up.”
He was a good singer and a great performer. I hated to hear the band was no more. Sandy walked in. A shoulder bag with a long strap was slung from her left shoulder. Her light brown, short hair was windblown and she was wearing sunglasses and a long, white sleeveless sundress. Her face, neck and arms were lightly tanned. She looked fresh and very young. She saw me and made her way up to the table. Henry looked up. She took off her sunglasses and smiled down at us. Henry stood up.
“Henry, this is Sandy Meyers. Sandy, Henry Porter.”
She reached to shake his hand. He held her hand, bowed slightly and kissed the back of her hand. She made a little curtsy. He gave her his chair and pulled another one over.
“Beer?” he said to Sandy.
“Henry, let me.”
“You get the next round.”
He made his way to the bar. Sandy leaned against me and kissed me in the mouth.
“Miss me?” she said.
She rubbed her nose against mine. She took a brush from her shoulder bag and ran it several times through her hair. She took out a compact, looked at her hair and face and then snapped the compact shut and put it and the brush back in the shoulder bag. She pressed a leg against mine. She wormed her hand into mine and we held hands under the table. Henry came back. She let go of my hand and we kept our hands on top of the table.
I said, “Here’s to the best damn lead singer in Pittsburgh.”
“Are you a singer?”
“When I’m up there.”
“I play a little piano,” Sandy said.
“I’ll kill myself!” he said. “I swear it!”
“You don’t like chop sticks?”
“He just lost his band.”
“An easy five hundred a night,” he said. “All the suds we could drink. All kinds of frat parties lined up. They don’t show.”
She said, “I had a friend who was in an all girls band. Roadsickness. Ever hear of them?”
“You mean Carsickness,” he said.
“They play Pittsburgh?”
“Mainly house parties.”
“What happened?” he asked.
“Oh, somebody slept with somebody’s boyfriend.”
“Exactly,” he said. “It’s not music. It’s comedy.”
After the third round Henry left. Sandy and I sat and looked at each other. I said, “How was your week?”
“I found out I maxed two exams,” she said.
“I’m going to get another four hours in work study, too.”
“I had lewd thoughts about you.”
She looked around, leaned closer to me and pulled up her long white dress. Her legs were hairless and smooth. She wasn’t wearing a slip. I felt my groin tighten up. On the inside of her right thigh near the crotch of her white panties was a fading purplish mark the size of a half dollar. She threw her dress drown.
“Did I do that?”
“I call it your vampire kiss,” she said.
“I guess I got carried away.”
“You always get carried away. That’s what I like about making love to you.”
We were holding both of each other’s hands on the table top.
“How’s that?” I said.
“You don’t hide anything,” she said. “You don’t keep anything back. I think it’s the only time you totally let go. You’re very oral.”
“Must mean arrested development or something. You bring out the beast in me.”
“You were beastly before I met you.”
We talked about this and that and then I said, “How’s your friend Lisa?”
“Oh,” she said. “All right.”
“She was in here earlier.”
“What does she do?”
“She’s a student.”
“What does she do for money?”
“Her parents have money.”
“Enough for her to buy drugs?”
She let go of my hands. “If her parents knew…”
“She deals, doesn’t she?”
“What she doesn’t use.”
“What’s she in to?”
She sat in silence and would not look at me. The silence stretched between us. I took her hands in mine. She looked me full in the face. Any time she did that I always felt her basic sincerity. It was the sort of vulnerability and sincerity most of us lose when we stop being very young children. It made me feel she was sitting beside me naked and unaware she was naked.
“You don’t use anything,” I said. “Do you?”
“I get high on us.”
It was that day, sitting at that table, that I realized I loved Sandy Meyers.