“Well, tomorrow then?” I switched the phone from one ear to the other and watched as Zoey played with an empty Corona 12-pack.
“I think so. Tomorrow’s Wednesday?” Janie asked me.
“Tuesday.” I was lonely and all I had been thinking about since the day before was Candice. I figured I could fuck some of it away with Janie.
“Oh no, I can’t. I have class tomorrow.” According to Janie, because of our talk the other week, she had enrolled herself in an acting class. “Film acting and theatre acting are two totally different things.” She had told me. I agreed. She was too tired to come over after class.
“Well, come on, what about tonight?” I pleaded.
“Busy with what?”
“What do you think?”
“Oh, yeah. But come on. You don’t love him like you love me.”
“I don’t love anyone, Matt.”
“Right, I forgot.” I told Janie.
“I guess I could come over later tonight.” Janie said.
“Don’t.” I said. I told her I would see her Wednesday. I hung up with Janie and called the number that Candice’s father had given me.
“Hello?” A little girl’s voice said. That would be Amy. I wished that I had the nerve to have said something like, “I could have been your Daddy.” Instead, I just asked if her mother was home.
“Matt!” Candice’s voice boomed over the line. “I can’t believe it.”
“Hey,” I replied back. We talked for a good hour. She told me how the marine biology thing had morphed into an undeclared major for three years. Then she settled on liberal studies. One summer she interned at a law firm and that hooked her. She had met Jason at Berkeley. They got married before they graduated, but not before they had Amy. She was working for the State of Oregon in some legislative capacity. They gave her a good amount of time off to raise her kids. It had been a struggle, but she felt that it had paid off.
I didn’t know what to tell her. Nothing in my life had really gone in any direction that I had foreseen. Nothing was bad, but nothing was really good, either. Like most young Americans at one point I had big dreams. Shiny visions of some sort of celebrated life. A few years back they had all faded into reality. Now I build sets for TV shows I don’t watch. End of story.
“Listen, Candice,” I began, totally changing the subject. “Do you remember that day that we, you know, did the deed?”
“Sure,” Candice said. Her voice didn’t change. I took that as a good thing.
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about it a lot lately.”
“Matt, listen. I really can’t talk about this. Not now. Not here.” I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to tell her that not only had she taken my virginity that day, but we had exchanged our darkest secrets. We had a bond. She owed me this, at least this. That wasn’t just a normal day. That was big. That kind of day stays with you. It never leaves. You have to talk about it. How could she ignore it like this? Candice, I wanted to say, what did that day mean to you? For me it was a touchstone. It ended my childhood, my supposed innocence. Please, please Candice, at least talk to me about that day.
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ve been going through a lot of shit lately, and I don’t know.”
“Matt, its OK. It’s just that you call me out of the blue like this and want to dig up the past. Listen, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you called, but…” She trailed off.
“Candice,” I started. “I’m really sorry.” Of course actually, I was upset. But like when I was visiting her father, I realized that there are boundaries in life that you just can’t cross. The fact that Candice and I stood on opposite sides of one of these boundaries bothered me. Where had the division come from?
“Look, Matt, give me your phone number. We’ll be down in LA at some point to see Dad. I’ll look you up and we can get coffee and maybe talk then.”
“Yeah,” I told Candice. “That sounds really good.” As I hung the phone up all I could think was that I wanted to call back and tell Amy that her mother was a whore.
“You seem really dim.” Janie pointed out to me. We had just finished up and she was back sitting in my chair.
“Yeah,” I told Janie. “I think it’s an early midlife crisis. My head’s been up my ass all week.”
“You want to know what’s been up my ass?” Janie joked. I threw my pillow at her. “Hey, I was kidding, asshole.”
“Oh God,” I groaned, looking straight up at the ceiling. “It’s come to this?”
“Hey Matt, get dressed.” Janie stood up. “I want to take you out.”
“What?” I asked. The fact that whores don’t do this sort of thing plainly evident in my tone.
“I know,” Janie said. “You look bummed, and, I know this is taboo, but you’re my friend. Let me cheer you up.” I looked at the clock. It was just past 11:00 pm. Why not?
“Where to?” I asked.
“Just get your pants on. You’re driving.” I took Janie to a bar in Los Feliz. It seemed like the place to go. The bar was dark and mostly empty. We sat in the back, anyway. They didn’t care too much if you smoked in the back. Janie bought me a beer.
“So what’s with you?” Janie asked me.
“I don’t know. Work is just not making any sense.” I paused to drink. “Do you remember that girl I told you about? The one who was a hooker?”
“The one you lost your cherry with?”
“That’s an awful way to put it, but yes, her.”
“Yeah, that was a nice night.”
“Well, I called her.” I said, dismissing Janie’s comment.
“Really?” Janie seemed very interested.
“Yeah. It was a stupid thing to do. Turns out she’s married and has kids and a career and all that. It just really bummed me out.”
“Wow. I wonder what Mark is up to. That’s the first guy I slept with.” I studied Janie’s face for a second. I didn’t know who she was. “I bet he’s bald.” She continued.
“Janie,” I said, my voice and demeanor taking on a serious tone. “Promise me something. Promise me that I can call you in twelve years and that I can talk to you. Please promise me that.” I squeezed on her arm.
“I don’t promise anything to anyone.” Janie told me.
“Drop the street smart hooker shit for a second, OK? As my friend, just promise me that I can call you and you’ll talk to me.” Janie moved her arm away from my grasp. I thought I might die right there in the bar. Fortunately, she touched my cheek.
“Matt, this isn’t the sort of stuff you say to someone like me. Not like this.” I knew what she meant. It was exactly what Candice had told me. I felt so weird and weak. I asked her a few more times and eventually she agreed that hypothetically, yes, in twelve years I could call her. I’m fairly certain that we both knew it was bullshit. I didn’t even know her last name. Nevertheless, I felt much better.
“Hey,” I said to Janie. “You want to see where I went to high school?”
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