Chapter 2 of 76
| Second Street
Pam decided to scoot over to the stool next to Charlie and get a better look. Well Charlie my friend, what is it you do for a living she queried?
I am a professor at the college he replied all the while giving her the once over. You mean Tunxis? Yes that’s right. I almost went there she quipped, just never seemed to get the time or energy to go.
As the afternoon claimed another hour and yet another they talked nonstop about anything and everything. Charlie was happy to have this time filled with conversation instead of emptiness. This had been his only real connection to the world in weeks.
As time slipped by, Bud made sure the glasses never got below half full. Soon enough they were laughing and regaling each other with the heartbreaks each had suffered.
He asked about the dance floor? Pam? Does that dance floor ever get used? She screwed up her mouth into a crooked smile and said, you hinting at something?
She stood up picked up some change from the bar, walked over to the juke box and slid four quarters in. The light from the machine showed off her shape. He couldn’t help noticing those enticing hips in tight fitting jeans as she swayed back and forth while making her choices. Having completed her choices she grabbed Charlie by the hand and pulled him up from his seat and led him to the dance floor. All the songs she had picked were romantic and melodic. Her arms went up around his neck and he slid his arms around her waist and they danced. He hadn’t felt this good for so long.
Before he knew it, it was seven pm. Where the hell had the hours gone? Pam was pretty drunk and he was not in great shape either. He told her he had to go and asked if she was coming back soon? She gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him he would just have to find out. They parted ways both a little unsteady.
It was dark and cold, half the street lights broken by vandals or just not working. He pulled his coat collar up and tried to make himself appear as large as he could manage. As he walked, he kept passing seedy looking characters and wondering how long before he would get mugged. Some of the sideways looks from these passersby sent chills up his spine. He finally reached home and was ever so glad.
Monday had come ever so early, finding Charlie in a fog. A fugue state so to speak. He arrived at work fifteen minutes late, not having considered the new drive time. He entered the administration offices and apologized profusely. He picked up the mail from his box and proceeded down the hall to his class. This day seemed to crawl by. His mind all was over the place and nowhere at the very same time, one class, two, coffee break, another class, lunch. God it was never going to end! Mercifully the day did end and he flew out of there, wishing he were already home.
On the drive home he suddenly realized he had no food or even anything to cook with. Shit! He really didn’t want to shop but could see the necessity in having food. Fortunately for him there was a Safeway and the little hardware on his way. He did a speed shopping at the grocery. In and out, ten minutes. Off to the hardware to get a pot and pan, he even decided to get himself a radio. He thought it might relieve some of the emptiness. Finally, time to go home. Please no more delays!
As he approached his house he saw that his driveway was occupied by two vehicles and he had to park on the street. This was just not his day. He shook his head, grabbed his packages and headed for the door. He had to make another trip to get his school work. Just as he came out the door he saw two derelict looking individuals coming from the upstairs apartment next door. They headed right for the cars in his yard. Excuse me, Charlie called to the pair. Excuse me!
WHAT; was the response! Listen I just moved in here and you’re parked in my driveway. Yeah whatever; they replied as they climbed into the beaters. Charlie decided to let sleeping dogs lie and not press the issue. These two didn’t look like anybody he wished to have prolonged conversation with. They backed out and he took back his space. He retrieved his work, locked the car and was finally home.
Charlie bought himself some cubed steaks and French fries and that is what was on the menu tonight. He was not a very accomplished cook but figured he could manage this. Fortunately the rental had a table and two chairs left by some other tenant, so he had a place to sit and eat while he worked on his class preparation for the next day. He cooked and found he needed some help, it was so overdone that it was barely edible but he managed to choke it down and the fries were nice and crisp! Another word for just about burned. He was in need of some help, his choices being, eat out every night which was not in his budget or get someone to show him a few things about cooking. There was also the experimentation route? He thought of Pam.
He finished his dinner or facsimile of and started to do his class prep for the next day. He swore the rest of the week would be better than this day had been. He plugged in his new radio and found a nice soothing station. He leaned back for a moment and thought to himself, I have a home, a job, soothing music to work by and maybe a new friend? Life wasn’t so bad after all. Hell I even have utensils!
Pouring over his papers and exams the kids had taken, he became apprehensive, concerned. Having a sober moment, he was seeing a drop in the work they were turning in and it was because of him. He had been absent the last month or more. He had not been doing his job. He had become ineffectual, irrelevant and it showed in their work. This was his doing and it shocked him! He decided to bear down and get his lesson plans done properly and with all the pride he was able to muster, swore he would be better.
Having taken a new oath, he did his work, cleaned his dishes and went to lie down. Hopefully off to a peaceful sleep, that evasive thing. Hopefully not the ever present new nightmare he had been living. He left the radio playing softly in hopes it would lull him to rest. He was sleeping like a babe by nine, warm and toasty in his plastic bubble covered by blankets.
He was not sure if he had been having dreams, good or bad but at two am sirens woke him abruptly. They were right at his front door! Screaming sirens blared and it seemed like thousands of lights flashing, taking away his first night’s sleep in ages! He went to the front window and pulled the shabby curtain aside.
Outside he saw the upstairs next door neighbor being dragged down the stairs in handcuffs, the woman screaming obscenities. She did not look good. She appeared bruised, beaten, maligned and half broken. The suspect had given the arresting cops some shit so as they put him into the car they slammed his head into the roof of the car, producing a huge gash on his forehead.
Charlie was jarred and sat at the table in his bathrobe as the excitement was curtailed. He was now so wide awake and found his bottle of Jack, pouring himself more than several shots. He was unnerved and the rest of the nigh was spent fitfully, sleep was a stranger and distant. He thought of Pam and with thoughts more to her it calmed him some. The rest of the week was uneventful and he put his heart into teaching and the students responded. They were just as sponges. He adored this and had feelings of normalcy beginning to come about.
The weekend upon him, he was excited. He thought of the coffee shop, working on the house and—Pam, maybe?