Five days later while leveling up via the Olympus Coliseum for the more difficult battles that lay ahead, especially the highly anticipated Sephiroth fight, I get a phone call.
Blinded by frustration brought on by these flying devil looking heartless I barely paid any mind to the person on the other line, not that it hurt me in the long run. I didn’t recognize the number so I just flipped my phone open and put it to my ear with a bland “Hello?”
“You’re alive, this is good news.”
“Indeed it is considering I’m still young.”
“Age has nothing to do with health. Statistically you’re supposed to be healthy but could have the lung capacity equivalent to someone who smoked for years.”
“Only if it were in my genes.”
“Genes skip generations.”
“Well my family has no dark gene history, nor am I subjected to the FoxDie virus. God damnit!”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes, just peachy. This band of heartless is driving me insane.”
“What are you talking about? And what’s ‘FoxDie’ I’ve never heard of that disease.”
“Play Metal Gear Solid and you will.”
“…A fucking video game, Johnny? Is this why you haven’t called me since we ran into each other at your store?”
“If I knew who this was I could give you a valid response but I doubt that since my attention is averted on more pressing matters.”
The line was silent for ten seconds, and then “Its Wendy, Johnny.” I paused the game.
“Didn’t I call you two days ago?”
“You left a voicemail. A rather awkward voicemail, like it was the first time in your life you were leaving one, but yes you called. I’ve been trying to reach you ever since.”
“My phone has been off for most of the time.”
“Playing video games, I presume.”
“I only just began an hour ago. No, my attention was on a project I’m working on.”
“A relative of a friend asked me to restore some old pictures. Since I’m Adobe Certified it made sense to ask me for help.”
“Sounds like it’s troubling you instead of being easy work.”
“I can’t seem to get the proper color contrast to match the actual photo or mimic their appearances since one of the photos is severely faded on a couple of the faces.”
“What’s the date of the photo?”
“April 10, 1912.”
“Why does that date sound familiar…”
“James Cameron made a movie about it.”
“You’re kidding! Is it a photo of someone on the ship?”
“Yes and no. The photo contains passengers but the main subject was not aboard the Titanic. One of the men in the photograph was a relative of the main subject who, because of the sinking, became the last living male of his family.”
“A lot of pressure to continue the family name.”
“Lucky for my friend, he did.”
A moment of silence again, and then “you could have taken five minutes to check your phone since you left someone a message.”
“People tend to not be prompt about returning them. Besides once I left the message my mind became completely consumed with this project. I haven’t seen any of my friends in days.”
“Have you at least bathed?” “Showering is a necessity.”
“Good. Since you feel that way why don’t you go hop in the shower and meet me downtown in two hours.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“You’re free at the moment, so am I, and I’d like to see you; why put off what you can do today, tomorrow?”
My turn to be silent.
“Stop trying to weasel your way out of this.”
“I hardly think my surprise brought on by your brash behavior-”
“I hardly consider making spur-of-the-moment plans ‘brash’ Johnny. Welcome to the Twenty-first century.” “What do the times have to do with me being surprised?” Wendy laughed, I didn’t understand what was so funny.
“I’m going to hang up now. In two hours I hope to see you standing on the corner of Sixtieth and Lexington. If not, well…well maybe I’ll try again. But I’m hoping I won’t have to.”
“Couldn’t we just schedule plans like normal people do?”
“You’re not normal Johnny.”
“What does that mean?”
“I can tell if we made plans you’d forget. Look how long it took to get you on the phone. If forcing you to meet me is my only way of seeing you then that’s what I’ll do, as desperate as it makes me look.”
I sighed. Not out of pity or defeat, but simply because I cannot stand confrontations and it was obvious that if I didn’t show up there were going to be consequences; she knows where I work. I read somewhere that women are susceptible to ‘causing a scene’ in public places because of an emotional connection with a man.
“Very well. But give me an extra half hour. Its Sunday and I live in Brooklyn- not a very good travel day.”
“That’s fair. See you soon Johnny.”
As she hung up the phone I couldn’t help but notice that in her last words it sounded as if she had been smiling. Why?
I put my phone down and unpaused the game. I had accumulated enough skills to whiz right through the next few sets of heartless. I don’t take long in the shower and since I live on the N line it shouldn’t take me more than an hour to get to fifty-ninth street.
Twenty minutes later I was fighting Hades, another ten and I was victorious. I saved, turned the console off, grabbed a couple of things, and then took a quick shower. Grabbing my wallet, apartment keys, cell phone, and a jacket I locked up the apartment and made my way to the 20th Avenue train station.
The N train showed up seven minutes later. From my stop to fifty-ninth street totaled nineteen. Assuming there are no delays I can be there just in time. I hated being late for affairs, planned or otherwise. I took a risk by not getting ready the moment I hung up the phone, even with the extra half hour. But I also have a habit of being too early for things. I hate that more than being just on-time or slightly late.
According to an article I once read it’s in a woman’s nature to be, what was the terminology used- fashionably late? Yes I believe that’s right. So maybe this plan would turn out in my favor.
I arrived at fifty-ninth street three minutes before the allotted time. I knew the station well so finding the exit that led to the sixtieth street corner was a cinch.
New York City was already dark, being almost winter and all. The temperature dropped a few degrees from this morning but you hardly knew the difference. It was shaping up to be a warm winter. Passersby hurried along the sidewalks shopping at Bloomingdale’s across the street on my right, Diesel right in front of me, and Levi to my rear.
Scanning the corners I immediately spotted Wendy and walked up to her. “Sorry I’m late.” We said at the same time, giving each other a surprised look. Wendy broke the sudden silence with a short laugh.
“You just got here too?”
Shaking my head I responded, “I just came up from this exit” and pointed behind me.
“So did I. What train did you take to get here?”
Another surprised expression. “What are the chances we were riding the same train?”
“The odds seem to be stacked in our favor.”
“So it seems.” With a smile she reached out her hands and interlocked them under my right arm. I had no idea how to react so I let her guide me the whole way, which wasn’t very far.
There’s a diner on sixtieth and Lexington I had never seen before but on the way Wendy said “this became my favorite place to eat when I worked in the area” so she led me towards the rear where a West Indian gentleman was adding ingredients to a bowl of lettuce.
“They serve hot food here too. Its right behind you. Come find me when you’re done because you have to order the food first, and then they bring it to you.”
“What makes you think I don’t want a salad too? What, just because I’m a guy I can’t enjoy salad?”
“I- I didn’t think-”
Before she could continue I grabbed a bowl of iceberg lettuce and handed it to the gentleman. He dumped the lettuce into a large round silver bowl and the two of us danced down the buffet of rabbit food. I didn’t like onions or green peppers on my salad so I just put tomatoes, shredded cheese, cucumber, and shredded carrots, topped off with low fat Ranch dressing. Wendy, on the other hand, added almost everything they had to offer on her salad.
The two of us got in line at the register, paid, and then took a seat near the entrance/exit. There were plenty of seats available being a weeknight and all but I insisted on the table for its proximity to the exit, which also had a view of an entrance to the fifty-ninth street station across the street.
Wendy popped the top of her ginger ale open and held it up in a toast. I opened my green tea. “To us.” She said and our drinks clinked together. We ate slowly, allowing conversation to build. By the time we were half done an hour had passed. Customers came and went but not many. The night dragged on, our food disappearing with it.
I hadn’t done this sort of thing before- eat with a woman. Not unless she was already a friend, and that only occurred during high school.
She seemed charmed by what I was saying. She laughed at appropriate, and sometimes inappropriate, times. There were instances where her hand would gently rub my shoulder. I had read about such actions- it was supposed to mean that a woman was interested in you. Physically or not was omitted from the article. Melina herself has made remarks of such behavior too. Its always good having live data from theoretical reading.
We finished our food, threw the bowls along with the cans away, and walked outside. Wendy once again interlocked her hands with my arm and I could feel her beginning to tense up. Her eyes shifted from everything but me, as well. I had no idea what that meant.
“Did you have a nice time?” She asked.
“I enjoyed myself, yes.”
“See? Wasn’t it a good idea to just throw caution to the wind?”
“I never said I had a problem with doing so, it’s just-”
And that’s when she took my face and pressed her lips against mine.
It wasn’t my first kiss; that happened in junior high during a game my classmates called “7 Minutes in Heaven.” Wendy was actually only the third girl I have kissed to this point. I could feel something inside myself beginning to awaken as if rising from a deep sleep and mad with frustration at being disturbed.
Wendy’s lips departed from mine. She exhaled audibly as she opened her eyes. “Shall we head in?” She said, motioning for the train station entrance. Before I spoke she led me underground where we swiped our Metrocards and made our way to the stairs that led to the N, Q, R and W platforms.
“This is where we go our separate ways.”
“I thought you took the N as well.” I said.
“I was visiting a friend earlier which is why I was on it. I have to take the 5 train to Franklin Avenue.”
“But you live in Queens.”
“Yes, but I’m moving to Franklin Avenue by the middle of next month. Care to help me move in?”
“Are you asking me for help because I’m a man and, statistically speaking, heavy lifting is supposed to be what we do best.”
Wendy laughed hysterically. “You are so cute Johnny.” She kissed me again and began walking in the direction of the 5 train platform but stopped in her tracks and turned around.
“There’s a home cooked meal at the end of the day if you help me move.” The presence of a bargaining chip served no purpose- whatever had awoken inside of me already had an answer: “okay.”
It was as if it knew the answer would satisfy Wendy, and it did for she smiled brightly as she turned back around and headed for the 5 train.
I shook my head as I headed down the stairs for the N train.