Chapter Twenty-seven

Six in the morning on a Sunday I found myself waiting for a downtown Brooklyn bus heading home. Where had I been departing from? Sofia’s apartment.

I spent the night after a semi-late date began. We met up for drinks followed by dinner and then dancing at the Copacabana.

Sofia said she had never been but during her childhood her parents, along with a few of their friends, would go dancing to various clubs every Friday or Saturday with The Copa as their top choice most nights. “I didn’t mind it so much. I got to sleep over a friends’ house. Sleepovers are everything to a little girl.” She said as we waited on line for an hour until we were finally let in.

We spent a few hours on the dance floor. The gleam in her eye was worth the struggling missteps of my two left feet. I cannot dance to save my life but endured the impossible for the happiness of my date.

To repay such happiness I lied to her to get out of staying for breakfast so that I could meet up with Wendy. All I required was a shower and change of clothes.

It was beginning to get chilly. A jacket was absent from my possession. Purchasing the paper upon arriving home the weather section said the high for the day would hover in the low fifties.

I entered my apartment to find Ralph sitting at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee, light and sweet, at his side and his laptop in front of him. He didn’t hear me enter because studio headphones were over his ears. That meant he was either editing something or listening to music while writing. Good, I thought. He seemed to lose interest in a passion that consumed him since adolescence. Him working is sign he might be returning to normalcy.

I lightly padded Ralph on the shoulder. He then took off the headphones. I could hear Johnny Cash; that meant he was writing again. Thank the heavens my friend was returning.

“Are you just coming in?” He asks, pausing the music on his iTunes Player. “Yea but I only came back for a shower. I’m heading back out.” “Since when do you have this much energy in your reserves?” “What do you mean?” “I remember a time when you retired to your room about ten most nights, and going out was more or less not an option.” “I remember a time when I couldn’t wake you up earlier than noon yet here you are.”

He nervously scratched his scalp. “Something’s been eating at me. I couldn’t sleep, so,” “So you’ve been up all night writing?”

He shook his head. I smiled.

“Anything good?” “Probably not. I’m experimenting with a new voice. Feels clumsy but it could be decent.” “May I read it once you’ve completed it?” “You know the answer to that.”

Ralph always asked me to read his stuff with the opinion of a total stranger. I detached myself from our friendship to give him unbiased opinions but what he’s come up with just made me proud to have him as a friend.

I went into the fridge for a glass of orange juice while Ralph said, “Hey, would there be any reason for Wendy to be calling me?” “Not to my knowledge. What’d she bother you about?” “She inquired about your ‘recent behavior.’ Whatever that means.”

I poured the juice into a year old blue cup and replaced the carton back in its place. “My behavior…?” “Yea, she says you’ve been acting weirder than normal. I told her that’s impossible because you’re already top of the charts on that.”

In the last few weeks I’ve been distancing myself from Wendy, coming up with little ways to get out of seeing her and whatnot. In its place the time went to Daisy but I’ve made sure to keep up appearances and communication. That’s what today is for. Despite not really being in the mood to see her.

This experiment is beginning to become a bit overwhelming.

“Weren’t you on a date last night?” Ralph asked. I looked at him. His face was expressionless but his eyes had a hint of judgement behind them. We’ve been in this situation before, back when I began seeing Sofia and Wendy. He disproved earnestly on the topic.

But now, given the events that have transpired over the last year for him, this could turn ugly.

“I distinctly recall you mentioning a get together with a woman for last night a few days ago when I asked if you would be free. Is that where you’re coming from; a woman’s home? Because I see no reason for Wendy to reach out to me if you were leaving her place. Besides, the call came in last night around nine and you were long gone by then.”

His eyes were fixed on mine waiting for a confession…? or perhaps looking for a lie.

Keeping my face expressionless as well I said “No I was not on a date. You must have misunderstood. I said I was going out, yes. But that I was aiding in a set up with a co-worker under my decision not to go through with it, of course.”

He shook his head as he reached into a pocket of his sweatpants revealing his cell phone. He flipped it open, dialed a number, and then pressed a few keys. With the phone still flipped open he activated the speaker option. The robotic voice said “last message received yesterday at ten-twenty five pm.” “Hey Ralph, sorry to bother you again,” the voice was now that of Wendy’s. “I thought about what you said and you’re right, Johnny isn’t the cheating type. But, I don’t know, the look in his eye when he’s with me feels like, and call me crazy, but, it’s like he’s there but not THERE. You know? Sorry to involve you but you’re his closest friend and I love him so I,” she sighed heavily, “I don’t know. But thanks for talking to me. Bye.”

He closed his phone.

“That’s the gist of my conversation with her. She told me the two of you have been together over a year. But in my head I knew that couldn’t be possible since I’ve been out with you and Sofia in that timeframe. I came home one day to her comforting you after Nancy died. You were crying on her shoulder and she cooed in your ear.”

He took a deep breath. There was a fire in his eye, one I had never seen before. Then again we’ve never had a disagreement of this scale before. But that’s because I’ve never engaged in such behavior in our entire friendship.

I had to divert the conversation into another direction. “How did she get your number?” “The Hell if I know. We’re not friends. She certainly has no reason to call about the movie since she had no involvement in it. So the only way it’s possible is through you.” “I don’t see how.”

A sarcastic grin spread across his lips. “Lets say I’m an idiot and don’t already see what’s going on. I’d say the best way for that to be possible is if while you were sleeping, showering at her place, or taking a shit she went through your phone. Have you learned nothing about women yet, Johnny?”

Apparently not enough.

“Whatever this situation is does not concern you.” “So you agree that there IS a situation.” “I will neither confirm nor deny such an inquiry.” “You sonuvabitch.”

Without a word he got up and went into his room, slamming the door so hard I heard the frame rattle from the vibration.

A new fork in the road of the experiment; I was now forced to deal with the possibility of ending ties with Wendy or keeping all three women. The better option would be to sever ties so that Ralph and I may mend this scuffle. He isn’t aware of Daisy’s existence and given what just transpired it would be best if he didn’t learn of it.

The worst case scenario would be Ralph going to Sofia with information of my transgressions which would ultimately end another tie. But unwillingly.

The selfish bone in me thinks I should remain on my present course. But what was that course, again?

A decision must be made between now and breakfast with Wendy. But first…

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cellphone. Scrolling through the contact list I went to Wendy’s name and prepared a text message: “Hey, am I still seeing you this morning?”

Five minutes later I got a response: “Hey. Yes, I hope so. Is ten good?” My response: “Sure. See you then.”

A decision must be made by the time breakfast is served this morning.

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