They were all in their late 30s, closing in on 40 and making a good living. You can run around playing like kids only so long. Then, life catches up and things change. Doesn’t matter how many honeys you hang with on the road, how many big-deal gigs you do. After a point, you either enjoy the job or get married to it.
If you just enjoy the job, you have yourself a life outside of it, just like regular folk who punch a clock. If you get married to it, you wind up with no life, really, to call your own.
They’d seen it happen time and time again to people who lived, breathed and drank music. Who made themselves a bore because they never talked about anything else and made themselves miserable without ever realizing they were unhappy. Which was why, Keith knew, that jackass musical director Gustav’s boyfriend was one day going to get fed up and hand in his walking papers.
Gerry clearly had made up his mind to grow old, fat and happy with Denise. The jury was out on Luis. He’d become fond of — of all things — a wispy little housewife, Yvette Iris, who’d grown less and less fond of supporting a man who sat around mornings in his drawers, wolfing down bowls of Cap’n Crunch, watching cartoons and telling her kids what to do. And, she suspected, stepping out on her with a well-to-do white chick.
Go figger. What in the world a dyed-in-the-wool cynic and confirmed hound-dog was doing falling for a woman in that situation was a complete mystery. But, Keith had never seen Luis happier than when Yvette Iris was around.
Keith and Lesli had, over the past weeks — just shy of a month — made it through the first real test of their relationship. Pretty much with flying colors, though neither was about to come right out and say so. A glitch here and there, sure. Getting on each others nerves from time to time. But nothing, so far, that sent up a red flag.
Well, not really, anyway. She could be stubborn as hell over the slightest thing and, when she got her dander up, wasn’t real good at listening to his side of the story. He had, he knew, an annoying habit, when she got like that, once she really got going, of shutting down and refusing to respond.
During one spat, the two of them reminded him of an old Looney Tunes episode in which a dog was chained up and frustrated, barking his fool brains out at a cat who sat just out of reach, calmly watching the dog go nuts. The calmer Keith was, the more hell Lesli had raised. Until she’d finally plopped down on the sofa, sulking, and said, “You go straight to hell. I’m not speaking to you anymore. Ever. As long as I live.”
“You sure about that? Long as you live is a mighty long time.”
“Well, I’m sure of one thing. You ain’t gettin’ any tonight, buddy. So, there.” And actually stuck her tongue out at him.
He’d smiled. She’d grudgingly smiled. He’d joined her on the sofa, kissing the tip of her nose, playing with her hair. She’d kissed him under the neck and began nibbling his ear. So much for threatened celibacy. In fact, a powerful plus in his mind was that she was never sexually stingy. It went a long ways toward bonding them.
All things being equal, surviving her three-week stay had been quite an accomplishment — considering they’d gone from spending months at a time on opposite coasts, snatching a day, two, three or four together at most, to being right up under each other practically all day every day. The time had flown by and here he was, rattling around in the apartment, missing her and, he could hardly believe it, her pain-in-the-behind cat Bruno.
She wouldn’t know for at least another month whether she’d be moving East, with either the position at the museum or the one at the institute. She was confident, though, that she’d be offered both.
Not hard to believe. The woman was, after all, a living, breathing, walking, talking phenomenon. The first thing you’d notice, of course, was how easy she was on the eyes. Wore a business suit better than most women wore a bikini. Personable with a warm, ready smile. Articulate. Both intelligent and smart — there’s a difference.
And, quite possibly her most alluring attribute — the thing that made her irresistibly sexy to Keith — was a sense of humor fueled by a razor-sharp wit. Exactly the kind of chick that scared pure hell out of insecure men and made insecure women see green. Also, exactly the caliber of professional even the most prestigious outfit couldn’t wait to bring on board.
Smart money says the lady is headed this way to live, Keith had figured. Works for me.
Next week: Keith recalls why he’s avoided relationships.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.