About an hour into their bus ride, barely pulled out on I-95, Keith and Luis were tooling along nicely, kicking back, bending each other’s ear. Had some Richard Pryor on the DVD player, sipping brews, the kittens curled up in a corner grooming one another. When the telephone rang.
Keith heard it but had trouble locating it. Luis asked, “Who is calling us on a damn bus?”
“Probably Esme, keeping tabs on your triflin’ self.”
“But how would she get the number? Naw, it’s one of the other buses. Your girl Faith finally giving in, asking can she come, cuddle with me tonight.”
“Man, you know women. If you didn’t even have a phone, she’d find the number.”
They both laughed. Keith found the phone. Picked it up and heard, “Keith, it’s me.”
Keith couldn’t believe it. Literally. His mind refused to believe Lesli was on the other end of the line.
He sat down. Butch and Sundance sensed something was wrong and climbed up on his lap. Looked at him, curious. With his free hand he stroked first one, then the other. Assured, they settled down, one on the each leg.
He wondered whether he was too young to have a heart attack. Because he felt dizzy and was nauseous. Heart hammering so hard, he actually could feel it in his chest. He was ecstatic at hearing Lesli’s voice. He also was sorry as hell, scared.
It wasn’t hard to figure out how she got the number. She knew Scott would know how to get in touch with him. He didn’t have the first idea what to say. So, he sat, staring into space.
“So,” Luis asked, “who is it?” Keith waved him off. Luis took Richard Pryor off and put on some George Lopez. And put one eye on his buddy who looked like a mule had just kicked him in the gut.
“Baby,” she said, “say something.” He should’ve, he thought, hung the damn phone up. She obviously was safe and sound. Which, at this point, was all he was really worried about — or so he told himself.
She pressed, “Please. I’m sorry. I really am. Speak to me.” Her tone wasn’t whining, didn’t plead. She sounded sincere all right. She also sounded characteristically self-possessed. Even begging, this was not a woman who crawled.
Keith didn’t give a damn. “You better be calling from a hospital bed.”
“I’m at my parents.” He didn’t say anything. “Can I see you?”
He thought about saying, ‘Yeah, sure, buy a ticket to the show.’ Instead, he decided to be a nice guy and simply said, “What do you want? You leave something at the crib?”
She apologized again. He still couldn’t care less and said so. Lesli sighed. “You’re going to make me work for this, aren’t you? Okay. I know I didn’t handle things right. But, I’m ready to try and do that now.”
Then, self-possessed or no, her voice got a little shaky. “Please, Keith?” At which point Lesli dispelled whatever resolve he might’ve had with, “I still love you.”
Next week: Luis stands by his friend.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.