Friday, July 13, 2007

Yes, I Still Remember You

...a guy, a taxi and a song!

This is part 2 of a true story that began with I Still Remember You .

How does fate choose its players? Are our names etched on bouncing ping pong balls like those in a mega-millions lottery game? How is that a practical joke at my expense would lead to a chance meeting and a special friendship? What are the chances that we would take that taxi? Why is that two individuals could become so intrinsically linked by such an unlikely song? Ah, excuse the digression but I'm getting ahead of myself.

One afternoon I was tearing my desk apart. If I wasn't moving paperwork from one side of the desk, I was moving it back to the other. Drawer after drawer was rifled. All of the pockets on my shirt, my pants, my jacket were patted time and time again.
...."Let's go ... today!" said Kevin my department manager.
...."Yeah, okay, but I can't seem to find my ID badge." (Our company had card-entry access doors to all departments.)
...."I have mine. You'll get back in with me when we come back. Look for it later."
....The badge was never found. I had to report to Security to be finger-printed and to have a new picture taken so another badge could be produced.

Lunch time on Thursdays was a special event for several of us in the various departments. A favorite watering hole in the Financial District, which served food, featured on Thursdays a meat loaf special to die for, not discounting the fact that the place was a watering hole first and foremost. So popular this culinary plate, that we had to call ahead with a head count to reserve our meals. There were usually five or six of us who partook of this feast, but on that day I was given a list bearing fourteen names.
....When Paul the bartender took my order over the phone he said,"I was expecting a rather large crowd from your company today!"
....As I joined what resembled a small parade of men and women marching from the building to the New Place, I was still puzzled over the bartender's remark. As our phalanx poured into the Novus Loci, as we sometimes affectionately referred to the place, the waitress told me that Paul wanted to see me over at the bar.
...."Yeah, Paul?" I said to him when I arrived at the bar.
....He said nothing but raised his arm and pointed toward the ceiling. I looked up and then back at him - then my eyes widened and I returned my gaze to the overhanging wall above the bar.

....There in living color, on a glossy 12x15, framed in a bright red toilet seat - was my likeness - a blown up duplicate of the picture that had been on my missing ID badge!
....From behind me there arose a rousing cheer from the thirteen who had entered the place with me. Standing in front of them was my boss, Kevin. It was all too clear. He had "stolen" my badge and the "dirty dozen" behind him had all been in on the sting.
....The picture would grace that wall until the day, six years later when the establishment moved to a new location. The Wall was known both as the Wall of Shame and the less flattering, Wall of Assholes. As for myself, from that day on, I called it The Rogues Gallery.
....Perhaps subconsciously, I hope, for some reason I always seemed to gravitate to the stool directly beneath my mug, which of the eight others that adorned the wall was the only one in color. Before long my "notoriety" preceded me. I could be somewhere else and perfect strangers would come up to me and say, "Hey, I know you! Your picture is in a toilet seat at the New Place!"

What is it about redheads, anyway? I watched her and her friend as they took a seat at the table nearest the bar. What a pretty girl, I thought. Her facial features resembled those of Heather Locklear, to this trained eye. She was petite and had "Ann Margaretesque" shoulder-length hair. (I'd be remiss here, if I didn't let you in on a little secret - I have a thing for redheads.)

While I was making one of those "rare" beer drinker's expeditions to the boys room, I heard a soft voice say, "Excuse me."
....I turned and looked into her green eyes. "Me?"
...."Yes. My friend and I are having an argument and I think you can settle it for us." I nodded. "She says that isn't you in that picture above the bar, but I say it is."
....Snoopy scowled. The Red Baron had shot him down in flames...again! "Yep. That's me." I turned to resume my mission which had regained its importance.
....She touched my arm, "I never met a celebrity before."

Over the ensuing months our paths crossed several times. We soon were saving seats for each other. We became dancing partners. Our Karaoke version of Nancy and Frank Sinatra's "Something Stupid" was actually requested by other patrons on a few occasions.
....She had one interesting quirk that required my participation. Out of nowhere, in the middle of a conversation or walking down the street, she would get my attention and say "I need a kiss right now!" Sometimes it would be just a peck, other times it would be a lingering one, and every now and then she would park into a long hard kiss.
....One day she asked me if I knew how to prepare a resume'. She told me that her job was the only one she'd ever had and she'd been hired through a friend. Not only did she not submit a resume', but she hadn't even filled out an application. I agreed and she gave me a couple of handwritten pages with the pertinent information. I gave the completed resume' to her the next day.
....Two weeks later, even though I protested vehemently, she was buying me dinner. She had landed a new job at twice her previous salary. She was convinced that my expertise at preparing resumes had clinched the job for her.

At this point, I'm sure there are those who might be wondering about any possible sexual interludes between us. I'll admit there were some sexual tensions. We both felt them. We discussed the matter on a couple of occasions. Was it the fact that I was married? Was it because I was ten years her senior? I'd like to think that the former was the ultimate reason, however, I am human and I am a red-blooded testosterone-driven male.
....Honestly, in one of our discussions about carnal caterwauling we made a pact that if either one of us felt that the other was reaching the point of no return, the one with the cooler jets would apply the brakes. Each of us honored that pact during several steamy moments. I asked her one time how we might handle that one possible, or inevitable, chance that neither one of us would want to stop. She winked and said, "Well, then we'll just have to let nature do her thing, won't we?"

It would be only two months later when our pact would be put to an extreme test. During the first two weeks of December most companies have their annual Christmas parties. So it was that at her company party, Sue found herself nearly legless - almost a puddle! It seems that the staff at the hotel where her party was being held decided that she had to be shut off at ten o'clock!
....It just so happened that our company party was the same night in another function room of the same hotel. By previous agreement we had been crashing our perspective parties. Her party had the best food and an open bar. Our party had the best band, but a cash bar. The staff noticed that I was harboring her and "suggested" that since I was 'with' her, I should do the right thing and make sure she went home.
....It was an easy decision. It was the right thing to do. I called a cab and all but carried her outside to await its arrival at the main entrance. (You're thinking: finally, the part about the taxi?)

To say that the cab ride was uneventful would be not only a down right lie, but it would also find me in cowardly denial. She had laid her head in my lap while the cab headed north out of downtown Boston. She was drunk enough to be all but helpless, but sober enough to say to me, "I need a kiss, Mikey. I need a kiss .. now!" What could I do, being a gentleman and all, but oblige.
....I don't want to mislead you by giving the impression that I wasn't drunk, I was. I put up no fight when she inexplicably sat up and maneuvered herself until she had managed to straddle my lap, her back to the front seat of the taxi. I don't think I tried to resist, in fact I know I didn't, when she pushed her nose to my nose and said, "I need a kiss. I need a lot of kissing. I need for you kiss me and not stop!"
....Have you ever seen the windows of a taxi fog up - from the inside? We .. I had become lost in the moment. I was sensing, she was sensing that on that night our pact was going to give way to .. nature!
....Suddenly we were pitched forward violently. The cabbie had pulled over and slammed on the brakes. He was screaming "Get out of my cab! Get out! This is no brothel. Get the hell out of my cab, you perverts!"

Of all the rotten luck. We had entered the cab of a Baptist(?) prude! We stood shivering in the cold December air and watched the cab disappear down the street on its way back to Boston. We had only made it about three miles. We were seven miles from her home. So we began walking. And walking. And walking.
....I'm not sure how much distance we had covered, but at one point I glanced at my watch and was horrified to learn that it was 1:30 am! Finally I waved down a cab coming from the opposite direction. It was two in the morning when we arrived at her place. I asked the cabbie to wait until I got her inside so that he could take me to my house one town over.
....Needless to say, but by that time we were both quite sober while I stood by as she fumbled with her keys. She invited me in, but I declined. Again, and under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. I did manage to turn the tables on her before I left. I said, "I need a kiss - right now!" She complied.

It was the perfect time for a weekend to fall. We were both fully recovered by the time we met the following Monday. She apologized for getting so drunk. I apologized for declining her wish to come in that night. She then thanked me for that, but admitted she was a little disappointed. I looked her in the eye and said with a sheepish grin, "I apologize for calling that particular taxi." It was a laugh that we would share many times. It was then that we "adopted" Harry Chapin's Taxi as our song. Sure, it's hard to dance to - but it was our song.
....Six months later she was transferred to central Massachusetts to her company's Worcester branch. Although we would only see other once or twice a month over the next two years afterward, we remained friends. Although she continued to demand a kiss often enough, there never was another moment to let nature run its course. Then over time, her return visits to Boston stopped. Alas ... we simply lost touch.

I folded the yellowed lyrics and placed the paper back into my shirt pocket. That twenty years had passed, somehow it seemed like it had only been a few weeks. Funny isn't it, that even twenty years of being apart could not dampen or weaken a special friendship?
....Had I wanted her? Sure! Had I loved her? Yeah, I did. Did she feel the same? She didn't say so, but yes, she did. Some things just cannot be hidden. (Now I ask you, just what is it about redheads?)

She said, "How are you, Mikey?"
...I said, "How are you, Sue.
Through the too many miles
And the too little smiles,
I still remember you."



lime said...

i just read this and the preceeding one......letting out a very heavy sigh....

thanks for sharing it. very touching.

Peter said...

Beautifully written Mike... probably good to live too.
BTW I had to look up triskaidekaphobia! and no I'm not afraid of #13

Shannon akaMonty said...

What a great story--if a little sad. Because, you know, I like all stories to have happy endings. :)

Thanks for sharing this one with us.

Serena said...

God, what a great story. I daresay we've all had our Taxi Moments, but yours is one of the most poignant I've ever heard.

Christina said...

Great story, mike. Thanks for sharing.

Jack K. said...

Wow and double Wow.

You do write beautifully.

Thanks for sharing.

You do have a strong sense of self and control. I admire that.