Which One-part 8 (Image: Little girl running)

That extraordinary moment was not as straight-forward as it seems in print above. It took 5 or 10 seconds after I hung up the phone for it to register. Then I started wondering—“did I just hear what I thought I heard?”

I went to bed several hours later still obsessing about that sudden and astonishing shift in tone and feeling. I lay awake for most of the night going over every word of the exchange I could remember—examining each phrase and dissecting the content. It seemed to me she was very clear about the engagement to Phil whom she was looking forward to marrying. She glowingly described him as a genuinely decent, caring, intelligent man and spoke highly of his two adult children.

But several things struck me as incongruous and I clung to those considerations like a life preserver. 1. She spoke with me for well over an hour, 2. She conspicuously avoided saying anything about how she felt about me all those years ago—the depth of her devotion, 3. She was fine with my writing and made sure I had her number but most of all, 4. That shift in tone when she said “Goodbye Orion,” and the way she said my name.”

In that last phrase I thought I could clearly hear an aching sadness and girlish yearning I chose to believe arose out of a perfect love at a formative time in life that she was never able to leave behind. The fact she remembered my service number (though her memory was only average) seemed to support that contention. I was not simply a guy she had dated and once loved when she was a high-school girl—I was the one great love of her life.

During the course of the conversation we talked about Christine—the mutual friend who introduced us. Joanie and Chris had remained close friends over the years and during a visit one weekend about a year after Rogers’ Senior’s death, my name came up. They tried to locate me on Christine’s computer—without success. I was probably living in some wilderness they decided, where there was no phone service.

Joanie gave me Christine’s phone number and urged me to call her. I had such positive memories of Chris from all those years ago—and had wondered how her life had unfolded—I decided to call her the next night.

I had hoped to surprise Christine but, as you might guess—Joanie had called her (I later learned) right after speaking with me. When Christine picked up the phone instead of “hello” she answered with “Hi Orion—it’s been awhile.”

We chatted awhile—kids, education, spouses, careers, personal interests—the usual stuff.

An amazing bit of information came out of the discussion of our kids. It turned out Christine’s daughter and son-in-law lived less than 30 minutes from me. Chris had visited them numerous times over the years and was anticipating a visit in the near future.

“Wow—I can’t believe the serendipity,” I responded. “When do you think you’ll be down here again?”

She couldn’t be precise—but sometime in the next 3 or 4 weeks.

“Well,” I chuckled, “I’ve been meaning for some time now to do something to repay you for introducing Joanie and me. She was the perfect first girlfriend for me. Sorry it took so long. How does dinner at my favorite restaurant sound? Do you like Indian?” She laughed and said she’d be delighted but encouraged me to do something about my problem with procrastination.

I didn’t dare ask her the question I wanted to—one I’d asked her once before—“What did Joanie say?—does she like me?”

Instead I brought up something I’d been thinking about quite a bit in the previous 24 hours.

“Christine,” I began, “do you think Joanie’s happy?—specifically—is she in a good relationship with this guy Phil? Have you met him?”

“I have met him,” Chris replied. “He seems like a very nice man—he’s quite a bit older than Joanie—seems to be in good health. He’s quite well thought of in the community. Joanie mentioned he drinks possibly a bit much.”

“Joanie seems to have a tendency to hook up with guys who drink more than a little,” I returned.

“People who drink more than they should,” Christine responded, “would include just about everybody in the Mohawk Valley.”

I remembered, growing up in central New York, there was a bar or liquor store on every corner in town and any time I went to anybody’s house wine or beer was consumed like iced tea or coke in this area.

“Yeah—I suppose,” I agreed. “Do you think this guy loves her?”

Chris was silent a moment—choosing her words.

“I think he loves her,” she said, “but I don’t think he really appreciates her.”

I took a breath.

“Do you think Joanie loves him?” I came back.

Again—a pause to carefully choose words.

“I think she appreciates him,” she began, “whether she loves him…”

“Chris,” I inquired, “do you remember the way Joanie talked about me to you in private when we were kids? Does she talk about him in that way?

No pause this time.

“Orion,” she replied, “in the last 40-odd years since you left, Joanie has never talked about anybody the way she used to talk about you. Not even close.”

End part 8

FacebookTwitterDeliciousGoogle GmailGoogle ReaderDiggShare

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge