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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Just the Three of Us - Part 1

By Rabon Saip of Elder Times

Rabonsaipbadge She played the piano bar in the Hotel San Carlos, where I often went after work. How old she was I couldn’t tell, but I would guess now she had probably been in her early forties. At barely twenty something myself, it was difficult for me to determine another’s age, especially Kathleen. All I could tell for sure was that she belonged in that oddly alluring category of attractive "older woman," which was certainly not off limits to my healthy young libido.

My job, at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Monterey, California, was right across the street from the rear entrance to the hotel. I usually left work after my last dance lesson, the nine to ten o’clock hour, and walked across the street for a drink. I hated my job, and was struggling to justify staying with it. The money was good, but the emotionally manipulative selling of expensive dance lessons to lonely souls with little talent bothered me to the core. Nevertheless, I liked dressing up and I loved to dance; so the hook was in.

Kathleen played the old tunes I knew from childhood, the beautiful and sad war tunes of the early forties, as well as the zany tunes of that same period. She had a beautiful singing voice, but mostly played, only singing occasionally.

She was indeed attractive, but in a complicated kind of way. The more I saw her, the more attractive she became, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why. The twinkle in her hazel eyes could be taken as sexy, but I eventually learned it was more about her humor and intelligence. There was an inviting openness about her, a capacity for engaging on a wide range of topics, but still there was an allusive and mysterious depth about her. She had a way of looking at you as though she was debating whether or not to tell you a secret.

The cocktail dresses she wore revealed a slightly thin but well proportioned, desirable figure. Her short, curly brown hair sometimes gave her a serious business-like appearance until she cracked open that charming, challenging smile.

"Can I buy you a drink?" I asked, just after I first met her, carefully projecting my casual dance instructor confidence. At that moment I was the only customer on the other side of the piano bar. She smiled and looked briefly over her shoulder toward the gray haired bartender.

"You could," she turned back to me. "But it would be a waste of money. If he knows its for me, he’ll hardly put any booze in it. Watered-down drinks are part of my job." At first I was thrown off by her blunt, matter-of-fact honesty, but then I felt complimented by her confidentiality.

"So, what if I get another one for myself and give it to you?" I ventured. "Or, better yet, what if I get two of the same thing? He won’t know the difference."

"I like your style," she said. Her soft chuckle was warmth itself. "Do you like manhattans?"
"Sure," I responded, trying to remember what went into a manhattan.

I looked forward to seeing her on those nights when I had the late lessons. And I soon enjoyed the company of yet another new acquaintance, a guy who showed up at about the same time I did. The three of us easily engaged and quickly became a regular chat group. I was amazed at Kathleen’s ability to focus on a conversation and still play so beautifully, without missing a beat. Sometimes the three of us would harmonize the lyrics of an old tune we all knew, amazing ourselves at how good we sounded.

"Where’s newspaper man?" I asked one night. "He’s usually here by now?"

"Gary," she spoke his name. "He’ll show up. Sometimes he’s a little late putting the paper to bed."

Gary was a blonde haired, freckled faced, middle aged guy with a slight paunch who always wore a blue suit and was immediately likeable. He worked as part time reporter and typesetter on the local newspaper, was well educated and something of an intellectual. He and Kathleen seemed to have a lot in common and it was soon apparent that he was totally taken with her. But, although she was genuinely friendly, she didn’t respond to him with any particular encouragement. Her warm regard was openly and equally expressed toward us both.

Regardless of her ability to professionally respond to the requests and attention of other customers, we both knew we were special to her.

Gary and I hit it off from the start. However, even though there was a feeling of kinship between us, I would still catch an occasional glance from him that wondered if I was some kind of competition. From my point of view, such a notion was not very realistic. The age difference between him and Kathleen and myself was apparent. In fact, some of their conversations simply went over my head. It was quite clear they shared the baseline knowledge of a preceding generation.

I sometimes wondered what business I had around their relationship at all, and yet, I vaguely understood I was somehow an important part of it, some kind of safety valve, a third element that kept things from becoming too intense which Kathleen depended upon. I didn’t understand this complicated dynamic very well until years later. If I had, I might have felt used and not stuck around.

There were obviously some nights when I didn’t work late and Gary would come see Kathleen by himself. But, although I knew she liked him a lot, I also knew she carefully maintained a platonic relationship with him. Even so, the first time she invited both of us up to her room, I went through some difficult and stupid changes. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I had her figured all wrong. The idea she might actually be interested in some kind of menage-a-trois was disturbing, a confusing combination of excitement and distaste. There was no way I could be sexually explicit around another man, and if that was her plan, I knew I could not be a part of it.

Nevertheless, her invitation had been straight forward and without innuendo. Gary was telling us about his former life in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he had been raised, and it was suddenly twelve-thirty; quitting time for Kathleen. Ordinarily we would have parted company, but this night was different. And there was something different about Kathleen. At times she had seemed distracted by her own thoughts.

"Maybe we could continue this conversation up at my place," she said, catching us both off guard. "I have a room a couple of blocks from here. It isn’t exactly the San Carlos, but you guys are welcome."

We’d all had more than a couple of drinks and were awash in the glow of our own good company, a kind of communication high, a state of exciting anticipation over the next interesting thing we each had to say.

Just the Three of Us - Part 2

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The story cupboard is nearly bare. Time for any readers inclined to share yours to send them along.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


You sure left it on a cliff hanger. Or, at least for those of us who like those mystery lady (gentleman) sagas. Looking forward to tomorrows section.

Sounds a little exciting - and not knowing where it leads is too.

You've set up a wonderful story line. Your introduction sounds like something in a New Yorker-type short story. Can't wait to get to the end.

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