Sunday Kind of Love
by David Rambeau
What could better express the somber mood I endured that cool, rainy, Saturday night in late November than Etta James singing from her album, ďLove SongsĒ. The full moon had come and gone two nights ago and I was still deep into the blues. Never any point in staying home or in going to any of my haunts, not now, not then, but there I was in my office, listening to her CD and remembering better times. I guess I could have gone for a long drive out to the suburban bookstore, but I usually saved that for Fridays. So what to do tonight, this night, any night?
Each anguished lyric reminded me of different memories, but the same person. It had been six months since she graduated and left town, and I was hardly close to recovery, to getting over the slowness of time, the lack of focus on my work, the somber face my colleagues so often told me of. Please excuse me. It is not my habit to accost a stranger with all this without proper introduction, but if you will indulge me for a little while, will show me some love, Iíll try to explain how I got to this state of affairs.
It all started last fall that first evening she came to class. As a part-time instructor at the university I only teach a single class each term, just something to keep my connection to the intellectually vibrant scene I canít seem to separate from. Some folk are addicted to shopping, others to bowling, television, the list goes on and on. At that point I was in love with teaching, though I'm sure this experience will cure me of the affection. Until then Iíll allow teaching to keep my mind sharp and to force me to study, probably more than most of the students in my class. So like a soldier who canít leave the service even when his tour of duty is over, I couldnít leave the campus, so I re-upped for another semester. Thatís how I got into the situation, maybe I should call it the mess, because thatís more of what it was like. A real mess.
She came late that first day. Most of what was going to be my class was waiting for me, probably the first and last day they would arrive before I did. I had already sized up each cluster of students sitting haphazardly throughout the room and started to take roll. For the first class each name on the list was fresh, not keyed to a face, a persona, so when I slowly, somewhat tentatively called each name, I had a kind of curiosity in seeing whether the name matched the voice and the person who responded.
As I was nearing the end of roll-call, she bounded in bundled in corduroy and wool, with a cap, scarf, sweater, pants and boots, muted prints and nothing expensive, arty, something you might see a dancer wear on the way to an audition. She breathlessly acknowledged my awareness of her flitting energy and flopped in a seat in the middle of the class, center-stage I thought, conspicuous, where a star would sit to gain, while pretending not to seek, attention. Nonchalantly I continued calling out the names and looking up to see who was where, and, in doing so, had opportunity to scan her actions: the dropping of her back-pack on the floor, the taking out of her notebook and pencil, and the swirling around at her desk. When my eyes passed hers, she locked into my vision like a guided missile, with the huge brown eyes, and a toothy, confident smile turgid with sensuality. I was more than amused, more than attracted, I was soothed. I paused my process, rubbed my chin purposefully, returned her smile with my own subtle grin, and looked away. This, I thought, was going to be a very pleasant semester...
".... a love to last past Saturday night
She lived in a nondescript upper flat far enough from campus for anonymity, yet close enough to be convenient. The only entrance was up a rickety wooden fire escape that sat in the back yard and adjoined the house. The only two street lights on the entire block were at each corner, both several doors away from her place, so I could park in the middle of the block, about halfway between them and quietly walk the tree-lined front yards that hid me from inquisitive eyes, not that there were ever any that I noticed on my late evening visits that lasted longer than my evening classes and made a mockery of the term homework.
Often when I was walking by the side of the house toward the yard, I wondered what I was doing, whether it made any sense. There was no light in the yard and seldom any from the downstairs flat where her landlady lived. Only a dim kitchen light came from the back door to her place at the top of the stairs, and it was no more than a candle. I could easily have missed a stair or even the landing and stepped off into oblivion, but the danger never deterred me, rather it added to the adventure.
One evening, I clearly recall, was particularly difficult. It occurred early on in our escapade and seemed to set the mode for the relationship. I had eagerly looked forward to a late evening rendezvous with her and knocked gently on the windowpane that I always thought was going to explode under my knuckles. Anxiously, I waited on the postcard-sized landing at the top of the stairs with a smile on my face and in my mind, in anticipation of imagined pleasures, from merely her company and conversation to the music, reefer and muted dialogue we shared on more than one occasion.
I want a love thatís on the square
When I stepped inside she gave me a warm falsetto welcome and her usual smirk-smile. I leaned in to her and nuzzled her cheek. She backed away. I wasnít suspicious, but perhaps I should have been. She disappeared through the curtains into the front room. I followed her through the doorway, looked around and saw him sitting there, a young man in a bandana. Well, I thought, itís going to be like this.
The three of us, a college professor and two students, sat there in a triangle drinking cheap wine and making small talk, an r & b LP playing in the background lending a dramatic counterpoint to the plot unfolding in the dim light.
At one point I thought the set would go on all night, that weíd talk till the sun rose. At other times I thought, ďLet me get myself together and get the hell out of here.Ē But Iíd look over at the mellow and lose that ridiculous mind-set.
After a couple of hours, he finally got up and left. I donít know why he did, but I sure knew I wasnít going anyplace. And it only got better after that.
My arms need someone to enfold
I wish bandana had been my only adversary, but he was just one of many. The most difficult was Jodi, who appeared every six months or so and sent me into hibernation. Maybe she just got tired of keeping all the mice in her labyrinth. Maybe she just needed a change of scene. Whatever the reason, in June, after she got her diploma, she was gone.
So, my friend, thatís the story, my story, that explains it all. I left the university and teaching not long after that episode. Iíve heard from her from time to time. I wrote; she never did. Iíve never seen her again.
ÖSunday, SundayÖSunday kind of loveÖ