Right in the lumberyard
Back at The March, Brooke was completing a dispirited waitressing shift. She was depressed by Teddy’s rejection and the echo of his lazy nihilism and enervated by the general malaise that comes from being fresh out of college and not yet having set the world afire.
She approached the bar to give Caleb her cash envelope before going home to sleep. Or have some pasta. Or something. She wasn’t sure.
Caleb, accepting the envelope, asked her if she wanted a drink. “You look depressed, Brooke!”
“I’m fine,” she said, turning to leave. “I’m just going to go home.”
Caleb wondered why a blooming young girl like Brooke could be so heartbroken over a dried up old turd like Teddy. But then he shrugged and thought, “I’ve had my fair share of mystifying love affairs. They sort themselves out in the end.”
Brooke emerged on the night street and reached down to unlock her bike. As she was wrapping the chain up, a gravelly voice above her said, tentatively, “Brooke?”
Her heart seized up as she said, “Oh! Teddy! Hi!”
He indicated the steps of the apartment building next to The March and she sat on them. He joined her, clearing his throat.
“Brooke,” he said. “I apologize for my rudeness yesterday. I should never have ignored you like that. I’m not sure really how to act in a situation like this…”
“That’s OK” broke in Brooke, eagerly. “I’m just so happy you’re not angry with me.”
“Please let me continue,” said Teddy. “This is rather difficult.”
Brooke, nervous again, nodded.
“I have discovered,” Teddy began, launching into prepared text. “That I have romantic feelings for you. This surprises me as I have not felt this way for many years and there is, er, a rather significant age difference.”
Brooke shook her head vigorously and waved her hand in the air to indicate that this age difference simply did not signify. She was overjoyed, but kept the required silence.
“I do not hope that a woman as young and beautiful as you could return my romantic interest, but I thought it best to tell you my feelings in the hopes that you would forgive my rudeness yesterday. I acted churlishly and I regret hurting you. Can you forgive me?”
She nodded and turned her face up towards his, eyes shining, lips parted, transmitting the invitation for a kiss as bold as semaphore, as loud as a siren.
Teddy cleared his throat again and turned to her. He lay his arm across her lap, leaned in awkwardly and kissed her.
The embrace ended seconds later, and Brooke nestled into Teddy in a rhapsody of scents: old papers and cigarettes, fresh night air and Teddy. Teddy put his arm around Brooke and looked across the street, as surprised as Brooke to find his attentions reciprocated. He was on the tail end of middle age and had long ago given up on the idea of a relationship. The few encounters he’d had with women had been brief, sordid and unsatisfying. And yet here was this lovely girl with her face half buried in his old jacket. It seemed almost too good to be true.
Brooke broke the silence. “Are you hungry?”
Teddy said, “No, I had my dinner earlier. However, if you are, I would be happy to take you to dinner.”
Brooke said, “Oh, if you’re not hungry, please don’t worry about it.”
“Brooke, darling,” said Teddy, smiling. “I would like to buy you dinner.”
And so they went to a nice Italian restaurant just a block or so away from The March. The waiter was befuddled by the pairing: a 22 year old woman in a faded Green Peace tee-shirt, beaming across the table at a fifty-something man in a ratty jacket who was expostulating academically on the imminent demise of the world.
They passed the meal pleasantly. Brooke had a rich vegetarian pasta and Teddy treated himself to a couple of nice bourbons. Their conversation flowed, with Brooke eagerly asking for more detail, for explanation of theories and anecdotes from his research. Eventually, their academic conversation gave way to a more personal one. They discussed their future.
By the end of the meal, Brooke had agreed to leave the apartment she shared with her sister and move in with Teddy. She could help him better with his research and filing if she were there more. With her help, Teddy would be able to finish his great work.
Does this seem so fast as to strain credulity? It does to me, and I saw it happen in real time! Neither Brooke nor Teddy had even thought about cohabitation before the coffee arrived. But it’s not as though either were equipped with a wealth of romantic experience. Neither had been in love before. Neither had engaged in the casual sniffing around that most people do as a preliminary to a relationship. They didn’t know how to flirt. They’d never remarked conversationally to a friend that this guy was kind of cute or that girl was looking particularly good that night. They hadn’t gone on dates or had awkward conversations in which the parameters of a relationship were defined. They’d never settled into a comfortable routine with someone they were having sex with. They hadn’t had explosive fights or tearful break ups.
Instead, one day they met, had a few conversations and fell in love. It didn’t occur to them to examine this. They accepted the miracle and moved onto what they felt the next logical step was: beginning a life together as quickly as possible.
When they left the restaurant, Brooke took Teddy’s hand, excited to return with him to his apartment. But he walked her back to her bike and said, “Tonight, darling, perhaps you had better return home and explain to your sister your plans. Let me have the weekend to put my house in order for you.”
“Oh,” said Brooke, “Of course. Thank you for dinner. Thank you for wanting to be with me. I love you.”
Teddy smiled, ”And you, Brooke. I look so forward to beginning our life together.”
He watched her ride away and then decided to have a nightcap at The March. My, it had been an eventful day!