onsdag, april 25, 2007

One from the Vault: "The Catch"

I've been cleaning out some old writing files--including material I'd posted at the old Two Week Crush blog that I wrote with my friend Jen. One of my favorite entries was from 3 August 2004. It's called "The Catch" and recounts the wonderful story a woman told me as she ate dinner beside me at the bar of the now-defunct Molly Quinn's pub.

The Catch

It's amazing how people one does not know will launch into tales of heartbreak and all-around weirdness. But I guess there's no real risk of rejection or judgment when it's someone we don't believe we'll ever know. (It's that familiarity-contempt thing. Do you hate me?) And if we're lying, the chances of it getting back to people who can call our biggity bluff are greatly diminished. So:

The other night a woman told me a story while she ate steak. This was at the bar at Molly Quinn's. I was on my second lemonade--no joke, I been a good boy of late--and my bladder was ready to burst, but she started telling this story, and when the good vibe is there, I can't resist. I put my pen and paper away. I listened. Her story: She's 59. She's a teacher at a local school. Recently the storyteller found a cache of nearly 100 letters from an old boyfriend. She'd dated him when she was 17. He'd been 23 at the time. He'd asked her to marry him. She'd said yes. "But then, who knows?" she said. "It just didn't happen. I don't even remember why." So she reread all those old letters, and suddenly she felt as giddy as a teen. Love, sweet love! She used the internet. She found the guy. He's 65 now. She contacted him.

So 42 years later they get in touch. On the phone he says he still loves her, that he's always thought of her. He asks her to marry him. She says yes. He comes to see her, and it is right. But they begin getting angry phone calls. It's the man's ex-wife.

After nine days together he vanishes.

[About this point in the story I'm hoping she eats her steak more slowly. I don't want the story to end, and I get the impression it is only to last as long as the meal.]

Days go by. She's angry. Then he calls. He tells her about his ex-wife--"Some Korean," she says, "I don't know. She's got this problem with her legs. She's in a wheelchair. That's why she still lives with him, because he feels he's supposed to take care of her. Or so he says. They're probably still married. Who knows."

She chomps away. She spears a hard piece of lettuce.

"Now he comes back," she says. He drives into town with eight boxes packed in his old Nissan. This is it: they've got a real chance. He's opening up. He confesses to a brief stint in prison (twenty years since at least) for a financial scheme. "Ha!" she says. "Did you know I loaned him the money for him to visit? A f-cking con." She drops back into the tale, though. They are together. They are happy. All is forgiven. But more phone calls come. And now the ex-wife is calling the school, trying to get this woman fired. "That crazy Korean b-tch was trying to get me fired!" she says. She pauses with one of those can-you-believe-this-sh-t? expressions. "Christ," I say. "Christ!" she agrees, pointing with a piece of meat on her knife.

After three days of this high-stakes emotional exchange, he says he's going up north. He says something silly about calling his ex from up there so she'll think that's where he is now. The storyteller shakes her head. "Oh, yeah. That would throw her off the trail," she says. "What a f-cker."

She's almost done now. She's on her last bites. She says to me, "And you know what he said at the end? Keep in mind I haven't seen or heard from him since. He's going fishing while he's up north. He tells me, 'I'll bring you back some walleye.'"

"Oh my god!" I say.

"F-cking walleye!" she says.
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