I was taking a plastic bag of trash to the condo pick-up bin when I heard Marie yell over at me, “How’s it going Jake?” I was still fairly knew to the group. We all had our own apartments and everyone I’d met so far were nice . . . and quiet. Places I’d stayed before tended to be nosy and noisy. I slowed my pace down. The exact opposite of what I’d done most of my life.
“There’s going to be a little event this weekend. We’ve got a new neighbor moving in. Very low key . . . ” I raised the palm of my hand to stop her and felt like a fool. After six months I should have known no one was trying to pair me up with anyone.” “What night?” I asked, “I’ve got tickets for the Seattle Storm on Saturday evening.” Marie explained, “No problem. The event will last only half an hour or so Friday evening. Mike is moving in on Saturday with the help of his son. The event is just a hello, welcome, and let us know if we can answer any questions.” I should have known. I said, “Great. I’m happy to smile, mumble around a little bit and leave.” Marie laughed and shaking her head remarked, “And you do it so well. See you then at the center.”
Ah, yes. I’m at my best with low expectations. I closed out the week and did my duty. I wore comfortable clothes, nothing fancy and met the newbie. He seemed like a nice guy. He even brought his son, also a nice guy. They didn’t need any help on Saturday and seemed like either one or both could easily fit into our little routine, which suited me fine.
Just as the tiny welcome event was ready to break up (right on time), I raised my voice and commented, “The WNBA Seattle Storm is playing tomorrow night. My friend now can’t join me tomorrow, so I have an extra ticket if anyone is interested. I saw a small sea of shrugging shoulders. I added mine, waved and was on my way out the door when I saw a reflection of a hand waving in the door glass. I turned and saw . . . I had to think of the woman’s name as she came through the tiny and lessening crowd and stopped in front of me. “I’ll bite,” she said, “How much is the ticket?” Still trying to come up with her name, I said, “I just didn’t want a ticket to go to waste.” The name just wasn’t coming. “Nonsense,” she remarked. While my mouth moved and my brain worked overtime, she added, “Joannie! Let’s go together and I’ll buy dinner at Dick’s Drive-In.” Nothing was coming out of my mouth and I felt even more of a fool. Joannie continued, “Would you like for me to drive? I know where you live.” I just shook my head back and forth and then lowered it down to more her level and said, “Sounds like a plan . . . Joannie.” “Fine . . . I’ll honk for you at five-thirty.”
She never was going to honk for me, I think she just enjoyed teasing me and embarrassing me. I left my place at five-twenty five and joined her at her car at five-thirty exactly. The burgers were good, the game was fantastic and I’m pretty sure the Storm won.
For the next few weeks we saw each other frequently. We went out at least every other day. No big events, we had picnics, visited museums, and sometimes just walked around the block. We talked about art, music, books, plays, and concerts. I didn’t want our friendship to ever end. We just fit together like a twenty-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Joannie invited me to dinner one night and the magic ended. Near the end of the evening our wine glasses were empty. I gave her a nice hug and remarked that she was short, not unkindly. She looked up at me and said, “I’m not so short . . . I come right up to your heart.” I nodded my head and said, “I Married a Witch.” We both laughed and in unison said, “Fredric March and Veronica Lake.”
Joannie retreated to the kitchen to fill our glasses. While she was out of the room, I looked closer at the photos she had around the living room on tables and the wall. My eyes zeroed in on one person. It had to be her husband. The shots were from different sides and angles, but a couple were dead on staring at me. In a trance I stepped away bewildered. I left leaving the door wide open and retreated to my little man cave. I turned out my lights and ignored the three knocks at the door. I turned off my phone as well.
The next day I rented a room at a hotel. I contacted a friend. He was no TV sitcom Frasier Crane, he was a real psychiatrist. I sat down and said, “Do you believe in transference?” He looked at me and said, “Have you fallen in love with me? I’m guessing you mean like some people transfer their love or hate to their psychiatrist because we know everything about them and their feelings and fears?” I said, “Yeah, kind of.”
I unloaded my story of a single night almost a year ago. I met a guy in a bar. I told him about my disasters between me and women and he simply told me about his wife. He was about the same height I was and he told me about his petite wife and the movie “I Married a Witch.” He told me about how they interacted with one another, laughed, and enjoyed almost every single second of the day. My life changed that night. My goals and actions did an about face. I wanted to know, “Did I transfer my soul to him or did I transfer his life to mine? How did my perfect life now plunge into an abyss?”
My friend assured me there was no transference of anything. Our souls were not sullied. He wished me luck and said, “Just talk to her. Just TALK to her!”
I checked out of the hotel, and made one stop on the way back to my condo. Joannie’s car was missing, but I waived to Marie and asked about Joannie, who it turned out and just driven to West Seattle for a walk on Alki Beach.
I left an envelope wedged between the door knob and the door jamb at Joannie’s. Inside was a Hallmark card, and a short note that merely read, “I knew your husband. He changed my life. I miss you.” I waited for her response.