Handsome Joe was the realtor that handled the selling of the house we used to call home as well as the closing of the house we now call home. Joe has also played the role of “Good Cop” and was the second set of Bs in my B, B, B and B story. Something you may not know about Joe is that he thinks he is a better story teller than I am. Here I must disagree with Joe, but of course, the bear and the fox have been arguing for years as to who is smarter and more handsome.
One other detail about Joe is that he is never wrong. And that is mostly true. There is one time when Joe (almost) might admit to being wrong. I enjoy his admittance.
One of my two problems in college was that I never knew when to leave well enough alone. Most women of college age know that guys are dicks and idiots and that a man will spend the night with a young lady and never call again. It’s expected and probably desirable for both parties. I thought I was clever. I couldn’t just have a one night stand. I’d go back for seconds and thirds. Maybe I felt guilty or maybe I didn’t know what I was looking for or maybe I was just really horny. Either either, I would lay down a fog of personality and talk my way back in the door each time. Suckers? Maybe.
After a couple three nights, their once unconcerned feelings towards me would change. This is when mine would go in the opposite direction. Then things would end not so well. Badly. Hurt feelings. Name calling. Tears. I was only trying to be nice.
The second of my two problems in college was that I always seemed to leave some personal item at a girl’s house, usually after the third or forth visit and especially right before I would call things off. Things like a necklace or a pocket knife or a book. Stuff I really didn’t need, but hated leaving behind. What really sucked was that this gave the girl a focal point to call and leave messages on our machine:
“Hey, this is 19 Palmer. Neither Joe, Betsy, Amy, Paul, Doug or Chris can come to the phone right now, but leave a message after the beep.”
Beep – Hi Doug. You left your necklace over at my place. Come over and pick it up.
Beep – Hello Doug. Still got your necklace. Call me.
Beep – Doug, I can meet you somewhere neutral. The Pub? Let’s talk. I’ve got your necklace.
Beep – Goddamnit Doug. I’m going to throw this thing in the fucking trash if you don’t call me.
Beep- Sorry about that. Can we please talk? Do you want this back?
Fall quarter came and went. It took me the whole quarter, but I charmed a girl I really liked from my film class into taking me home with her. The next day, Film Girl made me breakfast and gave me all the perishables out of her refrigerator. The perfect hook up. We did not talk over winter break, but hooked up immediately that winter quarter as if we had not been separated at all. Sadly, after the second night together, I realized that I didn’t like her as much as I thought I did. I got a very distinct and creepy vibe from Film Girl that she realized she couldn’t spend another day without me. I had to get out. So I left. And I left a pocket knife behind.
A few weeks passed and I avoided her calls. Her calls started normal but quickly became creepy. “I have your knife, Doug.” Click. I could have ended it all quickly, but I do not have a spine and pretended to miss her messages and avoid her bars. After a week, I didn’t hear from her and thought she got the point.
Handsome Joe and I went to The Crystal one night that winter quarter. It wasn’t our usual hang out, but Joe was tracking a new girl and in the interest of getting Joe laid, we entered new territory. We were upstairs and Joe was playing pool with said quarry. I drank and watched.
“Hello Doug.” Oh shit.
“Hello Girl from my film class that I really wanted to hook up with but now that I have I have had second thoughts and just want to be friends, but I am too chickenshit to tell you all this.” Actually I probably just said, “Oh, hello!”
“Are you here picking up girls?”
“No, Joe and I are…”
And in a flat tone that was just above the jukebox, but clearly we both knew she was yelling when she said, “I KNOW YOUR TYPE. YOU ARE HERE PICKING UP GIRLS.”
“Um, I… err.”
She held out her hand and my pocket knife was in it. She had brought it to the bar. It had been my Dad’s knife. Nothing I’d hide in my ass for five years in a POW camp, but it was still special.
She was glaring and smiling and talking at the same time, “If you want it back you have to come and get it.”
With that, Joe interrupted. The hate melted off her face as she turned to Joe and her grimace turned into a smile. They traded perfectly sane hellos and she excused herself. Joe said something to the effect that I was going to hook up.
“Joe, she’s crazy.”
“Doug? What are you talking about?”
“Joe, SHE’S CRAZY. We have to get out of here.”
Joe couldn’t believe it. She’s good looking. She’s nice. You are drunk. She’s a great girl.
“JOE, WE HAVE TO LEAVE!”
Joe usually does not give in without a fight or a good argument. So, I told him about the knife and that Film Girl looked INSANE. He didn’t believe a word. But, being Joe, he humored me and said goodbye to his girl. We grabbed our coats and left the bar. As we walked down the street, I kept repeating how insane the Film Girl was acting. Joe kept shaking his head with disbelief.
For some reason that neither one of us can explain, we both turned and looked back towards the bar. We were about a block away and the sidewalk sloped back up to The Crystal. Perfectly silhouetted with a streetlight at her back, Film Girl stood outside the bar.
She thrust her fists down to her side, arched her back and threw her head backwards. The lighting was perfect. Her shadowed mouth opened and into the night air she screamed.
The words turned to condensation against the cold night air. They shot out in great gouts of steam.
Joe and I both ran.
Later. “Doug, that girl was crazy.”
If you mention this story to Handsome Joe, he won’t concede the fact that he was wrong. What he will do is tell the story again, but in his words. He will describe the night and the smells and the temperature. He will hold out his hand and you will see the knife in it. He will go on about her beauty and how not-insane Film Girl looked that night. He will act out her stance on the street and you will almost see the steam coming from his mouth silhouetted in the cold night air.
But I still think I tell the story better.
And I never got the knife back.