Chapter 20: Look Into my eyes
Knocking at the door. Damn. Dwayne looks at the clock. He laid down for a nap at 3:30 and it isn’t even 4. He is exhausted. He is exhausted from lack of sleep and from what seems like a roller coaster of emotions. He just wanted a nap to prepare for his birthday party and concert. Damn! He is fifty. Not as young as he once was. His thoughts go immediately to Sandy. He had not kissed her goodbye this afternoon. He had waved at her and the girls as they left the theater. Alex had given him so much shit.
Alex: She’s the girl from your dreams. The one you were destined to meet.
Dwayne: If that’s true, then I met her.
Alex: She plays the dulcimer. Did you hear the song she wrote?
Dwayne: Thanks to you I’m singing the song tonight.
Alex: I just wanted to move things along. You know you’re not getting any younger.
Dwayne: I’m just blowing through town, Alex.
Alex: Your problem is that women come too easy for you. If that beautiful woman looked at me the way she looks at you, I probably wouldn’t leave the bedroom ever.
Dwayne: It’s not that simple. It wouldn’t be casual with her. It couldn’t be.
Alex: All the more reason. With all this success, you need someone to center you, give you a reason to come home.
Dwayne: All this success is why I don’t need a woman at home waiting and worrying and lonely while I’m on the road.
Alex: She seems pretty independent to me. I spent some time with Frank and Isadora over lunch. Isadora says her mother has been alone all these years. Do you think she is going to whine about you traveling? That’s the woman you need, someone who is used to being alone.
Dwayne he has fallen back asleep while thinking about his conversation with Alex. The knock is more insistent. Damn, if that’s Alex! In just his sweat bottoms, he opens the door and finds the journalist holding balloons. “Happy Birthday”. Dwayne pretends to be happy. He can’t believe she remembered and came all this way. She tells him she had the strangest feeling about midnight last night that he was missing her. Dwayne smiles and tells her he actually was standing on the balcony about that time, fresh out a shower, and thinking of her. He thinks to himself that it feels like a million years ago. She says they must have some type of psychic bond and he laughs. Actually Henry had called her early that morning and said the band was organizing a preconcert birthday celebration dinner in one of the suites. Tom and Henry thought it would be a nice surprise if she came and so she hopped on a plane, but wanted to surprise him first by herself. She starts to get undress and he stops her. She asks him if it wouldn’t relieve the pressure a bit. It is a big show, right? He tells her he is tired. He is singing two new songs tonight and he had a long rehearsal. It is a big night. He just needs a nap. She suggests that they get undress and just snuggle together while he naps. He agrees, but then only pretends to sleep. Beautiful woman in his arms without nearly the drama Sandy presented, but somehow it feels almost as if he is cheating on Sandy. How can that be? Jackie tells Dwayne she invited someone from Albuquerque to his party. In doing research before interviewing Dwayne, she had talked to a Professor at UNM who is a cowboy folk expert. She has never met him, only talked by phone, but it helps to know people in every market. Dwayne says he is always happy to talk to another professor.
He convinces himself as he walks in with Jackie on his arm that he is happy. There’s not a rational reason for him not to be. This beautiful girl wanting to be with him tonight, his friends giving him a little party, success in his career, a new song he wrote today. He tries unsuccessfully to push the image of Sandy out of his mind. He decides to be happy that Sandy will be there tonight at the premiere of the song she inspired “Then I met you” and for her song “Bliss”. She will hear “The First Time”. She will be in the audience.
Sandy relives Dwayne telling her she better leave again in her mind. Her heart is already broken, she thinks, but then thinks that it is better now than later. Sandy tries to act cheerful as the girls and her walk home. Isadora is a little quiet, but Sandy agrees to let Frank and her have lunch alone tomorrow before he leaves and that cheers her up. Carmen acts as if Sandy is a movie star. How had they met? Wasn’t she nervous to talk to him? Sandy downplays it. They met last night at the bar. He came in for a drink. He walked her home after work. No big deal. The boys have agreed to send the girls texts and pictures from the show, but each girl is disappointed for her own reasons that they will not be attending the show. Sandy makes them swear they will not leave the house and will not invite anyone over.
After a short nap, Sandy asks the girls to help her get ready. They sit on her bed; offering her suggestions about her make-up and hair. She should have gone out on more dates when Isadora was younger. There had been very few of these dress up occasions with her daughter watching her get ready. The girls order pizza and start looking at Dwayne’s online videos. Before her date arrives, Sandy calls Mike. She says she knows it had been a while. He asks if she is seeing someone new. Sandy tells him about her date tonight and that she thinks it’s time for Mike to move on. She is not being completely honest about the reason, but it seems like the easiest excuse.
Sandy knows already that this will likely be the one and only date with the folk historian professor tonight. Somehow dating a man who doesn’t believe in the cowboy myth doesn’t seem as fun as it was when she made the date. There is the irony that he will hear and be able to make fun of one of her country songs. She wonders now why she ever hated cowboys.
Sammy arrives wearing rhinestones on his shirt. Sandy can’t help but laugh. Ok. Maybe there are some reasons why it’s fun to laugh at some so called cowboys. Sammy’s eyes are sparkling and Sandy realizes that only her world has changed in 48 hours. He is the same funny, intelligent, handsome guy he was two nights ago and expects that she will be the same funny, cowboy hating woman she was. Sammy has a surprise.
Sammy: Remember I told you I had a phone interview with that a few weeks back. Turns out she is dating the singer. She is flying out today for a pre-concert birthday party and invited me. We can go and meet the man himself.
Sandy: I don’t think we should. I mean we’re just going as a lark, right, to spoof him? We don’t want to be rude.
Sammy: I can be perfectly well behaved in public. Then, we can make fun of him afterwards.
Sandy: I actually already met him. My daughter and her friend were invited to the rehearsal by some boys. I went along to chaperone.
Sammy: Even better. Come on, let’s go. I told her I would come. It’s a career thing, you know.
Sandy: But he’s not what you think. He is very down to earth.
Sammy: Well, let’s go, so I can meet this charmer.
How could she say no? Sandy feels a little sick to her stomach about the thought of seeing Dwayne again so soon. How many good-byes do they need? She was embarrassed about seeing him seeing her with a date, but Dwayne knew she was coming with a date to the concert. Then she thinks about the journalist “dating” Dwayne and flying in for his birthday. He had said he didn’t have any serious attachments. Sounded serious to her. Son of a bitch! Turns out he lied to her after all.
Dwayne has eased a little bit into the party. It is an intimate event. Just the immediate band members, a girl Henry had met in Santa Fe, and the journalist. Jackie thought it was going to be a bigger party and tells everyone she has invited an UNM professor and a date. Alex teases that he didn’t know if they could handle two professors in one room, but everyone is fine with it. The hotel has delivered ribs and grilled vegetables. There is a bottle for the room. Dwayne has told the band no more than one, but the ladies, the friend of Henry’s and Jackie, have slammed two and are on a third. Dwayne is leaning against the wall directly facing the door. The journalist is leaning against him. She is wearing those ridiculous boots, but a silky red tight-fitting dress. She whispers in his ear all the things she thought she could do for the birthday boy after the concert. He thinks if he can get her to wear just those boots and his hat later tonight, he will take a picture. She begins to nibble on his ear. He is holding her against him, his hand on her ass, when the door opens and Sandy walks in.
Sandy is wearing a tan dress, short and tight-fitting, flat shoes. Her legs are long, bare and tan. Her hair is hanging long, natural. Dwayne realizes he has hugged the journalist tighter to him when Sandy walks in; just so he could concentrate for a moment on what Sandy looks like. Beside her is a ridiculous looking guy wearing a damn rhinestone shirt. Alex calls out “Sandy “and goes to greet her.
In the history of awkward moments, Sandy thinks, as Sammy introduces her to the journalist and the journalist introduces both Sammy and Sandy to Dwayne. Sandy thinks that the journalist could easily be Dwayne’s daughter based on age. As the journalist snuggles back against Dwayne and Sammy’s hand rests on Sandy’s back, Dwayne’s eyes express amusement. Sandy’s eyes express disgust. Well, at least we have that look out of the way, Dwayne thinks.
Dwayne: Sandy is known to the band. We are showcasing a song tonight that she wrote.
Sammy laughs: You write songs. Why didn’t you tell me?
Sandy: It hadn’t come up. It’s our first date.
Jackie: Seeing the Lonely Players is a great first date. Wait until you hear Dwayne’s version of “The First Time”. I bet that has inspired a few couples on a first date.
Alex delivers drinks on a tray to the group. He tells Dwayne that since he is the birthday boy, the band thinks it is ok for him to have a second. The five of them toast to Dwayne’s birthday. Dwayne downs his in two gulps and puts the glass back on Alex’s tray. Alex asks with a very broad grin if everything is ok and Dwayne gives him a drop dead stare. Sandy downs her drink-a whiskey she thinks, and Alex says he will be back with another. A few minutes later Tom comes over and tells the journalist he really wants to show her some of the social media coverage and they walk away. Alex comes back with a drink for Sandy and he asks Sammy if he could talk to him for a few minutes about the Albuquerque connection to route sixty-six. They walk away. Dwayne and Sandy have a few minutes alone together orchestrated by Alex. Dwayne takes her by the arm and pulls her out to the balcony and shuts the door. Through-out their conversation, they speak softly to each other, but in often angry whispers. Sandy drinks her whiskey far faster than usual. Dwayne looks from Sandy to the room to be sure they are not overheard or interrupted.
Sandy: Your girlfriend is pretty.
Dwayne: Not my girlfriend. I told you I didn’t have any serious attachments.
Sandy: Playmate, then. How old is she?
Dwayne: Over legal age, I believe. Your friend looks rather young as well. Doing the cougar thing are we?
Sandy: I’m not dating children.
Dwayne: Oh, darlin’, she ain’t no child. So, have I just seen what you consider fuckable? You’re right, he’s not nearly as handsome or as charming as I am. Good choice.
Sandy: I’m not going to fuck him. It’s our first date.
Dwayne: I should have worn rhinestone sweat pants this morning. Maybe that would have made me fuckable.
Sandy: He’s wearing it to be ironical.
Dwayne: Oh, that’s right. You are here to make fun of me and my kind.
Sandy thinks that this is killing her. She doesn’t want to fight with him. Just, how could he date that child? Not a child, she reminds herself, and not her business. She tells herself not to repeat the mistake she made when they first met. He doesn’t know they are soul mates. Only she knows this.
Sandy: No, I’m not here to make fun. I am really looking forward to tonight. I can’t wait to hear your songs. I can’t wait to hear you sing my, I mean, “Bliss”.
Dwayne: What’s changed?
Sandy: You know what’s changed.
Dwayne takes Sandy’s drink out of her hand and slams what is left of it. He knows he is the one being irrational now. He is upset at seeing Sandy with another man and embarrassed that Sandy has seen him with Jackie.
Dwayne: I would love to hear you say what’s changed with tears in your eyes, making me think I am the first man you could fall in love with. That’s a nice trick.
Sandy: (Damn him). You can say that to me when your young woman flew in to give you a birthday fuck and it’s not the first time you’ve been with her.
Dwayne: No. It’s not. It’s been fun fucking her. (In explanation) I didn’t know she was coming in. It was a surprise.
Sandy: So, if I had fucked you this morning and then she came in where would I be? Just one of many birthday fucks for today? You asked me to see you after the concert. Did you think you might do us both at the same time?
Dwayne: (Damn her, is that really what she thinks?) Look at me. Look at me.
He pulls her so she is standing directly in front of him. His hands are on your shoulders. They look in each other’s eyes. Sandy thinks again that this is killing her. She thinks about the poem “Paracelsus” and the man sending up a prayer upon his death. She decides she will go out the way she has lived; self-reliant to the end. She gives Dwayne a look she believes is of cold defiance. Dwayne searches her eyes. Yes, he sees her pride, but he sees the vulnerability, hurt and pain behind the pride. He can barely speak.
Dwayne: Well, I told you I would break your heart.
Sandy: Lucky for me I keep it safe from assholes like you.
Dwayne: If only that was true. I swear, Sandy, I never meant to hurt you.