Marek and Smitty plunk down on the grass field in front of Monkshood Hall to eat their souvlaki.
“What a jerk!” grumps Marek.
“Him in the black trenchcoat and the beret…”
“Oh, that’s Carlos, he’s alright. I sit next to him in Shakespeare”
“No, geez, don’t wave him over, Smitty..”
“Miranda! And who’s this, Caliban? Gimme a bite, babe…”
Carlos sits down next to Smitty and bites into her souvlaki. His teeth are pointy and very white against his cinnamon colored skin, his eyes are large and dark enough to get lost in, hypnotic eyes flecked with gold, the eyes of a wolf.
“Her name’s not Miranda, it’s Rose…”
Smitty’s eyes widen and she cuts Marek off.
“She can speak for herself. It’s a Shakespeare thing, Marek, lighten up.”
Carlos takes another bite of Smitty’s souvlaki and asks,
“So what do you think old Scunthorpe is going to throw at us today? Draw parallels between Prospero and the author? There’s so much poetry in this one and we’re stuck with the Prof. sans imagination. What’s your Shakespeare favorite, Marek?”
“Oh, Marek doesn’t like…”
“He can speak for himself too. I’m a scientist. I’ve got no time for plays and poetry and (shuddering) literature.”
“Match made in heaven there, babe, “ remarks Carlos, “see ya’in class.”
Carlos hands what’s left of the souvlaki back to Smitty and walks toward the entrance of Monkshood Hall. His black trenchcoat billows behind him. Halfway there he turns around, forms a vee with the fingers if his right hand, draws it in front of his right eye, points at Smitty and smiles.
“Howlin’ for you, babe, anytime you get tired of the man of science…”
Smitty laughs then she notices the sour look on Marek’s face and stops laughing.
“I can’t believe he just did that. I can’t believe you think he’s funny.”
“Lighten up, Marek, I like Carlos, he’s a scream.”
“He wants you. I saw it in his eyes. He’s a wolf.”
“So what does that make you, then?”
“Your boyfriend. Your boyfriend who doesn’t take the food out of your mouth.”
52 year old Marek looks through the eyes of his 24 year old self, sees where this is headed and changes tack.
“You look hungry still. Have the rest of mine, he ate most of yours.”
“Nope, almost bikini time.”
Marek coughs gently and says “Yeah.”
He finishes his own souvlaki, wipes the traces of grease and tzatziki sauce off his hands with the red bandana handkerchief he keeps in the back pocket of his jeans. He returns the handkerchief then scoops up some gravel from the ground next to him, frowns and starts pitching tiny stones toward a soda can laying in the grass.
“I’d rather you didn’t go away with your friends in June,” he says not looking at Smitty.
Smitty scooches up next to Marek and cups his cheek so that he has to look at her, and his frown melts away.
“You’re welcome to come. I want you to come too.”
“They don’t like me, “
The frown returns and Smitty watches the insecurity darken Marek’s eyes and doesn’t understand where it comes from. She smiles and says,
“Don’t be silly.”
“I’m not, they don’t and to be honest, I don’t like them much either. We don’t speak the same language.”
One of the gravel bits pings off the soda can.
“Oh come on. Arts and Lit people are fun. You just think everybody’s always talking in code. If you’d just tell us when you don’t get it…”
“And look stupid? No thanks.”
“Are you forbidding me to go?”
Marek hears the battle cry in Smitty’s voice.
24 year old Marek prepares to join in but Marek 2012 knows the script and makes him bite down on his own tongue.
“No, of course not. I’d just rather you didn’t. I thought we had plans this summer…”
“We do but that’s in August not June. We could do both, it’d be so nice if you’d come…”
“I’d hate it.”
“I’d be there. We could actually sleep in the same bed and wake up together for a change…”
That was another red flag. Marek stands up and slings his backpack on his shoulder. He waits for Smitty to stand up and hands over her backpack.
“I don’t want to fight, ok. You go with your friends in June and we’ll spend August together.”
Smitty is quiet.
52 year old Marek breathes a sigh of relief. 24 year old Marek feels as though somehow he’s just avoided a catastrophe.
“It’s time for your class – go do wonderful things in iambic pentameter.”
Smitty is amazed Marek’s heard of iambic pentameter. She’s so surprised she kisses him deeply on the mouth. The kiss lasts as long as Marek 2012 could have wished and is far too short for 24 year old Marek.
“Skip class with me.”
“No. You’re duty bound to unlock the secrets of the cosmos. I will see you tonight.”
Marek watches her walk away, feels lucky and decides to doze in the sun for a half an hour. His class doesn’t start until three anyway.
The Ramones filter into his consciousness:
Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin’ to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Marek feels as though he has been. He is lying fully dressed, face down on his couch. He sits up, rubs his face and feels the lines left by the corduroy pillow that was under his cheek.
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated
He finds his phone on the side table. He has got to change that ringtone, it’s driving him nuts.
“Listen, Marek, you awake yet? Al Jaffe here. We thought it would be better to bring you back to your place and let you sleep it off. That strega will knock anybody on his tuchas and you had enough to choke a horse…”
“Where’s Smitty? I got the do-over. We didn’t fight. Where’s Smitty?”
“She’s not there? Gee, I dunno, not my turn to watch her, heh heh. Where’d you leave her?”
“Monkshood Hall. She left me.”
“Well you might start looking for her there, but it’s the middle of the night, kid and you’re a little rough around the edges. You got a sort of Don King/ Wolfman Jack thing going with your hair, not a good look for you by the way, if you know what I’m saying. My cousin Moise will cut your hair tomorrow like nobody’s business, then you start looking for this Smitty ok?…Your feet are cold. Yes they are. Get the feet off my shins–now. Sorry about that. By the way, I drove your truck back to your place, Lach followed me in hers. What kind of milage you get with that baby? Is there fabric softener on these sheets? Sssh. I’m talking here. Lach wants some details…shmetails….”
“Put her on.”
The image of Mrs. Morello and Mr. Jaffe tucked up in bed close enough for this kind of 3-way amuses Marek. He can hear the rumpus of bedclothes being shifted and the plumping of pillows before Mrs. Morello is on the line.
“Mr. Marek, did you straighten things out?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t know. I figured if we didn’t fight Smitty would be here when I got back from whenever. She’s not. I’m still a locksmith, my toolbag’s on the kitchen table, the house is a mess except for the kitchen and the bathroom and I’ve got the mother of all headaches squeezing my cranium.”
“Well you need to take an asprin and go back to sleep. You know these things can take time. You could spend tomorrow cleaning up your house. Al tells me its a shambles. It’s just a thought, but maybe Smitty needs to be in a different place now…”
“No. I’m sure she doesn’t. In my heart I know that’s the truth.”
“Mr. Marek, how can you know that? I’m in the business of knowing and I don’t even know that.”
“Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.“
“Mr. Marek, I speak Ancient Greek, Italian, American English and since Al and I hooked up, a little Yiddish. French is not on my resumé”
“It’s Pascal, the French mathemetician and philosopher. He says, ‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing’.”
“Oh, him. Yeah. You know he only lived to be 39.”