He sat back in the terminal of the airport lounge, sitting in the waiting chair made for waiting, waiting good like people were was supposed to in this waiting chair made just for waiting.
He knew how to wait.
Delta. Gate 4M. His ride would be here in time... eventually. He looked over the movies on his open laptop:
The Godfather (1&2)
The Great Escape
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
He had forgotten to watch them on the plane, got distracted by the morning view of the skyway. But his assistant had done her job- stocked him up right, everything from the wish list:
The Wild Bunch
The Dirty Dozen
The Magnificent Seven
He would take in a flick in the limo, on his way to the bungalow just outside Port St. Lucie. Florida was there, waiting good for him, sun shining, just like he left it last February, like a bookmark in an open book of palm trees. Palm trees are patient. They know how to wait good too.
He tried not to think of the bungalow, or Diane waiting there for him, naked or about to be, a sneer on her lips sliding into a smile and back again, the refrigerator full of beers in glass bottles icing slow, waiting good to get opened. He thought of the curveball, took the beat in his head and waited, waited for that split second before hauling back and swinging.
The original Rocky
This year was gonna be all about average... all about contact. This season was gonna be about moving up in the box and making the kid on the mound sweat... this season was about hitting out of the shift, placing the ball, driving to the opposite field, driving in runs, driving runners home. The pitchers and catchers were already on the field, oiling rusted shoulders and slowly sipping their coffee. They were waiting good for the position players to arrive. They were waiting for their first baseman.
He thought of the guys on his team.
The Blues Brothers
He thought of the promise of the season ahead... ripe like a peach and dripping with the juice, sailing through the middle of the plate, twice the size of a grapefruit. This year was gonna be different. JFK to Pensacola. This year was gonna be different, or maybe just better.
The fans, screaming, the girls, girling...
There would be thirty days of preparation, but he was ready to play right now, ready to wait on the changeup, ready to start swinging. And the shift better be ready to run like hell.
He pressed play on a movie, leaned back with the bat on his shoulder, watched the pitcher's windup in his head and began the work of Spring Training... the work of patiently waiting good.
“The thing that I notice, what I find, is that people hear what they want to hear. It doesn’t matter what you say, or what’s right in front of their noses... most people have a way of making things look just about the way they want to see them. Most people have enough musical ability to rewrite the chorus unto the melody bends sweet to their ears... unto the tune is more familiar.”
Eric took a sip of his ginger ale. The bubbles did that thing, that thing where they climb up in the glass to get free.
“That’s the thing about you, Stephanie... I’ve always gotten the notation that you were ready for the ultrabright... for the true music...”
Steph exhaled, unimpressed, listening to the Pet Shop Boys make pink pretty on the diner jukebox. This was not where she wanted to be.
Eric sat across from her- older, hungry, and she found her white Keds did the shoe shuffle soft underneath the booth table where they sat- where was this restaurant again?
Where the fuck was that waiter with her root beer float?
Eric, after hours, a good bite of his pastrami sandwich: “You’re more than a friend to me. An administrative assistant. What is that? What does that mean? Words are a word game. Administrative assistant? Lover? Babysitter? Captain? Sounds like girlfriend to me.”
Stephanie saw the picture of his wife and two hideous children from his office desk. In her head she tilted the frame down so she wouldn’t have to look. Still, there was no way she was gonna give him honey: sleeping with her boss was just too obvious. They had fun at work but still: she used her skills in probability and statistical analysis to estimate the old man's chances at getting sticky: twenty percent- maybe twenty-five at best- but would it be that bad though? To say yes for once? Would it be that wrong? Would it be that bad?
She looked at the specials and cursed her low-menu resistance.
Where was that goddamn waiter? How hard is it to scoop vanilla ice cream anyway?
The diner he had taken her to was wood and chrome, a train car crashed on a city street serving fries and cole slaw and hot grease season savory. It's always a warm night in early Spring, and the stars were falling out of the sky, streaking, beaming good, doing that thing that you never notice because you're too busy to look up.
“You know, you never know what was good for you until you’re looking back. Then you say: ‘Wow, that was, that was really good for me. I should have done this earlier.’ That happens. That’s the magic. That’s how it happens all the time.”
Stephanie got the sudden image of the ignorant waiter in her head, back behind the kitchen counter, his mouth open to reveal donkey incisors twinkle over his dead eyes as he held the ice cream scoop in one hand and gawked at the recipe book before him open to the page “Root Beer Float.” She could picture him squinting vacant at the cow symbol next to the plus sign.
Sorry Eric: you're too old for me.
Eric looked at her from across the table, his eyes doing that thing that made him look alive, that smile he smiled that bridged the gap, the warm on his face that made her butterfly, the smooth of his mojo that made grey another color of the rainbow.
Tonight had been the first time he had asked to see her outside of the office. He had asked her in the melting snow of the parking lot to join him for a late dinner because he didn’t want to be alone and just wasn’t ready to go home. Twenty-five percent. Maybe 33 1/3. But still he had no chance.
“I like you Steph.”
He loosened his tie at just the right minute, his white dress shirt suddenly naked, and Stephanie forgot about getting home in time to feed her dog. She forgot about the cold vanilla bean froth in the sweet bark of carbonated birch cola. She looked at Eric and wondered if he could hold her down. Hard.
She smiled. Maybe he wasn’t the worst guy in the world. Maybe he was right, maybe administrative assistant did mean something else. Maybe his odds were about even now.
She found her foot had slipped out its Ked, extend beneath the table, her toe take its time against the older man’s ankle, rubbing awkward at the soft fabric of his sock. This man, this husband, this father... he didn't seem to mind.
Eric smiled at her. Stephanie exhaled, smiling back.
"I like you too Eric..." The blood went to her cheeks.
Stephanie cooed: “So about what you were saying earlier: you still didn’t get to the part where the black guy steals the pizza...”
Where the fuck was that waiter with her root beer float?