“658-3012,” I said, reciting her old phone number.
“Oh, Eric,” she said. “Will you call me after you get off the bus?”
“Even before snack,” I said. “Until our ears get sore.”
She gave me the terrific laugh of old, one that managed to say all at once that she was totally with me, that I had her, and that she was absolutely joyful in giving it.
“Just got here,” I said. “What’s going on tonight?”
In the space of a second, she got more serious and factual, and I imagined her sitting these many years in some corporate center under the rainy skies, sitting that brought an end to such humor, that rendered it unprofitable. She gave me a very clipped inventory. “There’s the music, shuffled by our very own Stevie R, his was the Motley Crue cover band that opened the festivities, a dance floor though no one has yet to partake, and a slide show of days past and days present, and of course the buffet. We’ll be eating shortly. Have you got yourself a table yet?”
“I have a table back in Phoenix,” I said.
The inventory-worried Gretchen faded as she laughed again. She squeezed my elbow—a uniquely adult action, I thought. “Eric Day, I’m sure glad to see you. I had the biggest crush on you.”
“Me, too,” I said. “I mean, on myself. Anyway, would you like a drink?”
“Actually, it’s back at our table. Why don’t you come on in to where all the action’s happening?”
It was so dark in the hall I instantly felt better. My white shirt seemed to glow, my dark tie a cut down the middle. Her table was located right up by the dance floor. “We used to slow dance to Journey,” I said. “Foreigner.”
“That we did,” she said, looking into her drink and stirring it. “That we did.”
Right now it was a new wave offering, the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now.” People in nice clothes were everywhere, but we were sitting below their radar, giving us a certain kind of privacy. The slides up on the screen showed people with 80’s hair, followed up with contemporary versions embracing 2.5 children in front of snowy or pine-laden cardboard backdrops.
“So tell me everything,” she said. “I always wondered about you. What happened to you?”
I tried to tell her everything, and just like on the phone when our ears got sore, she was on every word, not one iota of detectable wavering.
“Wow, a high school teacher, really? English, obviously, as I could see you really being good at that, actually.”