Lover Come Back

 

It was 1970. I was 23 years old.

Peter Hemmings arrived right on time. We were to meet at 8 pm at O’Leary’s Pub and Dance Hall and at 8 pm my wife and I were there as were Lucy and Gorgo (we called him “Gorgo” after the famous British monster). Peter came in too and we all took a large table in the back of the room, as far away from Simon Says Banjo and Band that would be blasting its music all night long. Simon was a teacher at our school and we felt compelled to go to the Pub when he was playing.

Simon’s band was as loud as loud could be but no member actually played the banjo.

“So what did you think of tonight’s set so far?” Simon would ask.

“Great, great,” I’d say which meant Jesus Christ was that loud.

“Yeah, yeah,” he’d agree. “I thought it was great. Someday we’ll be discovered.”

“Yep, someday,” I agreed; which meant Keep your teaching job. It has a good retirement plan.

“Hi Peter,” said Lulu, my wife at the time, (the six-year divorce travail wouldn’t happen for another 16 years, so now we were cordial).

“Peter, great to see you,” said Gorgo, whose given name was George. Gorgo worked in a computer lab, all very top secret.

“Tonight should be fun,” said Peter who was a little shy; not a lot, but a little. “I guess everyone is late.”

“Uh,” said Lucy. “Ah” said Lulu. Gorgo just looked at them and then said. “Most of your teacher friends make it a point to be punctual. It might have something to do with living your working life based on bells.”

“Where is everyone?” I asked. “Anyway let’s order wings and fries and drinks while we are waiting to order those things when the others get here.”

“I haven’t met any of your school friends,” Peter said to Lucy who taught second grade; Lulu didn’t teach and she didn’t work either. She was “finding herself” in those days and it took about 16 years to find that “herself” never really wanted to work and thus she hadn’t. She used to stay at home, when we didn’t have kids, and also when we did have kids, reading British murder mysteries where the wives killed the husbands for sundry reasons.

“I’m looking forward to it, a nice night out,” finished Peter. He was a hell of a nice guy; six-foot tall, thin as a rail, snow-white skin, with white hair and a face that could turn red at the slightest embarrassment. He never went out in the sun for fear of roasting alive.

“I am sure the girls are going to be pretty,” laughed Lucy and then Lulu laughed too.

Peter’s face reddened.

At 8:30 Katie arrived. We were originally scheduled to meet two weeks ago but Lucy said that Katie was putting herself on a “strict diet” to be ready to go out with, “uh, friends.” I didn’t take her up on that by saying, “That’s stupid. Everyone has to wait on Katie?” But I knew that would cause Lucy to get into high dudgeon with Lulu supporting her all the way.

Gorgo asserted that early feminists supported each other all the time, no matter how stupid. One would shout out: “Men should all be killed!” “Yes, sister, you say that lady!”

To Gorgo married feminists talked a strong game. He thought they were all “full of it.”

Katie was a woman with big bones, as they called it. She wasn’t fat per se but if you were a betting person by the third year of marriage put your money on the fact she’d be ballooning.

According to Lucy who told Lulu which I overheard, Katie had lost 15 pounds in two weeks, a remarkable achievement considering this was just going to be a group of friends meeting for a good time. Why would the 29-year-old Katie go on such a strict diet? Made no sense to me or to Gorgo. “What the hell is wrong with her?” he asked. I think Katie told people she was 29 ever since she became 29 about three years before but I didn’t say anything about that. In marriage it is often best to just shut up.

Katie was dressed to the nines; a red mini-skirt which was too small and too tight; a see-through blouse that showed her large bra-busting bosom. Her dyed blonde hair was puffed up and held together with some kind of sweet smelling glue. She was perfumed to the hilt.

She stood over us at the table and made her hands go up and down her body: “I needed to finish this,” she said teasingly.

“You look great,” said Lucy.

“Absolutely,” chimed Lulu.

“How come everyone else is late?” asked Gorgo.

“Uh,” said Lulu.

“They couldn’t make it,” said Lucy. Gorgo threw her a look.

Katie nodded to Peter and gave her version of a sexy smile.

“You are all mine, handsome,” said Katie to Peter. Peter turned red. Gorgo threw Lucy a weird look and then he weird-looked at me. I gave the “what the hell is happening?” look back at him.

“You mean no one else at your school could make this?” I asked Lucy.

“No,” she said definitively.

“Oh, enough of this; let’s all have our drinks,” said Lulu. Katie yelled at the waiter to bring more wings and a “large mug” of beer, which was the pub’s specialty and a double shot of scotch for her. She also ordered a glass of whipped cream.

Katie squeezed in right next to Peter who squirmed a little out of the way so Katie wouldn’t wind up on his lap. “So what’s the conversation? I love a good conversation,” said Katie wiggling her large breasts a little.

“We were basically talking about Nixon and…” I started.

“Oh, forget this president stuff,” said Katie. “That’s all I hear, Nixon this and Nixon that. Peter how many children do you want?”

I almost choked on my drink.

“Well, I, I, never really, you know, I, I never really thought about that very much,” he said.

“You should,” said Katie. “You are getting on in years and you have to plan for your marriage.”

“I’m twenty-four,” said Peter.

Silence.

“I wonder if Nixon has a good marriage,” said Gorgo breaking the silence.

“I think the band should be starting to play again,” I said.

“I love music, don’t you, Peter?” and then she gave her “cute” little-girl smile and asked seductively, “Can I call you by a better name?”

“Huh?” uttered Peter.

“Peter is so formal. We should have especially cute names for each other, don’t you agree?” asked Katie and then she raised her eyebrows up and down the way Groucho Marx used to do. (Gorgo whispered in my ear: “She shaved her eyebrows. Those are made with a pencil. Jesus Christ.”)

“You just met,” I said. Lulu gave me a look, meaning the wife look indicating the husband should stay as quiet as possible. “Well,” I said. “They did just meet.” I got another of those looks.

“I am sure that you have special names for each other,” said Katie looking at Lucy and Lulu. Then she signaled the waiter. “Bring us twenty-four mozzarella sticks.” Then she looked at us, “You know the Italians in Brooklyn call mozzarella mutzadel? What’s with that?” Pause. “God I am so hungry, I could eat a gazelle.”

The waiter left with his new order. In a moment he returned with Katie’s drinks and that glass of whipped cream.

“I love to put my whole mouth on the whipped cream glass and slurp it all down,” said Katie doing her eyebrow thing. “I love slurping cream.” She stage-whispered this to Peter. She then put the whole top of the glass in her mouth and sucked down half of the whipped cream.

“It’s not the fresh kind,” she said. “I know fresh cream when I taste it.”

The band started playing again as Gorgo whispered in my ear, “She’s psychotic.”

Lucy kicked George under the table. “Shut up,” she whispered.

“I know what cute name I can have for you,” said Katie. “Pea-TEA with the emphasis on the word tea because you are drinkable.” And she put the top of the whipped-cream glass in her mouth again.

“Holy shit,” said Gorgo into my ear.

“What did you say?” asked Lulu.

“I didn’t say anything,” I said.

I looked over at Peter who was trying to move away from Katie who now seemed glued to him. “What do you think Pea-TEA?”

“We, uh, just met,” he stammered.

“But I can feel the heat, can’t you Pea-TEA?” she said. “The heat is building; I can feel it.”

I hadn’t noticed but Katie had finished her mug of beer and her double scotch. She called out to the waiter, “More!” and held up her three empty glasses.

The waiter brought over the drinks right away.

“Bottoms up!” he said.

Katie looked at Peter and said, “I always like my bottom up.” And she wiggled her eyebrows.

“I’m gonna be sick,” whispered Gorgo and he was kicked again by Lucy.

I got a kick too from Lulu. “I didn’t say anything,” I said.

“You thought it,” said Lulu.

Katie took a swig of beer, then downed her scotch and put the new glass of whipped cream to her mouth, “Watch this Pea-TEA,” she said. Then she put her mouth on the glass and sucked down all the cream at once. “I love cream!”

“Go ahead, kick me,” said Gorgo. Lucy kicked him.

“So boys, what cute names do you call your wives?” asked Katie, swigging more beer and motioning to the waiter to bring her another scotch, another beer and another glass of whipped cream. That would be three rounds of drinks for her already.

“Do you really want more cream?” asked Gorgo. Then he turned to Lucy, “Don’t you dare kick me again. I think I’m bleeding.” He lifted his left pants leg. “Look at how red this is.” It was indeed red but not as blood red as Peter’s face which looked as if all the red corpuscles in his body had decided to hold a conference in his cranium.

Thankfully the band was so loud you couldn’t hear these private conversations that we “guys” were having. The loudness was much like wedding bands that think you are there to hear them as opposed to attending a wedding.

Katie wasn’t listening to any of this. She was ogling Peter who looked as if he were a trauma victim in a war photo.

“Guys now tell me the cute names of your wives,” said Katie after a pause to finish the last of her beer and swallow several chicken wings in one long suck, slide and gulp. Some of the chicken sauce rolled down her chin and fell onto her blouse.

“Cute names please,” she almost demanded. “Cute names fellas!”

“I call her Lucy,” said Gorgo nodding to Lucy. Lucy frowned.

“Lulu,” I said nodding to Lulu. Lulu frowned.

Katie stared at us for a moment and then she rubbed Peter’s arm which was now almost as red as his face. “I have the perfect name for me, call me Kay-TEA! Our names go together Kay-TEA and Pea-TEA! How do you like that everyone?”

Peter looked at her. I looked at her. Gorgo looked at her. Lucy and Lulu laughed.

“You know,” said Kay-TEA, “we are like Doris Day and Rock Hudson. The heat between us is making me sweat. I loved their movie Lover Come Back. I love Rock Hudson. What a man!” Pause. “People think I look like Doris Day.”

Now even Lucy and Lulu were quiet. Gorgo and I looked at Pea-TEA; had a haunted look. Katie didn’t look anything like Doris Day and the all-white, but now red, Peter did not look anything like the dark-haired Rock Hudson.

Katie finished another round of drinks. The waiter said, “I’m sorry but we have run out of whipped cream.” Kay-TEA loudly laughed, then looked at her trauma victim Pea-TEA and said, “I guess three creams in one night is enough…” she did her eye-browing, “Don’t you think Pea-TEA?”

Pea-TEA had a distant look. Did he actually see her?

There was silence as the band took another break. It was then we could hear the loud sucking sound Kay-TEA made as she slurped down the meat from the chicken wings alternating with eating handfuls of ketchup-covered fries. Her chin now seemed to have a small but steady stream of dribble-sauce going down it.

“I am so happy we met,” she said to Pea-TEA. When she rubbed his arm she got some sauce on him. He didn’t seem to notice. “I am so hungry,” she said. “For food and…” she gave him a sexy look.

“I am sure,” she said, slurring her words a little now, “that there is some real heat between us. Everyone can’t you all feel that heat? We are Doris Day and Rock Hudson.”

Pea-TEA just stared ahead now. I wondered if his bulging head, colored red as heart’s blood, and now showing visible veins (were they pulsating?) would explode.

“You know,” I said. “I have to go to the bathroom. Guys join me.”

“Pea-TEA, wait, I’ll go too,” said Kay-TEA grabbing his arm.

“No, no, Katie, Lulu and Lucy want to talk to you…about, ah, another time to go out; all of us,” said Gorgo. He knew exactly what I was going to do. Kay-TEA swallowed some fries and nodded and did a delicate burp that could be heard across most of the room now that the band was taking a break.

Gorgo, Peter and I headed at a slow trot for the bathroom and then a quick left for the front door. Gorgo stayed on the inside of the front door – as a guard in case Kay-TEA came running to attach herself to Peter.

In the parking lot I turned to Peter. He was looking at me and then said. “That was the worse night I ever spent. Why did you guys set me up on a blind date?”

“We had no idea,” I said. “I thought it was a big get-together, The girls did this.”

“And I am gay,” he said.

“You’re gay?”

“I’m gay,” he said. “I thought you realized that.”

“So does that mean you don’t want to marry her?” I asked.

Sadly, it didn’t end there. Although Peter did make his escape that night (“He wasn’t feeling good so he went home.”) and Kay-TEA spent several hours dancing up a storm at the pub before she got sick, going back to school was kind of a trial. You see Kay-TEA would show up at lunchtime to have lunch with Peter. He wasn’t to be found.

She’d be at the front desk demanding of the secretary, “So where is he? He isn’t in the teacher’s lounge. Can’t you make an announcement to the school that I am here to have lunch with him? We are a couple.”

Peter had found a place to have his lunch that no one knew about, except me of course. Up in the lighting-booth of the auditorium.

I can’t deny that heading for the theatre was a stereotypical move but it was ultimately the place that saved Pea-TEA or should I now say Rock Hudson? Finally our school’s principal called Katie’s principal and that stopped her visits.

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