The Tempo of Experience: Book 4
Ron was riding shotgun in the pink Cadillac. It was dark and he was trying to see in back of him. Quimpy was driving. It was the beginning of July. Quimpy was calculating how long it would take to empty his apartment and wipe down every piece so that he was sure there were no cockroaches. In the back seat, Angel was almost asleep, and Celeste was sitting still and hoping that meant that Angel would sleep through the night.
Ron cast a sidelong glance at Quimpy, who was on cruise control and heading for the end of the night. Ron wanted to look into Celeste’s eyes. He wanted to see her baby’s eyes again. He was confused. Maybe he should have just gone home at the end of the day. He was helping Quimpy to move one antique piece of furniture at a time from one end of Paterson to the other in a pink Cadillac convertible. It occurred to Ron that if he ever had to live out of a car, a Cadillac would be an excellent choice. He wanted to see her face. He wanted her to look at him. He wanted the baby to open her eyes and gaze into his soul again.
The Caddy rolled to a stop in front of Celeste’s home. She gathered Angel into her arms. Ron wanted her to turn around. He told himself that if she was interested, she would look back at him. He watched the roll of her hips disappear as she walked up the stairs and into the small, brick Cape Cod. The baby was asleep and Celeste did not look back.
Quimpy said, “Too bad about her, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know,” said Ron.
“That big guinea family, married twice, already popped out a kid. It’s over,” said Quimpy.
Ron was silent. He wondered if that was why she hadn’t turned around.
The next day Ron was back at Quimpy’s place. The move was in its second week. They took two or three wooden pieces at a time. They made at least three trips a day. There was a lot more to go. Quimpy was a collector and he liked spindly-legged oak. Ron’s summer checks were coming in. He was working out on the track. Quimpy was an old friend and Ron didn’t mind doing him a favor. Besides, Quimpy was giving him excellent pot.
Celeste startled them both when she appeared. Ron stood but seemed paralyzed. She kissed Quimpy on the cheek and moved towards Ron.
“You were talking about going on vacation last night,” she said.
Ron was confused. “I was?”
“I think that you should consider Arcosanti. It’s a great place to think about.” She extended her right hand and presented a stapled collection of copied library research pages to him.
Ron looked over at Quimpy and then into her eyes. “I’m not sure that I know what you mean.”
Celeste said, “If you have any questions about this or anything else, I put my phone number right here.” She pointed to the hand written number at the top of one of the photocopied pages. Ron looked down at it. He was pretty sure that his mouth had dropped open, but then she was turning and leaving.
She had been wearing jeans and a white cotton top. Ron was stunned. Quimpy wasn’t saying anything. She didn’t make eye contact with Quimpy on the way out. Quimpy felt strangely dismissed.
“Do you think she just gave me her phone number?”
“Looks that way,” said Quimpy.
Ron said, “I don’t know what to do about that.”
` “Give her a call,” said Quimpy.
Remembering Celeste, Ron agonized. They had spent a day together in Quimpy’s old converted garage. Then she was living in the City and drove a red Italian sports car. Ron felt lucky that he had transportation. She was tan and beautiful and the way the she laughed made him feel warm and excited at the same time. But she was talking about clubbing in New York and making that scene or a different scene. Ron knew that he did not have anything that interested her but his smile. He smiled for her as much as he could and the next thing he heard, she was gone and married.
A few weeks ago, Quimpy had brought her up again. She was now twice divorced and living back home with a baby. “Imagine your life just being over and settled that way,” said Quimpy.
Ron had felt a pang of sadness when Quimpy had said that. “So are you gonna start seeing her again?” he’d asked.
“Too many guineas and with that kid they will be all over her. But if she wants to drop over and get laid it will be ok.”
Ron replayed that conversation in his head. He wondered if that was why she had come to see Quimpy. He tried to read the stuff she had given him about Arcosanti, but he couldn’t understand why she thought he would have been at all interested in it.
As they packed Quimpy’s huge collection of clothing into the back of the Caddy, Ron wondered if they should check those things for roaches too. Maybe roaches didn’t like clothing. “So you’re sure that it’s ok if I call her?” he said to Quimpy.
“Sure,” said Quimpy smiling. “Why would you want to call her?”
“She gave me her phone number,” said Ron.
“You know she’s a crazy bitch, right?”
“I don’t know. I remember liking her a lot when I spent that day with her in your garage.”
Quimpy was scratching his beard. He wasn’t really paying attention to Ron. He didn’t know why Celeste had done the stupid thing with the phone number, but he was pretty sure that he didn’t care.
Quimpy’s old place was going into foreclosure. The landlord was in jail and his wife had not been able to afford to heat it last winter. He wasn’t spending another winter with his balls clinking together like ice cubes. When he had bought her a tank of oil, she had turned the heat way up and used it all as fast as she could. Quimpy didn’t like moving. It was a project that required help and took time and threw him out of his routines. Ron was alright, but Quimpy didn’t like seeing anyone every day. His new place was an ethnic mixture of Blacks, Arabs, and Hispanics. It was actually closer to his school. It was an easier shot to the bowling alley. The move was going to be a good thing. Then he saw Ron’s lips moving and realized that Ron had been talking to him. He tuned back in.
“You’re sure you don’t mind if I call her?” Ron was asking again.
“I’m sure,” said Quimpy, telegraphing his exasperation. “I just mind that you keep asking me about it.”
That Sunday morning Ron stayed in bed and read the newspaper. Then he drove over to the track and ran. He started calling Celeste about three o’clock in the afternoon. There was no answer. He played his guitar. He called again. Still no answer. He went for a walk. He called again. He considered ditching the whole idea. He smoked a joint and played his guitar again. He listened to some music. He took a shower. He watched the Yankees lose to the Angels and go into the All Star break two games under .500. He went out and brought home some Chinese food. By ten o’clock, he was sure that this was just a stupid idea, but he had called so many times that day and he couldn’t let it go.
When she picked up the phone and said “hello” he began to sweat. He looked down to see that he his body had jerked in the bed at the sound of her voice and brown sauce from his order of hot spiced shredded beef was leaking onto his sheets. He pulled back the corner of the sheet and covered it so that he didn’t have to look at it or get distracted.
“Hi, it’s Ron Tuck.”
“Oh, hi,” she said brightly.
Ron felt himself smiling. She was happy to hear from him. “I was just calling to tell you that I finished that article about Arcosanti.”
“Yes,” she said. “What did you think of it?”
“I think I need to talk to you about it some.”
“Why don’t you come over now,” she said.
Time in a Bubble: Book 3
He was asleep in a small apartment where the window fan created a breeze. She sketched, eyes flicking between the paper and him. Zoë’s hair was a spectacular, straw colored mess. She drew with long, lean lines and remembered his fingers. Some of him leaked out of her. She stared at the curve of his hip and wanted him to turn so that she could draw his balls and penis.
Zoë’s thighs were sore. He had squeezed and pawed and humped her. She wanted him to wake up and do it again. She wondered about how she might need him.
Ron’s breath was dreamy and Zoë wanted it. The soft light of a feel good moon illuminated her. He had told her that he would start teaching at Our Lady of the Forlorn later in the week.
That morning, everyone met in the convent. At 10:15, they called Ron. “I must’ve written the date wrong,” he mumbled. “I’ll be there right away.”
He showered and dressed without looking at her. Then he said, “Please wait here until I come back home.” She smiled with the thought that she might not have to put clothes on at all today. She could look into everything that he owned, and when he came back home she would fuck him.
There were figurines and a red feather mixed with crumbs and ashes on a wooden desk that was covered with a paisley cloth. Some records were scratched and scattered in and out of jackets. An after-smell of tobacco and pot mingled with the ripeness in the sheets. Piles of books, some with papers wedged between their pages, were stacked on the floor. Unkempt plants that tangled and flowered reached out to watermarks on the wall and to a tin ceiling that was painted over.
He drove through Newark’s metal and concrete mix with a flood of hometown familiarity and in a panicky sweat. He was going somewhere that he’d been before. This was so very strange. He’d been sent to this school in 7th grade after being caught with a knife, now he was coming back to teach in the high school and he was late. He knew that wouldn’t go over all that well with the nuns.
Parking in one of the playground spots that were reserved for faculty, he looked over at the door of the church where he’d been marched with the rest of his classmates to pray during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He gazed at the towering oaks that lined the street and whose roots buckled the pavement. Looking up into the long comforting embrace of leaf lined branches, he tripped over the edge of an upturned sidewalk slab that sent him sprawling. His hands slapped down hard onto the stone and he snarled, “Fuck!” as he lay like some overly zealous penitent just as Father Joyce, who was carrying Communion wafers for the sick, came out of the church’s heavy door. Ron looked up in disheveled dismay as the veteran priest shook his head and walked around him. The fall had torn loose the sole of his shoe causing it to make a double slapping sound as he tried to walk.
“Great!” he said to himself, “I’m going to walk in and announce my presence with the authority of a clown. Maybe I can find a rubber ball to wear on my nose.”
The great room had a low ceiling, passageways that led off like spider legs. Crucifixes and portraits of saints with a variety of lighted halos hung on the walls over cut flowers. The incensed aroma was cool in contradiction to the temperature. The nuns were in their summer linen whites. One or two still wore the full headpiece that included the face frame and bib, but most had moved to the revealing below the knee hemline and abbreviated cap that the older nuns sneeringly referred to as “stewardess’ outfits.” They sat in the room with the empty cups of coffee that had been provided for those who had been on time. About twenty-five of them seated and everyone one of their heads turned to watch Ron limp into the room with his slapping heel.
He entered with a stumbling burst that reset one’s equilibrium. Sister Irene Emanuel looked at him over the top of her glasses and thought that he looked healthy in an annoying kind of way. Then she realized that he also smelled of smoke.
Sister Vincent Salvatore, seeing a man enter the room, could not help but get to her feet and move to bring him coffee. Irene Emanuel noted the gesture… “Mr. Tuck, thank you for coming” she said in her unmistakable tone. Then, knowing that it would be expected that she make some note of his tardiness added, “Not a particularly auspicious beginning for you.”
Automatically, Ron said “Good morning. No, not at all, Sister.” The tone in his voice put the room at ease. It was masculine but contrite and respectful, or at least it seemed so. He took a seat and was handed a folder. He took it with his scraped and bleeding hand. The nun that passed it to him looked at the traces of blood that had smeared onto the freshly copied white paper with a look of repulsion that she normally reserved for vomit.
The rest of the day was a blur except for when he saw his classroom. It was wooden; there was a podium; it had long and wide windows; there was a flag and a cross. He was attracted by the smell of chalk and the feel of slate. After the windows went up on their clicking chains, the city birds called in from branches and porches. He lit a cigarette before he thought about it, tossing the match out the window.
Sister Juliana Marie looked up from her student’s new baby and saw him standing in the window smoking. A scowl of disapproval crumpled her face. This lout was standing in his classroom smoking cigarettes. What was next? Was he going to strip down to his underwear to escape the heat? She rose and silently walked down to the principal’s office fingering the beads that belted her habit.
Ron stood under the Lincoln portrait that he’d hung next to a crucifix in the room. Even though it was 90 degrees and he was dressed in a sports jacket and tie and the heat was plastering the cotton shirt to his back, he felt that he was where he belonged and where he wanted to be. He raised his eyes to the Lincoln and the crucifix and said to neither in particular, “Please don’t let me screw these kids up.”
By mid afternoon, Ron noticed that the school had emptied. He’d been copying the names of the 117 students that would be in his classes. He’d thought about what he needed to accomplish on day one. He wanted to read the stories for a 3rd time before he began them tomorrow. He wanted a cigarette. He wanted to stop being Mr. Tuck for the day.
One by one, the nuns with whom he’d be teaching had come to the door to introduce themselves. Ron inhaled the fresh clean smell of their linen. He appreciated the quiet invitations that they offered. How could he have forgotten that he’d need paper? They would show him where the books were stored. Neatly stacked towers of white pages and blue covers, red covers, and sleek silver gilded pages that Ron wandered through; fingertips sliding across the books, mind trying to imagine who would open them.
He drove back to Elizabeth in silent reverie. Zoe was sitting naked in the middle of a floor that was filled with charcoal sketches. Fleeting portraits of him as he slept that featured just a line or two of detail. Still life drawings of his plants woven into self portraits of her face and the massive tangle of thick blonde hair that was smudged with charcoal and fastened with rubber bands.
She crawled to the door when she saw him and nuzzled his feet and calves. She didn’t say words. She uttered soft sounds that pled for attention. He felt and saw her crawl around him and wanted nothing in the world more than to have her for his own.