Angelina -- thin, blonde, and pretty -- was somewhat dramatically summoned to the loft apartment of her fiancé, Marty. After playing a recording of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" for her, Marty told her the song's history -- that it was inspired by tales of the Nazi death camps -- and that a song's inspiration may or may not always be obvious in the end product.
Then Marty told Angelina, "I want you to hear another song, my new one."
At the conclusion of Marty's new song, "The Life You Never Find," he informed Angelina that the song was more than just the tale of two star-crossed lovers that it appeared to be. The man in the song was actually Marty himself... and the song was about a man who'd fallen in love with a heroin-addicted prostitute.
Marty proceeded to tell the story of how he'd met "Sheila" -- a Dover Street hooker whose real name was Cathy -- when he'd first moved to the city approximately six years ago. He'd fallen in love with her, while she drained him financially and emotionally, spending enough time with him to keep him from encountering other women who worked Dover Street as she did.
Cathy had convinced Marty that she loved him as much as he did her. This ruse continued when she briefly went to prison, but ended when she was released, drug-free, into the arms of her husband... a husband whose existence Marty had never even suspected.
As she listened to his story, Angelina was angry and sarcastic, until she realized that she was no one to judge Marty for something that had begun and ended years before she'd ever met him. She was more than willing to let the whole matter drop...
But Marty pointed out that "All this crap with Cathy happened over five years ago. But that's a brand new song that I played for you tonight. Don't you want to hear why I wrote it now?" Angelina truly didn't know how to answer him. Did she want to hear the reason?
* * * * *
Angelina suddenly felt drained. "Fine, let's have it, then. Let me have it. All of it."
"Okay. Do you remember two weeks ago, when you and I went to the art museum on Main Street, where Main intersects with the ends of Hampton and Dover Streets?"
Angelina sighed loudly, exasperated. "There's only one art museum in this city, and we've only ever gone to one art museum anywhere. And I know Hampton and Dover both end when they intersect Main... ! Geez, Marty, get to the frigging point!"
"I'm sorry, doll. It's like I said, this has all been very difficult, and... "
"Well, push it a little, will you?"
"I'll try, doll. The day we went to the museum, we had just gotten to your car, and you didn't have your keys because you'd left your coat inside, remember?"
"I offered to go back and look for it... "
"Always the gentleman."
"But you said you'd go, because you knew where you'd left it... "
"On the bench outside of the Egyptian Room."
"Yeah. Well... As you ran in, I noticed a woman walking toward me."
"Yes. And Angie... " He suddenly remembered Angelina had said she didn't like being called Angie "Sorry," he offered.
"The woman was Cathy. After all these years. Cathy."
"Saw that coming. And?"
"Well, we didn't have much time to talk. I mean, she'd seen you, and... "
("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")
"She asked about you, and I said you were my fiancée, and then she said she'd left her husband only about a year after she'd dumped me... "
"I guess I was sort of hoping she'd apologize for the way she'd used me and all, but... No. She just gave me a 'no hard feelings' thing."
Angelina stared at him, still uncertain. "How'd she look?"
"Skinny. Really skinny. Looked like hell, truth be told."
"Using drugs again?"
"She didn't say. And I didn't ask. But if I had to guess... probably."
"Think she's working the streets again?"
"Well, again, I didn't ask, but if I had to guess... yeah, probably. I mean, she was walking on Dover when she saw you and me."
"What did she say about me?"
"Once I'd said you were my fiancée, she just said good luck to both of us, and changed the subject to ask about me specifically."
"Then? What 'then?' There was no 'then,' there was no time. She walked away, you came out of the museum... "
"And you went home and wrote that song?"
"Well, not right away, certainly, but... Yeah."
"So, like, you didn't get her number, or give her yours, or... "
"And you've no plans to see her? At all?"
"So all of this" -- she gestured in the air with both hands, wildly, erratically -- "was just to tell me you'd written a song about an old lover?"
"Well, no! I mean... I thought you'd judge me a lot more harshly when you found out about my... experience... with a hooker, so... I felt you had a right to know." She smiled at him, and slid closer to him on the piano bench. "I underestimated you, doll. I love you. You're the last person I should ever underestimate. I hope I never do that again." He thought about what he'd just said. "I mean, I'll try never to... "
She leaned forward and kissed him. "You talk too much, baby."
Within minutes, she'd walked him over to the dusty old couch he slept on, on those few nights which he did spend here.
He fell asleep during a relaxed and extended make-out session. "Ohhhh, poor baby," she whispered, "you either need to drink more, and build up your tolerance, or stop drinking entirely."
* * * * *
Angelina was immediately sober when she hit the cold night air.
It was only about ten-thirty. Instead of heading straight home, Angelina walked briskly toward a different destination, several blocks in the other direction. Her route actually forced her to walk on Dover Street itself for two blocks, before she veered onto Alderman Avenue.
(No one but the area's old-timers and city councilmen called Alderman Avenue by its proper name nowadays. The forty-year influx of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Dominicans had seen it given the unofficial name of "Alvarez Avenue.")
During her brief two-block walk on Dover Street, Angelina was propositioned not once, but twice.
The first man slowed his white SUV, rolled down its driver's side window, and called out to her. "Hey, babycakes, I got somethin' for you."
Without turning to face him, she yelled back, "And I have three somethings for you: A Glock semi-automatic, a shield, and a really bad attitude! Don't misinterpret my not having a friggin' purse, buddy. Move along!" Not wanting to find out if she was being honest or not, he did so.
The next man stopped his BMW across the street from Angelina, opened the car door, and actually exposed himself to her. The verbal portion of his come-on was remarkably similar to that of his predecessor. "Yo, sweetheart! Look what I got for you!"
She glanced at him quickly, and kept walking. "Wow," she said, with as little enthusiasm as possible, "that looks just like a penis. Only smaller." She didn't bother turning back to look, but she soon heard him close his door and drive away.
She veered off of Dover and onto a narrow street called Kelley Drive, and walked four more blocks, finally arriving at the first three-decker on Alderman Avenue. She checked the names on the broken buzzer panel -- the building's security locks were long disabled anyway -- and entered the building. She trudged up two staircases to the third floor and knocked loudly on the only door at the end of a dimly-lit hallway.
("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")
The man who answered the knock was far too young to have been a hippie during the 1960s -- he wasn't quite forty years old -- but one would never know that to look at him. He actually resembled Ray Manzarek, keyboard player for The Doors, as Manzarek had looked during the group's heyday.
"Larry!" said Angelina.
The long-haired blonde man stared uncertainly from his well-lit apartment into the dark hallway. "You've got the advantage, here, sweetie. Step into the light." As she did so, his eyes widened. "Gina! Holy... ! Gina!"
"Angelina," she corrected. "Don't dig up the past if you don't have to."
"Oh, hell, I suck at names, anyway. You know that." He walked further into the room; she followed "You want a beer, or something?"
"No, I'm good."
"Damn right. You sure look good. Real good. Life treating you good, then?"
Larry produced a pack of Newport cigarettes seemingly from nowhere, and offered one to her.
"Menthol?" she teased. "Oh, hell no." She took her cigarette case from her coat pocket, and removed a Marlboro Light from it. She placed it between her lips and Larry lit it for her, before lighting his own. "Thanks," she said.
"So. Things are going good," he said yet again, nodding.
She smiled. "Larry. You've worn out 'good.' Find a new adjective," she suggested playfully.
He giggled, almost girlishly. "Will do."
"How's Skeeter?" she asked, meaning Larry's older brother. Visually, Skeeter was "Hardy" to Larry's "Laurel"... only Skeeter was shorter than his brother. Maybe an Abbott & Costello comparison would be more appropriate.
"He's great. Don't see him much. He got married. Three years ago now."
"Great! And, hey... I'm engaged, myself."
There was a brief but awkward silence as they both realized that they'd quickly run out of small talk.
Larry broke the brief silence. "So, then... Why are you here?"
"Quick question for you, okay?"
"If anybody ever came around here asking about me... and I mean anybody... "
He placed his free hand (the left one, the one without the cigarette in it) on his chest, fingers splayed, in an almost feminine gesture. "Gina! Lanky Larry's lips are eternally sealed!"
"Even if... ?"
"I don't care who it is who's being nosy. I never do. And that'd hold true even if you'n'me hadn't ended on such good terms."
"I'm just making sure. I'm probably worried about nothing. I'm one of the lucky ones. No record. whatsoever. I never got busted in all my time working with you."
"It's more than luck. You were meant for better things. I always said that. Pretty, smart... Determined, too."
"I had to be, or I'd still be getting high... and working for you."
"That's the only thing I miss, Larry. You. Not working for you, just you yourself."
"I know." He put his arm around her, somewhat affectionately, and guided her toward the door. He had things to attend to, and it was obvious that Angelina hadn't planned on staying long anyway. "That's 'cause I'm one of the good guys, remember? And don't you worry... I don't come back on anybody."
She stopped at the door and turned to him. "Oh, one more thing?"
"I hear Cathy's back in the area. She still flying solo?"
"Yeah. I'm worried about her."
"Me, too," she agreed. Then she continued, more to herself than to him. "It's funny. Two, three hours ago I was ready to look her up and kick her ass. But then I found out she'd done me a favor by keeping her mouth shut when she could have said something to someone... "
"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, y'know."
She laughed. Larry instantly realized that he'd missed her laugh. He hadn't heard it often, but it had always cheered him up. "I know. I'm sorry." She reached out to him and squeezed his left hand affectionately. "Take care, you."
Angelina stepped into the hallway and almost immediately disappeared into the darkness.
"Have a good life, Gina!" Larry said.
He could no longer see her clearly, but he heard her say, "Oh, I will! Getting married!"
Larry closed the door, smiling wistfully.
Angelina descended the steps to the street level. And as she walked home, she heard -- but was totally unaffected by -- virtually all of the sounds a big city has to offer late at night...
But not once did she hear a chorus of screaming, bratty children.
"Getting married!" she said again -- aloud -- to the cold night air.
* * * * *
Thanks for your time.