I have always been a sucker for a pretty face, and it doesn’t stop there. I think that part of it is the natural yearning of man for the unattainable. Oh sure, sure, there are those beauty-and-the-beast stories that circulate every one in awhile, but the jump from the fairy tale to reality is great. Not that I am terribly ugly (as far as I know), but my parts don’t seem to go together the way they do on most people. Many folks have a big nose. Many people have no chin. Few bother to combine them. I have. Add an overbite and only one eyebrow (it stretches to cover the required span, though), top it off with hair the consistency of steel wool, then imagine this confection atop a frame that would shame a piece of lath, and the picture is for the most part complete. To illustrate, the last time I exposed my rib-cage in public, the Talon Zipper Company threatened to sue for patent infringement. Ah, well.
Thus, you can imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, one of the young tellers at my bank suddenly shoved her phone number across the counter at me and dared me to call.
Well, not totally out of the blue. I had been trying to dally with one of her compatriots at the counter, and I guess all that rejected wooing reflected her way. I always go for the loud types, so I had overlooked her. That is, until she all but invited me to her place. Details, details!
As I was preparing to float out of the building on gossamer wings, Tanya assumed a carnivorous look and handed me her pen. I looked quizzically at her, and she asked for my number! I only vaguely remember writing it down, and the last thing I recall as I bumped gently against the ceiling on my way out was the sound of her voice promising to call as soon as she could.
When I got home and recovered what few senses I do possess, a miraculous metamorphosis had taken place. No longer was I the shy nobody I had once been, I was the commander of all I surveyed … as long as I surveyed the prospect of wining and dining this moonstruck young miss. Whereas before I would have called as soon as she could reasonably be expected to be home, now I was prepared to wait for her to call me, as if it were normal procedure for this sort of thing to occur.
And wait I did. The first night I discounted to the fact that she probably did not want to appear too hasty. That was fine by me. The send night passed, and I began to get anxious. To be sure, a very bored type of anxiety, but anxiety nevertheless. The third night, after waiting until what I felt to be an appropriate hour, I called. Instead of her I got a recording. The recording said her number was NIS.
If you are not familiar with telephone company jargon, NIS stands for Not In Service. You know the little recording. That’s what I got. If you know how I felt, please write and tell me. I’m afraid that I went into shock and continued to dial the disconnected number over and over. My whole weekend was shot, and I felt as if I had been, too.
Fortunately, I had the weekend to recover from this wound. On Monday, contriving a bogus errand at the bank, I cruised into town and carefully checked to be sure that the façade I had erected was intact before sauntering into the lobby of the bank. There is nothing worse than sauntering around with a cracked or otherwise damaged façade.
At first, the object of my dementia was nowhere in sight. “Not to worry,” I told myself. Sometimes the cashiers disappear for short periods when checking some detail or another. I waited. Still no sign. I dragged through my business as slowly as I could. She failed to put in an appearance. Still joking with a confederate, I wondered after her whereabouts without trying to appear conspicuous.
“Tanya? Oh she’s on vacation all this week.” A week! I felt my knees crumbling from beneath me. Luckily, my façade took that occasion to leave, and I gratefully skulked out behind it.
The week that ensued was comprised of many hours of instruction by my façade. As weak as it was, it was still in a better position than I, and it bucked me up quite a bit. By Sunday, I had an awesome compendium of witty, cutting lines at my command, all guaranteed to bring this Tanya around. Unfortunately, on Monday I happened to consult my calendar. In the fine print that covered the day of Tuesday, I discerned the fact that Tuesday was the day upon which I was to make good on my promise to fly to Carson City for the Christmas holidays to be with friends. I left my bank book. I left my check book. I left my wallet. The important thing was for me to get to the bank and arrange things for the next thirty hours or so.
When I arrived downtown, I realized that I had no excuse for going to the bank. Undeterred, I pressed on. The bank parking garage was full, but it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t have been able to get validation from the bank anyway, and remember, I had no money. After cruising around the block a couple of times waiting for a miracle to happen, my hormones got the upper hand and I pulled into an “Absolutely Never Park Here” zone and hurried to the bank.
I sprang up the steps and gave a mighty tug at the door. It didn’t budge. I looked at the door. I looked at my watch. The bank was not due to open for another fifteen minutes. Coincidentally, this was fifteen minutes longer than I was supposed to be parked where I was. I walked to the after-hours window and tried to summon Tanya from the depths of the bank, past the line of early customers being waited on by the pair of tellers at the window. I was received odd looks, and my façade was threatening to go back to the car and pick me up after it was all over. Plunging my head in front of the outside microphone, I nonchalantly mentioned to Tanya, who by this time had been attracted to the commotion I was causing outside, that the phone number she had given me was not in operation. She said that she knew that, and that she had no new number yet. I casually mentioned that I was leaving town on the morrow, and would be gone for two weeks at least. Was there any possibility of a meeting between now and then? No, because she was still in the process of moving, and had no time right now. I notified her of my parking situation, and told her I’d be in touch when I returned. I shot a quick smile at the group of people who were now all privy to my private life, and utilized the recoil to propel me in the direction of my car. As I rounded the corner, I saw that my car was flanked by two police cars. This, I took to be a bad omen.
The tale of my stay in Carson City need not be told here, but suffice to say that upon my return to the city I made it a point to have business at the bank. I was not unrewarded. The smile on Tanya’s face more than made up for the past difficulties we had undergone. I forgot the list of reprobations and turned on the charm instead. It worked. Yes, she was all moved in. Yes, she had a new phone number, which she had written out before I even got to the window. Yes, she still looked like she couldn’t wait to be alone with me. Yes, she was wearing a ring on her left hand, third finger, that looked a lot like a diamond. My façade vaporized.
“You never wore it before.”
“It belongs to my boyfriend’s mother.”
The room had become decidedly smaller, and the collective presence of the ten or more people in line behind me did not help the situation any. I decided that it would be best to make way for them and sort out the pieces later. I said something that closely resembled “glub,” gave a smile that closely resembled what I had just said, and began to move off. Tanya looked up at me with a flash of teeth that seemed to be connected to an erogenous zone, as if to say, “I’m just toying with your affections. You know how that is.”
By six o’clock that night, I had given the matter a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that, in fact, I did not know how it was, but I was ready to find out. Grasping the paper that contained her number, I poked out the digits. One ring. Two rings. A click, then, “The number you have reached is not in service at this time, and there is no new number. Please …”
The next day I watched my fingernails grow. On Wednesday, I once again forayed into the real world. This time, armed with sarcasm. Boy, did I ever feel superior. Luckily, there was no one else in the bank at the time I entered. I strolled up to the window that Tanya occupied and with studied cool, flipped across the piece of paper she had given me earlier that week with the second bogus number on it.
“Yeah, I know,” she aid, after glancing at the paper out of courtesy. “I’ve been having problems with the phone company.” I let her finish her explanation then cut her off ruthlessly.
“Let’s see,” I started. “First you gave me a number that wasn’t in operation even when you gave it to me. Then, you left for a week without telling me or calling. Then you moved, and couldn’t find the time to call. Then you gave me a different number that didn’t work, and turned out to have a boyfriend and a ring. What have you got to say for yourself?”
“I’m having trouble with my phone.”
“Why couldn’t you call me from work?”
“I don’t have time. I have to catch the bus.” She yawned. I could tell she was about to turn on the waterworks, so I relented.
“Look, how about if I pick you up after work today?”
Her entire demeanor suddenly brightened, as I knew it would. “Tonight? Sure!” She then added, “I get off at 5:15.”
“Great. I’ll see you then.”
I spent the rest of the day profitably; whistling, day-dreaming, napping. I wanted to be prepared for the night to come. As the afternoon drew nigh, I made preparations to leave. Traffic can get pretty bad downtown at rush hour, so I left a little early to make sure I would make it by 5:15.
The bank is on Sixth Street, so I took the Sixth Street exit off the freeway, and started counting the blocks to the bank. For some reason, traffic was not moving on Sixth Street. It got later and later, but I still had plenty of time. By forcing my little car into impossibly-small gaps in traffic and surreptitiously entering adjacent lanes, I got to within ten blocks of the bank by five. Still, my confidence was unabashed, even knowing that it had taken me nearly twenty minutes to travel an equivalent distance up to that point. At 5:20, I was within a block and a half, and consternation was setting in. Finally, at 5:30 I came abreast of the cause of all the slowing. It was a huge Lincoln Continental parked in a “No Parking” zone. I began to merge into the next lane to get around it when I noticed that I was in front of the bank. I parked behind the big car and started to get out the passenger side. As if on cue, Tanya appeared at the door. For a moment, she was all I saw. Then I noticed a form near her that seemed to have a life of its own. As it materialized out of the shadow of the building’s interior, it turned out to have legs and a head. The legs had thighs as big as my waist. The shoulders caught on the door jam as the form came out into the open. The head ducked to clear the threshold. There was a patch across one eye, and from the shoulders depended arms that would have complimented Atlas. One of them was around Tanya. She was giggling. I lost ten pounds to sweat waiting for her to recognize me. They climbed into the Lincoln Continental and were off, as was I, in a different direction. The next morning, I changed banks.