A woman walks down a sidewalk at dusk. She recites the ditty in her head: St. Anne, St. Anne, send me a man. Her red hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and it bounces to the beat of her long legged stride.
“Here we are, doing the same thing we do every Friday night,” Bill said. He looked over his friends, munching on party mix and measuring the last of the beer before them. They looked around the bar for the 100th time, weighing their options, and finding their feet too heavy to move every time.
“I’m done,” Steve said as he put his empty glass down.
Bill signaled for the check, it was his turn to pay.
“Off to my fortress of solitude,” Chris said as he zipped up his jacket.
“Well, maybe some chick will show up and sweep you off your feet on your way home,” Bill said.
“From your lips to God’s ear,” Chris snorted as he made his way past Bill and to the door.
A few fist bumps later, Bill was by himself. He watched the ESPN highlights one more time, signed the check, and tucked a tip under his beer glass.
At the other end of the bar, two women sat watching him. “I can’t believe you are wearing that,” the petite one said to her companion while sipping her Chardonnay.
“It beats spelling it.” Her friend was wearing a name necklace that announced S C H O L A S T I C A in gold letters.
“I think he’s about to go,” she said, sliding the baseball cap onto her head.
“Nope, its just about to rain. Got your umbrella?”
“Check. Thanks for the assist.”
“What are wingmen for? Go get him, J-girl.”
“Do not call me that!” she replied, flinging up one hand as she strode away.
Bill stopped at the door as the rain came down. He rubbed his eyes, and thought about sitting down at the bar for one more drink. He felt a tap at his elbow, and turned to look.
“Forget your umbrella?” a woman asked. Her blue eyes looked up at him from under the brim of a baseball cap. She was wearing a bomber jacket and jeans.
“I have a deal for you. I’m leaving, but I’d rather not walk alone. You can share my very large umbrella if you tag along.”
“I must look trustworthy,” Bill said.
“You were hanging out with a bunch of normal looking guys, and I saw you pay the check. So I don’t think you’re a sociopath. I’m Jay by the way.”
He laughed. “That’s the best line I heard all night. I’m Bill.” He nodded and opened the door for her.
They walked down the sidewalk in the steady rain, chit chatting about sports and weather. Bill held the large umbrella over them, and it kept them dry for the most part. At a don’t walk signal they ducked into a bus shelter to wait out the cycle. Bill pulled a pack out of his coat, and before he lit the cigarette, looked at her. “Do you mind the smoke?”
“Go ahead, it doesn’t bother me.”
Bill lit the cigarette.
“Where did you serve?” Jay asked him.
He turned his head to look at her, “Does it show?”
“I’m a veteran. I can tell.”
“I was all over. You?”
“Europe,” she replied. By unspoken agreement, they allowed that thread of the conversation to die a natural death.
“I saw you and your crew check us out a few times. How come no one came over?” Jay asked. The walk light came on, and they crossed the street.
Bill turned to look at her as they walked, and turned forward again.
“I can’t speak for my friends, but I think its the bachelor’s life for me.”
“My parents are divorced … half my friends are divorced. Irreconcilable differences, I have become familiar with the phrase second and third hand, and I’ve decided never first hand either.”
“Irreconcilable differences,” Jay enunciated, with a certain distaste. “I hate that the lawyers stole that. Aren’t the differences between men and women meant to be irreconcilable? If there weren’t any differences, physical and otherwise, would you still want a woman?”
“Well … no. But, there is still too much drama for me. The army was very ordered, I think that’s why I stayed in so long. A big difference from my home life.”
“Ah, but its supposed to be dramatic. If you aren’t crying or angry some of the time, you aren’t trying hard enough. A favorite actress of mine once said … how did it go, ‘When a man and a woman see each other and like each other they ought to come together – wham! Like a couple of taxis on Broadway, not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle,'” she said, clapping her hands on the ‘wham.’
“I’m not an actor.”
“Bill!” she said laughing, putting her arm through his as they walked, “You don’t have to be dramatic. She doesn’t have to be dramatic either, and if she is, you gotta coolly call her on it, as I’m sure you know how. Drama is what life is going to give you, single or married. Wouldn’t you rather share the drama with someone?”
“Someone like you? Do you have a sister?” he teased.
“Oh, I have more than you would guess,” she replied. “But here’s my stop,” she said, pointing at the side entrance of a church, St. Joan of Arc. The rain was tailing off, and he handed the umbrella to her, not quite sure what to say next.
“I’m here every Sunday. Maybe will see each other?” Jay smiled, and headed up the steps.
“Maybe,” Bill replied, and after a salute (which she returned) turned and walked off into the night. Your lips to God’s ear … right, he thought to himself.
The next Sunday Bill found himself at Mass at St. Joan of Arc. He took a seat on the end of a pew, about half way to the front. A safe and unobtrusive distance, one unlikely to draw attention. The service was filling up, so he slid over to make room for others that might arrive. He looked around, scanning for Jay in way he hoped wasn’t too obvious.
Out of the corner of his eye he felt someone slide in next to him and kneel. He looked over to see a tall red-head with her hair in a ponytail. She turned to look, and and gave him a quick smile as she started to pray. His gaze was caught by something shiny around her neck. It was a gold name necklace that spelled J O A N.