I looked at the address on the slip of paper and found she lived close to where I stayed at the time. I’d lived in her neighborhood before and knew it well. In a way, I thought it was the most fortuitous thing in the world. If a relationship developed, I wouldn’t have to spend my time driving all over the city. I hated suburbs and detested having to be in the car for more than ten or 15 minutes. This would be an easy relationship, I thought, if it worked out.
And of that I had no doubt. I didn’t think at the time that she was my life-mate or that I would fall in love. But I knew I liked her a lot and that was good enough to dream with.
I arrived that night in the rain. Jane lived in an old three-story next door to a Catholic church where my grandmother had been a parishioner since 1933. I’d called her before I left, as she’d asked me to, so she would know when I arrived. She lived alone in a back-door apartment up a set of stairs next to the house. I climbed the terrace and then the steps up to the apartment. When she answered the door, she was dressed in t-shirt and jeans. He apartment was small, barely more than a studio with a bedroom. She had a couple of cats. The place was dimly lit with a table lamp.
She invited me in and had me sit on a small couch.
“This is a pretty cool set up,” I said. “The neighborhood’s close to everything and you have this cozy little apartment.”
“Yeah, it isn’t what it seems,” she said. “My parents basically abandoned me here when I was 16. I had to finish high school on my own, so I did what I could to get out of there early. I graduated last year. Since then, I’ve had to make due with odd jobs since my parents don’t send money very often. Before they left, the broke the house up into apartments. Both floors and the attic were broken up into apartments. As long as the tenants pay rent, I live on the cheap. When one of the apartments goes empty for a while, my parents actually tap me for rent. Something they think I ought to learn how to do, like growing up or something. Other than that, I have only phone and electricity.”
“Why in the world did they leave?”
“They’re kind of old hippies and decided to go live in a cabin on the Michigan peninsula. They wanted to live off the grid, I suppose. My dad grew up in Michigan, and I lived there until I was twelve, when they moved us here for a job.”
“How do you get on with them now?” I asked.
“I mostly don’t. I get a call from them about once a month. Feeling guilty, I think.”
“Well, you’ve had to grow up faster than most people. When I was 17, all I cared about was drinking and staying away from my parents.”
“Yeah, but I hate it. I could’ve handled being a kid for a while longer. But I do like not having to answer to anyone. That’s the best part.
“What about you? How did you come to work at the pizza place?”
“I didn’t have anything better to do,” I said. “I know the guys who own the place. They were looking for people who would show up to work on time. I’m good at that.”
She showed me some of her sketch books and said she was assembling a portfolio for entrance into the Kansas City Art Institute.
“These are pretty good,” I said. “You are still trying to find a voice, but I think you’re on the way.”
“Well, I sure in the hell hope so. I’ve been at it a long time.”
“So, you aspire to be an artist?”
“Well, kinda. I think that’s where I want to go.”
“I think you’re already there,” I said.
We went out for eats at an Italian restaurant and then for a long walk after the rain through a shopping district of high-end chain stores and shops. We talked of various things, mostly work and the bullshit situations we found ourselves in. We bought a couple bottles of wine, which I mostly drank by myself sitting back at her living room. As I was leaving, she grabbed me by the arm and spun me around. She stood on her toes and gave me a long kiss.
“You have to go now,” she said.
In the ensuing weeks, I became something of a celebrity around work. I didn’t tell anyone that I’d been out with her, so she must have. Word raced around that little village we worked in. I found myself walking with a bounce.
Meanwhile, Jane and I saw each other a couple of times a week. We spent more and more of our time making out. Very soon, she didn’t kick me out but removed her clothes and took me by the hand into her bedroom. I was half drunk, as always. We spent a lot of time exploring passionately. She was sexually voracious, and I was more than happy to oblige. When we lay back on the pillows, exhausted, she insisted I stay overnight. Our endeavors commenced again the next morning after coffee.
This was just the beginning of a relationship marked by lovemaking, conversation, discussions of art and music. I considered myself lucky. We had things to talk about. We shared interest in sex.
Fortunately, she was not a going-out sort of person. I had spent much of my time before I met her by myself, drinking and working. I’d lost touch with nightlife and was more a quiet bar kind of guy. Since she was underage, we didn’t go out for drinks. We spent many of our evenings together at her apartment or at my house, where we shared wine. She seemed content to let me drink as much as I wanted, which was just fine with me, as women before Jane hemmed me in with criticism of how much I drank or how often. Plus, she didn’t demand I spent all my free time with her. Many evenings, we said goodbye at work and went our separate ways.
I wasn’t redeemed, not yet, but I felt like I was on the way.