Lily stood at the gas stove waiting for the water to boil for tea. Outside the kitchen window the sky was grey but cloud and snow free as it had been for the last two days. Listening to the local radio report that several main transportation routes were now open and nearly a third of the mainline buses were running somewhat regularly through and in Falls, she wondered how long it would be before Sarge took his leave of her and the Flats and returned to his home in the freight district. Sooner or later there’d be trucks arriving at the freight docks and, as she understood his description of the location, his place on the second floor of a converted warehouse was only a five-minute walk from work. The college was reopening in three days for daytime classes. Her own regular daily schedule would soon resume. Life in Falls was on the verge of returning to its usual urban ebb and flow after several weeks of extreme weather conditions and a number of events involving fatalities as a result. Lily was not looking forward to a return to the usual scheme of things in Falls, the Flats or most especially in her private life. Having never been other than completely candid with herself, she didn’t have any problems figuring out why. The reason was as direct and unpretentious as the man she didn’t want disappearing from her apartment and daily life. When Sarge departed for his home in the freight district, there would be no more dancing at all hours of the day and night; no more off the cuff conversations about books and personal mysteries; no more Funny Man spreading around home people land scents everywhere he went because he liked them; and a host of all the other no mores of things that were currently a direct result of his presence in her personal space; including the fact that there would be no more human heater quietly warming up the space between the down quilt and flannel cotton sheets night after night, a something which made her home people vibes happily hum with contentment.
Being well attuned to her inner self, Lily knew her emotions concerning Sarge had come a long way from unexpectedly enjoying his company at the theatre and hoping he’d feel the same enough to want to meet again. She’d taken a giant leap forward simply as a result of his behavior regarding the taxi cab and everything up to and including sharing her down quilt. Sarge presuming nothing and making no demands upon her person had gone a long way with her from the start. Living in close quarters for the last few weeks a relationship had developed to a degree between them that Lily knew from past experiences under normal circumstance would have required at least six months of concentrated effort on her part to build. She was also painfully aware of the reasons for the failures of her previous serious relationships, even if they didn’t all quite make sense to her. Personal incompatibilities were one thing, cultural incompatibilities were another and double standard gender behavior expectations yet another; all, with a few unpleasant surprise of other sorts, had quite effectively motivated her to call a halt to engaging in any relationship for nearly two years until she got a firmer handle on the cultural mentalities at play in what for her was a very serious hunt for a suitable life partner. In her own culture she’d have been settled with a mate years ago. With good health and a little luck, she’d have been a mother at least twice by her current age. She’d known this entire field of the life game had changed for her prior to even arriving in Falls. Awareness of the change had been a large factor in agreeing to travel this path into unknown geographical and cultural landscapes. Quite simply, there was no one of a suitable age remaining for a life partner even by sheer default. Her choices had seemed clear enough at the time: remain with her rapidly dwindling cultural group until they all passed on or venture into another world and take her chances making a life for herself with the option of finding someone suitable to share it with. She’d chosen this adventure after playing with the numbers of probability in her head for several days. Afterwards she’d simply said to Priest and Gran that she thought it would be fun looking for a needle in a haystack, even though she had no idea whatsoever what a haystack really was. But she was well acquainted with several bone and metal needles and thought that finding one ought to be easy enough even in a very messy place with some patience and persistence. Since then she’d learned about real haystacks, a few things about men, and women, in this culture and a great deal about herself while keeping her senses on red alert for what had become a very elusive needle indeed.
Though she’d not admitted or discussed with Rosa or Esther, her two closest friends, anything regarding her still evolving emotions concerning the man keeping her company in her apartment, and very little regarding her personal views of him, she’d been keeping up a steady discourse with herself and her home people vibes all along. A few times she’d given serious consideration to discussing Sarge with Anton, but she’d decided against that knowing full well just close he was with Esther and that the only way to keep him from sharing something with his wife was to either not tell him the information at all, or to have it be something he considered so negative that he’d not want to share it of his own accord in order to not upset Esther unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. In addition, there was the matter of his current notions of proper masculine behavior that had inadvertently created issues for her with other men while trying to be helpful. Though in hindsight, those issues had probably kept her from wasting more time and effort on the wrong men.
Lily sighed, glanced at the repair request list and poked her home people vibes into stirring. Gran, I’m way past liking his smile. I’m to the point of knowing I’ll miss not seeing it when he’s not around. For starters, I feel good knowing he’s coming back here after he goes off to fix something for someone in the Flats and that he’ll be here when I come back from doing something of my own. I’m not sure exactly how he’d deal with caribou, but he’s good at keeping the water, heat and electricity running here. That counts for a lot in this crazy place. He gets along with Rosa’s kids, even Marianna. You know what a terror she can be. He likes being around them. I don’t have to explain to you why that’s a big relief. I sure wish I’d asked Priest a lot more questions about guys from where he came from. But, Priest being Priest that might not have been much use where I am now. This one though, I can almost talk with him like I could talk with Priest. He’s curious and smart in ways Priest would understand better than you because of the books. There’s not much point in talking about having fun with him, we both know having fun with these guys doesn’t always mean what we think it does. So far though, he hasn’t tried to push me in a corner because of it. Not once. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about that yet though.
There’s something about him though that gets women’s attention. It’s something like the attraction John has as a musician. With Sarge though, it’s something else. Obviously, because he’s not a musician, at least not as far as I know. But there’s something I can’t put into words yet. No, it’s not like me being attracted to him. If it was, I’d understand it already. Esther has noticed it too. It makes her watch him with her hard eyes when there’s a potluck and lots of people around. I think she’s waiting for him to do something. Whatever it is, he hasn’t done it yet. I know she’d tell me right off if he had. It’s as if she’s holding her breath. She likes him. I know she does by the way she talks with him. That’s a good sign. Esther doesn’t like everyone. She’ll be very polite to people she doesn’t like and they’ll never know she doesn’t like them unless she says so to their face. I’m sure she’s not doing that with Sarge. I’ve tried to get her to talk about it, but her eyes go hard then and she shakes her head and won’t say what’s on her mind. Rosa just says it’s not what the women do to try to get his attention that’s important, it’s what he’s not doing in return that matters. As long as he’s “not chasing the tails” as she says, there’s not a problem. My best guess at this point is that this has to do with their notions about sex in some way. That might be my ideas and theirs about that little book influencing my thoughts though.
Rosa and I have gone through the copy she made of it a couple more times. Now I know the handwriting isn’t his. Anton says the book isn’t Sarge’s and I believe him. Anton knows lying would hurt me more than whatever the truth is about why he has that book with all those women’s names and numbers in it. Oh yeah, he and Anton seem to be becoming good friends. That’s a first. I mean they actually spend time together talking about books and ideas even when they’re not working on someone’s house or doing something else with the rest of the Watch guys. We’ve had a couple of good conversations as a group with Esther joining in too. Priest would consider this a good sign, I think.
I should tell you, Gran, that not too many people manage to get past what Anton calls his “ghost life” in order to feel really comfortable with him. I think that’s because they can sense he is dangerous if he’s provoked and they don’t want to take a chance on provoking him. Sarge isn’t afraid of Anton. I can see Anton likes that he isn’t. Hmm. Yes, it’s clear to me that Sarge isn’t afraid because he is a dangerous man too. It’s like them each being dangerous cancels out either of them being scared of the other. It’s odd thinking of Sarge as being dangerous though. He never behaves in ways that bring it to my attention or anyone else’s for that matter. When he’s with the Watch guys he doesn’t act threatening or intimidating like many of the street guys do. He doesn’t seem to have anything to prove in that way. Maybe it’s because he’s already proved it with other men and the others know this somehow? I wonder if they can smell it? Can I smell it? Hmm. Yes, I think I do, Gran. Oh, I understand what you mean. I can be dangerous too. Yes, I can. It’s like this, Gran, Sarge reminds me of a polar bear who knows exactly how big and strong he is and that he won’t ever go hungry because he’s hunted seals so many times he’s got absolute confidence in his ability to get one whenever he wants to eat. I know, I know, men and bears are not the same creatures. Like I said, I sure wish I’d grilled Priest about guys.
Where does that put things? That’s exactly what I’m wondering. I don’t want him to go, but I don’t know if he wants to stay. I mean, I don’t know if he’d want to stay for the same reasons I don’t want him to leave. For all I know for sure, he’s just into fixing things, like Ricardo. He never says no to anyone who asks for his help. Lily stared at the list. You’re right I’ve got to say more than simply drop vague hints in order to find out what he’s thinking. Let’s take a look at this list of his and see what comes to mind. Feel free to help out.
The water boiled. Lily spooned loose orange blossom tea into the teapot then filled it with the water. While it steeped she walked over to the fridge and read the list of home repair requests that Sarge had prioritized as his own from the main list over in the Info Hub. Based on what she’d learned about how he worked on his own, she calculated that there was a good solid week’s worth of work on this list alone with plenty more on the main list. She stood tapping her fingers on the paper and wondering how he intended to do all this work and return to his full-time job at the docks at about the same time. Is he planning on not doing anything else but working constantly with a few hours sleep thrown in whenever possible between night shifts on the freight docks and day shifts making house repairs in the Flats? Why on earth would he do that? Or, maybe he isn’t planning on leaving as completely as I thought he would? Maybe he plans on sticking around at least long enough to work his way through the list? As if on cue, the apartment door opened and Sarge came through it with a wave and a very happy to find her at home smile greeting before sitting down and removing his boots out of her sight. “Hi, Lily.”
Breakfast Special #1 http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/
Breakfast Special #36 -> http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/breakfast-special-36-szechuan-shrimp-lo-mein/