Randal, trying to calm her down, said, “okay. “The first step in any addiction is admitting that you have a problem. The second step is actually doing something about it. You do understand that you can’t make Callie stop using just because you want her to, right? Are you enabling her?”
“What do you mean?” Martina asked. Randall said, I mean are you giving her money? Are you participating in activities with her?” Martina said, “she has never asked me for a dime. The first several times I used, yes, I used with Callie. It helped us concentrate while we were studying. Then…” her voice trailed off as she said, “then, it was more about just sitting around and laughing…and making fun of mother. Now, when I try to talk to her, she gets almost hostile.”
Randall said, “that’s the animal. My advice is this. Be there for her as a friend. Don’t use with her. If you suspect she is using around you, leave. As gently as you can, try to urge her to get into some sort of rehab or group therapy, but don’t threaten her with abandonment or retribution. Do whatever you can for her, but remember…the most important person in this equation is you. You can’t let yourself become one of her victims by default.”
Randall said, “why don’t we meet at the coffee shop tomorrow and we’ll talk about it some more, okay?” Martina, sounding deflated, said, “okay. Around 11?”
Martina was already at the coffee shop when Randall arrived. He greeted her with an unexpectedly warm and friendly smile.
She knew that this was the one day of the week that Callie didn’t have a morning class. She was unusually distracted, looking toward the door every time someone opened it. When Randall asked who she was looking for, she said, “Callie. She’s supposed to be working today.”
Randall said, “well, she may just be running late, but I’d rather talk about your problem.” Martina rolled her eyes and said, “how many times do I have to tell you? I don’t have a problem. Why are you so suddenly concerned about me anyway? Aren’t you the one who said, and I quote, ‘may luck be with the unfortunate sap who next encounters such a wretched soul as yours’?”
Randall smiled and said, “you should forget what I say, and may I remind you. You’re the one who called and asked for advice.”
Martina looked at him with imploring eyes and asked, “would you go with me to check on her?”
“Do you think that’s wise?” he asked. Martina said, “I don’t know, but I’ve got a bad feeling, and I’m worried.” Randall agreed and he and Martina went to Callie’s dorm. As they started upstairs, Martina told him that he must announce, “man in the hall,” as was customary in an all women’s dormitory. He smirked and said, “you do understand that I know this, right?”
She knocked, but there was no answer. She tried the doorknob, but it was locked. She said, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”
“Maybe she’s in class,” he said. Martina said, “no. I know when her classes are and she doesn’t have one today.” After a few minutes, Martina knocked on the RA’s door. There was no answer. Randall said, “I can knock the door down, if you want, but one or both of us can get into serious trouble if I do, and what if she’s sleeping? I’m not sure that’s how I would like to be awakened.”
Martina said, “you’re right. She’s probably asleep. We could go back to the coffee shop and ask if she’s off today.” Randall said, “no. We need to talk about you.”
Martina surprised him when she said, “okay. Did I tell you that I am going to be in the play, “Les Misérables? Randall’s eyes widened when he said, “you’re kidding.” Martina smiled and said, “no, and you don’t have to act so surprised. I’m going to play Fantine, and if it weren’t for Callie, I’d be sitting in some tediously dull class, listening to some buttoned-down, straight-laced, long-winded professor talk about mind numbing things for no other reason than to perform an Augean task.” She looked at Randall and said, “I just don’t think you realize what Callie did for me.”
Randall softly said, “I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.”
“Think what you like,” she said. “Callie brought me out of myself. She taught me that there was more to life than just sitting around like some artifact that should be seen and not heard. She made me realize that there was more to life than just being the wife of some vexatious rich man who still thinks a woman’s place is two steps behind him.”
Randall had a twinkle in his eye when he said, “some vexatious rich man like me, you mean?” Martina said, “you said it yourself. In so many words, you said that you expected your wife to more or less exist for your pleasure.”
He smiled and said, “I told you. You should forget what I say.” Martina changed the subject and asked if he would come see the play. He said, “of course. When are you performing?”
She said, “this weekend. I invited Callie, and she said she would come, but the last time I spoke with her, she seemed agitated or something.” Randall said, “I’ll make you a deal. Forget about Callie for this week, and concentrate on your performance. Then next week, we’ll put our heads together and see if we can figure out what’s going on with her.”
She smiled and agreed. Randall took her hand and said, “and forget about the help. You will do fine without it.” She quickly jerked her hand away and said, “that’s not in the deal. I’ll need something. I can’t get in front of all of those people without it. I’d go to pieces and make a fool of myself.”
Randall said, “sometimes, making a fool of one’s self is good. It’s keeps you grounded. I’m a perfect example. Look at our first interaction. I acted as I was expected to act.” Martina smiled and said, “yes. You were a horse’s behind.”
Randall nodded. Then, in a most sincere voice, he said, “you know, I, too, am a victim of my mother and father’s rules and demands. I have an inner voice that is constantly screaming for release and I tend toward obstreperousness, but it’s okay. I know that one day, I will be free to do as I want, not as someone else wants.”
“Let’s have dinner tonight.”
Martina wasn’t offended, or even surprised by Randall’s invitation. She was beginning to see him in a different light. She was beginning to see him as more human. Finally, she blurted out, “okay. What time?”
He said, “I’ll come around for you at eight.”
That afternoon, trying to study her lines, she was having difficulty concentrating. She was thinking about Callie and her sudden absence. She decided to distract herself with a warm bubble bath. As she lay in the relaxing, warm security blanket of water, it suddenly occurred to her…”I have a date.” She had never been on a date. Curiously, she discovered that she wasn’t apprehensive. She was excited. The excitement was quickly replaced with panic. What would she wear? Surely she couldn’t wear faded blue jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt.
A quick call to Macy’s, and she sighed with relief. A courier brought a stunning outfit, just in time. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she was looking at the “before” Martina. It was both nostalgic and liberating. Wearing the “costume” for tonight only, was her choice and not a requirement.
The doorbell rang and when she opened it, her loud guffaw could probably be heard in the next apartment. There Randall stood, grinning broadly, dressed in blue jeans and a Polo shirt.
She wasn’t sure what to say, but finally gathered her senses and said, “should I change?”
He smiled and said, “it doesn’t matter to me. I thought you might enjoy going somewhere casual…you know, more suited to the new you, but you certainly look fine.” She said, “come in. I’m going to change.” After donning her jeans and a t-shirt, off they went. Randall took her to a little café style restaurant, with blue-checkered table cloths, large plastic glasses for water or iced tea, wrinkled paper menus, and waitresses wearing food-stained aprons.
“This is a side of dining that neither one of us has ever experienced,” he said. Martina smiled and said, “this is a little ‘other side of the railroad tracks’ for you, isn’t it?” He smiled and said, “you could say that.”
She looked around and said, “I rather enjoy the ambiance here. It reminds me of the coffee shop, but it’s a little noisier and you can hear people chattering. Doors are swinging open and shut, and it’s not like home. There’s not the dull hum-drum of listening to which stock someone owns or just bought. I rather like peeking into other worlds, don’t you? I find it somewhat charming. Where did you find this place, anyway?” she asked.
“Well,” Randall said. “I’ll tell you, but only if you swear not to tell anyone.” Martina was intrigued, and said, “okay, you have my word.” He leaned over and whispered, “this is where my father brings his mistress.”
Martina was dumbfounded. She stumbled as she asked, “what do you mean? Your father has a mistress?” Randall ran his finger around the top of his plastic glass and said, “yes. For about five years now.”
“How did you find out?” she asked. He said, “my father used to leave the house every Tuesday night. I was curious, or maybe I was being nosy, so one night I followed him. He came here. I parked so that he couldn’t see me and just waited. A few minutes later, a beat-up Volkswagen, with no bumper and one fender missing, came squealing into the parking lot. This trashy red-head got out and ran over to my father’s car. Her breasts were bulging out of her blouse, her skirt was so short it left nothing to the imagination, and her spiked-heel shoes were so high, she sank into the gravel every time she took a step.”
“Does he know you know?” Martina asked. “I don’t know if he knows that I know, but everyone else knows,” he said. “Everyone except mother, of course. It’s one of the best kept open secrets in town.” He leaned over and once again whispered, “I had her checked out. She doesn’t have a job, other than the obvious, and lives in a trailer outside town.”
Martina angrily said, “if I were you, I would tell your mother.” He looked at her and said, “why would I do that? Why would I ruin a happy forty-five year marriage? And why would I hurt my mother by telling her?” Martina said, “because she deserves to know the truth.”
Randall said, “your truth, maybe, but not her truth. I’m not going to destroy her life at sixty-five years old, because my father has some harlot on the side. What I can and will do for mother, is not be that kind of man.”
He smiled and said, “when father had ‘the talk’ with me, he said, ‘play the field and have a good time. But be careful. Don’t let some floozy trap you’…so on and so forth. Then he said ‘after you’ve had your fun, find a good woman, get married, have a heir and settle down’. Then he winked and said, ‘but just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you can’t, shall we say, still taste the wares of another’.”
Martina thought for a minute and said, “you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I really dislike your father.” Randall smiled and said, “I understand…and I do forgive you. I don’t always like him either, nor do I necessarily agree with his methods, but he’s still my father. I believe he was faithful to mother for most of their marriage, but now he’s seeing the end of his life I guess, and wants to go out in a blaze of glory. He’s tasted the class, and now he wants to taste the trash.”
Martina looked at him and said, “do you really believe that?” Randall looked at her and said, “yes, I do, but like I said, whatever he does or has done just makes me want to be a better man, if that makes any sense.”
Martina said, “wow. You sure are singing a different song than when we first met.” Randall smiled and said, “we all sing whatever song is necessary to get us through our day…or our life.” You’ve been lucky. You have actually tasted a bit of the world that people like us rarely get to taste, and you’ve been able to sing a different song.”
To be continued________________________________