Then his eyes came back to mine. “You’re a Cubs fan?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered then declared, “They’re the best team in the history of baseball.”
He walked in and I closed the door. Through this neither of us lost eye contact. This was because he was smiling at me like I was unbelievably amusing and this was because I was staring at him because he was smiling at me like I was unbelievably amusing.
He came to a halt two feet in and I turned from the closed door which meant I was about a foot away from him.
“They haven’t won a pennant since 1908,” he informed me.
“So?” I asked.
“That fact in and of itself means they aren’t the best team in the history of baseball.”
This was true. It was also false.
“Okay, I amend my statement. They’re the coolest most interesting team in the history of baseball. They have the best fans because their fans don’t care if they win or lose; we’re die-hard and always will be.”
His eyes warmed like they always did before he’d smile at me and I felt my knees wobble.
“Can’t argue with that,” he muttered.
I pressed my lips together and hoped I didn’t get lightheaded.
“Colorado bleeds black and purple in spring and summer, though, Mara. Careful where you wear that tee,” he warned.
“I like the Rockies too,” I replied.
He shook his head, turning toward my hall.
“Can’t swing both ways,” he said as he moved into the hall.
I watched him move. I liked watching him move. I liked it more watching him move down my hallway toward my bedroom. I knew I liked it so much I would fantasize the impossible fantasy that such a vision would happen so often it would become commonplace.
I wondered if I could call out to him that I really needed to run an errand. Like say, take care of an old relative who needed me to get her out of her wheelchair and into her bed. Then read her a bedtime story because she was blind. Something I couldn’t get out of that would make me seem kind and loving but would really be an excuse to escape him.
Then I realized that would be rude and I followed him.
When I hit the bathroom, he said, “This shouldn’t take long and you can get back to making dinner.”
Should I ask him to stay for dinner? I had plenty. He was a big guy but I still had enough. I just had to cut up another chicken breast or two. Add a few more veggies.
Could I survive a dinner with him? Would he think candles, music and dinner was a play he had to somehow extricate himself out of without seeming like a dick? Or would he know it was just my way of saying thanks?
I listened as “Midnight Rider” became America’s “Ventura Highway” and I did what I had to do.
“Would you like to stay for dinner as an, um… thank you for helping out?” I asked. “I’m making stir fry,” I went on.
“Rain check,” he told the faucet, not even looking at me and I was immensely disappointed. So much so I felt it crushing my chest at the same time I was not as relieved because his answer meant all was right in Mara World.
Then he continued talking, making Mara World rock on its foundations.
“Knock on my door when you’re makin’ your barbeque chicken pizza.”
I blinked at his head.
Then I breathed, “What?”
“Derek tells me it’s the shit.”
I blinked at his head again.
They talked about me?
Why would they do that?
Derek was definitely a firm Nine. LaTanya was too. Nines could be friends with Two Point Fives but male Nines didn’t talk to each other about Two Point Fives. They talked about other Sevens to Tens. If they were younger or were jerks, they made fun of Ones to Threes. But they never talked about Two Point Fives and the really great pizza Two Point Fives could make. Ever.
His head tipped back and his eyes hit mine. “Derek tells me your barbeque chicken pizza is the shit,” he repeated and explained, “as in, really fuckin’ good.”
Derek was right. It was really good. I made my own pizza dough and marinaded the chicken in barbeque sauce all day and everything. It was awesome.
Seeing as I was unable to respond, I didn’t. Mitch looked back at the faucet and carried on rocking my world.
“Or when you’re makin’ your baked beans. Derek says those are even better. But tonight, I gotta take a rain check because I gotta get back to work.”
They talked about my baked beans too? This meant they talked more than a little about me. This was more than a passing comment, “Oh you gotta try Mara’s barbeque chicken pizza. It’s the shit,” or something like that. This meant more than a few sentences. My baked beans were so good they had to be a whole other topic.