Scene One – THE OTHER MAN – Old Town, Chicago, Illinois, April 1981
I grab the phone from the wall on the first ring. “Hey Robert, it’s Linda. Can we talk?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
Her tone softens. “I hope you won’t be shocked. We’re friends – right?”
She pauses. “I’m having an affair. His name is Ben. We met at work. I never believed this would happen. How could I cheat on Dan? Then again, you might have sensed that things weren’t perfect between us.”
My hands tremble. I hesitate for the right words, “No, I didn’t know. Why are you telling me this now?”
“You said you would be out of town this weekend and I wonder if Ben and I could use your condo? Dan will be on a business trip and your place would be better than a hotel.”
The chair beside the phone groans as I sit. My heart pounds in my ears. “Oh – someone’s at the door,” I lie. “I’ll call you back.”
Telephone slips from my hands. “No,” I shout to an empty room. How can I tell Linda I can’t do what she asks? She is fond of reminding me how friends support each other with little, harmless lies.
“Let’s play hooky from work today,” she used to say. “We can be on the ski hill in an hour. We’ll schuss the whole day and get home before Dan returns from work. He’ll never know. And even if he did, he wouldn’t care. You’re just our neighbor. Although a single guy, Dan knows I’m safe with you.”
Maybe I was never more than a ski buddy to Linda – just a nice man in the next apartment building? Someone who left anonymous hand-written poems under the windshield wiper of the red Toyota Corolla parked at the Mundelein train station when she caught the 7:10 METRA to the Loop.
Last winter at Alpine Valley Linda touched my arm, “I love your poems.” Electric shivers surged up my neck. She never mentioned strands of bleeding hearts or alfalfa blossoms I tucked into the Toyota’s door handle. Maybe prairie winds blew my gifts away?
On the off-hand chance that Linda could have been attracted to me, I would not do to Dan what was done to me in my earlier marriage. I would never be the other man in a love triangle.
I call Linda back. She hangs up on me.
Scene Two – AEOLIAN– Lake County, Illinois May 1983
I’m driving northbound on Interstate 94. Mundelein, State Route 176 is the next exit. I impulsively exit and drive six miles to the METRA train station. Hopefully I won’t be late for my seven o’clock gig in Milwaukee.
I navigate a mass of automobiles in search of a pickup truck – any truck will do. A brown, 4x4, Chevy Blazer is parked to my left. A baseball cap hangs from the rearview mirror.
I tear a song lyric sheet for tonight’s performance from my notebook and tuck my anonymous verse under the Blazer’s windshield wiper. A gentle breeze fans the pages.
So long Marilyn,
Favorite of all the men.
What did you have to do?
So Joe was through with you?
What say Saladin,
King of your countrymen.
Have the walls fallen down?
Where have you hid your crown?
When did the bombs begin?
Wish you had told him no,
Some say I told you so.
Change maker on the wind.
Come to me every day.
What will you blow my way?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg writes fiction, creative non-fiction, self-development, and career counseling articles. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.