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Drama followed Shandon wherever she went. It didn’t matter if it was the slightest incident, there would be histrionics. There would be strained dialogue and misunderstanding, failed communication, the wrong signals sent. What was worse, corrective responses were almost always misinterpreted.
Getting to the party, for example.
Henry was supposed to pick her up at 8:00, but when he called and got her voice mail one more time, he did not leave a message nor let it bother him that she did not pick up. He parked on the corner and walked down the block to the new address she had given him.
Loud Mexican music sounded like a band was playing in the yard next door. He rang the doorbell. Waited. Rang again.
At last the front door opened and a young man with black hair and short black beard and moustache said, “Yes? Can I help you?” He stood behind the security gate and made no attempt to open it. The loud Mexican music was coming from this apartment.
“No. She’s not.”
“Well, do you know where she is? I’m supposed to pick her up.”
Henry pulled out his cell phone, began dialing Shandon, turned to the man behind the gate. “What’s your name?”
“Why? Who are you?”
“I’m Henry. I want to be able to tell Shandon I was here and spoke with someone. Your name?”
“Thanks.” Henry returned to his car and was pulling away from the curb when Shandon ran up with cell phone in hand and knocked on the car window.
Henry lowered it. She said, “My roommate lied to you. I’m here. I’ll be right back.”
She ran back to the apartment and Henry sat at the curb and waited. Several minutes elapsed before she was at the car door again, this time with coat and purse.
They were a block away when he said, “So. You’re getting married. Congrats.”
She gave a girlish giggle. “Right. Mind if I smoke in your car?” He said no and punched the button to roll down her window. “It’s next week. You’ll come to the ceremony, won’t you?” He said he would. “It’s in Dolores Park at eleven. Hope that’s not too early on a Sunday. But I have to tell you, it’s not for love.” She turned her head and exhaled out the open window. “I met him at AA actually. A really nice guy. But I’m not in love with him or anything.”
Henry had to ask, “So why are you getting married?”
“Well, he’s in this really bad position where his mother is being treated for cancer but he can’t go visit her because if he leaves the country he can’t come back. I just thought it was so unfair I offered to help. I mean, he’s got a good job and earns good money but his work visa ran out and his first wife left him just before he got his green card. They went through all this paperwork and everything and then she didn’t show up at the interview. His attorney felt so bad for him she didn’t even charge him.”
They were almost to Mission Street when Shandon said, “Mind if we stop at a liquor store? I need some fortification.”
He had no particular issue with that, but when she asked if he had a problem with her drinking alcohol in the car, he said, “Well yes. It’s against the law to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle in this state. So yes, I have a problem with an open container. And aren’t you in AA?”
“Oh, I have it under control,” she said whittling the cigarette down and exhaling into the outside air. “Right there, if that’s okay,” she pointed at a corner market and he found a parking space on the opposite side of the street. She ran in carrying her purse, but left her leather coat behind. It was several minutes before she jumped back in with a small brown paper bag. She pulled a half pint of Maker’s Mark out of the bag, broke the dipped red wax seal covering the cap which she twisted off. He did not start the engine as she took a long pull on the bourbon. Then a second sip. She removed a diet Coke from the sack and twisted the cap off that as well, drank a chaser.
She consumed nearly half the bottle before it appeared to be enough. He took it from her which she was perfectly willing to give up now that she had a few ounces in her. He got out and popped the trunk. He made sure the cap was on tight, laid the bottle on his gym bag.
“So why didn’t you call me?” She asked. “I thought you were going to call before you came over.”
Henry was patient, not at all annoyed with the question. He said, “I did. I called and left voice messages on your phone. Three times. In fact, I was calling you for the fourth time today when you showed up.”
“What?” She was incredulous. “I didn’t get any calls from you. Wait a minute. What number were you dialing?” He punched up her stored number, handed his phone to her while he drove. She said, “That’s my old number. No wonder I never hear from you. You’ve been calling my old number.”
He paid attention to traffic and allowed her to change the number in his phone. All he kept thinking was, so whose number is it now and have they listened to all the messages he left?
They still had to cross town. The party was a housewarming across the street from the zoo and Henry was bringing two plants, cuttings from his diffenbachia, which lay at Shandon’s feet in the passenger seat. She did not seem to notice the two earth filled pots.
“You do know there are legal consequences to getting married?”