Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chasing Marcie

When Marcie and I first met, at a San Diego City College speech class, there were a lot of obstacles to overcome for us to be a couple. I was certainly smitten by her red hair and saucy, flirty way of engaging me, but I was also eying a few other girls. She had other suitors, too.

Internally, I was not interested in pairing off right away as college just began. I had determined that, with a love life built of long relationships and no really short affairs to speak of, college should be a long string of trysts. Yeah, right.

Our first date was to Café Chabalaba, a 1990s "San Diego is the next Seattle" mini-venue of some fame. Owner Cristina let me and my pal Mark Veno run (read: hold) the door for a parade of quality shows.

Marcie and I had some coffee and a long conversation. Effectively, this conversation ended my dream of a parade of little hussies weaving a thread of lusty debauch through my college education.

"I like going out to eat once in a while, but I really like to cook for myself," she said after shooting down an invitation to Mr. A's.

"Oh?" I asked. "I like to cook, too. Maybe I could cook for you sometime and you can tell me how I did."

She rolled her eyes and looked up into the corner of the café, then rolled them back down at me. "You cook, huh? Yeaaah, right."

"What do you mean, 'yeah right'?" I asked. "I cook. I have cooked for myself for years, occasionally for other people, and I am pretty good at it, too."

Marcie looked at me intently and played with the coffee cup in front of her. She did not believe me, and she did not seem too impressed.

"I'll prove it to you," I said. "Let me cook for you, and you'll see."

"What would you cook?" she asked, as if she would catch me in a lie, or unprepared.

No such luck.

"Chicken fettuccine Alfredo, from scratch," I said. "No mix, no sauce, I make it from scratch."

She smiled and looked at the cup again. "But you live in a hotel downtown. Where are you going to cook this meal for me?"

The C Street Inn had no kitchen, but I decided to fib a little and see where she went with this. I could always use another kitchen.

"We have a kitchen at the hotel," I said. "Do you think I eat at La Gran Tapa every night?"

"Well, I don't want to eat at your hotel room," she said. "We are going to have to do this some other way."

"Oh, so you want me to cook for you?" I asked.

She smiled and then narrowed her eyes and watched me closely. That gotcha look again... again mislaid.

"Are you chickening out? Are you lying to me?" she asked, noting I shook my head. "Because if you are, we are not going out again. You can cook for me next week, Tuesday, my day off. You can use my kitchen and you have to clean it up afterward."

"Cool. You got a deal and a meal," I said. "Wine?"

"You're the cook, or so you say, so you choose," she said. "And don't be thinking that you can fake it. My friend's mom taught me to cook and she was from an Italian family. It had better be for real, mister."

I met her later that week outside the Museum of Man for crackers and cheese with Madame Harms, a friend of mine at City and her professor of French.

Marcie and another girl, a German who I learned later Marcie simply called "Eurotrash," had been charged with bringing wine. Marcie had brought three bottles, two reds and a white, and ET brought one, with a screw cap. Port, actually. Bad Port.

We drank and snacked as the sun slid low and Madame Harms came and sat with us. She was cute, in a middle-aged-but-sassy way, and she teased us, a bit drunk.

"You two lovers should go make a mess somewhere pleasant," she said, poking me on the nose.

Marcie let out her unbridled joy. It was the first time I had heard it. It was abrupt and sharp, then wound down melodiously as she laughed and tried to speak through it. I only speak a little French, but I deciphered what she asked.

"Madame Harms êtes vous en état d'ébriété?" she asked.

"Oui, Marcie, oui," Madame Harms slurred cheerfully. "Je vous remercie beaucoup pour le vin."

Marcie squinted and I said, "She said wine and thanks in there."

Madame Harms looked at me oddly. "I did not," she indignantly proclaimed. "I said 'I thank you for the wine,' and... yes, I guess I did. But not like that, silly boy. Not in little pieces like that."

With that she touched Marcie's nose, gave her a hug, then me, and rose unsteadily, our bottle rising with her.

"No more for you," she said. "You should go make your mess now."

I smiled at Marcie, but she rolled her eyes.

"I don't know what you're thinking, mister, but I am going home and studying," she said. "I work early tomorrow"

"May I walk you home?" I asked.

"I only live a few blocks away," she said. "I'll be fine."

"I have to see where you live if I am going to cook for you Tuesday," I said, smiling. "Besides, it doesn't take even one block to get robbed, right? And you have to go through the west side of the park."

West Balboa Park was a nightmare of crackheads and homeless people, gay prostitutes and ornery drunks at night. From dusk until dawn, the crime rate rose dramatically. A few years earlier, a man had been stabbed to death on the bridge, an Old Globe Actor.

"Oh, fine, pushy boy," she said, packing her things. "You can walk me to my building, but you cannot come up."

I got her home and we saw not one threat, which she was careful to point out as we walked. "I live here, she said. "I know where I am, so don't be thinking you're the man or something just because I let you walk me home."

"Oh, I won't," I said. "But I will think I must be because you let me even though you don't need me to."

She turned and looked at me as if to say "Oh really?" she did not comment, but handed me her bags. "You can be the mule, at least, since I don't need a bodyguard."

I carried her bags and she slipped her arm around mine and kissed me on the cheek. It was our first lip contact. I was suddenly high. She stopped me on Kalmia.

"I live here," she said. "Thank you for walking me home, and thank you for coming to the park tonight."

I waited as she took her bags and when she went to walk away, I touched her elbow gently. "Thank you for the kiss," I said quietly, my ears turning red.

She tilted her head down and looked up at me askance as if to say "Oh, come ON."

So I did, and I slipped my arms around her waist and pulled her into me for a kiss. At first, she put her hands against my chest as if to push me away. But they slid up over my shoulder and around my neck. We kissed until one of her neighbors chimed in.

"Yow! You go, Marcie!" a woman I would later learn was Marcie's amphetamine-driven lesbian property manager, and who actually was not much for men touching Marcie. It broke the kiss well enough.

"I'll see you Tuesday in class," she said. "Don't call me Saturday, I have to study for my English final and i have to go to my parents on Sunday."

Tuesday took forever to come and she did not answer the phone Monday. I remember the number, 338-8063. I must have dialed it fifty times, hanging up at the third ring.

I would find out later that Joey, her other suitor, had struck himself out sometime Saturday with a reference to her joining his gym while they ate at Golden Dragon. I did not learn that until months later, though.

When Tuesday did come, I tossed her notes in class the whole time, which I had prepared the night before. Every time our teacher turned away, another landed on her desk. She was mortified, and the whole class saw it.

She could not have known that Ken, our instructor, was in on the whole thing. He and I had a good rapport. I learned he started a theater company in Seattle after that semester. It was a loss for City. Mr. Norton was good to the shy speakers.

"You gonna eeeeeat," I remember one note said. The rest were variations on the theme. "You gonna get yo' grub on," "I feel like chicken tonight," was perhaps the cheesiest.

"Stop it!" she mouthed quietly, biting her lower lip and covering her eyes... but she read each one and smiled, then tucked them in her purse, shaking her head, red-faced.

The last one simply said. "Class is over. I have to go pick up the groceries. See you at 4:00 sharp."

I was gone before she was done reading it.

The meal went perfectly, but she admitted that it was too much for her. Far too rich for the time of day, she said, but delicious.

She did not like the expensive white wine I brought, but I had also picked up some Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon, which she drank two glasses of. We ended up making out for a couple of hours.

"You can stay tonight, but I have to get to sleep," she said. "And you have to shower. You can sleep on the couch."

I did, wearing her far too small robe and no covers in the September heat. When I woke up the next morning I brushed my teeth with a brush she gave me and slipped on my grubby clothes. She stopped me as I gathered my things and gave me a long kiss.

"I'll see you tomorrow at school," she whispered. "I had a lovely time and I believe you can cook very well. I will cook for you next time."

I enjoyed the feel of her body against me a little more than I could hide, so I held onto her a bit when she went to let me go. She giggled knowingly in my ear.

"Something wrong?" she asked.

I simply answered her with a kiss and slapped her ass, which she giggled at, her teeth against mine, our mouths open. I made my exit with my jacket around my waist, as a practical consideration.

But Marcie had apparently not had to wait until the morning to get her measure of me.

Tomorrow, I will post the recipe for the Alfredo sauce I used. I will continue this story of our early romance as well, but the next post will be somewhat adult in nature. You are warned.