Rhonda calls on Friday night: do I want to go for a beer. Except she just missed me. She calls twice on Saturday, but I was out by the lake and too achy to make a second trip into the world. We hook up finally on Sunday morning and think Nookies sounds good, but arrive later than usual and the waiting line’s extreme. “You talk to the guy,” Rhonda says. “He hates me.” So funny. We all adore Rhonda except the ones who hate her, mostly guys whose standards fall short of hers.
Rhonda talks real loud so the Nookies guy was sure to hear. “Let’s go to Club Louis. They have a great breakfast menu.” Club Louis is just two blocks south and has no waiting line for breakfast. We sit by a window in the dining area and Rhonda raises the grimy and dusty blind to look out on Clark Street and Lincoln Park. A shapely waitress with shocking blue eyes brings coffee then claims the bartender told her to lower the blinds. Rhonda protests, why block a cheery view, but the waitress is armed with a polished excuse. “He says the color scheme for all the franchise restaurants has to be uniform.” She shrugs with, “Not my choice.”
The food’s surprisingly good and we decide this is our new Sunday morning hangout. Then Jack enters with his longtime lady friend, an older woman somehow involved with Burton Place. They see us but don’t speak, and cross to a distant table. “I heard bad things about her,” Rhonda whispers. I hold up a hand in the stop gesture. “Please, I’m so sick of mama-drama.” She only shrugs. “Not from the building, but from people in the neighborhood.”
“Whatever,” I shrug. “Jack had a blow up at Paul; crazy accusations like was Paul growing pot in your old studio. He made Paul open the studio so he could see. He threatened to call the cops and all kinda off-the-wall stuff.”
“Jack’s crazy, I told you,” Rhonda agrees. “He asked last year, when we were neighbors, if I knew who was invading his apartment to use his iron.” She nodded with an all-knowing look. “His iron?” I ask unbelievingly.
“He said the culprit must be Paul since he wears sports jackets.” We both burst out laughing. Paul’s grooming habits are dismal; he would NEVER iron a sports jacket. “Should we tell her?” I ask. “Shall we give Jack’s lady friend the lowdown? Save her some grief.” Rhonda stares across the way to where they are ordering breakfast, then turns back. “Water seeks its own level.”
Somehow we get into discussions of old lovers again. Rhonda’s stories are the best. Apparently, when she was a stewardess she dated a sculptor who had a studio in Pilsen. Oh, yeah; that’s how we start with this. The relative value of living in an artist’s studio. Or was it more remorse since the lawyer left to seek a child-bearer who’s a good conversationalist?
So the sculptor’s name is E---, a local guy of some renown, and living in a sizable studio where he used metal working equipment to assemble his artworks. “You can Google him,” she cheerfully offers. “He’s a big muscular guy and with a masculine occupation, but he wrote poetry for me. Beautiful and explicit. I still have the poems but, at the time, I didn’t know what to think. Maybe I was overwhelmed by the intensity.”
“I wasn’t ready for a commitment or to meet his needs,” she adds. “You should read this poetry, though. Ah… oh, yeah. I said I liked his hands. Big, capable hands. So that was in the poem. ‘You said you liked my hands and want me to put them on you. I touch you and put them inside you and press your backbone.’”
“Jeez Louise,” I say and take another bite of eggs benedict. Rhonda describes a sculpture in San Francisco on a hilltop with larger and smaller rotating wheels that circle each other. “Only long after it was installed and critiqued and famous did he realize it was a tribute to his father.”
I asked is she ever sees him now. “Sure, a couple times at events,” she says. “He married a South American woman not four months after we broke up. I actually like her, and she manages his media appearances and all. E---’s rude to me, though.”
“You heart breaker. Use them and lose them, huh?” Rhonda’s eyes are glassy, lost in the memory. “I really loved him. I just wasn’t ready for what he wanted from me.”
So I have the camera with me and we stop during the stroll back to North Avenue to view the shots on the small screen. The pictures lose their impact when you need to squint and stare for detail. Rhonda makes over the shots, though; she’s so generous. “I like them so much. Everybody will like them. You have an eye,” she claims.
Ever cheerful, that’s my girl. “They’re just neighborhood scenes,” I say. “I only click on light and shadow.”
“Did you see The Interpreter?” she asks. “The Nicole Kidman character is from South Africa and works at the UN. Her apartment has photos on the wall and wooden masks make by natives. They’re the same as everyday photos in that country, children playing and the like, but in a different context they become unique and valued. So send some images by email. I’ll print them at work and put them up for display.” I agree but don’t get around to the exercise. I know she’s just chatting me up because there’s so little in my life that matches her adventures.
Mostly Rhonda calls just before she heads out and I get added into the shopping trip or Sunday breakfast. But I call her this time and suggest the Joffrey Ballet. This is before I learn about big expenses for the rental I own. We negotiate the best calendar night and what we’re willing to spend on tickets. While I’m on the phone, Paul comes by and I make him wait while we settle the itinerary. He stands stiff and judging, but I don’t invite him into our date. He couldn’t afford the ticket anyhow.