Short Story: Boomer by Dewey Edward Chester. A fantastic American story by a great American author. Enjoy the reading!
The woman had been sitting in the same spot long before I had arrived. Not a pretty girl, really, for there are but few of them in Pittsburgh. One girl can be pretty in Pittsburgh, but a dozen of them are really all the same. This was just a girl with porcelain skin and a certain sort of style.
She sat placidly at a table, then suddenly she looked up some long winding stairs to see me, standing up there.
I stood on the top step with my hands thrust casually inside my pockets. It was late, and the lights were down low.
This party was not at all what I had expected. Strange people were dancing, wearing slacks and sweaters.
From a ceiling hung a big gold ball, reflecting bright jewelry and smoky cigars. A jazz group was playing mood…then a horn began to blow…by a man revealing himself. This man just stood there on a platform, humping the air, raging out his life through a horn. He kept screaming: “Do you love me? Do you love me?”
At least that’s what I thought I heard from the sound of his plaintive horn.
Everyone had stopped dancing to watch this passionate man. Cigars were left burning. Drinks stood full on the tables. A curious light appeared in all of their faces. Imagine, I thought: this man with a horn was blowing out his lungs, his guts…his slum —- “Do you love me? Do you love me?” he wailed on, still humping the air with his hips.
Finally, I started down the wide spiral steps, and instantly spotted her.
When I walked toward her, the rest of the people in the room shrank back…until they became simply props. For me, a Queen was waiting. Passion welled up inside of me. I could have stood there, just looking at her.
The people in the room crept further back, in shadow…. to let us dance, alone. And when she moved in close, my vision blurred with desire.
She dazzled me along the dance floor. To the very edge we stepped, through a mirror —- into another dance, with new dancers present. The faces were familiar, but nothing more. In this rare time and space I began to speak with passion: “Please tell me your name, again. I seem to have forgotten.”
“Dianne,” she offered.
“That’s right. Dianne!” I repeated.
She declared, “I have no telephone, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I could use some inspiration from you, Dianne.”
“Not possible. Truly!” she said.
“Why not?” I teased, “Are you married?”
“No,” nor never have been. But then I may be soon.”
“Someone lucky at your table?
“No,” she laughed. “You are a curious man.” But Dianne Bakker was deep into this game with me, no matter what her words were saying. Her eyes invited me to certain places. “I must go back now,” she said suddenly. “I promised the next dance to someone else.”
“But I must not lose you,” I said, “Couldn’t we lunch together, or have dinner?”
But her expression said something else. Again, her door was open, if only I could somehow squeeze past. But I must be quick about it. There was so little time.
“I must go back now,” she repeated to me then dropped her arms, stopped dancing and looked seriously into my gray eyes, to say: “When I’m with you, Mr. Stahr, I don’t breathe quite right.” She turned, picked up her long dress and stepped back through the mirror we had danced through.
And I followed, until I stopped near her table.
“Thanks for the dance,” she offered, “and now, ‘really,’ Good night!”
I walked back to another table and sat down with Wall Street Bankers, public relations officials —- but I noticed that among them, Greystone laughed loudest. So I sat there with all these businessmen, pretending to listen, and nodding when someone referred to me as ‘The Pioneer’ ….. but all the time I watched the woman who sat at the other table.
Then suddenly I saw her get up to leave —– she was escaping from, again!
I watched her pantomime at her table. She was actually leaving! “There!” intoned Graystone, who had also been watching her —- “Goes Cinderella.”
But I caught up with her finally, in the long upper lobby. “Am I responsible for your leaving?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “I was going anyway….” But she added almost resentfully, “They talked as if I’d been dancing with the Prince of Wales. They all just stared at me when you and I were dancing. Then one of them wanted to see me tomorrow.”
I laughed, then offered her this: “That’s what I want to do.” Then in a whisper, “but I want to see you so much more.”
“You insist so,” she spoke wearily. “The reason I left London was that men always want their way. I thought it would be different over here. Isn’t it enough that I don’t want to see you again?”
The young woman hesitated. “You should see this for what it is,” she said, finally.
“Just what is it?” I asked.
“Well, you’ve fallen for me, completely. You have me in your dreams.”
“But I’d forgotten your name,” I reminded her.
“Forgotten me with your words, perhaps. But the first time I saw you I knew you were the kind who likes me —-!” She stopped short.
Near us was a man and a woman from the party who were saying their good-bye’s: “—-tell her hello…all of them…the children, too!”
I could never talk like that, the way other people spoke. And so I could think of nothing further to say to Dianne Bakker, as we walked slowly toward the elevator….except: “I suppose you’re perfectly right.”
“Oh, so you admit it, do you?”
“No, I don’t.” I made a hasty retreat. “It’s just the whole way you look this very minute —-!”
My first impression of her had been her face. Her eyes were shattered lights and colors.
“Black men are such pretenders,” she said, and then I noticed faint lines beside her mouth.
“The problem with Black men,” she informed, “is their perpetual romance with slavery.”
I looked at her keenly.
She laughed and then said, “But trust in science to put us all straight.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. “Science is quite reasonable and therefore unreliable,” I answered.
“How dreadful!” she cried. “I can understand brute force, but sheer reason is quite unbearable.”
“Is that Plato?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” she smiled. “Philosophy is the key.”
“Ohhh—-” I surmised, breaking off sharply and offering her a smile.
The subject changed: “Tomorrow I play a game against the New York Giants, and afterward I’ll be tired and beat up. But if there’s anything you need, let me arrange it for you.”
The two of us were standing by the elevator. It opened but she let it go on down. “You’re very modest,” she observed. “You always ask me to watch you play. Don’t you ever work?”
“Tomorrow, against New York, I’ll think about you.”
“Oh, the poor man!” she chided, “I could weep for you. You could have all the women in the world yet you’ve chosen me.”
I smiled at her act. I had laid myself open.
The elevator came again. “If I meet with you, will you leave me alone afterward? No, you won’t! You’ll make it worse. So I’ll say no thank you.”
I got inside and stood beside her. We dropped down two floors then the door opened onto a mall — cross-sectioned with small shops. “I know a quick way out of here,” I informed, and we walked through a drugstore, down another hall and came out into the night. I felt detached from the dance now, and she appeared to feel the same way.
“College students used to live this end of Pittsburgh,” I said to her. “Gene Kelly lived over there! And Jonas Salk lived just down the street.”
“But doesn’t anybody live here now?” she asked, smiling broadly.
I confessed. “I used to live here once. It was a very long time ago.” I reflected, but did not mention that Laura Ellis and Samantha O’Neal had lived just across the street.
“How old are you?” Dianne asked. “They said at my table you were some kind of Pioneer.”
“I feel that old, sometimes,” I laughed easily, the way I had in college.
“I’ll meet with you,” she offered, “but where?”
Suddenly I drew a blank and could think of no place I liked. She would not go to another party, surely not a ride in the country. She seemed hard to please, so finally I suggested I would come and get her, and then we could decide.
“That won’t do at all,” she complained.
“Then we’ll meet on this very spot.” I pointed up to an arch.
Then I walked her to her car, and later watched it rasp away. I wondered whether to return to the dance floor, and when finally I did, I found it held plenty of room to maneuver. But it also seemed so lonely, dancing around the room, since Dianne Bakker had left. For me, Dianne had taken the evening with her…..left my ballroom empty.
There was nothing left for me now…as I danced the night away with some pretty girl, from Pittsburgh.
Dewey Edward Chester at Barnes & Noble