Two Different Worlds

I tucked Zach in bed on New Year’s Eve, 1994 and went to go check on the rest of the house.   The airport had been quiet this late on the night when everyone would be out finding a bar or a party to go to.  I’d found a cheap fare for flying in at six pm today, and was happy enough to just return home and get my ducks in a row before having to return to work on Monday.  I was looking forward to unpacking my bags, turning on Dick Clark and spending a quiet New Year’s alone with my happy memories of my week out East with my dad’s family.

I went into the kitchen and saw the number 6 blinking back at me from my answering machine.  6?  Everyone knew I’d be out east all week.   Who would have possibly called?

“Hey, I thought we were spending New Year’s together.  Don’t tell me you forgot.  Give me a call.”  BEEP.

“Seriously, I’m holding you to this.  It’s seven already.  Where are you?  Call me.”  BEEP.

“Alright, last chance.  I’ve got a bottle of wine with your name on it.  Call me.”  BEEP.

Paul.  Oh my goodness, Paul!

I had completely forgotten that just before the Christmas Break, our usual group at school had planned to go out for drinks.  One by one, every single person had canceled over the course of the day, leaving just Paul and I in the mix.  I had anticipated that my handsome coworker would cancel at that point, but he didn’t.  And so it happened that I had a lovely hour and a half sharing appetizers and a glass of wine with my esteemed colleague.  He was handsome, he was well read, he was family oriented.  And he was my age.   I couldn’t believe that he had actually been serious when he’d thrown out his comment about ringing in the New Year together.  So much did I not believe it that I’d completely forgotten about it over my break.

I hesitated for less than a second before I grabbed the phone off of the wall and dialed the ten digits he’d left on my machine.  He wouldn’t still be home, of course, but it would at least give me a thrill to hear his voicemail message on the phone.

“Hello?”

Oh my goodness.  Now what?

“Paul?  I didn’t think you’d still be home.”

“Why did you call me if you didn’t think I’d be here?   Where the hell have you been anyway?  I thought we had plans tonight.”

I laughed and explained that I’d just returned from the airport and that I felt badly that I’d forgotten about our little joke.  “So what did you end up deciding to do tonight?” I asked, snuggling in a little deeper under my warm blanket.

“Did you not listen to all of my messages?  I thought my plans were pretty straightforward.”

“I figured, though, by now you’d have figured out something else to do by now.  I mean you must have friends-”

Paul’s voice interrupted me.  “If you’ll just give me the directions to your place, I can still make it before midnight.”

My heart suddenly was in my throat.  He wasn’t kidding.  He was actually going to come to my house.  And spend New Year’s with me.  And God knows what else.  I didn’t know what to do, or to say.  Things like this didn’t happen to girls like me.  He was good looking.  He was African American.  He was well dressed, well read and could have any girl he wanted.  What on Earth did he see in me?  A million and one insecurities rushed forth.

“Well, you’ll take Eight Mile…”  I started.

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