Tom Spader / August 2015
Looking up through the skylight, Kaye watched the colors of the sky change from fading blues to a warmer palate of yellows, pinks and purples. “Twilight through the Skylight”, she mused. She scribbled it in her note book. Kaye wondered if he even noticed that the sky seemed to explode each night before they met. She broke the point off her pencil with her next note, “I doubt it!!!!!”
Kaye had been meeting Reed at the city library three nights a week through the summer to tutor him with his reading. She was a volunteer. Reed was the classic story of the kid pushed through the education system because of his athletic prowess, graduating from high school with nothing more than a third grade reading ability. He explained that he was, at twenty five, needing to improve his reading skills because of something at work.
This was to be their last session for the summer. It would be a month before the fall tutoring program began. Kaye forced herself to be at the “now-or-never” bridge in her thirty two years and caution to the wind, tonight she was laying it on the table. She was going to let Reed know that she was, as a magazine put it, in language unfamiliar to her, “hot for his bod.” She was anxious, but... "Life is short. Live in wonder over the what ifs or put it out there," the glossy pages told her.
She had been honing her own skills in the months that they had been studying together. While Reed was home practicing with his fourth grade manuals, Kaye was up to the early morning hours studying the latest copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan. While he learned his past and present participles, she studied make-up and hair styles and “French-kissing techniques that will make his toes curl.”
Kaye had written a note trying to explain how she felt. She even sprayed perfume in the air and waved the note through, scenting her words and hitting, as they said, his trigger points?
Up until tonight, Kaye had kept herself just the same way she appeared when they first met. She had always worn her dark hair pinned back and her make-up, if any, at a minimum. She always dressed, as her magazine now told her, like a nerd. She never knew. Tonight she was going to give him a small taste of the new Kaye and then over the month break she would complete the transformation into one of the hip Cosmo girls she was reading about. Tonight she had pulled only some of her hair back, letting strands frame her face. She put on lipstick, mascara and some eye shadow. She had also done something that the magazines said was sure to catch his eye. She had left her apartment, she still could not believe herself, without a bra ... well, at least without it on. She didn’t actually leave without it entirely. She had tucked it away in her over-sized purse as her safety net. She only made it from her house, riding the bus with her books held against her, to the library’s women’s room before she panicked and dashed into one of the stalls to quickly put it back on.
Kaye was sitting at their usual table upstairs watching the sky darken. She pulled a small mirror from her bag and checked her face. She tucked her hair behind her ear, untucked it, then tucked it again. She still was having trouble believing that she was going through with this. The woman looking back at her from the mirror seemed much more confident than the one she was feeling inside.
Her stomach was in a knot. She had already decided to wait until the end of the session to hand Reed her note explaining that she wanted to be much more to him than his tutor. Doing this at the end would give her a chance to run, in case he laughed. If she let him know at the start of the lesson and he laughed, she was so responsible that she would have sat there for the allotted time and then run embarrassed, crying to the bus. No, she would wait until they were calling it a night and making plans for the next program. He was already signed up. She had pulled his file and made sure that she would be his instructor.
Yes, “tonight’s the night”, she thought, taking one last look in the mirror. She casually touched the clasp between her buttons through the front of her shirt making sure everything was where it was supposed to be. She had the fleeting thought of going back into the ladies room and with her fingertips still touching between the folds of her shirt, Reed’s pile of books hit the table startling her from her thoughts.
“Evening, Miss Kaye”, Reed said, sitting down across from her. She hated when he said "Miss Kaye." It made her feel so much older than the seven years that were between them.
“Hey Reed, how's it going?” Kaye said trying to sound less formal than usual, wondering if he noticed anything different ... her hair, her make-up .... "Oh God," she thought, quickly pulling her hand from the folds of her shirt.
“Good, real good. I finished the fourth grade reader and I’m looking forward to the break.”
“Me too, I’ve got a lot of things planned.”
As Reed bent to tie his over-sized basketball shoe, Kaye panicked at the thought of actually handing him her note and with his eyes distracted, she slipped her note into the folds of his backpack. He would find it later and not in front of her. The girl in the mirror was no longer there.
The note laid it out and said she wanted to be more than teacher and student. She tried to sound cool like the magazines. It was just a few sentences. On the fifth draft she was finally able to sign it, "Love, Kaye." She was also so responsible that at the bottom she included the library's main number and adding, "In case you need to change tutors."
“I brought the one thing I’d like to read most, just like you suggested. It’s not a book or anything.” Reed said fumbling with the backpack. Kaye's note briefly appeared and her heart stopped, but Reed pushed it back in not noticing.
Kaye had told him, for the last session, to bring anything he wanted to read, but couldn’t ... no matter how complicated and the two of them would go through it and break it down. It was also to give Reed an incentive to keep him motivated during the month-long break.
Reed moved around the table and sat down next to Kaye and pulled a pink envelope from the pile. He placed it on the table between them. The closeness of their hands made Kaye's heart quicken. Turning slightly toward her, he slowly touched the broken seal along the back and turned back the flap. Inside, was a matching pink piece of paper with a woman's hand writing.
Kaye thought to herself, “How nice ...he’s brought a letter from his mother or some distant aunt he needs read.” She also thought that it would be nice to see another side the this man. He’s letting his guard down, she thought, this is going to make it easier later when he finds her note.
“I can’t read even half of this. She's one of those brainy types. She must think I’m some kind of genius. Look at all those big words," he said opening the papers. "There’s no way I can tell her I don’t know what she wrote, she'll think I'm some dumbass. I think it’s kind of personal and I really appreciate you helping me with this. I feel that we’ve gotten to be pretty close over the last few months.” Reed said sliding his chair closer to Kaye’s so they could look at the letter together.
“Reed, I’d like nothing more than to help you.” Kaye said, lightly touching his arm. “And I agree ... we have become so much more than teacher and student.”
Reed slid the pink papers from the envelope, slowly folded them and handed them to Kaye. She took them and imitating his gentleness, opened them and began reading out loud. As she read, her voice trailed off to a whisper.
Dearest Reed, “Dearest, that’s kind of odd for an aunt or relative," Kaye thought... I have hesitated with the utmost emotional stress to tell you the following. All my earnest and, while out of my common demeanor, seemly drastic attempts for you to notice me I must endure the almost sure chance for embarrassment to say the following. All my notes left at your work cart have gone unanswered. Notes? I am being transferred to the marketing department in the front building on Monday and I will no longer be able to be near you ... no longer will I be able to leave my words of affection for you. Affection?
I’m embarrassed to be doing this, but I am at my “now-or-never bridge”... hey that’s my bridge... and I am laying it on the proverbial line.
I want you so badly it hurts!!!! There it has been said. It’s been three months since I’ve been trying to say that and there it is.
If you don’t feel the same way I do ... simply do nothing and I will know. I do this now in case you are not interested in me. I will not have to see you everyday knowing that you are laughing at me with those beautiful eyes. If you don’t want me, I will understand. Life is so short. I had to give it a try.
“Love, Kaye?” Reed laughed. “That’s funny, her name is Linda.”
Observations at the supermarket
A kid's modern history lesson
As seen by me at 8 years old
Labor Day 1973
(Part III of the adventures of Haiku Lou)
Observations/true story while bar tending in Baltimore 1984
The night Nixon quit through my eyes at 15
Chance meeting in a snow covered city park
Observation at the all night mini mart
Adventures of a street poet
Lou and Omba in Washington Square
God's ant-like face shines
Changing roles in a city library
Coming soon ...