Everybody knows Lonnie. I pick him up and we go to lunch. The hostess, Denise, the lady who I had talked to about Ray Charles and some of the musicians she had worked with in the music industry when I was in a couple of weeks ago, she knows Lonnie.
The waitress knows Lonnie. She knows me too. She knows what I want before we even sit down. Chicken salad sandwich on sourdough. Lonnie orders a cheese omelet.
Robert comes by. He always keeps his sunglasses on. He starts to invite the waitress over to sit with us and I say Robert you’re pickup lines are starting to wear thin. He says I’m not trying to pick up anyone. Just trying to socialize, have a little conversation. If you can’t talk to the girls on a nice sunny day like today, what’s the use, he says.
I love you man, I say to Robert .
I’m going to tell Lonnie about you and my blog, Okay? I tell Lonnie that I’d run into Robert about three times in thirty six hours and finally I’d showed him a chapter from the novel and he read it and then he put it down without saying anything. I said, what, you don’t like it and he said hey, I didn’t throw it away, that’s something. His way of encouraging writers, I guess. I asked him if he'd looked at my blog and he said he saw something I sent but he didn't read it. So when I saw him a couple of days later he was talking about one of his girl friends and how she’d been hesitant or something with his brash come-ons and I said, hey, why don’t you just read my blog? We get together, what, once every six months? And the conversation is ninety nine percent you, I said, and one percent me, so read it, okay?
He emailed me that afternoon. I like the grey background, he said. I emailed back, just read it! He sends back this policy he has. A statement that he doesn't read anything literary and some other stuff about how he doesn’t have time and he just reads law books and don’t take it personally buddy boy just go with the flow. I tell this to Lonnie.
Robert grins, hiding behind his sunglasses. I love you man, I say.
The food comes and Lonnie has this huge plate with a cheese omelet and rice and beans and my sandwich looks small. Robert looks on. He lights up a Marlboro from a green box.
Denise comes out and banters with us, asks Lonnie how he’s been and asks him if he’s still with his girl friend. He says no, they broke up. That was a year ago. Denise says oh, I didn’t know. She asks Robert if he needs anything. He doesn’t have any food and he’s smoking. He says no, unless you want to give me a neck massage. He rubs his neck. She laughs. Oh not now, she says, I’m working but that’s the kind of thing that’s for after work. She leaves and I look at Robert. I love you, man, I say, and slap his knee.
Robert gets ready to leave and we shake hands. I invite him to our festival we’re planning, me and Lonnie. It’s blues, barbecue, baseball, beer, broads, beans, stuff that starts with B, I say. My place. Listen to some music. Robert says yeah, maybe, unless I’m fucking Clara. Beer and barbecue, I say, and Robert says yeah, unless me and Clara are fucking. I don’t want to interrupt that, I say, but you got to eat. He gets up.
Lonnie says he’s been laying low. The cheese omelet looks really good, all gooey, hanging down from the fork. My sandwich has stale bread.
I’m fine, Lonnie says, just laying low. Sometimes I just get tired of people. But you’re okay? I say. Yeah, I’m okay, he says. I stayed in the house for the entire day yesterday, he says. Just watched movie after movie after movie. Hamlet, he says. The best. Laurence Olivier, he says, and I say, yeah, he’s the best. He ran down his top five Shakespeare movies; Olivier in Hamlet, then Othello with Orson Wells and Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew with
Albert says he’ll send me over some of his poetry, but only the old stuff. Not ready to go public with the new stuff, he says, and I say I’m not the public, and he grins. Later he says he’ll send over some older stuff but warns me that it’s kind of amateurish.
I think people who write poetry have heart and soul and are brave. I didn’t tell Lonnie this, but I think he knows.