Callie focused on the latest stack of record albums he’d brought her from what seemed a limitless supply somewhere in the depths of his apartment. She couldn’t disappoint him again. It was what she always ended up doing with men, especially ones she really liked. She had it right this time though, she was sure of it and pulled out a 1981 Rolling Stones collaboration with Muddy Waters in response to his request for “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and held it out with a flourish. Grinning, he smacked his hands together, set it carefully on an old-time turntable and placed the needle on the right track. The familiar thump of the Rolling Stones filled the room. She grinned back in relief. Three out of four.
A silly game really, begun in the small hole-in-the-wall club down the street where she sometimes ventured out to listen to live music. They’d bumped into each other, locked eyes and with heart thumping loud enough to deafen her she’d retreated to the restroom. He was there when she came out but didn’t look her way again. She returned the same night the following week and then the next, hoping to see him again. He was there every single time, never far from where she stood. But he didn’t approach her until tonight. Their words burst out of them, like they’d been saving them up for years. All about music; he as passionate about the subject as was she, from Scriabin with his idiosyncratic tonal language, to 1930’s blues artist Robert Johnson, to Ravi Shankar, to Leonard Cohen to Ry Cooder. They were kindred souls. She drank more than she should’ve, and then she was in his place, taking him up on his challenge; he would name a track of a song or orchestral piece by some artist, hand her a stack of records and she had thirty seconds to pull the album containing that track.
They sat listening with rapt attention not looking at each other. She wanted to reach out to him, wanted to feel his skin close to hers, to run her fingers through the hair on his chest she could see peeping up over his T-shirt, she wanted his arms around her. The record came to an end. One more question to come. Would she get this one right? And then what?
“Good night Irene,” he said and she jerked upright, instant tears filling her eyes. She had disappointed him. What a fool she’d been. She glanced around for her sweater and purse and started to her feet.
“Where’re you going?” he cried, jumping up and grabbing both her hands. “Maybe if I said Good night Irene, it would’ve clued you in. Sorry I’m not good at this kind of thing, I mean we had this quiz thing going, I was just trying to . . . okay, it was a ploy to get you here. The thing is, I-I just really like you and I want you to stay. Wrapping his arms around her he gave her a long tender kiss. Finally he released her, reached down and shoved a fresh stack of records into her hands. “You’ll ace this one.”