By: Nina Fosati
Vickie wasn’t a hard core Women’s Libber, but the notion of being a DJ appealed to her. Even though she had no experience, she auditioned for the college radio station. The manager said she had a sexy voice. When she was ready, he’d give her the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. slot.
He introduced her to Moondog who trained Vickie by having her watch while he ran his radio show. She liked his easy, unaffected confidence. His neatly trimmed red beard made a striking contrast with his fair hair. Running the soundboard seemed direct enough. She was eager to try. He insisted she stand rather than sit when she spoke into the microphone. It was better for breath control. He stood behind her ready to turn a dial or press the correct button if she got flustered. His closeness was a distraction. Vickie shook the bangs out of her eyes and focused on her task.
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Seated in the front row of a crowded classroom a few weeks later, she waited for a meeting to begin. A circle of student DJs jammed around the periphery. They jockeyed for position. Moondog crowded into the one-armed desk chair on her left. No one could see his fingers run down the outside of her thigh. His touch made her squirm, then ache.
“Stop it,” she hissed. He continued to caress her thigh, a wicked grin on his face. She pressed his hand firmly against her leg and whispered, “What’s the matter with you? Are you high? Stop now or I’ll pull you into the hallway and jump you right in front of everyone.” His laughter infuriated her.
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It was mid-November and she was at the dorm to pick up her date. Vickie stood in the middle of Dave’s room. She wore a black velvet gown that had a halter top and was form fitting through the torso. It flared out in swirling panels to the floor and was the sexiest dress she owned. Calling for Dave, Moondog charged into the room. Like a sailor balancing on a pitching deck, he weaved before making an abrupt stop. He stood open-mouthed. Then he circled her, hand out-stretched to caress her exposed skin, drew back, circled again. She stood frozen. Moondog glanced at Dave with a puzzled expression. She could almost hear him ask: Are you really going out with him?
The interminable evening over, Vickie dropped Dave outside his dorm. She drove to the opposite side of the building and parked. The frosty night air slowly infiltrated the car and she shivered. Why hadn’t she invited Moondog to the banquet instead? If she had, she might be standing outside of a Holiday Inn guest room fumbling to get the door unlocked.
She let herself fantasize how his beard would tickle as he slowly nibbled his way down her back. How his heavy, muscular body would weigh her down, drive into her. She wanted to stride into the dorm, ring him up, invite him to join her for the rest of the night. Damn, she was sad and horny and lonely and she was going home alone.
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“I know you’re interested.”
“I have a girlfriend.”
“So you say.” The girlfriend ploy was a shield. He never added, who I love. Vickie would shake her head. He would scowl. Their attraction was more than flirtation.
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Vickie stood in the threshold and contemplated Moondog. He sat in a recliner and ignored the Christmas festivities that surrounded him. She’d had a bit too much to drink, but what the hell? Vickie snuggled into his lap and placed her hands on his beard. “Why so somber?” When she leaned in to kiss him, he twisted his head away.
“I have a girlfriend.”
Vickie snorted. Her ex had claimed he loved her, but that hadn’t stopped his diddling other girls. She was tired of men wanting it both ways. Moondog’s behavior wasn’t fair to any of them.
“How many times are you going to say that? Here, I’ll make it easy for you.” She waved to an acquaintance, then climbed out of the chair. When she glanced back a few minutes later, he was gone.
When Moondog didn’t return for spring semester, Vickie wondered if her words had hit home. At least he’d finally decided.
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By early March, Vickie had switched to hosting a daytime show. She popped into the station manager’s office to see if he had any notes. Moondog was there. They both looked up as she entered. Moondog opened his arms wide. With a lopsided grin he said, “I can’t walk away,” paused, then finished in a rush, “I broke up with my girlfriend.”
Vickie steered him into an adjoining office. Her legs trembled. She sat on the desk, pulled him close. He stood between her knees, hands on her shoulders.
“Why are you here? You haven’t called; haven’t written. I’m with someone else.”
Moondog grabbed for her left hand, “Are you married? Are you wearing a wedding ring? Let me see.”
“No.” Vickie tugged her fingers out of his grasp. “But I feel like there’s one. I’m with him now.”
Vickie stared into his handsome, frustrated face. She drew him in for an electric kiss. She couldn’t breathe for the sensuousness of it. She focused on his blue-gray eyes, whispered goodbye.
As she crossed the campus green, she wondered if she should change her mind. One shared dinner wouldn’t hurt, would it? No, she had deliberately altered the tempo of her life. She had found new songs to play. She resolutely put thoughts of him aside.
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The music that filled her life in the 1970s faded. Formats evolved, LPs collected dust on the shelf. Eventually, songs were converted from analog to digital and re-issued. Nostalgic for her record spinning days, Moondog came to mind. Her memory skipped through his tracks and she contemplated their last meeting.
He had introduced Vickie to several of her favorite songs. She often sought his advice when she pulled records for her shows. She typed the words: lyrics “I Can’t Walk Away” into Google. The truth had nestled in a chorus from Rob Nelson’s first album and waited.
This is my confession
Can’t stop this obsession
I know you might hurt me
May even desert me
But I can’t walk away
Have to have you today
Quoting lyrics was his style. It was one of the ways they clicked. She had completely missed the reference.
The revelation hammered into her. While they had jousted, they had been learning each other. When he’d said, “I can’t walk away,” he meant it was much more than flirtation. She was right. He had wrestled with his knowledge and chosen her.
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Vickie added “I Can’t Walk Away” to her playlist where it niggled and pecked at her. It pulled a memory out and threw the forgotten final scene in her lap. She barely had time to pull the car over. Sobs shook her body as she searched for something, anything, to blot the tears. In desperation, she pulled soiled napkins and discarded Kleenex out of the garbage bag. She hated when she broke down as she drove to work. The sadness would color the entire day.
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In the chaotic end-of-semester departures, Phil, her bossy housemate, had designated Vickie deliverer of their resident tuxedo cat. He gave her a folded piece of paper and said, “Moondog told me not to put the cat to sleep. Said he’d take it. If he doesn’t come get it, bring it to him.”
Vickie dutifully brought the cat to Moondog’s apartment. He opened the door. She’d never seen him so subdued. She peeked around his shoulder into the room beyond. “I didn’t know you had moved here. How many bedrooms does it have?”
Moondog said there were two; his was a pretty good size. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, looked down at his sneakers.
Why are we talking about bedrooms? Has he been living here all along? Romantic images whirled through her mind, a trail of discarded clothes strewn on the floor, like fairytale crumbs that led to his bed.
“I’m sorry, I can’t take the cat.” Moondog murmured, then moved to shut the door.
Vickie shoved the carrier into the threshold with her foot. “You have to take her. You told Phil you would.”
Moondog peered down at the box. His eyebrows furrowed. “It’s Phil’s cat, right Why didn’t he bring it?”
“He’s already moved out. He took a job in Rochester.” Confused, words failed her. Phil had commanded, and she had barely objected. She turned toward the foyer, then raised a hand to brush the felted wallpaper. She examined the pattern for answers. Why had she come? Since that day in March, she had resolutely pushed all thoughts of him away. They were over. She’d moved on. She assumed he had too.
She rotated to find him staring at her. Sorrow shadowed his eyes. Then he backed into his room and softly closed the door behind him. The cat carrier deftly remained outside.
“No!” Vickie sprang forward and rattled the doorknob. She pounded on the door and begged, “You have to take her. You said you would. Please, I can’t keep her. I already have two.”
Vickie leaned her forehead against the woodwork. The apartment door remained shut. It was eerily quiet on the other side.
She glanced around to be sure no one was watching. She hesitated, then bent down and opened the carrier; the cat popped out. Vickie watched for a few moments as it purred and rubbed against a column in the lobby. Its upright tail twitched with apprehension. She blinked back tears as she let herself out of the building.
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