The House Guest
The House Guest
Now, after an endless bus trip, I was actually there. I was, of course, terrified-of the immensity of New York City; of the audition; of the prospect of being accepted by the school; of the prospect of not being accepted; of my complete aloneness; and, more than anything else, of the unknown of my entire life waiting to unfold before me. But my terror did not deter me. I had been terrified before and had persevered, and would persevere again this time.
I had been warned about the Port Authority Bus Terminal, so as I looked for a telephone I kept tight hold on my suitcase, my purse, and my flute case.
"Hey, sweetie! First time in New York?" asked a tall man with long blond hair under a Beatles cap and the usual combination of tie-dye, denim, and army surplus. I glanced at his face. He wasn't bad-looking, with narrow gray eyes, and he needed a shave. He could have been anywhere from twenty to forty. He fell in step beside me; walking with that exaggerated bounce I called the hippie shuffle. "You know, New York can be a dangerous place for such a pretty girl." I could tell that I was smiling and blushing despite myself. "Can I help you with that? You got a place to stay?"
I pressed my lips together and shook my head, meaning to discourage him, but he misunderstood. "You got no place to go? Oh, sweetie! That's terrible! You wanna crash at my place?"
"No thank you."
"Hey, it's no problem. You can trust me. I'm Tim. What's your name?"
"I'm fine. Thank you. I have somewhere I'm going." I saw the bank of pay telephones across the vast lobby and headed toward them in what I hoped was a determined, purposeful manner.
"Oh yeah? You need a ride? My wheels are just outside. My chick Janey's waiting for me. You can ask her if it's okay."
Although I had never been to New York, I had had some experience being hit on before. Without stopping, I turned my head to look at him directly for the first time. "My husband is meeting me."
He was certain I was lying, but when he glanced down to my left hand, he saw a band on my ring finger. It was not a wedding band, but a ring my mother had given me. I had turned the small stone toward my palm automatically, as soon as I was aware of him approaching me.
"Where is he, then?"
"I have to call him," I said, nearing the telephone booths.
"If you were my wife, I'd be here waitin' for you." I could hear the smile in his voice. "Instead of letting her get hassled by guys at the bus station."
I stopped at an unoccupied telephone and put my suitcase on the floor between my legs. "That's enough," I said, no longer flattered and no longer amused. There was a man in a uniform about twenty yards away. I had no idea whether he was a New York City policeman or a private guard of some kind, but he had a gun belt. "If you don't leave me alone, I'll start screaming."
The hippie actually doffed his Beatles cap and bowed. "No need, sweetie. Welcome to the big city. I think you'll do just fine." Putting his hat back on his head, he turned and strolled back the way he had come, just as jauntily as if had just relieved me of my life savings, my hymen, and my self-respect. I lost sight of him in the crowd, and I turned toward the telephone, digging into my purse for my address book.
I put some money into the telephone and dialed the Andrews' number. At first, the call did not go through, but then I realized I had dialed the area code for Manhattan. When I dialed without the code, it rang.
After nine rings, as I was debating with myself between waiting and trying again versus trying another name on my list, Barbara answered the phone.
"Hello," she said, sounding hurried and distracted.
"This is Nona Williamson," I said, afraid that she wouldn't remember me, or would regret her offer. "I spoke to you a few days ago?"
"Hi, Nona!" she said, her