Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me By, Shawn M. Cohen

I finished my shift at the upstairs bar and cashed out. Art pulled me aside and whispered, "Just give me time to get down there, so see you about 2:30? You won't forget now, will ya?" he asked me with some hint that maybe I wouldn't show up. "No, Art, I will be there, about 2:30. See you then." He gave me a big smile and off I went, out the door of the Encore in Shadyside, to the parking lot and in my mother's car bound for home. I could have gone out until then but this gave me the perfect opportunity to relax and change before I drove to Downtown and Liberty Ave. I didn't want to over do it, just casual, so I had a quick shower and put some jeans on, a pretty buttoned down pink cotton shirt and some open toed sandals with wedge heels. Casual but Chic, I thought. I did my make-up and put on my favorite perfume from Lancomb which was "Magie Noir". I loved the smell of this, and only used it for a special night out or a special date. Before I knew it, it was coming up to 2 am. Time to leave now. A bit nervous, I quietly made my way out of my house, not wanting to wake up my mother or my younger brother. I gently closed and locked the front door. I started the car, slowly backed out of the driveway, and I was finally on my way. What would happen tonight with Art? I didn't know but I did know that first I would also have to find a place to park downtown. There was a 24 hour parking lot across the street and slightly down the road of the Encore II but the area was not very safe. I thought about Art getting everyone out of The Encore II quickly so he could have his date with me and that image put a smile on my face. He always made me smile to myself, he is such a character! When that realization finally dawned on me that he had been doing all these attentive things for me not because he was a nice Boss but actually because he really liked me, wow! That look on his face when he tore into those guys who were harassing me, the tenderness in his eyes when he ran up the stairs to make sure I knew he was not an ogre but that he did that for me, to defend me because he liked me! It took my breath away even now as I was driving in the dark towards Liberty Ave. I wonder what will happen with him now? I thought along the long empty streets, just lit by a street lamp here and there. I put on the radio, the DJ was playing Neil Diamond singing, "Forever in Blue Jeans". I sang along..."maybe tonight, maybe tonight by the fire, all alone, you and I, nothing around but my heart and the sound of your sighs..."
I finally pulled into the well lit 24 hour parking lot across the street from The Encore II, about a block away. I took the ticket as I went in and found a space right away. Not many people parking in there in the middle of the night, in fact, it was almost empty. I locked the car up, with my purse firmly tucked under my arm, I quickly walked across the empty street. Nothing was open but maybe some After Hour Clubs around the corner. I knew of them, I had been to them by now with Robbie and some of the waitresses at the Encore I. But it was still scary out here. A lone yellow cab went by, no traffic at all on the road. I hoped Art was there. My heart started to pound in my chest. God, I pray he is there. I had now crossed the street and came to the big red door. I took a deep breath, fixed my straight long hair, which the hot summer night wind had blown all over the place, and knocked loudly on the door. Quickly checking my watch, it was exactly 2:30am.
The door swung open by Art, whose eyes lit up, still dressed in his suit, as he said bowing to me like a butler, "Welcome to my world, won't you come on in..." I recognized it right away as an Elvis song. His hand holding the door open and the other gesturing for me to "come in". I giggled because I got his reference. He was smiling from ear to ear. His tie was now loosened up around his neck and he was clearly "off duty". "Come in, Shawn, so glad you could make it, would you like a drink?" He walked me to the long, now empty, rectangular bar. The back lights of the bar were on, and the house lights were on too but very low. "Sit down here and make yourself comfortable, what would you like to drink?" He offered me the bar stool and I put my purse on the bar, taking out my cigarettes. He went behind the bar and put on the stereo with one flick of a switch. It was Sinatra, who I was beginning to realize now that Art really liked. It was soothing and intimate, one of his love songs. "I'll have a glass of dry white wine, thanks Art." I said as I took out a cigarette. He was so happy and clearly glad to see me. However, I had to think how it was weird, strange, like a step out of time, to be in the restaurant with no one else but us two there. I had to have a quick glimpse around just to see what it looked like empty. "Comin' right up!" Art took off his tie and put it in his jacket pocket, opened up his top shirt button, as he poured my glass of white wine. He put a cocktail napkin down in front of me, put the filled wine glass on it and then lit my cigarette with his lighter and its enormous flame. I laughed. "Why do you have your lighter flame up so high?" I asked him. "Don't know, I like it that way." he said, smiling at this question. "So, Art, what will you have?" He took off his jacket and laid it over the far end of the bar. He was clearly getting comfortable. "I never drink, ya know, but today, well this is a special occasion, maybe a Chevis".
Sinatra was singing away in the background, "When somebody loves you, its no good unless they love you, All the Way..." Art poured his Chevis on the rocks and came out from behind the bar to sit next to me on the next bar stool. "Hi, Baby." he said to me, "Hi Art." I smiled back at him noticing he called me "Baby",( and I liked it, too.) He raised his glass for us to clink them together, which I did with his. "Here's to Shawn Cohen, who has the bluest bedroom eyes I have ever seen, and the prettiest face, too." I blushed from here to China and back. "Thanks Art." I managed to say. He looked at me, stared at me, scanned my whole face, my hair , while I took a sip of my wine. "You do know that about yourself, don't you?" he asked me searching my eyes. "No, Art, not really but thank you." I didn't want to go there but Art clearly wanted to. "Listen, Shawn..." he took my hand in his and held it as he continued..."you know from the minute I saw you, I don't know what happened to me, I just couldn't get your face, those eyes, out of my mind!" I laughed because he said it like he was as perplexed as he was ardent. He continued, "I just hope maybe, you like me a bit, too?" He searched my eyes again, to see any sign of it. "Art, I wouldn't have come here tonight if I didn't think you were someone I wanted to get to know better." I took a sip of my wine. He grinned again satisfied, for now, with my answer. He took a sip of his Chevis. "Good, cause I wouldn't want you to do anything you wouldn't want to do!" he said it in such a funny way, commanding and cute, like a comedian giving a punch line. I laughed again. "I won't, don't worry... so what now?" I asked wondering what we were going to do here in the empty Encore II. "How about we just talk and get to know each other a bit more." I was glad he said this, he wanted to know me more and he wanted me to go first. "Tell me about yourself, Shawn." That was it. I talked and he talked and we talked about everything. First work, then eventually we got to more personal stuff. Art listened to me, commented as he went, asked me another dozen or so questions. He was interested, not just making conversation. He wanted to know about my hopes and my dreams and my opinion about various things. I got the distinct impression my thoughts were important to him so I told him that I really wanted to go back to California. Turns out he also loved California and told me how much he also longed to go back there. "That is where I always wanted to live. I fought there a couple of times, when I was boxing and I always liked it out there, so pretty, can't beat it, can you?" We agreed on this. Art poured us two more drinks, the music was playing soft and low, a backdrop to our conversation. It never crossed my mind to ask him his age. I looked at his handsome face, dark brown eyes, black, thick, somewhat curly, almost wild hair, sideburns just like Elvis, and the stature of his big frame. He was sweet, warm, funny and intelligent. His eyes seem to say much more then his mouth but he had the quirkiest expressions, too which he could "act" or put on. He confessed to me that his life was, "All an act! I'm the Great Pretender." I asked him what he meant by that. "You know, people expect me to be "The Boxer, The Champ", give 'em the old One, Two, make 'em laugh, act dumb, punchdrunk, all that crap...but I'm not like that, really, I am also a person, Shawn." I realized that it must be hard to be "on" all the time. I was touched he shared this very private part of himself with me. He was now not the person he was at work. He was more relaxed, and much more there with me, in the moment. Articulate, intelligent, the Macho Boxer Champ was not there. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was seeing him differently with each passing moment. He told me he was married once before the current one he was in the process of divorcing, to a woman who, in the end, wouldn't let him box, didn't want him to get hurt, so in the end, they divorced because he wanted to prove himself to the world as a boxer. It was a long time ago. He also told me where he was from, New Kensington, and that he grew up in Whitaker, near Kenny Wood Park; Pittsburgh's answer to Disneyland. He reached his hand across to my face and touched my cheek gently, he also squeezed my leg with his two thighs quickly as we sat there. "Art, it's getting late and soon the Sun will be up. I better go." It was nearly 4:30am and in the summer the Sun would be up any minute. "Gee, I wish you could stay longer, it's so nice to be with you, Shawn." He stood up and helped me off the bar stool with his hand, like a true gentleman. "I know, Art, me, too but when the sun comes up and the birds are just singing away, I can't sleep, can you?" He smiled at me, "Depends who I am with!" and I laughed. He walked me to the front door, holding my hand. It was warm, felt so nice in my hand, like it belonged there, although bigger it fit like a glove, making me feel even more connected to him. By the door, I looked up at him, and said, "Thanks for a nice time, Art." He took my face in his hands and looked into my eyes. "I hope to have a lot more of these times with you, Shawn Cohen." and he tenderly pushed my hair back away from my face with his big hand. He let his hand glide down my hair, touching it, feeling it down my back. Then he closed his eyes and slowly kissed me. It was a gentle but firm kiss on my lips. A kiss I felt the whole drive home. A kiss when I got into my single bed in my home, in my summer night gown, when I had laid my head on my pillow, I still felt on my lips.

"The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me ", By, Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. All events are true, some names have been changed for privacy. These blogs are installments from the book I am currently writing of the same name. All video and song lyrics are copyrighted to their perspective songwriters, composers and performers. No copyright infringement intended.

1 comment:

  1. Yummy, raced right through it....ready for more!

    ReplyDelete