Chapter Six: Melissa and Joe

It was early in the evening on New Year’s Day. Rob and Sandra were fixing supper. Steve and Jennifer were following the news on the internet. There was a fatal crash under investigation. They were able to glean some details.

The doorbell rang. “Who is it?” Sandra asked.

“My name is Melissa, and I need to speak to you.” the woman replied.

Sandra looked at Rob. “I don’t know. It’s up to you.” he said. She buzzed the buzzer. A minute later, a man and woman were at the door.

“It’s about Andy.” the woman said. “I need to talk to you people.”

Rob let them in. They sat down on the sofa. Steve and Jennifer walked in and took seats.

The woman explained, “My name is Melissa. I just got a visit from the New Hampshire State Police. They found my phone number in Andy’s pocket this morning. They didn’t find identification. They came to my house to ask me some questions. Then I saw it on the news. Once I had a full name, I was able to look you people up. This is Joe.” She pointed to the man next to her.

“Maybe I can explain this more easily.” Joe said. “Last night, I was sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Manchester, near the theater. A man walked in and spotted Melissa.”

Melissa joined in. “Andy knew the title of the book I’d be reading. That was the signal, so we would be able to meet. It was a blind date.”

Joe spoke again. “The man walks in and meets this woman, Melissa. He wants to take her to the concert at the theater. She wants him to sit down and chat. Reluctantly, he takes a seat, because he has no choice. She asks him where he’s from. He says, ‘I live in Nashua.’ She asks him if he’s from New Hampshire all his life. He dodges the question, asking her again if they can just go to the concert. She asks where he is from originally. He says, ‘Well, anyway, could we go to the concert?’ She smiles and says, ‘Tell me where you are from originally.’ He says, ‘No. Could we please just skip this and go to the concert?’ She smiles and says, ‘I just want to get to know the guy I’m dating. Where did you grow up?’ He looks at her right in the eye and says, ‘What part of no don’t you understand? No means no! Now do you want to sit there and interrogate me, or do you want to go to the concert? Like, for the fifth time, can we please just go to the concert?’ She got all bent out of shape and said, ‘I wouldn’t go to a concert with you if you were the last man alive.’ She stands up and gets ready to walk out. I looked at her and said, ‘I’m free tonight.’ She looked at me and smiled. I said, ‘It’s only a concert. Let’s go.’ She liked the idea. So we went.”

Steve posed the tough question. “Did it even occur to you that maybe he didn’t want to answer your question? Like, he asked you several times if he could politely dodge the question, and you wouldn’t let him, so then you got angry when he dodged it impolitely. It’s called assertiveness.”

Melissa replied, “Well, all I wanted to know was where he grew up.”

“So you kept asking him a question that he didn’t want to answer, and then you got angry because he didn’t want to answer it. Who in their right mind would want to admit they grew up in Connecticut?” Steve said.

Rob said, “So maybe he was angry that Melissa wouldn’t go on the date with him. But how would that explain a truck hitting him?”

Joe explained, “My guess is, he walked into the path of the truck. What else would he be doing on a ramp to the Everett Turnpike? I think that’s what they’re investigating.”

“This happened on a ramp?” Sandra asked.

“Yes, the ramp that leads from Middlesex Road in Tyngsborough to the F.E. Everett Turnpike in Nashua.” Joe replied.

“Well, Andy never was a racist.” Rob said. “I don’t think he was any angrier just because his date runs off with a Negro man.”

Joe observed, “Not at all. In fact, get this. When we were getting ready to leave the coffee shop, Andy gets all furious and walks up to me. I thought the situation might turn violent. Then he handed me the concert tickets. He said it was sold out, so I would need them. He gave them to me for free. I couldn’t believe it. Then he just walked away.”

Melissa started crying. Joe comforted her. “Oh, come on, Melissa, what did we do?”

Steve joined in. “What didn’t we do? The guy hasn’t gotten any in four years. Now it’s the end of another entire year that he hasn’t gotten any. So, naturally, we have to throw a humungous party to mark the occasion. We have to assemble on the city square, fifty thousand strong. We have to hire a technician to synchronize the chronometer against an atomic clock in Washington, D.C., like we’re rocket scientists launching the Space Shuttle, but we’re just marking the occasion that Andy ends another year without getting any. We even count down the seconds. When else, during the year, does anybody care what’s in the seconds column? When else, during the year, can you get an all-circuits-are-jammed recording when you’re calling the Time Lady? And then at exactly that moment, T zero, twelve o’clock straight up, the stroke of midnight, U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock time, everybody explodes in one massive celebration, uninhibited because we’ve all been drinking, everybody starts hugging and kissing in public, and slow dancing to Auld Lang Syne, showing Andy what he’s missing. How could we possibly do a better job of intensifying his anguish? What didn’t we do?”

“Well, I don’t think the celebration was just to show off what people like Andy can’t have.” Joe suggested.

“Oh, of course not.” Jennifer said. “We’re all celebrating that we have a new number to write down when we fill out the rent check.”


Copyright © 2004 Tom Alciere