“You seem really upset about something,” Donny insisted. He shifted his weight on the mattress as he spoke. “I don’t know what it is, but ever since you came in this afternoon you’ve been walking around like you were trying to get away from something.”
“It’s nothing,” said Deirdre. She didn’t want to go into it. “I ran into someone I’d rather not have seen. That’s all. It’s nothing for you to be concerned about.”
Donny leaped to his feet and was by her side in an instant. “What happened? Was some jerk giving you a hard time? Tell me right now who it was.”
Deidre couldn’t help but smile at this show of concern. “Oh, Donny. You should see yourself. You’re all ready to be the knight in shining armor setting out to protect his lady fair. I can’t tell you how sweet you look.”
Donny was insistent. “If someone was bothering you, I want to know who it was so I can deal with him. I can’t let him get away with it. That wouldn’t be right.”
Deirdre was growing concerned by her boyfriend’s outburst. She had never seen him act this way before. “What on earth’s come over you?”
“I just want to teach whoever it is that he shouldn’t be hassling my girlfriend. That’s all.” Donny made a fist and banged it helplessly against the wall.
“Shame on you,” said Deirdre. She regarded Donny uneasily. “Here you are always talking about Buddhism and non-violence, and now you want to go out and beat the daylights out of some poor fool you don’t even know. Can’t you see how wrong that is?”
“What am I supposed to do then? Just sit here while every guy in town gives you a hard time? No way.”
“Can’t you understand? No one gave me a hard time.” Deirdre was exasperated.
“It was one of those creeps who hang out at the Onion, wasn’t it? Those guys are nothing but a bunch of perverts to begin with.”
“Stop it this minute.” Deirdre had had enough. “All that happened was that I caught sight of a person I don’t care for very much. We didn’t say a word to one another. He didn’t even see me standing there in front of him. Honest.”
Donny calmed down. “Is that the truth?”
Deirdre looked hard at him then. “Donny, what have you been doing that you’re all of a sudden so paranoid? Do you really think I’d lie to you about such a thing?”
“I’m sorry,” Donny apologized. All the anger went out of him as quickly as it had come. “I must be going out of my mind.” With a bewildered look in his eyes, he eased his huge frame back down on the mattress. “I don’t know what made me act that way.”
Deirdre glanced up from the stove where she had begun heating up a potful of leftover chicken soup. “Well, I know if you don’t. It’s those drugs you’ve been getting from Johnny Hastings, that’s what. There’s something wrong with the stuff he’s peddling. God only knows what he’s been cutting it with.”
“Now who’s being paranoid? Johnny wouldn’t have many customers left if he started pulling tricks like that. For sure, I’d never fall for anything that obvious.”
Deirdre only sighed. “Like hell you wouldn’t, Donny. If Johnny told you he had a bridge to sell in Brooklyn, you’d give him your last dollar to buy it.”
“Oh, come on,” Donny protested. “I’m not as far gone as all that, am I?” He appeared embarrassed at the idea.
Deirdre threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, Donny, in some ways you’re so smart, like when you talk to me about the books you’ve read or about Asian philosophy. But you’re just too trusting when it comes to people. You’re never able to understand that there are some who are plain wicked and don’t mean anyone any good. That’s what’s so sad. You don’t know who to watch out for or how to protect yourself.” She kissed him on the cheek. “You’re nothing but a babe in the woods.”
Donny shook himself free. “Stop fooling with me. It’s not as bad as all that. I can take care of myself well enough.”
Deirdre shook her head. “No, you can’t. Your innocence is going to be the death of you one of these days when I’m not there to look out for you. And it’s the thought of that that keeps me awake at night.”
Donny took Deirdre’s arms from around his neck and held her back so that he could look in her eyes. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
Deirdre started to cry. “Oh, if only you knew how much I love you and worry about you. Then you wouldn’t keep doing these crazy things or hang out any more with that son of a bitch Johnny. But there’s no getting through to you. You hear what I’m saying, but you just won’t listen.”
“Hey,” Donny tried to soothe her. “Let’s lighten up a little.”
“I wish I could. I wish I could hold you in my arms for the rest of my life and know everything’s going to be all right.”
“It is going to be all right. You’ll see.” Donny picked up his denim jacket on whose sleeves Deirdre had embroidered a string of white doves. “Let’s get out of this place for a while. We need a change of scenery. It’s being cooped up in here that’s driving us both crazy.” He took his wallet from his jeans pocket and began to count the bills inside. “Why don’t we take a walk over to Bleecker Street and hang out while we listen to some live music? They’re bound to have some new bands playing at the Gate. And I got paid this afternoon, so we’ve got enough cash to at least buy beer. Let’s enjoy ourselves for once.”
Deirdre smiled. “I got a few dollars in tips too. We can make a party out of it.”
Hand in hand, they walked out the door and started down the stairs together.
It was after midnight when Donny and Deirdre returned to the apartment. They were both more than a little tipsy by then.
“Come to bed, Donny, and let me show you how much I love you, you big dope.”
Donny smiled. “I love it when you call me names. Just let me smoke a joint and mellow out first.” He picked a book off a shelf. “And while I’m at it, I’ll check out the I Ching and find out what life’s got in store for us.”
“Ok, you do that. Meanwhile, I’m going to change into something a little more comfortable,” she teased him. “Michelle – she’s one of the other dancers at the club – gave me a piece of lingerie she picked up on sale. I’ve been waiting for a chance to wear it for you.”
Donny gave a loud hoot. “That’s far out. Go in the bathroom and put it on then. I won’t peek. I promise.”
“I’ll be right back.” Deirdre giggled. “Don’t go anywhere now.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”
But when Deirdre returned a few minutes later, she found Donny frantically moving around the room. He had already taken all the paperbacks off the bookcase and thrown them in a pile on the floor.
“What’s up?” Deirdre asked. She didn’t take her eyes off Donny for an instant.
“They’re gone,” he answered. He looked at her in bewilderment.
“What’s gone?” Deirdre deliberately kept her voice as steady as possible.
“I picked up ten tabs of sunshine from Johnny yesterday. I put them right here on the bookcase next to the I Ching. Now they’re gone.”
Deirdre put on a blank expression. “Maybe you put them somewhere else. Or maybe you got stoned and tossed them by accident. You’ve done things like that before when you were high, you know.”
Donny shook his head. “No. That can’t be. They were right here. I’m sure of it.” He cast a suspicious glance at his girlfriend. “You didn’t take them, did you?”
“See what I mean about how paranoid you’re getting? You know I’d never touch your stuff. Why would I? I never drop acid myself.” Deirdre crossed her arms. “But if the stuff you’re getting from Johnny is messing your head up this bad, then I’m glad it’s gone. He’s selling you some really bad shit.”
Donny didn’t say anything else. He turned toward Deirdre long enough to give her a cold hard stare and then sat down on the mattress. An uncomfortable silence filled the apartment.