I pick up the grimy phone and count out enough coins for a four-minute call. Four minutes may not be enough time to solve everything between us, but it certainly should give me an idea what is going on.
I take a deep breath and dial. I listen as it rings five times and I’m about to give up.
I bring the phone quickly up to my ear. “Hey Pam, it’s me, Julia.”
There is a moment of silence.
“Yes, I’m on a payphone so I only have four minutes, which means this call has to be quick and to the point.” I take another deep breath, trying to organize my thoughts. “Pam, what’s happening?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that you somehow gave John and Paul some strange address and number that isn’t mine. Come on Pam, since when has my number not been in your direct memory?”
“For God’s sake Pam! Stop this! We’re supposed to be best friends! What’s happening? For the past three months you’ve been giving me the cold shoulder and I didn’t even do anything! You helped augment the already 3,469-mile divide between Paul and me. You did the same with John. Hell Pam, why did you do that? You have no idea how many excuses I’ve made up in my mind to keep you as the loyal best friend I’ve always had. But Pam I do hope you have an excuse that beats mine because I still have yet to find one that is truly understandable.”
“Pam stop being so damn quiet! Tell me and for God’s sake it better be the truth.” “I had meant to come and see you as Juliet, I really had.”
“Yea, John told me. But he also told me you had been busy and couldn’t make it and that you had even tried to contact me but had the wrong number.”
“Yes, well I was busy—“
“Busy Pam? Doing what? You never work. All you ever do is go out with your friends and screw John!”
The moment I say it I regret it but I can feel my anger building nonetheless.
“Fuck you! Bloody fucking you! There you go—you with your Beatles. You finally have them and you’re still not satisfied you selfish bitch!”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Suddenly the operator interrupts us. “Sorry miss, but to continue this call you must insert another quarter.”
I hang up. After all, I’m out of change and I’m not about to let Pam ruin my five days with John and Paul.
I walk back up the steps of Lydia’s building. I stare at the door to her place and know to enter would be a waste of energy. I sit down and stare down the staircase to the main door. I rest my cheek on my left hand and straighten out the blue hem of my dress.
I begin nervously examining my fingernails and feel a tinge of pain in my stomach as tears swell in my eyes.
Before I know it I find myself in wrenching sobs and do my best to muffle whatever sounds I might make that might reveal my emotions.
Paul loves me. I love him. He’s finally back with me, but nonetheless, there he is with John and Lydia getting stoned.
Pam, my best friend for over seventeen years, betrayed me for no reason. My true best friend, Lydia, is falling into some potentially dangerous territory thanks to John.
John—who’s current relationship with Pam is questionable. Almost as questionable as my own emotions towards John.
But then again, what about my parents? Should I go out of my way to inform them of my renewed love with Paul? Is this ‘renewed love’ definite? Will it work out?
I continue staring at the stairs below me and realize if any of Paul, John, or Lydia come out to see me, I look a wreck. I search the space around me for a bathroom and spot a one-person toilet at the end of the hall. Whether or not it’s sanitary is an arguable debate, but I figure that as long as it has a sink it’ll serve its current purpose.
I open the door and flick on the light switch. The room has an eerie emptiness and is filthy. In the middle of the squalid little box of a room sits a toilet, covered in grime and unidentified material.
The stench of the room is suffocating and I hold my breath as I glance into the murky mirror. Through the lipstick smudges and strange white material smeared across the top of the glass I stare into my eyes. They are the same eyes I’ve always had and always will have.
Eye make up streams down my cheeks and I pull a bunch of unused tissues from my purse. I use them to turn on the sink and water pours out. I spend a moment examining the water and am surprised to discover that it is unexpectedly clean.
I carefully cup my hands under the water and wash my face. I take out a small handkerchief that I’ve always carried around since I was a child and dry my face. I apply my make up, straighten my hair, and throw out the tissues before rushing out of the room as quickly as possible.
I stand outside the door to Lydia’s and consider entering. I could enter and get just as giddy and high as the rest of them so I wouldn’t have to sit outside here by myself. John and Paul seem to think it’s okay and harmless, Lydia certainly won’t disagree with her idol, John Lennon. But what about me, will I disagree?
They’ve just started doing studies on these things. How could they possibly know everything? There just seems like there’s something wrong with a product that when you use it, it makes you ‘high’ and relaxed.
Of course, there are always drugs like novocaine that doctors use to numb parts of your body. But those are used for a purpose—pain relief. And if you can do so many more productive things in life to relax your mind and soul, why do something that makes you lose your ability to have complete control over your mind?
I’ve made up my mind. No drugs.
I return to the stairs and look back down at the door.
What did Pam mean by I ‘finally have the Beatles and still are not satisfied’? What? Is this a game of who gets to ‘own’ the Beatles? Who gets to be liked best? Who gets to see them? Who gets to sleep with them?
I hear a noise from Lydia’s door and turn to see John, Paul, and Lydia walk out, smiling.
“Why the glum face, Juli? It’s your own fault for being so damn blimp.”
I wonder at the meaning of the word ‘blimp’ but can guess it has a negative connotation.
I look wearily up at Lydia who says nothing.
Paul changes the subject, “How about we go somewhere?”
“Metropolitan Museum, perhaps?” I ask.
It would be a long ride there, but it wouldn’t matter considering the favorable company.
Lydia smiles. “Alright.”
I allow John and Lydia to walk ahead of me and then stand up from my place on the stairs. Paul looks me in the eyes and stops. He then whispers, “Have you been crying, luv?”
“Not over marijuana, if that’s what you think.”
“Then what? You alright?”
John and Lydia are already down the stairs and John calls up, “Come on you lazy college puddings, are you coming or are we gonna have to leave without you?” “We’re coming Lennon!” I yell down.
I look up at Paul, his eyes continue question me.
“I’m fine,” I say, smiling and turning to walk down the stairs.
Lydia directs us to the nearest bus stop and we wait. A mother and young daughter, probably no older than Cordelia, maybe even a bit younger are positioned within a few feet of us. John quietly jokes with Lydia while Paul and I just stand holding hands. I watch as the girl tugs on her mother’s dress, staring straight at John and Paul.
“Mommy,” she says as quiet as a stage whisper. “I think those are the Beatles!”
“What honey?” her mother smiles, knowing very well that we can all hear her.
“Over there! They—that’s John and Paul!”
Her mother looks up at all of us, looking for a reaction, almost to guide her response to her daughter.
I watch as John throws on a half-smirk and Paul politely springs full swing into his McCartney smiling charm.
The mother looks encouraged and says to her daughter, “Well, why don’t you go over there and say hello then?”
She smiles bashfully and walks up to Paul.
He smiles back. “Hello there,” he says.
She blushes and giggles. “Hello.”
“What’s your name then?”
“Why hello Betty.”
She giggles again, looks over at John and gives a small wave. Her attempt at saying hello to John is adorable and I can’t help but smile myself. John falls for her incredible cuteness and allows a full grin to cross his face. “Hey there,” he says.
The girl goes into her pink lacey purse and pulls out a little notebook and a matching pen. She asks them to sign, Paul first, then John.
Before we know it the bus comes and we all get on. Lydia and I use our tokens to pay for John and Paul. I allow Paul the window seat and Lydia and John are seated behind us.
As the bus begins to move I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn to see John quickly divert his head towards Lydia. I sigh and look back at Paul who smiles.
“Is the museum large?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“I’ve never been there before. Heard a bit about it though. I like paintings and such.”
“I love the Impressionists. Renoir, Monet—though I must say Picasso is interesting as well.”
“Yes—“ Paul’s interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. We crane our necks back to see John once again facing a laughing Lydia.
Paul rolls his eyes and smiles. I laugh and face forward, only to once again receive a tap on my shoulder.
“Erg, John!” I turn around and this time see both Lydia and John laughing.
Paul turns around, also laughing, “You better not irritate my girl, or I’ll—“
“I’ll cripple you!”
“You’re all bark and no bite, Macca!”
“Oh come of it!”
“I bet you couldn’t squash a fly, you swine.”
“How ‘bout squash a Beatle?” Paul snarls.
I look at Lydia and she raises an eyebrow. I examine Paul’s face and find it difficult to discern whether he’s still joking around or if he is truly as rankled as he appears. Once again I find myself, along with Lydia, caught between a seemingly vociferous argument of minds, communicated only between the eyes of John and Paul. After a moment or so of silence, I turn back in my seat to face the back of the seat in front of me.
Paul eventually turns around only to stare blankly out the window. Behind me I hear John give an annoyed ‘hmph’ and Lydia make small attempts at a comfortable change of conversation.
“Paul, are you alright?” I ask. At first he doesn’t seem to hear me, away in some far off dimension of his own. “Paul? Paul? You alive?”
I touch him gently on his shoulder and he turns to face me, startled from his reverie. “Hmmwha? Oh. Yes, yes. I’m fine, luv.” With the word ‘luv’ Paul’s clueless boyish gaze melts into a small smile and a return to Paul—the man I know and love.
“You sure?” I continue.
At this point Paul has returned to adorable, smiling, bright-eyed self. “Of course, luv. No reason not to be. Now about this museum, has it got any instruments?”
Verbal communication between John and Paul is non-existent even as we climb the majestic stairs, dotted with the usual twelve o’clock crowd, leading to the doors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lydia and I direct them to the main desk. Lydia pays and we check our coats. We sit in the middle circle area to plan our first stop and put on our museum pins. Crowds swarm around us, all completely oblivious to the two sitting Beatles.
“So what do you want to see first?” I ask.
Simultaneously John and Paul state their completely conflicting answers.
Lydia and I look at each other and sigh.
“It would make more sense to go to the Egyptian wing first because it’s right here. We could go to the Impressionists later. Do you mind, Paul?” Lydia says.
“No. It’s alright,” he says.
“Egyptian wing it is, then,” John says triumphantly. He then stands up and faces me. “Lead the way, oh wise one.”
I laugh as we make our way through the huge crowds to the slightly less crowded Egyptian wing. It’s a rather large exhibit consisting of various tombs, artifacts, and even some encased mummies.
John jumps immediately to the grotesque. We follow him to a display of the different levels of burial, including a real mummy, its outer casing, and sarcophagus. I stare blankly at the wrapped corpse and once again remind myself that this is a real person that I’m looking at. That has always been one part of the Egyptian exhibit that has always startled me.
I quickly remove myself from the mummy area and decide to focus more on the artifacts further down in the exhibit. It’s an area generally overlooked because it is somewhat hidden behind the mummy display, making the area a bit darker.
I find myself entranced by the jewelry, statues, and tools encased before me. It’s amazing how modern society can provide for the average citizen an entire history of the world.
Suddenly Paul comes up behind me and throws his arms around me. I gasp, not realizing immediately that it’s Paul. Paul laughs at me, as do I. I guess I can admit to being somewhat scared by the whole exhibit.
Paul kisses me and I beam. He keeps his arms around me and rests his chin on my right shoulder, facing the display with me. He lets go with his left hand as to point to various objects in the exhibit, making up fake histories for each.
Paul points to a necklace and says, “You see, this was worn by Queen Birdachomin. Bought by her husband, Pharaoh Lokiforabirdachomin. And this toy here was used by their son Lokiforisownbirdachomin.”
I laugh and suddenly hear John’s voice behind us. “Now was that before or after the birth of King Tit?”
I can’t help but laugh, joined by Lydia, and Paul. One of the exhibit guards walks over, with a look of distaste. “I’m sorry but if you hooligans do not lower your voices, I will have to ask you to leave.”
John smirks. “Yes sir, Mr. Martinet, sir.”
Lydia, Paul, and I stifle laughter.
The man stolid man looks down at John, refusing to move his head to be at eye level. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing Mr. Martinet, sir.”
The man’s eyes turn to dark slits. “Please get out now, before I call security.”
Still desperately trying not to burst out laughing, the four of us hurry to the Greek exhibit.
“Call security?” Lydia says. “Does he have such authority?”
“And what would he say? ‘They were causing a disruption of peace’?” I continue.
John scoffs. “That guy’s deserving of a clyster.”
I look at Paul questioningly at he whispers, “Enema.”
I laugh and we continue to glance at various statues.
We come upon one of a nude man wrestling with two lions. John smirks. “Now I’ve heard of men and birds, but men and lions?”
Not far from it is a marble statue of a nude woman. “Nice knockers, eh Macca?” John comments.
“Oh come of it John,” Paul says.
“Ah, Mr. Innocent, are we today, Paulie?”
Paul rolls his eyes.
I laugh. “Well, it’s at least nice to see John has some sense of art appreciation.”
We later we find ourselves walking through the American wing, and gazing at the old furniture of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, organized into rooms that you may only enter with your imagination—a waist-high fence of glass prevents you from physically joining the ghostly company.
Momentarily John and I walk ahead of the group into another room. Namely, a bedroom. In the center of the room sits a gorgeous Victorian canopy bed surrounded by a night table and small desk.
“Ever think about how many affairs the aristocracy of France and England had?”
“Not everyone is you, John.”
“Oh come on, don’t pretend to think those kings and queens didn’t share time with other people’s wicks. I mean, just look at the pillow—just try to imagine how many people’s heads rested on it.”
“Alright, alright. Would you prefer to comment on the wonderful taste of the clashing colors?”
Lydia enters, followed by Paul who raises and eyebrow, seemingly questioning why John and I are so intently leaning over to stare at the canopy bed. It wasn’t until then had I realized how far we were in fact leaning over. I pull back and walk over to join Paul.
I don’t answer Paul’s glance, feeling no need to, and we all enter the next room.
After having all we can take of old European furniture, Lydia suggests we go to the old European instrument exhibit. Paul and John seem particularly interested, examining all the harpsichords, piano fortes and such.
We eventually find ourselves hungry, and thus walk to the main cafeteria hall, beautifully decorated, yet also exceptionally packed. Their food is nothing extraordinary, yet is nonetheless extraordinarily priced.
We enter and Lydia spots a table. She offers to save the table for us and gives me her order. John feels bad about leaving her alone and goes to join her, requesting ‘anything that’s edible.’
That leaves Paul and me to wait on the exceedingly long line.
“Have you been enjoying New York, Paul?”
“I’ve been enjoying you,” he smiles.
I beam. Paul’s smile always makes me melt. There is just something about him that I find irresistible. It’s then I almost wish we were alone. No crowds, no John and Lydia, just us. Together.
“Where would you suggest we go tonight, luv?”
“I’m not sure, what kind of place do you have in mind?”
Paul keeps hold of my hand. “Seclusive, romantic, maybe dancing…”
“Well, there’s always the Rainbow Room. Of course, that’s one of the most high-priced places in New York, and they expect a reservation months in advance. A Tavern on the Green, without the food, only drinks and music—and dancing.”
“Tavern on the Green?”
“Another high-priced romantic place. Romance comes at a high-price.”
“When it’s at a restaurant it does.”
“Don’t worry luv, I’m willing to pay any price.”
“I’m a Beatle, remember?”
I smile. “How can I forget?”
Go to Chapter 7
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