By Elliot Richard Dorfman
Harvey Coleman put on a new pair of black slacks and a spiffy matching sports’ shirt that he had carefully selected at a fashionable clothing store in Manhattan earlier that Saturday. He even got a new hair style that same afternoon to enhance his appearance. Yet, when seeing his reflection in the mirror over the bureau, he sighed with disappointment.
“Somehow you still look like a dork,” he mumbled to himself sadly. “What kind of normal woman would want to go out with a clod like you?”
Truthfully, this young man of 24 was nothing at all like the negative image he imagined himself to be. Five feet, ten inches, with thick brown hair and big green expressive eyes, he was as handsome as any guy would desire to be. His problem stemmed from the fact that he was too shy with women to initiate any kind of long-lasting relationship with them.
Without knocking, Chuck, his father, barged into the bedroom, not having any respect of his son’s privacy, despite the fact that Harvey was now a responsible adult who gave money to his family now that he made a good living as a civil engineer.
Chuck slapped his only child on the back.
“So what’s happening tonight, boy? Going out to another singles’ bar to meet some sweet pretty thing? See you got a new outfit and a cool haircut. Great idea! Now all that you’ve got to do is avoid acting like a wimp and not fall apart when you start talking to the opposite sex.”
The man laughed heartily, unaware that he was the main reason for his son’s low self esteem - constantly ridiculing Harvey ever since he was a child.
Fern, Chuck’s wife stuck her head in the doorway.
“Come on, honey, why don’t you leave the kid alone. You’re making Harvey nervous. Maybe tonight he’ll get the courage to speak up and not shy away.”
“I doubt that, Fern. Perhaps if you hadn’t been such an overprotective mother, our son wouldn’t have grown up to become some wuss.”
Fern moved to her son and made him flinch as she affectionately gave him a pinch on his cheek.
“Don’t call him wuss, Chucky. He’s simply an adorable, gentle soul, that’s all. Anyway, Harvey will always have his mommy to love him.”
Harvey grunted. Silently, he splashed on some cologne, then silently walked past his parents and left the house.
“It’s a good thing that I finally got the guts to get my own pad,” he said to himself, getting into his car. “Those parents of mine are suffocating me. I should have done it right after getting the job at the electronics lab after graduation last June.”
On Monday after signing the lease to that nice studio apartment near the park, he would break the news to Fern and Chuck. He certainly wasn’t relishing their reaction. As usual, they would probably disagree with him - especially since this meant their hold on him would be broken. He knew they would try persuading him to back out of the deal . . . But that wasn’t going to happen, not if he wanted to maintain his sanity and get the freedom that he rightfully deserved at his age.
It had rained before he reached the mall where Lancelot’s, a popular bar and grill, was located. Stepping out of his car, he slipped and fell onto the wet payment in the parking lot. For a second he was disoriented, but quickly regaining his composure, rose - brushed himself off - then went into the bar.
Lancelot’s catered to a young crowd and Harvey was hoping that tonight he might meet someone who would turn out to be the perfect match for him. In any case, this time Harvey was absolutely determined not to let his shyness get in the way of his goal. He realized that if he didn’t loosen up with the chicks soon, he was bound to remain a lonely bachelor all of his life - and that was something he defiantly did not want to happen.
It was still rather early, and not many people had arrived at Lancelot’s yet. He sat on a stool and ordered a drink. A few minutes later, an attractive blond hesitantly sat down next to him and gave him a glance but said nothing.
“Gee, she seems as shy as I am” he thought.
A few minutes past until he boldly got the guts to speak up.
“Hi, are you here all alone?”
The woman turned to him. Sadly she nodded her head and sighed.
“To be honest, yes. Usually I don’t come to places like this, but tonight I was fed up being alone in my apartment and having nothing to do but watch some boring television programs”
Harvey was surprised.
“I would think that such a pretty woman as you would be out every evening with some guy.”
The woman blushed. “That’s very nice of you to say. But despite the fact that I am a teacher and do plenty of talking, for some strange reason I become terribly shy when I go out on dates.”
Harvey perked up. “Is that so? I guess we have something in common because that’s my biggest problem too! By the way, I’m Harvey Coleman and you are?”
Having broken the ice, the young couple felt more at ease and began conversing. Harvey bought her a gin and tonic and then they moved to a table in the corner and had dinner.
It turned out to be a delightful evening. The best Harvey ever remembered having. Escorting Kelly to her car in the parking lot a few hours later, she gave him t her telephone number and address. Then, without any of his usual trepidation, he kissed her and sparks flew.
“If you’re not busy tomorrow, let’s get together and have lunch,” Harvey suggested. “I know a swell French restaurant downtown. After that, perhaps we can catch a movie. I’ll pick you up at your house around noon.”
Kelly nodded and for the next few minutes they leaned against the car and embraced, shyness thrown to the wind.
Once home, Harvey was grateful that his parents were sleeping. Mercifully, he wasn’t going to get the third degree about what had happened that evening. Again, he was spared their inquisition in the morning since they had left for church before he had gotten up. When they returned later, their son was gone.
It was a beautiful, warm day, and Harvey was in a super mood. It was a twenty minute ride to where Kelly lived. He stopped in front of a cute little cottage on the corner of a shady street and rang the door bell. There was no response.
“Maybe the bell is broken,” he thought and tried knocking instead - still nothing.
Calling her on his cell phone, he got an automated message: “The number you have reached has been disconnected.”
It was then Harvey noticed a sign on the left side of the front entrance: “For sale.”
Disappointed and distraught, the man shook his head and drove off.
“She seemed like such a nice person,” he lamented. “Why would she do such a lousy thing like this to me? No doubt she’s having a good laugh now!”
Still, the one good thing that had come out of their meeting was that Harvey had finally broken through his shyness with the opposite sex. In addition, after moving into his new apartment, he felt more relaxed and gained a confidence in himself that was lacking before. Soon his social life was filled with lots of dates. Despite this, no lasting relationship developed. The problem seemed to be that he was always comparing every woman with Kelly. Of course this was a ridiculous thing to do, especially since he had only met her once - and truthfully, in the end had been played for a sap. Yet somehow, Harvey illogically rationalized that there had to be some good reason that Kelly had given him the wrong address and telephone number . . . after all, she did seem to like him.
During the next few months he tried calling Kelly again and again, but got the same results. Then one day when passing by the cottage, he noticed the “for sale” sign was gone. Excitedly, he went to the house and rang the bell. An impatient middle-aged man came to the entrance. When Harvey asked him if Kelly lived there, the man shook his head and slammed the door in his face.
Taking a cruise to Hawaii on his vacation six months later, he met Antoinette. She was cute and lots of fun to be with. When they arrived back in the city, they started going steady. Later that year, his mother, anxious for him to get married so she could have grandchildren, began calling him every day.
“So tell me, Harvey, when are you going to get engaged to Antoinette? A woman like that is not going to wait forever, ”
He cut the conversation short. “Mama, like I told you before, I’ll ask her when I’m good and ready!”
Hanging up the phone, Harvey was thankful that he had moved out of his parents’ house and no longer had to endure such harassment. However, soon it wasn’t only his mother that was becoming anxious. Antoinette was becoming annoyed why he hadn’t popped the question yet.
Actually, he didn’t want to get engaged yet - not as long as there was still a strong urge that he had see Kelly at least once more time. When he mentioned this to a few close friends, they suggested he see a psychologist before this obsession ruined his life.
“No psychologist is going to help me,” he responded with a big sigh. “I’ve just got to find her again in order to have some kind of closure. I know it sounds crazy since I only met Kelly once, but I’ve just got to know why she stood me up the next day.”
When more months passing by and Antoinette saw that Harvey wasn’t any closer to proposing, she gave him an ultimatum: “we either get engaged or break up.”
When Harvey hesitated, Antoinette shrugged, turned her back on him and walked out of his life forever.
Just about everyone he knew pounced on him:
“Harvey, you’re an idiot for letting such a catch as Antoinette slip out of your life! Stop living in a daydream and accept reality, you’ll never see that Kelly again. She probably wasn’t as nice as you thought, anyway.”
“ Maybe out of desperation you imagined her. Looks like you’re going to remain a bachelor after all!”
On and on they went - never giving him a break. He became so tense that one evening he decided to go back to Lancelot’s and get himself plastered.
Like when he met Kelly, the place was empty. Sitting down at the counter, Harvey was on his second round of Scotch when a woman sat next to him. He almost chocked when he realized it was Kelly! She looked so pretty and was wearing the same beige outfit as before.
“Kelly, it’s you!” he shouted.
Kelly gave him a look of surprise.
“Sorry, but I don’t seem to remember you.”
Harvey was taken aback.
“Oh, come on Kelly, don’t pretend you don’t remember me! We hit it off so well when we met here the last time. Why did you give me a wrong phone number and address? The next day I felt like such a fool when I couldn’t reach you.”
Kelly shook her head. “You must be mistaking me for someone else - although you did get my name right. Actually, I just recently moved to this city after getting a good teaching position.”
Harvey began feeling a headache coming on, then suddenly everything made sense. Could it be that he had somehow jumped a year ahead the last time he had met Kelly at Lancelot’s? As strange as it seemed, this would solve the mystery why he couldn’t contact her again after that night.
He was about to tell her his theory but suddenly stopped. Just how could he prove it? No, it would be best not to mention this to her - or anyone - not unless he wanted to be considered a loony!
“Let’s forget what I said and start all over. I’m Harvey Coleman.”
Just like when they met before, Harvey and Kelly had a wonderful evening and when he went to meet her the next day, to his relief, she was there. It didn’t take long before they became engaged and then married.
Kelly never understood why Harvey’s friends seemed so surprised when he first introduced her to them.
“Is this actually the elusive Kelly that you couldn’t stop talking about?”they asked, taking him aside.
“Let’s not go into it,” he grinned. “Consider it just a coincidence that she has the same name.”
- - -
Elliot Richard Dorfman taught acting, broadcasting, music, and history in the New York City School System for more than three decades. He was artistic director of the American Youth Repertory Company, Off Broadway and appeared and wrote for radio, television, and the theatre. Since the Fall of 2007, 107 of his short stories and several poems have been printed in 34 publications. For more detailed information got to: http://elrite.webs.com/home.htm