Scene 2
Who's That Lady?

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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Let’s flash back for a bit, shall we? This is, in part, a history lesson, after all.
I was, what, 27? I had done three years of corporate America when the bottom of my niche market dropped out and I was laid off. I lived off unemployment as long as they allowed, sharing living expenses with my girlfriend, Ashley, while I tried to decide what to do with my life. I didn’t feel guilty living off her for a while - she’d lived off me the year before doing the same thing. I decided I’d work part time and go back to school to study art, something I’d always loved but never had the guts, money or spare time to pursue.
Ashley and I weren’t doing too well. We were slowly growing apart. Eventually Ashley moved out to see if a little space might save our relationship. This worked for a while, but once the fighting died down we were still drifting apart.
So the stage is set, the bit players are all on their marks, the lights are up.

The scene: a studio classroom in the art department of a big urban university.
The hero sits awaiting the start of drawing class when - what shall we call her? Let’s just call her “she” for now.
She walks in.
This is where you bring the quote from Jungle Book to mind.
I won’t make sentimental fantasies of my first sight of her. She was kind of dumpy, at least in demeanor. Hat turned backwards, straight hair falling over her shoulders, t-shirt, something flannel tied around her waist, no makeup. Typical artist-in-the-morning attire. She didn’t glow, no angels sang, no fanfare, no ominous thunder in the distance.
But I will say I knew she was trouble the minute she walked in the room. Just the type I didn’t need around with the shaky state of my relationship with Ashley.

It wasn’t long before I managed to talk with her.


There, I’ve said it. Not aloud, mind you, my voice still gets weak and cracks when I actually say it. But now you have the proper noun.
So I talked to Heather.
She was cute. I don’t remember saying it, but Ashley says I came home and told her what a cute smile Heather had. It turned up at the ends like the Grinch or the Joker in a deck of cards. Her eyes lit up when she talked about things that excited her. She had long brown hair, often tinted with auburn highlights. She was short, compared to my six feet, younger than me, 21, and had an exciting mix of energetic youth and jaded experience. She had curves, unlike the heroin sheik skeletons on the fashion catwalks and magazine covers of the day. I never got a good look at her body that first quarter. Maybe it was fall because I remember lots of jackets and pullovers. But my memory for when events took place is not the best. It could’ve been July.

Did I mention I was having a tough time with my girlfriend Ashley? Any comedian will tell you timing is everything. Scientists, historians, philosophers, and basically anyone who pays attention to life can verify it.
Heather and I had brief, casual conversations about art, school, class, everything but our personal lives over the following weeks. But then she sighed heavily one day, complaining of having to eat alone.
“I’ll sit with you.” I said with my usual awkward shyness.
“Really?” she said in surprise.
I didn’t have a clue why she would be surprised. Maybe her hormones weren’t going a mile a minute like mine were. Maybe she wasn’t feeling oppressed by an unhappy relationship like I was. Maybe…
Hell, maybe it was just lunch.
So we sat outside and lunched. I was actually relieved when she mentioned her boyfriend. It gave the situation an implied “friends just having lunch” feeling, taking the edge off the urging undertones my body and emotions were emitting. So we sat and ate and had the usual casual conversation about class, the professor, etc. But then she complained that she and her boyfriend weren’t doing well. I said my relationship wasn’t doing well either, but we didn’t get much farther down that thread.

If I remember correctly we didn’t have class together the next quarter. I think we talked about it briefly and I considered changing my schedule, or maybe that came later, I don’t know. Regardless, fast-forward an unknown number of days and I’m back at the apartment, wondering what on earth I should do about the situation with Ashley.
An old friend of mine, Paula, called me up once a year or so when she was depressed and drunk and asked me to see her. Usually I found it flattering. If I were single, we’d go out, have a manic, crazy night that would end in extreme sexual frustration for me and relaxation, and sometimes sexual satisfaction, for her before she’d vanish into the darkness for another 12 months. On the other hand, if I was seeing someone I’d turn her requests aside, tell her she was going to be fine, quietly revel in the way she begged for my company then let it go. My ego would swell and life would be frustrating for her, and relaxed for me. But when she called while I was dating Ashley I didn’t get the relaxing ego boost, I was doubly frustrated.
Girls on TV were looking good. Girls on the street were looking good. Everywhere there seemed to be missed opportunities, attractive alternatives, something greener on the other side of the fence.
I’d also heard Heather had broken up with her boyfriend.
So I broke it off with Ashley. If everything else seemed so tempting it was only a matter of time before something stupid happened and I didn’t want to do that. Ashley and I just didn’t share enough in common.

Of course, by the time I actually broke it off with Ashley, Paula had sobered up and Heather had found a new boy.
Timing is everything.
A friend of mine, David, moved in to share my apartment. A new quarter started. I had a few dates. Life went on.

Who's that lady? (Who's that lady?)
Beautiful lady. (Who's that lady?)
Lovely lady. (Who's that lady?)
Real fine lady. (Who's that lady?)
Hear me calling out to you,
Cause that's all that I can do.
Your eyes tell me to pursue.
But you say, "Look, yeah, but don't touch."
Who's that lady? (Who's that lady?)
Sexy lady. (Who's that lady?)
Beautiful lady. (Who's that lady?)
Real fine lady. (Who's that lady?)
I would dance upon a string.
Any gift she'd want, I'd bring.
I would give her anything,
If she would just do what I say.
Who's that lady? (Who's that lady?)
Beautiful lady. (Who's that lady?)
Lovely lady. (Who's that lady?)
Real real fine lady. (Who's that lady?)
I would love to take her home,
But her heart is made of stone.
Gotta keep on keeping on.
If I don't, she'll do me wrong.
The Isley Brothers, That Lady (Part 1)

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