I gestured toward 169 with my head. “We’re running out of highway.”
Kirsten stepped away from the restaurant door and walked to the center of the parking lot. Gravel crunched under her feet.
“Something’s changed,” she said.
I shook my head dumbly, my mouth open. I felt numb, except for my stomach—my stomach was suddenly very active, performing all kinds of gymnastics.
“You spend too much time on the fringe, McKenzie,” she told me at last. “The people you associate with—they live in rooms they pay for by the week.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“The coke-heads, the pushers, the prostitutes, the criminals and lowlifes and, and—two weeks ago we were supposed to go to the Guthrie Theater but we didn’t because instead you were parked outside a motel with a camera because a friend wanted to know if her husband was cheating on her.”
“The woman was from the neighborhood; I knew her growing up.”
“That’s what I mean. The people you deal with. In your world, in the world where you do these favors for people, everyone is so, so—wrong.”
“A middle-aged couple from Grand Rapids is wrong?”
“You know what I mean.”
I took the half dozen steps to my car door without realizing I had done it. The vehicle was now between us. I looked over its roof at Kirsten.
“I don’t want to deal with it anymore,” she announced with a voice as hard as the look in her eyes.
“Would you be happier if I was a stock broker?”
“The artistic director for the Minnesota Opera Company?”
“I can’t be those things.”
“I think maybe we should start seeing other people.”
“Are you already seeing other people?”
“Oh yeah, right. Typical male reaction.”
“Is that a yes or no?”
Kirsten moved to the Cherokee, leaned against it. Her arms stretched across the roof toward me. I took both of her hands in mine.
“I would never do that, Mac,” she said, softening her voice for effect. “I care for you too deeply. Besides, you carry a gun.”
Kirsten smiled. I guess she thought she had made a joke.
“If you tell me you just want to be friends, I might use it.”
See, I can be funny, too.
“You’ll always be more than that,” she said.
“Then why are you dumping me?”
Kirsten didn’t answer and I found myself gazing at the office building across the highway again. Suddenly, walking on the moon didn’t seem like such a big thing.
I dropped Kirsten at her handsome Cape Cod located on the parkway that ringed the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, the house with the Victorian-style gazebo in the backyard. She kissed me good-bye. Not one of those quick pecks people in a hurry usually give each other. This one lingered long enough to cause a stirring in the nether regions.
Sure, I thought as she bounded away, her designer duffel bag over her shoulder. Break up with a guy and then kiss him to the depths of his soul so he knows what he’s losing. ’Course, Kirsten insisted that she wasn’t dumping me, that we weren’t breaking up. We were merely seeing other people. So there was still hope. Yeah, right.
Twenty minutes later I reached my own home in Falcon Heights, a large English Colonial with a sprawling front porch. When I bought it, I thought it was located in St. Anthony Park, an exclusive, quiet, exceedingly old neighborhood of St. Paul tucked unobtrusively between the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis. It wasn’t until I made an offer that I discovered to my horror that the house was on the wrong side of Hoyt Avenue, that I had inadvertently moved to the suburbs. Still, I’m a St. Paul boy at heart and whenever anyone asks, that’s where I tell them I live.
I parked in my garage and entered the house through the back door.
The first thing I did—before flicking on a light, before opening a window, before checking my mail and newspapers stacked in a box on the porch—was to turn on my CD player. Immediately, the grandiose sounds of opera spilled out of nineteen speakers strategically placed in various nooks and crannies throughout the house—Maria Callas singing an excerpt from Madame Butterfly. There was a purity to the music that I rarely heard in any other form. Still, I wasn’t an opera fan. I listened to it because Kirsten listened to it. It was Callas, in fact, who had brought us together.