"So, nineteen oh one, huh?"
"Yes. Do you believe me?"
"I believe that you believe you came from nineteen oh one."
"Yes, well, that's not quite the same thing, is it, as believing me."
Parker smiled. "Maybe not. What kind of music do people listen to in nineteen oh one?"
"Hmm, I enjoy Sousa and Joplin, but I also love Tchaikovsky."
"Do you mean John Philip Sousa, as in The Stars and Stripes Forever?"
"Yes! Do you know of him?"
"Yes, I do."
"Who is your favorite composer?"
"Uh, I don't think Imagine Dragons qualifies as a composer but they're pretty good."
"Yeah. Do you want to hear them?"
"That would be lovely."
I stood up wondering where we would go to hear this composer, but he held these rounded objects hanging from strings to my ears.
"What are those?" I twisted my head trying to get a good look at them.
"Earbuds. Here, let me."
When he inserted the first one into my ear, I gasped and jerked away.
"I do not think this is…"
"Appropriate, yes, yes, I know, but today it is entirely acceptable. Now, lift your hair, please."
I did as he asked so he could put in the other earbud. He held a rectangular device and looked up at me. The sound shot right into my ear, stabbing my brain. I pulled out the plugs and handed them back to him.
"You didn't have a chance to hear them sing."
"That's quite all right. You can keep your plugs." The high-pitched ringing whined in my ear.
He laughed, and I admired his fine, white teeth, and intelligent blue eyes. My stomach fluttered and my skin flushed looking at him. Men in his time did not wear much clothing either, for his legs were bare revealing strong calves and thighs. His top-half was covered in a similar material as I wore, but it fit him much more snugly, especially across his wide chest. It made me wonder, seeing the lack of clothing in this time, whether there was a shortage of material making it quite costly. Parker must work outside, I considered, observing his golden, sun-kissed skin, and hair streaked by the sun's rays.
Did all their customs differ as drastically from those in my time as the ones I'd already encountered? Perhaps people no longer married, nor held certain formalities that I believed commonplace.
"Beatrice, what is going on in that brain of yours?" Parker pointed at my forehead, lightly touching the bridge of my nose right between my eyes.
"I was pondering the differences between your world and mine."
"I bet there are many. Which ones are most noticeable?"
"I would have to say the noise and the speed at which your world moves. Everyone and everything seems to be in a rush."
"You don't hurry or move quickly in your time?" Parker stood and closed the pizza boxes, taking them into his kitchen. He set them on the counter and came back for our plates. Parker picked both plates up and crumpled them into balls, then threw them into a tall can.
"You throw away your dishes?" I asked, astounded.
He grinned and shook his head. "No, just the paper ones. Go on." Moving into his living area, he sat on the divan patting a cushion beside him.
Hesitantly, I joined him, making certain our bodies did not touch when I sat.
"You asked if people in my time made haste. When I think on it, I cannot recall a time when I moved around swiftly other than when I was but a child. Perhaps when we ride, we do race our horses, whether for sport or necessity, but to hurry about as if the world is alight, no, we do not. It seems but a waste of energy. Is there an excess of vigor in your time?"
Once more, Parker laughed at me. Such antics can make a girl self-conscience, particularly considering I was not attempting to be humorous.
"Oh, Beatrice, you do say the funniest things in the most hilarious ways." His laughter ceased as he studied my features. "I'm only saying I like the way you talk. Don't be offended."
I tried to give him a proper smile, but it was exceedingly arduous to make the effort, and I am certain what showed upon my face was something between a grin and a sneer.
"I am not offended, but I do not understand what is so amusing about the way I speak."
"I…well, you use a lot of words and ones that I don't hear much on the streets of New York."
The sky beyond his apartment window turned a pink-orange indicating the day was coming to a close. It dawned on me that I had no place to sleep, and I definitely was not going to sleep at Parker's house. Yet, I was not confident I could stay with Lila either. If she and Troy were continuing to…sleep… in her room, I did not feel comfortable staying with her.
"Parker, I have enjoyed our time together, and I thank you for a wonderful meal; however, it is getting quite late. I fear I must find a place to sleep tonight."
"You're welcome to sleep here. I'd sleep on the couch. You can have the bed."
Now, I bestowed a genuine smile on him. He was generous with his time and home, but he did not understand the discomfiture being alone at night with an unmarried man would bring me.
"Thank you for your hospitality and your generosity, but I cannot accept your offer. Sleeping in an unmarried man's abode, while it might be proper in your time, it is absolutely not in my time."
"Well, would you like me to check with Lila? I'm sure she wouldn't mind."
"I fear that if Troy will be spending the evening with Lila, I must sleep elsewhere."
"Scratch Lila's. I know Troy is staying over. I'll tell you what, let me see if my neighbor is home, and if he is, I'll see if I can crash with him tonight. You can stay here and if you need anything, I'd be two doors down. How does that sound? Appropriate?" He raised his brow at me.
I nodded enthusiastically.
Before Parker went to sleep at his friend's apartment, he made sure I had all the amenities anyone could want for bathing, eating, and sleeping. He showed me where his towels were, towels in various sizes, I might add, soap for the body and one's hair. The bath had not only a soaking tub but also a spout on the wall where water spilled out. He found another shirt for me to use for sleeping, explained where food was stored, and tried to show me how to operate a picture box called a flat screen TV, which I expressly refused to use.
As an afterthought, Parker turned on a device, similar to a phonograph, which played music, but instead of only a handful of songs playing and then stopping, the music continued infinitely. Occasionally, a person would speak after a pause in the music to describe the piece or express gratitude for the financial gifts from the listeners. It was a wondrous invention and so far my favorite.
We listened to Handel, Chopin, Bach, and even Tchaikovsky as we sat side-by-side on the sofa watching the sun through the window dip behind the towering buildings. When the sky darkened, a new light replaced the sun. The windows of neighboring buildings lit with an artificial glow and streetlights shone with a brilliance that chased away the blackness of night.
"Does it ever get dark here?" I asked, stifling a yawn.
"What do you mean? It's dark now."
"It can never be dark with all the illumination from the city."
"Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, that's actually one thing I noticed when I moved from Virginia to here. At home, the sky felt much bigger than it does here, you know? I mean, when night comes to the country, light goes to sleep, and we didn't see any neon beer signs, or flashing lights that said, open. Yeah, it's so bright here you can't see the stars, not like at home."
"Do you miss it?" My eyes fought to close, but Parker's life in Virginia intrigued me. I thought him a native to the city, but no, Parker was none other than a country boy.
"Yes, I do, but jobs are here, and unfortunately, I must work to earn money. Well, I'd better let you sleep. I'll be back around seven, if that is okay?"
"Certainly. Good night, Parker, and thank you."
He stood and nodded before he opened the door and left me alone in his apartment.
I lay in Parker's bed thinking rash and unseemly thoughts. The time in this world was surely corrupting my morals. In my time, I would never have slept in a man's bed and then had impure thoughts about that man. Yet, the harder I tried to cleanse Parker from my thoughts, the more thoughts I had of him. The sheets and blankets smelled of him, which did nothing to rectify my situation. The scent of patchouli and cinnamon surrounded me and there was no escaping him.
The quiet of the apartment, once Parker's voice was missing and the music had disappeared, too, allowed the sounds from the city to creep inside, so that I heard the motor cars, their horns, and a constant low frequency that I could not name. I might as well have slept in the street for all the good the apartment walls did to shield me from such cacophony.
Between my own thoughts and the loud drone of the city outside, sleep was elusive.
I threw off the sheets and looked around Parker's bedroom. Everything looked odd and unfamiliar. I walked the room picking up items off his dresser, turning them over, attempting to discern their purpose.
Some items were obvious, like the coins, a bottle of cologne, and a ring of keys. Many things were quite strange, and I reminded myself to ask Parker about them tomorrow. A metal object that was twisted in on itself was surprisingly light when I picked it up and easy to bend. A square, black paper that when touched hinted at an object contained within. The item inside the paper felt circular, flat, and soft.
My boredom suppressed my inclination to leave his drawers closed, and I found myself pulling one open. The top drawer had his undergarments, I believe for I recognized socks and the other articles were too tiny to be pants.
Gaining my composure, I moved into the living area considering the music machine. It would drown out the external noises if I could remember how to turn it on.
There weren't any buttons or knobs. The front of the machine was completely flat and smooth. I remembered he had lifted one part out of the bottom cradle and then made it play. I picked up the rectangular part and turned it over. There weren't any words on it either, only symbols: two triangles pointing in opposite directions, the equal sign, a circle with a line through it, and a square. I pushed the triangles, and nothing happened. Then, I tried the square. On the side of the machine was a lever of sorts and I held it down, but again, nothing happened. Finally, I pushed the circle with a line through it and an orchestra exploded into the room. I dropped the machine, startled by the intensity. I picked it up and pushed the square, but nothing happened. I needed to turn the noise off or make it quiet. After hitting all the other buttons to no avail, I discovered another lever on the opposite side of the first. I touched this and the orchestral piece shifted to a strident tone of instruments I did not recognize. A deep booming exploded from the device and I had to cover my ears to shield them from the volume.
I ran into the bedroom. It was no use hiding from the sound as it was so noisy no wall or door could mute it. I recalled Parker saying that if I needed him I could find him a few doors down.
From above me, I heard a thunderous boom and someone shouting. On the wall next to Parker's bed, a thumping sound came along with another voice yelling for me to, "Turn that damn music down!"
I ran from the apartment and into the hallway. There were doors on both sides of the hall to the left and right of Parker's door. We had been so tired that neither Parker nor I had considered the necessity of showing me where he would spend the night.
The pounding overhead became more insistent as did the sounds on the wall. I decided to try the door to the right on the same side of the hall, as Parker's door was first. Running two doors down, I knocked meekly, at first, on the door. When no one answered, I knocked louder. The door swung open. A portly man wearing an open robe, striped undergarments, and nothing else, wiped his face.
"What the hell do you want?"
"Oh, I beg your pardon. I am looking for Parker Bennington. Is he staying here tonight?"
"I don't know any Parker, lady. You got the wrong apartment." He slammed the door.
Feeling the tears stinging my eyes, I steeled myself and tried the door to the left of Parker's. Foregoing the soft knock, I pounded on the door. Footsteps drew near the door and then it flung open. A sleepy Parker dressed in only his undergarments stood scratching his head.
"Beatrice?" he mumbled.
"Oh, Parker," I stuttered.
At the tone of my voice, he came awake and really looked at me. Then, squinting, listened intently.
"Beatrice, is that the Clash I hear playing?"
"I do not know what a Clash is, but if it is that noise coming from your apartment, then yes. I am terribly sorry and beg your assistance before your good neighbors throw me to the curb."
He stepped into the hallway without dressing. I'd never seen a man with so little clothing and he was a lovely sight. Parker had large muscles in his arms and legs. His chest was chiseled like the statues I'd seen at the museum. But his bottom half hypnotized me and made me blush. His white undergarments molded to his manly form leaving no doubt of his maleness. A large bump rested between his thighs, and I found it difficult to look away. Even as we hurried to his apartment, my gaze continually landed upon his nether regions.
Once in his apartment, he found the device on the floor and with one push silenced the monstrous noise. When he turned to face me, Parker noticed the direction of my gaze. Even though he saw me looking at his most private regions, I could not help but continue to stare.
"Beatrice, you're blushing and you're staring at my penis."
I gasped and turned my back to him.
"I do apologize, Parker. Forgive my insolence. Please, find something with which to cover yourself." I kept my back to him until he grabbed a throw pillow from the couch and placed it in front of his body.
"You can turn around now, Beatrice."
"Oh, Parker, you are not covered. I meant put on some clothing."
"It is three o'clock in the morning, I will not get dressed. And you're stuck with me, I am sorry to say because I am not going to wake up Jace just to go back to sleep. So, go back to bed. I'll camp out here." He dropped onto the sofa, hugging the pillow to his stomach but leaving his backside exposed for my traitorous eyes.
"Thank you, Parker, and good night." And I returned to his bedroom praying sleep would save me from my wicked mind.