Into White by David W. Landrum

Monday, September 6, 2021
In Grand Rapids MI, an albino woman strikes up a relationship with a local athlete, to the chagrin of her bandmate; by David W. Landrum.

I am an albino girl. I have no pigment in my skin. My hair and flesh are white - and I don't mean white in the sense we usually use the word, as in "Caucasian." I mean white like a piece of paper or a marshmallow. I have Type 1 Oculocutaneous Albinism. I do not have a drop of pigment in my body. I am completely white.

I met Sossity Chandler when she opened for us once. This was before her superstar days - back when she played the bars and coffee houses around Grand Rapids. It amuses me now to realize that in those days the band I played in was better known than she was, and she used to open for our band, Mudlucious. I could tell she would go places, however, when she upstaged us one night.

The guy I was dating at the time, Drew Mason, introduced us.

"Sossity, this is Sarah. You'll have to excuse her, she's a little nervous about playing tonight. She always looks pale under those circumstances."

"Drew, knock it off, will you?" I said, the annoyance sounding in my voice a little more than I had intended. "Sossity, I'm happy to meet you. I heard you play at Rocky's a couple of weeks ago."

"Do you play with the band for a living or do you have a day job?" she asked.

"I only play for local performances. I don't tour with the guys. I work at Saint Mary's as a lab tech in the Heart Center. I like my work and I like the people I work with, so I'm not ready to take the plunge and go full-time with the band."

"We trying to talk her into it every day," Drew put in.

"It's a big decision," Sossity said. "I'm glad you like your job, Sarah. Not a lot of people can say that."

"If she played music full time for us," Drew interjected, "she'd like her job a whole lot better."

As I said, Sossity upstaged us. She was supposed to do fifteen minutes of music - about four songs. She ended up, at the audience's request, playing for half an hour. And when the second act began, the audience demanded she open for that as well (a thing opening acts never do), so the owner of the place told us to at least let her do two or three numbers. She only did two, but Drew was thoroughly pissed off. He said she was a grandstanding little bitch and he would never let her open for us again.

I saw her two days later. I had popped into a bar where I was supposed to meet my friend Cynthia for a drink. Right after I sat down she called and said she would be a little late. I hate drinking alone. There's nothing worse than you and your drink and no one to talk with. Someone called my name. I turned around and saw Sossity Chandler.

She sat at a table with two guys. One was Asian, quite good looking - chiseled face, strong body, and olive skin. Beside him sat a guy with sandy brown hair and brown eyes, tall - very tall - I would guess his height at six-six or taller. His long arms and powerful hands caught my attention. Sossity waved.

"Sarah!" I went over to her table. She leaned forward and hugged me. "Let me introduce you to my friends."

The Asian guy was Jerry Watanabe, her date; the other was Tommy Sendek.

"He's a basketball player," Jerry put in.

"Who do you play for?"

He gave me the name of a local university.

"They have a big game in couple of days, don't they?" I asked.

I'm not a sports fan but for the first time in years one of the local colleges had won our district and might go on to the championship. Everyone was talking about it. You heard the talk whether you wanted to hear it or not. Drew's brother also played on the team.

"We have a chance to go to the national tournament," Tommy said. "And I'm getting close to breaking the Michigan college scoring record."

Obviously Tommy had taken my appearance in, but he did not stare or make any remark about my being white.

I sat down and ordered a peach daiquiri.

"I'm playing tonight," Sossity told me. "I've got a bass and a drummer. We're doing blues."

"I like the way you play blues."

"Tonight I'm plugged in. I've brought my Strat."

"What kind of music are you doing?" I asked.

"Standard thirty-six bar. Robert Johnson, some Leadbelly. We're doing a couple of old Animals songs. You know 'For Miss Caulker'?"

I laughed. "My mom and dad had that song on an old .45. It was the flip side of 'Bring it on Home to Me.' When I learned to play piano I learned both those songs. I played them over and over."

"We're doing 'Bring it on Home to Me' too. You want to sit in on our session?" I stirred from surprise and unease. "I mean," she continued, "it will all be straight progression. If you know blues you'll be able to improv. The bar keeps a piano on stage. What do you say?"

I thought playing the blues with Sossity would be very cool, but I hesitated. I glanced at her. She had on a short purple dress and patterned hose. I wore a sweater and a denim mini.

"I don't know. I'm not dressed up."

"You look great. Besides, who gives a damn? This is a jam, not a fashion show."

I hesitated.

"Afraid of what Drew might say?"

I blushed. And, believe me, when I blush it is highly visible. She had gone right to the heart of my reticence.

"Well... I guess I do hesitate. He would be mad about it. He wasn't very happy that you stole the show the other night."

"I didn't plan that or try to do it. It just happened."

"I know. He was ticked off because he's such a twit. I'd love to stand in with your band, Sossity. Let's go for it."

We finished our drinks. A rock band played first. Since Sossity's boyfriend was with her, I naturally fell in with Tommy. We had to sit close and lean in to hear over the band. We talked about our backgrounds.

"I work at the heart center," I told him, "as a research assistant. I tried college for a while but dropped out. My parents said they'd pay my way to Aquinas, but I didn't want to go."

"Aquinas College? Are you Catholic?"

"Lutheran, but I'm not into religion much."

Jerry had overheard the last part of our conversation. He leaned over, "He's Jewish," he said, "and the top scorer on their team. But he won't play on Jewish holidays, though, and that pisses his coach off."

Tommy seemed embarrassed at the mention of his religion. The band started up again. He asked if I wanted to dance. We went out on the floor and danced for three numbers. He was good and I had fun with him. Only when we were both on our feet did I get an idea of how tall he was and how strong. He moved with a grace I have seen only in guys who study ballet or are top athletes. The band finished their show. As we walked toward our table he smiled at me. He seemed shy. I smiled back at him.

"You're a good dancer," I said, and I stood on my tip-toes gave him a quick kiss. We settled into our table. Sossity told me we would play in twenty minutes.

Sossity and I went to the Ladies Room. I asked her if Tommy was dating anyone.

"Not now. A lot of girls are chasing him, though."

"He's Jewish?"


"He seems pretty devout."

"He's very devout. He takes his religion seriously. I admire people like that."

"Then he probably only dates Jewish girls."

"No. He's dated two of my friends. One was Protestant, one Orthodox." She looked at me, eyes amused. "Why? Interested?"

I felt defensive.

"Maybe," I said.

"Well he's definitely interested in you. He told me that when you went outside to call your friend. He said he thought you were awesome." She held up one hand. "Please don't tell him I told you that. He's shy and he'll run away if he knows you know he likes you."

I promised her I would not say a word. The news that he found me attractive was heartening because I thought he was pretty cool. We went back out, finished our drinks and went up on stage to play.

Our jam session went off fabulously. I did five songs with the band - the two Animals hits we had talked about, and three standard numbers where we did alternating solos. Sossity knew how to sing the blues, and she belted out a gusty vocal that reminded me of Janis Joplin or Bonnie Tyler, and did great riffs on her Fender Stratocaster. I even took a vocal on one of the numbers. When we finished and I stepped down, I was elated. The crowd cheered for me so much I came back up and took a bow. Finally, they quieted down for the next number and I sat down by Tommy.

He congratulated me in his shy way, saying I was a great player and singer and had done a good job. I smiled at him, glowing with the excitement of the performance. I liked him. Sossity played for another forty minutes or so then ended the show.

She came back to the table. We sat there - six of us, Sossity, Jerry, Tommy, the drummer and bass player - and drank and talked. Sossity told me about Drew.

"I used to play music at an open mic Drew emceed. I would ask him if he wanted to jam and play the blues together. He'd always say, 'Sure, let's do it.' Then right before we were scheduled to go up, he'd say 'My guitar isn't sounding good,' or make up some other excuse. After the third time, I started to get the idea that he had no intention whatsoever of playing with me."

"That's Drew," her drummer put in. "You know the type: alpha male."

That made me laugh, maybe more than I should have, because it was so true. It also struck me that he was the alpha male and I was his protected female. Maybe, I thought ironically, he preferred an exotic member of the species and that was why he kept me around.

Cynthia, my friend, finally showed up and joined us. She saw a boyfriend and eventually left with him. I had to work tomorrow, so at around 1am I told Sossity and the gang I needed to go.

"I'll walk you to your car," Tommy said.

I was glad he offered. Rocky's is not in the nicest section of town and I'd parked my car on a side street a long block away. He walked me to where it was parked. I turned to face him.

"Can I call you?" he asked.

"Tommy, I'd really like that." I gave him my card (I'd had some made at the hospital). He took it and then leaned down for a kiss.

He gave me a long good-night kiss. It was sweet. I said I had to go. He stood there until I pulled out. As I drove away, I saw him walk back into the bar.

Drew was at my apartment on Sunday and I told him about Rocky's. He was unhappy about it and told me so in no uncertain terms.

"Why, are you so pissed, Drew? It was fun. It was good experience at doing improv."

"I told you she's a grandstander. She might cut into our gigs if we let her get too much stage time."

I laughed. He gave me a hard look.

"What's so funny?"

Sometimes you are thinking about making a choice in life and realize you have already made it.

"You are, Drew. You're funny. I think you and I are finished."

He walked up close to me. Part of it was to intimidate me but it was also because he felt genuinely bewildered.

"Sarah, what are you talking about?"

I walked to the other side of the room and then turned to face him. I did not like him standing so close to me.

"Drew, we're finished. I don't like being around you. You're too demanding. And I don't like you always making jokes about how I look."

His mouth fell open. He spread his hands.

"I only do that because you're so cool about it and accept yourself so well."

"I know," I said. He was making me nervous. "But it's been bugging me lately. I don't like the way you make a spectacle out of me all the time. We need to back off. I don't think I want to play in the band anymore. And let's stay away from each other for a while - both of us need some perspective, I think."

He put his hands on his hips and glared. The look on his face unsettled me. I did not think he would do anything stupid but I also knew how he was when his temper got the better of him.

Just then a knock came at the door.

Relieved that something had broken the tension, and also that someone else had come so I did not have to face Drew by myself, I hurried over to answer. It was Sossity and Jerry.

They had been to visit a friend at Saint Mary's hospital and remembered my address. I live in a brownstone only a couple of blocks from there. I told them to come in.

Drew looked pretty stupid standing in the middle of the living room, a scowl on his face, his fists clenched. Both Sossity and Jerry smiled when they saw him.

"You okay, Drew?" Sossity asked, her eyes merry.

He glared at her as well, so much that Jerry gave him a look.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

Drew relaxed a little.

"We were having a discussion," I said. The tension in the room was tangible. "Drew, why don't you get some beer out the refrigerator?"

He scowled but did what I told him. The four of us sat down at my kitchen table and sipped Sierra Nevada IPA. Drew sat there like a sulky child. Jerry and Sossity kept smirking and rolling their eyes when he could not see them. He listened to our conversation but did not participate. We talked about our jobs. Jerry was a software engineer. I told about being a researcher and that I sometimes worked at the Heart Center over on the Bradford and Leonard near Cornerstone University. Then we got on the subject of how good the music sounded at Rocky's the other night.

Drew stood and walked to the window. Then he came over to the table.

"So what's the idea of trying to take my piano girl, Sossity?"

We were all too surprised to answer. After a minute, though, the crassness of him calling me his "piano girl" hit me.

"Drew, you need to leave," I told him.

I won't say what he said, but it was pretty crude. In a flash, Jerry was on his feet. Drew retreated a couple of steps but then lunged at Jerry. Before I knew what had happened, Drew was on the floor. He lay there, confused for a few seconds, then got to his feet and rushed at Jerry again. I screamed. Jerry grabbed his arm and twisted it. Drew bellowed in pain.

"Sarah told you to leave," Jerry said. "I think you'd better do what she said." He lifted Drew's arm just slightly. He roared in agony and sank almost to his knees. "Let's go out the door. Now start walking." He pushed Drew toward the kitchen door, all the while keeping his grip firm. In a moment, he had pushed him outside and walked him down the steps.

Jerry let him go.

"Don't come back in or you'll get a lot worse than what you just got." He pointed. "Go."

Drew gaped at him. Too stunned and in too much pain to answer, he turned and walked off toward where his car was parked. Jerry stood there until he drove away then turned and went back inside.

I cried. Sossity and Jerry comforted me. After I calmed down, I thanked Jerry for getting Drew out of the apartment and complimented him on his ability at the martial arts. I asked him where he had learned karate.

He smiled. "Karate? Please! Karate is so crude! That was jujitsu - Japanese, and the grandmother of all martial arts. Nothing like a good joint-lock to convince someone they need to leave the room."

I laughed. I needed to laugh. We sat back down and finished our beer. Sossity asked Jerry to step outside just a moment. After he left, she came over and put her head against mine.

"Sarah, you need to stay at my place tonight. He might come back."

"You don't think he'd do that, do you, Sossity?"

"I wouldn't put it past him. Drew can be a pretty nasty guy. I think you ought to stay with me just to be on the safe side."

What she said made sense. We both knew that side of Drew. I told her I would be over to her place as soon as I locked up my apartment. She said goodbye and left with Jerry.

When she left I cried more. The whole thing had exhausted me. I locked the doors and windows, took a shower, laid down on the bed, and eventually dozed off.

My phone ringing woke me up. I wondered if it was Sossity. I waited, too, wondering if it might be Drew. Sure enough, it was. I didn't answer but let it record.

Again, I won't say what he said because I don't like using that kind of language. I will repeat one thing, and that was that he called me a "pink."

I had never been called this before, and I think it is the first time in my life someone has ever used an epithet like that to demean me. I had heard the term. Once I watched a film called Powder. It was about an albino kid. I generally liked the movie, but it struck me as kind of silly because all the kids in his school and community persecute him and reject him because of his appearance - just the opposite of my experience. I doubt that with today's emphasis on diversity and inclusion that sort of thing would really happen, even in a small town, but I remember one of the things the other kids called him was "a pink."

So it struck me as curious and even amusing. Humans who are albino don't have pink eyes (only animal albinos have those). I smiled. Drew did not even know how to pull off a proper insult.

I went to Sossity's house that night and told her what he had done.

"Call the police. It's illegal to make harassing phone calls."

"Sossity, I don't think I could do that. It would ruin his career as a musician."

"Don't accommodate him. He has no right to intimidate you. And if he did that who knows what else he might do."

I promised I would report it tomorrow. Sossity put on some music, got out a bottle of Hibiki, an expensive Japanese whisky.

"I got it at Sutton's Bay," she said as she opened the bottle. "A rich guy was hitting on me and bought it as a sort of gift/bribe after one of my concerts."

"Hitting on you? Did he get anywhere?"

She smiled and raised her eyebrows. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

About that time Jerry called and asked if he could come over. Sossity suggested we call Tommy. He was free that night and said he would be over.

I'll skip the details of that night. We hung around Sossity's apartment, drove out to the airport and flew in Jerry's plane (he was a pilot), and generally had a great time. Tommy invited me to come to his house for the Sabbath next week. I told him I would be there.

I had never been asked on a date to do something religious, but things went well and I had a great time. His parents were very natural about their religion, and I settled in and enjoyed the meal. After we had finished, Tommy asked me if I wanted to go for a walk.

"Can you do that on the Sabbath?" I quipped.

He grinned. "As long as you don't go outside the city limits. If you do, you're only allowed to go 2,000 paces."

I laughed. "I had to ask."

We walked down his street. Night had fallen. The stars gleamed in the sky. The Sendeks lived on a tree-lined street. Tommy held my hand and then put his arm around me.

"You're quiet tonight," I said.

"I've got a lot on my mind."

"About what?"

"The game. It's a lot of pressure on all of us." He paused and then added, "I'm also only a few points away from breaking the scoring record for Michigan collegiate ball. I'm a little stressed out about that too."


"On the one hand, I'm competitive. I wouldn't be a good athlete if I weren't. So I want to break the mark, and that's on my mind. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of silly crap. I asked myself why I should care and why I'm getting all stressed out about it."

"I was never much of an athlete."

"I like to play but I don't live and die on sports. It's a paradox, I guess. People come up to me all excited and start talking about our team record or my scoring and how well I play. Then they start reciting statistics from their favorite team's last twenty seasons. I feel like saying, 'Get a life.' I wonder if that's all they have to think about."

We walked on. When we came to a place concealed by trees, he turned to face me and leaned in to kiss me. We made out for ten minutes or so. It was sweet. Tommy was shy, but when we kissed, I caught some of the fire that made him a good athlete and made him so devoted to his faith. We walked back to his house. I said I needed to go and thanked his parents for inviting me over. His mother and I made a date to get together for lunch. He walked me to my car and kissed me good-night.

That was the weekend I fell in love with him. This may seem a little sudden, but I tend to be like that. Yet when I make decisions that seem impetuous, they usually turn out to be good decisions. My heart-driven instincts are almost always right - decisions such as the one to dump Drew end up being wise and prudent. Desire for Tommy fell on me suddenly like a wave might engulf you out in the water; but it also turned out to be a good choice, one that would change my life for the better.

We started dating regularly. As the day of the big game approached, he felt more apprehension. The local television stations did a feature on him, a profile of the top player and scorer who was so religiously devout. One day at work, I got a call as well.

They wanted to interview me. We talked about it when he dropped me off at my apartment after we went to the movies.

"Do you think that would be a good idea?" I asked him.

"Why wouldn't it?"

"Well... I'm different, you know."

"So what? So am I. That's how this whole thing started."

He kissed me good-night and went his way.

I granted an interview. The story was on the 6:00 news the next day. Doing it was a mistake. Everyone in the clinic where I work, from the doctors, nurses, my co-workers in Research, even a lot of the patients, saw the report and mentioned it. The whole thing also made me more conspicuous. I stand out enough as it is. I don't try to hide but I mostly work in a lab doing tests and helping the doctors with research data and with the projects they do to develop better surgical and pharmaceutical techniques for heart patients. I am not one of the up-front people, and it suits my disposition to be out of the mainstream, quietly working in a more private setting. Now everyone who came to the clinic for any reason wanted to meet the albino girl who was Tommy Sendek's girlfriend.

The publicity also got Drew's attention. He made another obscene phone call.

I had not done anything about the first call, despite Sossity's counsel. This time, though, I felt frightened. I called her. She came over. We called the phone company. They listened to the recording and said I should file a complaint with the police. Harassing and obscene phone calls were illegal. Once more I hesitated but Sossity said I needed to act. They offered to change my phone number. I said I would think about it. Afterwards, we sat at my kitchen table and drank a bottle of wine I had. Sossity told me I needed to be more careful about Drew.

"He can get out of control," she said.

"How well do you know him?" I asked.

"I've known him a lot longer than you, Sarah, and there are some things about him you might want to know."

"Such as?"

"One night he tried to rape me."

I was so shocked I couldn't say anything. I just stared at her.

"We were both drunk. I guess it was the typical date-rape scenario. I went to his place. He started making moves on me. Pretty soon he's got me pinned down telling me if won't give it to him he'll take it. I managed to fight him off. Of course, afterwards he was all weepy and sorry and said he was drunk, could I ever forgive him, all that crap."

Drew often did things that were rude or inappropriate and then got remorseful and asked my forgiveness.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I stayed away from him as best I could. But I saw him so much at music venues it was hard to brush him off entirely. Every time I'd run into him he would say he hoped I wouldn't shut him out completely because of something he did while he was drunk. I've tried to at least be cordial with him since then. I think when he let me open for you guys it was also an attempt to smooth things over."

"Do you think he was sincere when he apologized?'

"Probably. But with a guy like Drew you've got to be careful. His way of seeing things is very self-justifying."

She suggested I stay with her again but I told her no. She had a gig that night at the Brick Barn, a local bar I went to a lot. I said I would drop in and listen. She asked me how Tommy and I were hitting it off. My face lit up so much that Sossity laughed.

"You've answered me without saying a word," she said.

Sossity had to go get ready for her show. These new revelations about Drew alarmed me. His pig-headed attitude and fits of anger had amused me, but now I saw a darker side to him. Maybe I should be more cautious, I thought. The wine made me sleepy. I put on some music, lay down on the sofa, and dozed. Tommy called. I said nothing about Drew but I know he sensed I was upset. He told me he would drop in at the Brick Barn tonight. He could not stay long but would at least drop by to see me.

A couple of girlfriends from work came by. We had a pizza delivered and ate together. One of them had brought a six-pack of beer. Having put down quite a bit of wine with Sossity and then beer on top of it, I was a little drunk when I got to the Brick Barn.

The place was crowded and hot. I felt light-headed and stumbled from the booze I'd drunk. I had the luck to find a place a bar when someone got up to leave. I sat down and, not wanting to drink more alcohol, ordered a virgin daiquiri. I heard someone call me, turned, and saw Drew sitting at a table just behind me.

He sat there with a girl I did not recognize and a guy who looked like him. I assumed it was his brother.

"Hello, Sarah," he said.

This angered me. He had made two phone calls where he insulted me with the worst language a man can use and now he spoke like we were cordial buddies. I turned to face the bar. After I got my drink and set up my tab, he came up behind me.

"Sarah, don't you want to talk to me?"

I turned to him. My face was only an inch or two away from his. I think being drunk made me react more intensely.

"Yes, I do. I want to tell you this. You make one more obscene phone call and I'll go to the police. I've got the calls recorded and I'll turn you in, so help me God. You can see what that does for your singing career."

He opened his mouth to say something but seemed to hesitate. Right then Jerry Watanabe came up.

"Everything all right here?" he asked.

"It's all right, Jerry," I said, suddenly afraid something bad would happen.

Drew sneered. "Well - the Karate Kid."

"That's me," Jerry shot back.

"Yes," Drew went on, "the Asian superhero. Is it Fortune Cookie Man?"

"No, it's Knockie-Shittie-Outa-Youee Man if you don't shut up."

Right at that moment someone pushed in between them. It was Denny, the bouncer, who, ironically, was also Asian (Chinese I think). A huge guy who had been a football player and was a body builder, he put a finger on Drew's chest and on Jerry's and pushed them apart slightly.

"You guys drop it right now. One more word and you're both out the door."

Each of them drew back. Neither wanted to be kicked out. And Denny could have broken either of them in half with a minimum of effort. Even Jerry, with his skill at martial arts, sensed as much.

"I'm keeping an eye on both of you," Denny continued. "If either of you even looks like you're going to make trouble, you're out of here. Now why don't you head back to your tables and chill for a while?"

Drew stood a moment, as if to at least slightly assert his courage, but then went back to his table. Denny looked at Jerry.

"I was going to invite the lady to sit with me," he said

"He's a friend," I affirmed, getting up and taking his hand. Denny nodded and walked away. I followed Jerry back to Sossity's table.

We walked back to a table in the lower level of the bar, by the stage. Sossity sat there. We hugged and she asked me how I was doing.

"Well, I had a little too much to drink. And now I get into a scrape with Drew."

I had left my daiquiri at the bar. Denny brought it over for me. I tried not to cry but pretty soon I had my head on Sossity's shoulder. She patted me and told me it would be all right. Jerry held my hand.

I was tired and drunk but I also realized something. You realize things about yourself at such odd times.

Albinos generally stay out of the sun. I remember reading a novel called Nectar in a Sieve for a literature class when I was in college. The woman in the story (a Hindu story) has an albino child. The husband remarks at once point that the child is unlike others and seeks the shade. I saw that I seek the shade in a sense - aware of my difference I try to work inconspicuously and stay away from public view. I have never been ashamed of the way I look, but now I saw that, deep down, some shame existed. I avoided being in the "sun." I did not like to be out where a lot of people see me.

I managed to stop crying. Sossity asked me if I wanted to play keyboards on a number (this bar kept keyboards and a set of drums set up on stage). I could play even though Sossity was solo tonight. I said I'd think about it. I wanted Tommy to show up.

Sossity took the stage. The room filled with people who had come to see her. I sat with Jerry and finished my daiquiri. When Sossity began to play, several couples danced up near where she stood. I saw Drew and his date come down and join the other dancers.

I watched him. Drew is a great dancer. I loved being out on the floor with him when we used to go to bars together. The girl with him looked pretty and seemed happy to be his date. I felt alone, even with Jerry there. I noticed Denny had positioned himself near-by in case Drew and Jerry got into it again.

Tommy showed up. I felt a flood of relief and of love when I saw him. Even though he would not stay too long, I was glad he was there. I kissed him. He waved at Drew, whom he knew through Phil, his brother, who played on the team (and who was here tonight, I remembered, looking around for him). We went out on the floor to dance.

Sossity played fast, energetic songs for the dancers. After a while, Tommy said he wanted to order something to eat. Jerry asked if he could have the next dance. We went out on the floor. When I came to the table, Tommy and Drew's brother were sitting together.

Tommy introduced us. Drew's brother looked a lot like him, though he stood taller and was in better shape. I knew I had to say something about Drew so I told them we used to date.

"I knew that," Tommy said. "Sossity told me."

I breathed in relief. I settled back. I decided I would have a drink - a real one, not a non-alcoholic. I ordered a whisky sour when the waitress came by. Tommy and Phil talked like the old friends they were. I watched Drew dance with his date, glanced at his brother, and saw Drew glance our way when he did a turn with his girlfriend.

Again, I had one of my instant revelations. I don't really think they are revelations in the religious sense. I do not imagine God gives them to me or anything like that. They are more suddenly perceptions - instantaneous understandings of the motivations that lead to actions, so I see the courses people plot by noting their attitudes and projecting forward.

I saw that Drew and his brother had plotted something against Tommy.

I wondered at first if I had let myself get paranoid. Drew had made me afraid of him and I had made him angry. And I loved Tommy. So I thought perhaps I had created a delusional scenario in my mind out of the extreme emotions I felt. But by the time my whisky sour got there I decided I had not made an error of judgment and my perception was not delusive. I could tell by the look in Drew's eye and the recognition in his brother's glance, that something was afoot. I did not even know exactly what it was, but I planned to find out.

Drew had greeted me earlier in the night as if nothing had happened - and he did so after making a couple of obscene phone calls. I knew he was hot-headed, but what I realized was that obscene calls were made deliberately. They had not been done out of anger or hot-headedness. They served a place in what he and his brother wanted to do to Tommy. I began to see and I knew the course of action I had to take.

First I went to Drew between songs. I walked right up to him and his girlfriend and asked if I could talk to him. His girlfriend seemed a little indignant, but he smoothed her ruffled feathers and went with me. We exited by the back door and stood outside in the parking lot.

"So, ghostie. What's up?"

I noted his reference to my appearance.

"I didn't really give you much of a chance to talk to me up at the bar. I guess I shouldn't have done that. Why did you call me and say those things, Drew? They really hurt me. I cried all day. I thought you loved me and then you go and do something like that." My voice even quavered a little when I said this. I licked my lips and went on. "So I was angry but I shouldn't talk to you like I did at the bar."

He gaped at me. It was chilly outside. The cold stung my legs and fingers but I stood there and watched. I had thrown him a curve. He did not know what to do. I waited.

"Well," he finally said, "you know how I am, Sarah. I apologize. I just..."

I reached over and touched him.

"I know, Drew, and it's okay."

"I am sorry." He paused. "You mean we're not finished? I thought you were pretty tight with Tommy."

I shrugged. "I like him. He's a good guy. But remember what I said. I said we needed to get away from each other for a while. I miss you, Drew. I want to be friends and want to have it that way so if we decide to get back together we'll both be ready to get things back on an even keel."

He looked at me. I must have really looked white standing there in the shadows of the back lot, my hair and eyebrows catching the light from a streetlamp a few feet away.

"Do you really mean that, Sarah?"

I put my fingers over his.

"I do."

He dropped his hand. Once more, he said nothing. He seemed bewildered but delighted by what I had told him.

"I'm with Tommy," I went on, "but that may not last forever. I just hope the two of us can keep a spark going."

He nodded eagerly. "Me too. Yes. Sarah. Look, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I made those calls and I hope you can accept my apology and forgive me."

"I accept your apology, Drew. It's fine."

He glanced toward the door. "We'd better go back in before Bethany comes out here after us."

I laughed. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and we went inside. I was not finished yet, though. There was more to do. Tommy left. I kissed him good-night and hurried back into the bar.

At break I talked with Sossity. She agreed to what I asked and said she knew how to play the song I wanted to do. Fifteen minutes into the show, she asked me to come up on stage, introduced me to the crowd, and sat down in a chair, tuning her guitar (a thing she seemed perpetually to do).

"You might notice I'm a little white," I said, holding my arms straight out. The crowd laughed nervously. "This is how I was born," I said. "I'd like to dedicate a song about it to my old friend, Drew Mason, here tonight." People who knew him looked over; a few people cheered. "I used to play for Drew's band. This number is one he always wanted me to sing. Well, Drew, here it is."

I nodded at Sossity. She began the guitar part that gave the Cat Stevens song "Into White" its odd combination of easiness and tension. Drew and I had fought about this song. He thought it would be cute for me, with my appearance, to do it and I had refused. I told him it had nothing to do with my color and with anyone being albino. The "into white" Stevens mentions I always took to be some Zen Buddhist concept of nothingness (the song is filled with paradoxes and odd constructions that suggest Zen to me). I steadfastly refused to sing it. Now I sang it just for him.

He stood by his girlfriend and watched with bewilderment. I did not play the keyboard. Sossity is a good guitarist and accompanied me superbly and the song is a soft one so the solo guitar was fine on it. People listened as my voice rose and fell. I sang from my gut and sang with feeling and emotion. The crowd tuned in. No one danced. The room got quiet. After I finished, a moment of silence passed, then the audience roared its approval accompanied by prolonged applause. I smiled, bowed, and motioned to Sossity, who came up behind me, put her arms around my waist, her chin on my shoulder, and waved at our audience.

I came down from the stage and stood by Jerry.

"That was good," he said, a little puzzled by what I had done.

"Better than you'll ever know, Jerry," I told him.

Sossity played another hour. I danced with Jerry until Sossity invited me up again toward the end of her set. I played piano on a blues number then I sang and played keyboards for the old Doctor Demento song, "Shaving Cream," which got big laughs. By that time it was getting late.

Like I told Jerry, I did a good job that night. I did not find out how good my plan had worked until years later.

The big basketball game came and went. Tommy played superbly and his team went on to take a national title. He graduated as the state's leading scorer at the collegiate level, a record still unbroken (Phil Mason came close but did not equal what Tommy had achieved). His story got a lot of press coverage and the press always wanted me to pose with him for pictures. We got on national TV and on the internet.

Tommy and I were soon married. I converted to Judaism - though, as I've told you, religion doesn't mean a lot to me. Tommy got short-listed at a couple of pro-team camps and our hopes were up, but he got cut. We moved to Italy and he played for an Italian league there. Italy is a beautiful country and a great place to have children. I worked hard to learn the language and eventually got a job translating medical data for a hospital near Milan. We had two children (our son got the gene for albinism, our daughter did not). We lived there four years.

One day, sitting under an umbrella at an outdoor café in Naphlion, Greece, where we were vacationing, someone came up and asked me if I was from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I said yes, vaguely recognizing her, and invited her to sit down. Over a glass of wine she identified herself as Bethany Andrews and said she had dated Drew Mason. I remembered her as the girl with him that night I did the Cat Stevens song in the Brickbarn. She had come over on a study tour and happened to see me.

"Are you and Drew still together?" I asked.

She said they had married but divorced after a year. He had abused and beat her. She ended up in emergency room one night and told the police what he had done. After the divorce and after he had served some jail time, Drew went to California. He worked now as a roadie for some minor rock star and still hoped to make it big as a singer.

"That night he came to the bar with his brother," she said, "they planned to set up your boyfriend."

I leaned forward.

"What were they going to do?"

"They wanted to start a fight with him. Phil thought he could beat Tommy's record and go on to be Michigan's leading college scorer - but not if Tommy kept racking up the points like he was. If they could get him in a fight, they figured, he would be ineligible as a player. They were going to do it that night by insulting you - saying things about the way you look. They knew Tommy would take offense and they planned to goad him into throwing the first punch. That would have disqualified him and put Phil in a position to out-do Tommy on points."

She paused and sipped her wine.

"Drew told me about what they had planned."

"He told you?"

"You dated Drew, didn't you? He's not very smart, and he's so egotistical he had to tell someone. I was really taken with him then and didn't go against it. I don't know what you said to him when you guys went outside, but whatever it was, he decided not to pick a fight with your boyfriend. He and Phil didn't speak to each other for a year after that. I think they're still mad at each other."

We talked on. She seemed to feel bad about how she had acted toward me that night, though all I remember was a couple of dirty looks from her. I think she was really ashamed Drew had deceived her and she had not been wise enough to see through him. I hugged her when she left and said we would keep in contact.

When the kids got a little older, we returned home. Tommy tried out for the Bulls and, this time, made the team. That same year Sossity - by then a superstar with songs and albums at the top of the charts - asked me to play keyboards for her band.

I'm in the band today. As a professional athlete, my husband has an obscenely high salary (athletes get paid way too much); but I make more money than he does.

I guess that's what comes from following one's instincts.


  1. A long story, encompassing a long passage of time and a lot of places. There was a lot of action - performances, arguments and fights. The writer was obviously writing about a setting he understood.

    Mc Sarah was likeable and gutsy, dealing with her ‘differentness’ in a determined way.

    However, towards the end I felt the scene shifted a little too much. Why did main characters have to move to Italy and then move on again to take a holiday in Greece?

    I’m not sure Sarah followed her instincts (see last line). In places she was quite reactive and I would say she followed the flow. But glad it all worked out well for her because gained and held the reader’s sympathy.

    1. Rosemary: Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you liked the story and the character of Sarah. I did want to answer your questions about the ending. She and her husband moved to Italy so he could play for an Italian professional basketball team over there. Very often, if an athlete in the US can't make the cut to a professional basketball team he will play for a team in Europe (Italy, Germany, somewhere in Eastern Europe) in order to hone his skills and gain some experience playing at the professional level. As for Greece, Sarah and Tommy simply took a vacation there (its not far from Italy). I visited Naphlion once; its one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Again, thanks for your insightful comments.

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