If you’re ever fortunate enough to be in a position to have two potential suitors vying for your attention, you’ll probably end up picking the wrong one for all the wrong reasons. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up picking the one that is so wrong on so many levels that you’ll wonder if you’re destined to make such poor decisions for the rest of your life.
Some might strive for such an opportunity, and they might bask in the accompanying attention that follows, I know I did. The difference between most people and me is that I did not do everything I could to make it last as long as possible. I tried to end it as quickly as possible. I was not accustomed to such a proverbial spotlight, and I found it stressful. I thought they would both realize that I was all that they thought I was, and I would end up oh for two. I wanted a girlfriend, and in my haste to put an end to this dilemma, I ended up pursuing easier road that was more of a guarantee. I ended up allowing something stupid, like wounded, puppy dog eyes to make the decision for me.
Debbie was the wrong choice, I see that now, but when she put her wounded, puppy dog eyes on me, I enjoyed the notion that I might be the one to rescue her. It didn’t hurt that she acted as if Mount Olympus passed down the information I relayed to her. It didn’t hurt that when I directed attention to her, she appeared frazzled. When it appeared that trying to entertain me stressed her out, I found her entertaining. When she would cut her stories off with a “You’re bored, I’ll stop,” I would snap to and follow the rest of her story with keen interest. Long story short, my attention meant the world to her, and I liked that.
Rhonda was the other girl. She sat to my right in this college English class. She was the epitome of sophistication. I didn’t know her long, and our friendship never went beyond the superficial, but even in superficial conversations, she used words no guy I knew had ever heard. I figured either a woman of impeccable etiquette raised her, or she had attended some sort of charm school that had girls walk with books on their head to attain a statuesque posture. I don’t know what became of Rhonda, but when I knew her, she appeared to be a woman on the rise. It was exciting just to sit next to her.
Rhonda dressed as if she was interviewing for an office job every day. She knew how to apply makeup, and she wasn’t afraid to use it, a lot of it. Rhonda also learned to avoid looking a guy in the eyes when he told a story. It was as if she knew that most guys lose their place when she puts her eyes on them.
“You ain’t ready,” a friend of mine, named Otis, said when I told him about Rhonda. When I informed Otis that I had an “in” with her that I was working on, and that I was excited about it. “You ain’t ready,” is what he said. When I said she was responding to me, and she was smiling at me when I would speak to her, and that she was saying things that suggested I might have a chance, he said it again. He repeated it so often, after everything I said, that by the time he was done, he had the group of men around us guffawing.
The “in” that I had with Rhonda was that she was the older sister of a guy that was dating my ex-girlfriend, and I knew this because she had a very unusual surname. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I remember thinking it was so German that it sounded similar to Braunschweiger. I carefully tailored my intro to this information with a suggestion that I wasn’t sure if she the guy’s sister, and I approached the matter with a, “With such an unusual last name, I thought it was possible that you might be related. I was sure, however, I knew the guy. I then followed that intro with strategically placed pauses and thoughts, and I wrapped it all up in a bow with a well-placed joke. It worked well as an intro, but as with all of my interactions with Rhonda, our conversation concluded with me thinking I had failed to tie it up with a closer that would knock her off her seat with laughter.
I liked who I was around Rhonda, but she did have a way about her that suggested I wasn’t ready for her league. She could make a guy feel like he was enjoyable to be around, but if wanted to be truly entertaining, he would have to work the body a little more. I was all about delivering the funniest lines she ever heard, or to follow the boxing analogy, I was all about throwing knockout blows every time I saw her. She made me think that I had some charm, but if I wanted to be considered charming, I might want to read up on it, or watch someone that knows how to charm a girl. She made me feel at ease, in those moments when we were speaking, but closing those interactions with a bow was something I wasn’t capable of at the time. I wasn’t ready.
She began smiling at me, the day after that intro, and she would laugh at some of the things I said, but those smiles, and that laughter, were tempered and polite. She was not the type to betray her intentions, or desires, to date me. I would have to do a lot more work if that was going to happen. The link and the laughter would prove to be nothing more than an appetizer for this girl. If I wanted steak, I would have to put in a lot more elbow grease.
At some point in our story, Debbie began sitting to the left of me. She stole someone else’s seat in class and began sitting next to me. I wasn’t sure if her aggressiveness was attractive or unattractive, but I liked it. I told a joke one day, and the person sitting to the left of me doubled over in laughter. I told another joke, on another day, and when she recovered from her gales of laughter, she attempted to add to it. She successfully gained my attention, and her intentions were clear from that day forward.
Debbie was almost the exact opposite of Rhonda. Rhonda’s face appeared sculpted. She had a razor sharp chin line, her hair appeared manicured and beautifully curled, and her teeth had a whitened look before whitening solution became an almost mandatory ingredient in every toothpaste. Her legs were long, clean, tanned, and shiny. They were both blondes, but Debbie’s blondeness was borne of a solution as opposed to God. Debbie wore sweatshirts inside out and blue light special jeans. She wasn’t fat, but she appeared content to live with what God had granted her, as opposed to enduring anything physical that might enhance it.
Debbie was a nervous wreck when I would enter a room. Rhonda was the type that receives notice of one’s arrival, and those that receive notice rarely notice. Rhonda’s interest, if there was any, was more in the vein of a traditional 1950’s form of interest. She was coy. Her attention was subtle, and it served notice to the subject of her attention that it would be on them to pursue the matter. Debbie had cartoon-like hearts in her eyes for me, and she wasn’t afraid to show them. Had I instructed her to wear a sandwich board to tell the world how great I was Debbie might have purchased the permanent markers purchased before I could tell her I was joking.
Turning right involved a series of intricate challenges and mental games that movies on archeology employ to make the attainment of an artifact dramatic. Every conversation and lull brought such risk that a risk management type probably would’ve advised drawing up an algorithm before plodding further. Turning left was so much more pleasing and easy. On the rare occasion when I stared straight ahead, Debbie appeared damaged by it. To Rhonda, it was just another moment of another day. I would love to say that I turned left in an impulsive manner, but I didn’t. It was a well thought out emotional move procured for reward.
“I’ve always wanted to be a singer,” Debbie informed me one day. As just about everything Debbie would say about herself, this was a non sequitur. I could’ve pointed this out to her, I didn’t. “I think you’d like my singing,” she added.
I had no idea this was her point of entry. I lacked the foresight then, and to a lesser degree now, to recognize it when someone is coming onto me. When I was a young one, I believed that just about every woman I saw was attracted to me. As I aged, and pursued these opportunities, I began to believe no woman was attracted to me, but I still cannot tell anyone where the dividing lines between casual interest and lust are.
“Sure, I’d like to hear you sing,” I said to fulfill my lifelong credo of trying to express interest in anyone that expresses some interest in artistic creation to encourage it.
Debbie invited me over to her home to listen to her sing. As we drove over to her place, she made a sign of the cross and gasped. “Bless him baby Jesus.”
“What was that?” I asked looking around.
She appeared hesitant. “I said bless him baby Jesus.”
“Why?” I asked.
“There was a dead squirrel on the road back there.”
“You said bless him baby Jesus to a dead squirrel?” I asked with incredulousness.
“I didn’t say it to the squirrel,” she said. “I said it to the baby Jesus, so that he’ll … take the squirrel into His loving arms.”
I could not come up with a reply. I was so quiet that one would think my silence would prompt a “Why are you so quiet?” question. It was one of those moments when a person looks back for the dead squirrel she was talking about, thinking about everything that led them to the decisions they’ve made to be in the position they’re in right now, and all that they’re about to miss. I thought about the engaging conversations I had with Rhonda, and all the ones I could’ve had. I thought about the discussions we had about literature and philosophy, and how those discussions might have foreshadowed what was to come. I thought about the fact that she read some of the same obscure authors I had, and I thought about how I couldn’t believe that a woman of such sophistication and beauty had to have worked her way through the pile of literature to the obscure authors I read. I didn’t know anything about her diet, but I imagined that it had to be classy, as we drove to Debbie’s home. I thought about those dining experiences I could’ve had with Rhonda. I thought about how she wanted to be a designer, and how detailed she could be when she talked about the craft. I thought about how Rhonda engaged in after class conversations with our professor about our assigned readings. I thought about how intoxicating those conversations could be if she directed them at me. I thought about all that as Debbie and I drove to her home, and our conversation evolved into a discussion of whether or not a squirrel heaven existed.
Most people become so locked in on what makes them what they are, that they fail to notice when they venture off the trail. Most of those people can find their way back to normalcy with well-established breadcrumbs back to reality. Other people end up fixating on their own thing to a point that they neglect to consider how their idiosyncrasies might appear to others. Some may be weirded out by such people, but these people often fascinate me. If I’m at a table of four people, and one of those people are a little off in some manner, I’ll often focus most of my attention on them. I want to have them to react to my jokes. I want to learn how they came to be. Who are these people, and are they a natural creation due to slight chemical imbalances, or are they manmade? Do certain people influence them in such a manner that they become who they are, in other words, or are they so confined in their thought process that they don’t see it as being off the trail anymore? It’s always been a fascination of mine to indulge such oddities, but I’ve always done so as a brief flirtation with the desire to know the weird people of our society. Prior to driving to Debbie’s home, I never allowed this fascination to divert me into making such a poor decision before.
This recognition made the rest of the fifteen-minute ride to her house an emotional whirlwind for me, as I dealt with the fact that I chose the wrong girl, and how it could pertain to my overall decision-making process. By the time we were sitting in her home, at her dining room table, I decided to put all that behind me and try to enjoy myself. ‘What’s done is done,’ I thought.
It was not her home, she said after I complimented it. It was her dad’s home. When I noticed her home furnishings, and how clean and good looking her home was, she reminded me that it wasn’t hers. It was her dads. I didn’t know why this was such an important point for her to make, but she continued to do so. She appeared embarrassed, rattled, and out of sorts when I continued this line of conversation. She didn’t care for my eye. I asked her about the trinkets, the furniture, and the overall layout. She said it was her dad’s home.
“How many people live here?” I asked searching for conversation topics. “What does your Dad do for a living? What were you hoping to accomplish with this particular arrangement?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “My dad picked all this stuff out!”
I was making simple conversation, but she would have none of it. She didn’t understand this need on my part to have a subject worth discussing, and I was trying to avoid the central topic in my head, the one I considered the only topic worth discussing, that she was the wrong girl.
She reached into her purse to get a piece of gum. “Can I get a piece?” I asked. She searched her purse. It took a while. She began looking into it, and then she wasn’t searching anymore. “I asked for a piece of gum,” I said thinking that she had lost her place.
“I know,” she said with exasperation. “I’m looking.” She put her head into the purse and came out with a condom in her teeth. She shook the condom like a terrier with a play toy.
“I said gum,” I said to punctuate what I thought was a well-timed joke on her part. I was attempting to add to that joke, as opposed to deflating it.
She reached back into her purse, grabbed a piece of gum, and handed it to me.
She pulled out a carbonated beverage for the two of us and poured us a couple glasses. After doing so, she went to the freezer to get some ice. In my land, you put the ice in first and poured the soda over that ice to enhance the ice’s effect on the soda’s temperature, but she said that causes the soda to go flat.
She also had cartons of cigarettes in her freezer, next to the ice.
“You put your smokes in the freezer?” I asked leaving my seat to get a better look at this anomaly.
“My dad says it keeps them fresh,” she said with the fatigue that she gave all my questions. Smokes in a freezer were her way of life, and she believed in it. Who was I, her exasperation said, to question everything she did. The other thing was I got the idea that each of my questions led her to believe that I was losing interest in her. To be honest, I wasn’t interested in her. I wasn’t interested in her long term anyway. I didn’t think long term, and if I had, I would be using this time to find a way to pursue Rhonda further.
This humble abode housed some serious smokers I thought when she told me about the freshness technique that her family engaged in. It’s always struck me as a little odd when people develop unnecessary routines in life. I’m not an expert on cigarettes, but I have to imagine that they have a shelf life of over a month. Either these people don’t smoke that often, which I doubted after seeing this girl smoke or the Dad had so few lessons to pass onto his daughter that he came up with this little nugget as one of the few pieces of knowledge he could pass onto her.
We sat and talked about stupid stuff for a little while, until our glasses were empty. At that point, I kept talking, and she began chewing on ice with emphasis. She was cracking them in her mouth. It drove me nuts after about the fourth cube.
“Do you have to crack it like that?” I asked.
She ignored the question. She kept cracking with an impishness that didn’t suit her. “You know what they say about girls that chew on ice dontcha-?”
“It drives me nuts when people chew on ice,” I said. “But I don’t say anything, until it begins to be obnoxious.”
“-They enjoy oral sex,” she continued.
“They … They what?”
“People that chew on ice enjoy oral sex,” she said. “That’s what they say.”
I’ve always had a tough time dealing with non sequitur people. I often ask them to go back and examine the conversation we just had, and I ask them how it applies. When I do so, it’s intended to be funny, but I couldn’t make this funny. Her end of the conversation did apply to the conversation, and it was not a true non sequitur in that sense, but I was as unprepared for it as any non sequitur I’d ever heard. If there was some sort of build up to that line, I may have been more prepared. That line would haunt me in the dating drought that would follow. In the replays, I would be the smooth guy. I would stand, take her by the hand and say, “Let’s test that little theory out, little mama.” I was not ready for that line however, as it appeared to have come from out of nowhere.
Moments later –I’ve managed to block out some of the interim where I stumbled through the after effects of what she said– I informed her that I had to go to the bathroom. She told me where it was. Then she said, “Wait!” and she scurried into the bathroom and locked the door. In the process of scurrying to the bathroom, she cut me off with such urgency that she nearly knocked me over. I heard rustling in her bathroom. My first thought: she was cleaning. After a space of time, let’s say a minute and a half, I began to think something else was going on in there. I called in there: “What are you doing in there?”
“Just hold on!” she said. She exited the bathroom about two minutes later with a box that covered her entire torso. She was beat red.
“What were you doing?”
“Just go to the bathroom,” she instructed.
To this day, I don’t know what was in that box. The impatient order to go to the bathroom and forget what I saw, the embarrassment on her face as she exited, the time she spent in the bathroom collecting things, and the harried pace with which she exited past me led me to believe that the products in the box were dildos, but I’ll never know for sure. I write this after I dismissed other possibilities. If I had made a commotion about tampons or maxi-pads, she could’ve call me out for being a naïve bachelor. Other than that, I can’t think of any other product for which she wouldn’t have a suitable response to my inquiry.
When I exited the bathroom, she was sitting on the couch. I decided to let the box controversy die. She handed me the remote, which I considered odd. She sensed the confusion, and she offered some cliché line like, “I know how you men are about your remotes.” Whatever, I thought, and I began flipping. I wasn’t two to three flips in, when the screen went blue. “What did you do?” she asked.
I was embarrassed and confused when the screen went from blue to black, and a pornographic movie started. I began clicking channels, hitting every button on the remote I could find, until I finally hit the power button and looked at her with some apology. It clicked immediately back on, and I clicked it off again.
“It’s me,” she said with that impish smile that didn’t appear natural on her. She pulled a VCR remote out from her left side. She laughed. I didn’t. I was relieved. “Do you want me to leave it on?” she asked.
“No,” I said. I told her I was good.
We watched TV for a second longer when she invited me to see some of her ceramics in her bedroom. As naïve as I was, even I knew that was a gateway to the portal. Had we been starring in one of her pornographic movies, this is where the music would’ve started.
We walked to the bedroom, and she showed me her posters. Then she said another set of words that haunt me to this day: “My songs!” she said in a frantic way that suggested something was on fire.
“You came over to my home to hear me sing. I almost forgot.” She raced around her room and the living room searching for one particular cassette tape. She was cursing herself and running around. “I can’t find it!” she said tossing boxes and blank cassettes.
“It’s all right,” I said. “Just sing anything.”
“No,” she responded. “It’s got to be here… Here it is!” she finally said. She plugged it home, and she began singing some Christian song. So far, this girl had hit every wrong note that I could conceive. She went nasty with the condom, she laid an oral sex joke on me before my backside was warm in her dining room chair, the dildos in the box, the porn trick on the tube, and now she wraps all of it up with her best rendition of Jesus Loves Me.
“You’re really good,” I lied. It wasn’t an out and out lie. She wasn’t awful, but she had just filled my head with so many sexual innuendos, in one school day afternoon that she could’ve sounded like PJ Harvey and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between good and bad.
It became obvious to her that I was losing interest in the song. The only reason I say this is that my polite smile must’ve drained, because she turned beat red, clicked the tape off, and apologized for the song. “I said it was good.” I plead that part, because as off the trail as she proved to be, I made a pledge that I was never going to be one that crushed the dreams of another in the manner so many crushed mine.
She lay down next to me on the bed, and we kissed. Here’s another thing I thought a lot about during the single status draught that followed, her lips. Back in those days, before I associated dating with emotion, I thought kissing was nothing more than unnecessary foreplay. Kissing was something a person did so that they didn’t have to look at the person while grabbing for their reproductive organs. The soft, sensual nature of this woman’s lips stopped me. I didn’t grab anything. I didn’t look at anything. I kissed her.
Up to that moment where I tasted those lips, I thought that Debbie was another lost soul that confused the desire to have sex with love. I thought she was one of us. I was fully prepared to consider her a huge mistake in my life, compared to whatever meaningful relationship I could’ve had with Rhonda. Debbie had a cute quality about her, but she wasn’t so attractive that one would think about her after she was gone. She didn’t have a sparkling personality, and she wasn’t very intelligent or refined. In other words, Debbie couldn’t have competed with a Rhonda in any way, unless she made it well known that she was willing to lay it all out on the line, and indulge in the male fantasy of a one-night stand. It may have been more complex than that, or it may have been that simple. It may have had something to do with the fact that Debbie was just a horny pig. I didn’t care much either way, at that point in my life. Rhonda did impress me. Rhonda would’ve been a huge step up for me at that point in my life. Debbie hadn’t made much of an impression at all, until my lips touched hers.
My first thought was that this was not natural. I hadn’t kissed too many lips to that point, and I haven’t kissed too many since, but I couldn’t believe that lips could be this soft and yielding. Most lips have a tense quality to them. They also had a very sensuous taste to them. Prior to this moment, I’d heard poets and lyricists refer to the sensuous quality of lips, but I associated that with the appearance of lips. Full lips appear more sensuous, in other words. No one had ever told me, or showed me, how sensuous lips could be to the touch. I kissed Debbie harder to have her match the strength of that kiss. My thought was that her lips were flaccid to my kiss. I was wrong. I felt her lips tense, but they maintained that soft and yielding quality. My fascination with these lips superseded the confusion I experienced of a girl like this having such a luxury. I couldn’t believe that they were natural one minute, and then I couldn’t believe that they would be anything but natural the next minute.
I lost myself in this kiss. I couldn’t stop. I wanted to grasp the essence of her lips in a way I knew I never would, for there was a call to progress. We were on a bed, we were horizontal, and I was on top of her. Something had to happen. I reached down and grasped another slice of heaven. I had been in the nether region a couple of times on girls, and I usually found the matter to be generally unappealing. When push came to shove, I enjoyed the product overall, but on the surface I’ve generally found the nether region of women to be unkempt. This was another luxury, granted to a woman I didn’t think deserved. I couldn’t see much in the way of upkeep, but the overall experience was one I never had.
I decided that I wanted to do this again, while I was doing it, and I recalled a conversation I had just had with a bunch of fellas in a college dorm room where the topic of the day was deliberation. “The ladies like it slow and sensual,” one of them said. The participants in this conversation were mostly idiots, but they were far more experienced than I was, so I giggled a little and took a number of mental notes. “The ladies consider you a smooth operator when you tease them up right and finish in a flurry.” After tasting those lips, and wanting to capture their essence, I decided to test this theory out. I no longer wanted Debbie to be just another one. I wanted to be a smooth operator that swept off her feet, so that I would have another chance at those lips.
That was a driver of my deliberation, but the fascination with both sets of lips was another. Before I kissed her, I’m sure that my expression revealed boredom. I just wanted to do what boys and girls, and the birds and the bees do, and go home and tell all my friends that the damned streak was over, but those lips brought me out of all that. I was concentrating, I was fascinated, and fixated, and I wanted to fully explore and experience everything about her.
“We have to hurry!” she said.
“What?” I asked pulled out of my trance. I almost forgot she was there. I almost forgot what we were doing. I was enjoying it that much to that point. “I’d like to go slow.”
“We can’t,” she said. “My Dad will be home soon, and if he finds you here, he’ll kill you.”
At this point in my retelling of this story, I feel required to put an end to the laughter with the question: “What would you do?” When the woman says she wants it fast, a fella follows suit. When the woman tells you Daddy is coming home, and he’s going to kill you, you pick up the pace. I can take that ‘you’re so naïve’ laughs, and the ‘you’re not ready’ comments for a while, but those laughers must acknowledge the reality of the situation. At some point, even the most experience will admit that reality will kick in and they would do what is necessary and commanded.
When I tasted those lips, and felt those lips, I thought this would be a pleasurable ride. Instead, I pumped, released, and held hands under dryer. I removed condom, flushed, left.
She didn’t show up for classes again. I didn’t even notice it until a day or two had passed. I was ballsy enough to try hitting on Rhonda again. She would have none of it.
A friend of mine wanted to “meet” Debbie. I called her. She sounded a little off, but she invited me over. The girl was stoned out of her mind. This, on the face of it, didn’t bother me too much, until I discovered that she was frying what remained of her brain on something called Scotch Guard. She showed me a procedure I considered novel of spraying the chemical substance into a towel. Those desiring the high then put the towel to their face in the manner Dennis Hopper did on Blue Velvet, and they huff it. I hadn’t seen Blue Velvet to that point. I never heard of this procedure to that point. I asked her questions about it. She answered them. Then she invited me to hit it, I said no.
My friend wanted to hit it, not the Scotch Guard, Debbie. There was another girl in the room, but she established the idea that she was going to play the role of the morose, little pig that didn’t want to oink with anyone. My friend asked me to allow him to put it to Debbie. I said no. I told him that I thought it was weird. I had no allegiance to Debbie, but the idea that he would have her screaming in the other room while I sat with the sad, little piggy just wasn’t appealing to me. I played a blocker, I know, but I had to do it. Even though I had a solid excuse locked in for my meager performance, I don’t think the sounds coming from that room would’ve settled with me too well.
About three to four years later, I stood at a Kwik Shop counter. I ordered cigarettes and gas. The woman behind the counter stared at me. I repeated my order. She continued to stare. Finally, she rang me up. I drove halfway to work before I realized that the Kwik Shop checker looking up at me was Debbie.