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 one that is so wrong, on so many levels, that you’ll end up wondering if you’re destined to make poor decisions for the rest of your life. I’m sure that many readers will envy me for being in that position even once in my life. I’m sure that many would crave such an opportunity, and the accompanying attention, and they would do whatever they could to make it last as long as possible. Most of those that have been in such a position, if they’re anything like me, know that such a position can prove stressful. Most would believe that they’re unworthy of such attention, and they fear that the potential suitors are on the cusp of figuring that out. They also fear that when the potential suitors find this out, the subject of such attention will feel despair and loneliness in the aftermath. I went through this, of course, all of it, and I ended up allowing something stupid, like wounded, puppy dog eyes to make my decision for me.
Debbie was the wrong choice, I see that now, but when she put those wounded, puppy dog eyes on me, I thought she needed the type of hope, reassurance, and rescue that only someone like me could provide, and I liked thinking that. When she acted as if every word I said had been passed down from Mount Olympus, I enjoyed speaking to her. When she appeared frazzled anytime my attention was directed at her, I enjoyed looking at her. 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. When she would ask me what I got on the test that was handed back to us, I wouldn’t tell her, and she wouldn’t tell me what score she received, until some sort of bond developed between us that tipped the scales. When she would give me some hint that she thought I was more than I was, I thought I was, and I liked that.
Rhonda was the other girl. Rhonda was the one that sat to my right in this college English class. She was the epitome of sophistication. I didn’t know her long, and our relationship never went beyond the superficial, but even her superficial conversations were imbued with words no guy I knew had ever heard of. I figured she was either raised by a woman of impeccable etiquette, or she had attended a charm school that had girls walk with books on their head for the purpose of attaining a statuesque posture. She was, at the time I knew her, a woman on the rise. She dressed like she was interviewing for an office job every day. She knew how to apply makeup, and she wasn’t afraid to use a lot of it. Rhonda had also learned to avoid looking a guy in the eyes, as 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 this 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 all this, and that she was smiling at me, and that she was saying things that suggested I might have a chance, he said it again. He said “You ain’t ready” at the end of every story I told him about her, and it was funny. I found the repetition funny. I joined in on the laughter, because, as they say, humor gets better as it snowballs into truth.
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 name. I can’t remember what it was, but I remember thinking it was close to the name of the German sausage Braunschweiger. I worked that angle well, in the beginning. In the beginning, I had carefully prepared this intro with confusion, as if I wasn’t sure. 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 tied it up with that bow, a knockout punch, or a closing.
Rhonda had a way of making me think that I was an enjoyable person to be around, but if I wanted to be considered entertaining, I would have to work the body a little more, to follow the boxing analogy. She made me think that I had some charm, but if I wanted to be considered charming, I might want to read some literature that defined it better. Or, I thought, I might want to watch someone that knows the A to Z’s of 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 wouldn’t go overboard 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, Debbie began sitting to the left of me. I don’t know if she had been sitting there the whole time, and I failed to notice her earlier, or if she had just started sitting there one day. All I know is, I told a joke one day, and one person in the room was doubled over in laughter, and that person happened to be sitting to the left of me. I told another joke, on another day, and when she had 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, every hair on her head was manicured and beautifully curled, and her teeth had a whitened look before whitening solution became an almost mandatory ingredient for every toothpaste. Her legs were long, clean, tanned, and shiny. They were both blondes, but Debbie’s blondeness was borne of solutions man had devised, as opposed to the natural. 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 doing any physical exercise that might help shape it.
Debbie was a nervous wreck when I would enter a room. Rhonda was the type that gets noticed, and those that get noticed rarely notice another. If Rhonda had any interest in me, it was a more traditional 1950’s form of coy and subtle affection that it was on the man to pursue. Debbie had cartoon-like hearts in her eyes for me, and she wasn’t afraid to overdo it. Had I asked her to wear a sandwich board to tell the world how great I was, she would probably have purchased the board and the permanent markers before I could tell her I was joking.
Turning right involved a series of challenges and mental games that movies on archeology employ to make the attainment of an artifact dramatic. Every conversation and lull brought a degree of 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 to be slightly 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. She had those wounded puppy dog eyes on when she said it, as if she didn’t know what she would do with herself if I offered an even-keeled assessment of that dream. As with just about everything Debbie would say about herself, this was a non sequitur that didn’t apply to anything anyone was talking about. I could’ve pointed this out, 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, but I could not have told you where the dividing lines between casual interest and lust are.
“Sure,” I said to fulfill my lifelong credo of trying to express interest in anyone that expresses some interest in artistic creation.
“Would you like to come over to my place to hear me sing,” she asked. “After class?”
“Sure,” I said.
As we drove over to her place, in her car, 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 did not know how to respond to such a notion, but I would have to imagine that the silence that followed should’ve prompted a “Why are you so quiet?” responses.
It was one of those moments when a person looks back to see the dead squirrel Debbie 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 as a result. I thought about the stimulating conversations I could’ve had with Rhonda. I had some knowledge of literature and philosophy, but I couldn’t hold a candle to Rhonda. Rhonda had read almost all of the “important” authors, but she also read a number of the more obscure authors that I loved so much that they achieved that special place on an avid reader’s “my authors” mantle.
Looking back for baby Jesus’s squirrel, I thought about the fact that Rhonda had 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 worked her way through the pile of literature to the obscure authors I read. I didn’t know what Rhonda ate, 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 shared 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 had engaged in after class conversations with the professor about our readings, and how intoxicating those conversations could be if they were ever directed at me. I thought about all that as Debbie and I drove to her home, and our conversation revolved around whether or not there was a squirrel heaven.
Most people get so locked in on what makes them who they are, that they don’t notice how far off the trail they may have ventured. Most of these people can find their way back to normalcy with well-established breadcrumbs. There are other people that get so locked in on their own thing that they’ve neglected to consider how their idiosyncrasies may appear to others. Some may be weirded out by such people, but these people often fascinate me. If I find myself 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 recognize that they’ve ventured off the trail? It’s always been a fascination of mine to indulge such oddities, but I’ve often done so as a result of my desire to flirt with the bizarre, so that I might learn what leads them down different paths. Prior to that moment, however, I never allowed this fascination to drive 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, but 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. 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 wasn’t so sure 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.
“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 casual 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 I was with the wrong girl.
She reached into her purse to retrieve 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,” Debbie said with exasperation. “I’m looking.” She put her head into the purse, as if the purse was so deep that a surface glance could not search sufficiently, and her head 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, 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 for the purpose of enhancing 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,” Debbie said with the fatigue she gave all of the questions I asked about her lifestyle. 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. I wasn’t interested in her if the truth be known. I wasn’t interested in her long term anyway. I didn’t think long term, and if I had, I would still be in the classroom pursuing Rhonda.
This humble abode housed some serious smokers I thought when she informed me about the freshness techniques 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 doncha-?”
“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 these people 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, but I was as unprepared for it as any non sequitur I’ve ever heard. If there was some sort of build up to that line, I may have been more prepared. As I replayed that line through my head over and over, and it haunted me throughout a long dating draught that would follow, I became the smooth guy that stood, took her by the hand and said, “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 about two more 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 sex toys, but I’ll never know for sure. If I had made a commotion about tampons or maxi-pads, she could’ve called 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, an act I considered odd considering that this was her home, or her dad’s house. 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’m good.”
We watched regular programming for a second longer when she mentioned that if I loved trinkets, which I didn’t beyond trying to make the casual conversation she didn’t appear to understand, then she said I would love the ceramics collection she had 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 allowed me to handle her ceramics. She talked about their origins and the depth behind the messages they offered the owner. She then interrupted one of her descriptions with two words that haunt me to this day: “My songs!” She laid those two words in a manner 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 then the living room, searching for that one particular cassette tape that had a particular song that I would enjoy. 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 gotta be here…“Here it is!” she said holding that cassette tape up proudly. She plugged it home, and she began singing a tender, thoughtful Christian song. To this point, Debbie 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, she had what I could only assume were sex toys in a box, she played a porn trick on the TV set on me, 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 ever singing in the first place. “I said it was good.” The latter was a bit of a plea on my part, because as off the trail as she proved to be, I had made a pledge that I was never going to be one that crushed the artistic dreams of another.
Debbie accepted my apology and she laid 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 any kind of 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 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 we had established the fact that even though she was in a college English class, she knew nothing about literature or philosophy. Debbie couldn’t have competed with a Rhonda in any way, shape or form, in other words, unless she made it clear 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. At that point in my life, I didn’t care much either way. 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 and tasteless quality to them. These lips 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 Debbie match the strength of that kiss. My thought being that she hadn’t put any strength in her lips. I was wrong. I felt her lips tense, but they still had that soft and yielding quality. My fascination with these lips was superseded by the confusion I felt over a pig like this girl being granted 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 their essence 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 things to be generally unappealing. When push came to shove, I enjoyed the product on the whole, but on the surface I’ve generally found the nether region of women to be unkempt. It was another luxury Debbie had been granted. I couldn’t see much in the way of upkeep, but she had been granted a degree of soft lips there, too, that I had never experienced.
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 lot 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 her to be swept off her feet by a smooth operator that would be afforded 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 bees and the butterflies do, and go home and tell all my friends that the damned dry spell 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 investigation. 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, you give it to her fast. 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’ laugh, but if you’re going to laugh, you must also acknowledge that the reality of the situation will kick in and you’ll 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 class 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 the novel procedure of spraying the chemical substance into a towel. At that point, you put it to your face like Dennis Hopper did on Blue Velvet. I had not watched Blue Velvet to that point. I never heard of this procedure to that point in my life. 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 had established the idea that she was going to play 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 the blocker, I know, but it had to be done. Even though I had a solid excuse locked in for my meager performance, I don’t think her screams would’ve settled with me too well.
Flash forward to the ending. 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.