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 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. Some will want this opportunity, and the accompanying attention, to last forever. For others, the idea that the two suitors could both figure them out and leave the subject of their desires lonely is stressful. I went through all this, of course, and 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 could rescue her. It didn’t hurt that she acted as if Mount Olympus passed down the knowledge I relayed to her. It didn’t hurt that when I directed some 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. When she would ask me what I got on a test that day, 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 hint that she thought I was more than I thought I was, 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 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. She was, at the time I knew her, a woman on the rise. She 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 a lot of it. Rhonda also had 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 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 this at the end of every story I told him about her, and it was funny, 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 tie 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 her to consider me 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 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, 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 doubled over in laughter. That person happened to be sitting to the left of me. 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 for 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 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 receives notice, and those that receive notice rarely notice another. 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 overdo it. Had I asked her to wear a sandwich board to tell the world how great I was Debbie would probably have the board and permanent markers purchased 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 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, 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 to encourage it.
Debbie invited me over to her place 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 had no reply. I was quiet. 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 you look back for the dead squirrel she was talking about, thinking about everything that led you to the decisions you’ve made to be in the position you’re in right now, and all that you’re about to miss. I thought about the engaging conversations I could’ve had with Rhonda. I thought about the discussions we had about literature and philosophy, and how our discussions were a tip of the iceberg. I thought about the fact that she 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 had to have worked her way through the pile of literature to the obscure authors I read. I didn’t know what she 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 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. 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 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 that moment, 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. 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, 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 still be in the classroom pursuing Rhonda.
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 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’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. 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 the 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 a blowjob 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 had made a pledge that I was never going to be one that crushed the dreams of another.
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 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 Debbie 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 still had 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 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 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 it. 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 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 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 bees and the butterflies 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 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 as Dennis Hopper did on Blue Velvet. 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 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 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.
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.