I dropped Dawn off at her place, kissed her goodnight, and as luck would have it, on my way home I ended up getting a speeding ticket.
Ordinarily there’s an added value in driving a family car like a Taurus. Cops tend to overlook them in favor of more appealing targets and if you stick a child seat in the backseat, well, you might as well be invisible. But at 3:30 AM in the morning, when a cop is hiding alongside a road with a 30 MPH speed limit and the roads are mostly empty, I suppose that even all-green family cars are fair game.
“Did you know you were going forty-two in a thirty?” the cop asked me.
“No, does that make me eligible for the grand prize or enter me into some sort of sweepstakes?” I grinned. “I don’t mean any disrespect, Patrolman, but I didn’t get laid tonight and I’m really, really tired. Can I please just have my ticket so I can home and get some sleep?”
“You didn’t, huh?” the cop said dryly, bending down to shine his flashlight into my car. “Well, If you took her out in this thing I can understand why that might happen.”
By the time I got home, it was all I could do to get my contacts out and clothes off before I collapsed into bed. But as cruelty would have it, it seemed like I was asleep for all of five minutes before the phone rang.
I’m not awake yet. Pure instinct is operating my limbs. Slowly, my hands slide up to my head and an index finger inserts into each ear. But despite this clever tactic, the offending sound continues. Mr. Instinct is baffled. The fingers in the ears thing usually works – at least that’s what they taught him in ‘Instinct school.’ And after a few more rings, Mr. Instinct is really getting annoyed with his apparent inability to make the earsplitting sound stop.
It’s a good thing he’s been taking boxing lessons in his spare time.
One of my arms suddenly lashes out at the phone on my headboard, landing a devastating blow that might have sent George Foreman to the mat and before I’m even awake enough to speak, Mr. Instinct has brought the whole phone down on top of me. The cradle, receiver and miscellaneous cords land in a heap on my stomach.
“Hul.. Hohlo?! Hello?!!” I say, finally finding the receiver.
“Hi! Good morning sugar boy!”
“Bahhh?! Uhhh. Who is this?” I mumble, rolling onto my stomach.
“It’s Sarah. Are you alone?”
“Alone? Uh, yeah. Sarah?” I have to ask again because apparently I forgot to hit ‘save’ the first time.
“Yeah, it’s me,” she says.
“Why are you calling me so early? God, is the sun even up?” I mutter. I rise up in bed for a moment to look at the window. “Sarah, it’s not even dawn yet!”
“I want French toast,” she says.
“I want French toast with syrup and bacon, and some orange juice, and a waitress named ‘Flo’ or ‘Betty.’”
I cough a few times. “No waitresses or French toast here. Just a dreaming guy in his boxer shorts with a face full of slobber,” I mutter, drifting off again.
“Get up! Get up!” she shouts. “Let’s go out to breakfast!”
“Ahhh!” I wince. “Christ! What time is it?”
“It’s… why it’s 7:11 exactly. It’s time for your Big Gulp!” she says.
“Seven? Oh man. Why are you calling me so god damned early? I had a late one last night.”
“So did I but you wanna know what?” she asks. “I got up to take some aspirin this morning and it’s such a beautiful spring morning out there! We can’t just sleep in and miss it.”
“I can miss it.” I yawn violently. “You know I turn to dust if I leave the house before eight in the morning.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“No I won’t.”
“Yes you will. Now c’mon, get up,” she says. “Sing my theme song.”
“Sing it you bastard.”
“No, Sarah, let me go back to sleep,” I plead.
“C’mon Craig, sing my song. Please…”
“Say yyooou’ll always be my baby, we can make it shine… More than a wo-man… You’re more than a woman to meeee… More than a woman,” I manage in my best sleepy rendition of the high-pitched Beegees style.
“That’s right. I’m more than a woman!” She claps. ” Now get up for me and let’s go out to breakfast.”
“No. Why don’t you call Tim instead?”
“I did and him and Laura are already up and fighting this morning. So get up! Snap-snap!” she yells.
“Should I pick you up in a half an hour?” she asks.
“Make it forty-five. Pick me up after eight.”
“Whoo-yeah!” she screams into my ear. I hang up on her.
7 AM, Sunday morning. Man, this is really unfair. I untangle myself from the phone and roll onto my back and here comes Pork Chop. He jumps from the floor to a chair, to the seat of my mountain bike, and then to the windowsill before finally dropping down onto my futon as if that were somehow a more logical route than just jumping directly up onto the futon in the first place.
“Meow!” he demands. Food. Feed me. Like right now.
“Man, you’re really pushing your luck. I’m not getting bullied twice this morning,” I inform him.
“The Cat-a-pult’s gonna fire in about five seconds if you aren’t…” Suddenly my cat ricochets off of my bed, flips in mid-air and then he’s running for the kitchen.
My bed is my castle. It’s my throne and court combined and although my cat forgets from time to time, he has come to understand that making demands of the king before he’s awake grants you a first class catapulting over the castle walls. And you see, bed sheets make the perfect catapult when they’re suddenly pulled taught and then violently yanked out from underneath an unsuspecting pain-in-the-ass cat.
I yawn. Now I have forty-five minutes of time to budget. Sleep for another half-hour and get ready in fifteen? Sleep for thirty-five minutes and get ready in ten? Sleep for forty minutes and get ready in five? No wait, I can sleep for forty-five minutes and when the doorbell rings I’ll just jump up and scramble and make an excuse that… Ah, screw it! I’m awake. My dreams are already dancing across the stage of my brain, high-kicking their way out my head like a line of Rockettes.
I brush an arm across my face and suddenly I find myself revisiting the lingering smell of Dawn’s perfume. I wonder what this fragrance is called? Maybe I won’t shower this morning and I’ll head into Famous Barr after breakfast and ask one of the girls in cosmetics if they can ID it for me. Heh. On second thought, that probably wouldn’t be a very good idea. Because there’s this annoying little question I’m sure I would end up having to answer.
‘So is this a perfume you wear quite often, sir?’
I really would like to know what it’s called though. It’s funny how you begin to associate specific perfumes, colognes or odors with various people. You can be walking down a crowded sidewalk and catch a whiff of someone’s perfume and instantly you’re scanning the crowd for an ex-girlfriend you haven’t seen in five years. Or maybe things ended badly between the two of you and you don’t look around, opting instead to dart into the next available doorway and hide for a few minutes.
“We’ll get some caffeine in you and you’ll be just fine,” Sarah says, pouring me a steaming cup of coffee. The bright and cheery atmosphere of the International House of Pancakes this early on a Sunday morning is way too much for me; I’m starting to regret not having brought my sunglasses. Harsh sunlight streams in through the windows making the bright orange and blue color scheme of the place even more of an affront to my sleepy eyes, and screaming kids in high-chairs throw sausage links at their siblings and slash and stab at the faces of their whipped cream and chocolate chip smiley-faced pancakes.
“What I really need is a good kick to the head,” I say. “I must have walked past my kitchen clock like ten times this morning before it finally registered that the stupid thing wasn’t working. I’m feeding my cat and I glanced up at it. 7:38. I took a shower, got dressed, and passed the clock again while I was looking for my shoes. It was 7:38. I found my jacket and my keys and opened all of the curtains around the apartment. 7:38. I watered the plants and took out the garbage. 7:38. Dammit, it’s still 7:38!! Now what in the hell is going on here?! What kind of cruel joke is this?! Then I finally realized that the second hand wasn’t moving.”
“Maybe some scientists from the fourth dimension were using you as a lab experiment, like to test the human interpretation of time,” she says. “How long will it take for this primitive human being to figure out that we’ve stopped his clock?”
“Heh. Yeah, that’s actually a fairly believable theory.” I chuckle. “I could even see them making a few bets on my progress. ‘He’s gonna walk past it again and still not figure it out. Just watch. Twenty bucks? Alright Thompson, you’re on! Here he comes again! He’s looking in that direction… He’s looking right at the clock! Hahahaa! He still didn’t figure it out. Pay up sucker!’”
Sarah giggles. Her large hazel eyes are already wide open this morning, taking in everything around us like a pair of wide-angle panorama cameras. In a world devoid of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sarah is a real-life superhero. She doesn’t need coffee or even a cape to transform into “Super Wide-Awake-At-Eight-AM Woman.” Ok, perhaps describing her as a superhero is a stretch but I know no one else over the age ten years old that is capable of this feat.
On the contrary, I’m pathetic at this hour. I make a coffee addict’s feeble attempt to drink my scalding hot coffee but it’s still way too hot. I should have taken up fire eating in college instead of coed volleyball. I haven’t had many opportunities to put my volleyball skills to much use but the fire eating thing? I’m sure that getting this coffee down would be no problem at all. “So what was up with Tim and Laura?” I ask, digging in my water for a few ice cubes to throw into my mug.
“He wouldn’t say. He mumbled something about this being ‘D-day’ and then he said he had to go.”
“Man, you think this is the big one? You think they’ll actually break up?” I ask.
“No, I’m betting on the usual few days or a week of separation but they’ll end up patching things up like they always do.” She pulls a piece of blue fabric out of her purse and uses it to tie her hair back in a quick ponytail.
“Sunday mornings and arguments over plans for the weekend,” I sigh. “I wanted to go out to lunch and a movie. She wanted to refinish the bathroom and do work in the yard. I don’t miss that a bit.”
“Oh yeah, you’re as slippery as a can of Crisco. You’re going to avoid a relationship for as long as you can, aren’t you?” she asks, accusingly.
“Yeah, that’s my plan. At least for the moment,” I say.
“You son of a bitch! Are you still gonna try to hide all of this from me?” She reaches across the table and pokes me in the ribs. “Tim says you’re doing two different women right now.”
“As opposed to two of the same woman?” I ask, taking a cheap shot at her word choice.
I get a well defined ‘I’m not through with you look” from her as the waitress shows up to take our order. We haven’t even looked at the menus yet, but that’s no big deal because Sarah knew what she wanted before the sun was up. And me? I’m easy. Two eggs over-easy, bacon, and short stack of pancakes.
“Did you catch her nametag?” I ask, as the waitress walks away.
“So I hear you’ve captured a Lolita and a single divorced mother. Is that correct?” she asks, ignoring my attempt to change the subject.
“You know, Craig, I have a giant steam press back at the apartment I inherited from my grandfathers’ Laundromat when it closed down. You could invite them both over for drinks some night and we could smoosh them both together to form the Uber-girlfriend.”
Is she actually pissed at me? I don’t reply and instead, lean back in my seat to appraise my situation. She doesn’t seem pissed, I decide. She is pissed. She hasn’t even met either of women in question and yet the animosity is already there.
“I wasn’t trying to hide it from you or anything. I’ve only been seeing them for the past week or so.”
“Tim has a theory that you’ve dropped into overdrive, that ‘Mr. Emotionally Flippant’ finally got hit with the big fat loneliness stick like the rest of us and your apathy has finally given way to a need…”
“My apathy? What?!” I interrupt her. “Jesus, Tim’s so full of shit! He has to have an opinion about everything under the sun. And what’s up with all this heavy-duty speculation about my love life and mental state anyway? It’s not that big of a deal. I’m dating. So what?”
I wonder if she brought me out to breakfast solely to sneak attack me about all of this. I doubt it. Sarah doesn’t seem to have a plan for anything in her life but it sure doesn’t seem like coincidence that we’re having this discussion now.
“We’re your friends and naturally we’re… well, we’re curious.” She smiles, apparently lightening up for the time being.
“Well, you’re an amusing team. On one hand I have Tim trying to pry as many details as he can about my sexual encounters and then I have you and your inquisition into my love life,” I say. “And I always tell him to go out and buy an issue of ‘Penthouse’ whenever he pries too much. But what about you? Can I tell you to go out and buy a Judith Krantz novel?”
“No, you can’t,” she says, throwing a packet of ‘Sweet & Low’ at me. “Tim’s excuse is that he hasn’t had sex in over a year and…”
“Yeah, and what’s yours?” I ask.
She looks down at the table and plays with her silverware.
“Wow Sarah, did I actually embarrass you or something? In the ten years I’ve known you I don’t think I’ve ever seen you embarrassed.”
“So tell me about these two women,” she says, looking up again. “Our mutual friend seems to possess all of the details like how large the Lolita’s boobs are and how many times you’ve slept with her, and how this Dawn apparently has a really nice ass but he’s strangely at a loss to tell me anything else.”
I laugh. “Then I guess you don’t know about the streaking thing…”
“What?!” she screams.
“Shhhh! Other people in here aren’t as awake as you are,” I remind her. I take a drink of my coffee and cagily glance around the restaurant and sure enough, at least two tables are watching us. ‘Oh look honey, isn’t that cute? Look at that darling young couple arguing. Remember when we used to do that?’
I stare down them down, giving them a dirty look that’s undoubtedly enhanced by my current state of caffeine deficiency. ‘Yeah, we’re a cute young couple with foul mouths and a penchant for spontaneous violence. Haven’t you ever seen “Natural Born Killers?” It would be in your best interest to go back to eating your Pigs n’Blankets and International Omelets before the cute young couple has a sudden mood swing and decides to draw their automatic weapons and open up on you.’
“You’re not allowed to call me ‘God’s Little Exhibitionist’ ever again,” Sarah says. “Not anymore, mister, because now you’re in the club.”
“Oh yeah, like I’m really an exhibitionist, Sarah. That was a one-night performance. I’m not going to make it a regular gig or anything.”
“Yes you will. Now that I know it’s in the realm of possibility with you I’ll twist your arm one way or another.” Suddenly she scowls. “Hey, why did you tell Tim about all of this and then not me? Why didn’t I get a call from you the very next morning?”
“It’s just been a real whirlwind week for me,” I say. “The streaking thing only happened Wednesday night.”
“Last Wednesday night? After Happy Hour?” she exclaims. “You had a date planned later that night?!”
“No, I didn’t. It kind of snuck up on me. Look, there’s a lot more to the story than even Tim knows,” I say. “Like it’s not any coincidence that I’m dating two women at once.”
“Then tell me everything,” she says, sliding her elbows onto the table. “I deserve to know more than Tim for once.”
“Alright.” I hook the plastic blue decanter of coffee with my index finger and drag it to my end of the table. “But any more loud Sarah-style outbursts and I’m stopping.”
Sarah sits on her hands.
“I’m serious. No outbursts out of you, you promise?”
“Alright, alright!” she says. “On with the story.”
“I called a dating service last week – totally on a whim I should add. I wasn’t hard up. In fact, I wasn’t even planning on signing up or anything. I just found this ad in the back The Gutterfrump Times and curiosity got the best of me.”
“What’s to be curious about?” she asks. “A dating service is a dating service. They’re all the same.”
“No, this one was different. They only wanted $19.95 to find you a girlfriend and I wanted to find out what the catch was,” I say, stirring another ice cube into my coffee.
“So what was the catch?”
“That’s just it. There wasn’t one.”
“We kissed on the picnic table. But I guess a more appropriate phrase would be that ‘we made out.’” I chuckle, feeling vaguely embarrassed.
“Oh yeah?” Sarah asks. “And how long did that go on?”
“About an hour? I dunno, something ridiculous like that.”
“Then what happened?” she asks, spiking another rectangle of French toast with her fork.
“Well, things started to escalate and I finally got around to asking her if I could bring her back to my place.”
“And what’d she say?”
“She said no. She politely declined and said that she had to have plans for that sort of thing because of her daughter and all.” I pause. “So we’re getting together tonight at eight.”
Sarah smiles. “Plans to have sex. Ohhh, Craig! Usually you do that sort of shit when you get married or at the end of the relationship. Not at the beginning!”
“Yeah I know. It’s frustrating but for the some reason it’s kind of exciting too. I mean, it takes all of initial brush fire and passion out of it but I’m really looking forward to it. Most Sunday nights I look forward to ‘The Simpson’s’ but tonight I get to look forward to sex. You know what I mean?”
“So which one of the two beauties are you going to pick?” she asks.
“Who said I had to pick?” I run a square of pancake through a pool of syrup. “This has only been going on for a week and to the best of my knowledge I’m not backed up against any walls yet.”
“Yeah, to the best of your knowledge. But you’re a dumbass guy, aren’t you?”
“Neither of them is making any demands of me, Sarah. Not even subtle ones. Elizabeth is usually gone by morning and doesn’t seem dependent at all, and like I said, Dawn tried her best to shove me away anyway”
“Yeah, and why do you think she did that?” she asks.
“Because she was angry at men. She was sick of guys dumping her after two weeks or so.”
“And?” she asks.
“And what?” I ask. “That’s it.”
“No it isn’t,” she says.
“Well then what?” I ask.
“Never mind,” she repeats. “You’ll figure it out sooner or later and when you do I’ll give you a shiny gold star and a smiley face on your homework assignment. But you have to humor me here. If you had to pick one of these woman, if, Craig. Which one of them would it be?”
“Are you serious?!” She scowls.
“I think so.” I glance down at the remains of my pancakes.
“I dunno. My life has become such a routine these days,” I say, taking another bite of pancake. “I go to work everyday. I come home. I fix dinner. I watch some TV. I go to sleep. Sometimes we go out to Happy Hour and we go out on the weekends and get drunk. And then Monday morning the whole thing starts all over again. But with Elizabeth… I guess she seems really dangerous. I get the distinct impression that she’ll turn my life completely upside down if I let her. And that’s exactly what I need right now, Sarah. I need someone to pick me up by the ankles, hang me upside down and shake me.”
Sarah starts laughing and before long I’m laughing too although I’m not really sure what I said that was so funny. But soon we’re gaining the attention of unwanted fans again. I can’t blame them for staring at us. Late at night after the bars have closed, you can expect to hear people laughing their asses off over a plate of pancakes but at eight in the morning?
She laughs and laughs… and then suddenly she’s crying. Tears stream down the sides of her face. “It wasn’t that funny, Sarah,” I say, reaching to hand her a napkin. But she pushes my hand away, grabs her coat and purse, slides out of the booth, and runs out of the restaurant.
I sit there dumbfounded for ten seconds or so, waiting for my brain to make some sense of what just happened. What in the hell? She was… she was really crying. What did I say? What did I do? Did I miss something? It’s times like these that I wish women came with a handbook. Chapter 4, Page 22: “When She Starts Crying For No Apparent Reason at the International House of Pancakes.” We don’t really have an explanation you for on this. It’s one of the many apparently random things that seem to occur with women. Taking her to Ms. Field’s cookies and letting her buy whatever she wants may be one solution to this crisis, and if it’s too early in the morning for a cookie shop to be open, wait around at the table for a bit. Maybe she’ll return.
I wait around for a few minutes and when she doesn’t come back, I swallow a few hasty gulps of coffee, round up my coat and drop a twenty on the table. If you end up having to chase her out into the parking lot, take as many napkins as possible from the table. You may also find it handy to consult Chapter 6, Page 18: “When She Starts Crying For No Apparent Reason Near a Grade School or Playground” and “Chapter 12: Page 5: “How to Find Out the Real Reason She’s Crying.” Good Luck, sir.
A few people are watching me as I rush for the front door. “They totally burned her breakfast,” I say to one of the tables as I pass. “She’s really serious about her French Toast.”
Sarah isn’t at her car when I get out into the parking lot and I’m about to go back inside looking for her when I spot her off in the distance, speed walking down the sidewalk. “Sarah, what the hell?” I yell after her, but she doesn’t stop and I end up trying to run after her with a whole plateful of pancakes and coffee sloshing around in my stomach.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, finally catching up with her. “Hey, you wanna fill me in here?”
“Never mind,” she sniffles. “I’m fine now. I just needed some air.”
“No offense, Sarah, but you just started crying in the middle of the restaurant for no reason I can figure out. I wouldn’t say that’s anywhere near fine.”
“My emotions have been swirling around in a blender lately,” she says. “It’s just a bunch of girly shit you wouldn’t understand.”
“Hey, I’ve been honest with you this morning. Why can’t you be honest with me?” I ask.
“It’s no big deal, Craig. I tried to fend off a little breakdown with a plate of French toast and it didn’t work, alright?
I put an arm around her and slow her down to walking pace. “Hey, you know breakdowns come and breakdowns go. So what are you gonna do about it? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Thank you, Mr. Paul Simon,” she says.
“No, I’m serious. This isn’t like you. And I suspect that you’re too young to be going through menopause, am I right?” She laughs and I suppose that’s a positive sign.
“No, not menopause,” she says. “I’ve just been freaking out a lot lately.”
“I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat.” She laughs. “I started bawling watching ‘Friends’ the other night.”
“Well, I guess I can see where that could happen. It’s a pretty, uh, sad show. So what do you think is behind all of this freaking out?” I ask.
“It’s a lot of things,” she says. “I turn thirty next fall and all of my friends have been having babies this spring and that’s been totally fucking me up. I’m twenty-nine and I’m still not married and my biological clock is ticking away like a time bomb. And my parents probably think I’m a rug muncher because all of my younger sisters are married and I’m…”
“What was that?” I interrupt her. “Rug muncher?” I bust out laughing. “Where in the world did you get that phrase from?”
“Peggy and her girlfriend. I went out to lunch with them the other day.”
“That’s pretty good.” I chuckle. We walk for awhile without saying anything until I notice her blowing her nose on the sleeve of her coat. “Hey, I gave you napkins for that.”
“My sleeve is softer,” she says.
“Yeah, well that’s gross. It reminds me of this old handkerchief I used to carry. Pretty early in high school I went through this really hardcore identity crisis and I think I was actually trying to emulate my father for a semester or two. I started wearing his V-neck T-shirts and carrying a handkerchief, and you know, there’s this thing I discovered about handkerchiefs. Once you blow a whole bunch of snot into them you still have to carry that around in your pocket until you get home. It can get pretty ugly.”
“That’s why no one uses them anymore except for old men,” she says. She takes my arm from around her, grabs my hand and laces her fingers with mine.
“So what are you saying?” I ask. “Old men have less of a problem with carrying a wad of snot around in their pocket?”
“Something like that.”
“Are you alright now? Is there anything I can do?” I ask. “Like is there anything else you want to talk about? I mean, other than snot that is?”
Two kids sprint across the street in front of us packing carrying bright-orange plastic assault rifles, and homemade sound effects to fire them. “Buttta-da-Buttta-da-butttaa,” one them yells. And the kid running after him replies with his own version of gunfire, “Nir! Nir! Nir! Nirrr!!! Nirrr! Nir! Nir!”
“I want kids someday,” she says, idly.
“I could impregnate you,” I offer.
She laughs and gives my hand a squeeze. “Only if we can have ‘The Big Chill’ soundtrack playing really loud to get me in the mood. Besides, it sounds like I’m bound to lose out to a twenty-one-year-old bimbo.” She sighs. “What do you think that’s going to do to my self esteem, huh? Why couldn’t you have picked the twenty-nine-year-old?”
“Hey, I keep trying to tell you. No one said that I had to pick.”
“So you think you can just lollygag down the road dating both of these women?” she asks. “That they’re not going to fall for you at some point and put the thumbscrews into you? I’d say that’s going to happen sooner rather than later and when it does, my prediction is you’ll go the safe route like you always do.”
“What in the hell do you mean by that?” I ask.
“You said you’d probably pick this Elizabeth girl if you were forced to choose, right?” she asks.
“I don’t know, Sarah! But I have to say I’m more than a little pissed off about your ‘safe route’ comment.”
“Well, she sure doesn’t sound any different from any of your other past girlfriends, Craig. Sure, she’s younger and probably better looking than most of them but something tells me that Beth and Eliza-beth would get along famously. You should have a ‘progressive dinner’ or some foo-foo bullshit like that and invite both of them and see what happens,” she says.
“Why do you think I’d be crazy enough to date another Beth?” I ask.
“Because you’ve been dating women like her for as long as I’ve known you,” she says, her voice rising. “The typical Craig girlfriend has about as much complexity as a can of rocks. Who knows? Maybe you don’t like too much guesswork or uncertainty in your relationships. Maybe you prefer the safety of always knowing what’s going on inside her head.”
“I’m not sure if I’m digging this whole French toast-induced honesty this morning.”
“Hey, that’s the breaks, Craig.” She laughs. “I’m in rare form this morning. I’ve had a good cry, my batteries are recharged and look out! I’m live and ‘Unplugged on MTV.’”
“Are you gonna do an acoustic version of ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ for me before you continue the roast?”
“Shut up, fucker,” she growls.
“So you think I’d be backtracking by sticking around with Elizabeth. Is that it?”
“I’m going to answer that question with another question,” Sarah says. “If Dawn wasn’t divorced and she didn’t have a little girl would it be a harder choice for you?” She’s monitoring my face as soon as she asks the question. If I put any thought into a half-truth of some sort she’s going to spot it in a second. I smile.
“See! See!” she shrieks, pointing and dancing around me on the sidewalk. “You may be good at lying to yourself but you can’t slide that crap past me!”
“Ok fine, so it bothers me. What does that prove?”
“Elizabeth isn’t dangerous, Craig. I have no doubt that she’d be a great temporary high for you. She’ll scare the hell out of you and get you into trouble and probably even a car wreck at some point. She might even, as you said, ‘raise your standards about what good sex is’ but she’s not going to turn your life upside down. Not even close… But this Dawn on the other hand, hmm, yeah. She could wreak some real havoc. If you fall in with her you might end up having to play father to her little girl, what was her name again?” she asks.
“Yeah, so are you ready to be a father figure to Lindy? Or worse yet, you might fall in love with mommy and then there’s only one thing to do. Are you ready to get married?” she asks. “That would truly turn your life upside down, now wouldn’t it?”
“Tim says that if you carry around a small bag of boiled black-eyed peas in the right front pocket of your pants it wards off marriage,” I point out.
“That’s what he told me,” I say.
“Yeah, well I would think that’d ward off any woman. If I found out that my boyfriend was carrying around a plastic baggie of mushy peas in his pocket, I’d I’d pull over immediately and leave his weirdo ass at the curb,” she says. “But back to the topic at hand…”
“Oh yes, by all means. Please steer it back,” I say, sarcastically.
“I was watching you while you were talking about this Dawn woman because honestly I was trying to figure out whether or not you had gone completely insane,” she says. “A single divorced mother? That’s quite a divergence for you, Craig. And then you got to talking about your romantic escapade last night and your eyes started to sparkle.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake, Sarah. They didn’t not! It was probably the sun coming in through the windows. It was bright in…”
“Yes they did! They sparkled!” she insists. “Women don’t miss things like that.”
“And women read too many crappy Danielle Steele novels,” I counter.
“Look you sexist pig, I’ve never even read a romance novel so you can just screw yourself,” she says. “I know what I saw.”
We cross a small two-lane bridge over a creek and pause to look over the side. “You got any mints on you?” I ask.
“I’m not gonna give you one if you’re gonna to throw it into the water for good luck,” she says. “Why don’t you throw some of those black-eyed peas in your pocket instead?”
“I have coffee breath. I really could use a mint if you could see it in your heart…” She digs around in her purse and produces a tin of Altoids.
“So that’s it?” I ask, opening the tin. “I have to go on the Oprah Winfrey show, the one about men who fear marriage and fatherhood and have a bunch of nasty old hags yell things at me from the audience?”
“No, they’d never have a show on that topic because it’s an absolute truth. Every guy is afraid of marriage and fatherhood. They’d have such a huge crowd of guests they’d never be able to fit them all on stage.”
“Ok, so what am I gonna do?” I ask. “I’m not ready to get married and I know I’m not ready to be father.”
“You could do it if you practiced.” She smiles. “I could totally see you being a father figure. Hey, look,” she says, pointing to two small children playing in the street up ahead. “Why don’t you get some practice right now?”
“Tell them it’s dangerous. Tell them to get out of the road. Go on,” she says pushing me.
“No way,” I chuckle.
“C’mon, do it!”
I clear my throat and straighten my jacket. “Hey you kids,” I yell. “Get out of the street before you get run over by a car!” The kids spin around, clearly startled. And then they take off running.
“See, you’re pretty good,” she says.
“Yeah, I scared the piss out of them.”
“You did just fine.”
“Here’s the one thing I don’t understand,” I say, putting my arm around her again. “You’re giving me all this advice this morning, petitioning me to ditch the hottie and go out with the single mother. And how do you even know you’re going to like her anway? I mean, you’ve hated every single girl I’ve ever gone out with and who says Dawn is going to be any different?”
“No, no, I like her already,” she says. “She totally lied her ass off to you and you bought it hook, line and sinker! She told you her daughter was her sister. She told you she didn’t drink. She even had you believing that she was celibate for awhile there. And through all of that if she still managed to keep you coming back for more, Craig?”
“There’s an Oprah topic for you right there,” I say.
“What’s that?” she asks.
“On next week’s show, ‘Women: Every One of Them a Liar.’”
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