The phone rang sometime around 6 PM.
I had fallen asleep on the couch watching a documentary about the St. Valentines’ Day Massacre on A&E. It rang about four times before I finally stumbled into the kitchen to check the Caller ID box. Damn it! Anonymous. Split minute decision here. The phone is only going to ring one more time before my answering machine takes over.
Picking up the phone when it’s ‘Anonymous’ is never a good idea. Anonymous is never very much fun to talk to. Problem is, they call all the time. Ex-Girlfriend? Late car payment? Someone who wants money for the Sheriff’s association? Ex-Girlfriend who wants money for the Sheriff’s association? I throw caution to the wind and pick it up anyway.
“Mr. Mitchell?” a teenage sounding voice says.
“This is Randall from Girlfriend-Express.”
“Ohhh. Yeah. ” I say, still trying to wake up.
“We have a date set up for you tonight at 8:30 PM with a potential girlfriend.”
This wakes me up immediately.
“Tonight!! Are you fucking kidding me?? What time is it? I haven’t even….” [ insert a ton of lame, half baked excuses here. ]
“Mr. Mitchell….” Long pause. “Do you want to spend the rest of your night sitting on the couch watching Cops, Jerry Springer and the History Channel? Or do you want to take the chance that tonight will be the night you meet Ms. Right?”
Damn this kid is good. And he’s gotta be a kid because a second ago, about the time he uttered the words the “History Channel”, I could have sworn I heard the sounds of a Sony Playstation in the background. Was it the game Tomb Raider? Probably. Then again, I’m not a kid and I recognized the sound of the game. I guess that doesn’t prove anything.
“Uhh, ok. Sure. What’s the deal?”
“Her name is Dawn. She lives in Glendale Heights. Her address is 17859 Steamship Way and her phone number is 555-4426.”
“Uhhh wait… so do I call her and confirm this?”
“No sir, the date is already made. Like I said, you’re going to pick her up at 8:30,” Randall says.
“Wait a minute!” I’m kind of pissed now. “You mean you made the date before you even asked me? How did you…”
“If you hadn’t answered the phone or said no, we would have sent her out with someone else.” He cuts me off.
“Oh yeah?!” I say indignantly. “Well what if this other guy, what if he wasn’t willing to put up with Bonnie Raitt, Edie Brickell and gay dance music? What would this Dawn person do then?”
“You aren’t willing to put up with it either Mr. Mitchell,” he reminds me. “But when you meet Ms. Right, you’ll put up with it. That’s the way things work out.”
There’s that damn song in the background again. The Human League’s song ‘Human.’ What the hell is up with that?”
“Randall, what’s up with that Human League song? “
“What Human League song?”
“The song playing in the background there. I’ve talked to your company twice now, and both times I’ve heard that song. You guys host Junior High dances as sort of side show business line or something? Am I gonna get a call from you tomorrow and hear some DJ in the background egging the 8th graders to get up and shake their butts to Billy Idol’s ‘Mony, Mony?’”
“It’s not the Human League,” he insists.
“Yes it is. Listen to the lyrics.” We both pause and the lyrics are audible for a second.
“Come on baby, dry your eyes
Wipe your tears
Never like to see you cry
Won’t you please forgive me?”
“See, it’s the Human League.”
“No, you’re thinking of Echo and the Bunnymen,” he insists.
“Look you 8th grade drop out. Don’t try to tell me my 80′s music. That’s the Human League. You’re totally wrong, Echo did ‘Lips Like Sugar’ and ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses.’ I was dancing to Inxs, Psychedelic Furs and XTC when you were still in diapers.”
He doesn’t respond for a second. I hear him shutting off the CD or the radio – whatever it is. The Human League goes silent.
“Well I don’t think that’ll hurt your chances with Dawn.” he says, steering the conversation back on target. “She’s 29, same as you… probably danced to the same cheesy stuff. She probably even went to a few of those Junior High dances…”
“My sister is sick, she can’t go on no date,” says the little girl peering around the doorframe.
She wipes a smudge of purple jelly from the side of her mouth, takes another loud of bite of toast and stands there looking at me.
I stand in front of this house in Glendale Heights staring eye to eye with the opposition and in this 4 year old girl wearing an Animaniacs T-shirt, I have met my match. I can talk to the parents. I can survive the “don’t have sex with my daughter” looks from the father. But 4 year old little girls? I’m really in trouble here.
“Why not?” I ask.
The little girl thinks about it for second. She looks out at my forest green Taurus parked in the driveway and takes another bite of toast.
“Because your car sucks,” she says, chewing loudly.
Jesus, this kid is a riot. If she doesn’t blimp from Smuckers jelly overload by her 16th birthday, she’s going to give the little boys hell.
“Do you think she’d come out and go on a date with me for a Scooby Snack?”
The little girl thinks about that one, wiping some crumbs on the doorframe. I think she’s actually going to give it some consideration.
The wheels and gears in her sugar-overloaded 4 year old brain are spinning…. Scooby Snack – just like from the cartoon, car that sucks, lame looking guy with curly blond hair and a long leather jacket. Wait a minute, it might happen! She’s looking over her shoulder like she’s going to say something.
Finally she turns and calls into the house. “Dawn!!??? Would youuu go out on ah date with dis guy for a Scooby Snack?”
“Lindy! Is someone at the door?” A female voice yells from somewhere back in the house.
Lindy is gone in a flash, leaving the front door wide open. I feel pretty weird standing there in front of an already open door.
The “house smell” wafts out on a breeze of dry heat. Everyone’s house has a unique smell. I wrote a five page paper about the phenomenon in college just to see if I could get away with a well written paper on the topic. (The teacher gave me an A+ with her only comment written boldly at the top of page one: “Stop taking drugs.”)
I wasn’t on drugs, it’s an intriguing subject. Really. Where does the smell originate? It’s not there when they move in or when the house is built. But cooking, subtle body odors, smoke?, furniture, pets and household chemicals?
Dawn’s house smells pretty appealing, friendly and welcome – kind of like incense.
A minute passes before she makes it to the front door. And wow, this Girlfriend Express place is right on the mark.
She’s beautiful. Long straight light-brown hair. Tall, curvy. Big sparkling eyes. Form fitting baby doll shirt with a heart on it. A little midriff exposed. Hip hugging low-slung guys jeans. Cool earrings. I take all of this in within less than a second.
And she’s smiling, standing there in the doorway smiling and combing her hair. We’ve passed the first impression nervousness and everyone’s still smiling. A very good sign…
“Hi, I’m Craig. I guess we have a mutual friend.”
She smiles,”You mean Randall?”
“I’m Dawn, but I guess you know that.” She chuckles. We’re standing in the door grinning at each other stupidly. Ugh, uncomfortable moment.
“Cool earrings. And I’m not just saying that.”
“Thanks.” she says.
“Where’d you get ‘em?”
“At Coyote’s Paw in the Loop.”
“Well they’re damn cool.” I say.
“So you met Lindy?” she asks.
“Uh yeah. She’s really a personality.”
“Yeah, the last guy left without even taking me out. She scared him off before I realized he was here.”
“Well lucky for me I stood my ground and stuck around,” I say.
Her laugh is crazy but then again so is mine. It’s the sort of laugh that makes heads turn. “She ripped me pretty well,” I say. “A few more minutes of that and I would have been in pieces.”
She grabs her purse, drapes a leather jacket over her shoulders and we’re walking down the front walk. Hmmm. Be a gentleman? Open the door to the car for her and take the risk she’s a feminist and will get all pissed about it?
“Here, let me get the door for you. It sticks and if you don’t open it just right it’ll squeak loud enough to get every dog in the neighborhood barking.” She climbs in.
“Welcome to my utterly green car,” I say, climbing in.
“Man…” she says, rubbing her hands all over the green interior. “This is really… green.” She’s right. 95 Ford Taurus. Forest green interior, forest green exterior. All green.
“Yeah. I get a lot of questions like, ‘What where you smoking when you bought this all green car?’” I say. She laughs. “I mean, I can answer that question pretty easily. I was smoking low wages, working for a company that was grossly underpaying and exploiting my right-out-of-college talent. I was also smoking desperation because my last car went kaput without warning. And well, I have to admit… maybe a little PCP. But just a little.”
“Well sure, if it’s good enough for James Brown, the godfather of soul, it’s good enough for me,” I say, hoping she catches on quickly to my frequent abuse of sarcasm. “But yeah, the car was cheap. REAL cheap. Who else is gonna pay good money for an all green car unless they’re on PCP?”
We’re off to good start. We’re laughing as I shift my unicolor car into reverse and pull out of the driveway. Dawn’s already sorting through some CD’s scattered between us on the front seat.
I wave to Lindy. She’s peering around the drapes in one of the houses’ picture windows.
Lindy gives me the finger.
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