The Literary Girlfriend: Showing Off!
When it came to personality types, Danielle was my opposite. I was a quiet guy who didn’t like to be noticed. If I could get through a day without talking to any of my co-workers, I considered myself successful. Danielle lived to be noticed. She wore provocative clothes. She talked loudly and said inappropriate things in public. Even when she put on her thick glasses and dressed conservatively on our dates, she still carried around a copy of Pride and Prejudice just to be sure everybody around us knew that she was reading it (or pretending to). And she drove an expensive sports car that got stares, especially when she stepped out of it.
But last evening the expensive sports car had broken down, and now I was taking Danielle to Main Street Automotive after work to pick it up. If she had heard about me accidentally talking (very briefly) to the guys at Nero’s the previous night, she didn’t mention it. I, in turn, hadn’t mentioned that (I was pretty sure) she had said “Love ya!” to me the previous night. I wasn’t sure if it had been a slip or something casual or even my imagination, but it was something I was going to listen out for again.
Despite a slight October chill, Danielle was wearing her football t-shirt and tight jean cut-offs. I had been expecting the glasses and something less exhibitionist, and I must have shown that with my face because Danielle said:
“They know me there.”
Main Street Automotive was on Main Street, but Main Street was halfway across the city and wasn’t even a main street anymore. The building had several garages in the back with an auto parts store in the front. Danielle led me through the front to the counters that connected the store with the garage. A couple burly guys in worn blue shirts and greasy jeans stood behind the counter while getting bossed around by a cranky old lady. I’ve always known that to avoid getting bossed around by a cranky old lady, you had to move around and at least pretend you were busy. These guys were just asking to be bossed around.
“Hi,” Danielle said cheerfully, waving to the guys at the counter. That might have been why the guys weren’t doing anything. “My car ready?”
They didn’t even ask what her name was. One guy nodded to the other, and he scurried into a back cubicle, and the old lady shuffled paperwork and yelled at somebody on the phone.
“You fixed it quick this time,” Danielle said as she leaned over the counter.
The guy’s eyes shifted from Danielle’s shirt to her face as he explained what had been wrong and what had been done. She said “Okay” and “Yeah” a lot, but I wondered if she understood anymore than I did. She pretended to. I thought maybe she did. She asked a couple questions that I didn’t understand, and the guy answered them, so maybe she really did know what he was talking about. I was being ignored, but I didn’t care because I was thinking, I had a hot chick girlfriend who might understand cars.
“Did you have any questions?” the guy asked, and I realized he was talking to me.
“I’m the driver,” I said, which was stupid, but I had been caught by surprise.
“I’m going to the ladies room,” Danielle said, and before I could say anything, she got really close, slipped her arms around my neck, drew me down just a little, and slopped a short, moist kiss on my lips. When she pulled back, there was a smacking sound, just loud enough for the guys at the counter to recognize it. As she retreated slowly, she maintained an oddly intense gaze that almost made my knees buckle. Even after two weeks of living in sin together, she could still dazzle me with the little things.
“Be back in a few,” she said softly, and strolled across the store to the back. I watched her. The two guys watched her. The old lady barking orders wasn’t watching her, but the two guys she was barking orders to weren’t paying attention, so she barked her orders even more loudly.
After Danielle disappeared, I turned to the two guys at the counter. I expected them to make some complimentary comment about Danielle. I was expecting at least a knowing look. Instead, I got paperwork. It was the bill for Danielle’s car repair, and the number was really big (even in 1992 dollars).
“What the hell?” I said.
The guy explained again what the problem had been, what they had done, what the parts had cost, and how much labor there had been. It was all probably lies, but Danielle had sworn these guys didn’t rip her off, and all I knew were tires, oil change, and battery.
“Does she know how much this is?” I asked.
The guys behind the counter studied me. I knew what they were thinking. I was the average guy with the hot chick who had just given me a tip of her tongue in public, and if she showed off like that in public, they knew what we were doing in private. And if a guy like me was lucky enough to have a hot chick girlfriend like that, the guy like me had better do what guys like me do best.
I took out my credit card. “I guess I’m more than the driver.”
The guy went through all the stuff that went into using credit cards. He pulled out the carbon copies and as I wrote my signature at the bottom of one receipt, I looked at the restroom area for a sign of Danielle.
“I have a question,” I said in a low voice. “My girlfriend, does she bring her car in a lot?”
The guy also checked out the restroom area before he answered. “A few times a year,” he said cautiously. “Those cars, they need a lot of maintenance.”
“Does she ever pay the bill herself?” I asked slowly. I knew that I might be better off not asking, but I did it anyway.
The guy looked at the paperwork and shook his head.
I could feel my shoulders deflating, but I went ahead and asked my final question.
“Is it always somebody different?”
The guy nodded. Then he glanced at the restroom area and said,” I don’t know if this makes a difference, but she’s been really nice today.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that, so he continued.
“She’s usually bitchy,” he said, then he put his hands up in apology.
“It’s okay,” I said. I’d seen that side of her, but it had never been directed at me.
We continued the credit card process, and I signed my name in a few more places, and somewhere along the way Danielle stepped out of the ladies room and started wandering around the tire displays. I glanced at Danielle, who was pretending to inspect the tires and compare prices. She had the same vacant expression when she was pretending to read Jane Austen books.
Once the credit card was back in my hands, Danielle was back at my side, softly brushing up against me.
“Everything okay?” she said.
I was still processing. The nature of our relationship had just been made obvious to me and everyone around us. Maybe I should have figured it out earlier. It made sense. It was the only explanation that made sense. I should have known right away that this was what it was about. I was disappointed but not mad. This wasn’t a disaster. I liked being around her (even when sin wasn’t involved). She seemed to like being around me.
“Good!” I said, slamming my wallet shut. “You want to see if your car starts this time?”
“It’ll start,” the guy behind the counter said.
Danielle grabbed my hand and led me to the front of the store where her car had been parked.
“You wanna race home? Your car against mine?”
“It wouldn’t be fair,” I said, which was true. Even if we switched cars, she’d win. I slowed down for yellow lights, and she plowed through them. “I’d only win if you got pulled over.”
And then I added with authority, “And I don’t want to pay for your traffic ticket.”
She let go of my hand but lingered in that six-inch area where I could almost feel her against me. Her cheese-eating grin was wide.
“I promise I will obey all traffic laws, officer.” Then she got into her car and rolled down the window. I waited for her parting words. What would she say? Last night she had said “Love ya!” after I’d dropped her off at work. I was kind of hoping she’d say it again, even though I knew she wouldn’t have meant it.
As she pulled out, she waved and stuck her head out the window just a little bit.
I waved back and thought a little bit while I walked back to my own car. Danielle had just shown off our relationship in front of a group of people whom she barely knew and were complete strangers to me. She liked to show off. She was comfortable with it. I wasn’t exactly comfortable with what I had just realized about our relationship, but at least now I had a grasp of where I stood.
At least, I thought I did.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: The Halloween Costume .
And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.