The Literary Girlfriend: Identity Crisis
My girlfriend Daniella had three looks: the badass, the librarian, and the hot chick. When I had first met Daniella in the laundry room, she was “the braless hot chick in the clingy t-shirt.” When she wore tight jeans, her black leather jacket, and put on too much eyeliner and make up, she was a badass. And when she wore her thick glasses, pulled her hair back, and wore drab blouses and jeans, she looked like a really cute librarian.
Sometimes in our apartment she would pull her hair back and wear her glasses with a tight t-shirt and shorts for a hot-librarian fusion look, or she might wear her leather jacket with glasses and little make up as a badass librarian, but she rarely mixed badass with hot chick except for a couple times when she was coming home from work. And she rarely mixed looks in public.
On a cold January day, Daniella went to the mall with me wearing her badass leather jacket with a sweater and her hair down. She had intended to go to the mall as a badass librarian, but she couldn’t find her glasses, so she had just said forget it (she said something like “forget,” but it was four letters and one syllable). We weren’t too much of a mismatch because I had a cool trench coat (it was obvious I was wearing clothes underneath it), and I had on nice shoes, and I always looked bigger in winter because of the extra layers. We were still a physical mismatch, but it wasn’t as obvious as usual.
Between regular expenses and Daniella’s New Year’s Eve bar-hopping, I was down to my credit card. I hadn’t told Daniella about how I’d lent (or given) most of my savings account to my brother to help save his antique store (and maybe his marriage). I didn’t know how to tell her. Things were going so well. Even the bar-hopping had been uneventful (but expensive.).
That afternoon at the mall, I spent about a half hour in the book store (this was back in the 1990s when malls still had book stores) while Daniella was in the lingerie shop a few stores down. For some reason, Daniella wouldn’t let me go into the lingerie shop with her, even though I offered. She didn’t mind making me wait for hours in other women’s clothing stores, but she wouldn’t let me set foot in the lingerie shop. She even glared at me as we walked past to make sure I wasn’t ogling any of the mannequins. To her credit, she used her own money in the lingerie shop. But when she came back to the book store to get me, she seemed perturbed.
“There’s a pervert photographer out there,” she said.
“Where?” I looked around the visible mall area outside the store but didn’t see any sleazy looking guys.
“Just standing by the lingerie store.”
I gave Daniella my books (a couple trashy romance novels were for her), and she stayed in line while I nonchalantly stepped out of the bookstore and into the mall. I saw a man in his mid-20s with gelled up hair and a polo shirt talking to a group of young women. They might have been high school girls, but even back then, it was sometimes tough to tell.
“The guy in the green shirt?” I said when I returned to the line. “He looks normal.”
“He’s talking to teenage girls,” Daniella said.
“That’s not good, but pervert?” I said.
“Watch. He’s going to give them his card,” she said. “That’s what they do, talk to girls, get them to take pictures, get them to show a little…”
“And the pictures end up in skin magazines,” I said, finishing for her. “I don’t know. Do you trust your pervertometer?”
She paused. “My pervert… o…meter… is never wrong.”
“What about me? Did you think I was a pervert when we met? I kept your panties for a month.”
“You were close, but you luuuuvved me, so I forgave you.”
“Loved you?” I had used the word “love” once around her, and it was accidental. We didn’t use the word “love” around each other.
“No, luuuuvved,” she said, extending the sound. “You had a crush on me. You blushed, and your ears turned purple. It was cute. I like guys who luuuuuuvvv me.”
I bet, I thought, because it’s easy to get us to pay your bills, but I kept it to myself.
“If I looked like that, would you still luuuuvvv me?” Daniella nodded toward a young lady on the other side of the store. She was not exactly a head-turner, and she had bad posture. To be fair, I wasn’t a head-turner either, and I had bad posture as well.
“Well, my ears probably wouldn’t turn purple anymore.”
Daniella narrowed her eyes and frowned. “Hmmmm.”
“She probably has a good sense of humor,” I said.
I was tempted to ask Daniella if she’d still be my girlfriend if I couldn’t pay her bills anymore, but by then, we had reached the front of the line. I didn’t have any cash on me, so I pulled out my credit card. I didn’t think anything of it.
“Why are you using your credit card?” Daniella asked.
“Huh?” I said, surprised. “Uh, the cashier last week miscounted my money.”
“So? That was only ten dollars.”
“It ticked me off,” I said without conviction, and I could feel my ears burning.
“You hate credit cards,” she said.
“I use them sometimes,” I said. I had used a credit card a couple months ago to pay for the repairs to Daniella’s sports car. Of course, I had made a big deal when I paid the whole balance at once to avoid interest charges.
“For books?” Daniella said. She looked at me funny, and then she was quiet about it and let me finish paying.
As we walked down the mall, she said quietly, “You’re not telling me something.”
“It’s no big deal,” I said. But it was. I was sure Daniella was only with me because I paid her bills, but a part of me hoped there was more to it. There had to be. On the other hand, she seemed certain that I was with her only because of the way she looked and her willingness to live in sin with me. Maybe at first those had been the reasons, but now I was wondering if there was something more. We were too comfortable, too at ease, around each other for these superficial reasons to be the foundation of our relationship (whatever it was).
The uncertainty gnawed at me. As long as I kept the truth about my money situation from her, I’d never really know what we meant to each other. I had to tell Daniella about the money sometime. While we were at the mall probably wasn’t the best time, but I knew there would never be an ideal moment. I wished she’d had on her glasses, but the librarian look wasn’t a guarantee of good behavior either. Daniella was in a good mood, even as a badass. The credit card was on her mind, and if I waited to spring the money situation on her later, that would piss her off even more.
I took a deep breath. This was it. I decided to do it then. I was going to tell Daniella about the money.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Identity Crisis, Part 2 .
If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s getting kind of long), start here.