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The Literary Girlfriend: The Lingerer

March 2, 2014

LIterary Girlfriend: Grades

The way I see things, it takes a lot of nerve to introduce yourself to the priest on the first day you attend a church.  Maybe you might accidentally run into the priest.  Maybe somebody else will introduce you to the priest.  But Daniella strutted right up to the priest standing at the center exit and introduced herself.  And then she introduced me.

Daniella said she had enjoyed the sermon (she probably hadn’t been paying attention).  She said St. Luke’s was a beautiful church (she knew the church had money).  The priest introduced himself as Father Patrick, and he welcomed us to St. Luke’s (but he hardly looked at me when he spoke, which might have been because Daniella had done all the talking, or it might have been because every man liked checking out Daniella and a priest wasn’t going to be any different).

Daniella was a talker, and I’ve never been that social.  With her plain dress and thick, black glasses, she looked like the type to go to church and participate in biblical discussions.  She didn’t look like she’d dance topless, or steal furniture, or over-curse in public, or put ex-boyfriends in the hospital.  But that was part of the plan.  Since she was the one with the personality and the looks, she would be the one to attract attention.  I would be the sour boyfriend.  And when we broke up (hopefully not too soon), the church would provide several wealthy suitors for her.

Father Patrick invited us to the community center for fellowship, and Daniella agreed before I could say anything.  I wasn’t going to disagree or start an argument.  I simply was trying to get a word in.  Daniella took my hand, and instead of bee-lining to my car as we’d originally planned, we followed a bunch of parishioners out a side door into another more modern rectangular brick building.

“We’re not following the plan,” I stage-whispered in sing-song voice.

“Sometimes you need to improvise,” she replied in the same tone.

“Then why bother even making a plan?”

“I know what I’m doing!”  Somehow she maintained her fake smile through the exchange.  I’m pretty sure I appeared grouchy.

The lobby of the community center was a high-ceilinged atrium, and on the sides we could see upper level offices and maybe a few classrooms.  On our left was a church library with several lengthy shelves, too many for all of them to be religious (I hoped).  There had to be something interesting in there.  On the right was a mini-auditorium.  On the other side of the lobby was the snack/coffee bar.  Behind that were a couple wide hallways.  I looked around for a bathroom, hoping I could slip away before we got coerced into some conversations.

I had a good reason for wanting to get away.  I knew what was about to happen.  I’d hated this part of church for years.  When I was a kid and the church service was over, I’d always wanted to go straight home.  I’d done my time (maybe that wasn’t the best attitude to have).  But my parents were both talkers, and they’d linger after church for hours (it felt like hours), drinking coffee, and talking, about what I never knew.  I had to wait around, tug at sleeves, play with other church kids, whom I never really cared for.  When I got older, I just brought a bunch of books and would read them in the car or on the stairs, but then everybody thought I was anti-social.  I didn’t like the notion of Daniella and I hanging around after church, but for our plan to work, Daniella was going to have to do it.  I’d hoped it wouldn’t be this week.  I’d hoped that the lingering wouldn’t begin until for a few more weeks.  I didn’t want to break up yet.  By starting this phase so early, I didn’t know if Daniella was planning on breaking up soon.  I hadn’t expected this yet.

The first couple that approached us looked familiar.  “We were sitting in front of you,” the wife said.  “You have a beautiful voice.”  I knew she wasn’t talking to me.  “You should see about joining the choir.”

“I’m not Episcopalian yet,” Daniella said.  “He’s the Episcopalian.”  She leaned on me.

“We’d love to have you here.  I hope you consider joining us.”  Again, she looked at Daniella, not me.

And then several other middle-aged people started introducing themselves.  Daniella kept repeating their first names, but it was all a blur to me.  I knew I wasn’t going to be coming to church for long, so I wasn’t putting any effort into learning names.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I was glad I didn’t have to try that hard either.

Some guy in our group asked me what I did for a living, and when I started explaining it, he began gazing around at other people, and his wife yawned.  I tried to ask him what he did, but I guess he didn’t hear me because he was talking to his wife.

“I’m a paralegal,” Daniella was saying to five people around her.  All of them were listening to her.  I’d warned her about going with the paralegal story.  There’d be a bunch of lawyers at the church, and they might start asking questions or get too curious.  Daniella knew Darren B. Smelley, a defense attorney with cheesy TV ads, and she said he’d vouch for her if any lawyers started asking questions about her.  If Darren B. Smelley was in on our plan, I… I… wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

“That guy?” a woman asked.  Everyone knew who Smelley was.  He was almost universally hated by anybody who watched television after 10:00 PM, except for those who’d been arrested.

“He’s not that bad,” Daniella said.  “I respect our police a lot,” she continued with no sarcasm in her voice, “but sometimes they get carried away.”

A few people nodded.  They might have disliked defense attorneys or Darren B. Smelley, but they weren’t going to argue with Daniella after church about it.  To them, Daniella was probably just a sweet but naïve and misguided little girl.

Somebody brought another priest to our social circle, and we were introduced to St. Luke’s other priest, Father Murdock.  He was in his early 30s and looked a little bit like me, except he had darker hair that flopped over his forehead.  Daniella smiled at him too long, and I thought, no, no, no, not the priest, anybody but the priest.  But then Father Murdock gestured to a tan blonde woman next to him.

“This is my fiancée Amy,” he said.

Whew!

“Are you two planning on… getting married?” Father Murdock asked us.

Daniella grinned at me.  “I do, but Jimmy wants to take things slow,” she said.

I got a few friendly but dirty looks.  Some guy slapped me on the back and said, “You’d be crazy not to marry her.”

Another said, “Get her before she changes her mind.”

Daniella eyeballed me hard with her cheese-eating grin.  “Yes, Jimmy, before I change my mind.”

I smiled sheepishly but kept my mouth shut.  If only they knew…

“We have a couple’s group at our church, if you’re interested,” Father Murdock said, with a little hesitation.

“Couple’s group?” Daniella said and then shut her mouth.  Whatever she’d been about to add, it had been vulgar (probably a crude joke about groups and couples), and she’d barely saved herself.

“I overheard someone talking about a gym,” I said to change the subject.  I knew about the gymnasium from when I’d attended a service a couple years ago.  “Does this church really have a gym?”

“Yes,” Father Murdock said proudly.  “It’s on the other side of the community center.  Would you like to see it?”

“Sure,” Daniella said.

“That’s more her thing than mine,” I said, gesturing to Daniella.  I leaned in and whispered to Daniella, “You check it out while I go to the restroom.”

“That might be a good idea,” she stated.

Might be a good idea?  That was a curious way to phrase it, I thought.

As I watched the crowd follow (or guide) Daniella to the lobby, I realized that she was the type of person I usually despise, charming but shallow.  If Daniella had been a guy, I’d probably dislike her.  But she was really pretty and I couldn’t help myself.  I liked being around her.  I was going to miss her.  That probably made me as shallow as the charming guys I despised, but at least I wasn’t shallow all the time.  It was okay to be selectively, situationally shallow, I thought, as I entered the men’s room near the mini-auditorium.

After I’d used the facilities, I washed my hands, looked in the mirror, and stopped.  I squeezed my eyes shut and muttered a self-censored curse.  I couldn’t believe it.  I opened my eyes just to make sure.  Yes, there it was, a stringy booger dangling out of my nose.  Ugh.  This had happened to me a few times in high school, but it had been years since I’d had a dangler in public.  I almost cursed, but even in the bathroom, I was still at church.  I grabbed some toilet tissue and blew my nose hard.

No wonder Daniella had wanted to introduce us today instead of waiting.  I’d been quiet and borderline anti-social with a booger hanging down.  To the rest of the church, I was a loser.  Daniella had set herself up perfectly, the charming, beautiful young lady who had a surly boyfriend with bad hygiene.  When we broke up soon, everybody at the church would understand why.  I couldn’t be angry at her for improvising.  Daniella had made the right move.

I wasn’t ticked off at Daniella.  Normally, she would have figured out a way to tell me (coughing/sneezing in code), but nobody else had told me either.  That’s what made me angry.  Somebody should have pulled me aside.  I would do that for others, and I wasn’t even social.  It was common decency.  In college, I’d notified another student before class (very quietly), and the guy later acted like I was his long-lost friend whenever he saw me after that. It was like a modern version of “Androcles and the Lion.”  If I’d been at a sports bar or football game and nobody had said anything about a dangling booger, I would have been disappointed, but I would have understood.  But this was church!  Somebody should have said something.  Just for that, they’d get no tithe from me.

When I stepped out of the men’s room, Daniella was strolling back from the other side of the lobby with a woman on each side, both a bit older but not so old where they couldn’t be natural friends.  Daniella grinned and then nodded just a little bit.  That look told me everything.  She’d been accepted.  I knew we would be coming to church every week, and we would linger after every service, and Daniella would start building relationships very quickly.  She would make friends, and I would continue to come across as a bore.  Daniella would be the one who wanted to get married, and I was the one trying to stall it.  Daniella would be the good guy, the victim, and I would be the villain.  It was all set up perfectly for her.

And I knew that we would be breaking up very, very soon.

*****

To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: The Sunset Rises .

If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s gotten kind of long), start here.

14 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on jwheel6789.

  2. If the break up means the end of the story, I wouldn’t be looking forward to it, either. 🙂

    • Well, the end of the story IS approaching. I keep saying that, but it’s getting closer. I just realized that next month is the first anniversary of the first installment of “The Literary Girlfriend.” I don’t know if a blog serial should go on more than a year.

      • I can’t complain; I don’t miss a post in this series so I don’t mind if it ran longer than you may have expected.

  3. A dangling booger? Gross!

    Please don’t let this be near the end of the story. X and I will be crushed.

  4. Veronica permalink

    But I don’t want it to be over!

  5. Love it

  6. Did you know that Daniella (I assume that’s her picture at the top) looks a lot like the girl on the Morning Glory ale package?

  7. I’ll be sad too when this series ends. I’m still secretly hoping they end up together because Daniella just seems so cool. By the way, love the name Darren B. Smelley. 🙂

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