The highway stretched out in front of me as the headlights of “the Boat” lit up the road. I looked over at Stacey who was sitting next to me and holding my hand very tightly, either out of affection or in fear of my driving. Didn’t really matter. Turns out she didn’t meet someone else. Apparently no good looking guy in a tweed jacket and turtleneck had been lurking around the corner waiting to bump me off and take my place. I was with Stacey and when she smiled at me I forgot the trip from hell and the drive, literally, across campus, and all my worries. Stacey was in the Boat and all was right with my world.
Well, mostly right.
In the Boat’s big backseat Stacey’s best friend and her best friend’s boyfriend offered all kind of tips to help with my driving. We were headed to a little restaurant just on the edge of East St. Louis that they had heard was really incredible. It was the first time to go out with friends of Stacey’s that I didn’t already know.
Have you ever met someone, gotten to be good friends with them only to meet friends of theirs later and play the old Sesame Street game, “One of these things is not like others”? I think I was actually humming the tune while I drove. They were Stacey’s friends so I wanted them to be my friends but the longer we drove it became less likely to happen. When we finally pulled into the restaurant’s snow packed parking lot they kept leaning over the front seat to point out open parking spaces. I drove past their choices because they had no clue the kind of space requirements the Boat had when it came to a parking space. In the end I parked in a spot usually used by bus tours.
I really felt like it was important for Stacey’s friends to like me. That’s why I wasn’t saying much. I was pretty sure that once I started I wouldn’t stop on the best friend’s boyfriend and the long string of pretentious crap that came rolling out of his mouth and into the air around us. He liked big words and mispronounced every other one he used. He talked more to Stacey then he did to his own girlfriend and if he tried to explain life to me at a ‘real university’ one more time I was taking the extra fork (3 forks? Who uses 3 forks?) from the plate in front of me and stabbing him with it. When he ordered Escargot as an appetizer I almost lost it.
I think there are essentially two kinds of people in the world. And neither of them, for any reason, should ever order Escargot.
He put on quite a show getting the snail out of the shell, dipping it in the garlic butter and choking the little slug down. His girlfriend joined in but Stacey and I both passed. I was really glad that Stacey passed. The desire to make out later would have been significantly diminished by snail breath. As the meal went on I realized that Stacey was on a date with two of us and her roommate was filling the fourth seat. Every time I said something that Stacey laughed at, the roommate’s boyfriend had to follow up with his own comment or clever remark and he’d keep going until he’d gotten a laugh for himself. I noticed that he had all kinds of questions to ask Stacey but none for his own date who he stopped paying attention to right after the snails landed on our table.
“Fair enough,” I thought, “Stacey is definitely ‘flirt-worthy’ but not in front of your own girlfriend who’s her best friend.” I was way too irritated to be jealous at this point and as our plates came and left I was ready to order a flaming dessert just to accidentally spill it on his lap. Stacey was oblivious to the whole routine. She was too nice to notice when other people were being obviously stupid. I’m pretty sure her best friend noticed though based on how she faded from the conversation and picked away at her food for most of the meal. That or the snails were trying to climb back up.
I thought about calling the guy on the flirting but I knew he’d deny it, his girlfriend would have to deny it just to protect her own pride and Stacey wouldn’t have believed it even if he handed her a key to a motel room. She wasn’t dumb, far from it, but she was innocent. She was really and truly innocent and unable to imagine that someone else may have less than honorable intentions.
Which is probably why she went back to the motel room with me later that night.
…to be continued…(one last time)