What am I doing here? And what am I doing?—Clark Humphrey
As I stand here, listening to her make small talk to me from the next room, I’m thinking about the other females in my short life.
My mother had always instructed me in the discipline of being a moral person, a righteous person, and most importantly a young man who listens and defers to women. She raised me alone from the time my father left, raised me to be the exact opposite of anything he’d been. Even to the point of her regularly making dinners of all the foods my father had always hated. (I mean, how much butternut squash and eggplant can a guy take?)
My mother had latched onto me as her self-proclaimed “last hope” for “a good child,” after my older sister repeatedly proved incapable of self-discipline. My sister was your basic Lifetime TV movie waiting to happen. One crazy or creepy boyfriend after another. The high-school dropout (while she was still in middle school). The street pot dealer. The small-time shoplifter. The steroid-hooked football star. The white slam poet with at least three other girlfriends. Worst of all, the English prof who’d picked her out to be that semester’s midlife-crisis temptation for him.
From my mother’s lessons and my sister’s contrary examples, I constantly tried to be a guy who wasn’t like other guys; a teen who wasn’t like the other teens.
And now, here I am. A walking cliché.
I look at myself in the full-length bedroom mirror. I’d never seen myself undressed in one of these in, how long? Ever? I was never the hunkiest guy in school, or had the best posture. This sight just proves it. I look away.
It’s not what I’ve done that I feel sad about, I decide.
I mean, what future bride (even a Christian one) expects her future husband (even a Christian one) to be “pure” anymore?
It’s what I’m going to do that I’m not so sure about.
Now it’s me who’s the Lifetime TV movie waiting to happen. Maybe even a “48 Hours Mystery” waiting to happen.
I look at her clothes in the closet. It’s a big closet, with a lot of clothes, and an awful lot of shoes. This is the kind of woman that my mother would make snide remarks about behind her back; and maybe she’ll get the chance to do so. If I’m unlucky, that is. Let’s hope they never meet.
For that matter, let’s hope nobody else finds out. She could go to jail for what we’ve done. We both could go to jail for what I’m going to do. Probably. I don’t even know what it is, really.
She’s walking back in here. I stop snooping around. I close the closet doors.
No. She’s still out in the other room.
She’s shouting at me even though the door is open and she’s just 20 feet away from me at most. She’s calling me “cute” names. Yuck. She says she’s writing down the driving directions. She says there’s enough gas in the car to get all the way to Scappoose without stopping. She says I shouldn’t stop. Take the bridge at Longview, then left onto Highway 30, then when I get there hand the keys over to the couple; they’ll drive me to a bus stop. Don’t stop. Don’t get stopped. Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t let anybody else look into the trunk. Nothing she hasn’t said six or seven times already.
My mother thinks I’m on a youth-group trip.
Sudden thought: Has this woman done this with, or to, other guys before? I try not to think about it. I use her hair brush.
She throws my clothes into the bedroom. Freshly washed; still a little damp. I check: no booze or perfume or pot smell.
How’d I get here? Really easily. As my mother had always told me to be with women, I’d been courteous, I’d been trusting, and I’d listened sympathetically to everything she said.
I wonder how far I could run once I got dressed.
I wonder what’s in the trunk.
I wonder if I could “accidentally” crash the car without hurting myself.
No, drive it into the river instead.
No, I’m not the greatest swimmer. And the water’s too cold these days.
I’m still thinking about this while she yanks the hair brush out of my hand. She’s still in her robe, still barefoot with painted toenails. I remember how they’d tasted.
She opens her robe with one hand, and pushes my head toward her with the other.
I’m doing this. I’m doing all of this. Don’t even think about it.