I found that my thoughts were about Joy ... more so lately than they'd ever been. I wondered if her thoughts were sometimes about me like my thoughts were sometimes about her?
"So ... Tell me another story?" Joy said.
"Huh? Now?" I asked, looking at my watch, confused because we were both almost out of time together.
She shook her head.
"I don't have time and you probably don't either. No. Tell me a story tonight, after your night class?"
"Okay. Do you want me to come by your place when I get finished with class?"
"When you get out of class ... I'll be there waiting on you. Call it sitting on the steps."
This was new because Joy had never done that before ... had never come looking for me after night class.
"You ... will?" I asked, regretting asking that immediately.
"I thought maybe we could walk around the campus. Just walk ... and talk."
"I think I'd like that." I said.
"I think I'd like that, too." she said.
"So ... What kind of story do you want to hear?" I asked.
She smiled and there was mischief in her smile. She held her finger up and made the motion for me to come closer.
I leaned in close to her.
The smell of her hair.
Her lips next to my ear.
My heart racing so fast I knew for sure that she would be able to hear it, maybe even feel it.
"What kind of story do you want me to tell you?" I asked her, again.
My mind racing almost as fast as my heart.
"Oh, why don't you tell me the story about the time you fucked a midget while you were up at Hinds."
The universe came to a sudden halt ... and I do mean a sudden halt.
The time that I ...
My expression must have been priceless because I jerked back away from her and Joy flew back in her bench, busted out laughing, snorting loudly and almost rolling there in the bench seat she was laughing so hard.
"The story about ... ? The time I ... ?"
Joy was rocking in place now at my predicament, deep gasps of laughter.
"Wow! Okay ... that came out of nowhere. Who told you that I did that?" I asked her.
"Guess." she said, recovering her composure and smiling.
I didn't have to guess ... I knew.
"Cody." I replied.
She made a gun-gesture and pointed it at me. I guess I knew now where she got my nickname. I sighed and chose my thoughts and words carefully because if Cody had told Joy that story there was nothing left to tell her but the truth and hope she believed it because sometimes truth was stranger than fiction.
"He said you had a midget girlfriend your first year up at Hinds and that you and her were a pretty regular thing ... kind of like bunnies only he said it was more like a German Shepherd hunching up on a big fluffy bunny."
She made a closed fist then started slapping one end of her fist with the palm of her other hand all the while making a "ruff!" sound over and over again. I realized that I had to cut this off real quick. I held up my hand and got her attention.
"No. That's not true." I said.
"It's not true?" Joy chided, disbelief dripping in her voice.
"No, it's not. Okay. First ... Two things. No. Three things." I
"Uh huh." Joy said, smiling, nodding like she had already dismissed anything that I had to say in my defense.
She made a closed fist then started slapping one end of her fist with the palm of her other hand all the while making a "ruff!" sound over and over again.
"Damn it! Cut that out! I'm trying to be serious!" I said.
Joy stopped making fun of me and leaned over closer.
"Okay. Three things, Cowboy. Make them good things because I want to hear all about this little adventure of yours."
"Okay. Three things." I said.
"Three things." Joy said.
"The first is that I didn't fuck a midget. The second
is that she wasn't my girlfriend ... she was just a woman I went out
with a few times. We were friends, just friends, and we had fun."
Joy nodded sarcastically.
"Fun. Uh huh. Ruff!" she said, turning the last word into a really sexy sounding low to hi rising growl.
I ignored her jab.
"And the third thing ... she wasn't a midget."
"She wasn't a midget?" Joy asked.
"No, she wasn't a midget ... She was a hobbit."
Long pause and this time it was Joy's expression that was priceless.
"She. Was. A. Hobbit?" Joy asked, each word a separate sentence as she cackled with laughter.
"She. Was. A. Hobbit." I said each word a separate sentence.
"You had sex with a hobbit?" she asked, laughing out loud and trying to catch her breath.
"No. I did not have sex with a hobbit." I said.
"My bad. Did she have hairy feet, smoke a pipe and live in a big hole in the ground?"
"No, she did not." I said flatly but Joy was about to make me bust out laughing.
"Did she have to use a wooden step-stool so you could reach it when you two did it?" Joy asked, smiling.
I sighed and Joy was having no end of amusement at my expense.
"This is great ... oh, this is just great." I mused.
Joy waved her hand in front of her face to give herself some air she was laughing so hard. In fact, she laughed so hard she started to cough and had to excuse herself from our conversation while she got her coughing under control.
"Oh, I think that you really need to post a sign ... you must be this tall to ride this attraction." she said, holding her hand flat to the floor about the height of the table we were sitting at.
I folded my hands in front of me and stared at the table.
"Joy ... look. I didn't ... I didn't have sex with her ... at all. Ever."
"Ever." Joy mimiced.
"Ever. I didn't have sex with a midget, a dwarf, a fairy, a
hobbit or any type of small person or mythical creature. Period.
What she and I had was ... we were just ... kind of friends. She
was a blind date that kind of worked out for a while but it never got
serious ... or that
serious. She was just a fun person to go out with every now and
then, sometime to go cruising with and wasting time with."
"So ... as far as girlfriends go ... she was what you would call ... fun-size? You know, like the little candy bars you get around Halloween?" Joy asked, smiling.
My serious look caused her to pause. My expression told her that I was being both honest and serious.
"Okay. Okay." she said, putting her hands up in front of her.
"Cody said that you fucked a midget and that I should ask you to tell me the story the next time I saw you. Knowing how your life is I just thought that this was going to be one story I really wanted to hear. I don't think I've ever known anyone who fucked a midget ..."
"I didn't ..." I started to say but Joy waved me off and I nodded, thinking of how I could get Cody back for this.
Oh, I had some dirt on Cody and since we were telling stories ...
"Cody's got a big mouth lately." I said. "Unlike him, I don't try to hump everything with two legs, a set of tits and three holes."
Joy smiled then and I got the feeling, deep down in my soul, that smile was for me and me alone.
"So ... tell me about this hobbit of yours."
"What do you want to know about her?"
"Do you really want to know?" I asked.
She slowly nodded, smiling.
"Ok. Her name was Lacey Meyers and she was a friend. Just a friend I had for a while, a girl friend. Girl. Friend. Lacey wasn't a midget or a dwarf ... she was just a really small ... tiny ... woman ... like four and a half feet tall. Petite. She was twenty-three years old and she worked at a car dealership as a secretary and sales ... person."
"Sales hobbit." Joy said.
"Yeah. Sales hobbit. She didn't look like a dwarf or a midget ... she just looked like a little woman. A tiny little woman. Lacey and I and Cody and Wanda all went out to see a movie and Cody called Lacey a midget. Lacey didn't like that, at all. Lacey thought that Cody was a dick. I mean, she thought he was a real dick. She even said so to his face and I think that's why Cody never liked her after that."
"She thought Cody was a dick?" Joy asked, putting her hand on her mouth.
"Oh, yeah. Called him that to his face. One time she even called him a walking penis with arms."
"A walking penis with arms!?" Joy half laughed / half shouted out loud.
"Yeah. Lacey was a blind date for me, set up by one of my teachers and when she met Cody she took a dislike to him real quick. In fact, we kind of double dated once and after that the only way she would go out with me was if she and I went out by ourselves without Cody or Wanda."
"Wanda? Okay ... Who is Wanda? You've mentioned her twice now." Joy asked.
"Ohhhhh .... That's another story." I told her.
"A ... Cody story?" Joy asked, smiling.
"A Cody story." I said.
"A good Cody story?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah." I nodded, smiling for emphasis.
"Okay ..." she said, skewing her jaw in thought. "And Cody called this Lacey a ... midget?"
"He called her a midget just to make fun of her. She wasn't a midget. She was just really ... petite. I called her a hobbit ... just trying to be funny and make her laugh and save what was turning out to be a really bad evening and you know what? She liked that ... She thought calling her a "hobbit" was a nickname and kind of like that she and I got along. When she would call me on the phone she would say "Hey, Christopher! It's your favorite hobbit calling ... What are you doing tonight?" We dated, for a while, off and on for a few months, nothing serious ... a few times out to dinner, a movie or two, driving around and talking or just sitting around some place and talking. What Lacey and I had was over about six weeks before I left Hinds and came back home. She was just really fun to be around. Nothing serious."
Joy smiled and leaned forward.
"Like I said ... she was fun size."
"Be serious because I'm being serious." I told her.
"Okay. Don't get defensive, Cowboy. I believe you over anything Cody says to me." Joy said. "So ... How far did you ever get with the little woman?"
"What?" I asked.
"First base?" she asked.
I thought about that.
Memories of Lacey brought a smile to my face.
Trying to save a bad evening. The almost fight we had that first time we went out ...
Lacey had almost made it back to my '79 Pontiac after having stormed off from Cody and Wanda. I caught up to her just as she was getting near the Trans Am. For a little woman she sure had some fast legs on her and I thought of the legs of the little horse that Porky Pig rode in all the Daffy Duck cartoons where Daffy was the sheriff.
"Walk faster, Christopher. You wouldn't want a MIDGET to outrun you, now would you?"
This night was really going to hell.
I caught up to Lacey, reached down and grabbed her arm, turning her around to face me. She was all fury and anger and being the petite woman that she was it was both comical and serious at the same time. I fully expected her to start blathering and spitting and spinning in place to the sound of a high speed circular saw ... just like the Tasmanian Devil used to do on the Saturday morning cartoons that I used to watch. Lacey stood there, defiantly, as defiantly as a nearly four and a half foot tall grown woman can stand there defiantly.
"Your friend is a dick ... a real dick. You do know that, don't you?" she stated loudly.
Cody had started all of this by being a dick, that much was true, and now I was having to pick up all the pieces.
"That's a given." I said as I nodded. "But he's fun to hang around with and he's not a dick all the time."
"Oh!? He's not?" She asked, sarcasm dripping in her tone.
"No. He's not." I said, trying not to laugh at this little woman in front of me, this little woman who was almost to the point of being fighting mad.
"Could have fooled me." Lacey huffed.
"Lace ... look ..." I started.
She shook her head.
"Just take me home, okay. This ... "
Her voice softened.
"I'm sorry, Christopher. I don't think that this is working out ... for either of us."
I sighed and shook my head.
"I'm not going to let Cody ruin my evening with you." I said.
"Why not? He's done a pretty good job so far ... did you hear what he called me?! He called me a MIDGET! I am not a midget!" she said, her voice hissing at times in her anger.
"No ... you're not a midget."
She humphed and folded her arms, looking back towards the front of the theater. I looked over my shoulder ... Cody and Wanda had already gone on inside which was probably for the best. Meadowbrook twin cinema was probably not the best place to be having a feud between my blind date and my best friend.
"Just ... take me home. Now. Please." she said, looking down.
There came the soft sound like almost a sniffle.
This silly shit had to end right now. I reached down and picked Lacey up and sat her down, hard, on the front passenger side fender of the Trans Am then leaned in close to her as she leaned back, surprised, scared, confused, trying to get away from me. The look on her face was mixed, surprise and anger and fear. Real fear for a second as I leaned in close until only inches separated our faces. So far this night was going to hell in the express lane and I really needed to turn things around.
"I don't like being called a midget. That's one thing that really, really pisses me off." she said loudly.
"I wasn't thinking about calling you a midget." I said, feeling like I was being put on the defensive.
"I don't like being called a dwarf, either! I'm not a midget or a dwarf or a little person!" she stated.
"I wasn't planning on calling you a dwarf ..." I said.
"Well, that's what your friend called me so ... what were you going to call me?" she asked.
"Well, the term "bitch" was one word that had crossed my mind ..."
Lacey sucked in air and fumed, her expression was one of utter and pure shock.
"Bitch?! You were going to call me a BITCH!?"
The look on her face was priceless and she continued to stammer.
"Bitch? You think that I'm a bitch? You really think that I am a bitch?!" she asked, stammering, her hands balled into fists.
I shook my head.
"No. But I've found if someone's about to throw a fit or break down in public one of the quickest ways to stop that is to call them something that they least expect you to call them."
Lacey's expression changed as she thought about that and nodded.
"So ... you ... don't think I'm a bitch." she asked.
I shook my head.
If I had to call you anything I'd call you a "hobbit" since the
term "hobbit" is a bit more polite than "dwarf" or "midget"."
"And ... what did you call me? A ... a ... hobbit?"
"You're a hobbit."
"I'm a hobbit?" she asked, surprise back on her face.
"You're not a dwarf. You're not a midget. You're not a bitch. You're a hobbit."
"Wow. Never been called a hobbit before ... that's kind of ... new ... I guess. Sure as hell didn't see that coming."
She looked off to her left, wiped her eye and sniffled.
"Twenty-three years old and an eighteen year old dickhead can make me cry."
"If it's any consolation, I'm eighteen years old and I just made you not cry."
"There's that, I guess. Need to keep a balance I suppose."
"And ... I'm not a dickhead." I said.
"No ... you're not a dickhead. At least not like he is ..." she mused.
"Althought I can be a pretty big asshole sometimes, if the mood fits."
a little laugh then sighed. Inches separated us, her there
on the fender of my TA, me standing there in front of her. She
looked down at the hood of the TA, looked around and then looked back
up at me. I leaned in closer to her, as close as I dared, just
enough to make her a little uncomfortable, more to get her attention
and keep it.
"Why did you do that?" she asked her voice trembling somewhat.
Our faces were so close that each word she spoke I felt.
"Do what?" I asked.
"What you did. Pick me up and put me up here ... like this."
"So that when we talked it would be face to face. I thought you deserved at least that simple courtesy."
Her anger softened, her fear seemed to fade somewhat and she looked at me, her eyes to my eyes.
"So ... I'm not going to get driven out in the woods and get my brains fucked out in the backseat of some old Trans Am tonight?" she asked.
didn't know how to take that like she presented it so it took me a few
seconds to think about what I was going to say and when I did answer
her I chose my words very carefully.
"Look ... Lace ... I didn't exactly have a lot of expectations for tonight, blind date and all, and what few expectations I actually did have I can't exactly say that was one of them ... or even on my list of expectations." I said.
"Can't exactly say it was one of mine, either." she whispered, looking away, almost like she was still looking to see if she could get away from me by going across the hood of the Pontiac.
I leaned back and stood there, arms crossed, looking at her sitting on the fender of the Pontiac.
"Sorry." she said. "I figure what with your "bitch" comment that you threw out I might throw something out there, too. You know, shock you, maybe get a glimpse of the real you, not the you that everyone puts on when they first meet someone for the first time ..."
"And ... what?" she asked.
"And did you see a glimpse of the real me?"
"I think I did. Maybe."
"Was it good enough that maybe we can salvage tonight and try to have a good time?"
She shrugged then nodded.
"If I haven't ruined it already." she whispered, wiping her eyes again.
"You haven't ruined the evening." I said. "You must be this tall in order to ruin this evening."
I held my hand to my side indicating the height I expected of that comment and it came out to be somewhere about as tall as Cody was. Lacey reached forward and slapped my arm playfully, trying not to laugh but doing so anyway.
"So ... you think I'm a hobbit?" she asked, looking at me.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"Hobbits are cool." I said.
"Try being a hobbit and saying that. I hate being short. Can't help it. Just the way God made me." she chided.
"Look ... Lace ... I'm just trying ..."
"Read any Tolkien?" she asked suddenly, interrupting me, nodding and looking up at me.
"Uh ... I saw the animated "Hobbit" on TV when I was a kid, maybe ten years ago. The Rankin Bass one ... does that count?"
"Nope. Not the same." she said, smiling and firmly shaking her head.
"No. I guess it isn't. Can't say I've ever read any Tolkien."
"You seem like someone who reads so ... why not any Tolkien?"
I shrugged my shoulders.
"Tolkien was a bit before my time, probably closer to your time. Fantasy was never my thing. I'm more into science fiction. I'm more into "Star Wars" than "Lord of the Rings." Darth Vader would kick Sauron's ass and that little pansy sword "Sting" doesn't have anything on a lightsaber ..."
I pantomimed a lightsaber being ignited along with doing the best lightsaber sound that I could make.
"We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!” I said in my best imitation of Gollum's voice that I could remember from the old Rankin Bass "Hobbit" television special.
"You're talking about the One Ring ..." she muttered.
"No ... the plans to the Death Star." I said.
Lacey laughed out loud, bringing a hand up to cover her mouth.
"I thought you hadn't read any Tolkien!" she said.
"Not a lot, not all the way through. Bits and pieces, enough to know it wasn't something that I wanted to slog through. Saw the cartoon, got kind of interested, started to read the book and ... never finished it. I did like "The Lord of the Rings" animated movie, it was a lot more serious than "The Hobbit" had been, then I saw the Rankin Bass "The Return of the King" on TV and I guess that was about as deep into Tolkien as I really wanted to go. Sorry if that's more shallow than you were expecting."
She smiled then nodded, looking away back toward the theater. Her expression turned to concern and ... doubt.
"Hey ..." I said.
She ignored me.
"Hobbit smells ... nice." I said in my Gollum voice, leaning in closer to her.
She smiled but still looked away, ignoring me.
"We could go on a dates with the nice smelling hobbit ... or we could just eats nice smelling hobbit!"
Lacey smiled, slowly turning to look at me.
"You think I really want to go on a date with Gollum?" she asked.
"No ... that would be what Wanda is doing tonight." I said.
I stared at her ... just stared at her until she turned her head to look at me. Her lips cracked into another smile.
"What?" she asked, looking up at me, expectantly.
I stood back from her, back from the fender, folded my arms and spoke.
"Well ... Now that we've set some kind of boundaries and started talking like two adults, do you think that maybe we might try to salvage something out of this blind date because I'd really like to, if I could." I said.
"You would?" she asked.
"Yeah. I would, Lacey Meyers. I really would."
"Lace." she said. "Remember? No one calls me Lacey."
"Did I finally earn that credit with you?" I asked.
"Yeah. I think you just did. The night is still young though. You might still be a stupid dickhead like your friend. Just so you know ... I'm still holding my opinion of you until this is all said and done." she said.
"Fair enough." I agreed.
I looked at my watch. We could still go in and watch the movie and I explained that to her which would mean that I hadn't just burned ten bucks on tickets for something we weren't going to watch.
"Come on. Let's go watch a movie."
"Uh ... Do we have to sit with your stupid dickhead friend and his woman?" she asked.
"No, we's do not." I said, I said in my Gollum voice.
"Do we have to sit anywhere near them?" Lacey asked, laughing.
"No, we's do not." I said, Gollum voice again, reaching up to put my hands under her arms and help her down off the fender of the Trans Am.
"Good!" she said.
We started walking back to the theater ... and that's when I noticed that Lacey was smiling.
"You're smiling." I said.
"Just remembering the look on your face when I asked you if you were planning on getting lucky with me in the backseat of your TA tonight."
"And ..." I asked, curious.
"Ha! You should have seen your expression. Priceless. You didn't know what to say when I said that." she said as she laughed.
Lacey had a great little laugh.
"Second base." I said. "Never stole third and never brought it on home."
"Second base. Uh huh. Bet it wasn't for lack of trying."
"Joy. I'm telling you the truth. We shared a couple of kisses. That was it. There was a time when it might have but ... it didn't. It never went any farther than that."
"A couple of kisses? Just the lips or full tongue?" Joy pressed.
More memories of Lacey.
It was our fourth date in three weeks, Friday night, late, nearly midnight.
"You know ... I keep going out with you." Lacey said as we stood in the parking lot of her apartment complex.
"Yeah. I kind of picked up on that. Picked up on that the second time we went out. Careful or you might make it a habit." I said.
"I guess when I'm around you ... you don't notice me being short."
"Isn't really a problem with me." I said.
"Says you ... the giant."
I shrugged my shoulders in indifference.
"And ... why are we having this discussion?" I asked, not understanding.
She shrugged her shoulders this time, a move that kind of added a bounce to her step part way.
"Maybe I've been on the defensive so long that ... if we don't talk about ... it ... I have to."
"You know ... you just get used to everyone pointing out something about you and then when you meet someone like you who doesn't point it out ... you start wondering why they aren't pointing it out." she said.
"Maybe because it doesn't matter to me?" I asked.
"There's that ... if you're being honest with me."
"Is there a reason not to be honest with you?" I asked. "Have I given you a reason like that?"
She shook her head.
"I guess ... everyone wants something from someone ... so ... what do you want from me?" she asked.
"Sex." I said.
Lace came to a full stop in the parking lot and I kept on walking.
"Really?" she asked ... shocked and ... confused.
"Yeah. Never fucked a Hobbit before. Thinking it might be a challenge." I said with a poker face as I kept walking.
There was a second pause by her ... I got maybe six steps ahead of her.
"Seriously!?" she stammered.
"Probably need a step stool ..." I said, trying not to laugh.
Her expression was priceless.
"..." she said in a hoarse whisper that I couldn't make out.
"No." I said flatly as I kept walking.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
Lace growled, stomped her foot then hurried to catch up to me.
"You know, Christopher ... That's what I like about you ..." she said, falling into step beside me as we walked onto the sidewalk in front of her apartment.
"What?" I asked.
"That just when I think I've got you figured out ... I find out that I really don't have a clue about what goes on inside that head of yours."
"Is that a bad thing?" I asked.
"No. It's a good thing." she said.
We got to the front door of her apartment and she started to get her door key out.
"So ... do you want to do it toes to toes or nose to nose?" I asked.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"Sex." I said. "There's that size thing to consider and I was just wondering if you prefer being toes to toes or nose to nose ..."
Lace turned around and whopped me with her purse, twice and we both started laughing.
"See? I never know when you're being serious ..." she chided.
I stood there, looking at her ... brown eyes, Linda Blair poofy hair ... just a little woman.
"I had a lot of fun tonight." I said.
"And are you being serious now?" she asked.
"I'm being serious. I had a lot of fun with you tonight."
"I did, too. It's a lot nicer when it's just the two of us ... and your stupid dickhead friend isn't with us."
I nodded because she was right; being with Lace was a lot of fun.
She unlocked her apartment door, walked into the darkness and turned on the light to the living room then turned around to face me. I stood there, at the threshold of her front door, leaning up against the transom, arms crossed. Lace was just a really attractive little woman. Feelings in me began to stir, some noble, some less than so and some just plain leacherous. There was a pause between us, unexpected, like a record skip, and almost as uncomfortable.
"..." she began.
"Goodnight." I said.
"Goodnight ..." she said softly.
"I may stop by and see if you want to go to lunch later this week ... maybe bring you something to eat there at the dealership."
"That would be nice." she said.
Each of us trying to figure out what to say, what to do and the right way to say it and do it.
"Yeah ... well ... goodnight." I said, turning to leave.
"Christopher?" she said, my back to her.
"Yeah?" I asked, stopping, not turning to face her, still not sure.
"I'm just ... short. I'm just a little woman. Can't help the way God made me." she blurted out.
I sighed and let my head go all the way back, eyes closed.
"Lace. Doll. We've been over this. What you are ... it doesn't matter to me." I said.
"Can't help the way that God made me." she said again, almost like that was the best thing she could say or that was somehow her pass on what her life had dealt her in the game we all played from cradle to grave.
I sighed and turned around to face her then took three steps towards her. She backed up one step and I squatted down in front of her.
"I don't know if I like it when you do that ..." she said.
"It seems ... I don't know ... condescending ... like you're reminding me of what I am."
"A little woman?" I asked.
Now I was looking up at her, slightly, but just enough.
"Yeah. Just a little woman."
I leaned closer to her ... she didn't pull away.
"Does everything on you work just like a regular woman?" I asked.
"Uh ... yeah. Everything works on me just like a regular woman." she said, leaning in closer, her voice fading to a whisper.
"Everything?" I asked her in a whisper, leaning in closer to her in turn.
What the hell was I doing?
"Everything." she whispered, leaning in even closer to me.
What the hell was she doing?
"What about your lips?" I asked, moving in even closer.
"Especially my ... lips." she said, smiling, moving in closer.
"I don't believe you." I said, smiling, curious what turn we'd taken and how far down that road we were going.
"Try them for yourself, hot shot." she whispered, shutting her eyes.
And the instant hung there, caught between decisions, damned if I did and damned if I didn't so I made my decision. I reached up, took her head in my hands and I kissed her on the lips ...
... and do you know what?
She wasn't lying about that!
Her lips worked perfectly!
"We kissed ... but that was it. That's about as far as it went." I said.
"Uh huh." Joy said, looking at me in a way that was chiding.
"Joy, I swear!"
I was defensive.
Why was I getting defensive about something that happened two years ago, something that happened before I ever met Joy?
"Swear?" she asked.
"Swear." I said, holding up the Boy Scout sign, three fingers raised, pinky and thumb touching.
"On your honor?" Joy asked.
"On my honor." I said.
Joy looked at me, her eyes to my eyes, searching, looking ...
"I believe you." she said.
I nodded and somehow I felt ... relieved?
"We never ... got very far ... together." I said.
"Any particular reason why?" she asked.
I saw a chance to take control of the conversation, to steer it in my direction so I muttered something.
"I was scared to do anything more than that with ... her." I whispered.
"You? Scared of a four and a half foot tall woman? What were you scared of?"
Reel her in, I thought, because she just walked into it.
"I was scared that I'd split her in two, right up the middle ... Riiiiiiippppppp." I said, holding my palms together, making the sound then parting my palms." I said as I looked up at Joy, poker face.
Joy mouthed the words then threw her head back and laughed out loud, shaking her head.
"You got me." she said.
"Seriously?" she asked.
"No." I said as I shook my head.
"No, seriously ... you never fucked your hobbit?"
I shook my head.
"Just ... kissing." I said. "There was some mutual curiosity, some attraction but I don't think that either of us were willing to go where it would have had to go if we were going to get that serious. That just wasn't who we were, it wasn't what we had and so it never went that far ... "
"But she was a good kisser?" Joy asked.
"She was a really good kisser."
"For a hobbit?" Joy asked, smiling.
"For a hobbit." I said.
Joy nodded, smiling.
"She wanted ... she needed more commitment than I thought I had to give. When I met Lacey it was late in the school year and there was a good chance that I wasn't going to be staying in Jackson so I didn't ..." I trailed off.
"You didn't want to start something you couldn't finish." Joy said softly.
"I didn't want to lead her on. Wouldn't have been fair to her or me, to get either of our hopes up on something that probably didn't have any future and wasn't going anywhere. I'm not real big on one night stands." I whispered.
Some regret there.
Lacey had been ... different. I think we both knew something was there or something might be there but ... we both were smart enough to also know that it might just all be a daydream and who invested in daydreams any more?
I hadn't thought about Lacey in almost two years now ...
"So ... how many one night stands have you had?" Joy asked.
"None." I said. "Kind of plan on keeping it that way, too."
... Third week in April ... 1988 ... lying on the bed in her apartment, lights on, fully clothed ... I guess we were just finally getting around to something that we had started earlier today ... maybe even weeks ago when we first met. I was just picking up on her cues, her body language, her subtle hints ... Lacey had been acting flirty all night ... really touchy ... teasing ... testing.
... walking her to her apartment door like I always did when our time together was coming to an end ... waiting on her to turn her key in the lock, to open her door ... her turning to me, raising up slightly to give me a kiss goodnight, me bending over to meet her ... the smell of her perfume, her closing her eyes this time ... a tremble in her stance ... her arms going up around my neck ... she'd never done that before ... the feel of her purse against my back then me just picking her up in my arms. She gave a little gasp, wrapping her legs around my waist as I pulled her to me and carried her into her apartment. shutting the door behind us and locking it while I still held her. Her head next to mine, slowly nuzzling me, up and down, her cheek against my neck, against my cheek, her lips on my neck, kissing me, rubbing her face against the stubble on my cheek, nuzzling me.
She never said a word ... it was like this was something she expected me to do, something she had already approved of and was just waiting on me to figure out that she wanted me to do it.
I carried her straight back to her bedroom ... to her bed and put her down on it gently. She kicked off her sandals and slid over on the bed as I took off my shoes and lay beside her, moving in close to her, face to face. Her hand came up to my face, touching, caressing and my hand went to her face ... just ... touching her ... touching each other, softly ... slowly ... my hand to her cheek, my hand to her neck, tracing her collar, her necklace, moving back up to her cheek, her ear, across her forehead, moving a wisp of her hair out of her face ... her hand coming up to cup my hand ... to guide my hand ... all the while her eyes were closed, her mouth slightly open, her breath coming fast and quick, her chest rising and falling in rapid, short falls.
The sound of her breath coming fast and quick.
The smell of her perfume.
Her eyes shut.
A little tremble through her body.
A deep sigh from her as my finger traced down further across her chest, dipping towards the valley between her full breasts. If there was one thing that Lace had going for her it was a nice rack up front and a full bottom out back. She may have been a little woman but God had padded her in all the right places. There was the feeling then ... deep down inside me, knowing I could have her ... knowing that we had come to that line ... knowing that she was waiting on me to cross that line ... when her eyes opened and she stared into my eyes ... her eyes ... pleading silently ... I'd seen those eyes all too often this year on someone else.
Fuck me eyes.
Lacey snuggled in close to me, pulling me into her, her own hands took on a life of their own.
She began to reciprocate my affection, my attention to her, build on it.
Lace began to take charge, pushing me over, moving over on top of me.
Her hands roamed ... moving past any boundary that might have existed.
This was going to happen ... here ... now ... with her.
I'd pushed her button.
I'd turned her on.
She was ready and willing.
This was about to happen.
Her perfume was intoxicating.
The feel of her Linda Blair puffed up hair in my hand, running through my fingers.
The sounds she was making became more desperate ... soft whining, whispered begging.
She fell into me.
Our lips met.
Our tongues explored each others mouth as our hands went up and down each others' body.
Our first real, deep kiss.
She was all woman.
The sounds she made.
The permissions she gave in half-whispers.
The stuff she asked me for.
Passions began to boil.
Two writhed together as one there on her bed.
"I want you." she whispered, reaching down to unbutton my shirt.
Her hands moved with confidence, each button not more than a simple hand motion for her to undo and then my shirt was open, spread wide, and Lace was rubbing her hands up and down my chest, her fingers moving through the hair on my chest. I lay there and let her explore me.
Her hands were fumbling, desperate, working faster than her brain, driven by desire.
My belt came open with the slap of leather, my jeans unbuttoned, my fly unzipped and her hand slid down into my pants, petting me. It would be so easy ... My own hands were imitating hers as our mouths smashed into each other, our tongues wrestling in each other's mouth. There was no thought ... no conscious action ... we were on automatic, building to the inevitable. My hand down her pants, petting her.
We were so close ...
I was so close to doing something that I'd told myself I wasn't going to do ...
Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.
"I want you, Christopher." she whispered.
Our mouths met again, tongues wrapped around each other's ...
"God, I need ... this." she whispered.
"I want ... this." she whispered again, nibbling on my right ear.
Words I'd heard before.
From someone else just a few weeks ago.
What would it have been like ... what would my life be like right now if I had met Lace instead of Debby Lee at the start of the year.
Lace was on me like a horny fox.
I was so close to doing something I told myself I wasn't going to do ...
Suddenly I was ... tired. I was tired of all of this repeat nothingness. I was tired of something that I needed to have meaning being completely meaningless. I was tired of disposable relationships and sex for sex's sake. I was tired of looking for something to fill whatever void I perceived to be in my life. I was tired of needing someone to make me feel good about being me. It was a strange moment of realization and ... like that, that's when I started to slow down.
I began to slow her down.
She thought I was guiding her to what I wanted her to do and then she realized that I was slowing her down, gently pushing her away. At first she didn't understand what was happening then she realized that it just wasn't going to be ... not like it had seemed like it was going to be. I could have had Lacey that night ... I could have had all of her. I could have had her tonight and tomorrow and the day after and anytime that I wanted because there was just this feeling that Lace had given herself to me and that she was willing to be mine. We'd crossed a line. I could have had everything she had to offer but it would have been cheap, meaningless and empty and that was three things that I just didn't care to lose myself in, not anymore. Suddenly I'd had my fill of cheap, meaningless and empty things in my life.
I'd had enough.
I'd lost myself in others way too much.
I'd tried to fill a void in my life that didn't really need filling. From where I lay there next to her, her hands on me, my hands on her, I felt like a used car salesman taking advantage of her ... trying to sell her a lemon of a deal knowing full well it was a lemon of a deal. If I lost myself in someone it had to mean something, it had to have something other than just here and now. I couldn't lie to myself and I didn't want to lie to her. I could have ... but I didn't.
Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.
"Sorry. We ..."
"What?" she asked, smilng then starting to unbutton my shirt.
"I ... can't." I said.
I had no words for what I was feeling ... just the feeling that I didn't need to do this and an even bigger feeling that I shouldn't. Just because you can doesn't mean that you should.
"Wait ... You're ... serious?" she whispered.
She looked up at me ... hurt?
"What ...? What's wrong?"
"Me?" she asked, louder, her look one of concern.
"No! No, it's not you!"
"What's wrong then?" she said, more a command to tell her than a question.
"Lace ... I'm leaving next month ... in May ..."
"May? Wait ... You're leaving? Why?" she asked.
I wasn't sure that I had a real good answer to that question myself.
"I'm moving back to Hattiesburg. Going to go to school down there. I won't be in Jackson any more, won't even be close. This ... what you and I have ... it isn't what you think it is."
"It isn't what I think it is?" she asked, starting to get defensive.
"It isn't going to be what I think you think it's going to be and I don't want to lead you on. I don't want to hurt you." I said.
Lace seemed to think about that ... her expression went from confustion to ... understanding ... to looking like I'd just punched her in the stomach. I felt bad ... I felt like I'd just fucked a hobbit and it had nothing to do with sex at all.
"I don't want to start something ... that I can't finish. I don't want to lead you on. Wouldn't be fair." I said.
She bit her lower lip and turned then, away from me, her head on the pillow, just staring at the bedroom wall.
"God! I can't believe this ... God!" she whispered, the last blasphemy louder than a whisper ... a lot louder.
"Lace ..." I started but I found I didn't have any other words than that one word to say.
I hoped it was enough even though just saying her name felt like the most inadequate thing to say in the history of inadequate things to say.
"Should have known. Never fails. It never fucking fails." she muttered.
"Story of my life ..." she whispered but I don't think she was talking to me anymore.
"Lace ... talk to me ..."
"Look ... Just ... go." she said.
This wasn't going to get any better and it had the potential to get a lot worse.
"Yeah. Probably better if I did." I whispered.
I didn't want to take advantage of what she thought we shared ... of what we might actually share ... of what we might actually have between us if having her like this, if having all of her, all of what she was offering me, was going to hurt her in the next few weeks. When you gave yourself to someone it had to mean something ... at least to me it did and so ... that night ... then and there ... I told my lizard brain exactly what it could go do with itself, got off of her bed, put my shoes on, kissed her on the forehead and let myself out of her apartment ... and out of the rest of her life. I remember looking back once, seeing her laying there on the bed, on her stomach, facing me, her legs raised behind her, a wisp of her hair hanging down over her face.
Lace was watching me.
The look on her face a mixture of disappointment and sadness, of hurt and anger, of understanding and ... respect ... and knowing.
She knew that it was easier to get over not having done the wrong thing than it was to get over actually having done something wrong. When you were a guy, at least a guy like me, at least in my life, sometimes just because you could do something didn't mean that you should do something. I'd learned that ... maybe I'd learned that this year ... maybe I'd learned that again this year. Damned if I do and damned if I didn't ... but it was better not to have done something bad than to have done something bad just because you could do something bad and because it wasn't bad for you. Hurting her now, before all of this snowballed into something hollow and meaningless was going to hurt her a lot less than if I let this happen and then left.
Sometimes doing the right thing sucked.
Sometimes, just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should ... and sometimes not doing that something hurts just as much or even more than if you actually did it ... but that's the price you pay for doing the right thing. The problem with the world was that it cost a lot more to do the right thing than the wrong thing ... and I guess that's just the way it had always been and probably the way it always would be. Being bad was easy and it paid higher dividends quicker in life.
I paused at her front door to make sure that it would lock behind me. I felt like I should say something but there really wasn't anything else to say. I turned to look at her one last time ... she was on her back, staring at the ceiling of her bedroom. Her arms were folded across her chest and I thought I saw a tear track down her cheek.
Yeah, I'm a bad man for trying to do the right thing.
I closed the door and tried it behind me.
And ... that was that.
When I drove away from her apartment Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were playing "I Hate Myself For Loving You" on Z106.7 FM. It seemed an appropriate song for the events of tonight but I didn't know if it was meant for Lace or for me or if the gods of rock and roll were just mocking me across the air waves.
never called Lace again, never went by the dealership to bring her lunch
or visit with her and my phone never rang from her either.
A few weeks later I was gone ... way down south back in Hattiesburg.
Another detour off a path that I had more or less already made up my mind on taking.
Lacey ... a small woman and not a small amount of regret.
Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.
A chance not taken.
A choice made.
The sound of fingers snapping near me, fingers snapping like pistol shots.
I came to the here and now, the present.
"Hey! Where did you go, Cowboy?"
I shook the memories of Lacey away. I hadn't thought about her in a year ... or two ... because it was always the same thoughts that I had when I thought about ... or remembered ... any of the women that had mattered to me.
What might have been.
What could have been.
Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.
Chances not taken.
What was a twenty-three year old single woman who worked at a car dealership in Jackson and was working her way through night school looking for in an eighteen year old freshman college student? What was an eighteen year old freshman college student looking for in a twenty-three year old single woman who worked at a car dealership in Jackson and was working her way through night school?
Nothing of any real substance, probably.
Nothing of any lasting potential.
A waste of time.
A distraction from someone else.
A diversion from what else was going on in my or her life.
Two people going down a dead end road when they both knew it was going to be a dead end road ... and one of those people choosing to get off the ride before it became a wreck.
"Earth to Cowboy. Come in, Cowboy."
"Just ... thinking." I said.
"You went deep on me. Real deep.
"Totally shut me out, there."
"Sorry. Just ... thinking."
Just ... stirring up the dust.
"About her? About Lacey?"
"Thinking ... or ... remembering."
And there was something in Joy's voice ... like she understood as well.
"Little of both. Her. The past. Chances had. Choices made. Dust. Forget it ... I was just stirring up some dust."
Joy nodded, resting her chin on her folded arms on top of the table and looking at me like she was trying to read some kind of book written in a foreign language.
"Okay. This is the story that I really, really want to hear, Cowboy." she said.
"Why do you want to hear this story?"
"Because I like
your stories and because I want to hear the story about the Cowboy and the
Hobbit." she said.
"The ... The Cowboy and the Hobbit?" I asked.
"Hell, that's as good a title as any to the story ... or do you have another title for that part of your life?"
I thought about that.
I didn't have a title for that part of my life. In fact, I hadn't really considered what Lacey and I had as any kind of story ... more just something that happened between two people for a little while. Not much of an adventure, just two people going out with each other every now and then, two people having fun and one of those people was kind of tall and the other one was kind of short and the tall person was a guy and the short person was a girl and guy and girl things happened and ... I mean, the top of her head came up to my chest line and that was if she was in her heels or standing on her tippy toes.
She was just a little woman ... Couldn't help the way God made her.
A little woman, all woman and everything worked on her just like any other woman.
She promised me that.
I could have found that out on my own ... but I didn't.
I chose not to.
I shook my head.
Lacey and I had had something ... but was it a story?
"Never thought of me and her together as any kind of story to tell. The Cowboy and the Hobbit. Hmmm. Not going to be a very long story." I said.
"Might not be a tall tale either ..." she mused.
I laughed, despite my hardest intention not to.
"Well, if it isn't a long story maybe you can tell me another story ... maybe you can tell me a long story." she said.
"Maybe I can. Or maybe a couple of short stories that take a long time to tell." I mused out loud.
I paid for our lunch then walked Joy out to her Monte Carlo, opening the door for her and holding it open while she stood there, leaning on the door.
Inches separted us and those inches might as well have been light years.
"So ... we're on for tonight?" I asked.
Joy nodded and mouthed the words "Uh huh" silently then sat down in her old Monte Carlo and I closed the driver's side door for her. She rolled down her window as she started her car and turned on her air conditioning.
"Nine o'clock." I said.
"I'll be there." Joy said.
"If you're not ... I'll sit on the steps and wait for you." I said.
Joy smiled, cutting her eyes at me.
"How long will you wait?" she asked.
"Until you show up ... or until they arrest me for vagrancy." I said.
"See you tonight, Cowboy." she said.
"Yeah. Looking forward to it."
Joy cut her eyes at me ... sultry eyes ... just a flash that sent my blood racing.
"Tell you what. I'll even stop by Sonic and get you a tea. One of those big ass sweet teas that you're always drinking ... you know, the one that you can go swimming in ..." she said.
"You're going to bring me sweet tea tonight? Jeez. Is that some kind of bribe?"
"Jesus! You really want to hear that story, don't you?" I asked, smiling.
"I really want to hear that story, Cowboy.
"Your time to waste ..." I said.
"Spend it like I want to. See you tonight." she said.
And then Joy drove away and like that we went our separate ways like we usually did, like we always did. I watched her drive slowly out of the IHOP parking lot, pause for traffic then slowly accelerate away on down Hardy Street.
I had stayed after class to discuss the semester assignment with my teacher, Rachel. It was my last class of the day and I liked Rachel, as a teacher, because she made learning fun and because I could kind of be the class clown sometimes which seemed to tickle her to no end.
"That's a Lacey Meyers statement." Rachel said to me when I told her what I thought my assignment progress was so far.
"A ... what?" I asked.
"What you just said ... that was a Lacey Meyers statement if ever I heard one."
"Okay. Who is Lacey Meyers?" I asked, confused.
"Oh! She's a friend of my daughters. Lacey's petite, real dynamite in a firecracker. She works at a car dealership in the service department, putting herself through school, mostly at night. You should go and ask her out. You'd like her."
Well, that was ... sudden. I wasn't sure how I'd gone from talking to my teacher about my semester project to being told that I needed to ask one of her daughter's friends out. Still, if the picture of her daughter on her desk was any indication of the kind of friends that her daughter might keep things weren't looking too bad in that regard.
"I might like her ..." I said. "Not sure she'd like someone like me."
"Oh, you two will get along fine. Lacey's like you ... always got something smart to say in a funny kind of way."
I shrugged my shoulders, being kind of wary of any matchmaker crap going on in my life.
"Tell you what ... I'll talk to my daughter tonight, tell her to talk to Lacey for you, set the two of you up so you can go out."
What the hell? All I had to lose was some time and some money on a Friday night ...
Two days later I parked my '79 Pontiac Trans Am in a vacant spot near the service department of the car dealership ... not really knowing what to expect. At that point in my life I was being pulled in two different directions; stay at Hinds, salvage what I could of these two semesters, finish up my two year degree (and see where things were going to go with Debby Lee) or go back to Hattiesburg, enroll at Jones County Junior College and see what life had to offer me in that direction ...
... and then there was this; a third option, a blind date set up by a teacher of mine with one of her daughter's friends; a twenty-three year old woman who worked at a local car dealership as a salesperson / parts department counter worker while she was going to classes part-time at Milsaps to earn a BS degree in business. Her name was Lacey Meyers and that was about all I knew about her other than my teacher said that I'd like her and that Lacey was ... petite.
I had a pretty good idea of what "petite" meant but I was curious if my idea of "petite" and my teacher's idea of "petite" were the same ... or anywhere close. I stepped out of the '79 TA, locked it up and started walking into the service / parts area. The late spring afternoon was still warm and humid, radiating heat from the dark black asphalt of the parking lot which had been newly striped and still smelled strongly of paint. Summer wasn't here but it was on its way, hints of that were early and strong.
I realized again that I hadn't really made up my mind what I was going to do with my life, at least not at that exact moment in time; everything was in a flux, just this big morass where the pros and cons of each decision all were hitting me about the same and with the same frequency. Even after coming to see me at my apartment and spending the night with me twice now Debby Lee hadn't gotten back to me on where we stood so maybe I needed something else to take my mind off of what I was struggling over or maybe I needed to go out with someone else, someone new, in order to put things into a different perspective. Anyway, it was just a date, a blind date, and at the worst it was only going to be a few hours and a handful of cash spent.
petite ... you'll like her. Real dynamite in a firecracker."
Rachel had told me. "I'll talk to my daughter and set things up."
I stepped up to the parts counter ... there was no one around.
I waited, patiently.
No one was around and the only sound was that of the mechanics in the work bays behind me, slightly muffled by the glass enclosure that separated the parts department from the service department, and something else ... something that sounded like ... static. A constant hiss like a badly tuned radio station or gas escaping from a nicked pipe. I saw a pair of speakers in the corner and decided that was where the sound of static was coming from. I looked around ... there was no one but I guess they served those who stood and waited so I was patient.
"She's petite ... you'll like her."
Suddenly, in my mind, the word "petite" took on a whole lot of extra meaning.
Still didn't know what to expect.
There was the sound of movement ... someone was here ... in the department off to the side of the parts counter. A petite woman walked out of the side office, looking at a handful of invoices then noticed me standing there.
"Sorry. Didn't know anyone was out here. Be right with you." she said.
She was petite.
She couldn't have been much more than four and a half feet tall and a hand but she was a woman, not a child, not a midget, not a dwarf. A woman. A petite ... little ... woman. Curly brown hair down to her shoulders and a little beyond, poofed on top, in a style that reminded me of Linda Blair from a few years ago. She wore a dealership embroidered Polo type shirt, jeans and dress sandals and her proportions were nicely distributed. It was like someone had taken a really attractive woman and reduced her to eighty percent of her original size. Rachel had told me that Lacey was petite ... a little woman. I'd gone to school with a little woman, my senior year, Linda. Linda was seventeen years old, the top of her head came up to the bottom of my rib cage and she would never be any taller than she was when I'd met her. Linda drove a Pontiac Sunbird and she literally had trouble seeing over the dash when she drove. Lacey was a bit more fortunate in height, even if it was obvious that she'd never see another inch of altitude short of the highly unlikely circumstance of direct divine intervention by God Himself.
If this was my blind date ... things weren't looking as bad as my mind had started to play them out to be.
"Aw ... crud!" she said, looking up at the ceiling and noticing the same hissing static that I'd been listening to for several minutes now.
"Hold on." she told me as she walked to the back of the department where the two speakers were mounted.
I watched her as she squatted near a shelf, reached under and fiddled with something there. The hiss grew louder, then softer then was replaced with the sound of the voice of the DJ on Z106.7 FM, Jackson talking about the weather and some local news. The small woman walked back up to the counter, put her arms and hands on the counter, looked up at me and smiled.
"That's my old stereo ... Keep it around to listen to the radio when I'm at work. Sometimes it goes off station and I'm the only one that knows how to tune it. So ... what can I do for you? Need a part? Name your year, make and model."
"Are you Lacey Meyers?" I asked.
"Uh ... Yeah ...?" she said, unsure, looking at me in the strangest way since I'd just answered her question with a question of my own, breaking her concentration and her business routine.
"I'm Christopher. Christopher Shields."
Her look still held confusion.
"I think I'm your blind date for tonight. Rachel's daughter Kelly was supposed to set it up ..."
Lacey's expression was one of surprise.
"Right! Right! Hey!" Lacey said, beginning to understand the situation.
The DJ finished talking and REO Speedwagon's "Keep the Fire Burning" started playing.
"Wow. Haven't heard this song in a while ..." I said.
"You like REO Speedwagon?" she asked.
I nodded, smiling at remembering when I was a lot younger ... and the song playing on the radio right now as brand new. That felt like it was a lifetime ago even though the song was only about six years old. A lot can happen in six years ... that was a third of my life.
"I love REO Speedwagon. Favorite. Band. Ever." she said.
Seeing an angle to make things less awkward I pressed it.
"Ever get to see them in concert?" I asked.
"Once. Way back in 1979 when they came here to Jackson. I was fifteen and they had a band called "Missouri" which opened for them. Still got the concert shirt ... REO Speedwagon, not Missouri. What about you?" she asked.
"I saw them back in '85, here in Jackson as well. They had Cheap Trick with them. I had the REO Speedwagon shirt, too ... I didn't like the Cheap Trick shirt."
Her eyes got big.
"Wow! You got to see them with Cheap Trick!?"
I nodded, smiling.
"Man! I wanted to go to that concert but I was in Texas visiting my uncle and aunt that week!"
"It was a pretty good concert. Both bands were good. It wasn't like you had a sucky band that opened for a really good band and you have to wade through the sucky music to get to the good stuff ... No, it was like getting two concerts in one that night." I said.
The month before my whole life changed ...
"So ... you like REO Speedwagon ...?" she stated.
"I like the older stuff ... Keep on Lovin' You, Riding the Storm Out ... this song is about as new of their stuff as I like." I said.
She seemed to think about that.
"Hi- Infedelity?" she asked.
"Got it on cassette out in my car right now."
"Well, there's that at least." she mused. "We both like old REO Speedwagon better than new REO Speedwagon."
"Yeah, their newer stuff is starting to go soft ... way soft like Culture Club. If they keep going soft at this rate they'll be in the same section as Spandau Ballet before long."
Lacey laughed out loud.
"Spandau Ballet!" she said. "I haven't heard anyone say it like that before."
"Looks like we've got one thing in common so there's that." I said.
And like that Lacey's eyes lit up.
Lacey had pretty brown eyes and a nice smile.
"You're ... not exactly what I was expecting." she said.
"What were you expecting?" I asked, trying not to get on the defensive because I didn't know if I should or not.
She looked past me, over my shoulder and I looked over my shoulder, out into the service department. Grease covered guys in ill-fitting dealership work uniforms moved around the service bays like the walking dead.
"One of them?" I asked, still looking over my shoulder.
I could see how a woman like Lacey would be in an uncomfortable situation around guys like that.
"You get a lot of that ... ?" I asked her, turning back around to try to gauge her expression.
"All the time. Day in and day out." she said, sighing.
"Yeah. You wouldn't believe the pick up lines that get dropped in here." She said, shaking her head.
"Well ... yeah. I can imagine." I said, not really knowing what to say to that and thinking that saying the less was the better idea.
"Imagine what?" she asked.
Think quick, Shields.
"I ... imagine that after they spend all day out there working on customer's cars that you're one of the nicer things they get to see."
Lacey actually blushed then.
"Oh ... Yeah. Rachel said you might be a smooth talker." she said, holding up a finger and wagging it in front of me.
"She warned you about me?" I asked.
"That she did. Flattery ..." she began.
"Won't get me anywhere?" I asked.
"Well, I wouldn't say that. More like we'll see ... you'll have to make it good because I've heard it all before." she said, smiling and cutting her eyes at me and like that she seemed ... happier.
"So ... dinner and a movie?" I asked, trying to steer our conversation back to a happier course.
"Yeah. I think I'd like that." Lacey said.
Pretty eyes and a pretty smile.
She was leaning over slightly on the counter and I swear I saw her wag her bottom back and forth, slowly, like she was tilting at her ankles, like a kitten playing, about to pounce on something that has gotten its complete attention.
"So ... where can I pick you up?"
She held up a finger in a sign for me to wait then told me where she lived, some older apartments over near North Park Mall, and she took a sheet of paper from the copy machine and drew me a map along with giving me her phone number. We agreed that I would pick her up at 6:30PM at her place and that we'd figure out where we wanted to get something to eat then. The better places to eat were in that area of the city so it shouldn't be a problem to find something good. I folded the hand drawn map and stuck it in my pocket, sticking out my hand and taking hers.
"I'm glad you stopped by to see me. Kelly said you probably would." Lacey said.
"Yeah. I didn't want it to be a real blind date ... thought I would come by your work and meet you, set things up, give you a chance to see what I looked like and give you enough time to back out of the whole deal if you wanted to."
She feigned mock surprise and shook her head.
"Why would I want to do that?" she asked.
"Well ... in case I was one of them ... or you tagged me as some kind of real creep from the start." I said, looking over my shoulder at the employees out in the service bay of the dealership.
"I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. Dinner and a movie is a lot better than some of the things that I've been offered lately." she said.
I smiled and nodded.
"It was nice to meet you, Lacey. Looking forward to tonight." I said.
"Me too ... Oh ... and it's Lace. Just ... Lace." she said, smiling.
"Lace. People just call me Lace, not Lacey. Drop the "Y" on the end. All my friends do." she said.
"Okay. Lace. Uh ... Have I earned the right to do that?" I asked, smiling.
"I'll float you some credit. If you're not good for it, I'll let you know when you're supposed to go back to calling me Lacey." she said, smilng.
"Or Ms. Meyers." I said.
"Or Ms. Meyers." she repeated.
"Or not calling you at all." I added.
"Fair enough. See you tonight. Lace." I said, turning to leave.
"See you tonight ... Christopher. Oh, and it is ... Christopher, right? Not just Chris?" she said, slapping the counter top lightly and spinning in place, looking at me over her shoulder.
"It's Christopher. Not just Chris. Too many guys named "Chris" in the world." I said.
She smiled, still looking at me over her shoulder.
Big puffy Linda Blair hair.
"See you in a couple of hours." I said.
"Bye." she said, smiling.
I walked on out back into the service bay, a smile on my face and I swear, behind me, I heard Lacey "Lace" Meyers scream out at the top of her lungs.
"Hot damn! I've got a DATE tonight!"
... but then I couldn't really be sure over the sound of impact wrenches striking home and luxury sedan engines revving. At least that's what I thought I heard after the door to the parts department closed behind me.
My favorite hobbit.
I hadn't thought about Lacey Meyers in two years now. Memories of her were filled with long cruises around Jackson, listening to REO Speedwagon and Foreigner and Bostom and Tom Petty and Journey on the Kenwood and just talking ... holding her hand in my gloved hand, her hair blowing in the wind of the T-tops off and windows down, the setting sun stabbing rays of diamonds and mirrors at us as we sped through the beltways surrounding the capital city.
That time back at her place.
Almost doing something that I knew that I'd regret ... something that she would regret.
Just because you can do something doesn't always mean that you should.
The look in her eyes when I got up and left that night ... So much of my past I'd bulldozed through, I'd smashed anything in front of me to pieces and just buried the wreckage behind me in my wake, buried the wreckage under ten feet of concrete and asphalt and never much I guess with a second thought to the feelings of the others that got in the way, to the others that I'd just rolled over and past. Was it wrong for me to live my life like I had, like I did, and not feel bad about doing it? I shrugged my shoulders and tabled the internal argument for a time when I was feeling more introspective and more prone to debating my self.
Her friends called her Lace ... and for a while, for a couple of weeks there in the spring of 1988, I got to call her that, too.
Lacey "Lace" Meyers.
I hadn't thought of Lace in two years now and the memory of her brought a smile. I could have fucked her but I didn't because I guess I cared more about her than I really wanted to admit.
She was just a little woman.
Couldn't help the way that God had made her.
Linda Blair puffed up hair.