1 of Thirteen Thousand Million Things: Bumper to Bumper
Thirteen thousand million things happened today. I’m going to see if I can write about some of them:
It’s my day off and it’s hot in BigCity, NC where I’ve driven for an appointment with my podiatrist. Since it now costs me $20 in gas to get to the city and back, you can bet my list of errands is a mile long. But they’re all done—including snagging two pairs of sale shorts at Target for $6 (score!) and a double-iced-soy-latte from my favorite barista in town. I’m in traffic, trying to head for the interstate and get back home when I cut left onto a side street near The Orange Peel.
And that’s I realize that the car in front of me bears three bumper stickers I know. A quick look in his rearview mirror reveals the trimmed beard, red hair, and face that I know, too. Oh, April. What a month for affection that was. I haven’t seen this guy since, well, our weekend hideaway up on Fork Mountain. I glance at the clock: ten minutes before I’ve got to hit the freeway and get to Tinyville in time for karate.
I honk twice, then wave out of my sunroof to the car in front of me. We’re in the middle of the block, driving about ten miles per hour, and he glances in his rearview, unsure. I do him the favor of taking off my sunglasses and smiling, and he hits the brakes, all smiles and bright eyes and damn if he doesn’t stop the car in the middle of the two-way street and get out.
“Hey,” he shouts, walking towards my open window.
“Wow! I’m worthy of a stop in the middle of the street? Damn!” I’m smiling, trying to unbuckle my seatbelt.
“Worthy? What do you mean, oh Master of the Fine Arts? Of course you are!” and he leans down, right there in the middle of the street, and plants one on me. The Smooch Buddy. How I’ve missed him.“How are you?” he says.
“I…I’m stuck. I mean, hold on.” I look away, undo my seatbelt, and hop out of the car. Two cars honk at once, one behind me and another coming the other direction on the street and I want to say, Hey, this is the smooch buddy! Don’t you get it? I live alone in the mountains. Give a woman a break!. Don’t make me tell you how many weeks it’s been since I’ve been kissed. But instead, we oblige, getting into our respective cars and pulling to the side of the road.
We walk across the street to stand in the shade and I notice he’s wearing a collared shirt, dress khakis, and leather shoes. “All dressed up?” I say, biting my lip. The only thing that undoes me faster than a man in a collared shirt (who doesn’t normally wear collared shirts), is the combination of a red beard, Old Spice, and Carhartts. Call it weird, call it what you will—but at least I know what I like.
“Yeah, just back from a job interview,” he says. “And blah, blah blah blah….” He sounds as though he’s talking underwater. I can’t focus on anything other than how close the smooch buddy is standing to me. His eyes are the color of mullein and they match his collared shirt. There is a tiny red hair from his beard that’s fallen and landed on the little triangle of his undershirt that shows where the collar opens up. I want to brush it away, to touch that spot. He’s wearing anti-perspirant, I can smell it, but it’s a hot day and he’s been sweating in the car. I can smell that part more and it smells right. “Don’t you think?” he asks.
“What?” I say.
“What…What are you doing next? Right now? I mean, what are your plans?” Oh words, don’t fail me now!
He breaks into smile, little wintergreen sparks coming from his eyes. Then he laughs to himself. “I thought you said you have karate in an hour?”
“You’re right, I do. Damn.” I’m smiling now too, and leading him back across the street to our cars because, a tempting as this is, I really do have to go. “But I could miss it. I could skip.” Did I just say that? Ohhhh, Hanshi would be shocked!
“I can’t. I’ve got a meeting in 45 minutes…blah blah….blah…”
“I gotta run, I’m gonna be late,” I say, and I’ve pulled him to me, my hand creeping down his back, and that fast I’m in the car, starting the engine. He’s happily frazzled and hops into his car, which has to move before I can get out. But there is the smooch buddy’s car moving backwards, backwards, closer, closer to mine. He stops. Angles the steering wheel and moves forward a few inches. Then cranks the wheel the opposite direction and starts to back up again, this time driving straight into my bumper. My car lurches and our eyes lock in his rearview mirror.
“Are you ok?” he shouts, totally flustered, then laughing at himself.
I’m cracked up and waving him on. “It’s a Volvo,” I shout. “It’ll be fine!” And for a moment, I like to think it was all my fault. That I had it in me, on this sunny summer day, to distract a red-bearded collared-shirt man enough to make him run his own car into mine. Yes, I like to think that.