Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Love in a phone booth, part I

Stephanie and I are always fighting.

You might not believe it, because I don't blog about it much, but we are constantly quarreling about something: I usually don't mention it because I figure you aren't interested in hearing about me getting honked off every time she loses the remote to my cable box (which, incidentally, is just about every day). Nonetheless, I have never fought this much with a girlfriend, ever.

Stephanie is a slob. When she wants to look good, she cleans up amazingly well, but she never wants to! And on the rare occasions when she does, she leaves a trail of balled-up socks and inside-out jeans twisted up on the floor, like some kind of sloppiness demon that has just been purged from her body.

I'm surprised I have not had a nervous breakdown yet. Every time she sleeps over, I come back from my morning jog to find dried coffee stains on my counter, along with a liberal dose of sugar, sprinkled around like the remnants of a brief snow shower.

She leaves the cap off the toothpaste, and piles of dirty clothes everywhere. Dishes stack up in the sink, and my trash pail looks like the streets of New York City during the garbage strike.

And of course, far be it for me to just clean up behind her. Oh, no! There is PRINCIPLE at stake! I must take a stand, lest she think I am her personal maid! And that, of course, leads to scintillating exchanges like this:

"When was the last time you emptied a trash pail, Steph? Who was president then?"

"Don't be a fucking smart ass!" she says, not looking up from her textbook.

"Did they have electricity yet? Was it prior to the age of antibiotics?"

"Not funny!"

"Were there steam engines? How 'bout cotton gins?"

"I'm not laughing."

"I'm not kidding. Empty the friggin' garbage!"

"It's your garbage."

"It's YOUR crap in there from when you cleaned out your car!"

"I'll GET to it!"

"No you won't. It'll pile up to the goddamn ceiling, until it looks like that friggin' mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and then I'll get tired of looking at it, and I'll do it myself!"

"FINE, Steve, FINE!" she says, slamming her book to the table. She removes the bag, ties it closed, and replaces it with a new one, stomping and pouting the whole time.

"UGH!" she says through a clenched jaw, her hands balled into tight fists. "You are so.....fucking......ANAL-"

I can't help it. I burst out laughing. So does she. I swear, half our arguments end in laughter.


Saturday, January 15.

My friend Paulie is the most pussy-whipped person I know.

I agree, I'm giving him a run for his money lately, but he's still the undisputed king of pussy whippitude. In the last year alone, he has:

1. Caddied for his girlfriend's mother on the golf course;
2. Played bridge with his girlfriend's mother and grandmother, and their friends; and,
3. Painted his kitchen mauve because his girlfriend likes the color.

Part of being a guy's best friend is having the obligation to tell him when he's gone off the path of guyness and wandered into wimpdom. I've made comments here and there, but it's time to make things a little more obvious.

Earlier this week, I went to the trophy shop and ordered a little plaque, and had it inscribed, "2004 WUSS OF THE YEAR".

It might sound mean, but Paulie and I have a rich ballbreaking tradition. We've been going back and forth this way for a long time. After one particularly drunken year, he bought me a t-shirt with the words "Puke Machine" silkscreened on it. I still have it somewhere.

I told the trophy guy I needed it by today, since Paulie and I are going to be hanging out later.

12:30pm. Steph didn't drive last night; she needs a ride home so she can get her car and go to study group, and I need to get to the trophy shop before they close at 1:00. We're also supposed to go see Steph's friend, a nurse, at the hospital to get our testing done so we can stop using protection.

"Steph. Let's go!"

"Can't you see I'm watching this?"

She's engrossed in the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. I have Comcast DVR, and it's so much fun to use that I spend most of my free time recording and watching shows that I normally wouldn't give a shit about.

"Steph, it's recorded. You can watch it later!"

"I'll never get around to it. Just let me finish watching! It's almost over!"

I open the garage and start the car, then come back inside. The show ends. It's 12:40. We're cutting it close.

"Come ON!" I shout. She grabs her coat and we take off.

There's a work crew from the phone company working on a pole. We sit in traffic for five minutes.

"Do me a favor. Call that number on the receipt," I say, pointing to Steph's visor. "Tell the guy we are running a little late and see if he'll wait for us."



"I left my pocketbook at the house!"

"You don't have your PHONE?!"

"You were rushing me! Give me yours!"

I pull it off my belt and hand it to her. She stares at it intently, pressing buttons.

"It's dead."

"It's DEAD? I charged it last night!"

I pause. "Oh, shit. No, I didn't. I totally forgot."

"A-haaaa! Mr. anal forgot to charge his phone!" she laughs.

"I can NOT fucking believe this. We have NO fucking cell phones between us. Not ONE."

"Are we almost there?"

"No. There's a phone booth at Cottonwood Dairy. Maybe I'll stop there."

"A PHONE booth? No one makes phone booths anymore, do they?"

"Evidently so."

"Can't you just get it for him later?"

"I'll never get around to it," I say mockingly.

"Shut up," she smiles.

I pull into Cottonwood Dairy and drive to the back of the parking lot. The place is boarded up for the winter. Hope the phone still works.

I get out of the car and walk to the phone booth. It looks just like you might think: Dented, scratched, and faded. The door is gone, and most of the plexiglass panes are broken or missing completely.

I pick up the receiver. Dial tone. Yes! It works!

I pat my pockets; they're empty. "Steph, can you get me some change?"

She rolls down the window. "What?"

"Can you get me some change? There should be some in there."

She gets out of the car and strides over to me, handing me about six quarters.

I deposit fifty cents and dial the number. It's about three minutes before 1:00.

"MBJ Trophy."



"This is Steve. The guy with the plaque?"

"Oh yeah, the wuss award," he laughs.

"I'm running a little late. I wonder if you could-"

Steph kisses the side of my neck, about an inch below my ear. Her lips are warm and soft against the hard cold. For some reason, that spot really gets me going. It makes me vulnerable, like some kind of sexual Achilles' Heel. Usually, when she kisses me there, she makes sure she's ready to finish me off. But we're in a phone booth...

"Hello?" Michael says.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, so I was wondering if you could-"

She kisses my neck, right next to my Adam's Apple.

"-wait for me-"

She bites my earlobe and slips her tongue into my ear.

"Wait for you? Ahhh, how far away are you?"

I'm maybe five minutes out. But now I've got business to attend to.

"Fifteen minutes," I say.

To be continued.....