Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm catching up, I swear...

July 13, 2005, 3:00pm
Steve's house

"Hey Tim, it's Steve."

"Hi, Steve!"

"Listen, there's a pool party at my neighbor's house Friday-"

"I'd love to."

"How'd you know I was asking? How'd you know I wasn't going to ask you to babysit my pet iguana?"

"You mean your step-daughter?"

"My what?"

"That woman you're dating has a daughter, doesn't she?"

Pause. "Hilarious, Tim."

"Did you really get an iguana?"

"Tim, I can't even keep a house plant alive."

"Good point."

"So are you in?"

"Of course! I said I'd love to! You want to come over tonight? I'm testing out a new dish for my catering business."



Tim's house

"Hey, I want to thank you for inviting me to the party on Friday. I really appreciate it. It sounds like fun!"

I stop, waiting for a snide remark. But there's nothing except a wide smile.

Tim's smile is beautiful, all plump lips and white teeth. Yeah, she still gives me goosebumps. I often compare her to Lila in my mind, but the two are very different; Lila is more exotic-looking, like a model you'd see in a cosmetic ad, whereas Tim is more classically American, like a girl you'd see on an Andy Griffith Show rerun. My dad and my brother Chris once got into a debate as to which one was prettier; dad said it was Lila, "by a mile," and Chris was just as sure it was Tim. As for me, I can't decide, but I do think that Tim looks a bit more mature; she's more of a woman, whereas Lila is more of a girl.

"You're welcome. It's always a lot of fun over there."

My phone rings.


"Steve, it's Dom. Do you have the number for that Unix guy who helps us out sometimes? Greg, I think his name is?"

"What's wrong?"

"The old server is lagging like hell. I need to get him in first thing in the morning."

"I have his card. Hold on." I pull out my wallet and read him the number.

"Thanks, Steve. So you wanna do drinks later?"

"I might be a little bit busy."

"Yeah, me too, hopefully," he laughs. I'm vaguely aware that Tim's phone is ringing. "So, I better go give this guy a call."

"Good deal. Have a good night, Dom."

"You too, Steve."

I turn around, and Tim is talking on her cordless phone. "Bay-beee!" she says, seductively.

I burn with jealousy. Who the hell is she talking to like that? That "baby" sounded exactly the way it does when she says it to me.

"You don't call me anymore," she says, and I can hear the pout in her voice as she walks to the far corner of the room, maybe 25 feet away.

"Suuure!" she says, lowering her voice. I walk to the kitchen, so it doesn't look like I am eavesdropping. But I am.

"Friday might be a problem."

Some dude is asking her out. No, Tim and I were not exclusive at this point (check the date), but girls like Tim always bring out the competitiveness in me.

"I might have something going on. It's no big deal, though," I hear her say.

We are both seeing other people, and I can't complain that she is doing the same thing that I am. But I sure as hell won't sit still for it if she's going to make dates with some other guy right under my nose. Now, it's a matter of principle; if I act like nothing happened, if I merely tolerate this slap across the face, I'll look like a wimp. She'll think she can walk all over me. Anything but that! And what the fuck did she mean by "No big deal"?

Fuck this. I open the front door, slowly, so as not to make a sound. A lesser man would open the door loudly and make a show of his exit to get her attention, so he could confront her. But confronting her would be a sign of weakness; confronting her is giving her a chance to explain, which implies that there might be an acceptable explanation. There isn't. Or if there is, I don't want to hear it.

CREEEEEEAK! goes the door.

Shit. She heard that for sure. Now I've got about five seconds before she sees that I am leaving. I better make a break for it.

I burst through the screen door, across the circular parking area and into my car, pressing in the clutch and starting the engine as I roll backwards. I navigate around the circle and glance back towards the door as I pass by, and there is Tim, standing with her right hand in the air. It looks like she's holding....

My wallet.

I pat my right pocket. Empty. Son of a bitch. I must have left it on the table when I was getting the number for Dom.

I kill the engine and pull the parking brake, then get out and walk slowly to the door. Jesus, this is embarrassing.

I try not to look at her face as I approach her, but I can't help it; her expression is quizzical, as if she can't understand what on earth I could be so angry about.

I try to snatch the wallet. She pulls it back. "Are we gonna talk about this?"

She is trying to make me tell her what's wrong, even though we both already know. She's purposely making it difficult for me to disprespect her, the same way I do to people who try to disrespect me.

"Don't ever fucking do that to me, Tim."

"What, I-" She is really working me over. She's toying with me, giving me the innocent routine.

I decide to go the humiliation route - I'll embarrass her, and then, to shut me up, she'll give me the wallet back and I can leave. "I don't give a shit who you open your legs to. But at least have the common decency to... make plans on your own time, when I am not here."

She grins at me, a small, smug smile.

My plan backfired. Now she knows I am affected by what she did.

"Steve, why are you getting so offended?"

"I'm not offended. Your business is your business. I don't want to talk about it; you're the one who won't give me my wallet."

"Of course you're offended. That's why you tried to leave."

I look at her.

"We aren't going steady, Steve."

"Going steady? What, are we in high school now?"

She gives me an even bigger smile. I really should learn to shut up.

"Why are you getting so upset? My God!" she says, rolling her eyes. She's really playing this up, making me out to be an insecure baby, without ever saying it outright. This girl is good.

Now I have to calm down, lest I prove her point. "It was just rude, Tim, that's all."

"I went to the other side of the room. Were you eavesdropping?"

"You talk loud."

"I whispered."

"Could I have my wallet, please?"

I was just with Heather last night, and I am struck by how different the two of them are. THIS is how a girl reels me in, by competing with me, by beating me at my own game. In some crazy way, I like that Tim is so manipulative, that she is so skilled at making me squirm. Heather wouldn't have the first clue about any of that. Comparing the two of them is like comparing David Ortiz to a bat boy.

She extends a toned right arm, wallet in hand. I take it back and she stares at me, with beautiful, calm, loving eyes. I stare back. How could I ever be mad at her?, I hear myself think.

Now I have my wallet; I'm not tied to her anymore. I can run away, and never come back if I don't want to. So why do I feel like my feet are cemented to the sidewalk?

"Steve, I'm sorry I offended you. OK?"

Long pause. Crickets chirp. "Don't worry about it," I say, finally.

She didn't give in, almost at all. She didn't say she wasn't going out with that dude on Friday, she didn't talk about "us"; we didn't resolve anything, really. She just kind of.. apologized for MY reaction, and somehow, she made me think that she was going out of her way to do so. She made me feel grateful for this half-assed apology.

"Would you please come inside?" she says.

"I have to-"


"I have to park my car."