On Listening to Your Gut (Gimme Three Steps)
Sometimes, I get myself into situations and I look back and I wonder, “Why didn’t I just listen to my gut?” He’s never been wrong, and although he’s not always fun, he certainly has my best interest in mind. Have you ever gotten that feeling….. the one where the abdominal Jiminy Cricket screams out, “NO STOP, THIS IS A BAD IDEA!”? I get them from time to time, I’ve resolved to listen to him these days. I’m not sure if it’s an inherent survival technique passed down from generations of hunter/gatherers or just that I’ve become streetwise to a point where I can read a bad situation like a housewife can pick apart a trashy romance novel, but I’ll tell you this: If you see me running, you best follow me, because all hell is, was, or will break loose in the opposing direction.
In south Jersey there’s a place called the Pennant on Rt 130. Large venue. Does the typical south Jersey thing: cheap drinks, cover bands and house music. On Wednesdays, excuse me–White Trash Wednesdays– there’s a $5 cover at the door starting at 8 or 9pm, Live Cover bands alternating sets with a House Music DJ, and $.25 drinks, increasing by $.25 on the hour. Needless to say such an environment creates some strange bed fellows.
Background/how I know this: My friend Joel and I had both gotten out of recent relationships and decided the best thing to do was to go out get drunk and just try to not think about our exes. So White Trash Weds became a weekly gathering. We’d collect a bunch of friends, load up into the van, and head off in search of girls and drink and Foreigner cover bands.
One such night Joel’s friend Heather came along. She brought some friends and we all got drunk and rocked out that night. One of her friends …. Amy… caught my eye. Amy was cute and she was cool, or as cool as a guy drinking $.50 Bourbon and cokes by the fistful can remember. Anyhow, we all went back to Joel’s that night and I think Joel and Heather hooked up or something; everyone else left aside from me and Amy. We got to talking and talking got to kissing and then we passed out. Nothing else happened–we were at Joel’s mom’s place and I’m not about to ruin her couch.
Anyway, Amy and I exchanged numbers and we went our separate ways in the morning…. or she did I decided to sleep on the couch for a few more hours before I went to school. Joel and Heather apparently had a pretty good night because they were still at it for like another hour and a half while I was trying to go to sleep. I didn’t want to hear my friend having sex, especially due to the fact that it only reminded me of that scene from High Fidelity where John Cusack’s ex is having sex with his neighbor in his head. “No one is having better sex in the world than they were in my imagination.” Which in turn reminded me of my ex and I was still exercising those demons. Also, Afghan covers by their very nature are not ideal for blocking out sound.
Fast forward to a day later when I saw my friend Nate online (Nate and I used to work at Apple Bee’s together). Nate had seen me at Weds. and wanted to know how I made out with that chick. I told him we kissed and stuff and asked him if he wanted to see her myspace page? He surely did! Then a few minutes later he said to me, “Damn, You really had a White Trash Wednesday huh?” I asked what that meant and then he said look at the girl’s age. I looked and sure enough she was 19. GEEZ. 19. Don’t they card at this place? I’m 26 Years old. I don’t wanna be dealing with a 19 year old.
And so I gave myself some shit. But Nate assured me it was no big deal, and she was cute so who cared. I had to agree. Who did care, Age ain’t nothin but a number right? And if there’s one thing to beat the blues from a break -up (that feeling you get when some one leaves you for someone younger and and you think to yourself I’m an old man it’s all downhill from here might as well become a monk) it’s hooking up with someone younger than your ex!
A week went by and I thought about texting Amy to see what she was doing but I was talking with my ex as well. Not really smoothing things out; more like just messing around with her, which would lead to verbal abuse and me feeling worse than when the night began. No yelling, really, just snide jabs at each other that scar you in a way only someone who has seen your privates can. After a particularly horrible episode, I texted Amy. She hit me back later that night…….via text.
“Hey! Cld u mt me out @ the bank? I nd a favor.” <smiley face>
Now I knew damn well that was a bad idea–the feeling in my gut confirmed this. But I had a feeling in another part of my body that said there’s a 2% chance this 19 year old chick might blow me in the bank parking lot. I weighed it out in my head, choosing the He who dares, wins” viewpoint. I suited up, grabbed a condom and rode out to the bank, chasing the vision of some white trash blonde chick going down on me against the backdrop of the ATM lights. Of course, that was a best case scenario. No, actually as per my time working in a comic shop, the best case scenario was always getting superpowers, but barring that a BJ in a closed bank parking lot was pretty damned close. As you can certainly imagine, BJs were not handed out like candy canes on Christmas in South Jersey.
I pulled into the parking lot, to see a black SUV parked non-discreetly in the front. Disappointed, I pulled up to the car. Amy got out of the passenger seat and ran over to my car. “Oh thanks so much! Just follow us–I’ll explain everything when we get there.” I asked her what was going on and she just smiled and crooked her finger in a flirtatious manner beckoning me to come hither. I’m a sucker for a mystery, so of course I took the bait.
We drove about 20 miles south through the woods and into some town I’d never seen before. We pull into a Wawa parking lot. At this point, I’d decided this was a set up: the guy driving Amy was some crazed, deranged ex-boyfriend. So I made sure to pull into a place where people could see me and I sat in my car, waiting for whatever this exchange was gonna bring. A Spanish gentleman about my age got out of the car. He went into the back seat and produced two children: one in a baby carrier and one who looked old enough to be scared. Now I started to think that something was worse than wrong; something was severely fucked up.
I got out of my car to find out what the hell was going on. The Spanish dude cut me off before I could say anything. “Hey man, I really appreciate this, Thanks a lot.” As he put the children in my car, I knew the possibility of any female-type action was gone. And I couldn’t just peel off now that there were strange children inside my car, not that I had wanted them nor approved of them being there. Amy ran around to the driver’s side and kissed the guy in the car goodbye. A great position I was in now! This girl had just kissed a guy goodbye after he put someone’s children (whose? hers? his? theirs!?) into my car. What the hell kind of crazy shit have I gotten myself into? I was pissed, mostly at myself.
Amy skipped over to the car, got into the passenger seat and smiled, “Hey-a!”
“What the hell is going on?” I asked. “Who’s kids are these?” The younger child was wearing a winter jacket, which I thought was a little old for early September. “And why is the baby in a Goddamned parka?”
“I’ll explain everything in a sec. Pull into that school lot.”
I drove through the parking lot over by the playground, searching for a way out of the situation. I knew absolutely nothing good could come of the night. Certainly nothing romantic. If I had been 14…and drunk… But I wasn’t. I stopped the car and she pulled out her phone. “Wait, WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?” I had decided at the last second not to curse in front of the kids.
“They’re my nephew and niece–I was babysitting the–at my Boyfriend’s house. My dad hates my boyfriend–cuz he’s spanish–so I needed someone to drop them off with me–cuz my car’s broken.”
“Oh,” I said, my blood pressure dropping back down. “That makes sense. And after we drop them off?” I tried to soften my voice, feeling foolish for overreacting. With any luck, the night could be salvaged.
“I’m just gonna have my dad pick them up and–then, we can hang out! And talk–or something.”
Talk? I had just done a favor for her boyfriend. What did we have to talk about? I should probably just go, I started to say, until…
“LISTEN YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! I’VE GOT YOUR FUCKING GRANDKIDS HERE–I’M AT THE SCHOOL–YOU BETTER GET OVER HERE RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!” She screamed into the phone. Holy shit, I wasn’t going anywhere! Seconds later, as a white pick-up truck screeched to a stop next to my car in the parking lot, I had one of those “life flashing before your eyes” moments.
Butterflies. Fuck. I had spent most of my life avoiding getting punched or kicked and, aside from a few arrant circumstances, I had been pretty successful. I wouldn’t say I was a coward; I just knew that–physically–I wouldn’t be much use in a fight. I was skinny and bruised like a pear. So, when seeing this situation, which was anything but optimal, the gears quickly began to turn. The best course of action seemed to be just to tell the truth.
Two very large, very violent looking men in Eagles jerseys exited the car. Needless to say, I was nervous. I started to think maybe the truth wasn’t such a good idea. Imagine if I was to tell this guy that I only came out tonight because I had thought I was going to receive a clandestine blowjob from his estranged, crazy, underaged daughter. Playing dumb seemed like a more solid battle plan.
Start with a greeting and just see where it takes you. I think Tony Robbins said that. I rolled down the window. “Hello,” I grinned, hoping I looked innocent and dumb.
“GET THE FUCK OUT HERE!”
I almost shit my pants. Situations like this inspire a man to think on his toes. I knowing that the next few words out of my mouth could very well spell the difference between having a full set of teeth and having some half-assed Dentist insert Chicklets into my skull. And I didn’t have dental insurance. Apparently, working retail doesn’t really afford those kind concessions.
“Gentlemen,” I said with a candor that I hoped came across as not just sincere but urgently truthful, “I want to start out by saying I’m glad that you’re here. About 5 minutes ago, I assume your daughter, this is your daughter? had a Spanish fellow put these children into my car. She called me up about an hour ago to ask me for a favor, but I’m now seeing that it was some ploy to make me the patsy for whatever she and her boyfriend were up to.”
The smaller of the two men cracked his knuckles. “Boy–if you hadn’t just said that to me,” he said. “Me and my son here were gonna beat you into a senseless pulp.” The butterflies moved up into my throat.
Amy started stumbling around like a chicken with her head cut off calling me a liar and freaking out like only a 19-year-old chick can. I took this in stride. It seemed her father had seen this before. I could tell he thought I was telling the truth. I waited until he had removed the children from the back of my Thunderbird before thanking him for not beating my ass. “There’s still time,” he suggested. Um, no thanks. Bye-bye kiddos!
The second I got onto the highway I was doing about 90 in a 55. It was my turn to freak out and my heart was doing its fair share by trying to escpae its protective cavity known as my chest. I decided to pull over. I needed to calm down. I put on my hazards and got out of the car. After a few seconds of just breathing, I was able to process how close I’d come to not only a beating but maybe even going to jail for the night, or worse. The butterflies finally won. Liquid stupidity leaving my body. I wiped my mouth, and spit one last time for good measure. Next time, I would listen to my gut when it tells me the jig is up.