On the way down the road, I take out my laptop and begin writing:
Ryan and I are driving down south this weekend to visit Ryan’s girlfriend at the eastern shore, where she currently resides until classes end in a few weeks. I know very little about her college; although I hear that the scenery overlooking a small inlet to the bay simply takes your breath away. Ryan’s girl studies environmental scien . . .
“Dude, she’s not my girlfriend,” Ryan interrupts from behind the steering wheel.
I look up. “Huh? What?”
“This girl, I’m seein.’ She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Well, you’ve been calling her for hours each night all semester long. In some countries, these long-distance phone bills are considered a legally binding marriage contract. Hold on . . . how are you even reading this?”
“I glance over now and then when no other cars are around,” he says, weaving the car slightly between the yellow and white lines. “Oh and that’s what she told me yesterday on the phone. She thinks it’s too early to consider us girlfriend and boyfriend, that’s all.”
“Oh . . .” I say. Ryan remains uncharacteristically quiet for some time after that. I assume that he is trying to translate the feminine “too early to consider us girlfriend and boyfriend” into guy-speak, which reduces the situation into two possibilities: Is this good? Or is this bad?
“Also,” he finally says, “she’s studying biology, not environmental science. You might want to fix that in your story.”
“I did not even finish writing that yet! If you cannot keep your eyes on the road, let me drive! Reading and driving do not mix very well.” I of course spoke from personal experience on this one. One August two or three years ago, I attempted to dodge traffic while glancing through Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This experiment nearly launched me off the interstate. Thank goodness for stop signs and red traffic lights.
“No I’m fine. And it’s not that she doesn’t like me. She says that she likes me. She invited me down so that her girlfriends could meet me.”
“Yeah, but meet who?” I interject.
“What do you mean? They’re meeting me, right? I suppose they could meet you too, if you’d like, as long as you don’t do anything weird . . .”
“Wait, weird stuff? What weird stuff?” I scoff. “At all times, I am a paragon of normalcy.”
“You bow, dude. Or you say stuff like ‘Good evening, m’lady.’ Medieval crap like that. It’s embarrassing.”
“It’s chivalrous,” I remind him. “Besides I don’t make a show of it, just a slight bow of the head upon meeting. ‘M’lady’is just a saying of mine. It simply sounds better than ‘ma’am’ or ‘miss.’ More poetic, don’t you think?”
“Whatever, but if you embarrass me, I’ll punt you into the bay.”
“Slow down, man. Speed trap up ahead.” Ryan is still quite new at this game. His attention span fluctuates at times particularly in the midst of conversation or a “truly awesome” song. Led Zepplin’s “Fool in the Rain” mere moments prior sent us careening into a small embankment, bordering a pottery farm. I was nearly skewered by a lawn gnome. We pass the cop, nestled behind a grove of small trees. Ryan drops ten mph in practically seconds.
“Gradual deceleration, man!”
“Okay! Okay!” We resume normal speeds (i.e. match the speed of other drivers), and I breathe a little easier. No lights. No cop.
“What were you saying before?” Ryan asks. His attention to my meaningless commentary belies his interest in this girl.
“What does she call you? How are you introduced? Are you, ‘This is my best buddy, Ryan’ or “My pen pal, Ryan?’ ‘Just this guy I know?’ If you’re not her boyfriend, then what are you? If you are not her boyfriend, why are we wasting eighty dollars in gas to visit her?!”
“I don’t know . . . I just want to see her, I guess. I want to be her boyfriend. I suppose that this is just one of the hurdles in the dating gauntlet, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” What other answer is there? “Well, here let me change this paragraph then . . .”
Ryan and I are driving south this weekend to visit his . . . uh, platonic female friend and her equally platonic girlfriends for dating evaluations. If he manages to pass, he gains the title of boyfriend and man. If not, we eat eighty dollars in gas money, snacks, and tissues. Either way, it should be an amazing trip. Sun or storm, no place on land captures the savage beauty quite like the seashore. Waves crashing and breaking against rocks, liquid thunder, the pulsating heartbeat of a vast monster, an ageless world without remorse or light . . .
Clouds the light of the love that I found . . .