It was a real mystery to Brenda why so many of the men she dated told her about the neat cars they used to drive. Jaguars. Mercedes. Audis. Yet with her they drove old beat up cars and some didn’t even have cars anymore.
Not that Brenda was so much into cars. Sure, she drove a sporty car but she’d only bought it to boost Randy’s gloomy mood after Max left. All it did, as far as Brenda was concerned, was literally drive her son further away as he borrowed the car to go out with friends, go on short day trips and… visit his father.
So when she first saw Kevin’s photo on the dating site standing next to a sports car she thought, here we go again. Still, because she liked his profile she sent him a smile.
He immediately messaged back.
“That’s a neat car,” she wrote, not wanting to get right into asking him if he still had it.
“Thanks,” Kevin messaged her. “You want a ride in it?”
She’d heard from her friend, Campbell – who was a counselor for women going through divorces – plenty of horror stories. One of her clients had got into a man’s car and he’d driven like a madman, going through red lights. Brenda’s motto when it came to getting into a stranger’s car was, there are all kinds of people out there.
“Let’s meet at the Starbucks downtown,” she said.
As she was waiting in line a man nudged her arm.
“Hi, you must be Brenda.”
They settled in a booth with her cappuccino and his triple X coffee. “Won’t that keep you from sleeping?”
“Naw,” he said. “I can take it just before going to bed and I’ll sleep like a rock.”
She told him how unfair it was that a slice of coffee cake taken in mid-afternoon would keep her up all night.
They chatted about the usual first date topics. He told her how he regularly went to a tanning studio. “As a matter of fact,” he said, “I’ve just come out of one about an hour ago.”
That explained his red-as-radish face.
“Aren’t you afraid of cancer?” she asked.
“Naw. These days everything causes cancer. If you listened to everyone you wouldn’t do anything. Might as well stay home.”
She kept to herself that she found burning one’s face not very bright. Let alone unattractive.
After they finished their coffees she suggested that they go for a walk.
“Walk,” his voice filled with astonishment. “You came across as someone who was into cars.”
She told him about the other guys with their hot cars laying in rest in their past lives and how it was more the false projection of themselves which concerned her than the car they drove. Or didn’t drive.
“There’s nothing false about me,” he said. “Not even my teeth,” and he opened his mouth wide to illustrate. “So how about we take a spin in my car.”
He did have a nice mouth but Brenda couldn’t see the connection with getting into his car.
“Give me one good reason why you don’t want to go for a ride with me,” he said.
His insistence was in itself a good reason. So was exercise. Pollution. Window shopping.
“Serial killer,” she said.
He gave her a long and strange look. “I suppose,” he said.
Brenda could tell that he was annoyed. And even a bit hurt that she would think of him that way. She tried to make it up to him by being extra cheerful as they made their way through a park. Then, when it started to rain she heard him mutter something under his breath. She dared not ask him to repeat.
He began to remove his shirt.
So sweet of him. She was about to tell him that it wasn’t necessary for him to offer her the shirt off his back when she realized she’d made a mistake. He folded his shirt and tucked it into his satchel.
“I love rain on my skin,” he said.
The whiteness of his chest was startling against his red face.
“You only tan your face at the studio?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Why should I waste money on what doesn’t show.”
Well it sure was showing now, she thought. She hoped she didn’t run into anyone she knew. Or worse one of Campbell’s clients. The thought obsessed her so much that she ordered him to put on his shirt.
“I’m not going to keep walking with you if you don’t do it.”
He stopped and spread his arms like he was a prophet. Passers-by stared at them. “What’s the matter,” he shouted. “Don’t you like my body?”
It was obvious that when he wasn’t in a tanning studio he was lifting weights in a gym. Maybe a bit too Atlas-y she thought. But that wasn’t the point.
“You know what?” he said, “You’re just too up-tight for me.” He turned and she watched him saunter away.
Brenda took the metro home. She dried off her hair, changed into a pair of jogging shorts and a t-shirt and poured herself a glass of Fume Blanc. She took out the novel she was reading and placed her feet on her coffee table.
No wonder romance novels were so popular.