I'm going to switch directions from zombie/shop talk for a minute to relate something 'interesting' that happened to me waaaay back when I was a young lad. The names have been changed, but this actually happened to me one night.....all because I tried to be nice.
It was 1987 and I was a freshman in college. My girlfriend Shelly, still a senior in high school, was performing with the show choir that night in the high school auditorium. I attended in hopes of spending time with her at the party that was to follow.
Immediately after the show I met Shelly backstage. She greeted me with a big hug, kiss, and the news that she couldn't attend the party that night because she was grounded. I was disappointed and thought about going home. That's when SHE walked up.
I'm talking about Tess; a girl who had sent me flowers and love notes and found every excuse to spend time at my house (she was my mother's piano student). I can't count how many times I came downstairs for dinner only to find that my father had invited her to join us. This may not sound so bad, but I had absolutely NO interest in this girl whatsoever. I wasn't attracted to her physically, didn't find her interesting to talk to, had nothing in common with her and, considering the lengths she went to get my attention, began to think she might be a little nuts. I mean, I was no prize and NEVER led her on in ANY way, yet she was CONSTANTLY in my face, at my house, and probably outside my window (you never know)!
So here I am with my arms still tightly around Shelly, and Tess comes right up to us to say hello. I immediately thought of my father constantly telling me to be nice to her. "She's a sweet girl. Why, if I were 20 years younger, I'd give you a run for your money!" he'd say, to which I'd respond, "You wouldn't have to run, Dad."
"Hi, Tess. Are you going to the after party?"
There. I said it. I was actually kind of proud of myself for taking the high road and doing the right thing. I imagined my dad giving me an approving nod.
Tess' eyes lit up like flares. "Let me go ask my mom!!" And with that, she was gone into the crowd of people exiting the auditorium.
"That was weird," said Shelly, who knew how Fatal Attraction Tess was for me.
"SHE'S weird" I said. We turned to walk to Shelly's car where we could say our goodbyes for the night when Tess came running back to us completely out of breath.
"Mom says I can go, but only if YOU take me home!" A sickeningly hopeful smile split her face from ear to ear.
"What? I can't do that! I'm with Shelly! I may not even GO to the party! Go tell your mom I can't do it!"
"I can't. She already left."
I felt sick. I looked to Shelly for some kind of help, but she was too busy biting her lip to keep from laughing.
I sighed a deep sigh of defeat. "Ok. But I'm walking Shelly out to her car now. You're going to have to find your own way there."
"No problem" she blurted, and she skipped off into the crowd.
I walked Shelly to her car where we said our goodbyes and I left for the party about 30 minutes later.
I walked no more than 10 feet into the dimly lit dance club before I was confronted face to face by a very angry Tess.
"Where have you been?! I have to leave right now!"
"What? I just got here!"
"Well, I'm supposed to be home in 10 minutes, and now I'm going to be late and get into trouble!"
I no longer felt like being nice. "Hey! I didn't invite you here in the first place! I'll take you home but I'm going to talk to some people before I leave so just sit down!"
She marched off to an empty booth in a huff and I circulated through the crowd dancing and talking with friends.
After about twenty minutes I told Tess we could leave.
For the first few minutes of the trip (did I mention she lived 5 miles out of town?) she gave me the silent treatment which was a welcome surprise. Then things took a turn down Looney Boulevard.
"Why didn't you ask me out like you promised?"
Her tone of voice grew stern. "You promised that day at the pizza place you would ask me out when I turned 16!"
She was referring to a day a couple years before when she cornered a couple of my friends and me, asking us if we'd ask her out when she turned 16. Not wanting to be cruel and scream "NO FREAKING WAY" in her face, we all mumbled something about it depending on whether or not we were seeing someone else when her birthday rolled around. As luck would have it, I was seeing Shelly.
"I never promised. Besides, I'm seeing someone now."
Her angry glare cut through my head like a laser and I swear the temperature in the car dropped 15 degrees.
"You lying son of a *****!"
My eyes grew wide as hers narrowed. We were now out of the city limits. No more street lights or brightly lit porches to help me feel safe. I just knew my disappearance was going to be the top story on the next segment of the evening news.
"What did you call me?"
She started screaming. "You heard me you lying mother ******! You PROMISED!!"
If only my dad could hear this sweet girl now.
I spent the last remaining miles of the trip listening to Lizzie Borden spew obscenities at me while trying to navigate my car down washboard quality dirt roads riddled with potholes, possums, and skunks.
I had never been to her house before so when she took a break from her sailor talk long enough to say "here's my driveway" I nearly squealed with glee.
Unfortunately, her driveway was about a quarter mile long and probably in worse shape than any road into Baghdad. On the way in, I lost a hubcap, but I didn't care.
I stopped the car and breathed a sigh of relief as her mother waved from the back door of their house, and then the weirdest thing happened.
In a totally non-threatening, musical tone of voice, Tess asked me in. I can only imagine my face as I looked at her in disbelief. All the rage of a woman scorned was gone, like nothing ever happened.
"Uh...no thanks. I need to get home."
"Oh come on. Just for a minute."
I imagined Rod Serling lighting up a cigarette in my back seat.
Before I knew it, her mother was at my window. "Hi, Brett! Come on in!" Her voice startled me and soon their voices united as they continued to invite me in.
With Tess' mother perched in my window, and Tess rooted to my passenger seat (not moving until I did) I felt I had no choice. So, I went in...for TWO HOURS.
I tried to leave before that, believe me. But you know how it is when someone won't let you end a conversation. You keep saying "Well, I'd better...." and they interrupt with a new topic. I kept inching toward the door, but Tess was leaning against it.
Finally, by the grace of God I was able to leave and I tore out of that driveway. Unfortunately I had forgotten how hideous it was and blew a tire. Having no spare I needed a phone to call my dad, but the closest phone was.......NO WAY! There was NO way I was going back into that house.
I started driving. The car fishtailed on those old dirt roads if I got above 25 mph, and I was sure I would destroy my wheel, but I didn't care. I would rather my father hang me out the 2nd story window of our house by my ankles for destroying my wheel than go back into the peanut gallery.
Finally, about half way home I stopped. The tire was shredded, but it looked like my wheel was intact. About 100 yards from the road was a farmhouse. It was now 1:00 a.m.
It figures that I would pick the home of the world's deepest sleeper. I POUNDED on that poor guy's door for several minutes before the light came on inside.
I called my dad and waited in my car, just sure that Tess was out there watching me. For some reason I picked THAT night to suddenly remember every ghost story I'd ever been told.
Eventually, my dad showed up and we decided to come back in the morning to change the tire.
On the way home, I leaned back and closed my eyes; glad to have the nightmare behind me. Dad asked me "So, how'd this happen?"
"Well, Dad..." I explained, "I was just trying to be nice."