“Blindsided,” Chapter 16
Choose your words carefully, and don’t fuck it all up with any further outbreaks of your foot-in-mouth disease. Cut it out with the one step forward, two steps back game of chance you’re playing with him. You NEED to keep him on your side. You NEED him in your corner. You NEED him to have your back. He NEEDS to know that he is worthwhile. Worth YOUR while. And — most of all — you NEED each other.
As much as it galls me to have to lean on ANYONE for ANYTHING because I covet my independence, this isn’t the “All About Piccolo” show anymore. This is about salvaging something that is proving more meaningful than either of us is willing to concede. And it’s on me to wave the white flag so we can resuscitate our, uh, peace treaty that’s on the verge of flatlining before it even takes its first breath out of the womb. I need to give it life. WE need to give it life. Breathe life into it with a little CPR. Hell, I’m willing to give it a crash-cart defibrillation by validating him in a way his parents never have, and likely never will: By acknowledging that his very existence is no mistake, that he is so much more than a bastard son they choose to sweep under a rug, that he means something to someone — ME.
I go about it calmly, methodically reeling him back in like a patient fisherman does his most prized catch of the day, lest it wriggle itself free of the hook with the worm he uses to catch it firmly in its mouth as its mealtime reward for making good its escape.
“YOU don’t have to do anything. I do. I need to go with my gut on this, and it’s telling me to take my own advice to you — to take that leap of faith — blind faith. Not just talk about it, but take it. Physically. Otherwise, it’s just a jumble of words that mean nothing.”
Steady now. Almost there. Get the net under the fish just in case it attempts to sever the line with some fancy-dancy synchronized swimming acrobatics.
I seriously need to look into hosting my own fishing show. Just sayin’.
“We can squabble about trust until we’re blue in the face, but what good is it if I’m always suspicious or you keep thinking that I think you’re some kind of a gawddamn monster? Clearly, you’re not. OK? Let’s establish that right now. We’ve been at each other’s throats on and off about this because we both have some seriously fucked up issues. Trusting unconditionally petrifies me, but I’m willing — no, going — to go through with it for real this time because, well, I believe in you. I find you worthwhile. And I care about you. I know you’re here for a reason and I daresay it’s because you care about m … um, what happens to me.“
There. I did it without botching it all up. I think.
My own admission stupefies me, but it’s accurate. Straightforward. Put it all out there for him to ponder. To dissect however he so wishes.
Your move, Dickhead.
I mentally congratulate myself for taking the common-sense approach, for summoning the grit to offer him an olive branch. Without reservation this time around.
We need to dispense with the childish throw-yourself-on-the-ground-like-a-2-year-old-who-can’t-get-what-he/she-wants temper tantrums every time one of us — whether inadvertently or intentionally — sticks a burr under the other’s saddle. It HAS to stop! I can’t stand much more of this, and I’m positive we’re both on the same wavelength as far as that goes. I obviously enjoy the back-and-forth oral parrying as much as him, but not to the point where it stops being good fun when we fence so barbarously that we aim for each other’s jugular.
“Pax?” I query, hoisting myself off the couch to stand behind him.
The kiss of peace.
He contemplates my proposal, all the while scrutinizing me and my nappy-ass case of bed head warily through the colossal oblong mirror above the fireplace. Trying to figure out not only IF I really mean what I say, but IF I really will follow through with it once and for all so we can cease with these interminable second-guessing gymnastics.
Sheesh. And he has the nerve to say that he can see the wheels turning in MY head? Stop staring me down through the mirror and take a reflective look at yourself, my friend.
Oh, quit being so gawddamn spittin’ catty, Piccolo! You have no right to expect him to get all mushy-gushy about this genius Oprah Winfrey Aha! moment of yours. Not that you can stand Oprah and her scary-ass cult-like infinite following, anyway, even if you DO spout her mantra. She’s everywhere, bitch! And she’s laughing it up at the pickle you’re in with Dickhead right in front of you scrutinizing you, deliberating whether you’re truly worth all the trouble you’re causing him at every turn.
Yes, I have only myself to blame for MY shortcomings. But my mind is set. He can take it or leave it — this final offering of mine to bury the hatchet of distrust we keep flinging back and forth.
Cue the Final Jeopardy! music. I know you can hear it. Don’t bother denying it. You can’t get it out of your head once it’s in there, so just hum along with me and shut it until he comes up with an answer. With any luck, it’ll be the one I’m hoping to hear and we’ll have a good laugh about this kerfuffle someday. ‘Course, there’s no monetary wager hinging on his response. And there is no right or wrong reply — just HIS, end of story.
I can see the smirk playing around his lips, so I brace myself.
“Pax, is it?” he reiterates MY question. “Then pax it shall be.”
Before I have a chance to react, he whirls around, grabs my face with both hands and plants a big smacker right on my lips, foul breath and all.
“Tit for tat,” he says, a full smirk now flooding his face as he promptly frees me of his brief grasp.
I recover from the revolting smell emanating from his mouth just as rapidly, wearing a smirk of my own.
“Well, fiddle-dee-dee, so you WERE trying to kiss me!” I riposte impishly in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice — which, in truth, is horrible — theatrically batting my eyelashes coquettishly because I simply can’t resist the pull to needle him just a smidgen in return for his own Rhett Butler-esque high-handedness. “And here I thought I wasn’t YOUR type when you’ve actually been trying to court me all along, you scandalous rake, you! Luckily for you, I can’t get pregnant from just one kiss! But if you give me another, my parents will insist on a shotgun wedding so the gentlefolk don’t start wagging their tongues about our lascivious rendezvousing all about the town!”
So much for keeping the peace.
I suppose it’ll always be like this between us, these unruly impulses of ours to get under the other’s skin. Definitely keeps things interesting, so long as it’s sans any cruel overtones.
Gurl, you done lost yo’ mind!
It dawns on me quite suddenly that I may want to rethink the shotgun wedding comment to a man born out of wedlock.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Whoops doesn’t even begin to cover it. And to say sorry is like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that requires stitches. It’s not going to do the trick. Fixing this fuck-up necessitates — excuse the medical terminology — some skillful surgical maneuvering to stop the bleeding and a transfusion (or two or three) to ensure a successful recovery.
Well, isn’t that just craptacular?! Nice going, you insensitive dumbass! You need a vaccine for that recurring foot-in-mouth disease of yours! He may NEVER forgive you for this!
I better start backtracking. Fast!
Dickhead closes the short gap between us to loom over me, his features inscrutable.
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” he says, taking a page out of Rhett Butler’s book — with an English twist — to shock the shit right out of me and render me mute.
Then he smirks, bends me over his arm in an expert dip that would do ballroom dancers worldwide proud and plants another one on my lips.
A third follows.
Our mingling morning breath is FUCKING LETHAL, but I’m — disgusting though it may sound — beginning to mind less and less as long as I breathe through my mouth and not my nose. It’s not so odoriferous. Still, where’s a fucking Certs when you actually need one?! Can somebody tell me?! Anybody?!
Oh yeah, in the glove compartment of his car, where I left them yesterday. Nice.
“If you could have seen the look on your face, ” he says, roaring with laughter as he promptly lifts me back up so I can get my footing. “I may be a bastard in the truest sense of the word, but I DO have a sense of humor. It was all I could do not to laugh while those wheels of yours were turning. Your face got so pasty, you looked as if you’d seen a ghost.”
But I don’t mean it in a, well, mean way. It’s a term of … endearment? Dickhead.
“Jerk,” I reply, minus the heat of any true-blue ire.
I’m growing fond of this frolicsome feuding. Er, make that playful bantering. There, that sounds much better. More appropriate.
Why have I not noticed this until now?
Because you were too busy hating him and baiting him without bothering to get to know him. Because he represented change in your orderly little world of work and mundane life as you knew it. Because he made you do things HIS way instead of YOURS. Because he’s blunt and refuses to stroke anyone’s ego, including yours.
Yeah, yeah, I get it. Fuck.
Peculiar how things can change so rapidly when two people who, under normal circumstances, never are in such close proximity because one (me) is trying to stay as far away as she can get from the other (him) at any cost but are thrown together as a result of a disastrous situation: Coach Smith’s murder.
This situation involving Dickhead has such a grip on me that I keep forgetting about Coach Smith, about the reason why we’re here in the first place — to talk to my wily parents, get the truth out of them — whatever it is they may or may not be hiding.
I need to clear my head, regain my focus.
I know just the thing to help me achieve that goal, too: A long teeth-brushing session, a bath and a change of clothes. In that order.
Dickhead, on the other hand, looks far better than I feel despite his now-rumply, slept-in dress shirt and pants. Nary a hair on his head is mussed under that ridiculous mound of crunchy gel. I don’t use any product on my hair, so it will be a treat to once and for all see what his really looks like without all of those damn chemicals fucking it up.
IF he takes a shower.
Oh, he’ll take one all right. It’s obvious from his everyday appearance that personal upkeep is a priority for him, that he takes care of himself.
I won’t go so far as to label him one of those highfalutin meterosexual types who spends oodles of his money and time to look good simply because he doesn’t strike me as the kind of man to waste either on such frivolities. He’s more of the no-nonsense type who probably goes to a barber only when it’s time for a haircut and knows exactly what he wants if he has to go shopping because — from what I’ve seen in the past year — his wardrobe consists of nothing but the same old uniform of white button-down shirts that he always rolls up to his elbows and black dress pants. Probably why he slicks his hair back, too — because it requires minimal fuss, uh, styling it that way. And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen him wear a tie and actually make it through the entire day without taking it off.
I often find myself wondering if his hair is soft or coarse, straight or wavy. I’ll have to think of a way to touch it so he doesn’t know I’m doing it out of an increasingly obsessive need to find out.
Get your head back in the game, Piccolo!
“What time is it?” I ask in a desperate effort to steer my mind elsewhere.
We have everything BUT a clock in the living room. I only know approximately what time it was when I started drifting off last night because I checked the microwave clock in the kitchen after I dumped that third helping of Mom’s fantabulous cornbread on my plate.
“Would you believe it’s already after 7?” he says, glancing down at his watch.
Dang! We slept nearly 12 hours?! Whoa! Yesterday was far more exhausting than I care to disclose.
I still have clothes in the chest of drawers — or chester drawers as we say in Southern speak — in my old bedroom upstairs and various toiletries of mine littering both bathrooms, so I’m set. I don’t know what to do about Dickhead, though. I have several unopened toothbrushes squirreled away here, and I highly doubt that my parents have used them all, but I’m 100 percent positive that Dad’s clothes will be too big for him. There’s only one way to find out. If nothing fits, we can always head to the nearest — UGH! — Kmart or Wal-Mart for supplies, not to mention live entertainment in the guise of customers who destroy everything in their paths like Godzilla on a tear in downtown Tokyo, since my parents live within a couple of minutes of both big-box stores.
He can have the downstairs bathroom, which has a small shower. I’ll just have to fetch him a towel and washcloth from the upstairs bathroom.
“I’m surprised we didn’t wake your parents,” Dickhead notes. “They must be sound sleepers.”
I know EXACTLY where they are, and it isn’t anywhere HERE in the house.
“That’s because they’re at Krispy Kreme throwing down on glazed doughnuts. They get up super early every day to get them fresh.”
Still-warm, melt-in-your-mouth, ooey-gooey, sugar-rush fresh. Talk about OR-FUCKING-GASMIC!
“They better fucking bring some back for m … us!” I add, catching myself just in time.
I keep meaning to lobby for Krispy Kreme to rename its glazed treats doughnutgasms since they cause mouthgasms as soon as I bite into them and stomachgasms when I digest them.
It goes without saying that I’m pretty damn stingy when it comes to sharing my Krispy Kremes. I will bite your fucking hand clean off if you even triple-dog dare so much as TRY to make a move to grab one without first asking me if it’s OK. Because it’s not. EVER. That’s how much I LOVE them.
The Krispy Kreme in question is two streets down from ours off of College Drive. We’ve been frequenting it ever since I can remember, and I KNOW they’ve made a hefty profit just from my family alone. I’m sure my parents are happily sipping on their coffees and downing those delectable round pieces of ecstasy while reading the early edition of the Tideville Times.
“I’m going to take a bath upstairs,” I announce, abruptly changing the subject before my newfound hunger propels me to abandon Dickhead in favor of joining my parents at Krispy Kreme. “There’s a shower in the downstairs bathroom, if you want to take one.”
I pause, unsure what to do about his clothing issue.
“I’d love a shower,” he says. “I’ll just get my gear from the boot.”
A boot?! What?! He’s suddenly fucking Canadian now, eh?!
His countenance is one of mild exasperation.
“The trunk of my car,” he elaborates. “I always keep my workout gear and a clean change of clothes in there.”
Great. Another white shirt and black pants coming right up. Meh. So much for catching a glimpse of some tantalizing eye candy — er, Dickhead — in workout attire. I guess I’ll have to settle for a doughtnutgasm, instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with THAT as a substitute.
Don’t go muddying the waters, Piccolo.
He’s your boss first.
“Sounds like a plan,” I say, already trekking upstairs in self-resignation to get him that towel and washcloth.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
Krispy Kremes it is.
I’ll just gobble my troubles down.