Until That Moment
I tried to keep my attention focused on the flashing yellow strips of paint on the road. Occasionally my eyes would shift to take note of a glowing speed limit sign then they would go to the illuminated speedometer to ensure I was driving within the limit of speed. I was trying so hard to look anywhere other than to my right, which wasn’t that hard considering I was driving, giving me a fairly reasonable excuse to just stare out the car window.
She was intently staring at me from the passenger seat. She’d been staring directly at me from the moment she set foot into the car, not once taking her gaze off of me. Knowing “Scary Mary” well enough I choose not to play into her staring contest game and ignored the fact that her frozen stare was sending glacier-sized chills up my spine. No matter how hard I tried, her intense glare penetrated my peripheral vision; creeping me out all the more.
Mary sat so still, her hands folded neatly in her lap, and stared unblinkingly. The headlights of oncoming traffic beamed into the car illuminating her stoic expression. Had I not known any better I would have thought I was sitting next to the Venus de Milo. Mary’s milky white skin tone, beautifully chiseled bone structure, platinum blond hair, and marble expression completed the illusion in my mind that I might as well have stolen the statue from the Louvre.
Thank god for the decent sound system I had recently installed into my off-white Chevrolet Caviler! If not for the bass bumping sounds of Fatboy Slim pounding from the sub-woofers this ride would be excruciatingly awkward. Mary’s stares are bad enough but accompanied by the blistering sounds of silence makes it torture. Fortunately, I felt no obligation to say anything to her since we hardly knew each other. Dread washed over me intensifying the cold chill I felt. This was going to be the longest 30 minute drive of my life!
As I turned into the main road leading to University House I noticed flashing red and blue lights on the side of the road. Two police officers stood administering a field sobriety test on what appeared to be a very drunk college student. Nothing unusual in this neighborhood, especially on the last Saturday night before the fall semester starts. The college student stumbled miserably attempting to walk an imaginary line, losing his balance he fell backwards onto his rear and laughed raucously. I chuckled at the poor saps misfortune then felt a misdirected pang of jealousy for his inebriated sense of care freeness.
The image of that drunkard reminded me of the fact that my original plans for the evening where to be in an equally if not greater state of mind, not chauffeuring Larry’s girl friend around. For a moment I really resented “Scary Mary” for interrupting my plans, but in retrospect I did have the option to say no when Larry asked me to pick him up. The fact that today is his birthday and he was already fairly drunk, were the primary factors that pressured me into even agreeing. In essence I only had myself to resent for being such a good friend.
I pulled into the University House apartment complex, or rather the U-Club as it was known amongst the college students in the area, for the simple fact that most weekends it was more like a big block party/club. Driving down to my apartment, I noticed that the neighborhood was as lively as ever. Virtually all the parking spaces were taken, not all to unsurprising on a Saturday night. The streets were littered with drunken party goers, carrying red and blue cups containing some form of alcoholic beverage, stumbling, dancing, but for the most part just standing in the streets.
One of the great things about living in U-club was the fact that almost every apartment was open door so anyone could wonder from one party to the next. Mingle here, meander in a drunken stupor over to there, tinkle in someone’s bath tub, get kicked out and stumble into another party across the street.
As we approached my apartment I worried that my parking space may have been commandeered by someone. To my surprise there was my parking space directly in front of my house still vacant, well, sort of. Larry stood in the center of the parking spot shooing off anyone who dared look in his direction returning a fierce look of his own. No one would dare try to match “Beary” Larry’s grizzly like stare. 6’2, 250 some odd pounds of pure muscle mass, and a big hairy beard to boot, made Larry look more bear than man.
The slight feeling of misguided resentment I felt for him and for Mary melted away at the sight of him noticing my car coming. His face changed from fierce to a wild and goofy drunken grin. He ran toward the car and for the first time that night Mary’s arctic glance shifted from me to refocus on Larry and the tundra like chill that accompanied her gaze left me to thaw. I looked in her direction for the first time that night to witness a Pinocchio-like metamorphosis. I watched in awe as her marble expression cracked to reveal a glowing beautiful smile. There even was a fire in her eyes as they beamed upon the big, lumbering, drunken figure of her boyfriend. She turned and looked at me for a moment, her eyes, moist from the melting of her cold stare, thawed the remaining icebergs that lingered along my spine.
She mouthed the words thank you (Fat Boy Slim was still thumping from the sub-woofers), as she opened the car door and ran to greet her boyfriend. The great big jovial smile on Larry’s face and Mary’s joy was enough to intoxicate me. I didn’t realize how much two people could mean to each other until that moment.