I couldn’t take my eyes off the dance floor. A pair of legs kicked in the air, accompanied by a flailing skirt and a half screaming, half laughing sound. Brandy attempted the “dip” but failed the second part of the move where your partner is supposed to bring you back up. She lay with her back flat on the ground and her feet bicycle kicking the air as if she mocked Madonna circa the “Like a Virgin” tour. I followed her heels, down to the back of her thighs, down to her two ass cheeks that jiggled around like an unbroken water balloon dropped on the floor. My friend Ryan and I observed this drunken spectacle from a nearby table with my girlfriend Laci. I looked over to see if she caught me leering, then gave a fake laugh like the time I got my first lap dance and the stripper told me her boobs were too big for her bra.
Brandy was Laci’s disaster-prone single friend. I knew how this night would end, or at least the three possible scenarios: Brandy hooks up with some random dude, then ends up crying; Brandy hooks up some dude she’s already hooked up with, then ends up crying ;Brandy hooks up with no one, then ends up crying. I needed to leave.
Ryan informed me of a house party a few miles away. We closed our tabs and decided to let Laci stay and babysit the disaster. “Brandy’s fine! She doesn’t need a babysitter, I’m coming with you guys.” she insisted. I looked back at the dance floor where her best friend still rolled around on the ground with her skirt bunched up above her waist, revealing pink and white stripped underwear. A couple of guys with flat-billed hats and black Dickie shorts tried to help her up. I looked back at Laci, then Brandy, then back at Laci. “I’ll call you when we get there.” I said before turning around.
Our relationship had now reached a critical mass in the “You just want to hang out with your friends, you never wanna spend time with me” problem. Which always confused me since we’d met while “just hanging out with my friends”. One of these friends introduced her to me. We’d gotten to know each other through countless nights of the same routine and now it suddenly became a problem. She reminded me of those women that complain about their husbands being alcoholics when they met in a bar, on a Tuesday.
Over the past few months we’d become THAT couple: the couple that argues over everything in public, causing everyone around to feel awkward. There were two final moves we’d resort to if either of us got desperate. Mine was the fake break-up, which started losing its value since I found myself using it more and more. It was pathetic really, but the only power I had left. It sounded like “I’m done” or “I’m over it” or “We’re done”. This would mysteriously cause Laci to resort to her final move: violence.
I hoped to sneak out before causing another one of our infamous scenes. As I walked towards the door Laci grabbed my arm and pulled back. We went down a staircase of five or six and I freed myself by doing a reverse butterfly stroke. The unexpected force caused her to stumble and jump down the remaining stairs, almost falling on her face. “HEY!” A deep voice from behind me shouted. Eye contact with whoever was yelling would do no good. I did not look back.
The walk to my truck was a long straight path with no aisles to turn down. I gave Laci the fake break up and she began clawing at my back. She clung to my shirt and pulled back tightly, swinging me around. “Shit Laci! What the fuck! This is my favorite shirt! you’re stretching out the neck!” I shouted. In retrospect, I realize the attention given to such a trivial matter only infuriated her more. I grabbed her wrist and heard a ripping sound when I freed it from my shoulder. My focus went back to the truck and my pace increased. She flipped off my hat and Ryan scurried back to get it.
By the time he caught up I was opening my door, and he slid into the passenger seat and pushed down the lock button. I backed out and turned the wheel towards the exit. Laci positioned herself five feet in front of my hood and stood perfectly still, her stare unbroken like the ghost from The Ring. I shifted the manual transmission into first gear. “Uh, dude, don’t do anything stupid,” Ryan warned. I let off the clutch slightly and eased forward while turning the wheel to the left. When we got around her I slammed on the gas and made a screeching left turn out the parking lot onto the street. We rocked back and forth trying to regain control. I let up on the gas and stared at the road ahead, feeling a mix of anxiety and relief like the kind you get when you ditch out on an exam you know you’ll have to make up later. In the corner of my eye I noticed an unusual amount of movement. I looked over to see Ryan convulsing back and forth, laughing so hard he didn’t make a sound. “What, dude?” I asked, laughing a little bit at how hard he was laughing. He shook his head, unable to utter a word. “What the FUCK! What the hell are you laughing at!” I asked again. He held up two fists in front of his face and rocked back and forth, shaking his head more. “She juuuuu . . . she juuuuuu” He clenched his fists and leaned his head down towards his lap, then finally kicked back like someone just uppercut him and shouted in a high pitch voice “She jumped in the back!”
I turned around instantly, paying no regard to the road or the responsibility of driving. She was in the bed of my truck. She jumped in the back. She fucking jumped in the fucking back. A stop sign faced us 200 yards ahead. Like someone who has undergone an extremely traumatic experience, Ryan kept repeating his sentence and swaying back and forth. “She jumped in the back she jumped in the back she jumped in the back!” The stop sign lied ahead now less than 100 yards away. After this, I knew it was a straight shot to the freeway onramp. This was the point of no return. “Dude, should I get on the freeway or let her out?” I asked Ryan. “Fuck I can’t let her out, she wont get out. What’s she gonna do? Walk back to the bar? Fuck! Should I get on the freeway or let her out?” I asked again, turning my head. ” She jumped in the back, she jumped in the back, she jumped in the back!” He said again, unhelpfully.
I got on the freeway. She sat facing forward with a blank expression, her hair blowing all over the place. I started to think about the consequences of getting caught with a passenger in the bed of my truck and alcohol on my breath. “Tell her to at least lie down so no one can see her” I told Ryan. He turned around and motioned for her to duck, but I think it looked more like he was asking her to give him head. She did neither.
Anger filled me when I thought about the drastic measures she’d taken just to keep me from going to a house party without her. Thoughts of revenge popped in my head. When we turned off the freeway and into a residential zone a brilliant idea struck me. I accelerated towards a stop sign about 200 yards away, hitting a couple speed bumps causing us to bounce a bit. About 20 feet from the stop line, I slammed on the breaks and heard two distinct noises: the screeching of my tires, and a loud thud. After coming to a stop, I slammed down hard on the gas petal, and heard another loud thud.
In the bed of my truck was a spare tire I was too lazy to put underneath the vehicle. There was also a stack of plastic chairs used earlier in the week for poker night. Ryan looked back while I kept my eyes on the road, fast approaching another stop sign. “She’s picking up your chair and shiii” he broke his sentence to turn around and put his arms over his head. A deep crackling thunderbolt shot through my ears and lingered before slowly fading off into a reverberating noise like someone shaking a piece of plexiglass. I hit the breaks when we got to the next stop sign, causing Laci to fall forward and drop the chair in her hand. She rolled over and started horse kicking the window making that deep thunderous sound again. I shrugged my shoulders and braced myself for the next kick, waiting for pieces of glass to hit the back of my head.
“What street are we looking for?” I asked Ryan, both of our shoulders still hunched and our eyes squinted. “I think it’s a left up here,” he said between kicks. He glanced back after the sounds had ceased for a few seconds. “She just threw all your chairs out,” he informed me. “And now she’s throwing out your spare tire . . . no . . wait . . . she can’t lift it, never mind.” He turned around and the ominous noise came back.
Before I explain what happened next, there’s a few things you should know about Laci and me.
Me- About 5’10 with supportive shoes, 145 lbs. It would not be uncommon to hear laughter at the mention of me getting into a fist fight.
Laci – About 5’7, taller than me in heels, 130 lbs. Used to play softball.
When we got to the house I made a long sluggish U-turn before parking. I stopped the car, turned off the engine, and before I could unbuckle my seat belt Laci opened the door and began swinging. I freed myself from the safety restraints and stepped out with my arms covering my face. She swung around, connecting a few to my jaw and temple. I grabbed her arms and she violently jerked them about, trying to free herself from my grip. We toppled over and I let go in order to brace my fall. She leaped back up and with closed fists reigned down a rapid succession of punches before I could stand.
They say there’s a super human strength a mother acquires when she senses her child is in danger. Defying all laws of physics she’ll lift a full sized SUV over her head to rescue the toddler stuck in his/her car seat. I learned, at that moment, there is also a super human strength that pissed off girlfriends possess. In my head, I imagined bear-hugging her until she finally calmed down like we were in a Humphrey Bogart film. I wish I could say this is what happened, but it was outside of my capabilities. Perhaps if I stood a few inches taller, weighed a few pounds heavier, knew how to fight, or if Laci wasn’t an ex-softball player, this might have been possible.
I wrapped my arm around the back of her neck and pulled her into a headlock. “If you stop hitting me, I’ll let you go,” I said in an almost breathless voice. She tried getting out by kicking my legs. I tightened the grip and brought her down lower. “I’ll let you go if you stop hitting me; you have to promise you’ll stop hitting me.” I said again. She stopped kicking and winced, clenching onto my arm “I can’t breathe,” she softly cried. “You promise you’ll stop hitting me?” I asked. She shook her head in a panic “I promise I promise I can’t breathe I can’t breathe.” I freed her from the headlock and was immediately hit with an uppercut.
My face faded into numbness and I envisioned a future of liquid meals fed to me through a straw with my jaw locked shut. Before I could protect myself, she connected another right hook and we both tumbled to the ground. A high pitched ringing sound filled my ears, and my vision went blurry. I scrambled to my knees and put her in another headlock. At some point in our scuffle a pair of headlights from an oncoming car blinded me. I let go and walked out of the lights path to see a full-sized Chevy truck belonging to my friend Dustin. He jumped out, and Laci ran to him in tears. She bunched up her arms like a T- Rex and buried her face into his chest, sobbing. He glared at me like I was Ted Bundy and asked her what happened.
“Dude, what took you so long?” our friend Nick asked as we walked in the front door of the party. Ryan and I took turns explaining what happened, going back and forth like a married couple telling the story of how they first met. I made a hooting sound with my mouth, trying to recreate the noise of the window. Ryan shrugged his shoulders and put his arms over his head, mimicking his cautionary actions. We had a house full of people hanging on to our every word. “And is she still here? Outside?” a random girl asked with a concerned look on her face. “Yep! right out front . . or . . unless Dustin drove her home” I replied. She looked tentatively out the window like an eight-year-old checking for monsters. Ryan and I went out back and told the story nine more times.
“That bitch is crazy!” Nick’s girlfriend said to me, grabbing a wine cooler from the fridge. “Like certifiably insane, a straight up psycho!” she went on, widening her eyes to emphasize this point. Everyone nodded in agreement. A knot formed in my stomach when I started to think of all the “psycho” things she’d done in the past. Like the time she collaged together a bunch of letters and words from magazine articles to make a personalized frame for me on my birthday. It had a bunch of expressions and inside jokes only the two of us understood. Things like “Peter Place” (a street with a scenic view where we would park, hook up, then talk for hours) pieced together in cut out letters like a kidnappers ransom note. I’m sure it took her weeks to create. Or the time she made the “I love this song” CD that had a compilation of songs I mentioned liking during a long drive to Vegas. Then I thought about the twenty-five dollar gift certificate to Target I got her on her birthday.
Dustin walked in the house. “Hey, uh, she’s still outside; she’s calm now. I think you should talk to her.” he said, pulling me aside. I stepped out of my barricade to find Laci perched in the corner of the yard, her face half illuminated by the front porch light. I walked slowly towards her letting my feet make a crunching sound on the loose gravel driveway. As I got closer I could see a pair of eyes that were dry and red and puffy around the sockets. Her hair covered part of her face and her shoulders slumped in a position of defeat. She was beyond tears at this point, too exhausted for emotion.
“I’ll take you home.” I said quietly, interrupting the deathly silent air. ” I don’t want to go home” she whispered, starring at the same spot on the ground she’d been fixating on for the past two minutes. We both sat in the dark for what seemed like an eternity. “Come on . . . we can talk in the car.” I pleaded. She slowly stood up.
On the way home, we didn’t exchange one word. I didn’t put the radio on, I simply drove slightly under the speed limit, making complete stops at all the signs like a student driver. I pulled up to the front of her house with my lights still on and the engine running. ” I don’t want to go home.” she said again, her voice carrying that raspy, shaky quality you get when you haven’t spoken in a while. I pulled into a nearby culdesac, where I parked my car and turned off the engine. I took out the keys, leaned my seat back and starred out the front window at a street light in the distance. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her head turn and face mine. ” Would it be okay if I lay with you?” she asked quietly. I nodded and she moved over. She buried her face under my chin and placed a closed hand on my chest. I pried open her fist and interlocked her fingers with mine. We quickly fell asleep.