Usually I limit my flashback posts to Friday (mostly because of my love for alliteration), but allow me to break tradition in order to lift the spirits of an injured friend. Austin, one of my best buddies, broke his hip last week and will be laid up for quite some time. I would like to present him with a retelling of our first official "friendship adventure" which took place the very first time we hung out.
That evening lead to one of the strangest situations in my adult life and provided Austin and I with a legion of inside jokes which would become the foundation of our friendship.
One Friday evening I received a text from Austin inviting me to join him and a friend (Matt) at our neighborhood hot dog eatery. I met Austin through work almost an entire year before this story takes place, but our friendship was evolving rather slowly due to the infrequency of our run-ins as well as a my personal opinion that you should avoid hanging out with coworkers until you have a firm understanding of their mental state, morals, and modus operandi. Austin had convinced me that he wasn't a total psycho and so I happily accepted his invitation.
At some point I might do an entire post on the aforementioned hot dog eatery and all of the characters that are found there, because I know it would amuse some of you. A teaser: this summer one of the cooks dyed his hair to resemble a hot dog (brown in the middle and blond on the sides). Austin and I have since had many memorable moments there as well as a ridiculous phase of paranoia that centered on whether or not the owner, Damien, despised us.
So I show up at the hot dog place, figure out that Matt is Matt, order food, and wait for Austin to arrive. He shows up and we have a lovely conversation about who-knows-what, polish off our hot dogs, and move to a nearby bar for drinks. Austin tells me that his friend Miguel is on the way to meet us, and at some point I excuse myself to use the ladies' room. En route to the restroom I notice a young woman sitting by herself, with a book and glass of wine, smoking a cigarette. I think it is important to note that the book she was reading was The Time Traveler's Wife- a novel about a highly unlikely romance.
I return from the bathroom to find that Miguel has joined us, and that loner lady has taken my chair. Ever the diplomatic bar patron I pull up an additional chair and join in the conversation. For some reason I leapt to the conclusion that this young woman was Miguel's girlfriend who must have been waiting for him. I'm not sure why I thought that. I guess because it was the only explanation I could come up with for some woman taking my seat and everyone being fine with it.
Prior to walking over to the bar we decided to eventually all end up at Matt's house and continue hanging out. We only spent about forty-five minutes there before someone suggested that we head over to Matt's. During our time at the bar Matt (who was seated directly across from me) was continuously giving me I-urgently-need-to-share-something-with-you eyes. As we were leaving the young lady (who I will refer to as Carol) shouts, "see y'all there." I was now alone with Austin, Matt, and Miguel so I was finally able to inquire as to whether or not this was Miguel's girlfriend. Miguel was actually offended and I quickly realized I wasn't the only one who thought she was a bit goofy. I apologized to Miguel for thinking such a thought, and then it was Matt's turn to explain his eyes. Apparently Carol had been aggressively pursuing a game of footsie with him under the table, and of course Matt was having none of it.
"Wait a minute, then why is she coming to your house?" I asked.
Matt and Miguel both groaned and quickly began blaming Austin who responded with "well, she was all alone, and she seemed friendly enough, and I didn't know about the footsies, and I don't know . . . she was hinting that she didn't have anything to do. She seems harmless."
As many of you know I am also guilty of having this exact sort of naive "they-seem-harmless" mindset which has lead me to more undesirable situations than I care to remember. This was one of the first indications that Austin and I were kindred spirits, and I quickly sided with him chiming in with a foreboding "what's the worst that could happen?"
Well the worst that could happen goes a little something like this . . .
I drop off my car at home and carpool with Austin over to Matt's where we find him making awkward small talk with Carol in his backyard next to a fire pit. Matt gives me another I-urgently-need-to-share-something-with-you-look so we have a quick pow-wow in his kitchen where I learn that not only did Carol follow Matt to a convenience store (despite the fact that she had his address) but that she went inside and pretended to read a magazine while he purchased beer. It seemed to him that she was attempting to go unnoticed, but since Matt is a normal person he felt compelled to say, "uh, hey Carol." She then pretended like she just happened to be there which was the first solid evidence (besides her eagerness to join a group of total strangers) that she was a little off.
When Matt and I returned we found that Miguel had arrived. I pulled up a chair next to Carol, and attempted to make conversation. I soon learned that the only conversation Carol wanted to have was a Matt-centered conversation. When I inquired as to why she decided to join our group she pointed to Matt who was definitely in earshot and said, "I took one look at that one and said to myself- wherever he's going, you're going." Then she implored me to "help her out with him" and I informed her that I didn't really know him. "Well I plan on getting to know him very well tonight" was her eerie response.
It was my turn to throw an I-urgently-need-to-share-something look Matt's way. We headed to the kitchen and I informed him of Carol's plans to seduce him. He seemed rather horrified, but continued to show Carol a reasonable amount of gentlemanly kindness.
As the night wore on Carol became increasingly quiet and finally excused herself to go the bathroom. The group dynamic was such that almost an hour passed before I said, "hey y'all, where's that girl?"
This is going to sound melodramatic (and maybe it was) but we got a little scared. We all began putting forth these ridiculous speculations regarding what she was doing inside. I think I genuinely frightened Matt when I suggested the possibility that she was lying naked in his bed. He breathed a sigh of relief when Austin and I agreed to investigate.
So at the time Matt was living in this huuuge old house. It took Austin and I at least five minutes (which seems like an eternity when you're walking through an old, dark house searching for a strange girl that may or may not be crazy). We finally found her in one of Matt's supplemental living rooms curled up on couch sucking her thumb and mumbling incoherently. This seemed particularly odd seeing as how it was 10:30.
Of course when Austin and I returned to Miguel and Matt we told them that Carol was waiting for Matt in bed, but didn't have the heart to keep the joke going as Matt was genuinely disturbed by that prospect. Miguel had to split, and I was getting tired myself but decided to stay until we got this whole Carol thing sorted out. Clearly we had no idea who we were dealing with and I didn't want a Duke lacrosse team type situation on anyone's hands which I made the mistake of referencing.
I think that is what convinced Matt to go inside and suggest to Carol that she might be more comfortable sleeping in her vehicle. He reasoned that she would be in a familiar place when she woke up and wouldn't be so confused. When he returned to the backyard after escorting her to her car he informed us that she had attempted a kiss, but that he was able to turn away just in time to manage a clumsy embrace instead. Matt also reported that there was more bad news. During their "good-bye" Matt noticed that her back right tire was completely flat.
"I bet she slashed it when she got here so she'd have an excuse to stay the night!" I exclaimed. Matt was not amused.
About thirty minutes passed before Carol returned, stumbling into the backyard with vomit on her shirt. She walked past us, and went inside only to return wearing the same shirt which was now completely soaked by water and turned inside out. She profusely apologized for her behavior and explained that she was going through some stuff and probably shouldn't be drinking, so there was some semblance of sanity.
Matt attempted to change Carol's tire, but there was something awry with the spare. The three of us decided that taking her home should be a group endeavor so we loaded up in Matt's car and began following Carol's directions. We quickly realized that we were heading to the absolute worst neighborhood in our fair city. Think prostitutes and drug dealers and eight year olds riding bicycles, cigarettes in hand. Pretty sure I also saw a pack of dogs 15 strong.
The actual drop-off was strange because Carol wanted to be let out about three houses down from what she claimed was her home. We saw her heading towards what appeared to be an abandoned old monster of a place that screamed "crack house." Could this chubby, spectacles-wearing, Time Traveler's Wife-reading, pasty white girl really be headed there? Apparently so.
The only logical conclusion Austin and I were able to come up with was that Carol was some sort of angel sent to Earth to test the kindness and hospitality of mortals. I think we were passing the test until we dropped her off in one of the scariest neighborhoods in southwest Texas.
Carol, wherever you are, I hope that you would be happy to learn that your inexplicable behavior solidified a budding friendship that has produced many more stories such as these and that on those rare occasions when Austin and I are beginning to feel the bleakness of boredom setting in, one of us turns to the other and says, "we really should call Carol and see what she's up to tonight."
And who knows, maybe in your confused state you were left wondering whether or not you were in the presence of angels that evening as well.