I hurried along, doing my best to dodge the dirty drifts of snow that edged the sidewalk and the equally dirty panhandlers huddled in the doorways. It was mid-February, and every shop I passed beckoned with grim reminders of the romance that was apparently in the cards for everyone but me. Not like this was today's headline news or anything. I had a long and depressing acquaintance with Cupid. In first grade, I'd been a manic genius with construction paper and doilies, crafting a spectacular valentine for Robbie Creighton. When I shyly put it on his desk, he had favored me with a look of such utter disdain that I had immediately retired my paste pot and scissors. Later in life I'd had similar unfortunate results revolving around overpriced red roses and boxes of candy. As a result, tomorrow's holiday was on my I Don't Think So! list.
By the time I'd traversed the six blocks between my apartment and the Hastee Tastee Cafe, I'd slogged through two sodden gray mounds of slush and forked over three dollars in coins to an aggressive drunk, leaving my pockets empty and my shoes full. Some folks might have taken these events as an omen of what was to come and just dived under the Russell Street bus as it lumbered by, but I've never put too much faith in things like trying to figure out what's going to happen next. I have enough trouble dealing with the immediate present, let alone worrying about the unpredictable future.
I pushed open the door of the cafe, and my glasses steamed up immediately. I took them off and fumbled for my handkerchief, all the while squinting around the room, looking for Jolene's unmistakable silhouette. Even I didn't need my glasses to spot her. To say that Jolene was stacked was sort of like saying that the Rockies were a long row of hills--it was a pathetic understatement. My buddy and ex-girlfriend had the tits of destiny. She could bring any straight male within a fifty yard radius to a dead stop, just by the mere fact of her existence. Needless to say, Jolene had a loyal following at the restaurant and she got great tips, even if she did get the orders all mixed up. In the years she'd been working there, no one had ever noticed, I guess. I settled my glasses back on the bridge of my nose and Jolene came into radiant focus. She smiled at me from a big table of truckers and waved me over to the counter to wait for her. I peeled out of my heavy wool coat and settled onto my accustomed perch by the cash register.
You might wonder how a card-carrying homosexual like me ever got mixed up with a girl like Jolene. Well, she saved my life in high school, not once, but during the entirety of my junior and senior years. All the guys had me figured out by the time puberty had set in and most of them seemed to feel a strong primal urge to shorten my lifespan by any available means. These same guys also had a strong primal urge to corner Jolene and cop a feel of her tits whenever they got the chance. In order to save herself from this unwanted fondling and me from martyrdom and the early grave that went along with it, Jolene decided that the two of us ought to go steady. Anyway, that's how Andy Taggert and Jolene Zandandikus got voted "'Most Unlikely Couple"' by the graduating class at Gooley High.
Jolene had taught me all she knew about open-mouth kissing--which was quite a good bit--and handjobs, which happened to be another of her strong suits. Being seen under the bleachers getting instruction in both subjects had enhanced my reputation immeasurably during my teen years, and the techniques I learned then have stood the test of time. Anyway, the bottom line was that I had managed to live until graduation, and Jolene had been able to stand tall with only minimal worry about phantom tit-grabbers.
We had remained good buddies in the intervening years, and she had become my closest confidante when it came to matters of the heart--or, in my case, the crotch if you want to get technical about it. Jolene was still all about true love and romance, a concept I had pretty much shelved. I now focused exclusively on the simpler things in life--things like getting my rocks off, preferably without getting my block knocked off in the process. Today I was ready for a cup of the strong coffee that Jolene brewed up just for the two of us when there was something to discuss.
"You want some coffee, honey?" Jolene had left the table of truckers--most of them with their tongues in severe danger of exposure to the elements--and had come to a dead stop at the counter in front of me, coffee pot poised above an empty cup. I nodded. She poured. "Talk to me," she said, patting my hand sympathetically.
"Don't you want to turn that in to the kitchen?" I asked, glancing down at the vague notes on her order pad.
"Sure, I guess." She studied the pad distractedly and sighed. "Hey, Ed." The cook turned away from the stove and stared impassively at Jolene across the pass-through shelf. "Ten scrambles with bacon and some wheat toast...or something." The last two words were in an undertone only I could hear. Ed just shrugged and turned back to the grill. "You look troubled, honey."
"Well..." I took a gulp of the coffee and started to spin out my tale. "There was this dude..."
"Yeah, I know." Jolene was intuitive that way.
"Anyhow, he's been hanging out around my favorite tavern quite a bit over the course of the past few weeks. He comes in and cruises the bar, then if anyone nods or says hello, he turns into an ice princess and focuses on a point somewhere between here and Mars. You know the type."
"Yeah, I know."
"So, last night, after my third beverage, nature called. I climbed off the bar stool and ambled back to the can, ready to do my business and then go on back home. So, there I am when the blond walks in and stands next to me at the trough-style urinal. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. It was too late to slip into the toilet stall, and I really did have to take a piss, so I unzipped my pants and hauled it out. He looks at me and says, 'Damn, mister, that's a fine piece of meat. You small dudes can really pack the surprises sometimes. You gonna let me measure that big thing with my throat?'"
"He said that?"
"He said that."
"Yeah, well, I'm sure it's because I've got this ten and a half inch..."
"Yeah, I know."
"Yeah, I know you know. Anyway, he hit the decks and really starts going to town on me. So, I put my hands on the back of his neck and lean against the wall, just letting him go for it. He's going totally wild, sucking and licking and getting me ready to blow. So I said, 'If you're thirsty, you'd better hook your lips over the end of this hose, because Old Faithful is about ready to erupt.'"
"You said that?"
"I said that. Actually, it reminded me of a dude in one of my favorite X-rated videos."
"So, I locked my hands behind his head and started pumping my hips like a madman. He sucked me till my head practically caved in."
"And, by the time he stood up to go, his eyes had already glazed over with this cool, bored look, and when he'd washed his hands and rinsed his mouth out in the sink, I had to look twice to be sure he was the same dude who'd just sucked me off. By the time I got back to my barstool, he was long gone."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah, I know." I sighed dejectedly. "And then it got worse."
"Yeah." I drained the coffee cup. Jolene topped me off and nodded encouragingly.
"So the asshole bartender leans across the bar and says to me--'So, how was it?' And I say, 'How was what?' I wasn't really in the mood, you know."
"Anyhow, he tells me that the blond told him that I'd given him a damn fine blowjob. Can you believe he said that?"
"Who? The bartender?"
"The blond, honey." I took another slug of coffee. "Then he let on as how he didn't think the blond was the type to go for a bathroom quickie. Like I was giving him the quickie."
"The blond, honey. Pay attention." Jolene was not focusing on the topic at hand. She clearly had something on her mind.
"Andy?" Jolene leaned over the counter, her forehead furrowed with worry. Her breasts came to rest on either side of my coffee cup. The dude on the stool next to me started to breathe entirely too hard for someone who was just chewing on a jelly doughnut.
"What's up, honey?" I could sense man trouble, just by looking at her face. After we got out of school, Jolene's luck with men had gone from bad to worse. She never seemed able to hook up with a good man who could appreciate her. The poor dear was constantly being approached by great-looking guys who were hard to resist but who weren't terrific husband material. Jolene had a real low resistance level, so she needed help getting through quite a few busted-up romances. We had a lot in common, Jolene and I.
"You have simply got to help me out, Andy." Her voice was barely a whisper--a sure sign that her current squeeze must really be a doozy. "I need to have some moral support. You see, there's this guy..."
"Yeah, I know. What can I do for you?"
"I need you to come along on a date and help me let the guy down easy. He's this real dreamy guy, but we're just not on the same wavelength, if you know what I mean."
"So, who is this geek?"
"Andy, shh!" She looked warily around, like there might be someone lurking close by, eavesdropping. "Garcia is very sensitive. Besides, he's not a geek." She shot me a defensive look. "To tell you the truth, he's quite a looker. Sort of your type, probably."
"Garcia who?" I asked, ignoring the bit about him being my type. Besides, if he was really my type, he wouldn't be cozying up with Jolene. Would he?
"Oh, just Garcia." She said it casually, all her attention suddenly focused on an imaginary food spot on her left boob. This was another thing about Jolene. She had a habit of getting involved with guys who only had one name--like Duke or Trinity or Killer. I suspected that most of them didn't have jobs or social security numbers either, but could probably supply a rap sheet if push came to shove.
"Okay, doll. Where and what time?"
"Seven thirty. Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is Valentine's Day." Jolene nodded jauntily. I groaned wearily as I struggled to resign myself to my fate.