I pulled into the store lot two minutes late. I scanned the lot for Damien, but I couldn’t see him standing anywhere. There were about two dozen vehicles scattered here and there in the parking spaces. I picked one of the empty ones on the edge of the lot, turned off the ignition and started scanning the vehicles wondering which one was his. I reached for my phone to see if he had messaged me while I had driven there, thinking maybe I just didn’t hear it.
There was no new message. I started to think of a message to send to him and then I paused and this feeling came over me, what if he had blown me off? What if this whole thing was a stunt, what if he was never serious about hanging out, what if he was going to give me some lame excuse later about how something came up?
I shook my head and rolled my eyes at myself. I was becoming paranoid again, convincing myself of things I had no reason to believe were true. Why did I keep doing this to myself? Why was I so convinced he wouldn’t like me?
Just then my phone beeped and my screen lit up, it was a new message from Freckles:
“Are you ever going to get here? You’re five minutes late already!”
I smiled, he was impatiently waiting for me, surely that meant he was looking forward to us spending more time together? I replied back to his message:
“Dude I’ve been here a while, figured you’d be late. What vehicle are you?”
I didn’t want him to think I was actually late showing up, he may ask me what took so long and then I’d feel weird because I took so long worrying about how I looked and what was the right thing to wear. I looked down at my clothes and wondered if I dressed up too much, I tried to keep it half dress and half casual. I had thrown on some dark and faded denim jeans, a short-sleeved henley that I intentionally left unbuttoned and my white sneakers. I told myself it was too late to worry about it now.
My phone beeped again:
“The dark green Dodge in the front row.”
I leaned up in my seat of my car to catch a preemptive view of his truck, I could only barely see the upper part of the cab, too many vehicles between us. I took a deep breath and gathered my courage, opened the car door and stepped out into the summer evening, I deeply hoped it would be the beginning of a great end to my year.
I closed the door and started walking to the front of the lot, unabashedly I kept looking up over to the front to get a full view of his truck, but also to see if he had gotten out of his truck. My heart started to pump faster the closer I got to him. This little man, barely over five and a half feet tall, absolutely terrified me. He terrified me because he amazed me, enthralled me, captivated me, made me vulnerable to everything about him. He owned me and he didn’t even know it.
As I made my way around the last vehicle and the front of the lot, Damien’s truck came into full view. It was huge, jacked up on big tires, it was dark green with dark grey body trim along the bottom. Chrome handles, chrome grille and grille guard, a chrome roll bar in the bed of the truck shot up behind the cab, chrome exhaust stuck out from under the bed and chrome bars jutted out from under the doors. The windows were tinted dark and the entire truck shined as though it had just been washed and waxed.
This was the truck of a man who venerated it with absolute pride. After taking it all in, one thing stood out to me. How did that short shit get up inside that truck? I had to cover my mouth to stop myself from bursting out laughing as I approached his truck. Assuming he could see me, I did not want him to see my reaction upon approach, I pretended as if I was just brushing my hand across my face, inconspicuously hiding my laughter.
His truck was not running as I reached up and grabbed the door handle and swung open the door with fearful ease, I didn’t want to do anything brash and god forbid damage his precious truck. There he was, hands on the wheel, a goofy smirk on his face, sunglasses covering his eyes, “What’s up man?” He asked with sincerity.
“Not much dude, I take it you’re driving tonight?” I asked as he didn’t seem like he was parting ways with his truck.
“Haha, well of course, I don’t like riding, I always drive if at all possible.” Damien asserted.
“Very well, I have no objections, but I do have one question.” I said leading him into my sarcasm.
“Yeah, what’s that?” Freckles asked without suspicion.
“How do you get inside your truck? I mean, really man, where’s the step stool? Do you have a fold down ramp you walk up? Is there one of those hanging rope ladders attached to the driver side door or do you just get a running start and leap in?” I asked with a cocky smile, trying so hard to hold back my laughter.
Damien looked at me with his mouth hanging open. He turned towards the windshield, squeezed the steering wheel with his hands until it made an audible sound, he curled his lips into his mouth, took a deep breath and then lifted his sunglasses and rested them on top of the ball cap on his head as he turned back to me.
I couldn’t hold it any longer and I burst out laughing my head off, my eyes beginning to tear up. I looked back up at Damien, he had a huge smile on his face, “Listen here smartass,” Damien continued, “Get inside this truck or I am leaving you right here in this parking lot!”
Still chuckling, I grabbed at the inside door handle and the grab handle on the outside of the cab and lifted myself up into the truck, closing the door behind me.
“For real man, how do you get inside this thing?” I asked.
“The same way you did!” Damien said with assured confidence in his abilities and continued, “I will have you know, I am 5’6″ and a quarter!”
“Hahaha,” I busted up in laughter again, “That’s hilarious!” I exclaimed.
“You’re not exactly Abe Lincoln over there either!” Freckles yelled, almost with a pout in his voice.
“You’re right, I’m kinda short too, honestly I like being short and just so you know I’m just kidding around, I like that you’re short, I think it’s pretty cool.” I said trying to make sure he knew I was only joking.
“Yeah, yeah. I don’t mind my height, I can take care of myself and it doesn’t hold me back in a fight, I’ll swing at the biggest mother fucker out there.” Damien announced sticking his chest out with bravado.
“I don’t doubt it man, you’re pretty buff, clearly you work out.” I said, letting him know I noticed.
“Oh you’ve been checking out my arms, huh?” Damien pressed the subject. I immediately blushed having realized I just walked into that. He reached over and punched me in the shoulder while smiling. I decided not to say anything and let the subject settle. The punch he gave me was a little startling anyway, either he didn’t hold back and wanted me to feel it or he didn’t realize his own strength.
I reached up, gently rubbing at my arm and asked, “So I kinda forgot to look at what movies were playing.”
“No worries, I looked up the showtimes while I was waiting for you. I was thinking Death Race or Babylon A.D.?” Inquired Damien.
Wow, I thought to myself. He picked the most dude-flick movies playing. No real surprise there, considering the object I was sitting inside. I’ve always liked Vin Diesel, so I told Damien I was up for seeing Babylon A.D.
“Cool man,” Damien said as he started up the engine, “let’s get going, I was thinking we could just stop and eat at the Mexican joint on our way to Madison City?”
“Sounds good to me.” I said feeling good about his decisiveness. He was clearly accustomed to controlling situations and making his choices or opinions heard. I didn’t mind, I was an indecisive person who always struggled when facing choices. We fit well together in that regard. I fleetingly smiled to myself thinking about that, I had a good feeling about the night to come and we really got along so well.
The diesel truck rumbled beneath me, it had a very masculine and assertive feel, something that complimented Damien’s personality. His eyes settled on his dash gauges, revving his engine as the shoppers walked in and out of the store taking turns passing glances at us in the truck. Normally I’d be embarrassed about unwanted attention from strangers, but for some reason I felt proud to be sitting in that loud truck next to Freckles.
I sat there staring at the side of his face, his sunglasses still on top of his hat as he faced his dash. In the fading sunlight I could see the freckles on his face and arms, the bump of his triceps clearly visible below the hem of his shirt sleeves.
He was still as awesome as the first time I saw him four years ago. The sun glaring through the windows of his truck, making the beautiful blue-green color in his eyes glow, reminded me of that Sunday afternoon in Subway when I saw Damien for the first time.
I glanced toward Damien’s gauges as he put it into gear and noticed a photo leaning up against the clear plastic near his speedometer.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s my girlfriend.” Damien replied with a chipper attitude.
I opened my mouth and not a word came out, just all the air in my lungs as if someone had just punched me. There was nothing. It would have been absolute silence as we took off in his truck towards the highway, except for one single sound. The sound of my heart shattering into a million tiny pieces.
Then my brain screamed a horrid scream that if audible would have caused Damien to crash. I just kept saying No, No, No, over and over in my head in complete shock and disbelief of what Freckles just uttered to me. I just couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it. It was the worst thing anyone had ever said to me in my entire life.
“Your what!?!?” I asked in an overly harsh and startling tone that even I didn’t anticipate coming out of my mouth.
Damien looked over at me with a cocked eyebrow and repeated, “My girlfriend,” as he reached up to the picture, pulled it down and handed it to me.
It took every ounce of self control I had to not rip it up into pieces and throw it out the window. We edged up to the highway and Damien peeled his tires as we pulled out onto the right lane with black smoke blowing out of his truck’s exhaust pipes and I devilishly wished his girlfriend had been standing out there in the way as he floored it.
I hated this girl, didn’t even have to meet her, I hated everything about her. I sat there looking at her photo. Her beautiful face, her perfect hair and flawless skin, she glowed like a porcelain doll. If looks could kill she would have dropped dead from me just looking at her photo.
Damien had noticed me glaring at her without a word and reached over and quickly snatched the photo out of my hands, “Sorry mate, but Megan is all mine, you’re gonna have to find your own woman.” Mistakenly believing my obsession as attraction and not the sheer hatred that it was.
“Hahaha!” I roared out loud laughing, completely unable to control myself. I was fuming with bitterness, I could taste it on my tongue. “You have nothing to worry about, not my type at all!” I exclaimed, desperately fighting my anger and resentment for this THING that claimed my Freckles’ heart.
“Good, then I won’t have to worry about you trying to bang her behind my back.” Damien said.
“Would never happen brother.” I said with absolute conviction. With an evil grin I thought to myself, bang her in the head with a lead pipe maybe.
It was horrible and completely inappropriate. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. She may have even been the nicest person in the world, but she had stolen Damien’s heart when I had waited four long years for the chance to do the very same thing. I was so jealous of her. It just wasn’t fair. And above that, I now knew he was straight. I was broken, demolished by the information that had just flooded into my brain.
I didn’t want to be in his truck anymore. I felt sick, like I could just die. I wanted to die. I wanted to open the door while the truck was moving and just let myself fall out and hopefully get ran over. I no longer had any motivation to live. Freckles was lost to me forever.
As we traveled the twenty minutes it took to get to the restaurant Damien turned on some music, it was some country song by Lady Antebellum and as I heard the words, “Love don’t live here anymore,” I just wanted to vomit all over Damien’s truck. So I just stared out the window the rest of the way. I had nothing to say. I couldn’t say anything. Nothing uttered from my lips could undo the damage that girl had just done to me.
I could feel Damien’s eyes on me from time to time. It didn’t feel the same as it did before, so I didn’t look back at him. I knew that nothing good was going to come from that night. He just wanted someone to hang out with and have a good time and there I sat, bitter and reluctant to enjoy anything. I felt sorry for him, but not as sorry as I felt for myself. He had no idea what just happened, the time that had passed, the time I had spent thinking about him, hoping and wishing that this very day would come and here it was ending so horribly wrong.
As we pulled off the highway and into the lot in front of the restaurant, Freckles parked and turned off the engine. He sat there quietly looking down at his hands for a moment and as I reached for the handle on the door he raised his voice and said “Wait!”
I stopped and took my hand off the door. “What?” I asked without emotion.
“Something’s wrong, I can feel it. I know you’re quiet, but the last twenty minutes were awkward as hell.” Damien implied.
I took a big deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I can’t tell you.” I said it so unflinchingly.
“Dude,” Damien assured, “Look at me man, you can tell me anything. I know we just met and we don’t know each other very well at all, but you can confide in me. We’ve gotten along great up until now, something’s up and I want to know what it is. Did I do or say something to piss you off?”
I took another deep breath and exhaled. He was making it so incredibly hard. I wanted to tell him everything, lay it all out there, but my instincts told me that if I did that, he would drive me back to my car and we’d never see or talk to each other again. So I had to ask myself if that’s what I wanted. Did I want to end this thing with Damien right at that moment, not even having a friendship with him?
I didn’t know what to do. I looked over at him. He pulled his sunglasses off and threw them in the tray on his console. He moved his mouth to one side in a half frown, as if to say, It’s okay you can tell me what’s wrong.
His gentle eyes, even in the last waning light of the sun were still so stunning, so heart warming, they begged for truth, for honesty. Looking into his face, I almost broke down into tears. I could feel my throat tighten, my heart started to race. I had to turn away. And just as I did he reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and I lost it. I put my face in my hands, I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Crying in front of Freckles, he had no idea what it was about. I was so embarrassed, I felt so stupid.
“Hey man, whatever you’re going through, I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I really hope that it’s nothing I did. I can be a douche sometimes, but I don’t mean it, it’s just how I am.” Damien attempted to console me.
“Fuck!” I yelled in anger. “No Fr…” I caught myself. I almost called him Freckles to his face. “No, Damien, it’s not something you did, you and I are fine.”
“Okay, well then what is it? If you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine, I don’t want to push you. Do you want me to take you back to your car? We can hang out another time.” He said.
I had no idea what to do. My heart begged me to tell him how I felt, but my brain kept telling me to shut my mouth or he was going to think I was a crazy obsessed gay psycho stalker, talking about how we met four years ago in a Subway restaurant.
I used the back of my hand and wiped my face, “Nah, I’ll be fine, I just had to get that out, I’m sorry, you probably think I’m a weirdo, I’ve just been through a lot and it caught up with me. Let’s just go in and eat.” I was too afraid to tell him the truth.
“Alright man, maybe some day you’ll trust me enough to talk about it. Let’s go eat.” Freckles agreed.
We got out of the truck and headed into the Mexican joint. I hoped with every cell in my body that I hadn’t just ruined our night. I was still devastated by the fact that he had a girlfriend, but I wanted us to be friends. I refused to let him go so easily. Her existence didn’t change the fact that I still had feelings for Damien, dare I even admit that felt like I loved him without even truly knowing him. The emotions were so strong and overwhelming, I didn’t think it could be anything else.
One day I would tell him the truth, but that night was not the right time. I needed to know more about him, to know ahead of time how he would react to something like that. For now, the pain he saw me experience would have to remain a mystery to him.
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