What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let's take a long ride

Her name was Cherise. Chester had seen her at school and picked up her name from the campus directory, a behavior a friend of his said sounded a lot like stalking. Equipped with her name, Chester located her Facebook page and viewed every one of the 538 pictures that she'd been tagged in. She was attractive, with a trim figure and boyish cut brunette hair. Chester sometimes wondered at Cherise's fashion - the rolled up jeans look really didn't work for her - but he was intrigued by this young "Bronx Babe," as her profile billed her.

Chester looked up his "mutual friends" list and noticed that Harold, a chemistry student with the social life of an invalid, was on her friends list. Cherise only had 124 friends, so Chester figured Harold probably knew Cherise pretty well. Chester gave Harold a call.

"Harold, it's me, Chess." Chester tried to remember how he knew Harold.


"Chess...Chester, you know, from the thing at the place with the guy with the, you know, nail gun?"

"Oh that Chester...dude are you okay?" Harold remembered.

Chester artfully found out Harold was going to an issue advocacy meeting on campus later that week and that Cherise would probably be there. Chester invited himself and then started reading up on animal rights. Chester didn't know how he got roped into these things.

At the PETA meeting, between disturbingly graphic portrayals of slaughter houses and animal innards, Chester made Cherise's acquaintance. Harold played his part well ("Hey, Cherise, there's someone I'd like you to meet") and Chester made a mental note to bring his friend a cafeteria bagel in thanks. Chester and Cherise hit it off well and, by the time Chester had agreed to attend a protest rally at Foster Farms, the two had a date.

For all the planning that Chester put into his meeting with Cherise, he had forgotten to think about where he would ask her out. He didn't want to do dinner, since he was an avid meat lover and couldn't imagine a dinner out without a bloody slab. On the fly, he settled on a dance he'd read about in the newspaper. It wasn't anything formal; just a themed dance somewhere in the boondocks. Cherise intoned that she was from New York and didn't know the area very well. Chester bluffed, telling Cherise that he knew the surrounding hills almost as well as he knew the Backstreet Boys, which was "saying something." Chester spent the rest of the evening living down his admission and denying he actually listened to boy bands.

The next day Chester called Harold.

"Har, what does she like?" Chester had to pump his friend for information about his date in two days.

"Who?" It sounded like Harold just woke up.


"No, who is this?"

"Harold, it's me, Chess." Chester was irritated; surely Harold could remember his old friend.


"Chess...Chester, you know, from the thing at the place with the guy with the, you know, nail gun?"

"Oh that Chester...dude are you okay?" Harold remembered.

"Why wouldn't I be okay? So what does Cherise like?" Chester wanted to keep the conversation focused.

"She doesn't like the Backstreet Boys, you dork." Harold was now very much awake.

Chester learned from Harold that Cherise was a quiet soul who cared for the helpless and would want to see a quiet but fun evening. Chester knew he could arrange that.

The night of the date came and Chester picked up Cherise outside her townhouse. Chester had been to this particular dance hall once before, but had been asleep in the backseat during the drive. He thought he remembered the way. He turned out onto the main highway and started driving. The road looked familiar, but Cherise's crinkled brow lead him to question his memory. It had been pretty deep sleep...

"You okay, Cherise?" Chester thought that maybe Cherise's discomfort was unrelated to his disorientation.

"Are you sure you know the way?" Cherise had a confidence in her voice that let Chester know she knew the answer.

"Uh, yeah. It's further up ahead, on the left. As I said, I've been here before and..." Chester let his voice trail off when he noticed a sheet of paper that Cherise pulled from her purse. It was mapquest. His date had mapquested the directions after Chester had explicitly said he knew the way! Where was the respect in that?

Following Cherise's directions, Chester turned his car around and arrived at the dance twenty minutes late. As they were getting out of the car, Chester asked to see the Mapquest paper. Cherise handed it over.

"Do you trust me?" Chester had an idea.

"Sure, I guess. C'mon this is a first date, remember?" Cherise didn't know what to think and gasped as Chester tore up the paper and lit a match beneath the torn pieces. The flames licked up and turned to ashes any way the two of them had of returning home. Chester explained that he remembered the road clearly and would not need directions to go home. His theory would be tested in a few short hours.

After the dance, Chester and Cherise piled into the car. Chester noted with some concern that the fuel light was on as he put his ride into gear and started back down the main road. For the first half hour, while Chester tried various side roads to "jog" his memory, the pair chatted amicably about the evening. Cherise was very adept at the Charleston and had taught Chester a couple of new dance moves. Chester laughed at Cherise's story of her first dance lesson in New York, but their conversation trailed off as the time ticked by. Soon they were accompanied only by the hum of the engine and the friction of the wheels against the road. Cherise's brow crinkled again.

"Highway 49 -- I think that was the road," she said. Chester turned in his seat to look at her and his face carried a clear message: I know.

"How long has your fuel light been on?" Cherise was both helpful and curious. Chester didn't answer but continued driving. There had to be a gas station around here somewhere!

Forty-five minutes after they left the dance, Cherise thought to check her cell phone. As soon as she flipped open the screen, the display said "battery dead" and went black. Chester had left his phone charging by his bed and had intended to rely on Cherise's mobile. His car charger didn't match her feminine model and the two were incommunicado.

"Boy, these country evenings are sure pretty, aren't they?" Asked Chester, trying to lighten the mood.

"Maybe we should stop and ask someone or flag down a car; why don't you have GPS? Why did you tear up the mapquest? Why didn't you fill up the tank or bring your cell phone?" Cherise was losing it. Chester was good at these things. He could tell when someone was losing it. Chester wanted to ask Cherise why she hadn't charged her phone and why she chose to go to a dance with a no-good like him, but he feared the answer to the second question and kept silent.

An hour after leaving the dance, Chester saw his first glimpse of wildlife. A deer was crossing the road and Chester slowed down to get a better look.

"Hey, it's Bambi." Chester didn't know why he said that or why Cherise said "aw" but he figured the moment had been a success.

"Maybe we should turn around," Chester announced after an hour and fifteen minutes. He could feel his car losing power and wanted to get closer to civilization in case his vehicle died.

"No, this actually looks familiar," said Cherise taking control. "Your turn is another mile on the left. If you'd driven straight instead of turning onto side roads all the time, we would have been there by now. This whole drive has been miserable. I wish I'd gone to see Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 instead of agreeing to this rigmarole. Just take me home."

Cherise's words cut, but Chester didn't let on. He just drove. He, too, considered the merits of SOTTP2 and wondered if that would have been a better choice. Chester made a mental note to not mention the movie or the "rigmarole" comment to his guy friends. When he got back to the townhouse, Chester tried to say goodbye to Cherise as she stepped out of the car. Cherise turned to Chester and hesitated. Her face showed a conflict of emotion. She was the sweet, quiet type, but Cherise was also mad. After a beat, when both of them said nothing, Cherise spoke:

"You asked me earlier if I trust you." Another beat. Chester didn't like where this was going. "I was wrong. I'm sorry." The image of Cherise turning around to sprint to her townhouse is seared in Chester's mind.

That was three days ago. Chester has not spoken to Cherise or Harold since.

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