Memphis Girl - Part Three

by Van Warren

Well its not like I mind having the door slammed in my face. But having it sheared off in front of me by an eight ton appliance truck, well that's another story.

I'd met the girl of my dreams, but now life had gotten complicated in a hurry. The usual conspiracy abounded. The cop talked to the truck driver, the truck driver blamed me. The cop talked to our driver, the driver blamed me. The cop talked to me, I didn't have to much to say. Courtney wasn't saying anything, he'd been here before. I was still thinking about the door not being there anymore.

Life is like that, escaping death by a hair's breadth and all that, but I had bigger problems. The first was my mother, the second was finding this Memphis Girl again.

Well mom didn't turn out to be the problem that I'd thought. The old, "you're lucky to be alive" thing seemed to save me one more time. She DID make me pay the bill for the door though, and it wasn't cheap. I was going to be heaving a lot of newspapers, early in the morning to cover that one.

Now, the truth is that truth is stranger than fiction. It turns out that Memphis Girl was in my High School gym class. I'd never noticed her before because they separated the classes - kinda. The girls class met at the same time, in the same gym. They were over there we were over here. She was over there, I was over here. Amazing. What are the chances of that? I go all the way to Memphis to meet a girl whose been across the gym from me for two months. It was time to fix some things. All the girls were assigned to run around the field. So were we. I'm no track star, but I know how to jog. Suddenly I'm running beside her. I may as well have materialized from Planet X. She acted like she didn't know me. I talked to her a while, as in, "Remember Memphis?". It seemed to come back. I was a little surprised at her being that way. More study would be required.

The next thing I know it is after school. I'm in her car. We are driving up Reservoir road, the hilly one. Nice car. She straightens her arms pressing her palms against the wheel and lifts her head up. Her elbows disappear - interesting. Says she's been "taking a break from boys". I wonder, "Does that include yours truly?". I am unaffected. I can handle rejection. I am a professional. Besides, she's mysterious.

Time goes by. She has to go on vacation with her parents. That works. I have a loose end to tie up. Loose end as in former girlfriend. Also mysterious. Also beautiful. I must really go and visit Janet so I can make a final decision. Maybe something will work out. This is a long ride, biking up Tanglewood hill. Past the tower and down again. If I take a left it's Memphis Girl's house, otherwise I'm drawn down into Janet's familiar hills. I get to Janet's house. Her lunchbox-shaped Dodge is there. I told her to buy a Honda. She wouldn't listen. She used to listen. Janet and I had been boyfriend/girlfriend till I had made a stupid remark to a friend that got back to her. She turned on me, as in breaking up is hard to do but, "Here, this is yours, good bye". The winds had shifted my way again after she had tired of the jock she took up with after me, and I was very sympathetic, considering rebound effects and all. I distinctly remember being in front of her house and stopping to make a twilight zone decision. It had that Rod Serling, "bigger than you think" feeling. I decided, "ummm Memphis Girl", since she didn't seem like the type to turn on me.

This would have been one tidy little errand had it not been for a younger sibling of mine. Little sisters lie in wait to destroy our lives. I had returned the favor and she was, unwittingly, getting ready to reciprocate, with greater effectiveness than one could either plan or imagine.

Memphis Girl had returned early from her vacation and in her happiness had come by to see me, only I didn't know, I was elsewhere. My sister said to her, "Oh, Van's over at his girlfriend Janet's house." This naturally came as quite a shock to Memphis Girl, who, until that moment, had believed SHE was Van's girlfriend. Later, when I returned, my sister forgot to mention that Memphis Girl had come by to visit. A great error-of-omission had occurred, like forgetting to put the pin back in the grenade you didn't throw.

None of this important news reached me however, until that fateful Saturday. To understand how fateful Saturday was, one must examine four facts that had emerged in my short but sweet relationship with Memphis Girl.

Fateful Fact One: Memphis Girl and I had gone to the same kindergarten.
Fateful Fact Two: Memphis Girl and I had grown up to serious teen age within a mile from each other, unbeknownst.
Fateful Fact Three: I shouldn't have been home that fateful morning by all. I was scheduled to swim in a couple of races at a swim meet in progress. I swam the first early, and had to soon go back and swim the second. One must make good use of time. Coming home to eat and play my electric guitar seemed just that. Bread and jam.
Fateful Fact Four: Memphis Girl and I seemed made for each other, I say seemed because as she sat there that Saturday morning with the envelope in her hand, I was happy to see her. She was quieter than usual, which is really quiet, since she was pretty quiet to begin with.

So it unfolded as follows: She gave me the envelope. I asked, "Do you want to stick around? I don't have to swim in my race for another hour." She said, "No, I have to be going." and handed me the envelope. I thought it was a gift certificate, or "Lucky-to-know-you card" or something. After all, she was paying me a special visit on Saturday and all.

As her car was screeching out the driveway, I opened the envelope and started to read. "Must be a love letter I thought". Well love was too strong a word. I started to read the story of how she had come by and talked to my sister. Somehow she had gotten the idea I was at my OTHER girlfriend's house. I noticed that the writing got darker and bigger as the letter progressed. Sort of like a lie detector does when things aren't going well. The last line was underlined at least four hundred times. Handwriting analysis books say this is can be a sign of poor mental health. Righteous indignation flashed through my body. She didn't realize that I was wrapping up things with Janet, probably for good! Now I was in real trouble. Two girlfriends equals juggling trouble. Zero girlfriends equals a fate worse than death! Time for action. "All Along The Watchtower" plays.

Between our two houses is Tanglewood hill. A large hill. A hill with a tower. The kind they put radio transmitters on. For some reason, I started running. Not on the streets. Straight up the hill towards the tower, through the weeds and sticks. I ran harder than I'd ever run before. My thighs were pumping, my jaw was set and that letter was in my hand. I think I would have outrun her car if she'd hit the light at the top of the hill, the light by the tower, the tower three hundred feet tall. Pass the tower, down the hill, take a left. One more 440 to go. Couldn't breathe. Run harder. Her house comes into sight. Couldn't breathe. Sprinted for the finish. Choked out some words as I collapsed at her kitchen door. Something to the effect, "It's not true.", "You've got it all wrong". I was in serious breathing and girlfriend trouble at the same time. This had never happened before.

Her eyes softened. Its a good thing they did. I was now suffering from full blown "asthma-in-a-four-minute-mile". Then I blurted, "Oh God, I'm supposed to be swimming!" She offered to me a lift and said, "Maybe you need some cough syrup." We stopped at Rexall. I bought some thick, gooey yellow cough syrup that looked really official and a red bottle of something else, just in case. I dragged myself back and the bag of cough syrup back into her car, still coughing. Unscrewed the lid. Drank half the yellow bottle. Wasn't sure if that was enough for this kind of cough. Went to the swim meet. Starting to feel really weird. I told my coach I had run into some problems, had to take some cough syrup. He said something dark under his breath.

Swam my race, but my head did most of the swimming. It wasn't my best time, didn't come in first, second or even third. But, I won one thing that day, for all my trouble. I still had that Memphis girl.