The New Girlfriend

Jeff slumped over his desk, phone pressed against his left ear, right hand click click clicking away at his Minesweeper game on the computer, already bored - five minutes into the weekly conversation with Home. His computer screen and the outside streetlight provided the only association for vision. He struggled to keep his eyelids from sagging onto his cigarette-ash covered keyboard as he responded to each question with a monosyllabic response.

"So ... how's school going?" Jeff's mother always sounded especially chipper and sweet whenever her only son called. Her voice had been cracking ever since she progressed over the proverbial "hill," making her sound slightly frail, though Jeff knew better. She had raised him without the aid of a partner since he was five years old. Though they shared an unbreakable bond, their weekly conversations depressed Jeff to no end.

"Fine." Ho-hum. Jeff clicked on a mine. Time to start over.

"Are you making any friends?" The hope from a mother to an antisocial son could be heard 15 hundred miles away.

Jeff closed his eyes, fighting the urge to scream or to cry or to hang up the phone. He inhaled, opened his eyes, and responded, "Actually, I am." Jeff closed his Minesweeper game and swiveled around in his black leather computer chair. His unmade bed, the only one in the room, sat under a skinny, dirty window. The Michael Jordan poster on the back of his closed door taunted him, mocked him. Jeff knew his idol had no problems finding people to talk to, to watch movies with, to have sex with. His spin stopped with Jeff facing a picture taped to the corner of his mirror.

"Really?! Oh, Jeffrey, that's so wonderful. Who are they? What are their names? Oh, how exciting!" With rapid-fire succession, Jeff's mother personified glee.

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything, because I didn't want you to get all crazy like this, but ... I sort of met a girl." Jeff closed his eyes again, preparing for the joyous exclamation, followed by the machine gun-like interrogation.

"Are you serious, Jeffrey?" Chilled by her calm demeanor, Jeff continued undaunted.

"Uhh ... yeah, mom. Actually, we met in the library. Well, not originally. You see, we had Geography last year, and she remembered me. So, we started talking - and we were in there for a solid three and a half hours - and then I got her phone number. It turns out that she lives in an apartment across the street from my dorm with another girl from the school." Jeff hoped this would satisfy his mother's hunger for information. However, she desired to delve deeper into this relationship.

"How long ago was this?"

"I'd say about a week and a half ago. Yeah, it was Thursday the 14th. I remember, because I was studying for a history test the next day. I think I might have failed that one, but I don't care." Jeff couldn't stop smiling. He knew his mother had the same affliction.

"Have you talked to her since?"

"Oh yeah! I called her the next day and we had dinner. In fact, we've been having dinner together about twice a week now. I think it's going well. I'm pretty sure she likes me. After our last date, she even kissed me on the cheek."

"Oh Jeffrey! This is so wonderful! Tell me, what does she look like. What's her name? I want to picture you two together on a date. It's so cute!"

Jeff stared at the picture on his mirror. "Well, her name's Erin and she's in the same grade as me. She's a little shorter than me, with dark brown hair, brown eyes. Very trim, athletic." He paused, admiring, "And she has the greatest smile."

He could hear his mother weeping at the other end of the line, but Jeff didn't say a word. "Oh son, that makes me so happy. You know, I never wanted to say this, but I always worried about you. You were always at home, by yourself, in your room studying. I worried that you'd never make any friends. I'm glad you found someone that makes you happy. I'd like to meet her some time."

"I'd like that too, mom. I'm sure, if things keep going well, I'll get her to come with me to visit some time." Jeff lowered his head, staring at his shirt. "Listen, I've got to go. I have a big paper to write tonight."

"OK, sweetie. I'll talk to you next week. I love you."

"I love you too mom." Jeff said this quietly into the receiver. He put the phone on the desk and started crying. He didn't like lying to his mother, but he also had the same worries she had. At least, this way, he thought, she would have something to be happy about. She could tell all her friends how well her son was doing, not only education-wise, but in romance as well.

Jeff stood up, still facing his mirror. "Who are you kidding? You know no one like Erin would ever be seen with you. Forget about it. The only relationship you'll ever have is with your right hand."

"No, that's not true. I just need more time. I need time to get into shape. I need to hone my social skills. I need to practice conversation. I just have to get to know more about her, that's all. She'll see. She'll come around. If we keep meeting up like this - "

"What? She'll fall madly in love with you? Give me a break. It's not like you have anything to offer her. You have absolutely no social skills whatsoever. You said it yourself. You can't even say one word to her. What makes you think 'bumping into' her will have any effect?"

"Well, that's just it. I need to get to know more about her so I know what interests her. So I have something to talk about."

"OK, let's pretend I buy that. What do you know about her so far?"

"Well, let me think. I know she likes health food."

"Uh, bucko, I know you're looking in the mirror. You can easily see where you don't fall into that category, right?"

"OK, all right, fine. Well, she's majoring in English. She's always reading books by DeFoe and Faulkner and Twain. Maybe I could make hay there."

"Yeah, sure, except you don't read. You're majoring in engineering; you don't have time for those foo-foo books. Besides, you'd sound like a damn fool trying to speak that English Major-ese. Pretentious blowhards trying to sound intelligent by clouding the listener with 20 dollar words - "

"Come on, they're not all like that. I bet Erin's not like that, anyway."

"OK, what else you got on her?"

"She's a waitress at I-Hop - "

"Which explains your sudden chronic appetite for pancakes at seven o'clock every morning."

"She's always surrounded by guys, but I don't think any of them are her boyfriend. She's got affection for Disney movies - she watches them with her roommate all the time. She likes to cook and work out. She's always writing on her computer and sometimes, when she goes to bed, she forgets to close her curtains. She visits her grandmother twice a week, over on the other side of town. Her parents have a very nice house in the suburbs about 25 miles south of here. They also have a summer home in the mountains. She'll go there about once a month, alone, to read and think and meditate. The mountain air is so crisp and cool in the spring. They have the loveliest flowers leading up to the main entrance and all around the sides of the house. The lock on the window to the basement is broken - at least ... it is now. It's so cute the way she snores while she sleeps. I bet she'd deny it if I ever said anything to her about it." Jeff stood there, staring through the mirror, smiling. "And how she pulls the covers really tight into her neck ... her cheeks are so soft, you know ... yep, she's a very heavy sleeper."

Still smiling, Jeff took off his T-shirt and turned away from his conversation with the mirror. He kicked off his sneakers, flopped down stomach-first on top of his bed. Binoculars in hand, he stared out through the window, at the apartment across the street.

Erin wore a white T-shirt with boxers. She pulled something out of the oven. Jeff noticed she had made blueberry muffins. He imagined being in that apartment, sharing the delicious dessert with his girlfriend.

"These are delicious, babe. Did you make these from scratch?"

"Oh no," Erin smiled lovingly. "I just made these from the box. Do you really like them?"

"Of course I do." Jeff grabbed Erin around the waist, pulling her towards him. "What do you say to a movie tonight? Maybe something girlie, like you like."

"How about we just stay here and do something else that I like?" Jeff smiled to himself and pulled the blanket over his body.

"Goodnight, my sweet. See you tomorrow."