“Explain this to me again, please,” she said, her voice incredulous. “I’ve seen you get a guy to literally eat out of the palm of your hand, and you can’t talk to Oscar the Grouch?”
“He wasn’t eating out of the palm of my hand.”
“He ate olives off your fingertips, and he kneeled down to do it. In a bar, for God’s sake.”
I giggled. He did. Yuri. He’d said he was a Russian mafia guy, but he wasn’t so tough. I stuck my tongue in his ear, whispered what he could do to me if he played his cards right, and . . . wow. He really was eating out of the palm of my hand.
“I don’t understand why this guy makes you so googly! I mean, he’s obviously got that brooding bad-boy sex god thing going on, and—”
“You can stop there; that’s enough to make me go googly,” I interrupted, my eyes crossing.
“You know, if you came up here for a visit, I could easily arrange a meetup . . .” Her voice trailed off, plotting.
“No! I can’t, no!”
“Why in the world not?”
It was a good question. Why wasn’t I jumping all over this?
“If I come there and I see him, and we talk, about cheese or whatever else might come up, then it’s like . . . I don’t know. Something changes.”
“Yeah. We get this shit moving past the scrambled-brain phase,” she replied.
“Exactly! What if, once we start talking, he no longer scrambles my brain? What if, once I get to know him, there’s no grrr behind the golden? What if”—and I had to sit down to even say this out loud—“what if he’s got a teeny weenie?”
I could hear her intake of breath.
“Well then, Clara would take the train down and we would get. You. Through!” It almost sounded like she’d choked.
“Are you laughing at me?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.
“No. Not at all,” she insisted, and coughed strangely.
“You are totally laughing at me, asshole!” I exclaimed.
“I can’t believe you’re actually serious! A teeny weenie? I’m pretty sure Oscar is packing a giant milk can . . .”
“Oooh, you think?” I asked, relaxing back onto the couch and curling up like a cat, my teeny-weenie terror momentarily subsiding.
“You’re certifiable,” she said, undoubtedly shaking her head. “Seriously, though, you should think about coming up here and taking this thing to the next level.”
“I like this level. I know this level,” I said, chewing on my ponytail.
“But it doesn’t make any sense! You should own this guy, destroy this guy—and you can’t even talk to him? Make this make sense to me.”
I thought for a minute. She asked me this almost every weekend, and every weekend I said I don’t know. I didn’t know, and that was the truth.
“I wish I knew, Roxie. Somehow, everything I know about guys goes out the window when I see him. There’s just something about him.”
“Well, what are you wearing this week?” she asked, the browbeating done and the girl-talk planning now beginning.
Once off the phone, I wandered around in my apartment, restless. I folded some laundry, I spot-cleaned a few shoes, but mostly I paced. I’d circled the kitchen a few times, finally landing next to a cupboard that was almost hidden behind the trash can.
Inside that cupboard was my secret little world, one that I rarely shared with anyone. This city girl . . . loved the country.
Scratch that. Loved the idea of the country.
I’d been collecting pictures out of magazines for years, always depicting small-town Americana at its best. Town squares complete with duck ponds and hitching posts. Hayrides, wash hanging on the line, kitchen gardens, and homemade cobbler.
I had this idea that one day, far off into the future, I might leave it all behind and live in the country. Wild and free, wearing comfortable overalls and broken-in old work boots, picking blueberries by the side of a dirt road with a country dog by my side. I even knew the song that would be playing on this little blueberry adventure, “Dust Down a Country Road,” by John Hiatt.
I really did have a soundtrack for everything.
Even more specifically, I secretly dreamed about one day giving up my advertising career to chuck it all and start making cheese for a living. It’s true. I knew nothing at all about the actual process, but in my head it was very romantic and sweet, just me and my cows and rows of tidy little cheese rounds.
I’d devoted an entire cupboard to this very 3-D version of a vision board, one that I’d visit when particularly daydreamy or when the city had been especially tough.
Ten minutes spent gazing into my cupboard was worth an hour of therapy, even if officially I’d never acknowledge my love of never-actually-visited-but-often-imagined all things country.
I looked at the clock, my heart jumping a bit when I saw it was almost time to go see my dairy god.
Strutting, strutting. Just strutting along, not a care in the world. Here I go. In fact:
Here I go again, on my own . . .
As Whitesnake’s classic song played in my head, I could see myself doing front walkovers across a car, or riding through a tunnel halfway hanging out of the passenger-side window while Oscar drove, reaching over with his long, tanned fingers to caress the inside of my black thigh-highs.
I Tawny Kitaen’ed myself through the farmers’ market, stopping whenever I saw something interesting, just doing my normal Saturday shopping.
Oh look, farm-fresh eggs. I’ll take a dozen. Speckled brown? Fabulous. Into the linen bag they go; it’ll be my contribution to the family brunch tomorrow.