T. didn’t want to leave the party. She’d met a guy and she wasn’t going to ruin her night by having to take me back to the dorm. It was 2 in the morning.
I didn’t know who to call. My roommate was out of town. My neighbors didn’t have cars. One did, but she probably would refuse to get out of bed. Other phone numbers I didn’t know–and this was long before cell phones besides. I could walk back into town down the highway for several miles. I could find a sofa and sleep in the fraternity house.
A guy standing nearby with a group of friends said, “You need a ride?”
I didn’t know him. “I’ll figure something out,” I said, thinking if I were someone else I’d make T. take me back.
“I’ll give you ride,” he said.
“That’s okay. Thanks anyway.”
T. nudged me. “See? He’ll give you a ride.”
He nodded. “Let me help–I’m nice. Ask anyone here.” He was also sober. The other guys were all drunk.
If I told T. that since she brought me, she ought to take me home, she’d get mad and refuse. If I told this guy no, I still wouldn’t have a ride home, and I would insult him and be stuck in the house all night with him and his fraternity brothers. I reconsidered walking.
“Hands to myself,” he said with a grin. “Scouts honor.” Behind him his friends vouched for him. Then I felt vain for even thinking he had an ulterior motive. This guy looked like the cheerleader type–bouncing girls with cleavage and fake fingernails.
“All right,” I said. “Thanks.”
T. waved me off happily and I followed him out the door and decided that if he took one wrong turn, I’d get out of the car no matter where we were.
He was an alumni, 25 years old, in town for a reunion and he worked as an engineer at a big company in Indianapolis. He had a girlfriend too in fact. How old was I? 19. Was I hungry? He’d take me to get something to eat.
Just home, I said, imagining a clutter of scenarios. One–he took me straight home, dropped me off, and that was that. Two–he didn’t take me home and I couldn’t get away from him. Later with the police they’d laugh at me because I had, after all, gotten in his car. Three–he didn’t take me home but I did get away from him only to left stranded in an alley. Four–he took me home, dropped me off, and then had a good laugh with friends about how I thought he found me at all attractive. Five–he took me home, I became possessed by some wild, wayward, self and invited him in shocking the hell out of everybody.
He pulled up in front of my dorm, parked, and turned off the engine. He turned sideways so that one arm was behind me on the back of the seat and the other arm in front of me along the dash. I am so stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid, I thought.
“So, this is it,” he said. “See my hands? I’m keeping them to myself.”
“I see that,” I said. “Well, thanks for the ride.”
“Can I come up?”
“I don’t think so.” I actually felt ungrateful and anxious at the same time. He leaned in closer. “You sure?”
I wanted out of the car with as little fuss as possible. I put a hand on the door handle and then kissed him. I opened the door and pulled away. “Bye,” I said, and slipped out, slamming the door before he could reply.
Last night I was working on scene in my latest novel that made me feel uncomfortable–I can’t write that. Ugh. What the hell am I doing? Someone might read this! Writing certain scenes, no matter how often you remind yourself that the character isn’t you, not you-you, not really, it still feels like exposing yourself. Like admitting to something you’d rather not.
The next day when T. got home, she asked me if I had kissed that guy. “Of course not,” I said, not even entirely sure why I was lying. “I just met him.”
But in writing fiction, you’ve got to tell the truth–never mind that fiction is all made up. And telling the truth takes practice.
How honest are you in your writing? How easy is it to tell the truth? Why?