Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 02: The BMV

Part I:

I first saw her in the queue at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Deputy Registrar Agency. She had stringy dishwater-blonde hair. I would say it was her eyes that first caught my attention, but I couldn't really see them due to the glare of the overhead fluorescent lighting on her glasses. I guess it was just the idea of her eyes that caught my attention. Also, the way she wore her baggy, shapeless grey sweatshirt.

I surreptitiously let the man between us cut in front of me, in order to get closer to her. He had two little girls with him, so I'm sure he was eager to get out of the interminably long line as soon as he possibly could. Why do some people insist on bringing their kids to the BMV with them? That must be a huge pain in the ass.

Anyway, pretending to look over my shoulder out the window at the front of the office, I stole a glance at her. I think we may have made brief eye contact, but it was hard to tell. The glare again.

"Next!" One of the women at the counter yelled. The line shuffled forward. We were all one space closer to the counter.

Women love guys who are musically-inclined, so I started whistling a jaunty tune. I took my phone out of my pocket and pretended to read a text. In order to make it more authentic, I texted myself. I allowed myself a small laugh, shaking my head as if someone had just texted me something amusing.

Finally, I did one of those half-turns, like I was leaning against the wall, so I could give her the opportunity to interact with me. There wasn't really a wall there, though - just one of those pole-and-rope thingies that's meant to keep the line orderly, but almost never quite does the job. I almost stumbled backwards, but caught myself. I did drop my phone, though.

I gave her a half-smile and picked up my phone. She turned away. I think maybe she was looking outside for someone she knew. When she turned back, I tried the smile again, but with a little nod this time.

It was time to step up my game. I opened with, "Don't you just hate waiting in line?"

Of course she hated waiting in line. Everyone hates waiting in line. At least we wouldn't start our relationship with a disagreement, right?

One of the little girls in front of me was attempting to climb her father like one of those walls you see at "family fun center" places. The other one was reaching into his pocket. Looking for loose change, I guess. The man had that defeated, dead-eyed look that people develop whenever they find themselves dealing with the government. Maybe he had candy in there. He didn't seem to notice either of his kids, in any case.

"Actually, I find it kind of relaxing," she said. Dammit! I should have known not to start on a cliché!

"Next customer please," said a man behind the counter. The line shuffled forward another space.

"Well, yeah," I countered. "I mean, I suppose if you want to let yourself go, in a Zen kind of way. But wouldn't you rather be, I dunno ... anywhere else?"

"It depends," she said, finally looking at me.

I was dressed in faded blue jeans and a plain black t-shirt. My hair was a bit wind-blown, as I'd driven to the BMV with my car windows down. I'd never stand out in a crowd on my own, so I had to make this conversation memorable - entertaining, even - if I was going to get anywhere.

"Depends on what?"

"Mostly," she replied, "on whether I can ignore any distractions around me."

"Oh," I said.

She turned around again, towards the big window in front. She must be waiting on someone, I thought. I hope it's not her boyfriend. She then pulled a paperback book out of her purse and opened it to a place she had marked with a dog-ear, turned back in the direction of the line and began reading. Clearly she was interested in me, but wanted me to work for her attention.

Oh, yes. I knew this dance.

"What'cha readin' there?"

She pretended not to hear me, so I tried again, this time a bit louder.

"What are you reading?"

The line moved again Step, drag, shuffle.

"Umm ... Twilight: Another Lunar Cycle." I hadn't heard of that one.

"I haven't heard of that one," I said. "Any good?"

She ignored me again, so I repeated myself.

"Is it any good? I haven't read any of those books, but I hear they're supposed to be really good."

She closed the book, marking her place with a thick finger. I noticed her hands appeared to be very large and strong. I decided that I like that in a woman.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. It's ... uh ... very romantic," she said. "And I like the supernatural elements."

"Oh," I responded. "Sounds interesting. I always liked those Anne Rice books. Did you ever read any of those?"

"No." She lifted her book and continued reading.

I soldiered on, "I bet Lestat would kick Edward's ass, though! And look cool doing it."

She glared at me. Or maybe it was the glare from the lighting again. At least now I had her attention. The climbing girl had reached her father's neck. She appeared to be strangling him from behind, but in his institutionally-induced zombie state, he didn't take any notice.

"Either that, or he'd rock Edward's world - make him totally forget about that Betty chick."

She glared at me again. I think. It was still difficult to tell, with the glasses. The pocket-foraging girl had come up with a piece of bubble gum that looked to have been chewed and re-wrapped. She set about separating the used gum from the wrapper, with her teeth.

The line moved forward, with an almost audible air of resignation. I was next to the wall, now, so I leaned casually against it.

"You know, because of the Vampires in those books all being kinda gay."

"I understood what you were implying," she said. "You don't need to spell it out."

"Oh. OK. I wasn't sure."

"And her name," she continued. "It's Bella. Not Betty."

"Oh, sorry. Like I said, I haven't read any of those."

"Uh-huh." She began to read more pointedly, lifting the book up to block my view of her.

I started whistling again. Trying to think of what to say next. I noticed the title of the book was actually Twilight of the Gods, and it was by some guy with umlauts in his name. Erich something. She was turning away from me again so I didn't get a good look. Must be German or something.

"Hey," I started again. "Isn't it funny how the word "umlaut" doesn't actually have umlauts in it?"

She dropped her hand again and regarded me with what I assumed was interest and maybe admiration.

I went on. "You know, like, shouldn't the first "u" in the word umlauts have umlauts? I guess then it would be pronounced like ueumlauts or something, though, huh?" I really did my best at drawing out the "ü" sound, towards the back of my throat. Women are usually impressed by men who understand foreign languages.

"Yeah. That's funny." She turned around and looked out the window again. Maybe it was her boyfriend, she was looking for, and she was afraid he'd see her talking to me and go into a jealous rage. It would be sweet if I got a chance to impress her with my fighting skills. I hadn't been in a fight since high school, but I was sure I could handle myself.

I flexed my biceps a bit, but I wasn't sure if she noticed. She had her nose buried in that book again. I noticed the heading under the title was The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials. Weird. I didn't think there were any aliens in the Twilight books. There was supposed to be some kind of Indian werewolf tribe, or something, though. Were they Mayan werewolves, maybe?

We all shuffled forward again, as the next person in line was called to the counter.

"Hey, so ... you really think the world'll end in 2012?"

"What, now?" She was clearly intrigued. Maybe even a little turned on. It was hard to read her expression. I'd have to figure out a way to get rid of those glasses.

"You know ... that whole Mayan thing. Like in your book." I gestured to the cover of the book. Suddenly I recognized the name. It was by that Chariots of the Gods guy - the one who thought aliens were responsible for, like, all the mysterious buildings and drawings from ancient times. Like the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge and Easter Island and stuff.

She looked at me with a what the fuck are you talking about kind of expression, before she turned the book around to look at its cover. Her face fell. Then she started to laugh.

"Guess I picked up the wrong book," she said.

I gave her a big smile. "That's OK. I do that all the time," I lied. No sense in embarrassing her. "So, are there, like, any vampires even in that book?"

"I don't know," she confessed. "I haven't actually been reading it. It's not even my book. My roommate asked me to hold on to it for her, and since I hate making small talk with strangers, I pulled it out just to have something to do."

"Oh yes, I understand." I nodded sympathetically. "Waiting in line can get boring."

"No, you don't. I wasn't bored. I don't mind lines. It's people I don't want to have to deal with. I wasn't reading the book. I was using it as a prop, so I could avoid talking to other people. Get it now?"

I gave her a knowing look. "Sure, I get it." I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I don't usually like to talk to the kind of people you meet in the BMV, either."

Her jaw dropped. She must have been shocked to discover we shared such a connection. It was almost as if we were mind-melding right there. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, then her temples. Her eyes were light brown and they tilted down at the sides. They gave her that I'm almost always sad look. They were a little bloodshot, too.

Everyone in line sauntered forward again.

"You look tired," I said, patting her shoulder. "Have you been having trouble sleeping?

"I will tonight." She pushed my hand away.

"Yeah, days like this really take it out of you." I used the excuse of putting my cell phone away to put my hands in my pockets. I guess she just wasn't ready for our relationship to move to the patting on the shoulder level yet. Still, there was an unmistakable warmth in her touch. She was probably just not comfortable expressing herself in public.

"Um, yeah. They certainly do." She put her glasses back on, obscuring from me the full glory of her visage. "Erm ... would you mind doing me a favor?"

"Oh, not at all!" What could she want of me? Did she need help moving a couch or something? "Name it."

"Well, I'm in kind of a hurry, you see ... would you mind if I jumped in front of you?"

Damn! Her favor didn't involve me needing to know where she lived after all. But I'd already committed.

"No, go ahead." I shuffled sideways to let her past.

She gave a small wave to the little girl who was now perched on her father's head. Then she started playing peek-a-boo with her using her copy of Twilight of the Gods. It was going to be difficult to carry on a conversation this way.

Everyone stepped forward. The man with the two girls was up next to be served. I was going to have to act fast, if our relationship was going to make it past the BMV.

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