Gene Gene, The Lunatic Cab-Driving Machine

My best friend Anne and I didn’t get cars until much later than most young people, which was a problem because we also wanted to have as much nightlife as possible.  This put us in many compromising positions over the years catching rides from other people (as you may have read about a few blog posts ago where we were nearly murdered in the woods), so we had to find other solutions for how we were going to get to the various bars and clubs that we needed to go to every weekend.  We were finally over 18, and we wanted to break free of only being able to hang out at places that were within walking distance.

We were both working full-time at shitty low-paying jobs ($7.00 and $6.00 an hour, respectively), but we had super low living expenses at the time, which meant we at least had a little spending money.  Not enough to buy a car, and we weren’t old enough to rent a car, so we had to figure out some other way to get around town to go out dancing.  We lived in a severely public transportation-challenged area in Florida.

The closest place to go hang out and dance to “alternative music”, which would also let us in as 18 year olds, was about a half hour drive away.  Every now and then we could convince a third party to drive us up there, but they more often than not would be of the variety that wanted to go home at midnight, and Anne and I wanted to stay until the sun came up.  We were budding party monsters, and we wanted to stay out all night every night.  You invest enough time gluing tiny crystals to your eyelids and you need to make sure you get as much dancefloor return on your investment as possible.

We decided we would start taking cabs to the club, which was far from ideal.  Not only did it cost $40 each way plus tip, but the cab service in our area was spotty, at best.  You might get all dressed up, call for a cab, and the dispatch place would literally say, “We don’t have any cabs available for the rest of the night.”  Sometimes they would show up three hours late.  Sometimes they just didn’t answer the phone at all.  When somebody actually did manage to show up, they would be the type of person described on America’s Most Wanted as “Last Seen in Florida”.

Also, pretty much everyone on America’s Most Wanted was described as “Last Seen in Florida”.  I don’t know why they didn’t just change the name of the show to that.

One particular Saturday night, we called the cab company and they said they had someone in the area who could pick us up right away.  We were thrilled, and we scrambled to finish getting ready.  The cab driver pulled up into the driveway a few minutes later and we hopped in.

His name was Gene, and he was an old school loudmouth-type from New York.  You know, the kind of guy who in the 70s, when his dad would hit him in the back of the head at the dinner table for talking back, he would yell back, “Would ya just watch the hair?! Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it.  He hits my hair.

But he wouldn’t even be quoting Saturday Night Fever.  If anything, Saturday Night Fever was probably quoting him.  Now I have to go watch Saturday Night Fever again.  For the 800th time.  Be right back.

Man, that movie is fucked up.  I hope they got some trauma counseling for Annette besides “head-shrinkin’ is for pussies”.  It never fails to turn me into emotional jelly when she sobs at Tony Manero, “All I ever did was like you!”

When we gave Gene the address of where we wanted to go, he said he was going to need the money up-front in order to drive us that far.  I guess he thought we were going to get to the club and make a break for it in our 60s throwback minidresses and white knee-high go-go boots and stiff him for the fare.  We would have been fairly conspicuous trying to pull that off regardless of our outfits, considering we would have collapsed fifty feet from the cab, because we both had the athletic endurance of a wet paper towel.

We didn’t have any real options, so we gave Gene the $40 fare up front, and then got on the road – where he proceeded to tell us his entire life story.  Something involving a union, a meatball, and/or Mussolini’s purported cousin who lived down the street from him.  Naturally, he let us know that he “knew a guy” who could “take out” anyone he wanted with “one single phone call”, because all of those guys know a guy who can take out anyone they want with a single phone call.

I’ve never understood why that’s a thing people brag about?  Also, I’m pretty sure if you brag about that sort of thing to strangers, then you don’t really “know a guy”.  I’m sure the “Know A Guy” Guy doesn’t generally like to murder strangers on behalf of cab drivers who tell people their life stories within thirty seconds of meeting them.  Loose lips sinking ships and what-have-you.

We got the impression Gene was a Grade A bullshit artist, but he was so intriguing as a 70s New Yorker stereotype, we were transfixed by his stories.  It was like having a cross between John Travolta and Travis Bickle drive you around town.

As Gene sped down the I-95 on-ramp, he became annoyed at a car he perceived wasn’t letting him in.  After he merged onto the main highway, he hit the gas and sped up to them, then jerked in front of them and slowed down, turned on the light inside the cab, turned his body towards us in the backseat, leaned over and stretched one arm waaay back, right between our faces, and stuck up his middle finger at the car behind us.  “Sorry about my reach there, girls – I had to make sure that fucker saw I was flippin’ his stupid ass off!  Some fucking people, I tell ya!”

Right after this triumphant flip-offery, Gene’s favorite song happened to come on the radio, which meant that Gene, now brimming with middle finger power, turned the volume up until the blown-out speakers crackled, slammed his foot down the gas pedal, took both hands off the wheel, and started playing furious air-drums, with a lit cigarette in one hand.

No, it wasn’t a Journey song.  If this were fiction, trust me, I would make it a Journey song.

It was the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”, and since Gene had all the windows down, his cigarette ashes were flying right back into the car as he air-drummed away.  We sped down the highway towards the club going a hundred miles an hour as burning snowflakes of cigarette ash whipped us in our glittery faces.  At the big drum finish at the end of the song, Gene got so wild with his air-drumming that the cherry from his cigarette flew into the backseat and landed on my lap and burned a hole in my dress.  I picked it up with my fingernails and threw it out the window as fast as I could.  Gene said, “Oh shit, did I get ya?  SAHH-REE!” as he lit a new cigarette.

Then a Sublime song came on and he said, “Fuck this shit!”, and turned it down. At the very least, you could say Gene certainly had his standards.

When we got to the club, Gene gave us his business card and said to call him when we needed a ride back home, I guess since he now knew we were: (a) good for the $40, (b) apparently didn’t scare too easily, and (c) hadn’t yelled at him for trying to set me on fire.

Did we throw Gene’s card away?  Hell no!  This is the part where I remind you that young Anne and Maggie were idiots.

We had an awesome night at the club and stayed until close.  We called Gene and he picked us up, as promised, and didn’t even make us prepay this time.  Apparently, we had “bonded” on the drive up, so now he trusted us.  He was a little more sedate this time, but still talked a mile a minute.  It was less of the variety where he told us he could have someone killed, and more of the variety where he told us about all the people in his life who had let him down.  It was the end of the night, so I imagine he must have been weary and tired at that point, and really, how many stories can you tell about how you kicked that motherfucker’s ass after he stole all your gold chains?  We were tired, too, so we stayed pretty quiet most of the ride.

As we turned down a street that connected the two main streets in town, Gene, as it would soon become apparent, caught his second wind.

The connecting street was lined with huge, old trees and beautiful homes with matching beautiful yards.  It was one of those really nice family neighborhoods with tree-swings and birdhouses that matched the main houses.  Just idyllic and gorgeous, like something out of Better Homes and Gardens.  It was also one of those neighborhoods that went to great lengths to keep people from using it as a cut-through, I assume because they had already had their fair share of cars racing down the street like a straight-away when their kids were just trying to ride bikes and roller-skate.  Every intersection, no matter how small or how close it was to the previous one, had a stop sign with speed bumps before each one, and the speed limit throughout the neighborhood was 20 miles per hour. Gene was not a fan of this as a concept.

Gene got the to first stop sign and speed bump combo, looked around and said, “Well, what the fuck is this shit?”

Gene then put two and two together pretty quickly and decided that this traffic control system was no mere traffic control system.  Not to Gene.  This traffic control system was the first shot in a class war.  A class war that Gene had, apparently, been fighting his entire life, and had built a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder to prove it.

He held down the horn, hit the gas and burned out the tires as he shot towards the next stop sign, intermittently laying on the horn the whole way.  He slammed the brakes and skidded a good twenty feet before he came to the next speed bump, stuck his head out the window, and yelled, “YOU LIKE THAT, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!  YOU WANNA KEEP ME OUT OF YOUR FUCKING NEIGHBORHOOD?!  OH, YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE LIKE ME CUTTING THROUGH YOUR PRECIOUS FUCKING NEIGHBORHOOD, DO YA?!  OH NO, YOU’RE WAY TOO FUCKING HIGH CLASS TO LET SOME POOR FUCK LIKE ME ON YOUR STREET!  HOW YOU LIKE THIS, YOU RICH FUCKS!  HA HA HA HA HA!!!!  YOU LIKE ME NOW, YOU FUCKS?!!”

Anne’s and my hearts were racing as we gripped each other’s hands and held on for dear life.  We figured at the very least, when the cops came it would be obvious that we were just customers and had no part in this, seeing as neither of us had a tommy gun or a feedbag of cocaine on our laps.

(Then we let each other’s hands go, because we remembered we’re tough guys who don’t hold hands.  In 27 years of best friendship, I believe she and I may have hugged twice.)

There were six more stop signs in the neighborhood.  You can just go ahead and re-read a few paragraphs up to find out what happened at each one.  He even made up a little melody to go along with his obscenity-laden tirades that he punctuated with his horn honking, like this:  “THIS – IS – WHAT – YOU – RICH – MOTH – ER – FUCK – ERS – GET – FOR – BE – ING – SUCH – FUCKS!!  YOU – CAN – GO – AND – SUCK – MY – DICK – YOU – FUCK – ING – FUCKS!!”

When Gene dropped us off at home a few minutes later, still breathless from his tirade, he said, “Listen.  Girls!  Keep a few of my cards, and call me direct the next time you need a safe, clean ride.  I don’t like the idea of youse girls getting into a cab with some of these guys.  Some of these characters are real nutjobs.”

You would think this experience would mean that we would never be calling Gene ever again, but Gene actually became our regular cab driver until Anne finally bought a car later that year.

You would also think that Gene wouldn’t repeat the honking and screaming obscenities out the window thing every time he drove us through that neighborhood, but you’d be wrong on that one.  He did it every single time.

We Went to Jail to Try to Pick Up Guys

Anne and I had one major requirement when it came to dating in the 90s.  The guy absolutely, positively, must, must, must have long hair.

It didn’t have to be Sebastian-Bach-from-Skid-Row-long to their waist or anything (although that was the ideal), but it definitely had to be at least Whitfield-Crane-from-Ugly-Kid-Joe-shoulder-length.  We would often come home from high school, pop on MTV, and sit around and have conversations that went something like this:

“I just don’t think I could ever be attracted to a guy who didn’t have long hair.”

“I know.  When I see a hot guy with short hair, it just makes me sad.  I mean, how many years would it take to grow that out?  Would I be willing to wait that long?”

The problem was that we lived in South Florida, which wasn’t exactly Los Angeles or Seattle, where in the 90s you couldn’t swing a life-sized cardboard cutout of Chris Cornell without knocking over five guys with long hair.  In South Florida, post 80s, the long-haired man became a more elusive creature.  When Anne and I would see one in the mall, we would literally drop whatever clothes we were holding at Wet Seal and quietly chase after him like some kind of secret Beatlemania and then stalk him as he walked around the record store.  We would often be riding in the car with my mom, who greatly, greatly indulged us, and when we saw a long-haired guy walking down the street, we would force her to turn the car around so we could get another look at him and yell, “Woooooooo!” out the car window.  Also, about half the time it would turn out to be a woman.

“Being a woman” was about the only thing that would disqualify a long-haired person from being dating material for us back then.  We were willing to overlook just about anything in a guy if they had long hair.

Are you a jerk?  Yes?  Do you have long hair?  Then you’re not a jerk so much as you’re just “misunderstood”.

Are you unemployed and live in a van?  Yes?  Do you have long hair?  Then you’re not unemployed and living in a van so much as you are an “uncompromising freelancer nomad”.

I think it’s probably the same for men who chase after women who have those 48DDD Jessica Rabbit boobs, where you overlook your suspicions about her framing you for murder because tittaaaaaaays.

Anne and I would sometimes find ourselves in a dry spell, long-haired guy-wise, and on one particular night, we reached pretty far down the well to try to remedy it.  We went to jail.

My mom worked in a doctor’s office and had befriended the little old lady, Margie, who cleaned the office at night.  Margie was one of those little old ladies who had worked shit jobs scrubbing floors her entire life, and wasn’t even a little bitter about it.  She was a solid lady and was just delightful to be around.  She was so adorable, she used to run away from the lizards outside the office door while yelling, “I don’t like those bugs with tails!” in her thick, Pittsburgh accent.  Honestly, you couldn’t even write her as a fictional character, because nobody would believe it.  She was like a sugar-sweet version of Johnny Dangerously’s mom, Ma Kelly.

Unfortunately for Margie, she had a parasite named “Brett”.   Brett was her grown-ass, unemployed 30-something shirtless son who sponged off of her and sat around her apartment all day drinking and smoking weed with his fellow sponger-friends, routinely got arrested for drunk and disorderlies, and was an all-around low-life.  Margie worked full-time scrubbing floors, but had to be home by 5pm every night because that was when Brett expected her home to make dinner for him.  And do his laundry.  And give him pocket money for the bar.

Margie had a more forgiving view of Brett’s situation, which she often summed up as, “Brett can’t get no steady work”.

This somehow implied that Brett was looking for work, which he definitely was not.  We heard this refrain so often from her that we officially changed his name from “Brett” to “Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work”.  We lost touch with them over the years, but if I had to guess, I would say that Margie probably keeled over and died from exhaustion fifteen years ago while making Brett his favorite pasketti and he’s still storing her dead body in a freezer somewhere so he can collect her Social Security checks.

Late one Saturday night, Margie called my mom in a panic.  It seemed Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work had gotten arrested again, this time for starting a bar fight probably over whether it was produced “Viet-NOM” or “Viet-NAM”, and Margie’s vision wasn’t good enough to allow her to drive in the dark to go bail him out.

Anne was spending the night at our house, and when my mom said she would go pick Margie up and take her to jail to bail out Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work, we didn’t think that much of it.  That was, right before my mom was getting ready to walk out the door, and it dawned on me, “OH MY GOD.  DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY LONG-HAIRED GUYS THERE PROBABLY ARE IN THAT JAIL?”

Anne and I hopped up and threw on our sluttiest clothes and ran to get in the car with my mom, because teenage Anne and Maggie are idiots.  How our teenage years didn’t end with us being found in shallow graves or stuffed inside the septic tank of a tour bus is completely beyond me.

We figured that even if the long-haired guys were behind bars, they probably had friends or bandmates who would show up to bail them out, and being that this was county lock-up, some of those guys may have even been in there for a few months, so they would be hot to trot for a couple of barely legal types like ourselves, assuming their legs weren’t still shackled together.  Not that leg shackles would have disqualified a long-haired guy from our dating pool, of course.  We would have just said he was the kind of guy who “liked to take things slow”.

We primped and lipsticked in the car vanity mirror in the parking lot at the jail like we were getting ready to walk into a Warrant video.  We strutted through the parking lot, readjusted our bras for maximum push-uppedness, and flung open the door.

Much to our dismay, rather than the virtual Headbangers Ball we were expecting to find in the waiting area, anyone who was there looked exactly like Margie.  It was an exclusive club of old cleaning women who were there to bail out their good-for-nothing adult sons.  I was surprised they didn’t all know each other and settle into a game of Mahjong while they were waiting.  Instead, they scrutinized the cleanliness of the floor and offered up homemade business cards for their cleaning services to the cop at the front desk.  They probably should have used the opportunity to unionize.

When Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work made bail, we sad-faced trudged out of there and back through the parking lot, in full-on sullen teenager mode.  As we got into the car, defeated, Anne looked up at the tiny windows that dotted the side of the building and saw a long-haired silhouette wave to us from inside the jail and said, “OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!!!”.

I looked up and he was gone.  Like a shooting star, I had missed it.

I Didn’t Get Murdered. The Next Girl Did.

I didn’t get my drivers license until I was 21.  I had been in a particularly bad accident when I was 15, and I was absolutely petrified at the notion of getting behind the wheel.  So I put it off, and put it off.  And put it off.  As much as my life had been turned upside down after my accident, and I was dealing with PTSD daily while trying to pass the tenth grade, my accident would turn out to be the thing that would eventually save my life.

The thing about not having a car or a license when you’re between the ages of 16 and 21 is that you have to depend on the kindness of others to give you a ride everywhere.  The problem with depending on the kindness of others to give you a ride is that you often find yourself stuck in situations that are boring at best and terrifying at worst, with no way to extract yourself from the situation.

Good example – the last time I witnessed someone shoot heroin in front of me was the night before I got my first car, twenty years ago.  Haven’t witnessed it since.  It’s not because I found Jesus, or even a better class of friends.  It was because from the moment I got that car, as soon as I could see the sleazy direction an evening was going, I would jump in my car and get the hell out of there.

There was no such thing as Uber or Lyft back in the 90s, and if you didn’t live in a big, metropolitan city, there were no cabs, either.  Sure, you could call a cab and wait over an hour for one to maybe show up – and that’s a big “maybe” – and even if one did show up, the driver was typically a large drunk man who wanted to know if you were “single, honey”.  As teenagers, we ended up hanging out at places we could walk to.  It was the only way to have a social life.

Anne and I were at the beach one night, hanging out where all the bad teenagers and young adults hung around and smoked weed, played guitar, and generally bothered passers-by.  She and I weren’t into drugs or mayhem, but it was the closest place for two teenage girls to hang out that was within walking distance of Anne’s parents’ house.

There was a deadhead bar across the street from the pavilion where everyone hung out, and a Grateful Dead tribute band played there every Saturday night, the music spilling out the patio doors and into the street.  Under-aged neo-hippie girls twirled their long skirts as they danced across the sidewalk, while over-aged guys who went by names like “Jester” and “Willow” tried to convince them to come down to the lifeguard stand on the beach to smoke out with them.

Several of the girls I knew from my high school art class had smoked out with Willow, a tall, skinny, blonde hippie guy who was apparently allergic to wearing shirts, but could always be found wearing a black hat.  Like an actual villain, if The Traveling Wilburys had allowed villains in the band.  He literally asked me, “What’s your sign?” when I first met him, that’s how hokey this guy was.  And when I told him, he then asked me what my “rising sign” was.  I swear, this guy was like a propaganda cartoon of a hippie pervert.

The girls he had smoked out with told me that he typically demanded a certain form of “payment” in exchange for sharing his Kind Bud with them, but that he wasn’t “like, pushy about it” or anything.  How hard do you have to push a teenage girl whose high out of her mind to blow you on the beach?  I know what you’re thinking.  While Willow was a real gem, he’s not the one.  He was just exactly the type of guy who hung around there on a Saturday night.

One Saturday night Anne and I walked down to the pavilion and there were two guys we hadn’t seen there before.  Not hippies!  They chatted with us while they passed a guitar back and forth, both claiming that they wished they’d had their 12-string guitars with them so they could play whatever songs guys play on 12-string guitars because they think it impresses girls.

(By the way, girls are not impressed by 12-string guitars.  In 1992, they’re impressed by how much you look like Nuno Bettencourt.  Do an image search on Google for “Nuno Bettencourt 1992” and you’ll see I have no ax to grind here.  You could play a triangle and girls in 1992 would swoon if you looked like Nuno Bettencourt because if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, women are just as shallow as men.)

The guys introduced themselves as Tony and Steve.  I thought Tony was the most rock star thing I’d ever seen and he, in turn, seemed like he was mostly indifferent to the fact that I existed.  This fact made Tony fully, thoroughly, almost shamelessly, my type.  Anne and I flirted and chatted some more with them, mentioned that we’d be around the same place, same time, next Saturday and then walked home.

Over the next week, Anne and I made a plan for the next time we saw Tony and Steve.  The plan consisted of one element:

  1. Do not get in a car with Tony and Steve.

While we were as dumb as any teenagers, we had been taught that it was never okay to get into a car with men you didn’t know.  We determined that if Tony and Steve showed up at the beach and wanted us to get in a car with them to go somewhere else, we would say no, and that we would just keep hanging out at the beach.  Simple.  Easy.  We figured if we spent a couple of weekends getting to know them, then it would be okay to go somewhere else with them.

Our mothers would have been proud.  Okay, not really proud.  Relieved?  Nah, probably not relieved, either.  As it was, they had no idea that we got all dolled up every Saturday and snuck out until 2am to hang out with a bunch of delinquents and druggies at the beach.

Saturday night finally came around and Anne and I were sitting on a bench at the pavilion.  Tony and Steve pulled up in Steve’s old and beaten up four-door black sedan and parked in front.  Tony got out of the car and walked up to me and said, “Hey, wanna get out of here?  Steve’s still got the car running.”

I don’t think we said, “Okay!” fast enough as we hopped off the bench and bounded towards Steve’s car and climbed into the backseat.  So much for our plan.

It wasn’t my fault!  Why did Tony have to look so goddamned much like Nuno Bettencourt?

Steve backed out of the parking space, squealing the tires, and sped down the street about a hundred miles per hour like he was fleeing a crime scene.  Anne and I laughed nervously, exchanged terrified glances with each other, and pretended that we hadn’t just made the biggest mistake of our lives.

Steve was the only one who was over 21, so our first stop was at a nearby 7-11 to pick up a 12-pack of cheap beer.  He came out of the store and cracked open three beers and handed them out to everyone, then cracked open one for himself and started back down the road.  He ran every stop sign, and at one point we were actually driving full-speed on the wrong side of a divided highway.  I mouthed to Anne, “We are going to die tonight” and she nodded her head.

We had no idea where Tony and Steve were taking us, and when we asked, Steve said, “Don’t worry about it.”

The car slowed at the entrance to an industrial park.  It was close to midnight now, so there were no cars or people there.  Steve turned down a one lane road that ran behind the building.  Way behind the building.  As we passed trees that got more numerous and densely-packed, Anne and I looked at each other in horror.  It was like everything our mothers had warned us about was coming true.

Steve eventually turned off the road into a small clearing, surrounded by pine trees.  It was just big enough to fit around two cars.  The woods surrounding it were deep, and Anne and I had no idea where we were oriented from the main highway.  Steve stopped the car and turned off the engine.  We sat there in silence.

After the longest minute of my life, Tony said, “Let’s sit on the hood and have some more beers!”

We got out of the car and the guys handed us two more beers.  We started talking about mutual friends, bands we liked, that sort of thing.  The conversation lightened up, and I relaxed a little.  Maybe nothing bad would happen after all!  I was surprised that the guys weren’t even trying to put any moves on us, though.  You would typically expect two young guys who had been drinking to be pawing at us like fresh meat, but they kind of kept their distance, actually.  They seemed more interested in talking and drinking than doing anything else.

After another hour or so and a few more beers, Steve started to become the angry-variety of drunk, and any sense of relaxing that I had previously had was evaporating quickly.  He started making fun of my clothes, my hair, the way I talked.  He said, “Girls like you, you think you’re hot shit.  You’re just shit, though.  That’s all you are.  You’re shit.  You’re SHIT.”  It came out of nowhere, and it was particularly brutal.  I expected Tony to jump in at some point and tell Steve to knock it off, but much to my horror, he actually joined in.  It seemed like the two of them were feeding off each other’s meanness towards us, and Anne and I could see the situation was deteriorating quickly.

Steve managed to grab one of Anne’s shoes and threw it into the woods.  He dared her to go off alone to go get it.  She laughed it off and said, “No way!” and gave me a pleading look.  I gave her one back because I just didn’t know what to do.  We knew the worst thing we could do was to become separated from each other.  Anne stood there, wearing one shoe.  Steve continued taunting us.

Having spent so many years around scumbags in my neighborhood at that point, I had been able to talk my way out of plenty of scary situations in the past, so my mind raced to think of something, anything, that would change the course of events that were unfolding.  I had to find a way to change the subject.

I blurted out, “Did I tell you guys that I got hit by a car last year?  I broke my back, my pelvis, and my foot, and I had to learn how to walk again.  I was in the hospital for months.  It was really awful.”

Okay, so it was a slight fib.  While I had been hit by a car and broke my back, pelvis, and foot, I had been in the hospital for two weeks with physical therapy for a few months after.  I didn’t have to learn to walk again so much as I had to learn how to walk with crutches for three months.  They didn’t need to know that.

What I wanted from them, what I was counting on, was enough time to create a shift in their mindset so that they would feel sorry for me.  So that whatever they were planning to do to us that night, it would seem like I’d at least already been through enough in life, and Anne too, by association.  They were talking to us like we were less than human, and I wanted to humanize myself as much as possible.  I wanted them to realize that Anne and I were not merely “things”.

When I piped up and told them about my accident, Steve said, “So?  You want me to feel sorry for you?”

Uh oh.

Tony, on the other hand, softened.  He asked me how it happened.  He wanted to know details.  He stopped focusing on what Steve was saying.  A minute later, Tony said, “Hey, let’s get out of here.  The mosquitos are eating me alive out here.”

We got back in the car and Anne asked Steve to point the car’s headlights towards the woods where he had thrown her shoe.  She hopped out, grabbed her shoe, and got back into the car.  Steve and Tony drove us back to the beach and dropped us off.  There were no kisses goodnight and no phone numbers exchanged.

We saw them the next week at the pavilion, and Tony and I actually started seeing each other.  He was surprisingly pretty cool when Steve wasn’t around, plus he continued to look like Nuno Bettencourt.

One night a couple months later, Steve asked me to take a walk with him down the sidewalk.  It was in public, so I felt okay.  He told me he was sorry that he had been so mean to me that night in the woods, and that he was only mean to me because he couldn’t stand that I was obviously interested in Tony and not him.  He told me Tony was a real dirtbag and that he would ditch me the moment I slept with him (he did).  He asked me to give him a chance.  I told him I was sorry, but that I just liked him as a friend.  He said that was cool.

Steve murdered the next girl he dated, in the same woods he had taken us to that night.  He stabbed her and beat her to death with a baseball bat.  He made a plea bargain, and with time off for good behavior, he was out of prison before I even hit 30.