A True Story


Josh Becker

       I like reading the personal ads.  Being single and thirty years old, having never been married, as opposed to separated or divorced, compels me to believe that Miss Right lurks everywhere.  I never go to a party without thinking that this may be it, she'll be here.  I'm a single, thirty-year-old romantic.
       And what could be more romantic than the personal ads in one or LA's free weekly newspapers, the LA Reader?  For the first time ever I responded to an ad.  Two, in fact.  It's not as though these two ads were particularly special, I just felt like trying it.  One of the ads made a point of the girl being intelligent, attractive and having very red hair.  I wrote two similar letters saying what a nice, sweet guy I was, dug up pictures of myself, addressed envelopes, stuck on stamps, sealed them and then sat there.  Do I really want to do this?  I wasn't sure.  Oh hell, just do it.  I put the letters in the mailbox and promptly forgot about them.
       Weeks went by...
       I was sitting in the little bungalow I shared with two other guys in Hollywood when the phone rang.
       "Hi, this is Jeanie," said the voice in a sexy, breathy, perfume commercial way.
       "Yes?" said I.
       "Is Josh there?"
       There was an unnatural pause, then, "You wrote me a letter..."  She let that hang there for a long moment.  I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.  "...From the LA. Reader," she reminded me.
       "Oh, yeah!"  I quickly looked all around.  Who was in the house and listening?  No one.  Cool.  "How ya doin'?"
       "Good, real good.  You wanna get together?"
       "Sure.  When?"
       "Right now."
       "This minute?"
       "Yeah.  If you want to?"
       "Sure I do. . . "  And then it hit me.  "Oh no!  My roommate has my car."
       "Roommate?" She inquired.
       "A guy.  I live with two guys, actually.  Where are you?"
       "I'm at El Coyote."  This was a good sign, I like El Coyote.
       "But my car's gone.  Can we do this tomorrow?"
       "If you want to meet me, now's the time.  Take a cab."
       Jeez, this broad's not kidding.  ". . . Right.  See you there in a few minutes."
       "I'm the one with the red hair," she added.
       "Riiiight."  I finally remembered her ad as I hung up, ". . .Attractive, bright, intelligent, redhead . . ."  I immediately conjured up a young Maureen O'Hara.
       I called a cab, quickly got dressed, the cab arrived and the next thing I knew I was at El Coyote.  It's two miles away and it came to ten bucks with the tip.  Aw, what the hell?  This was an adventure.
       I hesitantly entered the restaurant.  I looked all around but didn't see her.  At the first booth in the dining area I saw a woman seated with her back to me.  Her hair was incredibly red.  I mean, the red Earth of Tara red.  Four clumps of which were pulled up with rubber bands into what my little sister used to refer to as "whales," like the water spouting out the top. 
       The sight of her from behind was so shocking that I immediately thought, "I can just turn right around and leave," except that at that very moment she turned around and looked straight at me.  I was stuck.  My expression had to one of pure horror because . . .
       . . . She looked exactly like Popeye with red hair!  A crooked under-slung jaw, jutting lower lip where the corncob pipe should go, squinty eyes.  It took all of my presence of mind to not gasp out loud.  All of my electrical impulses screamed FLEE!  And somehow, still ten steps from her table, she somehow knew that I was me.  Now I was completely trapped.  I mean, I guess I could've still split, but I didn't.  I just couldn't do something like that to another person.  I'm not a barbarian for God's sake.  This was still a human being with feelings, albeit a desperately ugly example of one.  I quickly decided to stay and have a drink, it wouldn't kill me.  So I said hi and she said hi and she had an ugly, grating voice, too.  I sat down and ordered each of us a margaritas; the two empty margarita glasses on the table clearly telling me that this new one would be at least her third, and who knew if the table had been cleared?
       The more I looked at her the uglier she got.  She was very thin and bony and had no breasts at all.  God!  Life has to be so difficult for some people.  The first word of her ad was "attractive."  Did she really believe that?
       We talked and she was pleasant enough, but really had nothing to say.
       We had another margarita.
       Heck, she was okay.  I mean, she was ugly, but at least she could laugh.  I finished my drink, feeling a rosy glow from the tequila, told her it was very nice meeting her, wished her all the luck in the world, and started to leave, slightly unbalanced on my high heeled, black cowboy boots.
       "But you don't have a car."
       I stopped.  That was true.  I didn't have a car.  Fuck, how was I going to get home?
       "I'll take you," said Jeanie.
       I suddenly felt trapped.  "No.  That's okay.  I'll call a cab."
       "Come on, let me drive you home.  It's the least I can do since you spent the money on a cab getting here."
       Well why not?  She was ugly, sure, but she seemed like an okay person.  ". . . Sure."
       We got into her beat up, white Toyota and I somewhat reluctantly told her that I lived in Hollywood, which was to the right on Beverly Blvd.  She made a left.
       "Where are you going?  It's the other way."
       "I live this way."
       "But I live the other way."
       "Oh," she said very simply, then pulled a 180-degree turn with screaming tires in a major street and began heading the other way. 
       We drove along in silence for a while.  I told her to turn left on Highland and she did.  Right on Fountain, she did that, too.  Left on McCadden and she drove right past it.
       "You missed it," I said.
       "I know," she replied looking straight ahead.
       "What're you doing?"
       She pulled the car sharply over to the curb, yanked the parking brake and leapt on top of me.  This was on the side of Fountain Avenue, a well traveled thoroughfare.  She had her tongue thrust out into my mouth and all over my face while she grabbed my wrist and forcibly shoved my hand up under her shirt.
       "Fuck me.  What's the difference?  Just do it."
       I'm not a little guy and was not about to be overpowered by a ninety five pound female.  I took hold of her by her bony shoulders, lifted her off of me and put her back in the driver's seat. 
       "Either take me home or I'll walk home," I said reaching for the door handle.
       Jeanie snapped down the brake, put the car in gear, all the while looking straight ahead and began driving slowly up the street.
       "I take you home."
       She turned left on Cherokee, then left again on DeLongpre, then left on my street, McCadden. 
       I pointed at my house. "Right here."
       She stopped the car and stared dead ahead, not saying a word.
       "Well," I said with what I hoped was a note of finality, "thanks for the ride and-"
       She dove on top of me again.  Her tongue was all over my neck as she grabbed my hand and this time shoved it down her pants.
       "Come on, just do it.  What do you care?"
       Once again, I lifted her off or me, like a bony rag-doll, and put her back into her seat.  "I do care, okay?  Now I'll see you later.  'Bye."  I opened the door and started to get out.
       "You'll never see me again," she stated flatly without looking at me.  "You know that."
       "Well," I felt bad, but I'd had enough.  "Probably not."
       "Thanks for coming.  I'm sorry I made a fool of myself."

       Before I could reply, not that I had anything to say, she drove away.  I watched her car disappear around the corner, then my whole body shook for a second.  I felt trifled with; abused; taken advantage of.  And not that I have personally ever forced myself on a woman because I haven't, but I felt that I understood what it must be like to be a woman for a moment.  Being on a date with someone you don't know, that you don't even find attractive, who is suddenly all over you with the attitude of "what's the difference?"  The difference is that you don't want to get that personal with someone you hope to never see again.  If you do have sex with them then they have a certain right to get in touch with you again, to show up at your house, to have sex with you again.  No thanks.
       I went back into my house and didn't mention what happened to my roommates, although I'm sure they would've loved the story and would have only halfway understood why I didn't fuck her.  The old male adage goes, "'My dick ain't got eyes."  In this instance it didn't have to have them, I've got eyes elsewhere in my body and that's enough.  Maybe most men will fuck anything, I cant say for a fact.  All I can say for a fact is that I won't.  If I didn't know that before this incident, I certainly knew it after.
       Ultimately, I am luckier than a woman in this circumstance because there was no way for her to overpower me unless she had a weapon.  I was able to simply lift her off me and put her aside, that's the only difference -- but it's certainly a big one.
       About a week later in the mail there was a tiny manila envelope addressed to me with no return address.  I opened it and inside were five one dollars bills all rolled up around a piece of torn out spiral paper.  The note read: "Here is the money for your cab ride, Jeanie."  Even though this made me feel bad, which I suspect was the point, my sick sense of humor immediately made me think, "But that's only five dollars.  The cab ride was ten.  You owe me five."
       If you'll recall, I responded to two personal ads.  One day the woman that handles the personal ads at the LA Reader called me having just read my letter which had never been picked up.  She recounted humorous stories of the ugliest people she had ever seen bringing in personal ads that all began with "Attractive."  After talking for about ten minutes I asked if she wanted to get together?  She said no, she had a boyfriend, she just liked my letter and wanted to call.  I never heard from her or Jeanie again.