The Girlfriend Solution


“Going, going, gone — that’s what happens when the little blue pill wears off.”

Those were the parting words of Talisha Hickey — girlfriend from the past year, the Antichrist from now on. Her list of complaints was legion, of course, but her chief annoyance was something that still leaves me scratching a flaky snowfall of dandruff from my scalp:  I had never learned to spell her first name.

Admittedly, I often struggled with the phonetics: Ta-LEE-sha just sounded more correct. But to be honest, I had encountered similar problems with other girlfriends.

When I dated Candlelaria Caruso, for instance, it wasn’t spelling that doomed the relationship but my indecipherable scribblings. The legibility of my handwriting was, at best, inscrutable, and my fatal mistake was that the inscription on her birthday card looked like, To Malaria.

After the breakup with Talisha, everywhere I went, I saw someone that resembled her. The crude primitive that worked at the hamburger joint; the graceless gruff that took tickets at the movie theater; the homeless waif that threw her excrement at my car.  On this evening, it was the cashier at Glutton’s Groceries. The young woman was a dead ringer for Talisha, and I almost dropped dead when I saw her. She had Talisha’s Caligula hook of a nose, the blazing blue eyes as fiery as her spiked red hair, and that perpetual sour disposition, like a morning gulp of curdled milk.

True to form, when I thanked the cashier, she replied under her breath with Talisha’s favorite dismissal: “Whatever.”

I don’t even know why I dated Talisha. Making love to her scared me. For one, I never wanted to fall asleep afterward. She insisted I call her my little succubus.

In some ways, an ex-girlfriend was like a dead car battery. What once started your engine each day and took you to new and exciting destinations, eventually left you stranded along the side of the road, usually at the Overlook Hotel.

Tonight, my dead battery moment occurred in the parking lot of the grocery store. I had bought my late-night snack from the cheeky Talisha clone and was headed back to my car.

When I turned the ignition, the dashboard lights flickered, the engine cranked in a death rattle of “RUR, RUR, RUR,” and like a soul departing from a body, my car became a lifeless hull of worthless steel and molded plastic.

I pounded the steering wheel in disgust. “Seriously? This is happening now?”

I got out of the car, just 12 volts shy of a comfortable ride home, and punt-kicked the side door a couple times, leaving a dent the size of a basketball just to show an inanimate object that I was both dissatisfied and stupid.

About that time, Talisha’s look-alike left the store and walked to her car. She even had the same snooty stride that Talisha favored. I shuddered at the horrifying coincidence and silently mouthed the mantra that keeps most right-thinking males out of harm’s way: life’s a bitch and then there’s divorce court. 

With no cell phone, a package of Hostess Ding Dongs, and a credit card balance that had dwindled to fractions, I decided to walk the mile back home. I’d call my buddy and see if I could borrow his jumper cables to avoid the cost of a tow.

I crossed the main road, dodged a couple cars that sped up when they saw me — no doubt former girlfriends — and began my homeward trek. As I shuffled along the sidewalk, munching on a Ding-Dong and taking an appraisal of other ex-girlfriends, the final assessment was clear: I had never been a ladies’ man.

Suave, debonair, and dapper were not my usual adjectives. To borrow from baseball terminology, when it came to wooing the opposite sex, I perpetually rode the pine and never got up to the plate. The only wood I got from the interaction was a splinter.

And it wasn’t from a lack of trying — although most women found me very trying indeed.

To cite an example, Lucy Negativicoccus, a biology student I once dated, and a pretty young thing as hot as a Bunsen burner and with beakers to spare, said I was so inept at love-making that during a flu outbreak she doubted I could even seduce a lonely virus into having a hot and steamy mutation. And Susie Quasar, an astrophysics major who thought the closest I would ever get to a scientific equation was E=McDonalds, barked that she’d need a Hadron-Collider to detect my little troglodyte.

The hostility of these women confounded me. I had never understood what I did wrong. My date nights had become about as stimulating as a Fleet enema. Thankfully, just like an enema, the dates were mercifully quick and induced regularity immediately afterward.

And not all women disliked me. After all, everyone had a mother. From my youthful memories, I knew there would always be a place I could go where my bed was made in the morning and I would receive a few kind words over a cup of coffee — although the maids at Motel 6 rarely spoke English.

The couple of dates I had with one of the maids was surprisingly pleasant. She only spoke Spanish, but she smiled a lot. We soon developed an intricate system of communication through subtle variances in her smiles. For the first time, it was impossible to say anything stupid.

I still miss that girl. She was good to me and didn’t lunge at me with a steak knife like some other women I had known. And most importantly, she didn’t know I was a loser. Sadly, she died one day when she got her head wedged under an electric foot rest at the cinema. Horrible. I don’t even remember her name now. It was something in Spanish.

Still walking, still musing, I continued past a lonely stretch of road surrounded by an abandoned field. The walk had given me much to think about. I recalled something my buddy once said about a lecture he had heard, that, in his opinion, identified my problem with women.

To state it empirically, when 120 pounds of blonde entered my field of vision, a most unappealing biological mechanism occurred that had plagued homo sapiens since women first graced the planet and man decided to walk, more or less, erect. Research scientists sometimes called the phenomenon an involuntary neural synapse, resulting in disorganized communication and societally abrasive behavior — my buddy called it babbling cretinism.

Babbling cretinism had the effect of regressing the gene pool — which in my case was mostly used by mosquito larvae, anyway — and through a pre-evolutionary time-frame,  reconstituted the 
genetic code. In other words, it gave me the IQ of beef jerky.

I thought the theory was bullshit, of course, but my old friend was adamant that only one solution would work for me when it came to women: DON’T TALK TO THEM.

“Dude,” he implored. “I’m telling you this as a friend. Your only friend, in fact. The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was a quick fix with a band-aid compared to the toxic, radioactive sludge that spews from your mouth when you’re around a girl. You can’t fix that. This is all too common with babbling cretinism. If you go out on a date, look sharp, open the car door for her, but keep your mouth closed. Staple the fucking thing shut if necessary. Your words are like a stun gun.”

I wondered if my friend was just an idiot.

As luck would have it, in the distance, I spotted a young woman approaching me on the same side of the road. Here was an opportunity, I thought, to either prove or disprove my friend’s theory. Did I have babbling cretinism or not?

Enough light spilled from the streetlamps to see the girl was a blond wearing a floppy T-shirt and cutoff jeans. I would say something to her.

When the girl was within ten feet, I slowed my pace and gestured with my hands that I intended to make her acquaintance. With a sweet and mellifluous voice, I greeted her arrival with a warm and friendly salutation. I was eloquent, charming, and I imagined my breath was minty-fresh, too.

Unmoved and indignant, like an army battalion pushing past an offensive, the girl paraded by without stopping, remarking with a disgusted growl as she strutted past, “WHATEVER.”

I watched the girl fade into the shadows that invaded the road. A disabling thought overwhelmed me: What if all the women on earth were clones of Talisha and that’s why I saw them everywhere I went? Was her ability to torment me a ubiquitous thing? Was she an omnipresent offender? Could the world truly be that strange?

The lights of my neighborhood loomed nearby. I put my head down and walked with the brisk dedication to get home as soon as possible. I had failed the test and was giving up. I’d go home, pop a TV dinner in the microwave and watch a bad movie on Netflix.

On the final stretch, as I scaled a small hill and trudged past a chain-link fence that enclosed a backyard, I glanced down the embankment to a tangled quilt of ivy, no longer caring about anything, then fixed my gaze on a cinderblock wall, a string of outdoor lights, a small patio deck, a cushioned recliner chair, a naked man and woman — my eyes opened wider — a naked man and woman having rigorous sex in that same cushioned recliner chair.

Even on the cushioned chair, it looked like awkward sex at best, with the pudgy man slipping and sliding in an inept spectacle of oafishness, and the woman crushed by a partner who seemed like a blind harpooner missing his aim. I half expected the couple to up-end the chair and topple onto the cement below in a clumsy display of patio interruptis, but…the unthinkable happened instead.

“Hey! What the hell are you staring at?!” the man in the missionary position shouted at me.

I pretended not to hear him and continued to scale the hill.

“I’m talking to you, dammit! Come back here!”

“Good evening, sir,” I nervously replied, stopping my ascent to look down into his yard. “I’m really sorry if I intruded upon your privacy. I was just out for a walk and minding my own business when —”

“You think minding your own business means gawking at my wife!?”

Before I could utter another slew of apologies, the man leaped off his still very naked partner, grabbed his pants, and began furiously dancing in a circle as he tried to get a leg into one side of them. Gravity won the round, however, and he tumbled onto the ground with a thud, screaming, “Damn these tailored denims!”

I should have used the opportunity to scramble up the road and save myself, but something peculiar about the scene caught my attention: the woman lay motionless on the chair, perhaps rooted in thought. I wasn’t sure if she was mortified that a neighbor had seen her having sex or just enraged by her husband’s uncouth behavior. After all, he had just dribbled his DNA on the patio. It might take an entire biohazard crew to clean that mess.

With his pants finally on, the man glared up at me again: “Stay where you are. I’m coming up there!”

He then entered the back of his house, followed by the mechanical creak and groan of his garage door slowly opening. Soon I would receive the beating of my life. But still, I remained transfixed on the woman in the chair. In a moment of horror, I wondered if she had been drugged, or worse, the victim of an unspeakable crime. I decided to hop the fence and find out.

In my awkward leap, I caught a shoelace on the chain link and flipped over the top, torso rudely wrenched in an unexpected direction, arms splayed out, hands grasping at air, my body dangling upside down like a hog waiting for the butcher — or the shirtless fat guy, whatever fate came first. I could feel loose change tumbling out of my pockets, along with, no doubt, some of my brain cells — what few there were.

Within seconds, I had gone from hero to zero. The shirtless fat guy would soon lurch up the sidewalk as angry as the occupants of a wasp nest in the crosshairs of a can of Raid, and discover me hanging from the fence — a preposterous upside-down cake — stuck in a predicament of my own blundering stupidity. I was a body bag in search of a morgue; I was the maladapted species that proved Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

In short, I was fucked.

I thought of my well-meaning friends who often said to look for the positive in a tense situation. And sure, this was precisely how I wanted to spend my evening, strung up like an inverted messiah while doted on by an overweight Hannibal Lector.

Desperate, I needed an acceptable excuse to explain my predicament to the shirtless fat guy.

1) “Oh, I wanted to study the local fauna in the neighborhood and thought your fence was the perfect vantage point.” Too lame. 2) “The plane I was just on jettisoned its chemical toilets at the same time I was in the loo, and I got sucked outside and fell to this exact spot in your yard.” Too idiotic. 3) “I just wanted to stare at your wife’s private bits.” Too, uh…okay, twenty points for honesty, but don’t be surprised by the police chalk line that’s soon drawn around your cadaver.

Finally, to dislodge my foot from the fence, the only strategy my beleaguered brain could muster was to contort and wiggle my body, first in a nervous dither and then in an ever-increasing series of frantic convulsions. With eyeballs popping and teeth-gritting, I looked caught in the tractor beam of an extraterrestrial spacecraft, the victim of alien abduction, with big-headed greys intent on surgically removing my sex organ and replacing it with a toaster oven.

However…nothing happened. I was still held hostage by my shoe — and I heard footsteps approaching.

Given more time, I might have considered gnawing my foot off. I still had no idea if my corpulent opponent’s preference for orifices was gender-specific. But when I finally resigned to droop my body in a ceremonial display of utter defeat and babble like a simpering fool, the shoelace loosened and I fell cattywampus into the equivalent of a briar patch.

Getting stabbed by thousands of sharp, tiny thistles had never felt so good. I was free. I peered through the thicket just as the shirtless fat guy lumbered up the sidewalk to where I had previously been walking. He shouted a couple of times, “Where did you go?”, and then moved further up the hill.

I tunneled out of the prickly shrub, stood, and cautiously approached the patio.

Standing before the cushioned chair, I could see the woman was indeed quite beautiful, sporting olive-colored skin, a sizable bust, and a sensational summery smile. Still, she didn’t move — and she never would.

With rubbery skin made from silicon and synthetic hair, she was an exorbitantly expensive, anatomically-correct sex doll. I had seen one before on cable TV. She had all the goods. In some circles, if you had the discretionary funds, these dolls were considered the ultimate girlfriend solution. Even babbling cretinism couldn’t kill the moment. And the benefits were intriguing: no pregnancy, no disease, no mother-in-law.

The shirtless fat guy still shouted in the distance: “Come back here, Peep Show!”

I ignored him, gazed briefly at the raving beauty before me and gently caressed a well-shaped thigh. The dim-witted loner had probably viewed women as property for most of his life, and now he had resorted to a twisted, artificial version of one. It was inexcusable…disgustingly deviant…he ought to be put away.

As I prepared to make my escape, somewhat exhausted but a little excited, I felt a sudden wave of guilt, but that didn’t stop me in the end as I dashed down the shirtless fat guy’s driveway with his silicon-based wife slung over my shoulder, shouting at a delirious pitch, “Whatever!”