"Oh, don't this to me! Not now ... Not today," I groaned. "Please?"
Begging wasn't going to help. There's something about me and cars that doesn't mix and everyone knows it. It's kind of a joke amongst my family and friends, but not a very funny one in my opinion. They just don't like me for some reason. Cars I mean. My friends and family, they like me just fine, or I guess they do since I'm always calling one of them for help.
I was halfway from home, which was what I still called my parents' house in the suburbs, to the university downtown where I was going to school. I had a dorm room and I stayed there during the week, but weekends I usually went home. Now it was Monday morning, just around nine-thirty, cause I was always running late, and my car died. I'd managed to get it to the side of the road anyway and I called Triple-A, cause Daddy had signed me up after the first dozen times I'd had flats, dead batteries, keys locked in the car, overheated radiators, a broken window once, suspicious noises, bad fuel pumps, bad alternators, and just about anything else you can think of ... All in cars that worked perfectly well when other people drove them.
Anyway, Triple-A could get a tow truck for me, but it would be two hours cause everyone was having a bad Monday morning apparently. I didn't have two hours, at least not for sitting around by the curb watching the world go by and trying to fend off the Good Samaritans who might be good, or might not be. Being an attractive, nineteen year old black girl was a lot like wearing a bulls-eye, according to my dad, who tended to point out every bit of bad news he came across involving young women and dangerous situations. I tend to trust people a little more than he does, but I'm not a father either, so I guess he has a right to worry.
The one time I'd accepted help from a man, a stranger who couldn't start my car but had given me a lift to a Seven-Eleven, my dad had read me the riot act after I'd told him what had happened. He made me promise that if I couldn't get Triple-A to help me, that I'd call him, or someone I knew, and just sit tight and wait. No strangers giving me rides, yes daddy, I'd promised, and as much as that chafed my grown-up opinion of myself, I had to admit it was probably good advice. There are a lot of weirdoes around, even in Minnesota, believe it or not.
"Good morning, A-1 Plumbing this is..."
"Lonnie!" I said into my celphone. "Is my dad there?"
"Kylie? Yeah, hold on..." She really did put me on hold too and I rolled my eyes to the sound of Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme.
"Kylie? What's wrong?" my dad's deep baritone burst through a moment later, making me wince. He always got too loud when he got excited.
"Guess!" I gave him a wry laugh. "I need a ride to school."
"Shoot." I could hear my dad's frown. "I just had that car checked out last week. What did you do to it?"
"Me?" I asked incredulously. "It's a car, dad. Triple-A is going to tow it in a couple hours, but I need to get to my classes now."
"Yeah, yeah okay. Where are you?" He asked, and after I told him, "Alright, I've got Jamie heading to Brooklyn Center for a job; you're going to be right on his way. Just sit tight until he gets there, okay?"
"Okay Dad," I agreed, like what else was I gonna do?
"I mean it, stay in the car and lock the doors, Kylie."
"Dad..." I sighed. "It's nine o'clock in the morning, all the rapists are sleeping."
"It's not funny, girl," he warned me.
"I'm not laughing, man," I said, feeling a little cross actually because I didn't need a lecture over a celphone.
It was quiet for a second. "Alright, I know. Just ... Take care of yourself. Have Jamie give us a holler on the radio when he picks you up."
"Okay, Daddy," I softened. "I'm just having a Monday, you know."
"Yeah." He actually chuckled. "Me too. You tell them to take the car to Mel's? He can fix whatever he missed last week for free, that lousy..."
"Yeah, I told them, Dad. I love you." I was on a first name basis with the Triple-A people by then.
"Love you too," he said, waiting for me to hang up first, as usual. Like there might be a last second cry for help he didn't want to miss.
My dad. And they talk about over-protective moms?
I did wait in the car, but only cause it was a little brisk outside. I was like in no-man's land between suburbs, the small strips of land that were divvied up, but still undeveloped. It was kind of bleak, actually, and if you weren't from around there you'd never know I was sitting in the middle of about half a million people, with Eden Prairie a few miles behind me and Minnetonka a few miles ahead of me. I didn't know if I was lucky or not that I'd decided to avoid the highways. It didn't matter anyway; Jamie was coming to get me.
That wasn't a bad thing by any means, although I kind of wished the circumstances were different. I'd had a little crush on him since, ohhh God, I was fourteen or so? Yeah, when I was 14 years old and he'd started working for my dad, I'd taken a real liking to Jamie. He was taller than me by a few inches, probably about six feet, a little more maybe, and healthy; kind of a brawny guy with broad shoulders and big chest. Nice butt too. He didn't look like your stereotypical plumber, in fact neither my dad nor any of his employees did. They all looked like regular guys, some of them handsome, some of them not so handsome, but they didn't walk around with their asses hanging out of their pants, you know?
Jamie, with his blonde crew-cut hair and piercing blue eyes, was definitely on my handsome list. It was his smile as much as anything else that did it, a genuine infectious grin that told me everything was alright with the world. Jamie was here and it was all okay. He made my little heart go pitter-patter when I was fourteen, and fifteen and ... You know, he still got my motor running five years later, although he was married now, with a wife and no kids, but soon maybe. It had kind of broken my heart actually, the way it will to a girl when she has to realize her secret crush loves someone else. But I'd grown up a little by then, well, very little as I'd always been spoiled, obviously.
Not that we could have had anything; that was a serious dream. For one thing Jamie worked for my dad, so that would have put me off limits right there for most people. A bigger reason, and one that made even less sense actually, was that Jamie is white and I'm black. I didn't even know if Jamie liked black girls, well, I mean I knew he liked me and my mom, and my sister, sure, he liked us just fine, but would he love a black girl? I didn't know.
I wasn't supposed to love anybody but a black guy, I knew that much. My parents had drummed that into me for quite a while. Starting back in high school I was always being asked about boys, black boys that I knew at school. Who I liked and if I was going to get a boyfriend and all of that. I've always been pretty, more than pretty really, so my parents knew it was coming and they were trying to stay ahead of it, somehow. My dad figured if he was upfront about expecting me to be asked out, I'd be upfront and bring the boy home to meet him, see? It probably would have worked out real good if I'd ever met a black boy I liked well enough to date.
But I don't like black guys and so ... I never brought one home.
That's not to say I didn't have boyfriends. I did, three of them in fact, from the time I sexually awakened at fourteen until I was a senior in high school, although not at the same time obviously. They were all white and cute and, mmmm ... I did think I was in love every time, but that's part of life. You meet people and learn about yourself and others, it helps you grow, and sometimes you find out that what you really need or want is someone else. Falling in and out of puppy love is how we find real love; all that joy and pain is just ... Necessary.
Anyway, I'm getting off the subject because my mind wandered while I was waiting for Jamie to come rescue me. I just wanted to explain why a lot of people, most people, had no idea about the real me. Least of all my parents or my dad would have sent someone else to pick me up, probably. Aside from some of the kids at school, the only one who knew was my younger sister, and she wasn't telling.
"Hey Kylie, did you break it?" Jamie teased me, leaning out the window with his big grin as he parked the A-1 Plumbers van just behind me.
"Yeah, I guess so." I smiled back, shrugging my backpack over my shoulder as I got out of my car. "It's got gas and the radio works, I know that much."
"Well, hop in, I'll get ya where you need to go." He leaned over to open the passenger door for me. "Got everything you need?"
"Yep," I said, pulling myself in and pushing my bag behind the seats towards the cargo area. "Why do you have a mattress in the back of the van?"
"Huh?" Jamie looked over his shoulder.
The van was full of tools and pipes and PVC tubing and all kinds of plumbing stuff. I was familiar with all of it, having grown up riding around in those vans, but I'd never seen a mattress in one and it was pretty strange.
"Oh, uh..." Jamie made a face. "My couch is a little too small."
"Your couch?" I tilted my head, really not getting it at first, but finally it clicked. "Oh, Jamie! Brenda didn't kick you out, did she?"
"It's just for a couple nights. Don't tell your dad, okay?" Jamie looked really embarrassed so I just nodded and let it drop. "Thanks."
.... There is more of this story ...