I knew from the start she was anxious by the way she kept pulling at her hair, twisting the hairs on top into little thorns, then messing them up and twisting them all over again. She’d had it cut short, and when I swung by her place to pick her up her mom had told her she looked like a boy, and though I didn’t exactly disagree, I wasn’t dumb, either, and I knew it was on me to make her feel like a woman again. Which wasn’t a problem. I’d been with ugly girls before, girls uglier than boys, even. So we drove around some, took 22 out of town, toward Sparta, east, where the tree line dropped back off the road and the sky got a little bigger, and I picked a small red brick church right off the highway and we parked behind it and drank some warm Genny Drafts and rolled into the back seat.
The orange light near the top of the church wall shone through the windows on one side of the car, even though we’d fogged them up, and every so often you could hear traffic passing, as if the highway were taking deep breaths. All that light. I knew if I could see her this good, then she could see me this good, too, so she’d know I could see her and would be expecting me to say something about how she looked. So all the time I was saying how beautiful she was. About five minutes in, she asked me to stop.
“I said stop. I don’t feel right.”
“Feels like you feel right to me.”
“Well I don’t.” Then she said, “It’s my hair. I can’t fuck with this haircut.”
I got off her then and she pulled up her pants and climbed back to the front seat. I pulled up my pants and got back up there with her. I started the car and we cracked the windows and sat on our hands and waited for the night air to chase the fog off the windshield.
“It wasn’t anything you did,” she said to the window.
She touched a knuckle to the glass, to the spot where her chin was reflected. “We’re outside and all. It’s different. It’s weird.”
“It’s really all right,” I said. “I understand. We’ll go somewhere else.”
We got back on the highway and I drove her around some but nothing felt right. After about an hour, I took her home. Hell if I know what part of me would make her think of her mother.
Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.