Her nickname was Wolf, but her real name was Hailey.
Hailey’s dad was a former California Highway Patrolman, which I discovered when I picked her up at her house and he opened the door to reveal his service commendations hung on the wall in the entryway. I was nervous to begin with, and this was the ratchet before the ratchet of his pop-quiz interrogation about me and my life.
She lived out in the then-boonies of Duvall, Washington off of a twisting, long paved-over logging road that snaked through a canyon of third-growth Douglas Firs that connected Redmond and Duvall. The entrance to her subdivision was guarded by a ramshackle collection of mailboxes that marked their service duty in varying layers of algae, lichen, moss, and needles. The gravel road served the 20 arce parcel that had been chopped up into various sub-parcels over the years and my doubts began to grow about the date as my station wagon’s suspension surfed from mud puddle pothole to mud puddle pothole as I avoided the larger forest sentinels crowding the road.
The splashed mud would help hide the rust on the sickly brown-organe exterior but I was deeply concerned about the exhaust manifold. It had been working itself loose at most inconvenient times, like at stoplights and on the freeway. This meant I’d have to find a suitable place to pull over, get out my leather gloves, shove the exhaust pipe back onto the manifold opening, and then tighten up the connecter with a crescent wrench from the fully-stocked toolbox that travelled everywhere with the car.
Slowing to turn on the dome light and check the directions of which Y to take which way in, I drove into a pothole in my distraction. Hard. Hard enough to pop the exhaust pipe off, unleashing the unmuffled growling thunder of a mid-1960’s General Motors V8 engine into the woods. Fortune was with me, as the only thing in sight was the forest swallowing the roar whole.
Even the flattest part of the road had ruts in the gravel, so I found the highest spot to pull over at and figure out what the hell to do while the hot metal cooled down in the damp December evening air. There was no way to complete the entire reassembly procedure without getting completely smeared in mud, so I gambled that getting it back together without a tighten would hold it until it could be done properly.
Removing my shirt and donning my headlamp and gloves, I did my best to crab walk under the car on my shoulder blades, trying to keep my ass off of the wet ground with marginal success. Struggling to connect a hot hanging pipe above your head while arched from your shoulder blades to your feet is a hell of a core workout. By the time I was back in the car, sweat combined with liquid earth was running down me in brown rivulets. I mopped and cleaned myself to be as presentable as possible for a first date, only to find myself sweating again in the entryway of a huge, new-ish house tucked back in the woods that only ex-pat Californians and Microsoft millionaires could afford in the late 1980’s.
It was all peaks and dormers and angles that surely bore the weight of the insults and curses the tradesmen hurled at the architect and apprentices who cut accidentally reversed pieces of studs and drywall. The irregular slate flagstones of the entry were topped by a rich, dark wood wainscoting and trim. It immediately reminded me of a house I’d helped remodel a few years earlier when I worked in the trades where the rich owner had an entire just-laid walnut floor ripped up and re-laid with a different glue because she was sensitive to the smell.
Though I hardly passed the threshold, I’m certain its cabinetry and kitchen was amazing, the bathrooms had luxurious fixtures, and just off of or in the den was a large gun safe.
Hailey’s dad was a mustachioed, solid-torso, five-foot ten guy wearing a tucked-in polo shirt. He might have been wearing a Speedo and flippers, but I was afraid to break eye contact. His buzz cut hair and mustache had gone to grey and white from its original blonde, which I spied in a photograph over his shoulder where he was smilingly receiving a service award in full dress uniform, shaking the hand of some anonymous to me suit.
While Hailey finished primping before coming downstairs, her dad quizzed me on what I did for a living, (worked at a pet store while going to school,) where I went to school, (the University of Washington,) what I was studying, (political science,) where I grew up, (not too far away,) what my family did, (military, pipefitting, foreign service, insurance, software, real estate,) and apparently having passed the test, we fell to small talk.
He’d retired and moved north to get away from California and the bad influences on his daughter, which he was unspecific about. I was busy bolstering my bonafides somewhere between an exposition about my salt of the earth grandfather the ditch digger and my sterile and evil stepmother who wrote cruise missile targeting software when Hailey came downstairs.
Hailey and I met in a noisy bar with a dance floor about a week earlier while I was out with three friends, Joe, Kyle, and Jeff, celebrating Joe’s birthday. The birthday boy was attempting to do what he almost always did, pick up women. He almost always struck out, oftentimes spectacularly, which the rest of us always gave him rations of shit about.
That night, Joe had his eye on a very attractive and impeccably dressed and made up blonde woman sitting in a booth with three friends, one of which was Hailey. He first approached the blonde for a dance and was rebuffed, so bought her a drink and asked again, and was rebuffed again. This pissed him off so we ordered him a drink. Then one of the blonde’s and Hailey’s friends headed over to our booth and asked Kyle to dance, eliciting stifled laughter that exploded from me and Jeff once they were on the dance floor.
A couple of songs go by while we listen to Joe complain bitterly about women until Kyle came back to announce he’d given her his number, sending Joe off on another tirade. Hailey and I were making eyes at each other across the bar and apparently a game was afoot, as the other of the blonde’s and Hailey’s companions, Stacy, came over to ask me to dance.
Me? The trans queer girl who was trying very hard to pretend she wasn’t a girl and also trying very hard not to wish she was the one wearing a dress and had no idea she was queer because she was attracted to women but who thought she was straight because she was attracted to women? Um, okay.
After dancing awkwardly, I did my duty and awkwardly gave her my phone number before sitting down because Kyle had done the same thing and it seemed like the right thing to do. But I couldn’t take my eyes off of Hailey. She was tall-tall, maybe as tall as my six feet, had raven-black hair and bright, hazel eyes radiating bright beacons of veiled wickedness I felt from across the room as I matched frequencies. I was hooked.
Noticing her voluptuous figure straining to escape from the black dress she wore above her knee-high black boots, my mind did what it does and mentally erased every other human from the room, leaving us sitting alone together across the bar from each other with a very loud sound system blaring dance music before we…
She was one of those fantasies that skip around the brain after being delivered on a happy cosmic ray you never really remember except for whatever warm fuzzy feeling it brought. And. She. Was. Sitting. RIGHT. OVER. THERE.
So of course being totally overwhelmed and maybe even blushing, I probably stared into my drink and tried very hard not to look in her direction while looking in her direction. Being a complete failure at just about everything, I failed and looked, and she motioned me over.
Me? Really? What? Holy shit.
“Okay, don’t blow this,” I told myself as I excused myself from the table and motioned for my seatmate to hop out so I could, too.
“Hey, where are you going?” one of my friends asked.
Nodding towards her table, “Uh, over there.”
“Be right back…”
And all of a sudden there I was, happily presenting myself after being beckoned from across the room. I am not the type of girl to respond to a beckoning from across a room unless I know the person well, but I guess I am because there I was.
She could have said she wanted to know what my name was. Should could have said she had a bet with her friends to see if I’d come over. She could have said I was the most freakish looking person she’d ever met. She could have said my fly was open. She could have said Look out! before a knife plunged into my back.
I didn’t hear a word of it because my brain was frozen in combat for its attention to focus on either symbolically processing her spoken words or madly attempting to chase away further fantasies that might cause me to spontaneously combust by keeping my eyes locked on hers so they wouldn’t wander to her cleavage or (heaven forbid) one of her friends.
I probably looked like a maniac. Or a lunatic. Maybe both. I must have been her type because she handed me a piece of paper with her phone number on it, which I gratefully took. Some coherent mumbling of thanks must have escaped me because she smiled before I floated back to my table.
“What was that all about?” Kyle wanted to know.
“Yeah,” Jeff chimed in.
“She gave me her phone number.”
“What?” Joe sounded incredulous.
“She gave me her phone number.”
“Bitches. They’re all the same,” Joe said to no one in particular.
No Joe, they’re not, I thought as I stood in the entryway with mud on my ass and doing my best to avoid turning so my date’s dad wouldn’t see how muddy I was as she came downstairs wearing a different tight black dress and black boots that I’d seen her in earlier. Her boots put her a couple of inches above me and I swooned with how much I liked that.
My desire for her was matched by my desire to be her and it sent my queer brain into its usual oscillation between projecting what it would be like to have a body like that and trying to figure out what the fuck I was expected to be doing as the nominal guy on the date. It was time to get out of there.
She gave her dad a peck on the cheek and told him to stop interrogating me, he gave me that look that let me know he knew that I knew he had a gun safe, and I attempted leave backwards, stumbling over the threshold enough to draw him outside and catch his scowl at my rusty land yacht.
Of all people, my grandmother had coached me on how to treat women, so I opened the car door for her to get in, shutting it when she was settled. Shuffling backwards, I gave her dad the friendliest wave I could muster before putting steel, glass, and his daughter between us in case he changed his mind.
Things went sideways fast.
Hailey and I exchanged first date nervous pleasantries as I eased away from her house and caught a pothole just beyond the paved pad in front of her garage, and the muffler popped off again. Hailey thought it was funny as I embarrassingly shouted that I’d get a bit further away from her house before fixing it.
Of course my shirt had to come off again and seeing as how I didn’t want to have to keep doing this, it was time to tighten it fully. After explaining the situation, she cheerfully handed me the crescent wrench while I was under the car, saving a few minutes.
Now maybe guys might engineer this sort of situation or at least take advantage of it as an excuse to take off their shirt in front of their date, but I’m not a guy and I was mortified. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for sexytime, but taking off your shirt and rolling around in mud before dinner and six margaritas seems like premature foreplay to me.
I was queer enough to where it didn’t even occur to me that she might like to see me with my shirt off. So when she told me she did after I was back in the car putting my shirt on, it distracted me on the drive to the restaurant so much trying to figure out how to leverage her interest to my advantage that I didn’t notice I was speeding until the cop flicked on his lights to pull me over.
Fortune can pity fools, and besides a stern talking-to in my left ear and giggles in the right, the citation for lack of insurance was as good an outcome as I could hope for.
Continued in Week 163 – Queer girl – part 2