OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Okay, I should be old enough to know better. I may be even breaking my own rules posting this. I know I have local readers of this blog who may want to start some kind of rumor.
Oh well. Fuck it.
I should be wiser and better at decision-making, but, sadly, I'm not as bright as I should be when it comes to taking in strays.
BROKEN ZENFO PRO RULE NO. 1:
Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers...
I ran into a female hitchhiker over the weekend just outside of Cincinnati. Scratch that - I almost ran over a cross-country backpacker this weekend.
First, I normally don't pick up hitchhikers. For one, being a guy and picking up a hitchhiker opens the door for a lot of trouble beyond simply getting robbed or killed. But, well, this Italian woman was very, very lost (she was headed the wrong way, away from Indianapolis and towards Kentucky), very cold, and she had jumped for the ditch and scuffed up her leg dodging my pick-up.
Yeah...I know. Very stupid. But am I supposed to leave an 19 year-old European on the side of the road at 10 at night after almost putting her in the hospital? In the frigging rain? On a stretch of U.S. 27 about as welcoming as a redneck episode of the Twilight Zone? Besides, Indianapolis is only two hours away from where I live, and I live in the right direction...
What is it, by the way, that leads European tourists to believe that it's somehow safe to backpack alone across the Midwest? Don't they have B-Horror/serial killer flicks in Italy?!? There are cities where I won't go out alone.
When she offered to buy dinner and top off my gas tank, I figured I was safe from at least getting carjacked. I agreed to take her as far as Oxford. Once there, the plan was to drop her off at a hotel and she'd get a friend in Indianapolis to drive down and give her a ride to the airport.
Well, that was the plan, at least. We had a little too much fun at this Applebees. Even the wait staff's flair was annoyed. We talked for three hours. This woman had hitchhiked...er...backpacked all through Florida, up the Appalachians, through West Virginia, and had developed a Florentine/Hillbilly accent.
We swapped stories about rattlesnakes (we both had the critters narrowly miss our ankles and dig into the same boot heel), I explained that venison meat does not come from a cow, and she described her "let-them-think-you-have-crabs" trick for keeping unwanted hands off her body.
By the time we go back to Oxford, we couldn't find a single hotel that would take her traveler's checks. Or at least one that was open that would take her traveler's check - Miami students were still on break, thus negating any need for overpriced parent/alumni suites.
BROKEN ZENFO PRO RULE NO. 2:
If You Do Pick Up Hitchers, Don't Take Them Home
She said it would be okay for me to just leave her on a street corner by a closed filling station. It was about three in the morning. Without even thinking, I offered her a place to crash.
Great idea, dumbass. You already opened up the door to all kinds of possible criminal accusations. Why not be a little more stupid and open yourself up to robbery in the same night?
She took me up on the offer and promised she wouldn't be any trouble. And then she said I was the first American friend she'd made during her month-long holiday.
Then, I had to stop mid-sentence while explaining that she'd be welcome to stay as long as she liked. I was starting to experience shortness of breath, Dick Cheney style.
Nope. Not a heart attack. I was starting to panic. There was this little voice in the back of my head starting to question my reasoning for making that offer. Was I being a nice guy? Or...was I making a pass at her?
My conscience can be a complete bastard sometimes.
Dude, you're making yourself look like Hannibal fucking Lector. Yeah, she noticed how you were admiring her legs while bandaging up her shin. Stevie Wonder would've noticed. She also noticed how you kept making eye contact while your eyes were supposed to be on the road. Stupid typical guy. Did you forget she's like a DECADE younger than you are and HITCHHIKING back to an airport to fly back to ITALY to get ready for UNIVERSITY?
Stupid, stupid, stupid. I am too much of an idiot. The fact that I have a penis makes me more of an dumbass sometimes.
She noticed I was drifting in and out of our conversation. She thought I was too tired and she was boring me. I pulled myself out of Lala Land long enough to make noises that sounded like "I'll have to clean up before you come in. House is a wreck."
She thought that was funny. I was sure I was ready for a defibrillator.
BROKEN ZENFO PRO RULE NO. 3:
If Rule Nos. 1 and 2 Fail...You're Probably in Deep Shit
So she spent the night at my house, this strange foreign woman who I'd literally picked up on the side of the road.
For about 30 seconds I debated whether or not to take the 20-inch hunting knife off my living room wall. I debated whether or not to hide the silver Ethiopian Orthodox cross a friend had given me, or the wooden idol from Nigeria, or the Japanese vases...
While I'm debating what to hide to prevent theft or, well, a slit throat in the middle of the night, she lets me know that there are indeed low-budget psychokiller movies in Florence.
"You're not a serial killer or something?"
Fuck. Damn you, Conscience. Damn you to fucking hell. One part of me was relieved that she thought enough about her personal safety, the other completely shattered because, well...
Then she laughed and asked if I was dangerous.
Then she laughed again.
Before I could say anything, she asked if she could use my shower. While she was in the bath, I finished revising the ol' ZenFo Pro template.
Too tired to fall asleep, I popped in a DVD, pulled the cushions off the couch, and crashed on the floor. My "roommate" hollered from the bathroom something about borrowing a dirty work shirt she'd found on the bathroom floor. I was too far past the "almost dozing" stage to comprehend much - I'd been awake for 27 hours straight (9 hours at work) by the time the sun was peeking through the blinds...
BROKEN ZENFO PRO RULE NO. 4:
Think Before You Act
I'm going to tread carefully here, so please forgive me if this sounds a bit cryptic...
Waking up next to a stranger is an artform. It becomes postmodern art when one has to figure out why, exactly, one is waking up next to a stranger in the first place.
My guest had unbundled and unzipped her sleeping bag. I guess she thought I looked cold, so she covered me with it. She then climbed under the sleeping bag.
The shirt she was wearing? A small polo. She's my height - roughly 5'8, 5'9. That's it. I would've lent her some boxers.
This is really awkward. My hand is in a really awkward place. Her hand is in a very sensitive spot, especially first thing in the morning. She's breathing in my ear and probably has no clue the amount of control I'm having to exhibit.
What happened here?
Did I miss something?
My chest starts doing that Dick Cheney impersonation again. Like some old Warner Brothers cartoon, I feel as though I'm debating with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.
I look on the walls. Knife still there. Antiques still on the shelves. The only things out of place are the two people on the floor.
I think that's vague enough so I'm not breaking my own rules here.
BROKEN ZENFO PRO RULE NO. 5:
Ignore the Tourists
I haven't seen anybody sleep that long in a very long time. I can't sleep in past noon anymore, so I got up, took a quick shower, and got out of the house.
I went grocery shopping and hung out at a local coffee shop checking e-mail and testing the new template. I'm pretty sure I looked like something similar to a crazed homeless man; one part of me was still trying to figure out whether or not this woman was playing me for something, one part was in that mode of trying to figure exactly what signals I'd missed, and another part was worried that I'd return home to a robbed apartment.
Fucking A. This is why I gave up on dating or any kind of romantic stuff. I make lousy choices and I don't like having to deal with being a dumbass because of bad choices.
I get back to my house expecting for all my valuables to be gone. I find a girl on the floor looking at my high school yearbooks, laughing hysterially at the profanity-laced comments. She tells me that her gee-whiz neato satellite phone her dad bought her for the trip (race car drivers apparently know how to get their children useful ICT) needs to charge, so she needed to borrow my cell to call her friend in Indianapolis.
I don't have a gift for languages, so whatever she was saying on the phone was just noise to me. But she did ask me, in English, if she'd be able to stay until Monday morning and offered to provide me with some rent money. I declined the money but agreed to let her stay for a few more days.
I did recognize the tone of an argument. With the Italian language, it's difficult to figure out when, exactly, an argument is really an argument. I didn't think the argument could possibly be about me until she smiled at me and winked.
When she got off the phone, she kissed me. Yeah, I can't read signals to save my life.
My Conscience finally gave up on me.
You're a grown-up. She's a grown-up. How stupid do you have to be to not realize that this gal is, for some strange reason, probably attracted to you? And you know that for some reason you're attracted to her. It's a fling - get the fuck off your high horse, will ya? How many excuses are you going to make? You know, somewhere deep down, that you are not the paranoid guy afraid of ANY intimacy? Fuck the bullshit, dude.
Holy hell, I think she's trying to steal something. At least she doesn't think I'm a serial killer.
I'll write more later...looks like I've written a novel since five this morning and I've got to get ready for work.
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