A dark blue Honda Pilot rolls to a stop in front of 58 Green Woods Drive. George is supposed to be at 54 Green Woods Drive, but he needs time to restore a normal heartrate and, most importantly, queue the music. Please God, don’t make my armpits sweat today, he prays.
George peers up the street and observes the destination. No signs of movement— that’s good. He has time. There’s a black SUV sitting in the driveway, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s inside. As he does whenever he takes the long route home just to drive past 54 Greens Woods Drive, George takes a few seconds to soak in the front yard. It’s not the most impressive lawn on the cul-de-sac, but it’s neat and colorful and George enjoys looking at it.
The grass always appears as though it was cut yesterday, and two trees (Oak trees, George tells himself, but really, they are small Apple trees) stand on the far side of the lawn, acting as a border with the neighboring house. A red, brick path snakes its way from the sidewalk to the front porch steps, winding back and forth around patches of flowers embedded in dark brown mulch. Those must be azaleas, George tells himself, but they are actually a blend of yellow daffodils, purple lilacs, pink and white tulips, and scarlet begonias. The house itself is rather standard for Green Woods Drive; traditional colonial architecture, two stories of white-painted wood siding, black window panels, and a roof of charcoal-grey shingles. Two identical dormer windows jut out of the roof, overlooking the front yard. George wonders if one of those windows is hers, then decides they probably aren’t. If I was a parent, I’d have a bedroom with a view of the front, so I could see who’s coming and going.
The thought of being a parent reminds George to rehearse the lines he has prepared for whenever he meets her parents.
George clears his throat and says, “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Donovan. How are you today? My name is George.” He pauses, imagining the response: Oh, why hello, George. We are doing just fine. We’ve heard so much about you. You really are quite the gentleman. George smiles and says, “Oh, you’re too kind. It really is a pleasure to meet you.” He nods his head in approval. Yeah, that’s good.
The music! George lost precious time contemplating the house and its lawn.
He looks down at his phone and, with a clammy thumb, scrolls through his playlists. How do I not know what music she likes? George asks himself in frustration, even though he has only talked to her sixteen times in Mr. Baker’s US History class, and once in the hallway, walking from lunch to Physics with Mrs. Dayton. There’s no way we marry if I don’t even know her favorite tunes.
He taps “Dancing With Myself.” Within seconds, George’s head is bopping up and down – he can’t resist Steve New’s riff. Yeah, this is good. George puts down the phone, and places his hand on the gear stick, ready to shift into drive. But his hand refuses to move.
Billy Idol? What the hell am I thinking, she’s not my dad. He snatches up his phone and scrolls to a playlist entitled “Trap.” Old music would probably just creep her out. George glances up, and his heart skips five beats. Just for a second, he thought the door had opened, but he must have imagined it. Thank god. That would’ve been scary. As soon as his blood pressure returns to a normal state, a single drop of sweat escapes the clenches of moisture in his underarm and plummets down the inside of George’s shirt, hitting him cold in the rib cage. Dammit! George rubs his side, soaking up his damp right armpit with the inside of his shirt. Another lick of salty liquid takes a dive– this time under his left arm –and splashes on George’s cool, damp skin. God dammit! Not now!
After mopping the other side of his body, George looks back at his phone.
His clammy thumb opens the “Trap” playlist and begins scrolling through the collection: “Hate Bein’ Sober.” “F**k Up Some Commas.” “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” “Dubai S**t.”
Damn, rap might be a little too angry for a five-minute ride to Frankie’s Pizza.
The next song on the playlist that catches George’s eye is “She Won’t Let Me F**k.”
Jesus Christ! Rap on a first date? What the hell was I thinking? He had listened to the Afroman classic dozens of times before, but the thought of listening to it with her sitting in the passenger seat petrifies him. Unnerved, George clicks the home button.
He takes a few deep breaths, then reopens his music. What the hell do girls like? The pores in his armpits are already reloading – he can feel moisture beginning to cling to his shirt. God dammit, Dad. Why do you have to give sweat genes to everybody?
George’s head whips up from his phone. There’s a forty-six-year-old woman standing outside the passenger seat window. She’s wearing sunglasses and a sunhat, and has a green sleeveless blouse on. Her smile reveals glowing pearly whites. And above her teeth, George notices that same small, sharp, pointy nose that he has spent hours studying and memorizing from his seat behind and to the right of Holly during US History with Mr. Baker. With one hand on her hip, Holly’s mom waves at George.
George’s brain is in chaos. Should I just drive away? The woman is still waving at him. Jesus Christ, what the hell am I supposed to do? Open the window?
Trembling, George shelves his phone in a cup holder and reaches over the passenger seat to open the window. In his panic, however, he unknowingly clicks “Hit ‘Em Up,” by 2Pac.
Before the window is fully open, “Uhh… hello” stumbles out of George’s mouth.
“Hi there. I don’t wanna be rude or anything, but aren’t you George? I couldn’t help but notice the Fleetwood High wrestling sticker on the back of your car. Holly told me you were on the team. You know we actually live two houses up the block?”
George’s heart is racing, and he can tell he is about to slur his words. Fortunately, however, 2Pac intervenes:
“I ain't got no motherfuckin friends!”
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What’s wrong with you, George!
George lunges for the volume nob and twists it faster than a kid twists off the cap to his bottle of Sunny D after an hour of kickball at recess – but he twists it the wrong way.
“THAT’S WHY I FUCKED YO’ BITCH, YOU FAT MOTHERFU--” 2Pac spits before George finally silences him.
Goddamn idiot! “I’m, um, sorry about that.” George peers at Holly’s mom, who’s still exposing her shiny teeth, but is no longer smiling.
A few seconds of silence pass by – George is staring at Holly’s mom and Holly’s mom is staring at George – before Holly’s mom realizes the boy isn’t going to say anything else. So, she asks again. “Sorry, but aren’t you George? I’ve heard so much about you.”
His head is pounding, he can feel his face redden and his palms dampen. “Uh, are you…? I mean, no, I’m sorry. I’m not…him.” He takes a deep breath. “Sorry, I’m not him.” Oh thank God. That could’ve went a lot worse. I don’t wanna meet her parents on the first date.
“Hey, George.” Holly, who had just come from the direction of 54 Green Woods Drive, comes to a halt next to her mom.
Holly’s mom takes Holly in her right arm for a quick hug, but drops her smile and tilts her head to the side, looking at George. “But…didn’t you just say…”
Think, George! Think, goddammit!
“Oh, my name is George. I…uh…thought you said…uh…Oscar. Did you say George? Sorry about that.” George is proud of his quick wit. You did it again George, you did it again.