The Corruptor

I assume every girl has at least one.  A Duckie or a Lloyd Dobler. A Ronald Miller, Farmer Ted, Kevin Arnold, Denis Cooverman, Dwayne Wayne.  A Forrest Gump, even. That guy who thinks you walk on billowy, white clouds.  Who sees you move in slow motion and is pretty sure he hears "Suddenly" by Billy Ocean whenever your hand accidentally brushes his cheek.  You're a creature void of farts, poop, and a menstrual cycle; who smells like bubble gum and never has holes in your socks.  You're Andie, Diane Court, Cindy Mancini, Samantha Baker, Winnie Cooper, Beth Cooper, Whitley Gilbert, and Jenny all rolled in one perfect little blanket-lined wicker basket on his doorstep.

Mine is Joel.

Physically, he is a cross between Eddie Munster and the Verizon Wireless Guy. But in an awkward, socially-deficient way.  We met when he was assigned next to me on an airplane.  In the first 5 minutes, I could feel his desperation leap into my lap and stare up at me with big, brown Puss In Boots eyes.  Joel has raised desperation to an art form. He practices it like its his job. Like he plans to major in it in college or pursue it as an Olympic sport.

The thing with Joel is that he is deeply pseudo-religious.  I say 'pseudo' because I still have no idea what his affiliation is.  I think he actually goes to one of those places in strip malls that doubles as a church and a location for open AA meetings for the homeless.  It seems like all the things he's not supposed to do, he's done.  And he wants to do it again.  He's pretty firm on not drinking, but apparently he has engaged in premartial sex (gasp!) and struggles with himself to maintain his lustful thoughts while in constant pursuit of a companion.  The last girl he met at "church" turned out to be some kind of runaway who offered to repay him with something other than money when he gave her a ride home.  (I know, there's a major hole in this story, but I've learned to stop asking him questions).  And he took her up on it, but he felt real bad and prayed on it. For like a day.  (Again, it was probably longer but I was too busy stifling inappropriate comments to get all the details).

Joel thinks his life would be perfect if he just had a girlfriend.  Someone who loved him unconditionally and didn't care that he shares a room in a house with some random border.  Who looks beyond the welder and can see what a kind soul he is. And he really is. It's just packaged wrong.  I mean, he has all the big brass ones to approach all kinds of women. It's just the speaking part that gets him into trouble.  I'm an awesome wingwoman but selling day-old bread to a chick on Atkins is tough.

We established fairly early in our friendship that ours is, in fact, a platonic friendship. Don't mistake me for shallow. I am a personality girl.  A guy with an arrow impaled in his chest has a shot at me if he can make me laugh.  As long as he doesn't get blood on my new shoes.  Because that is a deal-breaker.  Personality goes a long way with me. I'd pick Steve or Big every time.  Brandon or Dylan? Screw them, give me some Steve Sanders!  Hell, I'd take Seth Rogan over Paul Rudd any day.  But Joel? Not so much. Beyond his utter devotion to short sleeve, red, plaid shirts; he's just bumbling. Like a baby calf learning to walk for the first time.  Oh, you want an example?

ME:  I know you don’t drink, but I am going to order a margarita.
Joel:  My money is not going to pay for alcohol. I will buy your dinner, but you have to pay for your alcohol on your own.
ME:   We’re not on a date, so I will pay for my dinner AND my drinks.
Joel:  I have to house sit this weekend. Why don’t you come over? We can rent a movie and just relax.

ME:  OK, sure. Why don’t you get the movies and I will bring dinner.
Joe:  OK, I will pick up the movies, do you need me to pick up anything else?

ME:   Well, you don’t drink so I don’t know what else there is.
Joel:  So you’re sure you don’t want me to get anything else?
ME:   Like what, Joel?
Joel:  Like condoms?
ME:   You realize that was your outside voice? You just said that OUT LOUD. It wasn’t just in your head.
Joel:  What do you mean?

I can't make this stuff up, I'm really not that creative.

So why am I friends with him? Because I used to be him. I fell in love with any guy who was nice to me, often mistaking politeness and manners for deep, carnal lust. On more than one occasion I sat in a guy's car, ignoring the silence that was so uncomfortable it almost had a color, waiting for the moment he would lean over and kiss me delicately with his soft, soft lips. On all 3 occasions the boys did lean over toward me, but it was to open the door.  They all but left sneaker prints on my ass.  I was sad. But I had people in my life who took me under their wing.  Showed me the ropes. Laughed at me when I told the story of my friend who made out with me because I was the only girl in the room and I wouldn't let him sleep until he did.  And that's the role in my relationship with Joel. I'm like his corrupt little guardian angel that occasionally puts him down and curses at him.

I'm going to see Joel when I go home to California.  He is taking me to dinner at my favorite restaurant and offered to bring me pink flowers because he remembered pink is my favorite color. He wants to go to the country bar so we can dance the Cowboy Cha-Cha, the last dance I taught him before I moved away.  And because the girls he likes always talk to him longer when I am there.  (Told you, I'm an awesome wingwoman).  All of this is totally sweet, but remember, I've been working on this kid going on 4 years, now.  I got him out of the red, plaid, short sleeves and into Banana Republic-worthy going out gear.   His shoes are spit-shined, the boy can dance, he has a great smile, and does funny impressions. But then I see him sitting in a bar with his coffee in a tiny glass mug and whipped cream under his nose, and I just gotta shake my head.  And hope that some girl will love him the way I do.  Only, she'll be a virgin who can actually imagine having sex with him without shooting Rum and Coke out her nose.

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