It took a few days but Pat came back to me one morning while I was working on an old Toyota's exhaust.
“Hey,” he said. “Uh, we still mad at that person?”
I looked at him seriously. “Yes, we are.”
He rubbed his chin. “Okay, so. I was down at the pub, and this guy I know...well, know is kind of strong, but we're acquaintances I guess you'd say.”
“So he works over at this place on Creek Road, right? A dealer went out and this guy bought the building thinking it looks all big and official, so he could run a used car lot from it – guaranteed money, right?”
“If you leave out that the previous guy just went belly up, sure,” I replied.
“Yeah, shows you where the brain trust is. So this was about eight months ago, and now the place is hemorrhaging cash, desperate to sell, so they're cutting corners and getting people angry – all that kind of stuff.”
I smiled. “They have a problematic small SUV for sale?”
He smiled back. “So happens they do. Talk to Phil Ashmore senior. Guy is a douche-bag's douche bag. Doesn't know fuck-all about cars, but he's sleazy enough to sell anything to anyone as long as it keeps him in beer and pretzels, you know?”
“Sounds like just who I need,” I said with a grin.
“It's a buy here, pay here kind of place, so they really put the screws to people. You sure you want to go nuclear on this person we're mad at?”
I sighed and nodded. “She's been cheating Benji – my boyfriend – out of thousands by tricking him into paying all but a hundred or so bucks of the rent each month, and then hitting him for a fake application fee to renew the lease every six months.”
His jaw dropped. “What a cunt! Fuck her, but good!”
The next two weeks involved me going to pick up Benji's stuff a little at a time so Barney didn't realize that he was leaving. My mom made him take a day off from the bank to get registered for school, then took him to lunch and threatened to never give him back to me. My family is so weird. Lilly was around as many mornings as she was nights, and I was really wanting to get this move done with so Benji would be with me full time.
“I need for us to delay our normal Saturday stuff,” he said to me Friday night as we lounged on the couch. Lilly and Luca had gone to some film geek thing, so we had the place to ourselves.
“Okay. What are we doing?”
“Well, you told me about that car? The shifty sales guy?”
“Right. What about him? You never filled me in on the plan.”
“Part one is I move in here Thursday next week, the day before rent is due.”
I grinned. “You're not paying her.”
“I'm not paying her,” he agreed.
“So what's with the car?”
His lips moved in and out as if he were sucking on his teeth. “She's wanted an SUV forever. For the last few weeks I keep doing things to ramp it up in her head that she should get a car – like that now is the time and implying how much more dependent I'd be on her. She's ready to go look. She hates you so much, I want you to bring us there, of course so we're not riding the bus to see the car, and then tell her the car is junk or something, so she’ll want it more just to spite you.”
I smiled wider. “You shaft her on rent, get her into a crappy car that she can’t afford, and then you ghost her. I like it.”
“If the car is expensive enough, maybe she’ll blow all the money I wasted on her in the last year.”
“That's worth going in late.”
That Saturday I woke up to a cup of coffee and Benji stroking my hair. I downed my coffee and got cleaned up while Benji excitedly showed Gwen the SUV on his phone over at the crooked car lot. When I entered the living room after dressing Benji started begging me to take them to go look at this car before someone else bought it. I looked at Gwen skeptically, and she looked away.
“I have to go to the garage, you know that,” I said.
“Go in a little later? Please? This car is perfect for Gwen!”
I sighed. “Okay, babe.”
Fifteen minutes later we were in the car and motoring across town. I was keeping myself calm, though I was on edge. I wanted to make sure Benji's plan went though for some revenge on this rotten girl, but I was afraid my eagerness would prove my undoing. We got to the lot, Gwen having called the number Benji had gotten from me, and as we climbed from my car a greasy looking man in a bad-fitting suit strolled over toward us.
“Gwen Didier? Lady who is ready to drive home in an SUV?”
“That's me,” she said, smiling at the attention.
“Phil Ashmore senior, glad to meet you. I can't wait to show you this little honey! It's been on the lot less than a week and I've had two couples look at it already, so it's not going to last,” he said as he guided her toward the waiting vehicle. He stared listing its features, and a lot of it was wrong. I knew he'd had the vehicle for over a month, it was overpriced and it had high miles. The biggest flag about it, though, was it was a luxury brand – and those don't age well. They never do.
In essence the more bells and whistles a car has when its new, the more things break on it later on. Now some things that were once in that category have become standard and stable, like the computerized brain that controls a litany of things. But luxury vehicles tended to offer new things, things that don't get the kinks ironed out to make them more durable for general consumption. So your luxury car has a first generation bell or whistle, and as a result it tends not to last.
Gwen was interested, but hesitant about the price. Good Old Phil assured her they'd find payments that fit her budget and she had the bonus of being able to deal with them directly – they'd do all the legwork of a lender and then she could just pay them – easy peasy. He didn't mention making the payments smaller meant she'd pay more in the long run and be in debt long after this car stopped working. He also didn't mention that this kind of deal always comes with higher interest and the possibility of the debt being sold and things like balloon payments at the end. The smaller payment means you pay more interest and you pay longer, so they make more money with fewer sales and less work.
We went for a test drive, and Gwen was falling hard. She was wanting to, but not quite there. Then my boyfriend said, “What do you think, Ryan?”
I pursed my lips and looked from the car to Gwen. “Well. Seems a little fancy for a hostess. Right? Maybe something a little less...luxurious?”
Her nostrils flared. “You don't think I'm good enough for this car? I work hard. I've been saving. Plus, I won't be a hostess forever.”
“I don't know,” I said, shaking my head.
Gwen turned to Ashmore. “Let's do the paperwork.”
A week later we were clustered in the living room – Me, Luca, Lilly, Tris and Ehren – while Benji laid out the story of how Gwen had screwed him, and how he'd screwed her back. Seems the car was a little hard on her budget, but she could manage if Benji was still duped into paying almost all the rent. When he'd told her that he was leaving and handed her the key there'd been a god-awful fight. She screamed about how he can't break a lease and better have her money, and he demanded to see where his name was on the lease. Each threat she'd made, he'd neatly countered. You'd have never guessed he was nervous about the confrontation just because he doesn't like them, but he had a steel backbone and she was practically frothing at the mouth.
Then he told her to enjoy the overpriced car that she couldn't afford without him subsidizing her. Her face had gone white.
“You did this on purpose?” she'd asked.
“Fucking right I did,” he told her.
“But why? I was so good to you! I took you in, you had a place to stay when you had no credit score!”
He'd leaned in, and he did so now as he got into the telling of the story, and said, “They don't have six-month leases here, Gwen. And apartments like this one don't lease for sixteen-hundred a month. Oh yeah, you helped – yourself right into my pocket when I was desperate. Good luck with making rent.”
It was a good story. One of those pro-revenge things. We'd played a card game then that was completely inappropriate and freaking hilarious. We carried on until early morning, when our friends crashed at our place again and we retired to our rooms.
The first morning light was coming in through the window as I slowly, deliberately made love to Benji. Nothing moves my soul like physically connecting with him, though I took my time getting there. Each shudder of pleasure from him reminded me that my emotions for him, translated to touch, were returned in kind. There's a pace to making love, a commitment to taking one's time, I've discovered. You have to look and feel carefully to find each curve, every dimple and inhale the very essence of your partner if you really want to make love and you can't do it if you're rushing.
I don't yet have the patience to make love every time. Sometimes I want him so badly I can't think of anything else. But sometimes I can slow down and really love him in the way he deserves. In the way we deserve.
We all should be made love to, from time to time.
As I lay in the darkness, arm curled around Benji while he slept with his cheek on my chest, I couldn't help but reflect on the wisdom of my new friends Ehren and Tristan. Ehren was right – you had to leave things behind, but so was Tris – you had to take good things forward with you. I squeezed Benji slightly and closed my eyes, dreaming of taking Luca, Benji and my new friends into my future.