Stiff neck

So she says I’m “nice” huh? Wow, I supposed I’d better get my leather pants and mesh t-shirt now. She might as well have said I was gay, to be honest. “Nice” is as close as you can get to a death knell for any guy trying to impress a girl. Then again, Will isn’t really a girl. She’s a woman, and if you say anything else I’m sure you’ll wind up with a black eye where you don’t even have an eye. Yeah, think about it.
I don’t know. Yeah, she’s rough around the edges, yeah she speaks her mind when she really, really shouldn’t, and yes, she made me stagger around a harbor screaming about ice cream for about an hour so I wouldn’t get my butt kicked. Maybe it’s some kind of Stockholm syndrome… but that’s her, you know? She’s one of the most honest, straightforward people I know, which doesn’t happen often where I come from. Back there, it’s not surprising to have the old lady thank you for opening the door to church and then spend the next fifteen minutes enumerating every last one of your faults to her other old lady friends. But hey, that’s Catholics for you. L’echaim.
To be honest, though, I’d rather have a thousand gloomy, backstabbing Catholics to five of those goody-goodies you get in the other Christian branches. At least with the Catholics, they are aware of how much we suck, and they’re sad about it. There was a Baptist church in the town where I grew up, a couple of blocks down from where my family went to church, and they always seemed so… I don’t know… happy? I mean, there’s making a joyful noise and then there’s blissful ignorance. Ah, whatever makes them feel better, I suppose. Not like I have the answers.
…and there it is. That right there is probably why Will thinks I’m “nice.” You see, if I said something like that in her presence she’d probably clobber me and tell me to stop being so damn wish-washy. I made the mistake of asking her about religion once, and I got a three hour lecture about her crazy Lutheran parents. Funny, I figured everyone in Jersey was either godless or whatever church the Corleones went to. I mean, how else would you survive? Anyway, I usually sneak out and take a few hours every week to hit up the Catholic Church in the neighborhood. Sure, my Spanish ain’t so good, but I get the basic idea. Depending on the week, I sometimes say a little prayer for her… but if she ever found out she’d probably start throwing things at me.
Sheesh, I make her sound like some kind of ogre, don’t I? She’s not violent like a maniac or anything, she’s just… she doesn’t hide anything. If she’s feeling something, you know it. If she doesn’t like something, you really know it. It’s something I really admire about her… but she can go a little overboard on it. Take, for example, the one single solitary lady I managed to bring back to the apartment. Let me remind you, by the way, that she was usually sitting around with Cooper and Dash or whatever, but as soon as I brought someone over it was “can I see you in the kitchen?”
Me, being an idiot, said “Okay,” and was treated with a blindsided bevy of questions like “what’s with Snaggletooth?” “You rescue one from the Pound or something?” “She looks about as bright as a cast-iron skillet.”
And so on. It turns out she was absolutely right, and the young lady was as dumb as a post with a face to match, but… she wanted to spend time with me. That doesn’t happen very often. Of course, using that defense caused her to counter with the accusation that I don’t “sell myself” and I never “take a chance” so all I’m going to get is the dregs. I was about to respond, but it was about that time I noticed that my new “friend” was trying to steal the DVD player. So, you see, it isn’t so much that Will’s a bad person, she just doesn’t really know the right way to go about being a good person. It’s probably just a reaction to what she called a “stifling” upbringing. Say what you want about my Catholic childhood, I never really felt stifled… was I doing it right?
It was a few days after what Will would dub my “disastrous date with Meth Lab Millie” that we were crashing on the couch together, splitting some pork Lo Mein and an order of steamed dumplings from this really good local Chinese place. I always wanted to know how they got the pork the way they did in those things, it was like pig jerky in little tasty bits. Anyway, I’d just finished doing some work for  a few subway ads (not the sandwiches, the actual subway) and Will had managed to sign a couple of bimbos as dancers in a Broadway show, so we decided to celebrate. We were halfway through a rented copy of Spaceballls when Will said something that didn’t have anything to do with the Schwatrz.
“You’re still going to church, right?”
“Yes…” I was half expecting another lecture.
“And it’s the Catholic Church up the street?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Can you understand what they’re saying?”
“Kinda.”
There were a few seconds of silence. I took the opportunity to get some more Lo Mein before it got cold. It’s probably my favorite way to eat cabbage.
“The Catholics, they have all that ‘feed the hungry’ and ‘clothe the naked’ stuff, right?”
“I thought all of them did, but yeah…”
She grabbed the last dumpling. I knew they were her favorite.
“Am I doing that stuff? For you?”
I finished slurping a few noodles and took the time to think.
“In a way, I guess you kind of are. I mean, you let me move in here, you’ve let me share food when money’s short…yeah, I’d say you’re keeping with it.”
She bit off half the dumpling with purpose.
“Thanks.”
She seemed a little down, so I figured I’d try something more.
“You haven’t been clothing me, though. I don’t think your stuff would fit me, but if you’d like to try…”
“Don’t be an ass.”
We sat in another little bit of silence. It really surprises me that they wrote an actual song for Spaceballs, by the way.“If I ever catch you trying on my clothes, you’re a dead man.”
“Perish the thought, Will,” I reached for a can of Pepsi. For some reason, Coke doesn’t work with Chinese.
“If anything, I’d just walk around naked and wait for you to clothe me.”
“Please, I’m trying to eat here.”
I giggled into my soda and we kept watching the movie. There goes the planet. Suddenly, half a steamed dumpling was floating under my nose.
“Hey, you want this?”
“But they’re your favorite…”
“I’m pretty full. You like ‘em, right?”
“Sure…”
To be honest, I love the freakin’ things.
“I didn’t drool on it or anything. Go ahead.”
She handed me the little plastic cup of dipping sauce and went into the kitchen. I heard her call out as the credits were rolling.
“Hey, you want anything for dessert?”
I was still sitting, transfixed by the half-eaten dumpling that sat on a paper plate before me.
“Dumbass, do you want dessert or not?”
I jumped a little bit as her voice modulated up. I looked down at the dumpling again.
“Nah… nah, I’m good.”
I smiled.

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