Note: I don't claim this to be non-fiction. Point in fact, I don't claim to know much about women. I wrote this for the same reason I write all my stories: to vent, to fantasize, and most importantly, to entertain. If I fucked up on any detail, no matter what size, or if something that a character does feels morally off to you when it's not supposed to, please feel free to call bullshit on this story. It helps me in the long run - in more ways than one. ;)

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GIRLFRIEND - CHAPTER ONE - "LAY'S AND THE GENDER DEFICENCY"

By Michael DePalma

Let me ask all of you out there something - why are you reading this?

It seems to be a fact these days that females are the ones who most often go for this romantic crap about love and fulfillment and cute fuzzy little bunnies. When males want to read about love, they want to read about love spilling all over the girl's face. And more often than not, they want visual aids.

And sure, ladies, you want to read about romance, but you want to read about romance taken to extremes. Quit whining about stereotypes and admit it! You tear up when a guy launches into a page long monologue about how important his lover is to him. You love looking at commercials where men do these extravagant presentations for expensive diamond rings. Why? Because you like to fantasize about that man being your man.

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but neither scenario describes my story. Sure, you could call it romance, but you won't find much in the way of monologues or extravagance or public displays of affection here. Becky and I weren't like that most of the time.

So if I'm not expecting anyone to read this, why am I writing this? Dunno. I'm bored and I don't have any money. Usually, when I'm bored and without money (which I usually am), I go hang out in an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) chatroom called #ebfan. It was set up for fans of a game called EarthBound. I'd explain it to you, but let's face it, if you're still reading, it's not because you want to hear me go on about a video game.

In this chatroom, you don't hear much talk about EarthBound, but there is a lot of talk about the personal lives of the regulars, specifically in the area of love. I've been going there for three years, and I'd hear all these stories about how girls were these evil, hypocritical creatures that talked about wanting love but really wanting sex. Girls who said looks weren't important yet attitude toward them was. Girls who said that while dating Tank, the head football player who treats women like shit. And, of course, the complaint that was always registered when the topic switched to girls: why do they all pick the assholes over the nice guys?

I walked in on that complaint today, and I couldn't help but laugh to myself. You see, I used to be the one that made that complaint all the time.

That's when I got this great idea.

Before I could attempt to do what I wanted to do, though, I needed permission. So I called Becky and told her my idea. "Listen, would you be cool if I wrote about our relationship and, uh, submitted it to an online literary magazine?"

What I got instead was, "OMIGAWD OMIGAWD OMIGAWD! YOU'RE SUCH AN AWESOME WRITER I CAN'T WAIT TO READ IT OMIGAWD!"

"Uh...are you OK?"

"I was up all night studying for my programming test so I drank a shitload of coffee and I'm still recovering OMIGAWD YOU'RE GONNA WRITE ABOUT ME!"

"Ah," I said. Becky majors in computer science at my university, C.W. Post. I study creative writing.

"So I gotta know, I gotta know, what are you gonna write about, huh?"

"Um, I don't know," I said, "I think I'm going to start from how we first met, and, uh...see what happens from there."

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Before I started thinking about me and Becky, I was thinking about me and Mandy. It was a typical high-school crush fueled by romantic comedies, really. She was the popular girl who had her pick of any guy she wanted, I was the determined sped (a "sped" is a kid in special ed for those who never tormented people like me in high school) who went out of my way to be a good friend. See, I thought that in the end, Mandy would dump the asshole she was dating (he was a colossal asshole), see me for the nice guy I was, and we would ride off into the sunset together.

Yeah, and I bet I can get the Crips and Bluds to stop fighting each other by putting on a musical.

Turns out all that being the nice guy did for me was put me into the friend zone. I didn't think it was a bad thing; honestly, I still don't. My mom was the one who advised me to just be Mandy's friend, because she said women usually end up picking their next boyfriend from the friend zone. It makes sense, after all, that the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is the one you like to being around.

Of course, this concept was lost on Mandy. When I talked to her, she would always complain about her boyfriend, Eric. She always swore that they were minor complaints, but she would make these minor complaints all the time, stuff like how he would call her a whore when they hung out with his friends ("He meant it as a joke, but still..."), and how he would always ask her for money and never pay her back. I couldn't imagine why Mandy was staying with this guy when I was consistently here for her, happy to talk to her about anything.

And then it really got crazy the night before graduation. She called me that night and said that Eric had hit her. I raced right to her house and found her sitting in the corner of her room, crying.

I was there for hours - I cooked her dinner, I talked with her, I joked around with her, played video games with her, and in the end, she said she was going to break up with the bastard.

You couldn't begin to understand how happy I was. I finally had a shot at the girl of my dreams. The sweetest, most beautiful, most down-to-earth girl I ever knew was going to be mine! I mean, how could you not fall for somebody who goes straight to your house when you've been hurt and doesn't leave until he cheers you up? You have to feel something for somebody like that. You just have to.

Right?

After graduation, I met up with her to see how things went. I expected her to be in a bit of a dark mood, but she looked like a million bucks.

"Hey," I said, "How'd it go?"

"Will," she said, "You're not going to believe this! I wake up this morning, and standing outside is Eric. He's in a tuxedo and he's begging me to come down and talk to him! So I do, and he said that he was so sorry about hitting me, and I'm willing to forgive him because, it's not like he hits me all the time..."

I'm nodding, but at the same time I'm thinking, You're kidding me. You're fucking kidding me.

"And then he pulls out this!" Mandy showed me her right hand, and there was a huge ring on one of her fingers. "We're driving to Vegas tonight to get eloped! He's so romantic!"

YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME! My first impulse was to wring her by the neck and scream "GET USED TO THIS! THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN EVERY FUCKING NIGHT IF YOU MARRY THAT IDIOT!"

Instead, I simply twitched and said, "That's, uh, that's great. Uh, Good luck!" Like the fucking idiot I am.

So that night, while Eric and Mandy were sneaking off to Las Vegas so some Elvis impersonator could pronounce them man and wife, I was home, in front of my computer, bitching the night away to my support group at #ebfan.

"Goddammit," I typed, "Why are nice guys limited to friendships with beautiful women? I did EVERYTHING for her, and she still blew me off like I was nothing!"

"She's a bitch," said PokeyMon.

"If that girl can't get herself out of an abusive relationship," observed RicardoRichmonde, "She deserves to get beat."

"That really sucks," said WilyVane.

The boys of #ebfan were throwing one giant pity party for me, and I loved it. We would curse women and curse their almost automatic attraction to men who treated them like they were fucking Tamogatchis. Really, the only thing that kept us apart from third graders was that we used the the term "no relationship maturity" instead of "cooties."

"That girl has no relationship maturity," said VONDIEVEGA.

"The marrige won't last! Neither of those two have relationship maturity," said WilyVane.

"None of these high school girls have relationship maturity," said JohnnieMac, "It's disgusting!"

I'm pretty sure we would've gotten another hour out of that conversation if DreamingTree's internet connection decided not to work on that night.

DreamingTree was a girl who wasn't part of the circle, but knew a couple of people in the circle. As a result, she came, but not often. Nobody hated her, but nobody missed her absence, either. It certainly wouldn't have been missed on that night.

"What's going on?" she asked. PokeyMon gladly summed up the current bane of my existance in two lines. "Ah, OK," DreamingTree said, "So, in other words, a male nerd bitchfest. All right, then." BANG. VONDIEVEGA, a channel operator, kicked her out of the room for that remark. When she rejoined us, she said, "What? I'm serious. You guys sit here and complain about women, the fact is, you don't have a clue as to what they want!"

Now I was pissed. I started pounding the keys, saying the words I was typing out loud. "Yeah, you know, that is my problem. Women have been saying what they've wanted in a guy for years. I did everything right, EVERYTHING, yet I'm still lonely and girls still won't talk to me." I stopped, thinking that was all I had to say, and then I thought of some more things. "I mean, Christ, do you people just say that bullshit about wanting guys that treat you right so you look good?"

"Yeah, we do," responded DreamingTree, "In romantic comedies."

What a bitch! "All right, even if girls really don't want people like me, why do they always want assholes? Huh? Can you explain that? What makes you go for the fucking bastards? Does getting socked in the nose make you wet or something?" Only on the internet would I have the balls to say something like that.

"Wow," said DreamingTree, "You got burned really badly."

I didn't even consider that other girls would've gotten into a shouting match with me. I just went right back into it. "Goddamn right," I said, "Dumb bitch. Fucking deserves whatever happens to her in Vegas."

There was a pause, and I thought I may have hit a nerve. I did. Just not the one I thought I hit. "Did you say Vegas?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Uh...do you live on Long Island by any chance?"
Suddenly, things started to get freaky. "Yeah...who is this?"

"Will?"

Oh. Hell.

I had finally put a face to DreamingTree, and I did not like what I saw. She had a round, freckled face, auburn hair, hazel eyes, thin lips, and a petite nose. I saw the body that went along with it: nothing special, not like Mandy's hourglass figure, but slender and flexible looking. When I first saw her, she was wearing a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt, which explained her handle. And her name, say it with me folks, was Becky.

It wasn't Becky that wasn't appealing; I thought she looked all right when I first laid eyes on her. She was no Mandy, to be sure, but she certainly wasn't ugly.

What bothered me, though, was that when I first laid eyes on Becky, Mandy was introducing her as her best friend since grade school. Obviously, if Mandy had any dish on the Vegas trip, Becky would be the first to know. And I figured that when Mandy calls her, Becky wouldn't hesitate to tell her what happened.

I opened up a private message window and begged Becky not to tell Mandy about this.

"It's not happening," said Becky, "Mandy and I aren't talking."

"That's probably why she came to me when Eric hit her."

Nothing. It's hard to read silences when you're in a chatroom. But I was able to tell that Becky was in a state of disbelief after she said, "Eric WHAT?"

"Yeah, he hit her."

"And that ditz is STILL going to marry him?"

"Yeah, turns out he was sorry. Whatayagonnado?"

There was an even longer period of unreadble silence. Was she trying to process everything? Was she laughing? Crying? Did she get up to get a cheese sandwich? As it turned out, "I swear, she really pisses me off. I can't imagine what you must be going through."

I nodded my head. "You're kind of considerate for somebody that refers to greiving as a bitchfest," I typed.

"LOL," Becky typed back, "Sorry, I've run into a few of these. I just never saw anybody that hurt before."

"You know," I said, "I think we both lost a friend here."

"For the same reason," said Becky.

"Right. Even though I had a crush on Mandy, she was a friend first and foremost."

"Hmm," said Becky, "let me guess. Stay in the friend zone, you'll get there, right?"

"Yeah," I said, "That's about the size of it. But I really did try to be her friend, I wasn't just trying to score."

"Well, either way, you're on the right track," said Becky, "but not quite there."

"Obviously," I said, "So what else do you need?"

"You need to press on," said Becky, "Keep looking for that right girl. And believe me, you'll find her. I barely know you, but you sound like a sweet guy. Somebody has to appreciate you for who you are. Besides your parents, anyway."

Let me explain the psyche of a male hopeless romantic. When a girl, call her "the unsuspecting victim," comes up to a hopeless romantic and shows even the slightest bit of interest in him, even if she just wants to borrow (read: take and never give back) some lunch money, he immediatley looks upon the unsuspecting victim as God's gift to humankind and becomes mentally attracted to her. Of course, he keeps his emotions in check because, according to the hopeless romantic, no girl could ever love a stalker, nor could they love somebody that's straightfoward and wears his heart on his sleeve. Depending on how much time the two spend together after that, and what kind of person the unsuspecting victim is, the attraction either grows or fades from there.

I mention this to explain why I thought Ah, shit, here we go again to myself when Becky said I was sweet.

"What about my looks?"

"What about them? What do you look like? Be serious, I can find out on my own, you know. My yearbook is not far away."

I'm not creepy, I'm not completely ugly, but I'm no striking vision of a man, either. Short, plain brown hair; glasses; a bit chubby, enough to get winded climbing a set of stairs; my teeth aren't in the best of shape; there's a scar on my right cheek that I got in a car accident when I was younger; and, oh yeah, I'm hairy. I explained this to Becky and said, "How is that?"

"Yeah, I think I remember you now. You know, a girl can do much worse. Michael Jackson is living proof."

It took me thirty-odd seconds to stop laughing long enough for me to type "LOL."

"Thanks," said Becky, "Listen, I gotta get some sleep. If you want to talk, give me a call. 555-3812."

I said goodbye, giving her my number as well. I then looked at the clock, and decided it was getting pretty late. So I shut down the computer and went to bed.

I was changing into my nightwear when I started thinking about Becky and what she had said. The conversation I had with her was so engrossing, so fun, that I had forgotten all about Mandy. I suppose that it could be chalked up to the whole hopeless romantic thing, but it didn't change the fact that I still wanted to talk to her. And if any good came out of it, I wasn't pissed over Mandy sticking with John Q. Dickhead anymore.

After I woke up the next morning, I went over to the phone. It was easier to get the girl's number than most people claim. The hard part, for me anyway, was using that number.

Calling Becky was a thirty minute process. First, I picked up the reciever. I stared at the slip of paper I wrote the number on, then I punched in the first two numbers of her phone number. At this point, I would start thinking, This is ludicrous. You shouldn't have to call her like this unexpectedly. She'll think you're a stalker or something. I hung up the phone, and then stared at the number again. Come on, you want to talk to her, you have her number, you can't really get her on IRC, what is the big fucking deal? I picked up the phone again. This time I punched in 5 numbers before I hung up and thought, The big fucking deal is, you've only run into her a couple of times. You only really got to know her through IRC, and that was one night. It doesn't warrant a phone call. I paced around for a few minutes before I realized HeyƉshe gave me her number. She wants me to call, damn it, so I should call! I picked up the reciever again, determined not to think. I only lasted six numbers before I could hear Becky's voice in my head. "You're scaring me, asshole," it cried, "I didn't think you'd actually call! If I hear your voice again, the cops will be so far up your ass, you'll be tasting nighstick for the next three months! Stay the fuck away!" I slammed down the reciever.

What I needed was a movie moment - one of those things where, in a short amount of time, the hero gains an incredible amount of confidence, or at least enough confidence to pick up a phone and punch in several numbers. Moments like these are usually touched off by music, so I went over to my laptop and checked out what kind of music I had to listen to to psyche me up. "You Get What You Give" by The New Radicals was a bit overdone, but I couldn't think of anything better to use. I hit "Play" and just let that music blast through my speakers. I started getting into it, I was really jazzed. I started dancing, bopping, spinning, and by the time the lead singer swore to kick everybody's ass, I was READ--I was ready right after I took this phone call.

I went over and checked the caller ID, which read "Davis, Joseph." I figured it was for my Mom, but I decided to take the call anyway. "Hello?"

"Hi," said a girl's voice, "is Will there?"

"This is me. Who is this?"

"Will, hey, it's me, Becky."

Go fucking figure. "Becky! Hey, uh, how are you?"

"I'm fine. I just thought you'd like to know that I got a call from Mandy."

"That's good to hear. How's she doing?"

"She grew a brain and left Eric, that's how she's doing," Becky replied, "Called me crying, apologizing left and right...part of me just wanted to rub it in, but my compassionate side actually came through for some reason. She's on a Greyhound as we speak." I didn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. "You there?" she asked.

"Yeah, sorry...I just don't know what etiquitte calls for in this situation. Celebration or mourning."

"Oh, to hell with etiquitte. I'm celebrating no matter what it calls for. I've got my best friend back on my terms, you've got another shot at your dream girl--"

"She's, um, she's not my dream girl anymore," I said, "Pardon my language, but I went through too much...too much shit to wait for her to wise up."

"You don't have to watch your language with me," said Becky, "I promise, my mouth is just as dirty as yours might be."

"Oh, well, uh, that's a...that's a big motherfucking relief."

"Ha!" exclaimed Becky, "Anyway, I just thought I'd let you know, all right? And I totally understand about you letting go of Mandy. Like I said, I like her, but she really can be an idiot. Even she agrees."

I laughed and realized that I had nothing else to say. "Well, thanks for the call. I'm gonna get going."

"All right," said Becky, "Take it easy."

At this point, I would've said "Later" and I would've hung up the phone. This time, though, I felt intrigued by Becky. Talking to her was like eating potato chips. You taste one chip, and it's nothing special, yet for some reason, you want to have another, and another, and another. You never get your fill, at least not for a while. Maybe it's because she really didn't seem to mind how I would stall as I talked. Or maybe it's because I was really enjoying the sound of her voice, the way she was speaking to me. Yeah, this was definitely hopeless romanticism talking, but this time, I decided that I was going to take a shot and hope that it was granted to me.

"Uh, Becky?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Uh...what are you doing today?"

"Oh!" said Becky, laughing, "This just got interesting!" You'd think her getting wise to what I was about to ask would put me off. Some of the people I told this story to said they'd be put off. Yet, this felt more disarming than anything. I got the feeling that we were actually on the same level.

"Yeah," I said, "It's a little interesting for me too. I wouldn't normally do this."

"OK," said Becky, "Well, I just feel like unwinding right now, you know? Not doing anything in particular, just chilling out."

"That's fine," I said. I knew how to take rejection. It's really not that bad if the rejector handles it right. "I'll just--"

"So you wanna hang out somewhere?"

"Yeah," I said, in total shock, "No big deal. We'll just, uh, get some food at the mall or something, walk around, that sort of thing."

"That sounds good. What time?"

"Uh, what time's good for you?"

"Can you leave right now?"

"Sure."

"I'll meet you there, then."

"Great, see you later."

"You got it. Bye." I heard a click on the other end. Me, I just held on to the phone, thinking Holy shit, I did it.

So, what happened on what could be considered my first date with Becky? Natch, my first date, period? Well...nothing. There was absolutely nothing that happened that I could dish on. Becky looked exactly like I remembered. We hung out at the mall for hours, ate lunch, talked, and walked around. We ended up catching a movie on a whim, and when it was over, we talked some more. We talked about the dumbest things, too, except they weren't dumb. You don't know how interesting socks can be until it comes up in conversation with someone like Becky.

I didn't even realize we spent so much time together until I heard an announcement: "The mall will be closing in thirty minutes." I still wanted to hang out with her, but as much as we argued about whether or not crew socks were more comfortable than regular socks, we never talked about the whole potato chip thing. So the obvious thing to do to get her to spend more time with me, say, ask to rent a movie with her, go back to my place, and so on and so fourth, was not an option. She seemed just as comfortable as I was - but there are some risks you just don't take when you've only known someone for two days.

So I just did the first thing that came to mind. "I had a great time tonight."

"Yeah," she said, "I did too."

"Can I call you tomorrow?" I asked. I wasn't worried, but I had to hear the words, I had to be sure.

And the words came, "Absolutely, I'd love to do this again."

And once again, I thought Holy shit, I did it.

I walked her to her car, watched her drive off, and then, since my car was nearby, I did the only thing that could come to my mind at the moment: I moonwalked to my car. I didn't give a shit about the possibilities of a car coming from behind me. I was just too happy to not moonwalk.

The whole trip home, there was this big smile on my face. It felt like the forces of whatever were finally working for me, and it's an incredible feeling - even stronger than love. And speaking of love, yeah, as I drove home, I thought I was in love with Becky. But I also thought I was in love with Mandy, and my feelings for Becky now were pretty much equating my feelings for Mandy then. So I tried to be smart about it, saying to myself, "Hey, you've only known her a day."

That line of thinking lasted up until I walked through my front door. At that point, I heard my mom call out, "Some girl named Becky called and asked if you wanted to rent a movie and watch it with her! Way to go!"

She did it again!

Ten minutes later, I met her at Blockbuster video. We ended up renting Falling Down, mostly because her brother had said nothing but good things about it, and nothing else really looked interesting.

Oh, and incidentially, we didn't have any popcorn in the house. So we just snacked out of a bag of potato chips during the movie instead. Believe it.

We're watching Michael Douglas kill skinheads and blow up freeways, and I'm thinking, Life can't possibly get any better. It doesn't. A year and a half later, it still hasn't gotten better. It's gotten as good, though. It's gotten as good plenty of times.

Fine by me.