Sitting in my office around noon on the 7th of June, I receive a text from Nikki advising “she has no car” and must cancel our scheduled June 8th get-together.

Does this anger or disappoint me?


Rather, the phrase “have no car” keys into my brain a recurrent and three-times-realized rescue scenario wherein Nikki, the darling damsel with a habit of wrecking cars, and I, an aged knight errant with a debit card backed by the accumulated riches of decades, are inspecting inventory at Greensboro CarMax, searching for “her next victim.” My neural circuits are hyper-activated, flushed-full, and distended to maximum length, spewing imaginary narrative into every cubic centimeter of my cranium, crowding out ordinary life concerns, worries, and anxieties.

Which is to say: “The horses are out of the barn.”

My fantasy suddenly (and predictably) shifts from “rescue” to “reward.” Away from the CarMax showroom, I am now in a warm, mossy meadow with the scent of oranges in the air, making love to Nikki, grateful owner of new car; a scene in vibrant colors pulsing to a techno beat, conjured by an imagination enflamed by internal chemicals equivalent to those activated by crystal meth, a fantastical encounter becoming more intense instant-by-instant, reaching apparently unlimited heights as there’s no orgasm as I’m not actually screwing. In fact, this is BETTER than screwing.


By the grace of God, two minutes after the arrival of Nikki’s text, I’m due to preside at my company’s weekly staff meeting: a wholesome diversion that allows me—while addressing routine business matters with normal, competent workers whose lives are ballasted by young children, homes, mortgages, et cetera—to “return to planet Earth” before reflexively dashing off a reply to Nikki that would have cost me thousands of dollars.

My barely-avoided communication would have been something like: “CarMax. When?” A meeting Nikki would NOT cancel, no matter WHAT the circumstances.

Thanks to the staff meeting—and to the fact this ain’t my first rodeo with the cute little mare—I’m able to calm down and submit inquisitive texts to Nikki, whose replies indicate her Dodge Charger has been not been totaled, as were her previous three cars. It’s merely suffered a broken axle. Repair will cost $400.

Fast forward to the next afternoon, Thursday, June 8th: Nikki has arrived in my office parking lot, awaiting four C-notes promised by me to get her car out of the shop.

Sitting at my desk, I receive a text.

It states: “here.”

As if the fire alarm has sounded, I’m out of my seat, through the door, down the stairs, and into the parking lot, all within 30 seconds…but where’s Nikki?

I figure, despite instructions to come to my office, Nikki’s gone to my home.

I text: “At the office.”

Then I scan the nondescript cars in the parking lot, reflecting that were I to be gifted $400, I would not keep a donor waiting. Reminding myself I’m not Nikki, I try to relax and exchange pleasantries with an exiting employee, figuring Nikki is o/t/w.

A quarter hour passes and Nikki emerges from a small car—unrecognized by me since, as she later advises, it belongs to her brother. The car has been in the parking lot all along.

“Sorry,” she says, “I zoned out.”

She’s been here the whole time. Youth, ADHD, narcissism, whatever…it hasn’t occurred to her that her brother’s car is unknown to me.

Now, we are standing beside the vehicle, she lit by the late afternoon sun. I’m noticing the breasts I bought four years previously, which look pretty damned good beneath the Nikki Baker Cleaning Service T-shirt, not to mention the sparkling blue eyes beneath expertly-groomed brown eyebrows that sweep up then down to hairy endpoints, suggesting (to me) a similarly beguiling comosariette, were it not shaved daily like those of nearly all millenniae.

Nikki explains that speed bumps in the parking lot at her apartment complex broke her axle, adding that, as the complex is full of children, she always drives slowly therein, a patent falsehood I barely hear, preoccupied by conjugal fantasies that always arise when I hand her C-notes and which, on this occasion, will not be realized as her return to Thomasville to retrieve her car must be immediate.

She hugs me gratefully—a “$400 hug?”—then opens the car door. Peering into her eyes, I say: “Nikki, I know you don’t like advice from me or anyone else, but….”

There’s little external evidence, but Nikki is cringing, bracing herself for “a lecture,” perhaps my oft-repeated “cause-and-effect” thesis, whereby I assert there is a connection between wrecking three cars in three years and her $600 per month insurance premium, or, stated differently, that kamikazes pay more for insurance.

Such a lecture would be fatuous, of course. That’s not at all what I intend to say. But she doesn’t know that. I give her a couple more seconds of dead air, enhancing the dramatic tension, something anyone who’s survived more than 40 years in business knows how to do.

“Nikki,” I say, “you went light on the makeup today. I like that. Your freckles are showing.”

Just a few freckles, lightly-colored and spreading across her nose onto her cheeks, like a speckled puppy. She looks down, girlishly, and covers her face with her palm. Nikki is genuinely modest and probably a little embarrassed by her freckles, considering she’s 24, an advanced age, in her view. Then, perhaps relieved she’s not going to get “a lecture,” she looks up at me and smiles, a REAL smile.

And THAT’s what I got for my $400.