What is the cruelest thing you have ever done to a person with whom you were romantically involved?
My story won the prize, both for the callousness with which I treated the woman in question and the singularity of my motives. I am not proud of this, but, in my defense, I was in my early 20s and still under the rule of a testosterone dynasty.
Vanessa was a sexy, statuesque brunette with several tattoos and a raspy smoker’s voice. A former resident of Los Angeles, she would come into my bar when a certain L.A.based band she grew up with was playing.
We always struck a fun, flirtatious rapport, but on this particular night, the flirting reached a new level—with her going so far as making the kind of unsolicited innuendos that led me to believe I might actually get a little sump’n-sump’n later.
As closing time neared, I asked if she wanted to retire to my place. She said she did but needed to be in L.A. in the morning for an important job interview. The problem was, since she didn’t have a car, she needed to ride up with the band that night after the gig. On a hormone-driven whim, I said, “Well, how about you stay over and I’ll drive you in the morning?” To my delight, she agreed.
Fast-forward to the action. When we arrived at my place, the first thing she did—as if on a mission—was flip through my record collection. I went to the fridge to grab a couple of beers and returned to see her waving Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town album.
“I love Bob Seger!” she erupted. “How about you?” Now, I’d rather listen to Sarah Palin rap about moose poaching against a sample of the emergency-broadcast alert than Bob Seger’s music. But if loving Bob Seger is going to increase my chances of getting some sump’n-sump’n, well, then, hell goddamn yeah I love Bob Seger. Doesn’t everybody!?
“Me, too!” I replied.
“Why don’t you join me on the couch so we can listen together?” “I saw him at The Meadowlands in ’86,” she declared proudly. “He opened with ‘Her Strut,’ then ‘Fire Lake.’ It was a great show.”
“Fantastic!” I said, patting the space next to me.
“I saw him at the Fillmore in 1980. Take a guess what the encore was?” she asked, ignoring my beckoning.
“Oh, Christ, I don’t know. ‘Night Moves’ maybe?” I said, thinking, What’s the deal here? This was supposed to be a gimme. We were supposed to be ripping off each other’s clothes before the front door clicked shut. I didn’t realize I was going to have to work for it.
“‘Night Moves’? Pffft! He would never play ‘Night Moves’ for the encore,” she scoffed, eyeing me suspiciously, as if doubting my devotion to Bob Seger. “It was ‘Hollywood Nights,’ of course.”
She put the record on the turntable, sat on the couch, and—to my horror—began to play air drums. Air drums! Are you kidding me here? Do you know how dangerous it is to make moves on a chick playing air drums? She damn near put my eye out!
After what seemed like an hour of my sitting on the couch waiting for her to stop, “We’ve got Tonight” came on. Finally! A romantic tune was exactly what was needed to set the proper mood. I waited for her to put down the air drumsticks—but she didn’t.
She just kept waving and flailing with the same, frenzied tempo, and all I could think was, Are you crazy woman? You can’t air-drum to “We’ve Got Tonight”! “We’ve Got Tonight” is for fondling and kissing and sump’n-sump’ning.
“And here we are babe / What do you say?
/ We’ve got tonight / Who needs tomorrow?” “Listen to those words,” I said, as she hit the air high-hat. “It’s like Bob is talking directly to us.”
“He talks to me all the time,” she said.
“That’s why I follow his tours, so I can let him know that I’m receiving his messages.”
It was clear then. I had made a terrible mistake. Not only was I not going to get laid, but I was beginning to wonder about my safety: What if she bludgeons me in my sleep?
What if—on our drive to Los Angeles—I accidentally reveal my disdain for Seger? Will she hack me up and scatter my parts along the rest stops of Interstate 5? Or worse, what if she doesn’t kill me and I have to spend four hours in L.A. traffic with a person who can’t manufacture a sentence that doesn’t begin with “I saw him at”?
“I saw him at Red Rocks in ’87,” she everbabbled. “I saw him at Candlestick Park in ’81. I saw him at Radio City in ’83. I saw him at—” until, thankfully, she nodded off.
Sitting there on the couch, hating myself for the mess I created, I decided there was no way I could chauffeur her to Los Angeles. So I snuck outside to my car, opened the hood and switched the sparkplug wires. Then I snuck back in, put a blanket on her and crawled into bed by myself.
A couple of hours later, we woke up, got ready and slid into the car. Whir, whir, whir, said the starter as Vanessa searched my cassette collection for some more Seger. Whir, whir, whir, it continued until the battery slowed, then died. I apologized profusely, but she just shot me a look of “You are such a scumbag!” and walked away without saying a word. To this day, when I hear Bob Seger, I become stricken with guilt.
Unless it’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” in which case, all I feel is nausea.