Like the swallows appearing annually in Capistrano, the college students have returned to Burlington. Overnight, everything changes. Fifteen thousand people, aged 18 to 22, will do that to a community. The energy level on the streets rises; you can’t help but feel it. Personally, I like it. Or perhaps I’ve just learned to accept it, like the weather.
Amid the Saturday-night explosion of students, I was flagged down by a twentysomething couple, probably a few years post -college. In their youthful beauty, this was a well-matched pair. He was tall with olive skin and dark eyes; she was, well, a blonde bombshell, though I’m not sure anyone still uses that expression. The thought arose, In the event of Armageddon, these are two people who should mate and repopulate the world with beautiful babies. As it turned out, that was exactly their intention for the night. Well, maybe not the repopulation, but definitely the mating.
Arms entwined, my customers made out in the back seat. Call it a case of middle-aged nostalgia, but this buoyed my spirits. As my own virility has begun to ebb, the miracle of youthful ardor — so intense, so fleeting — seems all the more magical.
As I steered the taxi out of town toward Dorset Street, the couple separated for a moment, allowing the guy to check an incoming text message.
“Oh, my God,” the girl suddenly exclaimed. “That is, like, so disrespectful.”
“What?” the guy said, jerking his head. “Like, what are you talking about?”
“C’mon, Dave — I’m not, like, retarded. I just saw what you texted Lana. I mean, I know I shouldn’t be looking over your shoulder like that, but you know what you wrote.”
“No way — I didn’t text anything! Check out my cell. There’s nothing there.”
“Yeah, right. You just deleted it, asshole. You wrote, ‘I want to fuck the shit …’ Obviously, you were going to text, ‘I want to fuck the shit out of you.’”
“Jennifer, you’re nuts — I didn’t text anything.”
Hearing the entire exchange over the murmuring radio, I appreciated Dave’s impulse to lie and deny. But who did he think he was fooling? Unless Jennifer was genuinely deranged, in what possible scenario would she concoct such a specific accusation? All of a sudden, the glory of young love wasn’t looking all that miraculous.
“Dave, I know I have, like, no right. I mean, you fuck me on the weekends. It is what it is. But today, you were talking about it being, like, something more. So this, like, hurts.”
I could see Dave struggle in the back seat, scrambling to figure out his best strategy. Jennifer was this unbelievably hot girl, and he apparently had a good thing going. Maybe he should have considered that before embarking on a sexting session with Lana in between French kisses with his weekend girl. At times, I reflected, it is flat-out embarrassing to be a male member of the species.
Moving past the immediate flush of betrayal, it seemed that Jennifer was honestly conflicted. “You know, Dave,” she continued, now speaking quietly, “I don’t know what I’m complaining about. You totally satisfy me sexually, and I knew from the beginning what I was getting into. So, I guess you just do what you do, dude.”
I sat there driving, keeping my eyes glued to the road but internally dumbfounded by Jennifer’s self-awareness. As crazy and confusing as the modern world can be, young women seem to be in charge of their sex lives to an extent that is frankly astonishing to an older generation.
“Jen, honey — c’mon, now. You are, like, so awesome.”
Classic move, Dave, I thought. Changing the subject — real swift. For the record, Dave, Jennifer’s awesomeness is not the issue; the issue is your skanky cellphone maneuver. Apparently, manning up and telling the goddamn truth was not a viable option. I chuckled to myself at how firmly I had taken up the distaff side in this backseat engagement.
We cruised through South Burlington with nary a word from the back. Approaching the Shelburne line, we took a winding dirt driveway to a gorgeous, sprawling property. Before the extensive condo development throughout this section of Chittenden County, homes were tucked here and there in the rural landscape. Many were beauties, as was this one — Dave’s family homestead.
Resigned to her fate for at least one more weekend — sexually alive but emotionally diminished — Jennifer left the cab the moment we came to a stop and strode toward a side door. Dave followed, after stepping around to pay the fare at my window — what I call “A&W style.”
“Dude,” I said. “This is a real nice girl. I hope you do the right thing.”
“Yeah, you’re right, man,” he said, still looking a bit befuddled, as if the showdown between the devil and the angel perched on his opposite shoulders had yet to be resolved. “I guess,” he added with a heavy sigh, “I’m gonna have to step up to the plate on this one.”