A friend told me a story once. He was living in Canada, at university, living in a houseshare. He lived with a nerdy Canadian guy - let's call him Ryan, because Ryan seems like a fairly archetypal name for the kinda guy Ryan was. Ryan was one of those super-enthusiastic people who always saw the good in people, who was kinda naive, who had a girlfriend. I can't remember her name - I did meet her years after the events transpired, and I remember thinking, wow, you're gorgeous. And she and I talked for ages at this barbecue thing we were at. And we were vibing, like two people with a sense of humour who'll probably never see each other ever again do at barbecue things.
Ryan was heading home for the holidays. I imagine it was Canadian Thanksgiving. He set out from the houseshare in Halifax early because it was quite a trek to where his parents were and he didn't want to spend the whole day driving. Ryan didn't always take best care of his things. He left washing in the sink for days, never straightened the shower curtain, meaning his housemates cursed him for the mildew, and he never changed the oil in his car. Never for the five years he'd owned it.
Needless to say, the car broke down. He was one and a half hours into his journey home. Not quite at the point of no return. And not quite close enough to risk his father's wrath at his carelessness. He decided to cut his losses and head back to Halifax. Well, you would. The gorgeous girlfriend I would later crush on at a barbecue was there and she wasn't going anywhere for the holidays. And he could borrow her car maybe.
I get confused about the details here and what happened to his car while he tried to flag someone down to take him to Halifax. But let's just assume that the car was taken in by Canada's equivalent of the AA and he found himself on a motorway and needed to get back to Halifax. These small details aren't the important bits. They're extraneous. They add nothing to the story. You just need to keep in your mind that the girlfriend was gorgeous and I would, years later, ask for her email address, pretending it was to send on a link to a website, when in fact, it was so I could begin a correspondence, one that never manifested, because I was crushing on her at a barbecue.
So Ryan ends up in a car. He successfully flags down a car. The guy is not going as far as Halifax but he's a nice guy, he likes doing good deeds, he will take Ryan back to his girlfriend in Halifax.
Ryan says, 'Man, thank you. My girlfriend is going to be so happy she'll kiss you.' This is, off the bat, a weird thing to say. This was in a pre-mobile phone world, so chances are she hasn't been contacted, has had no idea of his circumstances and is happily going about her holidays, cooking food, drinking coffee, seeing movies, being gorgeous, wondering what types of barbecues she'll be going to in the future. 'Really?' says the driver. 'Well, I'll go extra fast then.'
Ryan assumes this is a joke. They make light conversation. Ryan tells the driver about his degree, about the books he's reading, what he will do when he leaves university. The driver tells Ryan about his farming business, about how he will be spending the holidays alone, about his divorce. Ryan says that maybe his girlfriend - you remember her, she's the gorgeous one - might cook him a meal as a thank you. 'Don't forget the kiss,' the driver says.
They arrive back in Halifax. And the driver drops Ryan off. Ryan gets out of the car, grabs his stuff from the boot, the trunk and heads back up to the house. The gorgeous girlfriend appears at the front door, confused and asks what's going on. Ryan explains he broke down. She tuts, she knows the reasons why. The driver gets out of the car and bounds up the steps to the house, past Ryan on to the porch. My friend has appeared at this point, to see what the commotion is. Ryan duly explains. The driver looks at the girlfriend expectantly. She asks Ryan who he is. 'He drove me home,' Ryan explains.
'And he said if I drove him home, you'd kiss me,' the driver says and puckers his lips, leaning forward.
There isn't a moral to this story. Or a funny ending. It just demonstrates that sometimes people will take you literally and you won't realise until it's too late. And sometimes I still think about that girl at the barbecue. And I remember this story. And it makes me laugh. That image, on the porch, of four people - two confused, one relieved and one who just wants a kiss because he's lonely on the holidays.
It makes me feel a little sad.