I nodded. "I don't know if you could tell, but I'm really, really in need of one."
She leaned toward me and put her hand on my knee. "Darling, it's been as obvious as if you had it painted on your forehead."
I wiped my palm across my head. "Is it still there?"
She nodded. "You're not going to get rid of it that easily."
I shrugged. "I suppose it'll wear off on its own."
"In about..." She feigned looking at a watch on her bare wrist. "About two weeks, I'd think."
"Thank God for that. I'm this close to throwing myself in the river, Muse."
She wound her invisible watch. "No, you're not that close. I know people who've thrown themselves in rivers, and you are nowhere close to that."
"Can't I have a little bit of drama? Can't you give me that?"
She shook her head. "Nope. You're just not any good at it, sweetie. You're generally too even-keeled for the drama thing."
I crossed my arms and scowled. "Fine. Steal all my fun, why don't you."
"Oh, I'm not stealing all of it," she said. "Matter of fact, I'm going to help you with it. After all, I'm going with you on your trip."
"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky? What?"
"You can't go on a vision quest sort of trip without bringing your Muse along. That wouldn't be fair for a couple of reasons."
"Which are what?" I asked.
"For one, you'll be seeing wonderful places and friends, both old and new, and you'll need a little kick in the ass to write about them while they're fresh in your head."
"Okay, that's one."
"The other one is that I never go anyplace, and I want to take a trip."
I raised an eyebrow. "You're inviting yourself on my vision quest so you can get a free vacation? That's pretty selfish, don't you think?"
"Not hardly," she said. "I'm coming along to be your Jiminy Cricket. I'll keep you out of trouble."
"You're the one who always gets me into trouble! The skinny dipping in the fountain downtown? Your fault. Setting fire to my bathroom? Again, your fault. Giving me a moaning tongue kiss in the fifth row at the church during my cousin's wedding? Again, your fault."
"You so didn't mind that one," she pointed out.
"Okay, I'll give you that. It was a pretty good kiss."
"And I tasted like peppermint that day, too. Most yummy."
"Not the point, Muse."
She steepled her arms together on the table and rested her chin on them. "You know you'll have more fun with me coming along."
I sighed. "I couldn't stop you if I tried, could I?"
She shook her head. "Nope."
"Fine. Come along. Just know that I am not stopping the car at every Hardee's so that you can pee."
"Whatever. It's your car seat."
"Also, you don't get to pick the music. I'm driving, I get to play my tunes."
"Fine," she said, then added, "Just no Cracker. Or Ryan Adams. Oh, and no Tom Waits, not while we're driving. He's too creepy once the sun goes down. Like a zombie vampire or something." She put her hands against her mouth and dropped her index fingers down like fangs, while making wet slurping noises behind them.
"My car, my driving, my music. You don't like it, you can stay in Buffalo and weep bitter tears."
"Oh!" she cried. "And no INXS! God, no INXS."
"Well, that's a given," I said. "And no road Bingo."
"Coward. Poor loser, that's what you are. What about a game of slugbug?"
"That's not a game, Muse. It's an excuse for you to punch me in the arm. No slugbug."
She crossed her arms and pouted. "Fine. Meanie."
I nodded. "Yes, that's me, a mean son of a bitch because I want to have fun on my vacation. I'm a terrible human being."
"You see where I'm coming through on this one." She scooted away from the table and grabbed her purse. "Okay then, I'm off."
"That's it? You just come and eat with me and then run away and leave me the bill?"
"Hey, we're going on vacation! I have to go do a little pre-trip shopping."
"If I weren't solidly opposed to stereotyping, I would say that you're being such a girl."
"And if I weren't morally opposed to violence," she said, "I would kick you in the testicles."
"It's a loving relationship," I said.
She nodded. "Totally." She kissed me on the forehead, then rubbed at it with her fingertip. "I think the ink is starting to fade already, babe."