NEW TO “TEN YEARS GONE”? START FROM THE BEGINNING!
With arctic temperatures nesting firmly on the thermometer, the winter of my fifteenth year was truly underway. Winter is often equated with endings, death, and grey darkness, but I’ve always found that my romantic experiences tend to revolve around it. So, in a way, it does have its share of endings but it has an equally important amount of beginnings as well…perhaps more importantly it has its share of beginnings. Beginnings are so much more important than endings—scientifically speaking, all systems are constantly breaking down and heading towards their inevitable end, but there is no scientific evidence for why there should be life at all. Therefore, it is my true belief that when things end, it may be sad—it is nonetheless natural—but when things begin there is really no reason for it all. They are all then, in fact, miraculous.
There was no concrete reason for Adam to pawn Rachel off on me over the Internet other than his low tolerance for girls and their intrinsically annoying nature. As our collision course zeroed in, the reasons became less important. It is interesting to note that I had not met this girl—shit, she lived two counties over from me, which, when you are fifteen, might as well be fifteen states. Normal high school relationships are not developed over these distances, strictly over the Internet and the telephone, but here was this odd sort of relationship developing. It is less divergent from the norm with the ubiquitous nature of the World Wide Web today, but at the breakout of these sorts of un-personal/interpersonal interactions, it was different.
An invitation to Rachel’s birthday party had come my way and I was now getting anxious. My bravado was writing checks that my confidence might not be able to cash. Luckily, I think, I wasn’t expected to—but I didn’t think so then. As the day of the party came closer and closer, my nerves began to rattle and shake–but I held it together.
My father drove me to the party and I was going to crash at Alon’s house. My father had a very interesting approach to dealing with my teenage quest for uniqueness—he tried everything he could to make me feel like a piece of shit for trying and did his best to encourage me to conform to whatever it was that he thought I should be conforming to. The ride to the party was no different and did very little for my confidence.
I was dressed in almost normal garb. I had on a pretty nice sweater that my father had bought me and my hair was pulled back nicely, but I had a pair of holey jeans on with pajamas exposed underneath and mismatched Converse All-Stars. One was normal black and the other was white.
“Do you look at yourself in the mirror? When you get home, I want you to take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about how you look. Is this how you want people to see you?”
“Yes. Clearly it is, because this is how I look.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“Fine. One day…one day you’ll look back on this conversation and you’ll say to yourself that dad was right. You’ll see. You’ll think of all those wasted years where you looked dirty, you look like you’re homeless. Do you want people to think you’re homeless. is that what it is?”
Honestly, my dad wasn’t coming from a nasty place when he berated me about my appearance. I did get older and started to understand about presenting yourself and all that conformist bullshit. Even when I did though, I still knew he was wrong. As a teenager, I was behooved to look the way I did. That’s how I wanted to look, dress, and wear my hair; teenagers really have very few choices about how their lives are run, but their appearance is perhaps the only thing they have a modicum of control over.
It is important to note that my father has always been in sales. The first thing about selling products is selling yourself first. That’s my father’s perspective. Consumers probably weren’t buying what I was selling—but I was never too keen on selling anything. I took to heart what John Cusack said in Say Anything.
With the closing of my never-ending conversation with my father for the day, I had arrived at my destination. Party time. As I walked up the stone pathway towards the ranch style, split-level house on a block with no sidewalks or fences, my heartbeat was so heavy that it must have messed up my hair. There didn’t seem to be any sound within the house.
Each footstep took a thousand megawatts of willpower to execute. I got to the door. I rang the doorbell. I did the “It’s cold out and now I’m waiting for someone to answer the doorbell” dance. There was a stir within. A rumble inside.
The door creaked.
The deadbolts slid.
It was…an old lady. She looked at me and said something in a language I had never heard before—I think Klingon. I was confused. My father was confused. Granny Klingon was confused. I looked across the street. Red balloon. The party was across the street.
“Sorry, old lady, I’m at the wrong house.”
I waved my father away and walked across the street to the house where the red balloon was. Ding-dong. Alon opened the door. Now I knew I was at the right house. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was going to be an awkward situation. How do you make time with someone who is the hostess? And that you never met before…this was going to be tricky. It all had to be pulled off without looking hungry or insane or dickish. I spent most of the party trying to figure out how to pull it off.
There she was across the living room. A cute, tiny little thing: all of five foot two and not a shade over a hundred pounds. I very much go for a petite girl; it’s just always been my type—the shorter you can get without being an actual midget, the better. She had a cute face with brown eyes, smooth skin, and a Princess Jasmine nose (I always fancied myself some Princess Jasmine…and Gadget from Rescue Rangers—hottest mouse ever). She had been a ballet dancer before a leg injury but she was still fit and had a little dancer’s shape to her.
Her short, brown hair cascaded across the sides of her face but was styled somehow as if it looked purposefully casual. She was wearing two hemp bracelets with hand painted clay beads, a maroon kind of shirt/top thing, and some girly, yet cool, jeans. She was barefoot at that moment. This was good, there was the possibility of me not being physically attracted to this person with whom I had been building a romantic relationship over the cables—as it turned out she was exactly my type. I don’t know how that might have worked out otherwise without me turning out to be a dick.
Rachel turned her head and saw Alon. She smiled a nice, warm smile and walked over.
This led to the awkward hello and meeting, of course.
“Rachel, this is Brandon.”
“Hi, umm happy birthday.”
“You too, I mean thanks.”
I laughed a little. There was that weird moment when you don’t know if you’re supposed to hug someone or shake their hand and you feel almost magnetically attracted to do one or the other so you shuffle your feet about trying to navigate the situation through, but you’re so focused on doing the right thing that you forget you are talking. This, coupled with the fact that I was now nervous because I was attracted to both her personality and her form, inevitably lead to a slip like:
“You sure are shorter than I thought.”
“Yup. Well, I gotta go say hi to some people I’ll talk to you later I guess…”
Stupid, stupid, stupid-stupid, dummy! Did you really just insult her at her own birthday party? You are some kind of asshole idiot asshole aren’t you? Go. Sit over there on the couch and feel stupid about yourself for at least a half hour. Starting…now.
The teenage conscience is not a comforting entity.
I looked around the room at the people and wasn’t sure if these were the GAP ads I was used to seeing. I don’t recall if there was music playing, though I do recall that nobody dared to touch the black baby grand piano in the corner. The living room was a room for reading. Floor to ceiling books adorned the walls, but not in a cluttered way, the room was very neat and well thought out. In fact, the room was so purposeful it was hard to imagine any material gains being made and fit into the room. At any rate, the room was well appointed and comfortable even for a gathering of teenagers.
As the night wore on, I finally had the opportunity to get into Rachel’s ear for a while. The house had seemed so warm and stifling that we ended up on the swing set in her backyard. The night was especially clear and far enough from the city’s ambient light pollution that the stars were visible. We were gabbing on about some trivial teenager things.
“So then in eighth grade we played against this one team that had girls on it and we beat them out so badly that we put the shortest kid on the team in the center. Anyway, at the end of the game there was this girl who was so upset that her brother didn’t get Phish tickets, but me and Ofir thought she said ‘Fish Sticks’. It was hilarious…it’s a running joke even now…even though I don’t really hang out with Ofir anymore…”
There was a weird look on her face. As if she were trying to see if I were somehow making this story up.
“That was me,” she said without looking me in the face.
“The girl you guys were making fun of. The team you beat. That was me.”
“Get outta here with that!” I dropped my head backward in the swing hoping she was pulling my leg.
“No, I’m serious, I love Phish. I was really pissed off that my brother didn’t get tickets, and when you guys made fun of me I cried.”
“You’re lying to me. Holy shit. Ohmigod. That’s hilarious!” I laughed for a minute until I realized she didn’t think it was funny.
“I mean…umm…I didn’t mean to make you cry but…umm…yeah…no that’s hilarious… sorry you cried though.”
“It wasn’t funny.”
“But it is now?”
“No…well a little.”
You are so lucky you stupid asshole moron idiot. Keep recovering.
We managed to keep talking for a while. We didn’t really like the same music, but we both liked music…it kind of made sense. We were both open to music. While she didn’t care too much for Nirvana, I wasn’t especially thrilled by the soundtrack from Rent, but we found common ground in Pearl Jam and The Beatles and whatnot. Before long there was the return of the awkward moment.
We were sitting in our respective swings, no longer swinging, and had suddenly run out of things to say. We must have been out there for about forty-five minutes, and it was a classic television “nothing-left-to-say-time-for-that-first-kiss” moment. Except life is not television, as I had been learning all throughout high school, and the moment hung for too long. I looked at her and she returned the gaze, ready for me to make some move when the sliding glass door on the deck opened up.
“Rachel! Some of your guests are leaving!”
Rachel, ever the dutiful hostess, returned her mother’s call and went inside to start bidding her guests farewell.
Well there goes your shot you jerk. Of all the world’s jerkiest jerks you get this month’s award for the most retarded jerk of the month.