My wife'll be the first to tell you: I have no idea when chicks dig me.
It's not like it's happened all that often, but it's happened; and every time it's happened I've missed it. I am the man on fire who cracks open the window and says, "A bit stuffy in here, isn't it?" I am the drowning man who thinks he's thirsty.
Most of the time it's happened it happened without fanfare -- with some chick digging me and then forgetting about it when it became clear I was oblivious. Nobody ever knew but her pink diary and maybe her best friend.
But there was one time when it was different. I mean, dramatic.
Let me explain:
It was the first day of school at Butcher-of-the-Somme Secondary. I was fourteen years old. For years teachers had been threatening me with the idea that highschool was a very serious place which would broker no guff from clowns like me. I was very nervous. I sat very straight, and felt tickling trickles of sweat run down my sides. I was very concerned with impressing upon my teachers my attitude of earnest receptivity.
My chief nemesis: in just about every class a lanky idiot with black hair sat directly behind me, giggling and making jokes and trying to get my attention. He wasn't in my home-form -- he wasn't a visual arts major. He didn't look gay enough to be a dancer or boring enough to be a classical musician, so I deduced that he was a theatre major. His craven need to continuously act out was certainly theatrical, at any rate.
It wasn't long before he found a name for me. "Ein-stein," he'd sing lazily from behind me, tapping my shoulder with a pencil. "Hey, Einstein -- I'm talking to you! Why do you have to put your hand up every time the teacher asks a question, Ein-stein? Hey?"
I'd groan and try to ignore him. He was a pest, and he kept getting in trouble. "I was just talking to Einstein here, sir," he'd whine. So I got in trouble, too.
One day he followed me home from school, talking to himself as he walked beside me, as if we were engaged in conversation. "Are we downtown?" he asked in wonder as we stepped out of Eglinton Station. "Because those are streetcar wires and they only have streetcars downtown. My mom hardly ever goes downtown. She doesn't like it. But she's weird because she's an immigrant."
"This is midtown," I muttered.
When we got off the bus by my house I spoke again as he pushed off the bus behind me, skipping along the sidewalk at my heels. I asked, "Why are you following me?"
"Because I wanna be your friend," he said simply, shrugging.
"You've got a weird way of showing it."
"Sorry, okay?" He started up the front path of the nearest house. "Is this your house?"
"That one, right?" he grinned, pointing to the next house.
I sighed and kept walking. He trotted up beside me, looking around and asking inane questions about anything. If I didn't reply he'd just move on to the next batch of questions. "Is this Leaside? Why are the houses so small if they're supposed to be so good? A lot of trees, though. Is that your dog barking? I bet that's your house. Is that one your house, Einstein?"
We did eventually get to my house. I made him wait on the porch while I fetched a couple of glasses of iced tea. Nobody was home. I came out and we sat on the front steps and sipped. He was called the Black Serb. "I'm Serbian," he told me enthusiastically. "Have you ever heard of a place called Yugoslavia?"
"Serbia is a part of Yugoslavia," he told me happily. "The best part, probably. I've been there lots of times. Well, only twice. But for a long time, those two times. I remember the beach..." And on and on and on. I watched the cars go by as I sipped my iced tea. But somewhere in there the Black Serb said something that caught my attention.
"Camcorder?" I echoed. "Did you say you've got a camcorder?"
"Yeah," he said, and then added guiltily, "Well, it's my sister's, actually." After a moment he additionally volunteered, "It's my sister's boyfriend's. But he really likes me and he said I could borrow it." He finished his iced tea and furrowed his brow. Then, a look of excitement bloomed on his face. "Hey!" the Black Serb declared, "Let's make a movie -- you and me!"
And I'm not quite sure how, but we did.
(He also ended up as the best man at my wedding. One thing leads to another.)
The movie we made was one hour and ten minutes long, and it was unspeakably terrible in nearly every respect. While as an older teenager my friends and I would discover that the movie possessed a certain entertainment value under the influence of hallucinogenic narcotics, as a sober fifteen-year-old I had to admit that it was pretty difficult to sit through the whole thing. I mean, it really sucked.
But that wasn't really the point.
Movies are exciting things. Despite my initial scepticism the Black Serb's enthusiasm was infectious. The day we broke into the theatre department's storage portable to steal costumes was the day I really started to believe we could get the movie made. We took the costumes back to the Black Serb's house, and stashed them in his messy and somewhat ill-smelling room. This is when he confessed to me his idea to cast all of the female parts with girls he had crushes on. "That way they'll like get to be able to hang around me when I'm doing cool stuff, and like being all cool doing movie stuff."
"You really think girls will want to be in our movie?" I asked, trying to find somewhere to sit that didn't crunch or squelch beneath me.
"You don't know theatre girls, Einstein," he said seriously. "You like only have to get one of them, and then the rest join up because they're jealous."
He made us two bowls of Kraft Dinner and cups of frosty diluted juice, and showed me how he ran a "bulletin board" on his computer which somehow gave him access to chunky, frighteningly real-looking moving graphics of people fucking and sucking on one another. "Good gravy!" I said, or something to that effect.
Through that winter the Black Serb and I built and painted hobby models of spaceships, cutting holes in them to accommodate the firecrackers we would later insert to blow them up. We figured out that his computer could also be used to create black and white starfields that could be captured by the camcorder's title function, to be overlaid on our special effects shots. We transformed my father's "music chamber" -- a black room filled with black furniture and a dozen embedded speakers -- into the bridge of a starship, building consoles out of two exercise bikes and sets of blinking, glowing gizmos we picked up at a dollar store. "Man, I can't wait to like actually get to get started really making the movie," lamented the Black Serb.
"Isn't that what we're doing now?" I asked without looking up, gluing a warp nacelle pylon subassembly onto what would become a galactic police cruiser.
"This isn't the fun part," he scoffed.
"Do you see any girls around here, Einstein?" he explained.
"I guess not," I admitted.
We discussed the fact that there were really only two female roles in the script, but the Black Serb said that we would need support girls -- girls on the periphery to see to make-up and hair, to carry around clipboards with scripts and shot notes. "Support girls are awesome, because they're always feeling under-appreciated," he told me.
So when we started shooting in the spring we had five girls on board: three in the cast (one playing a male midget), one doing hair and make-up (she spent the majority of her time reattaching dangling prosthetic glop to aliens), and one carrying around a clipboard. The shooting was a chaotic period which I abhorred, though the Black Serb seemed to thrive. I was constantly frustrated at the amount of tomfoolery on the set, or pulling my hair out trying to solve technical problems. The Black Serb, in contrast, spent his time talking everyone through their roles, making lunch plans...or leading the tomfoolery.
At one point he earned the wrath of my friend Cowboy (do you remember him?) by tossing a firecracker at him in the middle of a take, so Cowboy chased him around my dad's yard, tripped him, and punched him in the kidney. The Black Serb whined and threatened to withdraw the borrowed camcorder, so we all made nice and Cowboy even managed to somehow enunciate an apology through clenched teeth.
But by the time school was out for the summer the thing was in the can. I thought the Black Serb's fun would be over now that the project was in my hands to assemble, but I was wrong. "Now comes the best part!" he crooned: "The Wrap Party."
Wrap Parties are events put on by the producers of a project, often but not exclusively in one of their own homes -- catered and waitered and gigged and fancy. Sometimes restaurants or bars are rented for the occasion, to contain the large crews of particularly expensive productions. In contrast, when you're a fifteen-year-old funding an hour long space epic out of your own pocket, you pretty much settle for getting drunk in a park.
At least, that was the plan.
The Black Serb made all of the arrangements, so I should have smelled doom at the start. I had never been to the park in question, and had no idea where the alcohol was supposed to be coming from. I didn't see what the big deal was. The fact of the matter is that I would've rather been at home, editing, but the cast was so zealous about the idea that not showing up wasn't really an option.
I took the subway with Cowboy. He wanted to know who all would be there. "Well, JJ and Professor Trivia said they'd come," I told him; "but you know how reliable they aren't."
"I mean which of the girls, Brown," Cowboy emphasized.
As I said, we had ended up with five girls on board:
Limber was a mouthy, curvaceous Jewish trollop with superior academic skills and inferior self-control. Her best friend was Sassy, a gum-snapping skinny blonde who worked in a local greasy spoon after school, spending her evenings hanging out with Limber and fellating a gang of wiggers who wore shiny jogging suits and beat one another up for laughs. Greeneyes was a pretty brunette theatre major with a sharp wit, whom I'd like-liked since I first met her two years earlier as the best friend of my first girlfriend, Rabbit. Bean was a short, brown-eyed girl with premature grey streaked through her black hair, who played violin and wore big boots. Miss Doc was a busty, self-effacing sidekick to Bean, always crossing her arms across her chest as she whispered hilarious punchlines to the jokes the world presented her. She was the niece of a grotesquely famous novelist -- a fact she usually denied.
"All of them are coming, I think," I told Cowboy. "The Black Serb's got his sights set on Greeneyes." I sighed.
"Wicked," he grinned. "I'm into Bean."
It was at Bean's house that we were to assemble, but when we got there we found a piece of notepaper pinned to do the door that read: GONE 4 SUPLIES, MEET U PARK, -BLACKSERB. "So everyone but us was early, I guess," ventured Cowboy.
I shrugged. "I guess. Do you know how to get to this park?"
He nodded. We were about to set off when JJ showed up with Greeneyes, and it became apparent that everyone had not arrived early and gone with the Black Serb. "Shit," said JJ, "I don't even know where the damn park is."
"Me neither," said Greeneyes.
"I do," said Cowboy.
That's when Bean showed up. Now it was apparent that the Black Serb had opted out of meeting up with everyone and leading them to the park as planned, likely because his alcohol plan had backfired and he had been forced to improvise. Since Bean knew the way to the park we split into two parties: she and I remained on her front porch to meet up with the stragglers, while Cowboy would lead everyone else onward to the park.
Since I knew Cowboy liked Bean, I did what any friend ought: I extolled his virtues while we sat on the porch and watched the sun come down. "You're a really good friend to Cowboy," she commented, so I thought it was working.
Bean had heavy eyelids that gave her a kind of easygoing, sleepy look that belayed her quick tongue and loud laugh. She wore a man's vest with an antique fob-watch, which was pretty but nonfunctional. She had little freckles on her nose and, like I said, black hair streaked with premature grey.
She asked me if I wanted to hear a piece was she learning on violin. "Sure," I said, so she pulled it out and stood at the bottom of the steps, sawing away on the thing. Bach came out of it. It was a neat trick, and she swayed when she did it -- to and fro, with her eyes closed.
The family telephone rang so she ran inside. It was Limber, calling from a payphone and demanding to know where we were. She, Sassy and the Black Serb were in the park all alone drinking rum and Cokes, and she wasn't happy about it -- loudly. I watched Bean hold the earpiece away from her head, rolling her brown eyes. After she hung up she said, "We'd better get over there."
(Indeed, through some strange twist of circumstance, the Black Serb had ended up at the park alone with all the booze and the two girls who advertised the lowest barriers to entry. What a...strange coincidence.)
She snapped her instrument back into its case and off we went, meandering through the sidestreets of her neighbourhood. I kept noticing funny little bell-bottomed letters forming words on some of the houses, so I wondered aloud about it. "That's Hebrew," she told me.
"Hebrew? Isn't that a dead language -- like Phoenician or Babylonian?"
"Of course not!" she countered sharply. "It's the sacred language of the Jews."
"Really? That's interesting."
"You've never heard that before?"
"Should I have?"
"Well you know Jews!" she argued, obviously distressed.
"Oh yeah," I said, nodding. "I guess I do -- they wear those funny little pentagrams, right? Like Limber?"
"They're not pentagrams!" Bean cried. "They're called Stars of David!"
"Okay, whatever. But they are a Jewish thing, right?"
She groaned. "Don't you know anything about Judaism, CheeseburgerBrown?"
I thought back to the last time Jews had been brought to my attention, when I had been accused of Naziism for burning the edges of a book to make it look like a pirate map. "Well," I began cautiously. "I know they don't believe in Jesus, they didn't used to let women read, and a lot of them died in World War II."
(Rock on, educational power of Yentl!)
"CheeseburgerBrown," Bean cried, "I'm a Jew!"
This was my second conversation about Judaism in my life, and the second time the interlocuting Jew had seen fit to remind me in agonized tones of their Jewishness. Both times, I failed to see the point. "Um," I mumbled. "So can you read Babylonian?"
"Oh shit -- I meant Hebrew. Sorry!"
"The things you're saying are anti-Semetic," she said, taking my hands and looking me in the eye seriously.
A long moment.
I cleared my throat awkwardly. "What does 'anti-Semetic' mean?"
She groaned and pulled away from me. I was pretty sure she was very mad, but it turned out she was laughing. Winded, she kept trying to repeat, "'What does anti-Semetic mean'," and erupting into another bout of guffaws. At long last she put her hand on my shoulder and managed to say, "You and I come from very different worlds, CheeseburgerBrown."
And, you may know this but I didn't: sometimes girls go for that.
We walked on. After a little while I noticed her hesitating steps. "What is it?" I asked.
"I...thought it was right around this corner," she said, looking around distractedly. "Let's go back a bit. We must've missed a turn."
The sun dipped below the houses, and the streets became dark. Some streetlamps came on, some didn't. Still others flickered on only as we passed, dying behind us. I offered to carry her violin, but she wouldn't let me.
"The thing is," Bean said after a moment, "I've always been taught that ignorance of Judaism and anti-Semetism -- anti-Judaism -- were pretty much impossible to separate."
"Well," I reasoned, "maybe you can't have one without the other, but you can have the other without the one."
She smiled, and I was charmed. I looked away. I changed the subject. I wondered where the park was, and then so did she. She put hands on her hips and tapped her foot, making a big pretense of looking around meaningfully. "Well, fucked if I know," she declared.
I laughed. We walked along in silence a while longer, aimlessly. She asked me about my time in France, so I told a few anecdotes. She told me about playing violin, and her love of Bach. I told her about playing nothing at all, and my love of Beethoven. And Wagner.
"Wagner?" she echoed, incredulous.
"I admit it, I really go for the big, bombastic stuff," I explained.
"But CheeseburgerBrown," she implored, "Wagner was an anti-Semite!"
I furrowed my brow. "So? I don't see how his politics enter into his musical ability."
"Politics?" she sputtered, grabbing my arm again. "Hating Jews isn't politics!" she shouted.
"Okay, whatever. The guy could still compose a mean opera, whatever his beliefs were."
She stopped walking and took on a tone of extreme seriousness. "My grandmother -- my own grandmother, CheeseburgerBrown, was in the camps. She has a number tattooed on her arm, like a piece of livestock. She was worked and starved and beaten, and she watched her entire family die. And if she ever, ever hears Wagner it brings her right back there, because that's what the Nazis listened to. And she lived through that. Can you understand that?"
"So, okay..." I ventured, "Never play Wagner around old Jewish people. Check."
She bellowed. She literally screamed out in the street, and shook my arms. "No! No -- you don't get it at all!" She started to cry. "When you listen to Wagner, you're supporting those ideas. You're supporting racism."
"That's absurd," I said, breaking her grasp. "How do you know Bach wasn't an asshole in his spare time? And what the fuck race are you talking about, anyway?"
"My people!" she cried. "The Jewish race!"
"The Jewish race?" I scoffed. "How can Jews be a race? Aren't there supposed to be Ethiopian Jews, too? Explain to me how you and an Ethiopian are of the same race, as the word is commonly understood."
"They're one of the lost tribes of Israel."
"I don't follow you."
"Our bloodlines are connected."
"Go back a few centuries and three quarters of Europe has connected bloodlines. Does that make Europeans a race? Maybe you should just stick with saying 'people' and avoid the whole confusion."
"But Jews are a race!" she insisted, tears on her freckled cheeks.
"Well, if you really want to say 'race' I guess we can agree that it's some sort of novel usage of the term, specific to Jews."
"But it isn't!" she yelled. "Denying the Jewish race is anti-Semetic," she added.
"Sounds like damn near everything is anti-Semetic, according to you."
"It is," she declared flatly. "That's why a gentile like you will never understand what it means to live as a Jew."
We walked in silence for a moment. "I believe you," I said simply.
"What?" she asked sharply.
"I believe you," I repeated. "If you're saying that I just totally lack the perspective to understand it, and it's not something you can explain to me, I have no choice but to take it on faith or reject it. So, fine: I believe you."
She was confused. She stopped walking again. "You can't just end an argument like that!" she accused hotly.
"Why not? We agree not to beat each other senseless with our unprovable opinions -- that's the Canadian way."
"They're not unprovable opinions! They're facts."
"I believe you," I said.
She growled at me like a dog, and then burst out laughing. She started walking again, so I followed her. I was less and less convinced that I was laying the groundwork for her to like Cowboy better than me, and more and more convinced I was just laying the groundwork for her to despise me.
Bean was convinced of something, too. "I'm convinced the park doesn't exist," she decided after a few more turns down dark blocks. "But it's still a nice night for a walk."
"Yeah," I agreed. "It is a nice night."
We found a path that led to a set of swings and we both sat down. "I love swings," she said, and I said that I did, too. I don't remember what we talked about but our hands brushed a couple of times and it gave me the shivers.
"So, I guess you hate me now," I said as casually as I could.
"Nope," she replied glibly, swinging back and forth. "Jews love to argue."
I kept remembering the spark of fury in her eyes, the proud stance she took as she yelled in my face, the tears she shed when she felt misunderstood. Somehow we found ourselves then talking about trivial things, I don't remember what, but I do remember that soon the conversation lapsed into a charged silence -- one of those silences that happens when two people want to stretch the present moment beyond its means, unwilling to take any step that would advance the action. And once the silence melted through the yawning whine of the alternating swing chains, I heard a funny sound: laughter.
I craned my head around and skidded my swing to a stop. "I heard it too," said Bean, peering into the blackness of the trees behind us. Again, the sounds of distant laughter -- obnoxious and teenage.
It dawned on her before it dawned on me. "I think that's our party," she said glumly.
"Our par --" I stopped, and frowned. "Oooh. That party."
It was true: we had stumbled on the park and been swinging on the edge of it, without even noticing. Behind a thin glen of trees was a wide field, and by moonlight we discerned a huddle of shadows in the grass.
Bean said, "I guess we'd better go over."
It might have been a question. It probably was a question. I answered incorrectly. "Yeah," I said.
The Black Serb greeted us unceremoniously. "Where the fuck have you been?" he demanded, his speech slurred and punctuated by hiccups. We told him we'd been lost. He snorted, "We just sent out a search party to find you! Cowboy, JJ, Greeneyes and Miss Doc just left."
Right. So Bean volunteered to go with the Black Serb to retrieve the search party, which left me to sit in the dark grass between Limber, Sassy, and a boy called Skinny. Skinny was speaking in tongues and rolling on the ground. Sassy and Limber explained slurringly that Skinny had already drank too much. "I wanna ride my bike home!" he decided, turning in circles and then falling down.
So Sassy volunteered to walk Skinny and his bike to the subway station. And that left Limber and I, sitting in the grass with an assortment of quarter-filled liquor bottles and cans of juice between us. "Have a screwdriver," said Limber, pushing a plastic up into my hands. "I've never seen you drunk, CheeseburgerBrown. I want you to get drunk. Do you ever get drunk?"
"Not really," I said, taking the cup and sipping from it with a grimace.
"Everyone should get drunk," Limber informed me. "Except my fucking father," she spat as a corollary. Then she went on to describe various unpleasant aspects of her home life while I tuned out and thought about my arguments with Bean. What a cool, spunky chick, I thought to myself. "You're so cool for listening to me, you know -- just listening," babbled Limber. I muttered noncommittally and scanned the edge of the park for the return of the others.
Then Limber was weeping. I'd missed whatever set it off. "What's wrong?" I asked her. In response she drew me into a tight hug, pushing her wet face into my shoulder and sobbing. I patted her head lightly. "There, there," I said. "There, there."
Obviously these motions of sympathy were just what she needed, because she stopped crying and just clutched on to me. "Sometimes," she whispered, "I'm just so lonely."
I really should've seen what was coming next. Even without much experience of girls, I really should've seen it coming.
Limber launched herself at me.
One moment I was patting her head, and the next moment she was sailing through the night toward me like a doomed zeppelin, reaching a shallow zenith around my knees before crashing down upon my chest and pressing her face against mine. Her tongue -- a hot, squirming, unholy thing -- was suddenly prying into my mouth, probing the back of my throat around a hideous slurping noise. Her weight settled into me and I was pressed backward into the earth, my breath escaping in a startled grunt of shock and awe.
I cried out: "Humph-nizzirah-pleth!"
She detached her feeding unit for a brief second then, breathily cooing, "I love you, I've always loved you, I want you!" She then resumed mauling me like a starving hyena.
I turned my head forcibly to the side. She responded by sucking my neck. I turned my head forcibly to the other side. She responded by licking my ear. "Limber --" I stammered over the noise of wet smacking, "Please!"
"Yeah, let's do it right now!" she whispered loudly and wetly into my ear canal, twisting my face around and resuming her violent explorations.
I squirmed my arms between us in an effort to lift her bodily away. I found a point of purchase and hefted with all my might. She rose from me briefly until I realized that I was clutching her by the breasts. "Yes, squeeze my boobs!" she enthused. Then she ground her pelvis against my crotch and began to moan like a dog.
I panicked and released her tits. I began to twist and buck. I tried to cry out again but she took my open mouth as an invitation to lick my molars. While I tried to formulate a new plan I had a moment to consider the odd paradox of the fact that my penis was becoming unwillingly erect despite the fact that I was under siege.
"I can feel your cock," whispered Limber up my nose.
Summoning my every ounce of strength I thrust upward asymmetrically, kicking up with one leg and flattening the other. Maintaining the moment of imbalance with an outstretched arm I managed to roll her off of me. She tried to pull me down on top of her -- as if I were now opting to be "on top" -- but I skittered backward across the grass and turned over, ending up on my hands and knees a few feet away from her. "Jesus Christ, Limber!" I yelled.
So she started to cry. "What's wrong?" she sobbed. "What's wrong with me?" she wailed. "Why won't you love me?" she emphatically wanted to know, crawling over and clutching my shirt in her shaking hands.
Sure. So I talked her down. What else could I do? I let her cry, and I told her she wasn't unattractive to me per se, but rather that I wasn't "ready" for a relationship -- or some bunk of that ilk, anyway. She was willing to buy it as long as it meant I sat beside her and patted her head, or let her wet my shoulder with her tears.
Then she tried to kiss again and I sprang to my feet. "Limber, for fuck's sake!"
I fled. I was across the dark park in seconds flat. I stopped to rest by a small wooden jungle-gym, but in the quiet I discerned the fleshy, breathy sounds of people making out. I spotted Cowboy from the back, and slowly backed away from the jungle-gym to leave him to his privacy. I guessed that he was with Bean. Lucky bastard. I'd probably blown my chances with her by upsetting her so much about Judaica, but I still thought she was nifty and so I was chagrined that she was kissing someone else.
I could see that there were more people gathered around Limber now, but I skirted the grassy knoll anyway. I came to a school, and in a concrete alcove I heard the sound of crying. It was Greeneyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, keeping my distance...my trust of crying women having been sharply eroded.
"Nothing," she said.
"No, really," I said. "Why are you crying, Greeneyes?"
"I shouldn't have come," she pouted, hiding her face from me.
"Because now Miss Doc and Bean hate me."
"Why would they hate you?" I persisted.
"Fine!" I declared, slapping my thighs and getting up abruptly. "You people are all insane, and I don't know why I ever came. I'll see you next year at school." I started to walk off, but she called me back.
I turned around and stuffed my hands into my pockets. Greeneyes explained to me that she had come to the wrap party even though feminine politics forbade it. As Bean's "best" friend (one of three bests, I think), it was her duty to step down from competition -- but she came anyway.
"Competition for what?"
"For you," she told me.
Thus we moved from the merely bizarre to the utterly surreal, and Greeneyes told me that she and Bean had had a terrible argument over me. Greeneyes had tried to force Miss Doc to take sides, and Miss Doc had burst into inexplicable tears and then grabbed a taxi home to Forest Hill. "I think Miss Doc has a crush on you," Greeneyes concluded. "I was so blind not to see it before."
She was so blind? Mercy!
Okay, so I talked Greeneyes down and walked her to the subway station. Secure in the safety of known boundaries, we told one another how much we would've liked one another if it had been possible to do so freely. At the mouth of the station she thanked me for "not trying to take advantage" of her being upset, which confused me so I just nodded and smiled. She shuffled down the steps and was gone. I stood out on the sidewalk for a moment, uncertain what to do. Should I just leave the Black Serb and JJ to deal with Limber's histrionics? Feeling bad, I turned around and trudged back to the park.
On the way I met Cowboy and Sassy, on their way to a house-party being hosted by a friend of Sassy's. They were holding hands. I thought to myself: so it wasn't Bean he was making out with in the bushes...
Sure. And I helped get a blubbering Limber into a taxi, and then helped the remaining stragglers to hunt for JJ, who'd gone missing (it turned out he'd gone home an hour earlier, bored that no one was making out with him). The Black Serb was happy and drunk. "I copped a feel of Limber's tit when I was helping to carry her!" he crowed, much enthused. "What a wicked party, Einstein!" Then the Black Serb hopped on a bus, and I found myself alone at the edge of the fateful park.
The night was quiet.
A group of older teenagers passed, pausing on the periphery of the park and talking to someone. They handed out a cigarette and went on their way. A moment later a figure slipped out of the bushes and called, "Do you have a lighter?"
"I didn't know you smoked," I said as she walked into the illuminated pool of a streetlamp.
"I don't, really," she said, examining the little white cylinder in her palm. "I was just upset, so..."
I blinked. "Why were you upset?"
She gave me a tight little frown. "Listen, I'm a frank person so I'm going to be frank with you --"
"Surely," I quipped.
She paused a moment and let a little smile cross her lips. "Don't call me Shirley," she said, then continued: "I can totally deal with you and Limber being together and all, but, to be frank, I kind of had a crush on you and not like I expected anything to happen but I'm just feeling kind of weird about the whole thing, okay?"
"Me and Limber --?" I echoed, furrowing my brow.
"I saw you two making out," said Bean.
I started to laugh, and she looked dismayed and confused. "Limber and I are not together," I said.
"So you were just making out with her because --"
"I wasn't making out with her at all," I interrupted. "She was attacking me. I escaped. Barely." I recounted the tale of my adventure, and by the end she was giggling, too.
"Oh, poor Limber!" she lamented, and then burst out laughing again, repeating, "'Like a doomed zeppelin' -- that slays me."
"You slay me," I said, and then we stopped laughing. In the ensuing silence I muttered, "I can't stop thinking about you," and felt like a big dork.
"You..." she trailed off.
"I like you more-than-a-friend," I cried. "Let's not make a big deal out of it. I'd had enough of big deals for one night. Let me just walk you home, and maybe we can even hold hands."
"I'd like to hold your hand," she admitted.
"Then let's do. As long as there's no more crying and no more attempted rape, I think this evening will only improve."
I held out my hand to her, and she took it. Both of our hands were a little bit clammy at first, greasy with nervous sweat. But it felt nice. As we walked from pool to pool of streetlamp glow our forearms brushed, and we liked it.
There was no kissing, or heavy petting. Just the hand holding, the walking, and a clean, delicious blanket of silence.
Sure. And at her house she asked me, "Does this mean we're boyfriend and girlfriend now?"
"I was hoping so," I said.
"Okay," she said. "That's good."
And in she went. After a moment I turned away and lazily sauntered back to the subway. I whistled Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, as is my wont. The night was cooling, but I felt very warm. I passed a preschool covered in more of those funny bell-bottomed letters, and shook my head. "Hebrew, eh? Whoda thunk it!"
So that's the night I learned that chasing girls seldom works, especially if the effort requires you to put on airs to please her. I learned to distrust drunk girls when they cry. I learned that Jews enjoy Hebrew, and that holding hands with spunky little fiddle-sawing grey-haired teenage Jewesses is a pleasure on a warm summer night when the concrete radiates a mellow heat for hours after the sun has gone down.
Yes -- and we stayed together for three years, growing up together for a spell, a little island of love in an ocean of teenage froth, a million million million years ago.
Rapscallion Relish | Brat Punk Discordia | Bimbonic Radiation Overdose | Ode to Littlestar | Lipgloss Gypsy | Famously Sweaty
||IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING THIS STORY, PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A SMALL TIP. A PAYPAL ACCOUNT IS NOT REQUIRED. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. YOURS TRULY, C. BROWN.