If you’re like me, you don’t really want to know about all that David Copperfield crap. I mean, I know I wouldn’t care. Maybe you’ll just want to hear about a certain part of my life – the part significant only because it led to where I am today. That makes sense, of course; because besides possibly hurting others’ feelings, my parents would have about two hemorrhages a piece if I told some of the stuff I’ve been through (and especially the things I’ve done). The unfortunate truth, however, is that everything in my life has been significant to the place I am today.
Don’t give up on me yet! I won’t write about everything that happened to me in my life. I won’t mention every little fart and sneeze and cold I’ve ever had. I probably will not even talk about my junior high school years at all, if you really want to know the truth. That would take up a whole novel all by itself.
That being said, shall I get started?
My life is equal parts smart, funny, serious, and stupid. I can’t help this. I am starting to understand it, but I don’t know if I ever will completely. This isn’t an explanation of this weird thing we call life, just a sort of guideline. I hope you can read this and think, So glad that wasn’t me! Or maybe, That’s so cool; wish that were my life. Mostly I hope you can identify.
A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you're in tonight
I'll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian restaurant.
“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” Billy Joel
The first guy I ever met off the Internet went to a rival high school. He was seventeen; I was fifteen. He had that certain “older” man appeal that only a teenage girl can truly understand. What I mean by that is that teenage girls are fascinated by boys that are older than they are. It could be two years or it could be ten. Only later do you realize how creepy it is for men in their mid-twenties to associate with girls ten years their junior. When you’re caught up in it, all you can see is that these boys are cooler than the ones you go to school with. These boys can buy beer.
That reminds me of a boy with whom my best friend, Desi, was infatuated. His name was John, and he was the exotic age of nineteen. We were sixteen at the time and thought we were so bad-ass to be hanging around someone as grown-up as John. He had his own house (lucky rich bastard) and nothing was more adult than that.
It took Desi a while to get around to getting her license, but I was driving the day I turned sixteen. That put me high up on the social food chain (or perhaps the lowest rung? – depends on how you look at it), but I was not quite as cool as I could be. I drove my mother’s minivan. It was not quite social chique, but it was good for haulin’ folks around. The sad thing was that I never really had a crew like some people did in high school. It really wasn’t a bad situation, though.
John acted as if we were hot chicks, too. I couldn’t tell the difference between a sincere guy and an insincere guy at that time in my life. It was not something that I thought about. All that mattered was that he had these incredible green eyes – glowing and smoldering – with a gorgeous patch of black hair and a perfectly chiseled body. And he, of course, was interested in Desi. That was something else I never questioned. The hot guys always wanted Desi. She had the so-sought-after 36-24-36 body and the most striking set of red locks you’ve ever seen. Thick and curly – I never complimented her on her hair because she heard it all the time. By the time we were the (so elusive) age of nineteen, she had taken to dying her hair blue, pink, and black. Anything to stop the compliments about her hair.
John’s house was small but quaint. New yet rustic. It seemed large, too, for a nineteen-year-old kid living alone. There were empty rooms and rooms sparsely furnished. The only thing that really mattered, though, was the kitchen stocked to bursting with liquor and beer.
Maybe that was just what John wanted us to think.
At this point in my life, I had never seriously drunk any alcohol of any kind. Maybe a sip of champagne or wine with my parents at dinner, but nothing more. I also took the role of DD with a serious responsibility that seemed lacking in my peers. Perhaps, then, it is without irony that I did not participate in that night’s festivities.
Desi, John, his friend Mark, and I sat around at John’s house one night with the intention of playing a drinking card game called “Drunk Driving.” I appointed myself dealer as John and Mark sipped their beers and Desi downed her first ever screwdriver within fifteen minutes. The game passed quickly, and the loser easily became sloshed as shit in no time flat. That particular night, it was Desi.
Shortly after her first screwdriver, she gulped down her second. The only way to learn about tolerance is through practice, and Desi definitely learned her lesson that night. After growing tired of the game (which people are wont to do while drinking), I sat back and watched the show.
I have always been a watcher instead of a doer. I used to feel as if I was missing out on life; it was passing me by and I wasn’t really living. It made me feel guilty about not being bolder, about being passive. Lately, though, I have realized the advantages of watching. It gives me a unique perspective on social acceptances and interactions that I would miss out on if I were in the thick of things. It seems now that I rather enjoy my life of observations more than I would a dramatic life like that of my friends.
I don’t have to recount for you the drunken antics of my friend Desi. You have seen them before. Dancing and stripping and singing. Being around someone who is drunk is, at times, a drug in and of itself. I sat by laughing, watching, keeping an eye out in case things got too out of hand. Luckily, neither John nor Mark took advantage of the situation. They simply enjoyed themselves as well.
And then it happened.
Mark crept over to me in my corner of the couch. He had an odd glint in his eye; I could not identify with it. “You wanna see what I got?” he asked, less than flirtatiously.
I was naïve, but not that naïve. “What do you have?” I countered cautiously.
“Wait a sec.” He jumped up and ran into one of the nearly empty bedrooms. He came back into the dark living room with something gleaming menacingly in the light reflecting from the TV. The television became a dull roar in the background as the object in Mark’s hand registered in my brain. I felt helpless. There I was, the lone sober girl with a drunken best friend and two guys whom we barely knew, one of whom had a gun.
I don’t know anything about guns, but I know a handgun when I see one. A cold shiver ran down my back as I tried to sit up bravely on the couch. Why was he showing this to me? Was I supposed to be impressed that this drunken fool had a gun? Or was it less innocent than that?
“Pretty cool, huh?” Mark thrust the gun in my face.
I did not know what to do. I felt as if any move I made could be my downfall. Joke around and he might become reckless. Put him down and he might get pissed. Whatever words I could find were choking me; no sound came out at all.
All of a sudden, John looked our way. “Jesus, Mark. What the hell are you doing? She doesn’t care about that. We’re having a good time here, all right? Put that thing away. Just sit down and drink your goddamned beer.”
I silently exhaled, thankful for John’s interference. Mark just shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the room where he had kept the gun before.
The night seemed to go smoothly after that. I almost even forgot about the gun. We sat around shooting the shit and watching TV and listening to music and not really doing much of anything. It turned out to be a fairly good evening. Desi fell asleep with John’s arm around her, and it was quite sweet to see the blissful alcohol induced peace upon her face.
I started to feel uncomfortable since without Desi, I was the main attraction. I was not used to that. I always lived in her shadow, and at that point in my life, I didn’t want it any other way. I wasn’t funny or witty or cute and coy like she was. We played off each other well. I was the innocent, down-to-earth one and she was the flirty, dangerous one. It did not take long, though, before Desi, much to her chagrin, had stolen all the attention again.
During an excruciatingly long commercial break – which equaled an excruciatingly long lull in conversation – Desi suddenly woke up. She glanced over at me, wide-eyed, her hand over her mouth. I returned the look, completely baffled by the fear in her eyes. Her chest started to heave, and I did not know what was going on. Thank goodness Mark could fill me in.
“Oh my god! She’s gonna puke!”
In that very instant that Mark screamed those words, Desi started to wretch, and orange juice and vodka colored liquid vomit squirted through her fingers, spraying her pants and the couch. I watched, aghast and fascinated at this display of regurgitation. The angle from which I was sitting gave me a perfect profile shot of vomit spouting between her fingers. I was stunned motionless. Puking is good and funny when it’s on TV or something, but what do you do when it’s your best friend? It’s not as if you can stop it or anything.
Desi bolted up and ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. John promptly shooed Mark and me off the couch, lifted the slipcover, and threw it in the washing machine.
I could hear Desi inside the bathroom, whimpering my name.
“Reagan…? Reagan, I need you….”
I crept to the bathroom door and opened it a crack. Desi was curled up in a ball underneath the sink crying. “Hey…,” I began.
“Reagan, I can’t go back out there! You have to distract them. I can’t let John see me again. I can’t believe I did that.” The last sentence came out as a wail.
“Listen, it happens. I’m sure John won’t think any less of you just because you… happened to… puke through your fingers.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The whole situation was so absurd. I had never been mortified in front of a guy before, so I had a hard time sympathizing. Actually, as far as I can tell, I’ve still never felt that level of mortification. “He didn’t even seem mad.”
“Nah. He just picked up the slipcover and threw it in the washing machine. I bet stuff like that happens all the time.” I reached underneath the sink and grabbed Desi’s hand. “Don’t worry. Honest. I’m sure it’s nothing.” She let me pull her up and glanced at herself in the mirror. Wiping her eyes quickly, she turned to the door and led the way back into the living room.
Sadly, I was wrong, and John had no interest whatsoever in Desi after that night’s incident. Maybe “sadly” is the wrong word. I wasn’t sorry to see John and Mark walk out of our lives as quickly and easily as they had walked in. It was just sad that despite the fact that we found older guys, they still had the mentality of high school boys.
* * *
But I did not even intend to tell you about that night. About Desi and John and Mark and puking and guns. I wanted to tell you about the first guy I met off the Internet. His name was Bill and he was smart and funny and he thought I was amazing. I shared the stories that I had written with him, and he compared me to Amy Tan. How can you not fall for a guy like that? Unfortunately, he didn’t want that. I was the same age as his sister, which meant I was too young for him.
At least he was a respectable older guy.
Desi in tow, we met up at the local mall one day. Bill was shorter than I had imagined, with long brown hair and a goofy smile. Desi deemed him perfect for me.
The three of us spent the day together at the mall. He tried on dresses at The Gap just to piss people off. Then we went to various other stores where he proceeded to “lurk” through the aisles. “Lurking” involves creeping along in a near squatting position, trying to see how many people you can scare.
That was one of the more amusing afternoons of my life.
Too bad I never saw him again.
You’d think Desi and I would have learned to stay away from older guys after that, even the slightly older ones. We never learned, though.