Chapter 5: Princess Megan, Nicole, April, Gaby, Kate
8th grade | 2000 | Age 13 / Present day | 2010 | Age 23
Did you notice an aberration in that last story? Because there at the end, all of a sudden I was talking about present-day me. I know, kind of out of the blue, right? I didn't really prepare you and for that, reader, I apologize. But I discovered, as these events unfolded, that it was a necessary deviation from the traditional format. Without this story, this present day story, I wouldn't have the ending to the 7th grade story, and many others it now seems. It's kind of confusing, so let me explain it to you this way:
There was a girl on my couch. Not in the story, no; now, August of 2010. It was very hot outside and it was friday, and her name is Kate. She's a sales girl in the office where I work - she is as tall as me and has dark, dark brown hair, a smirky smile and an often undetectable sense of sarcasm. What happened was that on this night my coworkers and I went out for drinks, and after a good many of them Kate and I walked back to my apartment drunk and giggling. However, when we got inside, the mood changed as Kate realized the position she was in. She sat awkward, rigid on the couch - shields up, restless and preoccupied.
I had retrieved a couple of beers from the kitchen, but when I saw her there, fidgeting nervously, I took them back to the kitchen. I put on some old nicktoons as we sipped large tumblers of water, trying to keep the liquid steady in our clumsy, childish hands.
At the time, the seventh grade story wasn't finished. A draft of it sat on my coffee table, scribbled over and over in blue pen where I was going back and forth on a few issues within it.
"Is this what Tyler's been talking about?" she asked, rumpling the first couple of pages. "The ones you've been reading to him and Kristal?"
"That's it," I admitted hesitantly.
She nudged her eyebrows at me, motioning suggestively with the stack of papers in her hand.
"You want to hear it?"
She nodded, and I was perhaps to drunk to see this as anything but a chance to show off. Aspiring writers should know that, despite the raw sexual draw poets seem to exhibit in cinema, reading a girl something you've written is unlikely to impress them - especially when that particular piece of writing involves you picking your nose and being shoved into lockers.
"Oh my god."
I had gotten to the part where Emily began to cry, and had stopped.
"Wow. This really happened."
"You're tellin' me. I was there."
"Ok, go on."
"That's it." I held up the last page, saturated with blue ink. "That's all I got so far."
"That's a bad ending."
"Well, I'm not planning on it being a great ending," I said, "But I can't finish it. Not until I realize why I wouldn't go back and change it."
"Why you wouldn't change what?"
"Making Emily cry." I explained. "I made this really big deal about not changing the big things. I really do believe that. But I can't convince myself that making Emily cry did me any good. I don't think I got a lesson out of it, I think that all I did was hurt someone."
That's when it clicked. Kate was curled into my arm now, the pressure of what could have happened gone. I could have pushed it, but I didn't - I remembered Emily, and now instead of awkwardly gyrating in my bed or, more likely, offending her into leaving, we were talking. My story hit some intimate target somewhere inside her and out poured a couple of her stories, shockingly similar to mine, in a sort of masochist honesty, a call and response.
The talking turned to kissing. I'd be lying if I said that's not exactly how I had wanted things to go. I just wanted it to be on her terms. That's the smokey vapor of Emily right there, reminding me to be a gentleman.
As much as is feasibly possible, that is. We were drunk twenty somethings, after all. We moved into the bedroom and continued the cathartic play of our brash, earnest mouths. This is when she stopped me.
"Nich-olas." she said, pulling her head away from mine.
She sighed and rotated to her back. I knew what she was about to say.
"You are . . . "
"Such a nice guy."
"Yes. However, comma,"
"You really value our friendship and don't want to ruin it."
"Have you gotten this talk before?"
I laughed. "You need to hear some more stories."
"Ok well, tell me another one." She rested her head on my shoulder, laid her arm across my chest.
"Ok," I said, pulling her soft shoulder in. "When I was in first grade, I met Heather. She was the first girl I ever remember getting gooey feelings about, those damn gooey feelings that would be the bane of my existence for the rest of my life."
Kate began to snore in my ear. I laughed softly to myself, and then fell asleep as well.
When the sun came up my head hurt significantly. Kate appeared to be drifting in and out of sleep, face down a foot or two away from me. In the night we had become untangled and now laid separately in the bed like siblings. I laid there for a while, considering putting my arm around her while she fought the sunlight pouring in from the open window, but ultimately decided against it.
Kate pandiculated and opened her eyes, giving up the invisible battle for unconsciousness. She looked over to me.
"Good morning." I said.
"Good mooooooornighn." she yawned. We laughed like two actors that had forgotten their lines. Kate rolled in the sheets, attempting to make peace with the daylight.
"Is this an air mattress?"
"I feel like . . . I feel like I'm foating."
"What?" Kate was hungover and half delusional with sleep deprivation. She groped for her purse with one eye open, retrieving from it a stick of Head-On. If you're unaware, this is a form of headache relief that is basically a giant glue stick that you rub on your head. I had seen the late night commercials but had never known anyone to actually use it - why you would prefer to rub chemicals directly onto your forehead instead of just taking an ibuprofen is beyond me.
Kate twisted the base of the container desperately, futilely - the stick had been spent, and like a kid halfway through the most important craft project of their life she held on to the false hope that she would be able salvage a sufficient amount.
"Do you have a Q-tip?"
Kate sat on the edge of my bed, digging out the base of her Head-On with a Q-tip, smearing tiny, gooey fragments of it onto her forehead.
"I have Advil."
"Not interested." She had successfully created a slick of mint-smelling substance across her forehead. "Mmmm that's so good . . ."
There's a coffee shop three blocks from my apartment, so I threw on a pair of red athletic shorts and laced my shoes up. I felt like shit. I was hungover and profoundly sexually frustrated; I had given myself the 'just friends' talk for chrissake. The last thing I wanted to see was another human being, but I decided I could stand it as long as said human being was handing me coffee.
I got about a block from my door when a random guy on the sidewalk stopped me.
"High Five!" he insisted, holding his open palm towards me.
I squinted to see the guy's face, and confirmed that I had no idea who he was. I reluctantly complied and continued on my way, but I got not half a block further when a group of three older women began to cheer at me.
"Yeahhhh!!!" they hollered. They wanted high fives as well.
I ran my palm across those of the older women, becoming angry at the un-perceivable nature of these sudden accolades. What did these people find so celebratory about my condition? I could only conclude that I lived in the most sarcastic neighborhood ever, full of people who derived pleasure from handing out high fives to the dork that couldn't seal the deal with the drunk girl.
When I got another block, I saw a table full of bottled water and balloons - a banner above the street indicated that I had unwittingly been following the path for an AIDS walk. I looked down and realized that I was wearing red shorts and a red t-shirt. Volunteers a few yards ahead clapped and waved a bottle of water at me. Even I had to laugh then. Sometimes its easy to forget that you're on the bottom tier of righteous suffering.
Returning to my apartment I found Kate sitting on my couch, messing with her phone. I set the coffee down along with a couple of breakfast sandwiches. "You like your coffee black, right?"
"Like I like my men." She replied. "Strong, black, and hot."
"Yep, that's what we've got." I said. "Except I'm pretty sure your cup's gay."
Ah, she has a great laugh. Subtle and poignant, like she doesn't want you to know that she thought what you just said was funny.
We finished the food and the coffee and I walked her to her car, which was several blocks away. Her Cavalier was wedged into the side of a busy one-way like a crooked tooth.
"You know how to get back to your place alright?" I asked her.
"Definitely." she answered. I posed myself to prepare for some sort of hug, kiss, whatever, I wasn't picky. But none came. She climbed into the car, and turned the key.
The car made a repetitive clicking sound. She tried again, to the same result. Kate got out of the car and stood beside it for a second, arms crossed, her brow furrowed.
We walked back to my apartment.
"I will Google it first." I grabbed a notecard from my desk drawer. She sat on a piano bench in my office, tapping on the keys of an old electric keyboard.
"You play?" she asked.
Not really. I could when I was younger, but these days I did little more than pick at individual notes while listening to songs I liked.
"Ok, positive end on the dead battery to positive end on the good battery." I recited out loud.
Kate began playing The First Noel, one plinky note at a time.
"Nice." I said, giving a golf clap so as not to interrupt. "I don't think I've heard that song since I was in church."
"Yeah? When was that?"
"A few years at least."
"Are you not religious?"
"Naw, I'm not big on religion."
"I suppose. Ok, positive to bad, positive to good, negative to good, negative to shiny piece of metal. Remove in reverse order. We got this. We can totally do this."
We returned to Kate's Cavalier in my car, which I parked precariously in the middle of the busy street. There was really no other option, still I felt like I owed an individual apology to each angry motorist that scowled at me as they passed by.
"Ok hold these," I said, handing two ends of the jumper cables to Kate. "Don't let them touch."
"They could spark. Or electrocute me."
"Oh god," she said, stiffening up a little, "Is this dangerous?"
"Well, sorta. I mean, we're transferring enough electricity to start a car."
She was kind of freaking out now. She held the clamps by the tips of each finger, away from her face, as if they might start showering her with sparks at any moment.
After some overly cautious clamping Kate tried the key again and the car chocked desperately back into motion. Quickly we returned to our vehicles and began to slowly race through the congested downtown streets to the nearest auto shop. We were about halfway there when I saw Kate pull over to the side of the road. This time, it was stopped for good. Something deep inside that Cavalier had died.
We sat down on a stoop at the corner where her car had stopped, which happened to be Colfax and Downing, which happened to be a not-overly-friendly neighborhood. All around us loud angry homeless people wandered, staring aggressively into thin air. On the corner sat a laundromat and perhaps the sketchiest Papa John's Pizza I've ever seen. It was a still Saturday morning, probably 95 degrees, and we were going nowhere.
Kate began to dig through her purse for her insurance card.
"Here," she said, handing me a clementine.
"You're trusting me with the rations?"
"Sass is only going to get you fewer slices. God, what am I going to do . . ."
"Alright, no need to panic."
"It's just the battery right? That's what you think?"
I really had no clue. "I think?"
"I am so sorry for dragging you into this." She took things out of her purse one at a time, setting them on the sidewalk in front of us like a tiny yard sale.
"I don't know, this is kind of fun."
Kate glared at me.
"No, I'm just saying, we were kind of drunk last night. Now we can talk sober."
"Yeah, about that - I don't usually do that either."
"Do what? The, get-drunk-and-stay-the-night thing?"
"Don't." She was laughing, but I could tell she legitimately felt bad about it.
"I thought it was fun."
"Of course you did, you're an atheist."
"Whoa." I said. "Whoa." I absolutely hate that. "When did I ever say I was an atheist?"
"Like half an hour ago. You said you weren't religious."
"And that makes me an atheist."
Kate had pinched a nerve and she could tell. Her expression softened. "So what are you then?"
"Ok, and what does that mean?"
"It means I don't know. There could be a god. Probably, in my opinion. But I don't claim to know for sure either way, and I don't think that other people should have to believe what I do, just because it's what I believe."
"Ok." she said. "So you think getting drunk, sleeping with random people, that's ok?"
"One," I said, "You're not random. Two, no. But we're all human."
"Yeah, no one's perfect, I believe that. But I think you should at least try to not do things like that."
"Eh." I said. She did not find this charming or badass. "Ok, sure, to some extent. But I'm not trying to be perfect. I don't like it when people try to be perfect. I don't trust someone without a vice."
". . . Interesting."
Kate at last retrieved a card from the floor of her purse and dialed the large red number printed on it. From the stoop I could hear her chat with what sounded like a very unhelpful insurance agent, and then an equally unhelpful tow truck driver.
She rejoined me on the stairs.
"They're sending a tow truck. And, comma, I described the sound to the tow truck driver, and he thinks it sounds like the alternator. Which, he says, costs about five times as much."
"Yeah. So, that guy'll be here sometime in the next four hours."
"Yep." Kate looked around nervously, and pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse.
I smiled so big that she began to laugh while trying to get a light started.
"What the fuck is that?"
"Don't you judge me Nick Anderson."
"Nope, no, furthest thing from it." I told her. "You just gave me a reason to trust you."
Me and Kate got a pizza. We sat on the stoop eating it out of the box like bums, un-showered, covered in battery grease on top of yesterday's clothes.
"So after Emily." Kate dabbed a piece of crust into some garlic sauce.
"What, you want to hear another one? Aren't you sober now?"
"We've got what, three and half hours?"
"True, true. I haven't written those ones yet though."
"That a problem?"
"I guess not," I admitted, attempting to leverage a long greasy slice into my mouth. "To be honest, I'm not even sure if I'm going to include 8th grade. There's just a few minor girls."
"No true love that year?"
"No, I moved." A pepperoni dropped off the pizza and landed on my jeans. "I moved that year. From Texas to Colorado."
At the time my dad had been looking for a new job, and he had jumped at the first opportunity to move back to Colorado, where he had lived out his twenties.
"We'll going skiing all winter! You kids will finally get to see snow!"
I'll admit, the snow part sounded kind of exciting. The closest we'd come to this in Texas was the time temperatures had erratically dropped below freezing, covering the roads in a thin layer of frost. 'DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOMES EXCEPT IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS' read the news ticker on every channel, as my sister and I enjoyed a three day vacation from school.
My last day in Texas I made the rounds and said goodbye to everyone that mattered to me. It was a small but important lot - Steven, Anna, Emily, Joey, a few others. At one point I was walking down the large cafeteria hall, the one where I had been pushed by Eric. In the middle of it some dance club was practicing. Megan, a different Megan than the one I had dated for three days, saw me coming and yelped excitedly. She had been in a few classes with me, and was currently dressed like a fairy princess for some reason.
"NIIIIICKKK!!" she yelled as she threw her arms around me. "This isn't your last day, is it?"
"Yeah, I'm leaving right now."
"Ok." she sighed, a sudden saddened glow in her eyes. Her friends in the dance troupe had grouped together, whispering and giggling. "Well, you should - stay in touch with me."
I nodded. "Ok, bye."
"Did you?" Kate asked.
"Of course not. I didn't believe she meant it."
"What? Why would you not believe she meant it?" Kate asked.
"Because girls are mean and generally did not like me. It was instinctual for me to believe it was either dishonest or obligatory. I was leaving, of course she was going to say she would miss me."
"That's not the way you described it though."
"Oh, I realize it now. At the time though - different story. I have an even better one that that. At end of seventh grade, after Emily, this girl Nicole asked me out. I thought she was super pretty, but I said no."
"I thought she was just messing with me! As in, I would say yes, and then she'd be like, 'Just kidding! I can't believe you thought I was serious!"
Kate stared at me as if my thoughts were so illegible she needed to squint to even think them.
"Girls did mean things like that."
"No. Because I was smart enough to avoid the traps."
"But what if Nicole wasn't trying to trap you?"
"I know." I admitted. "I've thought about that."
"So, that's two girls, that actually liked you, that you turned down."
"You make it sound so simple."
"It is really simple."
"Regardless, I was moving. And besides, I met a girl I really liked as soon as I got to Colorado."
"Really. Tell me about this girl."
Well this girl's name was April. She lived at the apartment complex where we stayed while my mom and dad looked for a house. From my window on the second floor I could see her jog by on occasion, in these tiny pink athletic shorts and a tight running top. Dear god. She was slender but still slightly shapely, and was nothing less than a continual ray of sunshine. She had long brown hair and a small snub nose - her eyes were wide and bright and shone like two clear plastic shakers of glitter.
"Howdy!" she hollered at me the first time we met. We went to the same middle school as well, and she found it fascinating that I was from Texas.
"Ahahaha your accent is so funny!"
Everyone thought so. In fact, that's primarily the reason I don't have an accent anymore. I saw this new state, this new school, as a fresh chance to integrate myself and shed whatever image I had had in Texas. I pulled this off rather well. I don't know how, but I had sat next to the right person at the right time and had been pacifistically absorbed into a very large social group, one that saw eachother outside of school. Our posse boasted both boys and girls, dramatically increasing the draw and intrigue of the social events they held. In Texas I had had female friends, but it was mainly the guys that hung out outside of school - the proverbial sausagefest, if you will. Did I miss playing Ocarina of Time in my underwear with a bunch of other dudes? Of course. But nervously watching movies boy girl boy girl seemed an adequate tradeoff.
Now, don't go thinking we were any kind of mature. We were still very young and very nervous about trying to date one another. To compensate for this, we did what I'm hoping alot of 8th graders did, which was make up games under falsely innocent pretenses in order to create date-like situations. Our most popular one was pretend-asking girls to marry us. 'This is all a joke!' our beaming faces would say, as we offered a girl a plastic ring from a grocery store quarter machine. Said girl would either accept or turn us down, although that was usually just as good, since it drew the sympathy of all the other girls. Either way, you were hugging somebody. And if you were lucky, you'd land yourself a wife, and you'd be standing at the lockers alone on breaks, maybe sharing a Dr. Pepper after class.
"Honey, you've been spending far too much time in school. We simply must find time for us."
"Oh dahhrling, if only there was not this horrible algebra class."
Non-stop drama. Apparently our idea of marriage was forged from soap operas, I guess British ones too, or maybe that's just the degree of separation we needed to convince us that we were just joking, not dating.
Anyway, more that anyone I wanted to play this game with April. But April was just mature enough that she found our antics uninteresting at best. Though her exterior boasted unbridled naivety, her core was one of reserved, peaceful solitude. Its hard for me to imagine that she'd managed to be let down my gender by that age, but she had all the makings of the once bitten twice shy. It wasn't that she looked down on us or scorned the fun we were having - she hung out with us, watched movies boy girl boy girl. But at the end of the day she knew she was better than a plastic ring. I respect that.
Still, her unwillingness to adhere to the bizarre social norms we had created made it difficult for me to woo her. She was chatty as hell, very easy to talk to - so much so that I couldn't get past her bubbly-ness to any sort of real talk. I could tell when I was beginning to encroach upon her comfort zone - she would start singing, and simply walk away.
"Hey April, you weren't at Tom's party!"
"I KNOW I really wanted to go but my dad was in town so I had to skip it. I BET IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!"
"It was. We danced, and Tom's brother DJ'd."
"FANTASTIC! I love Jeremy!"
"Yeah, you know, I was kind of hoping to dance with you."
"SOOOOOMEEEEWHEEEERRREEEEE, OVER THE RAIIIINBOOOOW . . ."
No joke, exact transition right there. I would probably be more upset if she wasn't such a terrific singer. Really, she could totally belt it out - you almost just stopped talking out of respect. But how do you propose to a girl that won't stop singing show tunes? You can't, you just can't. So I did the next logical thing, and proposed to the second most attractive girl I could find.
This girl was Gaby. She was also friendly, bubbly, good natured - and her breasts were gigantic. I feel a little bad writing that but it was without a doubt a huge contributing factor to my proposal to her. They were gynormous. At least the size of my head. They bounced around merrily as Gaby perused to the world like the sole resident of some brightly colored children's cartoon. Her optimism made April look like a rumpled old cynic. Now this was aided, as all happiness is, by a fair dose of ignorance and stupidity - but those breasts, man. I can't speak highly enough about them.
Sorry. You have to remember that I am thirteen in this story. I liked April - not just the way she looked but also the way she was, the strange condition she was in. She had footnotes and subchapters, picking her mind was like scooping at goldfish with a paper net. She interested me, held my attention. But April made herself unattainable, and I was too stupid to try and fight it.
So I started dating Gaby. Sure, it started with a simple marriage, but not long into it I popped the big question.
"So, do you want to date for real?"
It was a big step for me. I was caught up in my entourage, amazingly confident in the collective friendship-womb of my friends. It seemed like a natural progression, and she posed no real threat to my happiness or emotional security. I suppose this is because I didn't really like her. She was nice and all, but there was no connection, no orchestra. Just two kids that wanted to touch each other.
Kate laughed, swigging the bottom of a water bottle of Emergen-C. That stuff can really help hangovers, if you weren't aware. "Maybe I don't need to hear this story."
"No, we didn't touch each other much."
We really didn't. Ghost of Emily, remember. At the time it had me completely convinced that even looking at a girl wrong might cause her to burst into tears. Did girls not like to be touched? Was Megan the fluke, or Emily? Would touching Gaby have the same effect? I never really figured that one out, as we only dated for about three days. My only real opportunity arrived in the form of a movie date, at Gaby's house.
When I arrived at Gaby's house, her mom let me in and lead me up to Gaby's room. That woman loved me. She was a staple at our social events as Gaby threw a good amount of parties, and a mild mom presence was still common in those days. I don't know what I do right but moms have always liked me. Perhaps its the southern manners, the eye contact, or the firm handshake - either way, Gabby's mom was giddy as she lead me up the stairs.
"You guys have fun!" she said as she pulled the bedroom door shut.
Guys, if I can give you one piece of advice, impress those moms. Their trust will have a bigger effect on your relationship than you think, at any age. However, I never took advantage of that epic mom-approval with Gaby. That night was a deal breaker.
See, every girl has a movie that they think is absolutely hilarious - one that they can quote verbatim because it played on infinite loop through their slumber parties, because they watched it with their best friend every week for several years. When girls bond over a VHS it becomes more than a movie - it gets embedded in their brain so deep that ten, twenty years later, they will sit down to watch it still convinced that it is the greatest movie ever made.
The movie is always terrible. Almost without exception. For a movie to be life-altering to a thirteen year old girl it is almost an imperative for it to be awful. However, perhaps one of the most favor-winning, brownie-point-banking things you can do for a girl is watch this movie with her, and pretend that you too find it to be inarguably brilliant.
I could not do this with Gaby. I tried - I sat there that night, lightly cupping her hand on the carpet as we watched The Pest. If you haven't seen it, it is basically a cinematic representation of comedy being strapped to a dentist chair and slowly tortured by John Leguizamo for an hour and a half. I watched it half-gaping, dumfounded by the sheer stupidity of the events being acted out and recorded. People had written the script, the actors had read it, yet somehow they had all then agreed that themselves, a director, and a hundred or so other movie-making staffers should get together and act the whole thing out, commit it to film for others to watch, put it in stores. People had then bought it, so that they could watch it more than once. One of these people was Gaby. I will never forgive her for that.
Gaby's mom came up to offer us snacks, while the protagonist and co-star proceeded to vomit off the back of a boat for an extended period of time.
"I guess I don't understand humor these days." she said to herself.
"MOM!" Gaby laughed, "You are so not from this generation."
'I have to get out of here' I thought quietly to myself. A huge mistake had been made. I was dating an idiot.
The following day, Tom asked me how the date had gone. I couldn't lie to the guy, we told each other everything about girls.
"You think she might be retarded? Really?"
"I don't know, maybe just, lower percentile IQ or something. Really, you'd have to see the movie to understand."
"So do you still want to go out with her?"
I stared off into space, comtemplating these new feelings. "I would really rather date April."
"You gonna break up with Gaby then?"
". . . No." I concluded.
Breasts, man. They do the stupidest things to our heads. Luckily, in addition to being constantly impeded by my hormones, I was a completely inefficient boyfriend. To say I had no clue what I was doing, relationship-wise, was a vast understatement. I had no improv ability. Once I made it to the boyfriend phase I froze like I had forgotten my lines in a school play.
"Seinfeld has this bit about trying to be friends after a relationship - he says its like two magicians trying to do tricks for eachother. You just can't fool them anymore," I explained to Kate. "This is actually a really good metaphor. Relationships, at least in the beginning, are alot like magic shows. Everybody's got their act - from little card tricks, to pulling rabbits out of their hat. Sometimes you save the best tricks for last, sometimes you're eager to impress, so you start off by sawing people in half. But eventually, you run out of material - and then all you can do is jazz hands and hope they clap."
I gave her the jazz hands.
"So, what's your strategy? All up front, or do you draw it out?"
"I don't have any tricks." I told her, re-emphasizing the jazz hands.
"I thought everyone had tricks."
"I have one." I told her. "Brutal honesty. Sort of a show stopper."
"In a good way, or a bad way?"
"Ok so, where does the 'luckily' come in? Why are you lucky that you're an inefficient boyfriend?"
"Because then Gaby broke up with me. And if that wouldn't have happened, I honestly would have dated her forever."
The next day in school, I was sitting on the steps of the auditorium theater when Gaby and her friend approached me. It was a quick, painless procedure, but I drew it out for maximum sympathy, as always. I probably got twelve hugs that day.
"And that's the point?" Kate asked. "At the end of the day, its about the hugs? Boobs and hugs?"
"When you're thirteen, yes. Sorry."
That was probably an inappropriate story to tell a hungover girl that had almost slept with me. That's the move though. Brutal honesty. Some people appreciate it.
"There's a part after it though." I added. A few days later I was sitting in a classroom on break. April came up and kneeled at the end of my desk, her arms and her head up at the top of my math book. She looked, for the first time, quite serious.
"I know who you really like." she told me. She sat there, her eyes unflinching, waiting for me to say something. But I didn't.
"Number three." Kate counted.
It was mid-afternoon by the time the tow truck driver showed up. The greasy operator stepped out of the truck with his clipboard and it was back to business. Me and Kate followed him in my car to Big O Tires, where we were at last permitted to sit on actual furniture.
Now, I've never known when to leave. It sounds silly but I didn't want this day to end, this moment of forced communion between us. I sat beside her in the uncomfortable arm chairs in the waiting room, picking up the occasional National Geographic, watching the soundless television, stealing the occasional glance at Kate, who eyed a People magazine with the same pensive glare she gave anything that needed any sort of interpretation.
A mechanic pulled Kate aside to work out some details while I stared out the window at Colfax, an extremely familiar street to me, thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my day.
"So it is the alternator." Kate informed me, releasing a sigh of defeat as she sunk back into the stiff leather chair. "They said it'll be done in a couple of hours though."
"Nice. Also, that sucks."
"Yep. I really don't want to be here for another two hours."
"You want to get out of here?"
" . . . And go where?"
I don't know. I was out of ideas.
"You don't have to wait," she told me, "You should go."
"Alright, I will do that." I said, standing, though really I wanted to stay. There was no chance of a hug. We were two strangers in a waiting room now. Kate waved.
"Hang onto the clementine." she insisted, "In case there's another emergency."
"Definitely," I smiled, finding it in my pocket again. I had forgotten about it.
I was in my car when I got a text from Jeff.
"Grab a beer at Park Tav?"
"It's 3:30 in the afternoon."
"Ok I'm on my way"
Tyler, Jeff, and Adam sat outside on the patio, already quite buzzed. My grin said I had a story, and they wanted it immediately.
"Nice work last night, Anderson." Tyler gave me a big wink, attempted to cheers the glass of beer I had not ordered yet. "Adam, does my friend Nick here reek of sin?"
"No, I don't." I informed him.
"You took Kate home, right?"
"Yeah, but we didn't . . ."
"But I do have a great story, regarding this clementine."
"If it doesn't involve you having sex, I don't think it will be that great." Adam said.
"What did you guys do then?" Tyler asked.
"We stayed up late talking. I really got to know her."
If you hadn't already surmised, my stories are not the best bar talk.
"Did you guys get BFF necklaces to commemorate the night?" Jeff asked. "Or are you going to wait until your menstrual cycles sync?"
Adam put a hand on my shoulder. "Listen Nick, I don't know you." It's true, this was the first time I'd met him. "But do you want to fuck this girl? If you want to fuck her, then fuck her. Don't sit around braiding each other's hair. Here - its Saturday. Let's go out tonight, meet some girls."
"I can't, I need to write. I finally got an ending for this particular story." "So how long is that going to take you?"
"Probably 'til like midnight. All night."
"There's still time after that! They're girls, not gremlins. You can feed them after midnight." Adam paused, swirling the remaining beer in his glass. "Hell, you can get 'em wet after midnight."
Jeff laughed so hard he spit out his beer against the brick wall. "Don't take advice from us." he said.
"Oh, I don't." I said, standing to leave.
"Wait, Nick," Tyler said. "Tell us the story about the tangerine." "Nope," I replied, "I don't think you guys deserve it."
That's not true. They're good guys, you'll have to trust me, you're just meeting them in the completely wrong order. I would have told them more if I wasn't already beginning to feel the sting of how lame the story actually was. It was not a tale of conquest, like they had thought, like I had wanted - it was a thin, flimsy hope tied to a piece of fruit that would go bad in few days. On the way home I threw the clementine into a bush.
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