“You two would be perfect for each other,” my friend Dylan’s girlfriend insisted after knowing me for five minutes.
“You’re such a great guy! Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” she pressed annoyingly.
I reflected on her question for a moment. If I was truly “great” she’d be slipping me her number when Dylan wasn’t looking and sending seductive glances – not talking to me like an overgrown baby. Still, she was right. I needed a girlfriend. I agreed to a blind date with her friend.
I met Emma at Dylan’s house. I wore a blue polyester shirt, brown corduroy pants, aviator glasses, and wavy hair combed over my forehead like Bill Murray. I was into vintage clothes at the time, going for the Matthew McConaughey look from Dazed and Confused. But I probably looked more like the dorky redhead from Harry Potter.
“So how do you two know each other?” I asked, pointing to Emma and Stacey (Dylan’s girlfriend).
“We play soccer.” Stacey answered. “Emma’s really good, like the best on the team. She’s already been offered a bunch of scholarships.”
Emma blushed. “Do you play any sports?” she asked me, modestly steering the conversation away from her.
“I uh . . . no. Well, I used to play baseball but that was like in 6th grade. And I kinda sucked, I usually sat the ben– ”
“He surfs.” Dylan interrupted. “He’s really good too,” he lied. “And he rides dirt bikes, that’s how we met.”
Her face lit up. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf! That’s so cool. Maybe you could teach me sometime?”
“Maybe, I mean, yeah.”
During the short walk from the parking lot to the Jamba Juice, Dylan discretely pulled me back for an update. “How are things going? What do you think? She’s cute yeah?” he whispered.
I nodded, watching Stacey and Emma likely having the same discussion.
We all ordered our drinks and sat down.
“Brian’s a really good artist!” Stacey blurted out, as if answering a trivia question she’d been trying to figure out for the past half hour.
“Neat! What kinds of stuff do you draw? I can’t even draw a stick figure.” Emma said, lamely. “Neat” should be eliminated from the english language.
“Um, everything I guess. I have a landscape painting class where I’m doing this painting of the grand canyon. I also have a figure drawing class where I get to draw naked people.”
Everyone smiled uncomfortably and sipped their drinks.
On the ride home, I told Emma we should hang out again. I grabbed a lost pen underneath the seat, took her arm, and wrote down my phone number on the back of her hand. She bit her lower lip in a moment of hesitation, then grabbed my hand and did the same.
The next time we hung out there were no chaperones. I pulled up to her house at eight wearing a new shirt heavily doused in cologne. Before I could get to the front she stepped outside, opening the heavy wooden door just enough to wedge her tiny frame through. Her brown hair curled over her smooth tan shoulders. Her tight lips smiled, revealing a perfect set of pearly whites. She was cuter than I remembered. I knew I had to bring the A-game.
Since I was 18, bumping cool music was decidedly a better tactic than actually talking. I let the artistic expression of someone else define me as an individual, rather than articulating my own thoughts and ideas – much like a hipster. I aggressively drove my 94 Ford Ranger, weaving in and out of all the pussies doing the speed limit. Distorted guitars and angry vocals filled the air as we raced to the sushi restaurant with an urgent sense of purpose. After running a yellow light I heard a whaling siren drowning out my music. Red and blue lights flashed in my rear view mirror as I entered the parking lot of our destination. I played it cool for the cop, then bitched about the “stupid pig” after he wrote me a speeding ticket. This might have looked punk rock if I didn’t accidentally lock my keys in the car after we got out. I also realized I’d used up all my free AAA calls for the year. My dad arrived twenty minutes later to save the day.
“That was nice of him to bring a spare key.” she said, scooting her chair up to the table. I agreed and started pointing at things on the menu, trying to ignore the fact that she’d just met my dad on basically the first date.
We ordered three different kinds of cut rolls. I took a bite out of one, foolishly thinking I could eat it like a cookie. The elasticity of the seaweed wrap held strong while everything else fell apart. Rice covered my lap. I dropped the chopsticks and grabbed what was left of the roll, then yanked back with my teeth like I was trying to break off a stubborn piece of beef jerky.
“Have you had sushi before?” she laughed, gracefully picking up a roll with her chopsticks and eating it whole. I brushed the food from my lap and gave it a second shot. The fish and rice filled my mouth, leaving just enough extra space to shut my lips and chomp down.
“How’s the Yellowtail?” she asked.
“Great,” I said, still chewing clumsily.
I watched her take down another roll with ease.
Is she fucking with me?
I glanced at the other tables to see how they were all doing it.
One big massive crazy huge bite.
I asked the server for a set of utensils and cut up the rolls into more manageable sizes.
We drove home with the radio down and my hands at the 10 and 2 position. Any romantic ideas of being the cool guy from the movies were shot. I escorted her up the dark walkway, anxious to get the ordeal over with.
“I had a really good time tonight . . . despite, you know.” she said with her back to the front door as if she needed to guard the entrance.
“Yeah. Me too. Sorry about the . . . you know.”
She leaned over and gave me a kiss, then said goodnight. I was too shocked to get any words out. She cracked the front door and quickly jammed through. I looked up at the dark windows above to see if anyone had been watching us before walking back to my car. I found a Backstreet Boys song on the radio and sang along the entire drive home. I was definitely punk rock.
On our third date I showed up to her house with my hands behind my back, concealing a gift. I drew her name in block letters with a cartoon soccer player next to it.
“Ohh! I love it!” she gushed, gingerly taking the paper from my hand. “This guy Tyler in my science class drew my name too but it wasn’t nearly as good as this! This is sooo good!”
“I’ll tape it to my bedroom door right now!” she said before disappearing. Quietly waiting out front, I saw no lights turn on, no window curtains rustle, no dogs bark, no cats meow. Nothing ever seemed to come in the house and nothing ever came out. She lived in a darker, scarier version of the Wonka Factory – one that didn’t make candy.
She returned with a worried look on her face.
“My parents want to meet you.”
I shrugged my shoulders, nodded my head and made a that’s cool face.
“Okay. Just . . . We’re like kind of organizing some stuff in our house right now, so that’s why it’s a little messy. It’s normally not like this.”
She opened the door.
The five-bedroom two story house had been converted into a giant storage closet. It looked like a reverse garage sale where everyone in town dumped their useless crap inside. I walked through a narrow alley of old blenders, dishes, deflated soccer balls, microwaves, lamps, and useless television sets stacked in boxes head high. I imagined the lights turning off and all the appliances coming to life like in Brave Little Toaster. I weaved through stacks upon stacks of junk and followed Emma into the kitchen where her parents greeted me.
Normally I’d be nervous to meet mom and dad, but their garbage maze living room leveled the playing field. I wasn’t the only one to be judged now. Either her dad sensed this, or he was literally the nicest guy on the planet. Instead of asking me about my sinister intentions, he asked me friendly questions like “What are you studying in school?” Emma’s mom smiled a lot and offered me sugar cookies that looked like soccer balls.
By the fourth week of our courtship I got antsy. We’d made out a few times, but it never went further (except for maybe one close encounter in my truck when she let me touch her boobs – with my mouth!). Frustrated with having no where to get a potential blow-job, the gods of oral sex took pity on me and presented an opportunity.
“I’m house-sitting for my parents’ friend’s this weekend. You should come over and hang out. There’s a spa,” she told me over the phone.
If there was ever a place to take things to the next level, it was in a jacuzzi.
“Sounds great, Can’t wait.”
In the post high school world there’s nothing sexier than having a place to party – let alone a mansion with a spa. Word of this prime spot quickly spread amongst my circle of friends and my popularity soared. People I’d never said more than two words to were suddenly curious what I was up to Friday night. I got greedy. I wanted a blow-job AND the fame and prestige of hosting an epic party. I could have both. Everyone hangs out for a while – Me, Emma, thirty of my closest friends – then we quietly slip off later to the spa where she blows me because I’m the dopest guy around. Fail proof.
Two minor flaws in the plan. Emma was cool with me bringing a train of people over, or at least she acted cool, but she was still responsible for the house. She spent the entire night running from room to room, making sure no one set any beers down without a coaster, or spilled on the white carpet, or touched the piano, or went into the master bedroom. No chance I was dragging her away for a few minutes of sexy time. The second problem was – everyone had to be out by midnight, including her. Being only 17, she still had a strict curfew to abide by – her parents expected her home at 12. At 11:30 we started corralling people out the front door. Everyone stood around their cars and watched Emma turn off the lights, lock the front door, and bid us farewell. I got a lousy kiss on the cheek. The party had just started and now we were stuck on a dark empty street with nowhere to go.
We reconvened at the local McDonald’s parking lot to brainstorm.
Tomorrow I call Emma, tell her we had a good time, NO, tonight I text Emma to tell her we had a great time – show our appreciation. Tomorrow I call her to see if a few of us can come over again, not quite as many, maybe ten or so. When she answers the door we greet her with a jovial hello, then distract her with . . . beers. We’ll hand her a case of beer and ask where we can put them. She’ll insist on taking them to the fridge herself, during which time Zach will sneak in undetected. Then, he’ll hide in the master bedroom closet for the duration of the night. Ten people in, nine accounted for. When she locks everything up at midnight to go back to her parents’ house, we all drive away too. We meet back at McDonald’s and wait for our man inside to call us when the coast is clear. Genius.
Zach, who’d watched Predator over twenty times, insisted on painting his face and wearing camouflage. I didn’t see how this would help him blend in to the domestic landscape, but I wasn’t going to share any disparaging words with the guy who was about to sit in a dark closet for three hours. He was making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of mankind. When he suggested bringing his eight-inch hunting knife “just in case” however, I finally had to draw the line. We approached the front door armed with nothing but a few cases of beer.
The plan worked perfectly. We got about ten feet in the house before the front door shut. Zach was no where to be found. I looked down the hallway to see if I could catch a fleeting glimpse of his camo-jacket, or maybe a few rustled house plants still swaying – nothing. The guy was good.
We continually updated each other on Zach’s stagnant status, using ridiculous codes like “The eagle is still in the nest” or “The crow has flown south for the winter”. None of them really made sense, but they all translated to the same message – ” Yep, Zach’s still in the closet, chillin’.”
Midnight grew closer.
“Ah man, that sucks you gotta kick us out, I totally understand though, thanks for having us over,” I announced theatrically. She locked up and kissed me on the cheek. We all drove away. About five minutes later, loitering in the local McDonald’s parking lot, we got the call. “Um, she’s gone now . . . you guys can come back.”
He stood at full attention in front of the open door with his arm pointing inside. Pats on the shoulder and fist bumps greeted him as our line walked back inside. We did a couple rounds of shots, dedicating the first one to “The man who made this all possible tonight, Mr. Zach Jensen.” Then we got on our Nokia’s and called more peeps. We set beers down without coasters; we thoroughly watered the backyard plants; and we hit bong loads in the master bedroom. At 4:00 a.m., we finally called it quits. After a half-assed cleaning job we congratulated ourselves for a party-well-done and hit the road.
The next day I waited for the phone call. 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 . . . By 6:00 I still hadn’t heard anything. I knew she must’ve known – we couldn’t have cleaned up that well. There was surely evidence; a forgotten bottle behind a houseplant, a roach on the coffee table, an empty food cabinet once full of chips and cookies and snacks. I nervously called around 8:00 – nothing. I called again around 10:00 and left a message- still nothing. A knot in my stomach began to form. My immature need to impress my friends had cost me a girlfriend.
Two weeks later, after no communication, I found out from a friend she was dating Norm Schuster. A month later someone told me she lost her virginity to him. I wondered where it happened. The movie theater? The spa? Inside the fortress of garbage? I thought about the unsuccessful night in my truck and wondered what Norm had done so differently. I thought about her pretty smile, her beautiful eyes, and her firm tan legs – then I googled “girl takes off shirt at soccer game” and rubbed one out. I’m a fucking moron. .