I’ve never been romanced. The closest I’ve come is a guy who bought a bottle of fruity liquor just for me. We went to the liquor store to buy stuff for a party. As we left, he handed me a bottle in a paper bag and said “I bought this for you.” He said it with a goofy smile on his face, and I nearly kissed him for thinking about me.
I’ve never had a boyfriend. The closest I’ve come is a summer fling with my co-councilor at the camp I was working at. We tried to be discrete, but even the kids we were in charge of knew what was going on. He was my first kiss. It was a dark, rainy day and we were watching “Harriet the Spy” in a basement. Everyone was sitting on yoga mats. My co-councilor and I had to share a mat. His lips were dry and he used too much tongue, but his mouth tasted like adulthood.
I’ve never been in love, but the story below is the closest I’ve ever come:
If only I had had one more drink, I would have made out with him against the washing machine like my aunt told me to. At the time it seemed completely ridiculous, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe if we all hadn’t been drinking since two in the afternoon, I would have considered the source more credible.
“He came all the way from Canada” my mother hollered at me. “The least you can do is kiss him”. He hadn't really come “all the way from Canada”. No one would drive from Canada to Scranton just for a birthday party, even if it was my twenty first. It's just that he was on vacation and decided he wanted to see me off before I started my new life in Erie.
“If I go in there and make a fool of myself, will you all shut up?” I slurred.
“Caitlin, he’s in love with you. Just do it,” my aunt reassured me.
“The boy had his head in your lap. You were stroking his hair,” my cousin added with a smile that made me simultaneously love and hate her. It was clear that I had no choice. With a sigh, I reluctantly pushed myself out of the patio chair and opened the heavy glass door to my kitchen, to the possible annihilation of a five-year friendship.
I’d subconsciously been preparing myself for this since the night we met. Back then, he was just a boy in my homeroom. I’d officially met him at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I was sixteen and had just gotten off work from The Glider Diner, when I rushed to the party. With no time to take a shower, I still smelled like cigarettes and gravy. My friend Dana, the birthday girl, introduced us. She had already claimed him as her own, secretly gossiping all week that she had a big crush on him and that the feeling was mutual.
The boy was around six feet, wore glasses and was obviously dressed by his mother in dress pants and a button-down shirt. This isn't to say that he wasn't attractive. From the first time we made eye contact, I saw something in him that I couldn't fully place. Call it an aura or je ne se que, he had it in spades.
Years of preferring books to people had left me with zero social skills. So with limited knowledge of the opposite sex, I initiated a conversation with “So… I’m one of the few girls who will admit to watching porn.” which prompted a very long conversation that involved discussing the “orgasma-ray”, how hot tub scenes don’t work, and techniques for watching Cinemax without your parents finding out. I assume it was my openness about pornography that made it seem completely normal when he handcuffed me to a chair. I don’t know what this says about us as people, but movies and flirtatious physical abuse have been the basis of our friendship ever since.
Even on the night of my birthday, our debate over the superiority of pirates vs. ninjas ended in “viper pokes” and punches to various body parts. This was followed by me putting on my sad face and telling him “I hate you” in a baby-talk voice. Alcohol makes me a pathetic flirt.
After Dana’s birthday party, we started talking in homeroom. We stayed friends even after he broke up with Dana a few months later. The summer after our sophomore year, he got a job at the Wendy’s in the mall. I would visit him with my best friend Karen every Friday when we hung out there, mainly because he would give us free food at closing time. Karen would make fun of me, teasing that I had a crush on him. It would take a couple of years before I realized I just might.
Halfway through our junior year, the school decided homeroom was unnecessary. We went right to our first period and it was extended by ten minutes. This meant that I would not get to see him every morning, and eventually we grew apart. He quit his job at Wendy’s and started for a private art dealer balancing books or some other math-related thing. I moved from The Glider Diner to Kelly’s Pub & Eatery. I made a lot of new friends, most of whom I would drop by senior year.
For some reason, the “no homeroom” policy only lasted a year. On the first day of Senior year, we were assigned to a whole new set of students to start our day with. This put the boy back in my life. This time, though, he was a completely new person. Instead of glasses, he wore contacts. He had dyed his hair jet black and was no longer being dressed by his mother. Black was a very good color for him. The piercings in his lip and eyebrow were another welcome change. The only thing that didn’t look right on him was his new girlfriend, Carly.
I had known Carly since elementary school. She was my partner in crime for about a week. Then she decided one day that she no longer liked me.
“Wait… why don’t you like me?” I asked Carly.
“I just don’t”. she replied. Since then, she’s gained about 75 pounds and an even worse attitude than before. Each morning, Carly and the boy would paw at each other in the hallway before homeroom. I know it was every morning because I would have to walk past them to get to class. Dana, who had since then dated many nice boys and was completely over him, gave Carly the nickname “The Antichrist” because of her bad attitude and the faint sulfuric odor that followed her wherever she went. When I asked, one of her effeminate male friends claimed she did morning Chem. Lab, but I have my suspicions.
Despite the fact that the boy had a girlfriend who was my mortal enemy, we remained fairly good friends. He even sat next to me in homeroom, although he spent most of this time telling me how wonderful and kind his girlfriend was. One day I let him know how Carly behaved when he was not around. I didn’t take into account that this was a new relationship. New romance makes young men blind to their beloved’s flaws and the boy fought for her honor by scowling at me and refusing to talk to me for the remainder of homeroom. I spent the rest of the day constructing the perfect apology letter, the only form of communication I excelled at. I wasn’t actually sorry for what I had said. I was just afraid that I would lose him as a friend. He accepted my apology and assured me that my opinion didn’t matter to him when it came to her anyway. I didn’t believe him, but I let it slide.
By some act of fate, I became friends with Carly’s little brother. This connection gave me insight into their whirlwind romance, something I felt silly trying to get out of him on my own. Apparently, Carly had been bad-mouthing me to anyone who would listen. Feeling loyal to his friend, this boy fought for my honor. This made me the subject of their first big fight, a fact I was not-so-secretly proud of.
Despite this setback, they did not break up. The next week they were kanoodleing in the hallways once again. They dated right to the end of senior year, all summer, and they were still together when I left for college in another town. Two months went by before I got wind of their engagement. Obviously, I was crushed. Not because I wanted him, but because he could do so much better than this girl. Their marriage would be the exact opposite of the “fat guy with a hot wife” sit-com formula. I spent weeks walking around in a dark-clouded daze. I seriously questioned my own attractiveness. What could this girl possibly have that I lack? Why does she get to marry a great guy while I’m stuck alone?
All this worrying was needless, though. By the time I got home for Christmas break, they had already called off the engagement. Now that they were a couple no more, I felt comfortable bringing up her faults to him.
“Why didn’t you tell me she was insane?” he asked as he restocked the Nightmare Before Christmas action figures. At some point the art dealer had hired a real accountant, so he found work at Hot Topic.
“Would you have believed me if I told you” I asked, sheepishly. This was my best defense, and even today, it feels a day late and a dollar short.
“She just hands me this list of things I need to change about myself if I want to be married to her. Then she has the nerve to cheat on me.” I couldn’t help but laugh at him.
“Well, I wish you would have listened to me. I would have told you this was going to happen and you could have ended it before it got so serious,” I told him with a little more confidence. He scoffed in defeat and I gave myself a silent pat on the back for being so logical.
I visited him at work many more times after this. The fact that my grandmother died that Christmas, and a general feeling of anxiety, made me transfer to a college closer to home after only the firsts semester. I saw more and more of him as the months went on. I couldn't give an exact day or time, but it was around then that I started to develop feelings for him. Soon, I started to visit him at work more out of a need to see his face than out of boredom.
I had barely come to terms with my new adoration when he invited me over to watch movies at his place. It was late and I had to go to work in the morning, but my desire to see his face made me go anyway. This was the first of many regretfully uneventful nights in his basement apartment. Years of being a social misfit had left me unable to initiate any sort of romantic activity. Even with his head in my lap and a beer’s worth of alcohol rushing through my bloodstream, I had no idea how to make the first move. We ended up watching two movies and I left feeling childish and defeated by my own inhibition.
The second time I went over to “watch movies”, he sat on the other side of the couch and showed no indication that he was interested in me romantically. This time we watched two movies and an episode of Law & Order before he made up a “gotta get up early” excuse and I drove off as equally defeated as before.
I kept that defeated feeling in my mind as I pushed my way through the underage beer pong players scattered around my kitchen. I found the boy sitting in my living room, staring blankly at my parent’s flat screen while my father snored on the opposite couch. I fell onto the aptly named loveseat next to him. I don’t remember what movie was on, but I made a comment about it before I started to drunkenly make my move.
Slowly, I inched my hand onto his knee, first with my fingers then with my palm. He made no move to stop me. Next I attempted to snuggle under his arm, but ended up awkwardly lying on top of it, his watch digging into mu back.
“Make a move” I tried to tell him telepathically, but he just sat there. I started to doubt myself. I looked up into his face, but it was transfixed on the television.
“If he makes any kind of movement, I’ll take it as a sign” I told myself. Still he stared straight ahead. I couldn’t convince myself to go any further. I wanted to kiss him so badly, even if it was just to prove to myself that I wasn’t a child.
Suddenly he moved.
“I’m gonna go have a smoke,” he told me. As he walked away he had a teasing smile and gave me the peace sign.
“WHAT THE FUCK” my mind screamed as I sat in frustrated wonder for a moment. “This boy is driving me completely insane” Either he was playing really hard to get or he just wasn’t that into me. Either way it was infuriating.
“I’m not playing these games” I decided as I squeezed between the beer pong audience and back to the porch. I saw the small red light of his cigarette in a dark corner of the porch.
“I’m not going anywhere near that corner.” I told myself. After five minutes of ignoring him, he walked over.
“Gotta get up early. Have fun in Erie,” he said, before opening his arms for a hug. It was then that I realized I’d failed in my mission once again. I held that hug for as long as I could without seeming pathetic, and the laugh he gave proved I had failed in that mission as well. Then he walked down the stairs into the darkness of my back yard. I couldn't decide if I wanted to kill him or cry, so I poured myself another drink and tried to drown my sorrows in one of many rum and cokes I drank that night, although that one tasted slightly more bitter than the rest.