This story is in the first book created from this website, Mentally Incontinent. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please consider picking up the book. It's chock full of stuff just like this.
|I'm Just Dying To Know You
| I | II |
He inhaled deeply through his nostrils as he stared down at a manila folder full of records and documents that lay open on his desk. With his face pointed toward the desk, he raised his eyes to look into mine (which had previously been studying the blurring motion my thumbs created as I twiddled them in an effort to kill time). I looked back at him and held my breath as I waited for him to say whatever it was in his mind that tickled him enough to cause the corner of his lip to curl upward in an amused smirk.
“So…” He said, lifting his head and sitting back into his huge leather chair. “Amanda Peters, huh?”
I sighed. Utterly defeated and no longer without the resources to try to contradict it, I muttered “Yes sir, I guess so, sir.”
He chuckled to himself as he looked up at the white drop-ceiling and the fluorescent lights it contained. I shifted in my seat, feeling the alternating red and black walls of Dr. Schaf’s office closing in on me and hoping that whatever it was he was about to say would be merciful, and if not that, at least brief.
“Well, son,” he said, and I braced myself for impact. I drew in a silent breath and held it as he lightly drummed his desk with his fingertips. He looked right at me and, with the same smirk, said “I guess it’s one of those lessons in life. We all make mistakes, huh?”
Woah. THAT was unexpected.
I stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to say. This was very new to me. Here was a man with whom I’d traded some manner of insult or jibe with for the past three years, ever since I’d become an office aide. We weren’t enemies by any means; just the opposite in fact. It was our crazy form of friendship (or, at least, the closest thing that an assistant principal and a student whom was CONSTANTLY in trouble could reasonably share). Every morning as I walked through the back office to deliver his mail, he’d make some sort of comment regarding either lackluster performance in the past weekend’s sporting endeavor or a wasted youth, and I’d return with some snotty remark relating the proportionate relationship between his Porsche 911 and his manhood or make some rip on his age. Even during the still-discussed “Opened Can of Tuna in Walter Allen’s Locker Incident” the year before, we traded a few barbs here and there and even laughed as he banished me to a week of in-school suspension. It was how we related to one another. So naturally, when he totally disregarded the juiciest bait I’d ever laid out before him and let me off the hook, I was a bit taken aback.
“Uh… Yes sir. I guess that’s true, sir,” I said, relieved.
“Oh, come off it now,” he returned as he smiled. “You can drop the ‘sir yes sir’ garbage. You just got your butt handed to you by a girl in a cafeteria full of people. I won’t force you to suffer any further humiliation by paying me any sort of courtesy.”
Zen and the art of combat – lower their defenses and strike when they are at ease.
I laughed. “I was wondering when you’d finally strike,” I said as I leaned back in my chair and stretched.
“And I was wondering why you were acting so uptight,” he answered as he picked up his pen and turned his attention to scribbling on one of the documents before him. “What, did you think you were in some kind of trouble?”
“No, I just knew I was going to hear your crap,” I snapped in retort, not betraying that I did, indeed, wonder if I was going to get punished for Amanda’s behavior in the cafeteria a little bit earlier. “I was just… You know. Waiting for you to spring.”
He looked up at me in the same manner he did earlier, with his head still down, and huffed a small laugh through his nostrils. “Well, come on. What did you expect?” He smiled and returned his eyes to the document he was working on. As he wrote, he said “You know, I probably SHOULD suspend you.”
“For what?!?” I asked.
“Why, to save you from the humiliation of having to explain this to the rest of the student body,” He answered with a chuckle. “You just suffered some severe public humiliation.”
“Yeah, well… What else is new?” I asked rhetorically. “They’re all used to it by now, I’m sure.”
“You have a point,” he answered. “Still… Imagine what Reynolds and Taurus are going to say about this,” he said, referring to two of our three football captains and, incidentally, two of the only 3 folks I actually liked on my team (the third being the kicker, Peyton Daughtry – still one of the best painters I’ve ever met).
“Oh, Christ,” I lamented, “Don’t remind me.” I looked down at the floor between my gigantic feet and began identifying patterns in the checkerboard layout in an effort to get my mind off of the fact that, even though Amanda Peters had just performed some sort of pissed-off female kung-fu on the back of my head during lunch, the worst of the pain was yet to come. I still had football practice to look forward to.
“So,” Dr. Schaf said, breaking the minute or so of silence which sat between us as he finished the preliminary pieces of the incident report he was filling out, “Would you like to tell me how this happened?”
“Sure,” I responded. “Where do you want me to begin?”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning and I’ll just pull out the pieces I think are important,” he said with a smile, indicating that he was interested in much more than just the lunchtime beat-down.
“It might take a while,” I replied with a chuckle. “The rest of the school day, in fact.”
“Good!” He exclaimed. “I don’t feel like working for the rest of the day anyway. Let Dr. Haouk and Mr. Lee handle the rest of the miscreants.”
We shared a laugh as I began my tale.
Her blonde eyelashes were batting and her smile was innocent and sweet. Her arms were intertwined and fully extended in front of her and she looked very nearly like a greeting card. This girl was so adorable, it should have been sickening. In fact, it probably would have been if it weren’t for the fact that the note she’d shyly given to me a few minutes earlier (that I insisted on reading right that moment in her presence, despite her embarrassed pleas to the contrary) stated, quite clearly, that she was really into me. And not only that – It also confessed that she’d had a crush on me for the past three years.
Yep, that’s right. A girl liked me. And yes, I was just as blown away then as you are right now. I wasn’t used to girls coming up and talking to me. Usually, it was the other way around, and quite frequently ended with them saying “No! Now go away or I’ll mace you. Again.”
“Uh, let’s… Uh…” I could barely think of what the hell it was I was trying to say. Never before had a girl told me that SHE had a crush on ME, and as such, I was caught without having rehearsed any sort of response plan – and given that we were both waiting to go out and be announced as members of our respective sporting collectives (me with football and her with softball), I was utterly and completely unprepared, and she was awaiting a response. Stammering, I managed to blurt out again, “Let’s… Uh...”
Oh, come on. Just say it, already. You can do it.
Yeah, but WHAT? What do I say???
What do you mean, “What do I say,” you jackass? What is it you want to do with her?
Hrm.. You mean, like, right now?
Yeah… Like, right now.
Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re surrounded by a thousand other students at this god-awful pep-rally, I’d want to grab hold of her tight little--
No, not THAT, you horny bastard.
Well, I do!
Yes, yes, of
course you do. I meant
BESIDES that. Something more appropriate… Or, at the very least, civil.
Hmm... I have no clue. What the hell SHOULD I do with her?
Well, perhaps you might – and this is a long shot, I know, but – maybe you should TALK to her.
Uh… Okay! Yeah! That’s actually a good idea.
There you go! See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
No… I guess it wasn’t!
Alright, then – GO!
My brain released its grip on my tongue and allowed me to finally ask what it was I’d agonized over for the past… Oh, two seconds or so. “Uh… Hey, um…”
… SHIT! Shitshitshit!
What?!? What is it NOW?
I DON’T KNOW HER NAME!
Oh, come on, sure you do. It is on the note she JUST handed you that you JUST read. You DID read Amanda's note, didn’t you?
Yeah, sure I read it – She used to ride the school bus with me, she thought my antics were funny, and she has had a crush on me for a while.
… That’s it?
Well, no, she said other stuff after that, and my eyes went over all the words on the paper and stuff, but my mind kinda… You know. Locked on that whole “I like you” thing. So, uh... I don't really remember what else she wrote.
… You’re a moron.
Oh?!? Well, if I’M a moron, then YOU’RE a moron, too.
Au contraire, mi amigo. You might flit around from topic to topic up there in your conscious mind, but back here in the subconscious, I pick up every little thing that goes on around you. I take it in, I process it, and I hold on to it. Thus, I know what she wrote in the rest of that note, and I know her name.
… Wait - you DO?!?
Mm-hmm. In fact, I just told you what it was not a millisecond ago.
You did?!? What is it!!!
Oh, come on. Think about it, it’ll come to you.
“Uh…” It was right there; poised on the tip of my tongue like a suicide jumper on the edge of an interstate overpass. It wanted oh-so desperately to just leap right off and finally end this uncomfortable situation. But all I could do was stare at this poor girl who’d just confessed a three-year long crush on me like I was a deranged Alabaman UFO spotter drunk from the product of his own still; staring into the headlights of an old Ford Fairlane hoping to God that “Them aliens won’t do nuthin to mah cornhole.” I was about to ruin something that hadn’t even started yet.
*sigh* Fine, fine. I’ll clue you in. But YOU OWE ME ONE.
“Amanda!” I yelped loudly as her name suddenly flashed before my mind’s eye. It seemed to take her a bit by surprise, judging from the look on her face. Now was the time to recover from the past few seconds of lunacy and really impress her… You know. Show her that all the time she’d spent secretly liking me wasn’t totally in vain. Or, at the very least, prove that I wasn’t totally and completely crazy.
“Um… Could we, you know… Go somewhere and, like… Talk and stuff? Like… We could go into the wrestling room right there,” I suggested, pointing just behind her to the team’s practice room where I’d be spending most of my time after football season. “Or perhaps we could talk outside? Get a little fresh air or something?” I followed that up by whipping my hand to the right and pointing to the exit door situated down the hall and next to the locker rooms. “Or, I dunno… Something? Somewhere? Like…”
“Joe,” She said, thankfully interrupting me before I started in on the truly disassociative crap, like recipes for muffins.
“I think someone wants you.” She pointed to an area directly behind me where I thought I had heard someone yelling just a second ago. I didn’t exactly know what the heck they were screaming about, but it sounded suspiciously like—
“Hey, PEACOCK!” I heard Matt Taurus yell again. I whipped my head around to see the 5’ 11”, 250lb defensive tackle with his gigantic arms bent at the elbow so as to place his hands at his mouth and amplify his baritone voice. “They just called your name!!”
“Uh…” I said, not quite sure what was going on here. I mean… I should have known what that was all about. In fact, I believe at one point I DID know why they’d call my name over the PA system in the gym. But at that point, I wasn’t even really sure what—
“Quit standing around and GET OUT THERE!” Matt yelled, pointing a meat-hook of an index finger out of the double doors and toward the gymnasium floor.
I looked back at Amanda, who was grinning. I wasn’t sure if it was a nervous grin or an amused grin, but it was happening and I didn’t have much time to figure out which was which. I flashed a bright smile at her, shrugged my shoulders, and then turned 180 degrees on a trot out of the back hallways of the gym and onto the basketball court.
On either side of the exit leading to the floor were matching rows of underclassman football players, all with their hands outstretched and nearly touching the floor for a congratulatory “Low Five”. I crouched down into a near waddle to slap palms with them and in the process, I looked very, VERY cool. I jogged along this tunnel o’ testosterone until it deposited me squarely in the middle of the gym floor along with my other Senior class teammates.
The crowd clapped and cheered a little, nothing super spectacular – merely the typical response of a lackadaisical student body who realized that anything, even a football pep rally, was better than languishing in the 6th and final class period of our school day. Even though I’d enjoyed some success in my football career at Mt. Zion, I was pretty much as distanced as one can be from being part of the actual jock crowd, and my entire football career was merely something to keep me conditioned for the upcoming wrestling season each year. So basically, I didn’t care, the students didn’t care and my team didn’t care that Joe Peacock had just entered the building; rather, it was another black & red Mount Zion jersey trotting out into view, which meant “time to clap.”
I took my place with my fellow Seniors and clapped along while Matt Taurus, the last of our ilk, entered the human-lined “Pathway to glory” amidst a strong response from the crowd. He was one of our three football captains, a four year “All State” player, and one hell of an imposing figure. He also happened to be one of the three guys on the team that I actually liked (the other two being Tony, a fellow linebacker, and Peyton, who was not just the kicker, but also the art teacher's son), so as he made his way to me, I picked him up and swung him around as he raised his fists high in the air. The student body enjoyed this little display of machismo and clapped even louder as a result of their beloved Matt being held aloft. As I put him back down squarely on the floor, he looked at me earnestly, as if we were the only two people out there, and said, “So… Amanda Peters, huh?”
I nodded, not exactly sure what he was implying. Then, just as he opened his mouth to follow up on his cryptic question, a loud voice came booming across the Gym’s PA system, yelling “… And these are your Mount Zion High School Senior Bulldogs!” Mr. Barge, the familiar voice that emceed every single event that occurred at our school, was emphatic in his encouraging that the pep rally attendees “Show your support for this great team and put your hands together!”
His unfortunate timing drowned out whatever it was that Matt just tried to tell me, and before I could ask him to repeat it, I felt a huge crowd forming around us. The rest of the team closed in on us to form a huge huddle and, in unison, we all began slapping our thighs and clapping in rhythm. The pulse grew faster and faster and faster until Matt raised his hand high in the air from the center of the ring. Much like a group of baboons, we all began grunting in cadence and continued to do so until he dropped his raised fist, which we responded to by screaming our battle cry as loudly as possible: “Goooooo BULLDOGS! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!”
The rest of the pep rally went as you probably remember them going, given that you have ever been to one. The rest of the teams playing in sports that were in season were announced and no one really gave a damn. I mean, seriously – who cares about the cross country team? And as for the the weightlifting team… Give me a break. Only the softball squad, of which Amanda was a member, got even a marginal showing from the student body, and that’s because they were State champions for the past 3 years – and someone, somewhere, actually cared about that fact. Nope, in our school there were essentially only two sports – football and wrestling. And our football team was, with the notable exception of last year, terrible.
After our little gathering in support of school spirit was over, the school bells rang and everyone dispersed to their collective social groups. The football players all chatted for a few minutes and, thankfully, were given the rest of that Friday off as a reward for working so hard all summer, with the caveat that anyone who didn’t show up to the annual Booster Club Cookout the next day “was a dead man come Monday afternoon.” I took off and practically sprinted to the girls locker room area to wait for Amanda, who was already out and waiting for me. We shared a smile and a “hi”, clasped hands, and walked out to the parking lot, where we met Mike who was waiting in his usual spot with his Bitchin’ Camaro.
“It’s about time,” He said, folding closed a copy of some sort of skateboarding or snowboarding magazine that he was reading on the hood of his car. “I was about to leave without you.”
“Yeah, like you’d be so brave,” I responded with my chest all puffed out in an effort to impress the lovely young Amanda with my testosterone-filled bravado.
“Whatever,” Mike said, rolling his eyes. “Big talk for a man with no car.”
I smiled at him with my eyes wide as platters and my teeth bared in a forced grin, non-verbally saying “SHUT UP AND DON’T EMBARRASS ME, JACKASS.” Catching the hint, he smiled slightly and turned his attention to Amanda.
“So,” he said with a smirk, “I imagine you’ll be wanting a ride home as well?”
“Um, if that’s ok?” She answered shyly.
“Sure, you live, what, like 3 blocks from Joe?”
“Yeah… How’d you know that?” She asked, a little bewildered.
“He knows everything,” I said, reaching for the passenger door and opening it with a loud creaking sound. “About everyone. All the time.”
“I… see…” Amanda said with an immense amount of trepidation.
“Bah,” Mike responded. “There’s probably some stuff I don’t know… But I’m not sure what it is.”
“I doubt that,” I replied as I folded the front seat forward and ushered Amanda into the backseat. I followed her back there, reached forward to shut the door and replaced the seat to it’s proper upright position. “You’re pretty much the Grand Central Station of gossip in this school.”
He tossed his magazine into the empty passenger seat of his ’82 Camaro, then plopped heavily into the driver’s seat and slammed his door. “Where to?” he said with a faux British accent.
“Why, to my abode, Wilshire,” I replied, eliciting a small laugh from Amanda. Mike simply rolled his eyes and cranked the car.
The ride home was rather uneventful – mostly because we had Helmet blaring from the CD player, making general conversation some what difficult. At some point during the drive, Amanda had seized my hand and clinched it tightly between two of her own. I looked over and shared with her a smile. Mike looked at us in the rearview and shouted, loud enough that it could be heard over Page Hamilton’s gnarly screams, “Ah-HA! Yeah, go for it buddy!” I slapped hard on his baseball cap-clad head, shoving the button on the tip-top into his skull. He shut up after that.
We pulled into my neighborhood and Amanda guided Mike to her house, a few streets over from mine. We pulled into the driveway and I exited from the passenger side, helping Amanda out behind me. She turned to face me and smiled sweetly. Brightly, she asked me in to meet her mom and see her house. I didn’t see any harm in that proposition, so I agreed. I ducked down to look into Mike’s open passenger window to let him know that I wouldn’t need a ride home.
His response? “Wear protection, buddy!”
He slammed the car into reverse with his drag-racing quick-shifter and peeled out of Amanda’s driveway before I could leap through the window and across the seat to strangle him, and with a gnashing of teeth and a promise of later revenge, I followed Amanda into her house.
Her mom was sitting at the dining room table just to the right of the front door. She stood and hugged her daughter hello, then greeted me kindly and let me know how great an honor it was to finally meet me.
“Amanda’s been talking about you for, oh, about 3 years is it?” She asked as she looked at her daughter, who was blushing innocently. She turned back to me and continued. “I’ve read about your achievements and such in the papers – you’re quite a remarkable young man!”
“Oh, no ma’am, not at all,” I responded, extremely dismissive of such accolades. To be mentioned in an article in the local paper meant that you played a sport or helped the school’s art club paint the windows at the local retirement home for the holidays. “I think that the Clayton News/Daily is just hard up for material, to be honest,” I confessed.
She narrowed her eyelids and smirked. “It’s no wonder she likes you,” she suggested.
Amanda then interjected and suggested that we see the rest of the house, then took my hand and guided me around as she showed me the various rooms around her home. I congratulated her on the various softball and horseback-riding trophies and awards proudly displayed in the den, and gasped in amazement at the gigantic 120 gallon saltwater aquarium located in the living room. She went through the excessively mind-numbing process of naming each and every fish in the tank as I smiled and nodded, somewhere in the back of my mind wondering – as I always do when I meet enthusiasts of aquatic life – how the hell a fish makes a good pet.
Rather than leap into my typical diatribe on the subject, I elected instead to remain silent as we progressed upstairs into the game room and was educated on the subtler points of pool and backgammon, two of her family’s favorite games. Leaving there, we walked past her parents’ room (a standard do-not-enter area of any youth’s home) and those of her siblings, and then finally approached the closed door of her room, which was adorned with the typical signs and pictures I’d learned to expect to find on most teenage girl’s room doors. She swung the door open and invited me in, and as I entered, it felt like I was stepping through a portal into a magical and mystical world in which there were three notable religious figures – horses, fish, and me.
I was blown away. Situated in between a wall filled with posters of horses and riders and another covered in magazine cut-outs and articles about various types of fish, there stood a wall with a gigantic mirror on it that reflected the doorway as you entered. There I stood, looking at myself – but not in the mirror. Around the frame of the mirror, on the wall, were taped or tacked just about every single newspaper article and yearbook photo of yours truly. There were copies of poems and stories I’d written for both my junior high and high school literary magazines. There were copies of the flyers I’d pasted around school my tenth grade year, encouraging everyone to vote for me as class president (which I ran for on a platform of “soda machines in every classroom” and an increase in portions from the school cafeteria. My running mates, Mike and Jay, ran as VP and Secretary, respectively, and we called ourselves the Mount Zion Axis Coalition. Long before there was Photoshop, there was an X-acto knife and paste, and I’d used both to put our faces on the bodies of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo. No one got the joke.).
I knew immediately that this was either the scariest or most flattering thing I’d ever seen in my life, and had to quickly make a decision on which.
“Holy crap,” I said aloud, my eyes opened wide and my mouth agape. I turned to look at her, and she was doing that whole eyelashes fluttering / arms intertwined thing again.
“You like it?” She asked.
“Good!!!!” She answered. “I told you I’ve had a crush on you for a long time…”
“Apparently so,” I said. I turned back to look at the collage du Joe, and just happened to notice a clock on the wall which read 5:00 PM. “Shi… Er, Shoot!” I announced aloud. “I’m supposed to meet Mike and Walter for pool tonight!”
“Aww,” she replied pitifully. Then she immediately brightened and suggested that they come over and play in the game room at her house.
“Well, unfortunately, we’ve got a little wager going on with some guys at the Tara Pool Hall tonight,” I replied. “We gotta go there.”
“Well, couldn’t I go with you?” she asked.
I thought it over a moment. I really wanted her to go along, but because these were already established plans, I felt that it was probably best to just make it a guys-only type of thing. “I dunno, Amanda, I think tonight is probably not the best night to try and go out and such. I think the guys are expecting just me.”
“Oh, I’m sure they won’t mind!” she answered, and darted past me toward her phone. She picked it up and began dialing numbers.
“Uh… Who are you calling?” I asked.
“Your friend Mike. I’m going to find out if it’s okay if I go.”
“Oh. Okay,” I said in agreement. It didn’t even occur to me that she didn’t need to look in the phone book for his number.
“Uh… Hey, Mike?” I heard from her end of the phone. “This is Amanda. No, Amanda peters. What? What do you mean ‘Amanda Peters who?’ You just dropped me at my house a little while ago. I’m dating your friend Joe.”
Dating??? We're DATING???
Apparently we are.
“Yeah, he said you guys are going to the pool hall tonight… Yeah. Yeah, he did. Yeah, he is. Want to talk to him? Ok, here he is.” She handed me the phone and added, “He wants to talk to you.”
“Hello?” I said into the mouthpiece.
“Dude… What the fuck?” Mike responded.
“What?!?” I asked in response.
“You know we have that thing with the Fox brothers tonight.”
“Well, I don’t imagine they’d mind too much,” I said, trying to ignore the fact that he obviously didn’t want her there.
“You already made plans with me and Wally,” he responded. “It’s no good. Come on… Don’t do this to us.”
”Alright, that’s cool,” I said, trying to play like Fonzie on the other end. “See you tonight.” I pressed the connect button and hung up on him before he could say anything else.
“So?” she asked excitedly.
“Yeah… You know, I don’t think tonight is the right night for this,” I answered. “But you’re going to be at the Booster Cookout fundraiser tomorrow, right?”
She dropped her eyes to the ground. “Yeah, I’ll be there,” she replied.
“Great!” I said in a vibrant tone, attempting to cheer her up. “Why don’t we catch up then?” She looked up at me. “And,” I added, “Why don’t we try to catch a movie or something on Sunday? You know… Just the two of us?”
Her face broke out into a smile. “That’s a great idea! We’ll have so much fun!”
I agreed, and with that, I hugged her goodbye. As we broke from our hug, we looked into each others eyes. I felt like it might be a good time to try to kiss her, but again, given my utter lack of experience in these matters, I elected instead to vie for safer waters. I smiled, hugged her again, and took off.
The jog home was short – all of three and a half blocks. I trotted at a fairly light pace in the early September heat, not wanting to have to shower again before I went out with the fellas. A scant five minutes later, I burst through the front door of my parents’ home and headed straight for the phone I heard ringing from my room. Very quickly, I scooped the handset from its cradle and abruptly answered.
“Hey!” the female voice on the other end chimed.
“Uh… hi,” I said, trying to place the voice.
“It’s Amanda,” she said, answering my unasked question.
“Oh! Well, hi!” I returned. “What’s up?”
“I just wanted to let you know how much fun I had today,” she said in response.
“Well, uh… Okay!” I answered. “I… uh… I had fun, too!”
“Great!” she responded. I chuckled in response to her response. She laughed back in response to my response to her response. And after that… silence.
“So, uh…” I said.
“Uh… Yeah,” she responded with a small laugh.
I laughed again myself, then said “Well, I guess I’d better go so I can get ready.”
“Yeah, okay,” she answered quickly. “Good luck tonight! I hope you win!”
“Oh, me too,” I answered, then said my goodbyes. As I replaced the receiver on the cradle, I reflexively looked at my answering machine to see if there were any messages. The little red flashy blinky thing indicated that I did, so I hit the play button and moved to the closet to get dressed. As the machine played the messages, I grew astounded: in the time that it took me to get home, Amanda had called me three times. The first message was a hang up, but I knew it was her because her second message let me know that the first one was her. “I didn’t want you to wonder who it was,” she said before she asked that I call her when I got home. The third was just a quick request that I tell my friend Mike not to be such a jerk when she calls him, and it ended with another request that I call her when I get home.
I shrugged, and continued putting on my shirt. I couldn’t think about too much about that stuff at the moment – I had a pool match to win.
And that’s exactly what we did. Except, instead of winning, we lost. But at least the Fox Brothers had the decency to buy us dinner at Waffle House with the money they’d just won from us.
It was ‘round midnight when I finally made it back home. As I walked in the door, I was greeted by two agitated parents, both of whom threatened – individually – to have my phone line removed. I reminded them that it was I who paid for the line, and they reminded me that it was their house. We accomplished nothing, and that’s the way parents and kids let each other know they love each other.
I went into my room and found the phone laying off the hook, as my parents had informed me I would. I replaced it on the cradle, simultaneously hitting the play button on my answering machine. I sat and listened to fourteen messages, all from Amanda, half of which were hang-ups and half of the other half of which were explanations that the first half were her hanging up before the machine picked up (or so she thought, giggle giggle…). As the last message played, the phone rang again. I’ll give you one guess who it was.
“Hey!” she said vibrantly.
“Hey,” I responded.
“So, how’d you do?”
“We lost… So, hey,” I said in the most disjointed segue of all time, “Why did you call here, like, twenty times? You knew I was gone.”
“Oh, well, I didn’t know what time you’d be back,” she replied. “I was hoping to catch you before you went to bed.”
Eh… that was good enough for the guy who was just bewildered that a girl liked him. “Well, okay… so what’s up?”
“Oh, nothing,” she said with a sigh. “I just missed you.”
“Awww!” I said as I sat down and began removing my shoes. “Well, that’s sweet.”
She giggled, verbally blushing. “Well, I did. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to talk to you…”
“Well, I’ve been right here all this time,” I responded.
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “I just… I dunno. I didn’t really have the courage to say anything.”
I laughed. “Am I THAT imposing?”
“Well… Sorta,” she said in response. “You’re kinda difficult to get to know.”
“Nah, that’s not true at all,” I answered. “See? You’re doing it now!”
We shared a laugh, and once again, that silence set in. I asked her to hold on so that I could take off my shirt and get ready for bed, knowing fully well that I’d just lay there until about 3:00 AM so that I’d be nice and exhausted when I reported at 7:00 AM for tomorrow’s Booster cookout. I picked the receiver up after about 60 seconds to let her know I was back, but when I picked it up, the sound was hollow and there was no one there. I hung up the phone and nearly the second I did, it began ringing.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Oh, there you are,” she responded. “That was kinda rude.”
“Huh?” I said, somewhat confused.
“Putting me on hold for that long. It was a little rude,” she said, “But it doesn’t matter now. You’re back!”
“Yeah… uh… That I am.”
“Hey,” she said somewhat out of the blue, “Want to hear a poem?”
“Uh… Sure,” I replied.
“Okay!” She said, and I heard the clacking sound of a phone being placed on a desk. I heard some ruffling and shuffling in the background while she searched around for the poem she was looking for (or so I gathered). All told, I was on hold for about a minute and a half. There’s probably something to be said there about double standards and such, but I figured I’d just let it slide.
“Okay, now, I’m not a writer like you are—“
“Ha!” I said aloud. “I’m no writer.”
“Sure you are!” she replied. “A really good one! And because of that, I’m kinda scared to read this to you…”
“Oh, come on now,” I replied. “There’s no need to be scared! I want to hear it!”
“Okay, okay,” she said, giving in. “Bear with me, it’s still in progress.” She took a deep breath, and before she began, she added, “It’s about you.”
Boy. Talk about a great feeling. Here I was on the phone with a girl who had this huge crush on me for a long time; who thought enough about me to put up pictures and articles and stuff about me and even wrote a poem about me. I was a mixture of nervousness and warmth as she began her reading.
I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
I thought about it...
This was sounding very, very familiar.
You treat me like I'm a princess
I'm not used to liking that
You ask how my day was...
Ok, I KNOW I've heard this somewhere…
You've already won me over, in spite of me
That's when it hit me. “Um... Amanda...” I said in an attempt to stop her from further embarrassing herself. She kept going.
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
And don't be surprised if I love you, for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault..
“Amanda…” I said again.
“Um… That sounds awfully familiar…” I responded.
“Does it?” She asked.
“Yeah, it does… It sounds a lot like an Alanis Morissette song.”
She sat silent for a moment. “Hmm… That’s strange.”
“In fact,” I continued, “It’s a pretty popular song. They play it on the radio quite a bit.”
“Well,” she replied, “That’s just a really big coincidence, cause I wrote this.”
Yeah. It was at that point that all of those quirky little things I’d found so endearing started becoming just a bit left of center.
“Okay, well, I have to get up at 6:00 tomorrow for that cookout,” I said with a sigh. “So, I probably need to get to bed…”
“Oh. Yeah, me too,” She answered. “So I’ll see you there?”
“Yeah, okay. Sure.”
“Okay!” She said excitedly. “Well, have a good night.”
“I sure will.”
“Dream of me,” she added.
“Uh… I’ll try my best,” I answered. “You have a good night too.”
“Okay!” She said. Then, very quickly and somewhat muttered, she said something that sounded a whole lot like “I love you.”
Yeah, I know. I heard.
What do I do?
Fuck if I know, dude! I’m in the same boat as you on this one!
Oh, wait -- I know what to do!
What! Tell me!
Well, she said that last thing kinda muttered, right?
So, pretend like she said something else, and repeat it back. Then hang up.
“Uh… Okay, goodnight to you, too!” I blurted out, then slammed the phone down.
Thanks. Came up with that one myself.
Confident that that did the trick, I laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, awaiting the sweet, soothing blanket of slumber to wrap over me and take me into—
I sat up and stared at the phone as it rang a second time. Reluctantly, I reached for it and brought it to my ear. “Hello?”
“I didn’t say ‘goodnight’, I said ‘I love you’,” Amanda said from the other end of what felt like a ten mile long tunnel.
“Uh… Okay,” I responded, staring blankly at the wall.
“Well?” she said after a moment of silence.
“Well what?” I replied.
“Aren’t you going to say it back?”
“I, uh… Well, the thing is…”
No way. You’re on your own.
NO! Help me! What do I say?
“I… Uh… I love you, too,” I said.
Oh, you IDIOT.
Hey, I didn’t hear YOU pipe up with any clever suggestions. We need to get off the phone and this is the only way I know how!
This is going to go badly for us.
Well, that’s what happens when you leave me in charge!
Overjoyed, Amanda giggled with glee and began a two minute monologue about how she knew this day would come, and how long she’d waited to hear those words, and etcetera and so forth. Once finished, I casually suggested that we both get some sleep, as we had a lot of work to do in the morning. She agreed, told me she loved me again, and insisted I reply in kind. And I did. And the rest of the night was spent staring at the ceiling, debating with myself exactly how much trouble I’d just gotten myself into.
The morning came all too quickly and my father drove me over to the cookout, where I along with the rest of the football team set up tables and chairs, prepared games, lugged heavy things around, etcetera and so forth. The entire time, I kept one eye peeled for females in softball uniforms, watching for Amanda so that I could avoid her as best as I could. When ten o’clock rolled around and it was time to assume positions for the crowds that would soon show up, Matt Taurus, Tony Reynolds and I took up chairs at the cake & dessert table (a cute idea hatched by the Boosters. The theory was that it was typically a male chore to prepare food and a female’s duty to run games and sell desserts, so why not have a little fun and switch the roles? We were fine with it, though. We got to sit all day while the girls’ teams did all the heavy work.) So, I was situated in a fixed position with no cover whatsoever.
And lo, from the west there did come a might wind, and upon it rode Amanda with a few other players in tow, one of which was Matt’s girlfriend, Aimee. They approached our table and the entire time they were there, Amanda went on and on about her new boyfriend (me) and our conversations last night and how we felt about one another and blah blah blahlahlbhla. All the while, Aimee kept glancing at me in an effort to confirm or deny the things Amanda was saying. I showed no emotion and allowed her to continue on. Eventually, the time came for the girls to head to the chow line and dish up food for the folks in attendance, leaving me with Matt and Tony and all the great things they had to say.
“Love, eh?” Matt asked. Tony just laughed like a hyena, like he always did. In fact, in the four years I knew him, I don’t think he ever actually said a single word. All he ever did was laugh.
“Well,” I explained, “We were saying goodbye last night on the phone, and she just… Popped out with that. I was kinda shocked… I didn’t know what to say.”
“Yeah, well…” He said as a sweet older couple approached in search of tasty treats, “You probably shouldn’t have said THAT.” Tony laughed again.
“Yeah, I know,” I answered, then focused my attention on the customers. As we handled them, more people approached, and pretty soon, we had quite a throughput going. It was hard to find time to really get into the subject of Amanda. During a short lull, Aimee approached our table and gave her boyfriend a short kiss.
“You guys have this covered?” Aimee asked Matt and Tony.
“Sure, go ahead,” Matt responded. They both turned and looked at me.
“What?” I asked.
“Can we… Uh…” Aimee stammered. “Can we go talk?”
“Uh… Sure,” I answered.
This is Part I of a 3 part story. Please check at the top of this page for links to the other parts.