Once, in high school, I went on a date with this really cute boy. People told me to stay away from him; he had a long Sid & Nancy history with our pretty classmate. They were forever dating, fighting, screaming, making up, rinse & repeat, and while it was great fun to watch, it didn't make for a stellar review of this boy's dating aptitude.
Nevertheless, youth holds beauty in much higher esteem than other assets, like an ability to manage one's temper, or, you know, sanity. And this boy was cute, and that was reason enough to accept the invite. So we went on our date. At least, we started our date.
He picked me up in his mother's car and we went to the diner and had a nice, uneventful shared plate of fries, talked about whatever 16 year olds talk about, and then sat in his car deciding what to do next.
I remember the next moment vividly. It was warm out, the windows were rolled down, I remember the smell of cut grass, Public Enemy was in the car's cassette player (Don't! Don'tdon't, don't believe the hype! Hooah, hooah, hooah)
, the car idling. We were holding hands; his were sweaty, but his grasp was firm. He was smiling at me, his face close to mine. I was thinking that I liked the smell of his shampoo. I was smiling at him too.
All of a sudden, something shot across my vision, and the next thing I was conscious of was his longish brown hair wrapped around a skinny hand -long nails, painted rose red, rings on three fingers- and that hand was yanking - hard! And not just pulling, either, that hand was flinging my date's head from side to side, like a dog does to a chew toy, back and forth, using centrifugal force.
It's funny how your mind processes surprises like this, my eyes stepped its way along the attached wrist, skipping up the arm, left to right like reading a page. Each new segment entering my vision was very curious to me: hmm, that's an arm, and that arm is reaching through the window from my side of the car, how curious; that arm is attached to a bare shoulder - oh, a pink tank top - ok, the bare shoulder makes sense now. Blond hair. Screaming - oh, ok, it's the girlfriend, and she is screaming, calling him a cheating asshole, and telling me that he has a venereal disease (this, of course, was when AIDS was yet-to-be-named). I processed this, matter of factly, and without thinking, calmly shifted the car into drive and reached my left foot under my date's oscillating head to the gas pedal.
The girlfriend hung on as long as she could, running alongside the car, pulling my date's head against my chest while i reached around the left of him, as if consoling him, but instead grabbing the steering wheel and steering, until finally, she could hold on no longer. She lost her grip, but kept a clump of her beau's hair as a souvenir, and my date sat up and took over the driving., shoving my left foot off the gas pedal. Here I am, 24 years later, and I admire the girlfriends tenacity, and marvel that we didn't get into an accident.
He never did kiss me, and the next week at school, he and his girlfriend, were back to making out behind the garbage cans and continuing their alternations of screaming break-ups and pregnancy rumors.
So, yeah. I don't think of him often. But I remembered him at the end of this book . Some people are toxic together. Everyone knows one of those couples that make you wonder why in the world are they together? Do they like reciprocating tortures? Do they enjoy the screaming-kissing cycle? I think some people do. I mean, they must. Why else would my one-time date shove his girlfriend into her locker after catching her kissing a jock, and then grab her into an embrace, crying into her hair, while she slowly wrapped her arms around him and stroked his hair, ignoring the jock, who looked bewildered? There must be something that is soothed by this constant seeking and attaining of proof of would-you-love-me-ifs.