Saturday, November 22, 2008

My First Ride

The summer I turned 14 was a time of intense angst and turmoil, and I'm meaning BEYOND that which you would expect of a typical 14 year-old girl, as I was a girl with a budding addiction-- to love. Being a child given to restraint and fear of pretty much everything, fate handed me a best friend, the ying to my yang, Amy. Amy was one year older than me and my polar opposite. She was loud, rambunctious, rebellious, and prone to risk-taking behaviors-- I was drawn to her instantly. That summer in 1989 Amy and I were inseparable in our bubble of teenage drama and hormones. Our days consisted of tanning, phone calls, talking about boys, and talking about boys. We were convinced and firmly decided, we were getting us some men this summer.

Amy was always on the make when it came to boys, and she was usually successful. She was peroxide blond (literally) and wore it well. She was buxom for a 15 year old and not afraid to pursue any male brave enough to cross her path. Once she snagged herself a boy, she always thought of her timid friend and found one for me too. Now THAT is a best friend. That summer Amy became intensely interested in 15 year-old, Tony, whose cousin, Bill, was visiting for the summer. I had never met Bill, knew nothing about him, but was already in love with my fantasy of him, when Amy told me we would be meeting Bill and Tony at the movies for a double date.
Amy and I spent the entire day preparing for our "date" that evening. The day commenced with playing Prince and George Michael alternately throughout the day as loudly as my mother would allow. We put on our cutest shorts, applied the green and yellow eye make-up with glitter, and blue mascara. We feathered and teased our hair, and piled on the bangles and large hoop earrings. "We are so sexy, " Amy would say, while we stood posing and googling at ourselves in the mirror of my bedroom dresser. Even at 14, I had no breasts and long skinny legs, but to Amy, I was always gorgeous. Her own C-cup boobs were bursting out of one of my small summer tops she borrowed. "Any guy who doesn't want us is just OBNOXIOUS," she would say. Obnoxious was THE word of the summer and also happened to aptly fit any person or situation we needed to discuss, especially little brothers, ugh.

My Mom dropped us off at the movies and would be coming back later to pick us up. We stood outside the movie theater waiting gleefully on our dates, touching up hot pink lipstick and popping our gum. We were both knocked breathless when Bill drove up in his jeep with Tony in the passenger seat. "Oh my GOD," was all I could manage, watching this tanned, slender, dreamy boy drive into my life. Amy and I gave each other a side glance and smiled.

I don't remember much about that movie. I really don't even remember what the movie was. I remained so horribly faint and self-conscious throughout the entire picture, I can't even promise I was breathing for much of it. It only made matters worse that Bill and I never spoke and the only time we made eye contact was after recognizing that Amy and Tony were making out in the seats next to us. Our eyes met, we were terribly embarrassed, giggled, and looked away.
Later that night Bill called my house and we talked for an hour. I'm certain now it was one of those teenage phone calls punctuated by long awkward silences, nervous laughter, and the occasional, "Are you asleep?" "No, I thought you were." Giggle, giggle. He told me a little about where he was from, his family and school, and my heart thumped, flopped, and pounded. I told Amy afterward that I was really in love, that Bill was the one for me. "He's just so cute! And sweet! Did you see the way he was smiling at me when they drove away tonight?! Oh, God, I could just die!"

"I know! He likes you, Girl, and Tony says they want to see us tomorrow at the pool!"

"But wait," my world was careening, "my Mom said I can't go anymore this week! We won't get to see them!"

With complete confidence and with all the casualty of a thoughtless thank you to a store clerk, Amy flopped back on her pillow and said, "Whatever, we're seeing them tomorrow."

I never defied my Mom's rules and had no idea how to break a rule even if I wanted to, so I was all too ready to lean on Amy for guidance. Amy had spent the night with me the evening before. After we rolled ourselves out of bed the next morning at 11am, she began telling me how this pool foray was going to go down. "Ok, let's shave our legs and pack a bag for the pool. Ooohh, can I borrow your black bikini? That looks so-o-o-o-o good on me! We'll just take one bag so one of us can carry a lawnge chair." Amy always called them lawnge chairs. I guess, in her mind, this was the natural combination of a lounge and a lawn chair. I didn't question her genius, just listened intensely. Anybody who is anybody at the pool brings their own lawnge chair and poses seductively in it while tanning and slathered with baby oil. It was essential we take at least one chair.

"But how are we going to get there?" I asked, naturally editing this plan for barriers.

"We're going to walk, Stupid."

"We can't walk. The pool is miles from here!" I was right actually. The pool was about 4 miles from my home and required a trek across train tracks and a major highway.

"Sure we can walk! It's not that far."

I was envisioning the two of us stumbling down the road with a swim tote and a lawnge chair, two scraggly teenage girls. Anybody would be able to just grab us and snatch us into their car! We could be hit by a careless driver or flattened by the train! There was no way I was walking to that pool, but Amy was in full gear on the manhunt and what she said the night before, "whatever, we're seeing them tomorrow," was going to be fulfilled.

We got ready and set out on our journey, walking to the pool. We had arranged to walk back by 3:30pm so that we would be home before my Mom, who would be none the wiser. There was a fear and excitement about what we were doing in addition to the thrill of seeing my future husband at the pool. I remember we had walked about halfway there and I realized I had never walked this far from my home before and began to feel afraid. "Amy, are you sure we're doing the right thing?"

"Stop being such a scaredy pants and come on!" she snapped at me. "You have Bill waiting for you and you know he's wanting your hot body," Amy meant this to be a motivating force for me but it only proved to scare me even further.

"What? How do you know? Did he say that to Tony? What's he going to do to me?" I panicked.

"Just shut up, Missy, and come on." She grabbed my wrist and dragged me the rest of the way to the public municipal pool.

When we finally arrived at the pool, after about a 45 minute hike, I felt as if I were watching myself in a movie. Although I had been to this pool hundreds of times before, it had always been with my Mom's knowledge... and a ride. This time felt, well, weird, and... wrong. The moment was surreal and Amy was not to be deterred. Truth be told, neither was I. I had done little else but think of seeing Bill today. Once I saw him I knew everything would be ok. Amy and I went inside and found a nice spot to plant our things and our chair. We both looked around anxiously, hoping to spot our boys. Amy noticed him first and could only say, "Oh, God, no."

I snapped my gaze in the direction she was looking and saw for myself. There was Bill standing very close to Robin Greeley, talking to her, VERY CLOSE. They were laughing and she was twirling her long brown hair around her pointer finger, looking up at him sweetly. Robin was a lifeguard and way cuter in my mind than I could imagine being. She was about 5 ft. tall and probably weighed 90 lbs. after emerging from the pool, having saved a toddler. She was a Senior. This was it, officially, the end of my life. Tears sprang to my eyes.

"Oh, screw him, " Amy said. "He is so obnoxious, just forget him!"

We stripped down to our swimsuits and purposefully strode by Bill and Robin while they were talking. As we passed by them, Bill looked at me casually and gave a friendly smile, then quickly returned to his conversation with Robin. Amy and I watched in horror for about the next 30 minutes as Bill followed Robin around the pool like a lost puppy. We also noted that Bill was not there with his cousin, Tony, but with another guy we knew from school, George. Everybody knew George. He was a Senior also and "trouble with a capital T" Amy would say. When Amy says this about someone, you should take note. She and I both were filled with a sinking feeling of what I can finally recognize today as SHAME.

"That's it. I can't take this anymore. We're getting out of here." I began drying off and putting on my clothes.

Amy could see I was very upset and didn't argue. She gathered her things and, like any true friend, stood close by me, walking with our heads held high, gathering all the dignity we could. We strode angrily past Bill, the lawnge chair banging against my thigh as I huffed by him. Amy shot him a dirty glare as we passed. "Hey, hold on, " he called to me, but we just kept on walking.
Once Amy and I were safely outside the pool area and steady in our march home, the tears were finally unleashed. I sobbed and walked, sobbed and walked.

"I can't believe that jerk," Amy said. "Robin has nothing on you, Missy. NOTHING. I could stomp that little skinny sleaze and I will! You just wait till school starts back!"

I continued on in silence with my broken heart. Nothing hurts quite as intensely as the broken heart of a 14 year old. Once we had walked about halfway, with the tension of the day mounting, we approached the railroad crossing. As Amy and I were standing, watching and listening for trains, we heard a car approaching behind us. We turned to see George pull up in his beat up '84 tan Datsun. "Hey," he called out to us. "Bill told me to come by here and give you girls a ride."

With all the anger and rage that could be garnered in my tiny, timid little self, I threw down the chair I was carrying and stomped over to George's driver side. I shot him my best bird finger and shouted, "You tell Bill he can ride this!!!" I then walked back to Amy, picked up my chair, and pulled her arm to cross the tracks with me. Once George's car had faded in the distance, Amy and I looked at one another, and through tears I began to laugh. I laughed so hard, I could no longer tell whether the tears were from sadness or joy. My side ached from laughing and walking, and Amy and I stumbled the remainder of the way home with Amy cheering me on, "Did you see the look on his face!"

This was not the last time I made a fool of myself chasing a boy nor the last time that I broke rules to fulfill the craving of a crush. What I recognize today with irony is that day without a ride was actually my first ride-- to nowhere. Yes, even love can be an addiction.


  1. I always come here when in need of a little help, and at the moment I am ... very much. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that this is a beautiful (and familiar!) story and that it brought a smile to my face today.

  2. Did we all engage in that kind of craziness? I was so naive!