Lost

Amber’s period came early, during the summer when she was twelve going on thirteen. That same summer her breasts filled out. The end of school that May she was a tall, gawky kid, and shy as all get out. By the dog days of summer, her body developed curves. She and her mom went shopping for a new wardrobe for her new body. They ended up purchasing several dresses that did not accentuate her body. They figured that would take care of what they saw as a problem. But it didn’t.

Amber had never been a popular girl. The first day of school the boys swamped her with their attention. Especially the older ones. This scared her. The worse part was the other girls, girls she had hung out with the previous year. They wanted nothing to do with her. She felt that they were secretly accusing her of a crime, and she didn’t know what it was.

At lunch in the school cafeteria, she took her tray over to a group of four girls she knew. They immediately got up and left her alone, ostracized. One of the older boys, a kid in the ninth grade, all the girls thought was God’s gift to girls, he came over and sat down next to her.

“How ’bout you and me,” he said, “we go out sometime. Maybe Saturday afternoon.” Then he shoved some food into his mouth, thinking she’d already accepted his invitation and glad to get it. After all, every girl in school wanted to date him.

“I’ll have to check with my mom,” she said after several minutes of hesitation, not knowing what the socially acceptable thing to do was.

“You don’t have to do that,” he said. “Just tell your mom you’re going to the mall with some friends. Maybe we’ll go to a movie.”

“Well, okay,” she said, not knowing how to get out of the date.

“Oh,” he said, standing up, “and any other guy asks you out. You tell them no. You’re my girl now. ‘k?”

Not knowing anything else to say, she nodded her head and agreed.

She got home that first day and she ran to her room and she cried. She cried and cried. She didn’t even like the guy who’d asked her to the movie. But all the other girls did.

Saturday afternoon, and the two met at the mall in front of the movie theater. “You got any money?” he asked.

She nervously nodded her head yes.

“Good,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her over to the ticket counter. “‘Cause I figure it’s a date, you’d be paying.”

“But I thought–,” she stuttered.

“We going to the movie or what?,” the boy said.

“Yes,” she said, discouragement in her voice. She reached into her purse and pulled out the money and gave it to him. He got the tickets. They gave them to the ticket taker. “Want some popcorn?” he asked. “‘Course you do. What’s a date without popcorn and a coke. Right?”

Amber bought the treats, then they walked into the darkness of the movie theater. The trailers had already begun. The boy pulled her to the last row of seats and they sat down. “You’re going to love this movie,” he leaned over and whispered in her ear.

The movie began, two men in metal suits shooting at each other with lasers. The boy reached into the bag of popcorn and took out a handful. She settled into her seat to watch a movie she did not think she was going to like. During the first third of the movie, he went through his popcorn and hers. Every so often he’d whisper a loud “Yes” when one of the metal suits shot a robot.

When the credits appeared at the end of the movie, Boy turned to her and said, “Wasn’t that awesome?” Then he asked, “Want to do something?”

She thought about saying, “I thought we had.” Instead she said, “Sure.” It was still early and she had told her mom that she wouldn’t be getting home till later.

“‘k,” he said. “We’re gonna do something I think you’re going to like.”

It was late afternoon. He led her down one of the side streets. They came to an empty baseball diamond. He ran up one of the bleachers and called out to her, “C’mon up here.”

She climbed the bleacher steps. He sat down and pulled her to his side. For the first time that day, he looked at her. It was the first time she had really looked at his face. He had a handsome face. More than handsome, it was angelic.

“This is my favorite spot,” he said. “You have a favorite spot? ‘Course you do.” Then he went all quiet.

Finally he said, “I’m sorry ’bout today. Sometimes I just get carried away with a thing.”

She took a chance, afraid she would upset him. “You are a little pushy.”

“A little pushy? I must be slipping. I thought I was a lot pushy.”

His humor made her smile. “You were a lot pushy,” she agreed. “I was trying to be nice.”

“I know. It’s just that…well. I get nervous when I am alone with a girl.” Then she felt like he let a wall between the two of them come down . Then he said, “Can you keep a secret?”

She said, “Yes. I think so.”

“If I tell you, you can’t tell nobody. Not even your mom. Moms can be the worst at keeping secrets.You understand?”

“I promise I won’t tell anybody,” she said. “Not even my mom.”

“I’m gay,” he said. “And I need you to be my girlfriend so nobody will find out. Can you do that for me?”

She thought about it a little. Then she said, “Only if you treat me special. Not like today.”

“I will,” he said. “I promise.” He breathed a huge sigh of relief.

For the first time since she had returned to school, she felt like she had a friend. A real friend. And she would keep his secret forever. She promised him.

“Not till forever,” he said. “Just till I can figure things out.”

The two hugged each other. As he walked her home, neither of them said anything. He escorted Amber to her door, then said, “Good night, Amber. And thank you.”

She returned his goodnight. “Good night, David.”

Afternoon Tea

“Tom and I … we broke up,” Frieda said.

“You didn’t?” Denise squeezed her friend’s hand to comfort her.

The two women, both in their early thirties, sat at a table in the Ponce de Leon, a small natural foods cafe. The girl behind the counter had her ipod turned down low, playing Oasis’ “Live Forever”.

“It’s so damned frustrating. Tom seemed to think he’s going to go on forever.”

“I know how it can be. Jeff and I have been together five years, and not once has he had a checkup.”

“It started over the CoQ10.” Another sip of green tea made Frieda feel better. “I told him it would add twenty years to his life.”

“All Jeff says is that he doesn’t want to live forever.” Denise slowly drank a little more of her tea. She loved the taste of the peppermint.

“He wanted to know if it was made from some CoQ10 animal they squeezed for the juice.” Frieda said. “Imagine that.”

“He didn’t?” Denise laughed.

“It took some work. A bit of bribery, you know,” Frieda winked suggestively to Denise, “and he came around. But it was the fish oil that did it.”

The music changed to Joan Baez singing Dylan’s “Forever Young”.

“Fish oil?”

“Heart disease runs in his family. But he insisted he wasn’t about to drink any fish juice.”

“Fish oil comes in pills too.”

“He definitely wasn’t taking ‘horse pills’. His exact words. We had a blowout, then it was over.”

“Over fish oil?” Denise was surprised at the other woman’s courage. After all, Tom and Frieda had been a couple for almost five years. That was a lot to invest in one fellow without any return.

Frieda drained her cup, then said, “I’m not about to stay with a guy that won’t take care of himself.”

“I guess I love Jeff way too much to put that kind of ultimatum on him.”

“Pretty soon you’ll be having unhealthy kids. Unhealthy because you’re with an unhealthy guy. How can you put yourself through that?”

“I can’t see myself without him.” Then Denise offered to get two more cups of tea.

When she returned to the table, she passed a cup over to her friend. Kenny G’s “Theme from “Dying Young” played from the ipod.

“I miss him,” Frieda said, “but there’s no going back.”

“Why not? You don’t think he doesn’t miss you as much as you miss him?”

Frieda nodded toward her cell phone. “No. He won’t even take my calls.”

“My God, I’m sorry.” Denise reached over and hugged her.

“It’s okay,” Frieda said, holding in her grief. Then a long pause. “Maybe, just maybe.”

“Maybe what?” Denise eased back into her chair.

“Naw … it was just a thought.” The warm smell of the tea wafted up to Frieda’s face and eased her sadness. A smile came to her face. “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant,” she sang. Then she laughed, harder than she had laughed in quite some time.

Auditioning

Here’s something to think about. And it’s a big something too. From the moment you’re born, you’re auditioning. Sure, your mommy’s going to love you. But think about this. By the time you come out of her, you’ve been auditioning for nine months. After a lot of interviews, wallah,you’ve got the job. You’re her kid. I didn’t say her darling. That’s a whole other thing. That role may go to your older brother or sister. They may be the cute one. You may have the role of pain-in-the-butt. Remember the Smothers Brothers. Dick got all the goodies, Tom got the chicken.

What about Dad? you ask. You know we’re in deep doo-doo if he says, “I’ve got five others just like him.” And he always says that. So you’re going to have to do some cooing and goo-goo-ga-ga-ing for him big time. Smile when he comes into the room. Always smile. Smiling works every time.  Adults like smiling. Smiling will get you into Harvard. And don’t tell me your poop don’t stink. It always stinks.

You know you’re in for bad things if mom or pop turns to big sis and says, “Go change your brother’s diaper. “ The audition with big sis ain’t going to go well. You pooped. You do not want to do that at an audition. It just ain’t cool. Later in life, she will get even. When you’ve crashed your dad’s car and you want help, she won’t be there. Because she had to clean up your poop. Get on big sis’s good side and it will serve you in good stead.

Next thing you know you’re walking and getting into everything. You know things are going well if mommy says, “Ain’t that the cutest thing.” It’s a statement, not a question. But be careful. If dad comes in and says, “Hey, he just broke my favorite coffee mug. You know the one I won at the annual bean-eating contest. The one I got for beating the crap out of Marvin,” you know where that’s going to go. And he won’t be saying “crap” either. He’ll be saying that other word that stands in for poop. So don’t break any of Dad’s stuff. He’ll appreciate it and remember what a good kid you were.

Oh, you don’t think he’ll remember. You know how you’ll know. When he hands you the keys to that really cool car for your sixteenth birthday and says, “You’ve earned it.” There’s this big smile on his face. It ain’t because your grades are good. You’re a C student at best. No, it’s because you did auditioning well. Your poop didn’t stink that bad. You didn’t break any of his precious things.

Don’t get me started about table manners. You are going to have eat that baby crap for a while. So don’t make faces. They don’t like faces, unless they’re cute faces.

Then there’s that first class in school. You’re auditioning there as well. You can either audition for the teacher or for your fellow students. Go for your fellow students. Your teacher is only going to be around for one year. Your fellow students are going to be around for, like FOREVER. So you had better impress them big time or your life is going to be a living h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Look across the room and find the kid you like the least. Immediately walk over and hit him in the face. He’s going to say, “What’d you want to do that for?” Best say nothing. You’ve impressed the other prisoners. I mean, kids.

This kid you just socked will turn out to be your best friend for life. For life, man. You can’t ask for a better friend than that. He’ll watch your back when you steal that car. He’ll be there for you when you need a sponsor in AA. You  will be his Eddie Haskel and he’ll be your Wally Cleaver. Can’t do better than that, can you? On top of all the trouble he’ll keep you out of, his mom will be June Cleaver. And, man, June Cleaver could cook. Not like your mom.

So that’s your life. You will be auditioning for role after role. For that first date. For that college you really really want to get into. For that person you will eventually marry. For that boss whose position you want. For that bank that will give you a mortgage and a credit card. For those two-point-seven kids that will make you a real American family. For those neighbors who always keep their house in tip-top shape and their lawn well manicured. (You keep wondering how he can afford the maintenance and the really cool stuff. Embezzling would be my guess.) For that divorce lawyer you will need. And you will want a good one. Your spouse is about to take everything. For that coffin you will have to fit into.

And last, but not least. There’s God. That audition is going to be real scary.

Waiting

It’s the waiting that gets you. Waiting to be born. Waiting on the doctor to give a physical. Waiting to get to age twenty-one. Waiting for an interview. Waiting in line for a Disney Ride. Waiting in line at the grocery store or at the movie theater for a ticket to a movie we don’t even want to see, then it turns out dreadful  the way we thought it would.

Oh, the anticipation.

Then there’s waiting on a date. Waiting on tables, then getting no tip for all your service. That sure hurts.  Waiting to get out of school. Waiting for your tax return. Waiting for someone to answer the 800 number you called. How many thousands of minutes do we spend in our lives waiting? What a way to spend a life. The waiting we do is almost as long as Proust’s memories of things past.

There’s a joke about waiting in line to get into the Pearly Gates. It goes something like this. Guy was waiting to be let into Heaven. He gets to St. Peter and St. Peter turns him away with, “You were so stingy in life that you married a woman named Penny. Get thee hence.” St. Peter points to the place downstairs. Second guy St. Peter says to, “You were such a drunk in life you married a woman named Brandy. Get thee hence.” Third guy waiting in line turns to the woman behind him, says, “Guess you know what that means, Fanny.” And he gets him hence.

Guess what? When you get thee hence you have to wait on the boatman. You reach into your pocket and find you don’t have the coin to pay him. There are no free rides. You’ll have to spend a lot of years, begging for a quarter, waiting for someone, anyone to help you out. Nobody can see you. You’re just thin air. So how are you going to get your two bits?

Here’s just one example of waiting which many of us go through: Asking a girl out for a first date. Or being asked out. You see her across the room, and you say to yourself, “Gee, sure would love to ask her out.” But you hesitate and wait to get up the nerve. What if she rejects you? I mean you’re a nice enough guy. You’ve been known to find stray animals a home. You may not look like George Clooney or Robert Redford or Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling but you do dress decent. You don’t have b.o. or bad breath. At least, as far as you know. So why is it that your feet feel like lead as you walk across that room? When you get to her, you stutter your way through your first words.

And, girls, you see the guy across the room. He looks like a nice guy, the kind of guy you might want to go out with. You’ve heard that he may be interested in you. There you stand, chatting with your friends, waiting for him to come over. Every so often you look his way. Hoping he’ll get the hint. But he seems clueless. You think maybe you should go over and ask him out. But what would he think? So you stand where you are, waiting for him to make his move.

Guys, you head on over to her. Stumble over the word, “Hello”, give her your best smile and continue with the “Are you enjoying the dance?” Then you go for the gold. “Would you like to go out?” It’s with fear and trembling that you wait for her answer.

“Sure,” she says. “What did you have in mind?” She waits on pins and needles for an answer.

Now that is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. If you say a movie, you won’t get to talk. It will take the pressure off. Help you get comfortable with her. So you ask, “Want to go to a movie?” You give her the name of some chick flick you think she might want to see. Then you wait.

Girls, he’s asked you to a movie. The last three dates you’ve been on have been movies.The guys always pick something you really don’t want to see. Now this guy is doing the same as all the rest. But he’s asking you to a movie you really want to see. At least, he’s put some thought into it. So, you say, “Sure.”

What’s next? Girls, you’re going to have to pick just the right thing to wear. You go through your closet, going no to this dress and definitely not to that dress. The night of the date you’re on pins and needles, waiting, hoping.

Guys, you don’t want to be too early. She’ll think you’re too anxious. So you wait till the last minute. Then you show up at her door and she opens it. The dress she’s wearing is your favorite color and she’s smiling. That’s a good sign. A very good sign.

Girls, he even opens the car door for you. Your last three dates just said, “Jump in.” This guy is a gentleman like your dad. This is looking positive. Downright positive. Maybe this guy is the One. He even buys you popcorn and a drink for the movie. “Why don’t we share?” you ask.

Guys, she wants to share her popcorn with you. It looks like you hit the jackpot when you picked this movie. You’re watching the movie but you’re not thinking about it. You’re thinking about whether you should ask her if she would like to go out for coffee afterwards. But you have to make it through the hour-and-a-half long movie.The waiting for the end is killing you.

Girls, you can’t keep your mind on the movie. You’re wondering what will happen after it’s over.Waiting for him to put a move on you. Trying to decide whether you’ll let him.

After the movie, guys, you ask her out for a drink. Instead of coffee, you suggest a little wine bar around the corner.

Girls, he’s asked you for a drink. Is he wanting to get you drunk? Maybe he thinks you’re easy. But you get to the bar, have several glasses of wine with some cheese. The two of you have this good conversation going. You’re thoroughly enjoying yourself.

Guys, now it’s time to take her to her door. This is the part you always hate. The evening went well. Now there’s the close. Some guys would make a pass. But you’re not that kind of guy. You really like this girl. Would it be too much to do the goodnight kiss? You wait for that perfect moment to try for an answer.

Girls, you’re at the door and he’s telling you how much he enjoyed the movie and the conversation. Is he going to make a move on you? Try to get you into bed? A couple of guys you dated made their move at the door. You had one heck of a time getting rid of them. Thought you might even have to call the cops. You’re just waiting for him to turn out to be one of those kind of guys..

Guys, you take her hand as you’re saying goodnight. Finally you get up your nerve and lean over and give her a goodnight kiss. It’s not a passionate kiss, that will have to wait for another time. It’s the kind of kiss that says I like you and I would like to see you again. Then you ask, “Can I see you again?” She shakes her head yes. You watch as she opens the door and goes inside.

Girls, you close the door. You’re almost giddy that this guy may just be in your future. As you get undressed and crawl into bed, you spoil the night you just had. You start asking, “Why didn’t he make a pass? At least, a little one? Am I not sexy enough?” You’ll just have to wait to see if you blew it.

Guys, you’re driving home and you’re smiling. You enjoyed the evening. It was everything you hoped. Then that old doubt creeps in. What if she expected you to stay the night? How long do you have to wait to find out?

Girls, just about the time you are dozing off, your cell rings. You pick it up. It’s him. It’s HIM.

And so it goes, on and on. It’s a lot for one word to bear but “waiting” is the word. And it does bear up under the weight very well..

What does the word “waiting” remind you of?