Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheap Champagne 1/3

I was fifteen. We were all fifteen.

Or sixteen.

It was the summer. Or it was the winter. I was a teenager and I was self-aware and utterly unaware. And this intro is more or less Dickensian in nature.

It was rainy. But in the northwest it is always rainy. The seasons make the subtle shifts between misty and rainy in the summer to rainy and nearly snowing in the winter. All weather in the northwest lies on that gradient.

The roads always shine like a Hopper painting. The windshields and streetlights glitter like so many moments of pensive cinema.

My cousin Evan had decided to take me to hang out with friends. My other cousin Rader was there too. By that time we were already diverging from our childhoods. Evan had taken to building muscle, Rader had taken to wearing his hair long and drifting into the art world, and I had taken to a strange geekiness. I played on the soccer team and debated, but never let down the facade that I knew more than anyone else around me.

We are all still the same in a lot of ways. But we have eased into the comfort of being who we are now. The facade is still there; a projected image of ourselves, but not the ghostly out-of-focus flicker that characterized our teenage years. We call the assertion of our ego selves confidence--ha! As we exited the pure angst of middle school and settled into the exaggerated drama of high school, we found ourselves in strange new worlds.

Perhaps most of all me. I’ve never been good with girls.

Annie pulled me aside; all I wanted was to avoid exactly what I knew. It was spring fling at Ralston Middle School. And the burst of hormones that is seventh, or eighth, grade had set in. The day was bright and sunny. The grass was green; that neon perfection that Ireland is supposed to be all the time. And I was full of energy. I played around on the giant inflatable toys that they had brought to the school. I ate candy and burgers and had a wonderful time.

But not completely. The girls. Always with the girls. Annie was the cute redhead that I had known since Shakespeare camp (I really was a geek I guess) and her cousin had become a rapid friend of mine as well. Her name was Gina. I had become rapid friends with her following my summer trip to Australia. She had brown hair and a quirky demeanor that made me laugh.

I suppose I should have seen her crush on me coming. And of course I did. And didn’t. I refused to see anything that was directly laid bare before me. So Annie had to do it for me. I knew it was coming, but continued to play the denial game with myself. I ran around all day and enjoyed myself until Annie finally found me--literally after chasing me down on the field--and told me. Somehow it is earth-shattering to hear what you know.