Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Talking with Feet in My Mouth, Part II

Live music adds a dimension to albums that cannot be felt or experienced through listening at home. So every opportunity I have to go to a concert of my liking, I buy tickets. A few weeks ago, while attending a show I had waited for all summer, I found myself rethinking my character.
As the first band was nearing their set’s end, I began to hear an annoying conversation to the left of me. A short brunette on a date with a short blond man, sipping a pink drink from a Dixie cup, was chatting about last weekend’s events. I had paid for a concert. Instead, I was hearing a Lindsay Lohan version of a Friday night. Many times, I would have ignore this behavior, but being in the front row, I found it rude that I couldn’t hear my band playing. So I turned to the couple with utter disregard for tact and humanity and spoke, “Would you like me to ask them to stop so you can finish your conversation?”
With this, the air left the room. The girl welled up, “I’m so sorry.” Her date went stone face. He was livid. Moments later, I was feeling awful. How could I have treated strangers so badly? I regretted my straightforwardness, regardless of it’s necessity. Resolving myself to an apology, I turned to the couple following the final song. “I’m really sorry I treated you so badly. It was very rude, and I didn’t mean to hurt you.” The girl says, “Oh, its ok. We’re sorry.” However, the boyfriend wasn’t so forgiving, “You were rude.” I responded, “I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.” He responds, “Yeah, well, you were really rude.” The boy’s girlfriend is now trying to quell his energy by saying, “It’s ok,” repeatedly while holding his hands and looking into his eyes. The broken record wasn’t going to stop unless I ended it. “I’ve already apologized twice. I won’t be doing it again.” And with that I turned back to my group. It took another set to feel like lasers weren’t pointed at my head.
I realized, even though it’s a funny story, there’s a right and wrong way to do something. Tact is always the right way.

Talking with Feet in My Mouth, Part I

A long summer had ended, and with that my lease did too. In celebration of the three long years I had lived in this residence, my roommates thought it was appropriate to throw one last hurrah before I left. After the fiesta, complete with enchiladas, salsa and margaritas, the girls invited their beaus over for drinks following our Mexican binge.
They came in slowly, one by one. However, Rozalin, an interim roommate who filled a sublease, invited her boyfriend, along with posse. His stooges, two boys of no consequence, followed right behind him. Patrick was 6’2” with pale complexion and blond hair. But his skin was covered in tattoos. His baggy clothing hung off his sturdy frame, and he spoke with an Ebonic-spattered vocabulary. As it turns out, I’m as Gap as can be. I’ve learned not to judge a thug by his bling.
Being at this party, I found myself obligated to put the guests at ease with conversation. However, this time, I was batting in a strikeout game. I decided to ask some questions. “So Patrick, what does that Chinese character on you arm mean?”
He responds, “Dream.”
After explaining how he had a real Chinese person draw it, I say, “I think people with tattoos in characters should put it in English beneath it, so the rest of us can find it just as meaningful.”
The group doesn’t like this. Strike one. I guess they didn’t hear the sarcasm in my voice. So I sat quietly, hoping someone would come up with a new topic of conversation.
Another roommate called across the room, “Hey Patrick, how’s your mom?” Before this moment, I didn’t know they knew each other, and family adds a whole new dimension. After interviewing my roommate with questions like, “How do you know Patrick?” “We went to grade school together,” and “How do you know his mom,” “She was my softball coach,” I paused. I found something we could all discuss: sexuality.
“Patrick, is your mother a lesbian?” I ask, shrugging my shoulders and speaking in a really sarcastic voice, played up because last time no one knew I was joking. I expected a reply of, “No.” However, the strong man, with black ink flowing through his veins, answered as if I had aired out dirty jockeys from his gym bag, “Yes.” Strike two.
A vacuum sucked the air from the room, and all eyes shoot to me. Mind you, I was using stereotypes, not meaning any harm. With this, questions fly to me, “How did you know that? You’ve never met Patrick before. Why would you ask that question?” I answer, “Sometimes softball players are lesbians,” again shrugging and trying to soften the blow. “Joy, there are a lot of people who like softball.”
I reply, “And they’re called lesbians.” Strike three; I’m out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It begins in Elementary School

Forest Lake Elementary was never a place of grand importance. The principal was an Irish man who dressed as a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day. The lunch ladies wore hair nets, and often smelled of pepper. And the teachers were beginning to wrinkle. In fact, one teacher in particular, Mrs. Smiley, had lost her smile years ago. Children renamed her "Mrs. Frowney." She remained oblivious to her disposition and the churning hate most children had for her in her second grade class.

I remember most everyone. My memory hasn't faded for a second. And very clearly I recall my first crush.

David Ryan wore sweat pants religiously. He was chubby, but not fat, blond with wavy hair that was buzzed up the sides and back, but remained longer on the top. He had sea blue eyes. His best friend was Lindsay Watson. She happened to be my friend as well, which I thought I could leverage in the future. David was good at sports, kickball and bowling in gym, to name a few. And he was excellent at jumping rope. This is probably where my affinity for him began. He was a great second grade choice.

But I learned early never to proclaim my love to a man in a computer lab. During scheduled events with the Apple 2e's, our teacher, Mrs. Anderson, would let us choose our partners. On this day, we had struggled to be compliant. She then usurped our power of choice and seated us alphabetically. "Perfect," I thought. "I can be with David." He didn't look disappointed as we sat down at the computer next to each other, ready to play Number Munchers. There were plenty of other bad choices, like Travis and Amanda--two blond kids that smelled like dirt and had a film on their skin from their parents' habit of smoking like chimneys. So I reconciled myself to the idea that David had actually liked the idea of being my partner. After all, I didn't have glasses, crooked teeth, yet, or film on my skin.

We began to play. I made myself aware that I wouldn't over compliment him or give his ego too much of a boost. He was my friend first. But as he played, pushing his score to the limit munching factors of 3, I knew I was in love. I turned to him and said, "I like you David." His reaction was priceless. Eyes widening, he shut his mouth and looked at me like I was insane.

He said, "Joy, don't say that. I'm going to tell Miss Anderson on you!"

I hadn't imagined this reaction. So I backpedaled, "I mean I like you like a friend. You know, hanging out on the playground and stuff." Giggling it off awkwardly, as any 8 year old would. But, that didn't smooth anything out. He said, "I'm telling on you! I'm telling right now." I thought he was nuts. But after a few minutes of him being ignored with his arm in the air, I knew I needed to abort the crush immediately.

I pulled his hand down, covered his mouth and looked into his eyes. "David. Don't tell on me. I was wrong. I don't like you."

He jerked away. It was over. David didn't like me, and the year was only half over. Now I had to live with my rejection.

Weeks later I had a new crush, one that I kept as a friend, Ben Plocher.

When I was in college, I visited my hometown. At an ice cream shop, I saw David. He hadn't grown since junior high. He was about 5'6'' and had died his hair black. It wasn't gothic, more emo. However, I recognized his eyes. He had thinned out, but I remembered everything about him. I no longer had to tell him of any residual feelings, but I did want to say hi.

He scooped my ice cream and as I paid, I said, "We went to elementary school together. Do you remember me?"

He looked at me the same way he had years ago. "Yes I do, Joy." And without a smile or any acknowledgment, he turned to the till.

Full Disclosure

I'm trying very hard for this writing to be truthful. So you must know, and I will guarantee, that I am feeling absent as of late. And being left out of society, however (un)bearable it is, has brought me to a thinking place. This blog will be an ongoing story not of a love-sick picture of life. Instead, it will be a raw account of leaving and being left. The whole is a feeling of space in between what may have been good and may have been awful, the current state of how I am now, Seasons without them, and Seasons without me, Joy. But just so they know: Boys, I'm not changing your names.