The question is this: does the fact that I also dated your brother (though not simultaneously—I have standards, you know) have anything to do with your sudden and completely unexpected urge to get me to go with you (I had to drive) to a Yes concert? And did my attendance with you at said Yes concert—which is remembered hazily, if even at all—entitle you to a front-seat over-the-gear-shift condom-fumbling session in my 1973 Honda Civic? I say nay. And afterward I couldn’t look you in the face, so that pretty well ended the dating. If you could even call it that.
Pardon me for using that nickname; you probably were never aware of it. You were … enthusiastic. About a lot of stuff. Catching criminals, the high price of ball cocks (that always made me smirk), the terrible way the landscapers treated the grass. We worked together for over a year. Because of your willingness to parse the price of ball cocks, I got promoted and lots of good press for knowing how to put together a budget. Did you ever get to be a police officer? Or are you still stuck in a loveless marriage, plunging apartment toilets and changing locks?
I admit, it’s sad that I can’t remember your name. Your shirts had tiny alligators embroidered on the chests and your shorts were much too short, even allowing for the style of the time. They left little to the imagination; was that your intent? You were good at ping pong, but not as good as I was. The little smirk you wore disappeared and all that was left was the inevitable business degree you’d undoubtedly got while you left yourself behind to sit in meetings, longing to ditch your windsor-tied striped neckwear for those Izods and your tight green shorts.
Judging by your website, your clients would find it hard to believe that you once pedaled to school with your pals on unicycles, dressed in identical denim jackets sporting embroidered pythons on the back. A gang? Hardly. You were denizens of Monty Python, smart and awkward nerd-kids. You wrote clever semi-erotic prose starring my best friend and pushed it through the vents in her locker, oblivious to her blushes. When you later turned your attention on me I found it puzzling, sitting there with you on my front lawn one summer before we all went separate ways in high school.
You were responsible for the faux Texas accent I adopted for two full years, the one that seemed real because it got stronger as I got drunker. Every morning you’d ask someone to pop open your can of Pepsi; with your 3-inch nails you couldn’t manage it. I emulated you too much (except for the nails; I could never get into even painting mine let alone the weekly maintenance) and when you got distinctly colder after I hit on your ex-husband in the hot tub on your birthday, I figured out you weren’t over him and I went too far.
A five-year old kid with a sense of humor based on wordplay, I was endlessly amused by your name which also described your physique; you were not a small woman. I’m not sure we ever had an actual conversation; my contributions tended toward raising my hand for the bathroom, a ritual I thought peculiar, and avoiding asking about the necessity of coloring shapes outlined on paper and then cutting them out with useless blunt scissors. I was too good for that place and it was a relief being told to report to the first grade room, leaving behind kindergarten forever.
Two hundred plus pounds never looked so good or so beautiful; you had gorgeous curves. You dieted, shed some self-consciousness, and got a boyfriend though your virginity was never in question (your “list” was longer than mine, actually, and yes, you kept track of every encounter, preserving them proudly on paper). Still, I felt naked when you tried to hide your bulk behind me sometimes. I wasn’t ready for your spotlight. But of all the people who crowded into that year, you are the one I’d most like to find. See, I think there’s a good chance you’re not alive.
Fourth grade crushes are nightmares, aren’t they? You were probably the geekiest kid in the class, you with your button-down buttoned all the way up, and your glasses. You had the misfortune to pal around with probably the smoothest kid in the class, the one I had glimmerings of interest in. And you had the misfortune to declare your undying like for the tallest girl in the class. We had to do something about this. The notes had to stop, slipped into my desk at odd moments. So we filled our purses with rocks and agreed to meet you outside.
Was it your tattered cardboard sign, your worn guitar, or your dirty backpack? People at that Nebraska interstate rest stop were ignoring you. You came holding your Cup O’ Ramen, about to sit down and enjoy lunch. I saw dreadlocks, patched dirty jeans, and tired sweat. Then I saw your eyes, startlingly blue, and your face, young and hopeful and accepting. We talked. Your favorite place, you said, had been New Orleans. Boulder or Alaska? Didn’t matter which, you said. I was headed to Boulder but couldn’t imagine your stuff touching mine in my car so I walked on, haunted.
Looking now at your photo, you must have been the total nerd that I was. We went our separate ways when in separate schools with separate interests; you completely lost me at “cheerleader.” But for three years I loved the braided country oval rag rug in your livingroom, and the guinea pigs that ate their young, and the drinking-water birds on the mantel, and your stupid David Cassidy record. I hated you the time I slept over because everything smelled different and I couldn’t wait to go home, clutching the kleenex doll clothes we made so tightly in my hand.