From: email@example.com (Jim Martin)
Subject: Re: Left alone.
Date: 25 Jun 1995 21:35:11 GMT
I have never been in any kind of romantic relationship that rivalled my
friendships. Lately I've been wondering (at fourty five goddamned
dollars an hour, sliding scale) if I have used my friendships to avoid
getting seriously involved. Storytime:
One of the best friendships I've ever had started the last week I was in
high school. I was busy getting stoned and not thinking about college. I
was in the stoner parking lot, a place I was far too preppy to fit in,
but, by virtue of the fact that I had turned ALL of the regulars on at
least once, a place in which I had earned a spot. I sat by my truck (yes,
Bitterella drove a Chevy Silverado with a V8 350 engine and mag wheels,
rather like Quentin Crisp on a Harley) and smoked my car-bong.
A tall and very handsome football player walked up to me and said, "Man,
you are wasting your brain with that shit." I replied, "That's rich. I'd
rather waste my brain with a tasty drug than waste my body getting slammed
around on a football field in bouts of homoerotic fury cheered on by
thousands of has-been roughnecks." He looked at me and laughed. "I don't
know whether to kick your ass or buy you a beer." Smiling back, I said,
"Buy me a beer and then try to kick my ass, I may be "graceful," but I'm
nastier than I look." Before I knew it we were spending every day together.
His name was Steve. He was a year younger than me and not only destined
to be quarterback, he was preparing to be valedictorian of his class. He
was 6'3", had thick, wavy brown hair and Clark Kent blue eyes. His stomache
was rippled and his arms were sculpted to perfection. On top of all this
he was rich and had a black RX-7. But he was shy with the girls.
I was never shy with girls, they were easier to relate to. I would chat
them up and lure them in, he would fumble awkwardy and scare them away.
He said he wasn't a virgin, but he said it with such a lack of conviction I
made it my personal goal to find him a girlfriend before I left for school
By the middle of June we were pretty much living in his parent's poolhouse
and having parties twice a week. Texas girls with their hair sprayed
high and bows on their shoes lingered appreciatively--I brought them to
him like a eclaires on dessert tray. After a few unsuccessful weeks like
this I started to wonder what was up. I also started to question the
nature of our friendship. I assumed I wasn't attracted to him because he
represented everything I felt alienated from in high school. I assumed
he wasn't attracted to me--period.
People who knew us both were surprised at the amount of time we spent
together--we never questioned it. Eventually one of the hairspray and
bow girls developed a serious crush on Steve and started making herself
appear everywhere we went. Her name was Candy Joel (we called her Candy
Hole), and she was not only pretty (in a too much Ralph Lauren kind of way),
but smart and witty. She decided the way to Steve's heart was through me
and determined to ingratiate herself to me by spending daddy's money on
good drugs and import beer. Being the teen lush/junkie I was, Iet her.
By virtue of her goodies, her scathing wit, and her ample bosom, I often
included her in our endless days of cruising in the Mazda and lounging,
lizard-like, by the pool. Steve thought of Candy as one of the boys, I
thought of Candy with the lustful respect with which you deal with
friend's girlfriends, Candy thought of me as her ally, and Candy thought
of Steve as her future husband. She through a big party in honor of
Steve's seventeenth birthday. Stevie Nicks had just gone solo and _Edge
Of Seventeen_ was on the radio constantly. Many realizations were arrived
at at that party and to say the least, shit went down.
It started off innocently enough--not much more than a bunch of spoiled
Texas oil brats drinking keg beer and smoking Mexican pot rolled into
sloppy joints. I was in high spirits because I had just gotten my
scholarship to UT Austin. Steve was thrilled, if not a bit uncomfortable,
to be the center of attention. Candy was thrilled to have Steve so close
to her Laura Ashley nightmare of a boudoir. As the evening wore on, Steve
drank more and more. Having always worried about his body and what he put
in to it (football coach brainwashing) he had been a semi-light drinker,
but it was his birthday and he was with his best friend, so he dipped into
the Gin and Tonics I was addicted to at the time. In trying to keep up
with me (who should have owned stock in Bombay and Schwepp's), he had a
bit too much and had to retire to the bathroom.
I found him hugging the toilet and before I could help him off the floor
and on to a bed he was hugging me. I hugged him back and laughed. "Come on
Stevie, let's get off the floor--you're trashed." "I'm not trashed," he
slurred, "I'm just faking it." "Yeah, right. I suppose that's
Campbell's Soup in the toilet, actor-man. Come on, let's get up." We
stood up together. He still had me in a half-armlock, half-embrace, and
we staggered to the bed. I flopped him down and tried to free myself,
but all that protein powder and endless working out proved too much and I
was pulled down on top of him.
He didn't move, but he tightened his embrace and sighed. I started to
pull away--In the back of my head I had known this was what I wanted, but
that wasn't his scene, so I hadn't ever really even fantasized about what
was happening. He pulled me closer and I stopped resisting. I put my
head on his chest and we just rested there. My heart was punding and all
the feelings for him I repressed came blaring through my head like bad gay
disco. I could hear his heart pounding through the several inches of
muscle and he started to say something. I felt his voice rumble up
through his chest and I knew what he was going to say. Then a door
Instead of Steve saying, "I love you," which was what I was anticipating,
I heard, in a horrified West Texas-twang, "Well, isn't that pretty sight?
Two big guys humping on my Laura Ashley duvet-cover. How NICE!"
Then a door slammed.
Neither Steve nor I moved. Neither of us was willing to break the
silence, but the moment was ruined. Downstairs I could her the Welsh
witch chanting, "From the moment that I first laid eyes on him, all alone
on the edge of seventeen."
When we pulled apart and went downstairs, Candy had cleared the house of
all the remaining guests and sat on the chintz sofa. She was shaking and
doing a poor job at chain-smoking (she didn't smoke cigarettes).
"Well, if it isn't the happy couple! When y'all gettin' married? Can I
be the Maid of Honor?"
Steve was pissed. "You don't know what you're talking about, Candy, so
knock it off."
I was freaked. In the space of five minutes I had gone from a blissful and
innocent platonic friendship, to a mutual love realised, then to a shameful
and dirty feeling guilt. And I had done nothing.
Candy said, "What I really want to know is if you're gonna wear white at
the wedding, and who's the girl? I mean, Steve is big and hunky and all,
but he was on the bottom. How you ever gonna find white pumps that big?"
Steve told her to shut up again and sat on the couch next to her. I did
the only thing I could think of and poured myself a gin and tonic. Candy
started crying and Steve put his arm around her. She leaned into him and
started to cry. No one said anything and I started searching the ashtrays
for a roach--the gin wasn't working.
I went into the den to continue my search. I found a joint, lit it,
sucked in several hits, and started to laugh. The whole situation was SO
ridiculous--I had been throwing women at Steve all summer, secretly in
love with him but determined not to admit it to myself. Candy had been
plying me with gifts and witticisms, winning me over and desperate to win
Steve's heart, and Steve was the only honest person in the bunch--not
plotting, not scheming nor manipulating--just following his heart.
I went back into the living room to try and salvage the evening and the
friendships. Candy was now on Steve's lap. I stared at them, but they
were a bit distracted, what with her tongue down his throat, so I went
back into the den and sat on the floor under the piano. I could hear
them in the other room--lips smaking and breath being drawn in sharply.
This went on for several minutes. Then I heard a soft moan, then a
"Wait, do you have protection?" That was enough for me.
Having finished the joint and the drink I was gaining that
slightly-bemused-by-the-world feeling that comes with cheap pot and
expensive gin. I started to laugh. I laughed and laughed, mostly at
myself, but also at the way love seems to work--all of us walking in a
circle, arms out-streched before us, desperately groping for the back of
the person in front of us, saying, "I want you. I need you. I can't live
without you." So determined to get the one we think we want, we never
bother to turn around and notice the out-stretched arms waiting at our
backs. Then I started to cry.
Steve and Candy were a couple for the rest of the summer. I tried to busy
myself elsewhere. I made trips to Austin to find an apartment (refused to
experience the horror of dorm living), went to New Orleans to hang out in
jazz clubs, even slept with one of my former teachers. Steve was
convinced we should still be friends. He went out of his way to include
me in all their plans. I went along with it at first, but it was too
insincere for me to stomache--Candy locked firmly under his arm, me
following along like a favorite pet--I was way too proud for that
arrangement. I made myself scarce.
The night before I left for Austin, after years of exile in Ridilin, Steve
showed up at my house. He was slightly drunk, and his eyes were red and
swollen. He told me he had broken up with Candy and she had accused him
of being obsessed with me. He said he had denied it at first, then in a fit
had slugged her and told her it was true. I was thrilled and at the same
time disgusted--great timing, pal.
I have only seen him once since that night. I was living in Manhattan
and years past West Texas and its scary value system. I got a call from
Steve, who was in Albany at some conference for engineers. I took the
train up the Hudson River valley and marvelled at the color of the leaves.
Steve met me at the station. He still had the Mazda, although, like
Steve himself, it had seen better days.
Steve had put on 25 pounds and lost a considerable amount of that wavy hair.
He told me about his failed realtionships with various women and then
went on at length about the wonderful new woman in his life. I sat and
listened quietly, addin an "Oh" or "You don't say." We had a nice
afternoon together driving through the hills and then, as the sun set, he
took me to the station. Things got a bit awkward--he fumbled for words,
I let him (I certainly didn't know what to say). Then, as he walked me
to the station, he said, "Uh, I know we never really talked about it,
but, uh,...if Candy hadn't walked in that night things would be very
different for me now." I looked at him and smiled, "It's OK, let's not
freak out about it now--that was years ago." He said, "Yeah, I know, but
I just want you to know that you are the best friend I ever had. I don't
think I'll ever love anyone like that again."
All the way back to New York I sat and looked out the window, feeling
shitty all over again like a high school pansy and trying to get a Stevie
Nicks song out of my head.
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