Thursday, August 27, 2009

StoryTime: The What If Girl

Just like millions and millions of other people in the world, I've been swept up by the Facebook mania that has old friends and acquaintances reuniting even if for only an hour or two to reminisce about high school memories or college stories of debauchery.

But every once and a while if you're active enough you might get a pleasant surprise when you bump into someone you had completely forgotten about or finally catch up to that long lost friend that you lost touch with right after graduation.

That's what happened to me about two weeks ago. As I sat there losing my shirt in a cyber game of Texas Hold 'Em, a small bubble popped up at the bottom of the screen alerting me to someone sending me a friendship request. The person's name didn't ring any bells so as I do in most cases, I went to her page to see a picture and even then I was only vaguely familiar with the person I was looking at but the alert said that we went to high school together so it was possible that I knew her once and just couldn't place her name or face. So I accepted her friendship request and almost instantly I received a message from her.

"Hey Chris, how are you? I didn't think you would remember me."

I didn't have the heart to confirm her doubts so I played along.

"Of course I do girl give me a little credit. lol."

I hoped she'd buy it after all it was a computer, not like she could hear the uncertainty in my voice. We chatted for a few more minutes before she ended the conversation with,

"Well, I need to feed my little boy. It was really cool talking to you again. Take care and by the way, have you learned how to change a flat tire yet? lol."

And with that, she was gone. Back to her life pre-reunion. But that's when it all came rushing back, hitting me like one of those brain freezes when you eat ice cream or drink milkshake too fast. But this time it was the mention of the flat tire that gave me the jolt.

I had just graduated from high school and it was the end of June and I was on my way home from somewhere late at night and it was storming outside. Back then I drove like the typical teenager... carelessly, so of course I hit something and blew out a tire.

So there I stood in the middle of a monsoon beside my mom's Mazda without an umbrella, trying to get someone to stop. And finally someone did. When the car pulled up to me, my first thought was that I must be crazy to even consider it.

And then the window came down. It was a girl and back then that was all the background I needed to check. So I hopped in.


"No problem Chris" she said.

I looked at her and was caught way off guard. But before I could say anything she added, "yes I know you. I should, we've gone to school together for the last seven years. Ever since sixth grade."

"I knew that." I lied.

"Oh you did? Well what's my name?"


"I said what's my name?" She pulled the car over to the side of the road again.

"If you can tell me my name, I'll take you home. But if you can't, you gotta get out here."

Oh boy.

She must have seen the terrified look on my face because she pulled off again. "I'm kidding. I'll take you home. You never said a word to me in four years of high school so I wouldn't expect you to know my name."

"You make me sound like such a dick." I waited for her to correct me or reassure me that that wasn't her intention, but she never did.



"My name is Dana."

"Oh, I knew that."


I gave her the directions to my house and we rode quietly for a while. I stole peeks of her out the corner of my eye. She wasn't a beauty queen so I could understand how I had completely missed her for four years straight. But even behind the glasses she wore, she had that shy, quiet, sex appeal about her. The kind of girl that was pretty but didn't know it. To ease my own guilt, I thought I should try to make small talk.

"So, how's your summer going?"

"Not too bad. You?"

"Havin' a ball."

"I guess you're going to some big college to play football next year huh?"

"Actually no. Didn't get any scholarship offers."

"What? But you're so good!"

This girl was growing on me every second. The more we talked the more I realized why our paths never crossed. She was going to Princeton on a full scholarship which meant she was smart, which in teenage terms meant she was a nerd. But a cute one. She reminded me that the last time I spoke to her was during gym class Sophomore year when we were on the same softball team and I told her to keep her head up after she struck out. She said that was the first time she allowed herself to even consider the fact that I might not be a total jerk.

We kept talking until we pulled up to the front of my house. By the time we got there I was wishing the ride had been a lot longer. She was so different than the girls I had hung out with but something about her made me nervous and that didn't happen often.

"Hey Dana, look, if I was a shitty person to you in school..."

"Don't worry about it. It's the nature of the beast. Jocks, geeks, populars, misfits, yadda yadda. That's high school."

"Yeah but..." but before I could finish my statement she reached over and kissed me right on the lips. Nothing long or passionate, just a quick and gentle peck on my lips. It was over before I could really enjoy it. And we just sat there for a few seconds looking at each other.

"Thanks for the ride."

"No problem. Good luck in Atlanta."

"Yeah, thanks. Good luck at Yale."


"Yeah, that's what I meant, Princeton."

I got out of the car and turned back towards her when she rolled down the passenger side window.

"You better learn how to change a flat tire before you get to Atlanta. There might be a lot of young ladies that'll need a gentleman's help." And she smiled before rolling up the window and driving off.

And there I stood outside my house getting soaked watching her car disappear into the night and the storm. Something inside of me was yelling for her to come back but the words never made it out of my mouth. For the first few years of college, every summer that I came back home, I looked for her and even asked old classmates about her but I could never find her. That night in front of my house was the last time I ever saw her.

Until 15 years later when I got a friendship request while I played Texas Hold 'Em on Facebook.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Story Time #1

I met this old man the other day in the waiting room of the jiffy lube while our cars were being serviced and this old man had stories on top of stories to tell everyone that was willing to listen.

He started with a story about how his third ex wife had just passed away. She had a heart attack while having sex with her new husband who was about twenty years younger than she was. My initial response was to laugh, but only because I didn't know crap like that really happened in real life. But anyway, he talked and talked and finally took a break so he could go outside in the rain and light up his stinky cigar.

Me being the nosey person that I am was intrigued by the way he stood in the rain, oblivious to getting wet with a look on his face that was a clear indication that he had plenty more to say, but at the same time could care less if we heard his stories or not. So of course I went outside too, and stood beside him on the other side of the parking lot, not too close that he'd be suspicious, but not too far that he'd think I was afraid.

I never said a word but he knew why I was there. He knew I was eager to hear more.

"You don't care about getting wet?" he asked me.

"It's just water" I answered. Oh but I cared, I was soaked already but if this old man was cool enough to stand there unflinched, then so was I.

"You got any brothers or sisters?" he asked me.

"Yeah, a couple."


"I had a brother. He was born August 3rd 1951."

"Had?" Yeah that's right I ask the tough questions, they taught us that in journalism 101.

He held out his hand, palm up toward the sky and after it had been sufficiently drenched by the downpour, he took his cigar and stamped it out right there in his hand. I looked back towards the waiting room and the garage to see if anybody else had seen what I just saw. This crazy old man was.....


So he went on to tell me how he had an older brother who was killed back when they were teenagers. And no, I didn't ask him how he was killed, but he told me anyway.

"I ran with this bunch of guys who stole cars for fun. We'd steal 'em, drive 'em around for a couple days and then ditch 'em. I was about 16 then and and my brother was 17. We were so much alike in some ways but mostly we were different. He went to school everyday, got good grades, went to church with momma every Sunday, even helped her cook dinner and had a part time job. Me on the other hand, I did everything a teenager ain't supposed to do, everything my mother told me not to. By the time I was 16 I had been in and out of juvenile detention centers three times.

So, one night I was in a big argument with my mother about the friends I kept. You know how that goes, so after about thirty minutes of it, I told her I didn't need a mother and if she didn't want me there then I'd leave. She didn't, so I did.

I went down to Cohega park where we all hung out and took out my anger on a couple joints and a big ass bottle of malt liquor. Then out of nowhere somebody was grabbing me by the back of my shirt and dragging me away from my friends. I pulled away and turned around to see that it was my brother and he was pissed. He said 'you're coming home, now'.

I told him that I was home and that he should go back to his mother since he was the one she loved anyway. And the next thing I knew he hit me, punched me right in the face. He had never done that before. I didn't even know he was that strong. He knocked me to the ground, completely killed my buzz.

All of my boys had gathered around and started looking so I had to save face. So I jumped up and swung back but I missed. He was quick too! I swung and missed again and then he hit me a second time, knocked me right back on my ass. But before I could do anything else, I heard this loud noise, sounded like thunder right in my ear and my brother fell to the ground right on top of me. By the time I rolled him over on his back, all of my boys had scattered and ran away. That's when I realized what had happened."

He stood there in the rain, still oblivious and silent. I couldn't tell if he was crying or if the rain had totally consumed his face, but I wasn't going to look too hard, this guy had just put out a cigar in the palm of his hand.

That's when the lady called my name from the waiting room doorway. I gave her the "give me a minute" finger before I turned to him and asked, "you okay man?"

He didn't answer, he just nodded. "Your car is ready" he said. So I took the hint and ran through the rain, back into the waiting room. I stood at the counter waiting for my receipt when I turned around and saw the old dude walking away down the street.

"He's leaving without his car?" I asked the jiffy lube lady.

"Oh, he doesn't have a car. He sits in here every once and a while and we let him as long as he isn't bothering the paying customers. Was he bothering you?"

I didn't know what to say. I wasn't expecting that. I said no while I watched him disappear down the street deeper into the rain. She handed me the receipt and a pen and as I went to sign it, the date at the top of the slip caught my eye.

August 3rd, 2009.