It’s Saturday morning and I can barely move. I can hear the rain splattering against my window, which means that it’s windy. I feel cold, not just on the surface, but slightly beneath my skin. Tremors of this chill run over my face, along my fingers, and through my stomach.
Eventually I get up. My back and shoulders hurt and there are thick, lavender colored bags under my eyes. I shower, and when I get out I stare at myself in the mirror, and I try to remember why I feel so awful, and then I remember dinner with Alisa, and I try to remember what she said, but I can’t.
I go back to lying on my bed. I pick up my electric guitar, but I unplug it, and lay there with it pressing on my chest and I strum and pick at it with my eyes closed.
I text Alisa. I ask her if wants to hang out again because dinner was so short. She says sure, and asks what I want to do, but I don’t know. She suggests we go to the shopping area of a nearby city, and it sounds like a good idea, so I grab a jacket and go outside.
The wind has died away, the air is fresh, and I feel instantly better. I get in my car and drive to get Alisa. She’s waiting outside her house, wearing jeans and a black fleece over a grey hoodie. She gets in and assumes her usual position, feet on the dash and her head halfway down the seat back. She takes her hood off and runs her fingers through her dark blonde hair, which flows halfway down her back, and which I see she has just cut in the front so that her bangs are shorter. I remember when the last time she did this, almost exactly a year ago.
I first met Alisa my freshmen year, she had history with me, but I didn’t really talk to her. Sophomore year we had three classes together, so we started talking more. I remember how I immediately felt she was a little different then any girl I’d ever met. She wasn’t a cheerleader then, but she hung out with all the ‘popular’ girls (and still does), so I had always assumed she was the same as her clique members: nice, attractive, and one-sided. Then I noticed the way Alisa didn’t ignore anyone, the way she engaged in any conversation around her. There was no surface based judgment on her part, if anything people judged her based on her looks and friends.
She would talk to me about the music I liked even though she didn’t know any of it, and I remember once I mentioned hardcore to her, which is a very pure form of punk, characterized by high velocity simple rhythms, extreme amplitudes, and unrelenting anger. I figured she’d react like most girls and kind of mock backing away, or just say it sounded interesting and then move on, but she asked for a recording of some of it. I looked at her, really surprised, and said “Really? I don’t know if you’ll like it…” she just shrugged, and with simplicity and honesty said, “I always want to try something new.”
We’re in the shopping area of the little city we’re in, which is pretty much the urban hub for this side of the suburbs. All around us are couples and younger teenagers. Alisa is leaning into me again, kind of, and her hood is up against the light rain. Her face is round, and her nose is small and sloping, and slightly turned up at the end. Her eyes are many shades of blue and green, and they’re accented by her long, black eye lashes and her black eyebrows, which strikingly contrast her blonde hair.
We stop inside a clothing store, where everything looks like it’s from the fifties and sixties but has a modern twist on it. Alisa picks up scarves and puts on glasses and spins around dramatically, jokingly. I laugh. I feel at ease here with her.
We leave without buying anything. It’s past lunchtime and I haven’t eaten anything all day, so we stop at a burger place. I get my food, and she sits across from me in the booth, stealing my fries. I tell her about when Eli and I saw the piggish kid in the cheese steak shop ram the blue-eyed boys face into the table, and she giggles, at the same time saying “That’s awful!”
Towards the end of sophomore year the cheerleading try-outs for the next year began. I’d never thought of Alisa as the cheerleader type, but she was going to try it out. Her dance skills allowed her to easily make the team.
Then one day in science class my friend Sam stated his opinion on cheerleaders, with Alisa right behind him. I mentioned that a couple girls I knew had tried out and gotten on, and he looked at me and said “All the cheerleaders are attention starved little sluts. Why would you want to be friends with them?” I tried to make him talk softer, I guess he didn’t know Alisa was on the squad, but it was too late. Alisa hit him on the shoulder and said “I tried out, and I’m just doing it to support Matero.” It wasn’t what she said though. It was the way she dared Sam to challenge her, just with her eyes, baring right into him. He just waved his hand and tried to downplay his comment, but she just turned back around.
Alisa asks how my year’s going. I say that it’s fine, I’m struggling in a few classes but in general I’m okay. She nods, stealing more of my fries. She says that Sara talks about me during cheer practice sometimes. I don’t have anything to say to that, and I wonder why she’s bringing it up. Then she says “Do you think Rodney’s gay?”
I’m surprised by this question. “I’ve never thought about it,” I say, “He’s never told me or Eli.”
“I saw him at Starbuck’s with that guy, uh, Patrick I think. And Patrick is gay, so I thought that maybe Rodney was too. He could be.”
“What’s Patrick look like?”
“Really pale, short black hair, some acne… He’s big, not really fat, but, husky.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen Rodney with him. I’ve never thought about Rodney being gay… I mean, he never really talks about girls…” And I realize that I hardly think about Rodney in general.
Alisa looks a little embarrassed. “I mean, just because he has a gay friend doesn’t mean he is too. I have a couple lesbian friends! And if he is I don’t care.”
I nod. Out the window I can see two kids our age smoking a cigarette, passing it back and forth, laughing. Their car door is open, and I can hear the Eminem song “Kim” coming from the door’s speaker, distorted by the volume.
We keep eating, but basically nothing happens. I tell her I like her bangs, and she makes a little face, imitating vanity. Then she gets a text and checks her phone. She frowns and looks back up. “I think I have to go soon.” she says.
“Oh, okay. I can drive you.” I say. She says thanks, and so we walk back to my car and I head back to Laffotta.
I stop in front of her house, and she gets out and begins walking towards her door. I sit there for a minute, then I get out too and jog to catch her before she goes inside. She turns around, and I stand there for a second, and I my stomach feels weightless and I try to figure out what to say. She stands there, looking at me anxiously and slyly, and I cringe inside while I ask if she wants to do something later, since we haven’t really had a chance to hang out in a while. “Maybe we could go to Terzzetto’s? I’ll buy, of course.”
She laughs and I blush. “I can’t tonight.” She says slowly. She’s looking right at me. “It’s my dad’s birthday. But you can text me!”
“Okay,” I say, “I will.” Then I go back to my car. When I get in she’s still on her porch and she turns to wave at me before I drive away.