Sunday, April 18, 2010
It certainly didn't help that we were complete dorks. How dorky, you ask? Let me put it this way. Paul and I were the sixth and seventh coolest guys in our Saturday morning bowling league. In high school, we were about mid-pack on the social food chain in the marching band. While we took shit from the tuba player, we did have enough status to pick on the guy that played clarinet.
But none of that stopped us from pursuing our goal of "making it" with the babe of our choice. At fourteen, I wasn't particularly picky. I'd have been happy with any girl who was interested and didn't have a major deformity. Paul, on the other hand, had delusions of sexual grandeur. His first target was a girl in our class named Julie Kroeger. Never mind that, although Julie was a freshman like us, she was dating Rick Mulgreavy - senior, star quarterback, guy with a mustache and a car. I'm not sure if Paul ever talked to Julie, let alone piqued her interest, but that didn't stop him from plotting his romantic strategy.
He struck out without taking the bat off his shoulder.
The closest we ever came to reaching the pubescent promised land was at the local roller skating rink. We'd hang out on Saturday nights, scouting out the local talent like starving lions patrolling the savanna. Every so often we'd spot a weakened gazelle and pounce, successfully pairing up for the traditional couples skate.
One evening, I had hooked up with an especially cute girl named Maria. We were holding hands, skating in circles, making small talk. The smell of "Babe" perfume mesmerized my senses. Mid-fantasy, Maria made what I'm sure she thought was a reasonable suggestion.
"How about if we skate backwards?"
Which would've been fine, if my skating skills were anywhere above "novice". Oh sure, I could go straight, and maybe pull off the occasional crossover turn, but that was about it. And I could only go to my left. During the "reverse direction" skate, that is, going clockwise, I had trouble making right turns without stumbling. So the idea of skating backwards left me with two options: I could beg off, miss out on the hand-holding, and look like a dork; or I could try to skate backwards, fall on my ass, and look like a dork. While I was stalling, hoping like hell that John Lennon's "Woman" would end so I could avoid public humiliation, Maria suddenly grabbed my other hand and spun me around. Without even thinking about it, we were skating backwards!
For about ten feet.
It was like that moment when Wile E. Coyote hangs in midair, defying the laws of nature. As long as he's not thinking about it, he's fine, but the second he realizes that he's not on solid ground . . . BOOM.
Maria was sweet about it. She helped me up, we took another quick lap, and the song ended. But hey, I'd held her hand for about three and a half minutes. In the traditional "first base, second base" measurement of boy-girl contact, I'd grounded out hard to short. A respectable at bat.
Of the two of us, Paul was the first to have an actual girlfriend, but there's a Barry Bondsian asterisk attached. We were fifteen or sixteen at the time, and there was a girl in our bowling league, Lorraine, who Paul had the hots for. Lorraine was cute and had a decent pair on her, by that I mean "noticeable". Paul spent a few Saturdays chatting her up, and when he finally asked her "out", she accepted. They were an actual couple, hanging out at the bowling alley, sharing soft drinks, a match made in Greenbrook Lanes, if not heaven.
Until we learned that Lorraine was twelve.
In fairness to Paul, she didn't LOOK twelve, but that didn't stop the rest of us from harassing the hell out of him. The relationship was doomed to failure. She ended up dumping him for a guy in her sixth grade math class, I believe.
About a year later, when I was sixteen, I got my first girlfriend. That relationship actually "took". I'll spare you the details, but it was pure, queasy stomach, sweaty palms romantic bliss. I was sure this was the girl I would someday marry.
And then my family moved to California.
Cupid is a bastard, ain't he?