Before I can settle into a room with my friends, I’m compelled to walk around saying “hi” to people, pulling snippets of conversations from the air. It’s a steady stream of gobbledygook, kind of like when phone calls cross lines and you can hear four people talking at once.
“I heard they held him back because he was stoned in class all of the time.”
“Saw ’em play back in January, they kicked ass! Genesis rules!”
“Kill him. If I see that fucker I. Will. Kill. Him. Who’s he think he is?”
“Fuckin’ Elway, man. What the hell is a prevent defense, anyway?”
And so on. Combined with the loud music, the tangle of talk can get maddening. Still, it’s always fun to run into people I don’t normally talk to, kids I like but don’t see outside of school. We spend a couple of minutes getting caught up, revealing one or two new tidbits of information that haven’t made the gossip rounds.
When I’m speaking with recent graduates, I’m filled with so much envy. I can’t wait until this time next year, when I’m about to leave Cuyahoga, and I’m the one yelling over the din of some loud party, telling some younger kid about my plans for the fall.
After I talk with about five or six seniors, most of them drunk, my friend Megan corners me.
“You want to be a teacher?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she replies, smiling. “I’ve kinda known since the first grade.”
“Really? No way.”
“I know it’s not the most glamorous job, but it’s what I’m passionate about.”
“That’s so cool, Megan. You’re going to make an awesome teacher.”
“Thanks, Kate. What about you? Have you been giving any thought to what you’re going to do after high school?”
“I want to go into equine therapy. I mean–”
“Horse therapy?” Megan says.
“I didn’t even know you were into horses, Kate.”
“Yeah, ever since I was in sixth grade.”
“Funny, you see someone every day at school and you only know that one small part of their life. Well, tell me all about your plans.”
I explain my love for horses and my desire to work with children with disabilities. Watching Megan react with real interest makes me feel like the idea isn’t so crazy, after all. It’s not that Andrea or some of my other friends (or my boyfriend) don’t want to hear about it. It’s just that they’re so close to me that I think maybe they zone out when I go into my spiel. I guess there are only so many times you can hear the same story before it’s memorized and it doesn’t have the same impact. And when you see their eyes glaze over or you can hear them eating on the other end of the phone or you can tell that they’re watching TV while you talk, you start to feel as if your ideas or dreams aren’t as valid as they were when you had that epiphany of what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Is it possible that not everyone has that epiphany?
Megan says goodbye and goes off.
“There you are!” Andrea shouts, running across the room. She grabs me into a full body hug and spills some of her drink on the living room carpet. “Where have you been?”
“Just got here,” I reply, careful to avoid the sloshing concoction in her cup. “What’re you drinking? Smells like lemons?”
“Cuyahoga Cooler. Somethin’ Dave Ford is serving up in the kitchen. I think… I think it has alcohol in it.”
“You don’t say.”
“No, I mean, it has beer… and lemonade.”
“No. It’s good. Have some!”
She’s already half past tipsy and a quarter mile to trashed. In another room, the stereo is playing INXS’ “This Time.” I love this song, but it makes me sad. There are some songs that just get under your skin; “This Time” does that to me. When Michael Hutchence sings, “We are always wanting, things we cannot find/You know that we are always wasting time.” I feel like he’s singing to me. I wish someone would change it already.
“I wish someone would CRANK this song! I LOVE it!” Andrea screams. This draws stares.
“Guess what,” Andrea says. Her last word is drawn out and right up against my nose. Her breath smells awful. Dave Ford must be using cheap beer and that awful lemonade you get in a plastic gallon container.
“I ran into someone looking for you.”
Andrea raises her eyebrows to be coy.
“I’ll give you one hint: his name rhymes with Tom Meany. Oh shit”
“Tom Meany? He’s here?”
That came out a little too excited. I’m blushing.
Her eyes go wide. “I knew it!”
“What?” I reply.
“That!” She shouts, pointing at my face. “I think you like him.”
My eyes narrow, and I shoot Andrea that silent look we give each other when we want the other one to shut the hell up.
“You know what I think, Andrea, I think I need another drink.”
“Ooh! I’ll get you some of this Cuyahoga Cooler?”
Before I can reply, Andrea bounces away. The Eurythmics are now playing.
Tom Meany was asking about me? A smile creeps across my face. Andrea’s obnoxious laugh can be heard all the way from the kitchen. The thought of beer and lemonade makes my stomach turn. I decide to take Brian up on his offer and grab something from his secret stash.
Today’s artwork was by Carlos Ortega. Carlos is a character designer and illustrator who lives in Los Angeles.
INXS’ song, “This Time” is found on their 1985 album, Listen Like Thieves.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 17 of Legendary.