Chris has gone to go smoke in the backyard and hit on the foreign exchange student. Dennis and I listen to Eric share a story about the time he backed the Family Truckster into a ditch and nearly got arrested for breaking curfew. We laugh our asses off. Then Dennis says to me, “So, how are things with the missus?”
I ask Dennis. “How do you and Sarah manage to work it out?”
Dennis takes a deep breath, like he’s going to imbue some wisdom on me. Instead, he starts hacking a loogie and spits into his empty beer bottle.
“Shit, Brian, Sarah knows how lucky she is. I mean, yeah, she could have some frat guy cause, you know, she’s so freakin’ hot. But how’s anyone gonna compare to this?”
He proudly slaps his freshman fifteen.
“And I mean, although she’s always hounding me to be with her, what am I gonna do? I don’t wanna be a bad boyfriend.”
A bad boyfriend? How can he be a bad boyfriend when the two of them spend every free minute together? I’m sure Sarah’s in his dorm room all of the time. It’s when people are apart that things get risky.
“Dennis, have you… have you ever cheated on Sarah?”
“Well, there was this one girl that I almost banged. But I thought, ‘Is it worth it?’ I mean, Sarah’s so loyal, and she’d never cheat on me, you know? So why risk losing a smoking hot babe just cause I’m a little horny?”
Man, in high school, Dennis was hitting on a new girl every weekend, especially when Sarah was off visiting colleges. Now he’s become the model of monogamy.
I’m doing it again. I’m supposed to be having a good time, not worrying about this shit. This is ridiculous!
“How do I get a fake ID?” I suddenly blurt, the first thought that comes to mind. Not that I’d ever had the guts to use one of my own.
“You, Brian, follower of all rules, want a fake ID?”
The guy knows me better than I thought.
“Hey, just kidding,” Dennis says, reacting to the look on my face. “Let me make some calls and see what I can come up with.”
Dennis has had a fake ID since he was sixteen. He grew a mustache that summer so that he’d appear older when the time came for the picture. He looked like a dork and said his name was “Wayne Dempsey.” I don’t know how it worked, but he used that fake ID all of the time. And the thing is, once you frequent the same places and they get to know you, they don’t even study the ID anymore. Wayne Dempsey became a regular at the Convenience Food Mart by the city water tower, the liquor store on the outskirts of town, and the drive thru beverage mart in Olmsted Township. When Dennis went to college, my drinking went way down. Of course, my priorities became getting straight ‘A’s and spending all of my time with Kate.
Damn it. There I go again.
The Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” gets cranked up on the stereo.
“Oh yeah!” Eric shouts.
He nods his head to the music. Dennis opens a new bottle of beer and takes a sip. I must be staring off into space because Dennis purposely shakes his beer with his thumb over the opening and sprays me with it.
“The hell!” I exclaim.
Dennis and Eric laugh. This is the type of nonsense Dennis and I always did together. We were never deep. If I wanted to get deep, I always went to Eric. Maybe I didn’t give Dennis a chance. I’m shitty that way, categorizing some of my friends and using them for specific purposes.
“When are you going to talk about what’s really bothering you, Brian?”
“What,” Dennis says, “you don’t think I understand your problems?”
Eric shrugs. Well?
“No. Not at all. It’s just…” I stammer.
“We don’t talk about these sort of things?”
“Maybe you need a fresh perspective. Lay it on me.”
“Kate’s leaving for the summer to work at this camp, just as we’re getting on solid ground after a tumultuous spring. And, like, I should be happy for her because it’s a great chance for her. But I’m… I’m pissed. Selfish, isn’t it? It’s like, if we’re going to make this… us work, it should be in person, not through letters and phone calls.”
“But?” Dennis asks.
“Dude, there’s always a ‘but.’”
“He’s right, dude,” Eric says.
“But… I’m also kind of relieved. I feel like time apart will help me decide whether we should be together or not, or whether I should pursue…” I stop short of saying Allison’s name. I study the beer in my hand, unsure of everything.
Dennis smiles and shakes his head. “Brian, let me just say, whatever you need to do to be happy, you should do that.”
“What if I regret…?
He shrugs. “You break up with her or you don’t. You’re seventeen, dude. Everything’s just beginning, and you’re letting a girl dictate your life.”
Not just one girl.
“And remember, you’ll always have your friends. We may not be as fun to cuddle…” and he lets out an obnoxious belch.
Eric and I laugh.
The song gets turned up. A brief look passes between the three of us. Dennis grabs my shoulder and Eric leans in as we create a small circle and trade verses:
Dennis: “Don’t step out of this house if that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear’”
Eric: “I’ll kick you out of my home if you don’t cut that hair”
Me: “Your mom busted in and said, ‘What’s that noise?’”
Eric: “Aw, mom you’re just jealous it’s the Beastie Boys!”
A group of kids gather around us. The whole room comes together and we all sing at the top of our lungs.
“You gotta fight, for your right, to parrrrrrrrrty!”
We’re all jumping up and down, hugging each other, cheering. It’s pure. The music continues and everyone is dancing around, a sea of heads bobbing up and down.
As the music gets drowned out by the screams of teenagers, Gwen appears. She shouts to Eric and me over the music. Allison is upstairs, locked in a bedroom, an emotional wreck, and she doesn’t know what to do. Eric shoots me a quick look, concerned.
“I have a key,” he says.
I don’t even think twice. I’m on my way out of the family room. Eric is right behind me, and Gwen is trying to keep up. We head upstairs and stop outside the closed door to Eric’s bedroom. I try the door handle. Still locked. Gwen is biting her lip. What the hell happened? Eric runs his hand along the top of the door frame and produces one of those universal round keys to shove in the tiny hole that unlocks the door.
“Allison, we’re coming in,” I announce.
I pop the lock and slowly open the door. Allison is sitting on the floor staring into space. I look back at Gwen and Eric. He nods, as if to say, “Go ahead, this one’s all you,” and then he walks away.
Allison looks up with mascara streaks down her cheeks. Even in this state of disarray, she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known.
Jesus, get your head together, Brian!
“Hey there. What happened?” I say, kneeling next to her.
“We were playing a game,” Ally replies.
Gwen chimes in, “Truth or Dare, with Hope, Mary and Courtney.”
“I told them about what happened to me when I had my… my…”
I brush her hair out of her face. “Your brain hiccup?”
Allison stares down at the wood floor, where her legs are crossed and her hands rest on her smooth, tan thighs.
Argh! Concentrate, dumb ass!
“It just came out. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.”
She holds my hand and looks up at me.
“Everyone’s going to know I’m a freak, Brian. It’s going to be all over the place by tomorrow.”
I stare at our hands, and then back at Allison. Smiling, I sit down next to her while Gwen takes a position on Eric’s bed.
“No one’s going to think you’re a freak, Ally,” I tell her, calmly, full of confidence. “There isn’t one kid out there who hasn’t had a meltdown and wound up in their friend’s bedroom, sitting on the floor, staring at a poster of… Jules et Jim?”
“It’s a Truffaut film,” Allison says, as if I’m supposed to know what that means.
“Thanks, Brian, but not every kid freaks out in front of the three biggest gossips in Cuyahoga.”
“No one’s going to know,” Gwen says. She sits on the other side of Allison. “I warned them to keep it tight lipped. If any of those three try to make something out of this, I will personally see to it that their deepest, darkest embarrassments see the light of day. And if that doesn’t work, I will kick their asses.”
Allison looks appreciative. “Thank you, Gwen. And thanks, Brian, for coming up here. Didn’t mean to drag you away from the party.”
“I’m always here for you, Ally.”
A huge, beautiful smile stretches across her sleek, stunning face, and I want to kiss her so bad it’s killing me. But Gwen is right here with us, and my girlfriend is downstairs.
My girlfriend. Fuckin’ A.
Gwen takes Allison out to help her fix her makeup. I stand and wander back downstairs. When I get to the bottom of the steps, my jaw drops. Across the room, that asshole, Tom Meany, is kissing Kate.
My stomach tightens, and my hands clench. A jealous rage starts to build inside of me, as if I have some right to claim that Kate is “my woman.”
I start over to Kate and her little group, uncertain of what I’m going to do when I get over there.
Today’s artwork is by Dw. Dunphy. Dw. is a writer, artist, musician, penguin chaser, and volunteer fear fighter. He is a founding member of Popdose and has just released the Kindle book, The Last Stand of Jasmine Jett.
Beastie Boys’ song, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” is found on their 1986 album, Licensed to Ill.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 23, Chapter 22, Chapter 21, Chapter 20, Chapter 19, Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, 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 25 of Legendary.