The story so far: Allison is a smart, empathetic teenager coming off the worst year of her life. Her father was incarcerated, her parents got divorced, and she suffered what her doctor called a ”brain hiccup.” The only thing that went well was a brief encounter with Brian, the boy she loves. Yet even that backfired on her. After a long day working at Sears, she hopes to have a fun night with her friend, Gwen, celebrating at a party being thrown by Eric. The year is 1987.
My stomach was spinning in circles. Brian stood in the doorway of my hotel room wearing sweatpants and a plain white T-shirt.
”Come in,” I said.
He smiled as he stepped past me, and I caught a whiff of his hair: he smelled freshly showered. Closing the door, I shut my eyes to collect myself. When I turned around, I caught him looking at my butt.
”Brian! Were you checking me out?”
His face turned red in embarrassment; I smiled so wide my cheeks hurt.
We stared at each other for thirty seconds, but it felt like years. The sounds of Washington D.C. traffic could be heard faintly through the double pane glass.
”Want something to drink? I have Diet Coke, or water.”
He seemed every bit as nervous as I was.
”Maybe some music.”
On the hotel dresser rested my portable cassette recorder, the type college students use to record lectures. I pushed down on the play button. The heartbreaking intro to Til Tuesday’s ”Coming Up Close” filled the small room. The tape recorder was old, and the volume switch was broken, so the music came out sounding far off, like a dream.
I thought I felt Brian’s breath on my neck and spun around, hoping to catch him off guard again. But no, he was near the bed flipping through my dog-eared copy of East of Eden.
”Not sure if I like all of his books. I love that one, though.”
He took a seat in the chair by the window while I sat on the bed sitting cross legged.
”I like this song. What’s it called?”
”Coming Up Close.’ I can tape it for you when we get back to Ohio. The new Til Tuesday album is awesome, much better than the first one.”
”That would be nice, thanks.”
I fidgeted with my class ring and stared at the calluses on the balls of my feet.
”I don’t know why I’m so, uh, weirded out right now,” he said.
”You’re weirded out?” I asked.
”Yeah, aren’t you?”
”I don’t know, maybe a little”
”We held hands. It was an emotional moment for you and, you know, since we’re old friends, it felt…”
”Comfortable. Exactly. So we held hands.”
I stared at him, trying to read his feelings. Whatever they were, he masked them by asking, ”What did you think of seeing the Capitol building?”
My heart sank a little, but I was also relieved. Nothing was going to happen between us. But how could it? That would have been wrong, a betrayal.
We talked about the events of the day, shared some gossip about the two girls who got expelled from school for smoking pot backstage during the school play, and watched highlights on ESPN. It was wonderful and casual, just like it always had been between us. Then, during a local car dealership commercial, Brian locked his eyes on me with seriousness.
”Allison,” he asked, ”how’s it going with you and your mom? Are you doing okay?”
”Oh, we’re doing fine,” I said through a forced smile.
”It’s… It’s hard sometimes, but…”
I made the mistake of looking at Brian. I was so moved by his concerned expression, the floodgates opened. As I cried, Brian came over to the bed and hugged me. We didn’t say another word. He changed the channel and found Breakfast at Tiffany’s on one of the local independents. With his back against the headboard, and me with my head on his shoulder, Brian and I watched the rest of the film.
Once the movie was over, I shut off the television. The two of us sat in silence for several minutes, staring at our reflections in the empty TV screen. I could feel his heart beating against the side of my head. I could’ve stayed like that all night.
After a long, decisive sigh, Brian said, ”I better go.”
He got up and my spirits sank, realizing that our special moment was about to end. He put on his shoes, and we each commented about the love between Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard’s characters in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Brian walked to the door, and I followed him. Just as he reached for the door knob, he looked at me.
I can’t describe the wellspring of emotion that gushed through me in that instant. Finally, it felt like something good was happening to me.
”See you tomorrow,” I said.
Suddenly, Brian was kissing me. It happened so fast that I think our teeth clicked. I kissed him passionately, thinking it may be my only chance. After all those years dreaming about the taste and touch of his lips, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity go to waste.
It was the most incredible kiss in my life.
And then it ended. Brian stepped back. We looked at each other, stunned.
”I should…” he said.
”Okay,” I replied.
He opened the door to leave, but stopped and looked back one last time. We gazed at each other, and if I’d had the courage, I would have told Brian that I love him.
When the door closed behind him, I fell to the floor, kicking and laughing.
I think about that night all of the time, imagining what I really wanted to happen. I imagine that instead of leaving, I tell him to stay.
We walk back to the bed, and he places his hands on the side of my face saying, ”I’ve been waiting a long time to do this.” He kisses me full on the lips and my body explodes in excitement; I think I may melt. My hands slip to his waist and finger the gap between his sweat pants and his back, then I slide one hand under his shirt and against his warm skin. Brian’s hands move from my face to under my arms and around me. We never stop kissing. We fall on to the bed sideways. He nibbles on my neck; then he moves his head down and kisses my breasts through my shirt. He slides up my shirt and begins giving soft kisses on my stomach and belly button, just north of everything. I flop my head back and close my eyes while he wiggles off my shorts and underwear. He pauses. I prop myself up on my elbows, desperately waiting. He’s unsure, in need of one final nudge to go on. I quickly take off my Springsteen shirt and lay there, naked, all his. My heart is pounding, my skin tingling all over. We smile at each other, his eyes full of wonder, like a little kid opening his birthday presents. As I ease my head down on the bed, his rough fingers massage my calves, sending a million bolts of lightning through my body. Brian lightly touches my skin with his lips, teasing. His head inches up to my thighs, closer and closer. Then…
”Allison?” my mom calls out from the hallway.
I slide my hand up to my stomach and open my eyes.
Swinging my legs off the bed, I jump up and put on my bathrobe. In the background, the same Til Tuesday song from that night in Washington is playing. I open door to see the concerned expression of my mother.
”What, Mom?” I ask.
”Your sister was very upset that you wouldn’t loan her your car.”
”I have plans, Mom.”
”You’re going out?”
”Eric Garcia is having a party.”
”A party? No drinking, right? “
Right, because alcohol would numb me more than the antidepressants. I don’t want to be numb; I want to feel. Lately the only thing I feel involves Til Tuesday and lying in my bed, but I can’t do that all of the time.
”No, Mom, I won’t be consuming alcohol. I need the car because I’m the designated driver.”
”Oh. Okay. That’s good. Well, I told Teri she’s just going to have to get her own car. If she’d stop spending all of her money, she’d be able to afford one.”
Told ya, sis.
”Thanks, Mom. Oh, I’m sleeping over Gwen’s, okay?”
”Are her parents home? I want to make sure you’re not putting them out.”
”Her parents are totally cool with it.”
”Positive. You should be happy, you get the whole house to yourself.”
Mom gets a nervous expression on her face. I’m not sure she’s comfortable with that.
”I just want to make sure you’re safe, Ally.”
”I will be, don’t worry.”
”I’m your mother; I always worry. Well, have a good time and, uh, be careful.”
Mom leaves and I lock the door behind her.
In the full-length mirror hanging on the back of my door, I stare at myself. ”Who are you?” I wonder. My robe falls to the floor and I study my body. My boobs are uneven, always have been. My hips are a little wide. Staring at the patch of hair between my legs, I think, ”What’s the fascination?”
I wish I could look at myself and feel like I’m real, like I exist. Instead I’m floating, hanging on by a string tied to the earth. I fear that someday that string’s going to come loose, and I’ll float away.
Today’s artwork was by Marcy Mahoney. Marcy is a writer and Instagrammer with a fondness for geekery and wine. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her journalist husband and two crazy cats. Follow her on Instagram: @Scoliosis_Jones http://instagram.com/scoliosis_jones
‘Til Tuesday’s song, ”Coming Up Close” is found on their 1986 album, Welcome Home.
Read Chapter 11 of Legendary.