I push through the front door and walk out into the afternoon sun. My head is pounding from a slight hangover and thoughts of Kate and Allison circling my brain. Eric and I may have had a couple of beers last night, but it’s the thoughts that are giving me a headache.
Kate and Allison.
Plopping down on the front lawn under the massive sycamore that shades our house, I hang my head and sigh. It’s hot, one of those muggy Ohio summer days when you wish you didn’t have to move, and all you can think about is swiping a beer from your dad’s stash in the fridge and hogging it to yourself.
Except, that’s not what I’m thinking about. Instead I’m thinking about my girlfriend, Kate, and how much I love her. And I’m thinking about my friend, Allison, and how much I loved kissing her.
I stare at the road that runs in front of our house as sporadic cars pass by. Across the street, my old neighbor, a woman in a housecoat and slippers, retrieves the mail from her curbside mailbox. Two doors down, a young father prunes a large maple tree in his front yard while his young children scream in delight, dancing through the water of a sprinkler. Somewhere far off, a symphony of lawn mowers from throughout the neighborhood fill the air.
A truck drives past, it’s shocks squealing each time it hits a pothole. Van Halen’s ”Dreams” is blasting from the speakers. It’s the same song from the night last fall when Kate threw me a surprise party for my seventeenth birthday.
I remember it clearly. Arriving to pick her up for a movie, Kate’s mom answered the door. ”She’s in the basement,” she told me. I marched down the stairs and nearly fell over when all of my friends screamed, ”Surprise!” People clapped me on the back and gave me hugs. I searched the room until I found Kate’s magnificent face, smiling ear to ear. That’s when someone (Eric, most likely) started playing ”Dreams” on the stereo.
As she stood by the snack table, I slid my arms around her waist and pulled her close so that are faces were inches apart.
”Happy Birthday, Brian,” Kate said. There was so much joy in her eyes. Her smile was contagious.
”I love you,” I told Kate, without hesitation.
I didn’t think it was possible, but her face lit up even more when I muttered those words. I swear she had a tear in her eye. It was a perfect moment.
Kate is the first girl I’ve ever said ”I love you” to; the first girl I’ve ever made love to; the first girl I ever chose over my best friend. Kate is the girl of every guy’s dreams. As most of them would tell you, I’m one lucky son of a bitch. A girl like Kate is all you ever need. I’d be a fucking idiot to screw up something like that, right?
I shouldn’t be here. I should be over at Eric’s house pouring my heart out. Maybe he’d give me the answer I need, that’s what a best friend does in this situation. But I doubt he can help me. There’s only one person who can help me.
Dad’s voice interrupts my train of thought. He’s standing over me with a glass of iced tea in his hand.
”Yeah, sure, I’m fine,” I reply.
He sits down next to me.
”Your forehead creases when you’re grappling with something important, just like your mom.”
Only my dad would use a word like ”grappling” in everyday conversation. The two of us have a great relationship, one that I know other guys my age envy. We’ve had several heart-to- hearts in the past couple of years, mostly me pouring my heart out to him, and Dad nodding and offering some sage advice afterwards. Maybe it’s time to get his objective opinion about my dilemma.
”Dad, how did… how did you know you were, uh, in love with Mom?”
This gives him pause. ”Is this about Kate,” he asks, ”or someone else?”
”I… what? What’s that supposed to mean?” I spit out.
”Well, Brian, your mom and I have always noticed how much you care about Allison.”
Holy crap! Even my parents know!
”Dad, it was just one kiss. I don’t know what anyone’s told you, but it was just one kiss. And, you know, I told Kate all about it and she was, like, forgiving and all that. Or so I thought.”
”Wait, Brian, who did you kiss?”
I stammer, ”You don’t— I thought—“
”Oh!” he exclaims. ”You kissed Allison.” Dad whispers her name, as if it’s still a secret.
I smile and shrug. Hearing someone else say it out loud makes me feel good.
I kissed Allison.
And then the guilt creeps in. Dad smiles and nods slightly, as if he understands.
”Brian, love can be… confusing, especially when you’re in high school. You may think that you love someone, but maybe you love the idea of being in love with someone. You know, you’re only seventeen. You don’t have to be in love.”
Gee, thanks, Dad.
”I’ve been where you are, son, experienced what you’re going through a couple of times. I believe that’s how I knew your mom was the one. I can’t explain it without sounding like some cheesy romantic comedy.”
Dad rises and stretches. He places his hand on the top of my head like he used to do when I was a boy.
”Brian, you may fall in love over and over throughout your life. It doesn’t mean any of those people are your true love. Don’t let this trip you up as you go into your senior year.”
I smile at my dad. Maybe I’m not so crazy after all.
”Plans tonight?” he asks.
”Eric and I are going to hang out and watch movies. I’ll, uh, probably crash the night there.”
He looks at me knowingly and says, ”Be careful,” before walking back to the house. I hate lying to him like that. I can’t admit that my best friend is actually throwing a wild party tonight, even though he suspects it.
At that moment, Kate pulls up in her dad’s convertible.
Today’s artwork is by Villamor Cruz. Villamor is a filmmaker and writer living in the Los Angeles area. For more information about Villamor and to see examples of his work, visit www.villcruzjr.com
Van Halen’s song, ”Dreams,” is found on their 1986 album, 5150
Read Chapter 3 of Legendary