(About a 10 minute read)
Chris was one of the prettiest, most shapely beauties in our high school. She was also one of the few in that category that I actually desired enough to want so much more than a casual friendship with.
You see, Chris was — like me — a bit of an outcast. We had the same bad reputation. Folks said I had “quite a temper”, a “sharp tongue”, and that I was “contrary” — meaning that I tended to oppose things for no better reason than for the sake of opposing them.
Folks said exactly the same things about Chris. She had quite a temper, a sharp tongue, and — of course, being female, the word wasn’t “contrary” — Chris was a “bitch”.
I wonder now what Mark Twain would have made of that — if Twain came back to us with all of his sharp insight, but prepped for our contemporary times?
Would Twain have listened to how I was accorded the status and dignity of a human by being called “contrary”? And then would he have compared that to Chris being unnecessarily likened to a female dog? I wonder how he would have felt about the injustice of that?
Of course, you know what I’m getting at here. It was after all Twain who said, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”
At 18, the fact Chris was — at least in my private mind — my “comrade outcast” could do nothing else but add rocket fuel to my hard-on for her pretty face and shapely body.
Which naturally meant I was a all but tongue-tied in her presence.
Fortunately our librarian, Sharon, loved her an outcast. She was only 11 years older than me, and probably still felt a bit wounded from her own high schooling. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but in hindsight it is plain to me Sharon picked her “student librarians” from among the school’s misfits.
Fortunately, Sharon had picked both of us — Chris and me both — to share the same hour together as her student librarians. Chris and I flirted for about six weeks before the Day of the Storm.
That’s to say, Chris did the flirting, while I laughed appreciatively. And of course, it was all done in whispers. Sharon was Old School as they come about that Law of God and Darwin, “Thou art commanded to cleave to silence in your libraries”.
Chris was far more free spirited than I was. It was she who always started the daily flirts. And it was she who was always first to return to flirting after Sharon had inevitably shushed us. Moreover, it was Chris who ever led them into increasing intimacy.
Chris: looking up from her book where she’s sitting across from me at the table: “You’re only good for three things, Paul. Fighting, philosophizing, and fucking.” Her head ducking back into her book.
Presently Chris: her foot straying over to rest lightly against my ankle.
A bit later Chris: again looking up from her book, “I know you’re hard, Paul, because you’re a hard man.”
Sharon glaring at us from her desk, “Shush! Silence!”
Of course, at 18 and male, I was even so still in doubt about Chris’s interest in me. That’s to say, my fear of rejection loomed so large and before me that I just couldn’t believe my good luck. A coward dies a thousand deaths, and so does a teenage boy who constantly and ever argues himself out of such a simple thing as asking a pretty girl for a date.
“If she says ‘no’, the whole school will find out and everyone will be laughing at me for weeks!” “If she says ‘no’ my own brothers will ostracize me for destroying our family’s honor.” “If she says ‘no’ no other girl in high school will ever even look at me, I’ll be a branded a loser for life by every woman on the planet, once they find out.”
Had it not been for the storm, that head-talk promised to go on for a decade or more. As it happened, that was the year more trees were blown down in my hometown than any living citizen could remember.
It almost got as dark as night outside. Chris noticed it first and went to a window to watch it in awe. I only looked up a bit later, because of the wind rattling the glass.
I walked up behind Chris, stood almost touching her to get the best view. I could feel the chill from the cold air pushed into the room through the cracks in the window frame. Chris crossed her arms beneath her breasts for warmth.
That’s what prompted me to spontaneously and without thinking about it wrap my arms around her. The oldest thing in human nature besides the sex drive. The tug to comfort and protect a friend. Chris leaned back into my embrace.
A few minutes later, I had the courage to whisper in her ear for a date. Or rather, I had the conviction she would not refuse me.
Her reply was drowned by thunder. A full minute or more went by before I could overcome my awe at how loud the storm had raged to ask her to repeat herself.
That Friday, I showed up on time. Chris’s father greeted me at the door. Chris was still getting ready, he explained, please come sit. We sat on a red couch — and I was even more tongue-tied with him than I’d ever been with Chris. I began to sweat.
I didn’t know it yet, but her dad was a very good friend of my mom’s. They had offices across the street from each other, and he often visited hers. Ironically, he’d recently told mom that his daughter Chris was lonely — no one would date her. Would she sound out her boy about taking Chris out?
Mom had only been waiting for the right moment to bring it up with me, for she feared if I wasn’t in exactly the right mood, I’d shoot it all down reflexively, her contrary boy.
Years later, I learned that Chris’s dad was a hugely compassionate man, but that night my nervousness was too thick to see him or see his compassion. By the time Chris finally came down the stairs, we were an hour late and my armpits were ponds.
I mean the word “pond” here in much the same way that good folks refer to the Atlantic ocean as a “pond”. Of course, neither Chris nor her dad officially observed my pits. I was allowed the dignity of pretending they could not have floated the nearest boat on the town’s lake.
Chris was stunning. She had curled her hair, applied her make-up with unusual subtly for a high school girl, and was dressed herself in a sexy-casual black top and very tight pants. When we got in the car, she apologized. “I’m sorry it took so long! I was so nervous I had to redo my make up five times.”
(Outcasts! So few dates, even the girls are too nervous to apply make up.)
We settled down to adjusting our plans.
“Cabaret is out. Even the last show will have started by the time we get to the theater.” I said. “Maybe drive into the city and find a restaurant?”
“I’m still full from dinner. I got hungry and couldn’t wait. What else is there?”
“Not much. We could drive around.” The small town time-killer for youth is to endlessly circle the main square, only now and then breaking away to some other part of town — only to return to circle the square again. Kids do it for hours on end. That’s what I was proposing, there being nothing else I could think of.
“That’s cool. Just so it’s not in town. I’m so happy tonight that I don’t want to see anyone who hates me, and that’s practically everyone. Let’s do the country.”
It didn’t take us long to locate a place to park so that we could make out.
For once, free spirited Chris did not take the lead, and that was perhaps our fatal mistake. Right after our first kiss, she said, “I don’t want to get pregnant. Did you bring a condom?” That was the closest she came to taking the lead that night.
Basically, Chris passed the ball to me, and I dropped it. “No, but it’s ok. There are a lot of things we can do without doing everything tonight.” Of course, I was suggesting oral sex — but too obliquely.
I wish now Chris picked up our dropped ball by saying something along the lines of, “I’m ok with oral”, but she was silent. As it was, I foolishly did my foolish part by taking her silence as rejection of my hint.
She we ended up kissing and fondling each other in a state of merely partial, pants on nudity. We might have gone further, but our time ran out. Chris had a one o’clock curfew.
In the end, our big make out came to no more than just two teens working themselves into a frenzy without any relief.
At least, the moon was almost full that night, and Chris’s skin looked mysterious and lovely.
Chris was staying over at her best — and only — friend’s house that night. Indeed, that’s how she got herself a one o’clock deadline instead of the then customary midnight for most of the older kids in town. Her friend slept in his home’s basement, which had an outside door. He had promised to wait up for Chris until one in order to sneak her in for the night.
Her friend’s name was Ulrich. He was Chris’s age, and he insisted on everyone calling him by his last name.
Both Chris and Ulrich, if you asked either one of them, would describe their relationship as “platonic best friends”. In truth, they could have said, “platonic only friends”, because neither one had any other friends. I knew Ulrich well enough to grasp his reason for not having friends was more serious than Chris’s reason. Ulrich was habitually mean to people — to just about everyone except Chris.
The news came down to me the next school day, Monday. Chris couldn’t go on another date. Best friend Ulrich had kept her up exhausted until eight in the morning begging her to break off anything and everything she had going with me.
To give her credit, Chris was a person of firm promises — and just a bit too young to recognize that a promise given under duress is non-binding. She felt she had freely given him her sacred word, and could not go back on it in honor. Years later, I learned she most likely got her integrity from her father.
Chris wouldn’t tell me more than that — tell me more than Ulrich had kept her up and that she had made a promise to him.
For months I assumed Ulrich had a crush on Chris and was simply upset she had gone out with me. But two days before I left for university, Chris and I stumbled across each other. She’d broken away from Ulrich after some event made her realize he was fundamentally mean.
“I have to apologize, Paul. I know I hurt you, and I feel like a total moron. Please forgive me, Paul. I realize now, Ulrich talked me out of you only because he wanted to hurt you through me. He had a thing about you. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had a grudge against you from gym class. Something about you and he were on the same volleyball team and he wanted to be the leader, only Coach Black had picked you because you were the only senior in the class. Can you forgive me, Paul?”
High school dramas are so often just as cruel as they are meaningless.
Some weeks ago, I reconnected with Chris through a mutual friend. How that happened is a long story that it’s unnecessary to go into here, but Chris — who now lives in Wisconsin — and I have exchanged about a dozen long emails since then.
Yesterday, eternally witty Chris emailed me, making fun of how clumsy I (and she) was during “The Night of the Greatest Screw of My Life”.
“Yes, Paul, you gave me the biggest, most complete screw job of my life, but not in the way I hear everywhere and from everybody that you have been bragging about these past 40 years.”
After retelling the story with…um…some spin, Chris signed off,
“Think about it. We are far from finished. Really, I tell hubs all the time, we are not over the hill. Nothing like it! Instead, we have entered our dangerous years. Meaning, we are young enough to still get horny, but too old to be shamed and reformed.”
I feel like a dangerous man now. Thank you, Chris, I feel dangerous again.