Okay, kids. It’s show and tell time! Here’s some new stuff I’m working on.
The first time I asked Joel about pot, he offered me his bong. It’s older than I am. When he’s really high and nostalgic, he tells the story of how it came into his life. It was 1989 and he was twenty-two, playing clarinet in a “soul-sucking” polka band in San Diego, California. Swearing this was the last time he’d play a bar mitzvah, he tried to bum a smoke from a pretty, dark-haired girl with gray eyes in the alley behind B’nai Jehudah. “I’ve got something better,” she purred, grabbing his hand and pulling him into a beat-up van. He got so faced, he traded his clarinet for the bong and her phone number. That’s also the story of how my parents met.
Although Joel cares for it lovingly, almost disturbingly so, something about that tube and the dirty water – let’s just say I’d rather not. Even if I wanted to, I’m only supposed to use it in his presence and I can’t think of anything more pathetic than sitting in a circle with my father and his flaky toke squad, whose members are downstairs jamming right now. The music shakes the walls, which doesn’t take much effort in our house. It’s over 100 years old. If it wasn’t for my DIY skills, this place would’ve sunk into the ground a long time ago.
My cell rings: I’m special, so special, I gotta have some of your attention…
I sing along, snapping fingers, shaking hips. My voice is pretty good. I get it from my mother, who fronted Joel’s jazz band in the B.D. (Before Dizzy) era.
“Hey there.” Wes doesn’t answer for a bit, just listens as I keep singing.
“What’s my song today?”
“‘Brass in Pocket’, The Pretenders. Mom wanted to name me after their lead singer, Chrissy Hynde.”
“You don’t look like a Chrissy.”
“I sure as hell don’t look like a Dizzy.”
“Nope, just act like one.”
“Touché. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Wes clears his throat.
“I kinda have this problem.” I sit on my bed. “With Tara Fletcher.” I groan. Tara lived across the street from me until the fourth grade when her parents decided our neighborhood had grown too “ethnic” and bolted for suburbia. She became insufferable soon thereafter.
“Did she say something to you? She’s such a bitch.”
“No, nothing like that. I, uh, want to ask her to go out with me.”
“God, that’s even worse!”
“That’s a bad idea, right? Like she’d ever in a million years—”
“I just don’t get it.”
“She called me tonight. She wouldn’t call if she wasn’t interested.”
“Ha! She probably wanted your AP History notes.” His silence confirms it. Tara never does anything unless there’s a payoff.
“So you don’t think I should ask her?” I’m trying to be a good friend but this is one of those cases where objectivity is out the window.
Okay, some backstory: when I was a freshman, I quickly realized that most of my classmates had paired off and it seemed like everyone was getting felt up but me. Even my parents, right up until the week their divorce was final, regularly had riotously loud sex. Next to music and cannabis, it’s Joel’s favorite subject. He compares it to jazz, the freeform expression and improvisation, the give and take. He makes it sound almost poetic. I had no romantic illusions. All I knew was the urge was overwhelming. It was getting to be a real problem. I thought I’d have to join some kind of anti-masturbatory support group.
My mother gives a lot of advice I never ask for, but in the middle of one of her lectures she finally said something that made sense. If you want something, you go for it. So right then, I knew what I would do: select one guy a year to hook up with.
I approached it in my usual fashion, by making a list. I started with the rules:
- Don’t discuss the arrangement with anyone
- Be respectful.
- Be safe.
- Breaking any of the rules forfeits the arrangement.
It’s worked really well, although I’m looking forward to abandoning this method a year from now in college where people should be mature enough to have these kinds of relationships out in the open. But knowing the next guy will be my last, I want it to be special, to go out on a high note. So right now it’s killing me listening to Wes go all goofy over Tara since I’ve decided he’s the one.
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