I was pouring the hot water for the macaroni in the dish sitting in front of Vicky, the little girl, along with her brother, that I was babysitting, when I saw a light flash on across the street in that guy’s frontyard. The hot water steamed full until it was almost pouring over when Vicky yelled at me that I wasn’t watching. I pulled back up the tea percolator and found her blue cocktail napkins to wipe off the table next to her dish and said I’d only poured a few drops. I took the empty pot back over to the sink and stared out over the hedges in these people’s yard to see if his second story window light was going to come on. Gary, Vicky’s little brother, yelled to me that I’d forgotten to pour his milk and I sighed and opened the fridge and pulled out the milk carton by the handle and went by the dinner table pouring it into his cap less red thermos until he said ‘when’. I capped the milk back on and stared some more. The kids asked what I was looking at and I said there was a falling star I saw over a rooftop; there might be more. Gary almost choked on his macaroni trying to get up from his booster seat to see. I came over to them and helped him sit back down again. “They only come once every fifteen years,” I said. “You see one when something really important is about to happen.” I poured myself some Captain Crunch from the cereal box on the table and grabbed some of Gary’s milk in his thermos to pour me some milk. “Hey that’s mine!” Gary shouted. “I gave you too much on purpose, Gary. Drink that and I’ll pour you some more.” Gary’s lower lip started to tremble and his eyes were starting to tear up. I felt bad so I started off to the fridge when Vicky said to Gary that he had plenty and that he shouldn’t be sad because he had more than he usually got in his thermos. I was here on duty call. Some friends of my parent’s church had asked me if I babysat and my mom spoke for me. The father was an assistant minister with my dad and they were having a charity auction slash rummage sale tonight at 7pm. They said they’d pay me. Yeah right. No more than eighteen bucks at the most.
When the kids were in bed I snuck out to the front stoops and sat out next to a lamplight that turned on when I shut the family’s front door. I’d seen a white sweater of Cindy’s over one of their wooden dining chairs and I pulled it over my shoulders so that I wouldn’t get cold. They said they wouldn’t be back till 9. It was only 7:30. I pulled out cigarettes from my front left pocket and some matches. I lit one, then thought about the sweater and took it to hang it up over their door’s knob. It fell two seconds later on their burlap welcome mat. Where was the action? I’d been staring at the house in front of me for twenty minutes it felt like. At least fifteen from Vicky’s room where I was lying down with her, peering out her window with the blinds up, and now here. I saw a car drive by and tried to keen in on who was in it. Sometimes if I watched long enough people would come by to visit him, park in his driveway. He had brothers I think. One of them was just as cute as he was, but he looked older. I could tell that the both of them, the brothers probably had girlfriends, I could just feel it. But I didn’t know how serious they were with them or what their standards were, about hooking up and stuff. I blew the last of my cigarette out then buried it under the mulch and covered it with dirt in the Franklin’s salvia patch. I picked up the sweater from the welcome mat and brought it back inside to put it back where I’d found it.
On my walk back home I tugged my winter coat tight over me because I’d forgotten to zip it when I’d left. I was walking slowly home, listening for him playing music or talking as I neared his house. His light was on upstairs. I could see that. Was that a sign? Was he coming down? I looked across the street from my parent’s house and saw that our living room lights were on. They’d be getting back from church just now and would be full of energy and awake after being out. I didn’t feel like going back and giving a full report of the Franklin kids just yet. I decided to go next to the house again and prop myself against the garage wall and wait for a noise or for a queue. Besides, I wanted to hear the wind chimes again from their backyard, where I could see two stepping stones leading back to a yard that I wanted to imagine about instead of go into. The air conditioning vent came on and it made me sort of comfortable. I felt like nobody saw me. A light came on in the house in front of me and I started at the sight of it, but then wanted to keep myself hidden, and was relieved when it turned out to be the dad of the house calling his cat to come run inside. I sat back and started to get cold against the concrete behind me. Finally, something happened. I heard a door shut then a garage door open behind me and I thought about it being either the guy’s mom or his dad. But I heard someone walk out and I heard keys shaking and I peeped around the side of the house to see the guy heading towards his car. “Wait,” I said. I think he didn’t know what to think. He looked at me like I’d spooked him but he didn’t look all that fazed. He wasn’t saying anything. I was hoping you could give me a lift. My brother’s borrowed the car and I have a friend in Bellevue who I was supposed to study with. You going anywhere?”
He said, “Where’d you come from?”
“I was on my way home. From the Franklins. Babysitting. You know them?”
He just stared.
He relaxed his shoulders. “Are you going somewhere?” I asked.
“Are-you supposed to,”
“Because I told my friend I’d stop by. I was hoping I could get a ride with you.”
He sighed. “I have to go meet some friends.”
“Please? I’ll pay you. I have fifteen bucks.”
“No. I’ll stop by there.”
He didn’t say anything to me once we were in and driving. I could say that there was background music to what else there was between us, because I felt there was something between us. I was starting to really like him already. I peered into his backseat and saw that he had a blue duffle bag full of tools, and a wrench sticking out on his leather seat. I could tell that he didn’t think he should be here with me, in his car. But I peered over at him and asked him if he liked this place or that place, the places we were passing by. He pretty much gave one word answers for everything. “Where is it that you have to go,” he asked. I hadn’t really intended to go to Bellevue because I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t have any friends really, but if you counted the geeks I sat next to at the cafeteria lunch table I did.
He put his windshield wipers on because it started to rain and he made a sharp turn towards the left and shifted up to 2nd gear as we passed that old bar we used to go to. “Okay, how far down Bellevue,” He asked. I had to come up with something quick. I looked at my blue all stars down on his floor rugs and noticed how muddied up and worn they were. “Where are you going?,” I said. “I could just walk from there.”
“I’m going to a friend’s house. It’s like two miles from here.”
“Oh,” I said. I was starting to get worried. We’d driven a little bit of a ways and the ends of my jeans were wet from sitting on the grass outside his house and he had the air conditioning vent on full blast to clear the windshield and to stop if from fogging up. I knew that if I got out now that I’d have to walk nearly two miles back to my house. So I asked him to pull up to the third house on the left and I was arranging to get out but then I yelped as I got out.
“I don’t think they are home,” I said. “Those lights aren’t on and their car isn’t here. I don’t know where she could be.” I knew I was pushing him because now he either had to take me back and be late for where he was going, dump me off here, or let me go with him to where he was going.
“Do you have someone you could call?” He asked. I wasn’t about to call Dobson. He was the only thought that came to mind. “Yeah, sure.” I said and I shut the door grabbing my knapsack off of his leather red seat. The motor was still running and he’d had his foot on the break this whole time. He pushed the parking break down and gunned the engine so that he wouldn’t stall. “Bye,” I said, competing with the motor. He sat there idle for a second. “Where are you going to call someone?”
“Oh, we passed a 7-11 on the way. I’ll just go call there.” He thought for a second. “Okay, well I’ll drop you off there. Hop in.”
“No, no that’s okay. You should go. Besides you’re going to be late.”
He sighed. “Alright. Get in. I’ll let you use my friend’s phone.”
I couldn’t believe my luck. Normally when I pushed it and jumped on things this quick they petered out before either could be more than three chains of events. But now there were about to be more layers to my expectations and a future.
Wee pulled into a nice house next to other nice homes across from some woods on the other side of the road. There was a car in the driveway and a red sedan in the garage with the lights on. He got out and walked up the front steps to an outside porch where he rapped hard on a front door. I followed behind him, sliding into my knapsack backpack and feeling the bottom of it wet, against my back. I had a sweater that hadn’t been washed in it since last week, but I decided that once I got in and was able to pretend to make a phone call, that I’d put it over me. I heard some guy’s voices laughing and talking on the other side of the door and after someone opened it and looked at me with question, I walked in to see a cedar dining room table and dinette set over to the left of the house. There was a nice living room in front of us. It was warm. It was carpeted in white and had a big screen tv across from a fabric couch to the left. There were a lot of lights on and boys’ voices in the kitchen so I could tell that there probably weren’t any family members or parents in town. I heard some people call my ride’s name, Jay, and he walked towards the kitchen, where I followed him. There was an island in the middle with different plastic liquor jugs of whiskey and maker’s Mark and vodka next to red plastic cups. The sink was filled with dishes and pizza boxes and there were plastic plates across the yellowish kitchen counter with half eaten meals on each. I could see a screen porch through their window and I could hear the wind pick up from a slightly open screen door. I wanted to go outside and sit in a plastic porch chair, smoke a cigarette and listen to their chatter from behind the wall. But I didn’t know them well enough. I was expecting Jay to point me towards a phone quickly because I felt from him that he was trying to get rid of me, like he didn’t want to be bothered with why he brought me. But one of his friends, a guy that looked similar to the geeks I’d hung out with at lunch but older, took pity on me and asked who I was. Did I go to the local college? I felt awe struck. No one had ever treated me like I was older. I was much too thin and I walked around like I was a freshman, with slumped shoulders, stringy hair that I neglected to brush sometimes, and always cold. But I smiled so big and wanted to lie before Jay stepped in for me and told him the truth. I didn’t expect Jay to know which grade I was in. I knew now that they wouldn’t let me have any of this stuff. Liquor or anything else. Steven, I heard Jay call him, asked Jay what he wanted and Jay got busy pouring himself something from a jug, pulling open the fridge to search for mixers or something and ice. Then they asked me what I wanted and I jumped at the chance with rum and coke before anyone could stop me. They asked me how old I was even though Jay told them what grade I was in and I just said made up that my father was from the Philippines and that the drinking age is like nonexistent there. So someone made a comment about how I looked Pilipino, or Hispanic and I ate this up too, saying how cold it was up here, how pale I’d gotten since we’d been up here. Another guy, not Steve, asked me where I was from if my dad was from the Philippines and I could have said that I was just two hours away from here, in the same state. But I said that we were from Florida originally. From around Miami. I pulled my glass up to drink it while one of the other guys asked me where in Miami and I took some extra sips to think about where. I could say the suburbs or the beach. I could say North Beach. I swallowed and chewed on some ice hoping they’d have to depend on someone else for the conversation while I got my story straight. Jay looked at me after he’d poured some diet soda in a cup to make a mixed drink. I could tell that he didn’t like me mixing with his friends. He didn’t really want me here period. “Let’s go outside and play some ping pong,” He said. He walked past me quickly and opened the sliding glass doors to get out tot he closed in porch where I could here him rustling around the deck for some equipment. I went to the ice machine on their Frigidaire and got myself some more crushed ice so that I’d have a back up in case they asked me anymore questions. The rest of the guys filed out after Jay and I saw a light turn on instantly once there were enough of them out there. Flies swarmed around and the heat from the summer seemed like it was only minutes away from turning windier and breezier and crisp. I walked outside and stopped over the door rail and asked one of the guys if I could use their phone. I didn’t want to be talked about. But the guys were rifling through a big blue Tupperware box looking for ping pong balls and paddles. I tried to stay out of sight and brought my knapsack over to where a plastic porch table stood, near a screen door that led out to a garden full of some limp weeds but some fresh orchids. I was chilly from the walk over to the house in the rain so I found a sweater in my knapsack and pulled it over me, smelling of mulch and some mold. On one of the guys lit a citronella candle to keep the bugs away and another guy used the citronella candle to light one of his cigarettes. I took this as a good sign and reached into my knapsack for my pack, lighting it with a Bic lighter that I’d stolen from my family’s dining table when my mother had her sewing group sitting over there the night before last.
They were hitting the ball back and forth before some of his friends stood against a pool house pillar, breathing in and out smoke and looking restless until one of them mentioned something about going back inside and getting a drink. I put out my cigarette in an ash tray that had been cleaned sometime but that which was dusty on the glass prism of the porch table outside. The porch chairs were wet with mildew and I could feel an imprint had formed on the inside of my leg from one of the large white buttons that pinned the fabric down. I was the only girl here and I couldn’t look to another one for direction about which way to go or if I should follow them back into the kitchen or if should stay here, minding my own business, and smoking some more. The guys had already offered me a drink. I could stay here out here, drinking from my red cup and looking out at the garden without anyone behind my back, nagging or pushing me. Through the screen I could see a wooden fence and some leaves and ivy stuck to the spear of the middle one in front of me and the wind blew. I was starting to get high from my drink and I was about to take out another cigarette, which I felt like doing when I got a buzz, until one of his friends came out through the sliding door and peeped his head out to tell me that I was missing out on the action; that they were playing beer pong inside; they needed an even number. So I walked in and left my stuff behind and saw the red cups laid out around the perimeter of the island. One of his friends handed me a plastic cup and I put mine half way on and half way off the island. I didn’t know what we were drinking but it was the stuff I’d seen when I first walked in: the plastic punch bowl filled with mixed up liquor and daiquiri stuff with a plastic tube from which the boys were pouring into separate glasses. I could hear a girl and a guy, maybe a couple, laughing from the living room, about Godzilla, and I couldn’t tell which one they were watching, the old or the new. But with all the guys gathered around the island and me next to them and the liquor, I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to go, until I realized school. I excused myself once I lost on the third round to go into one of the bedrooms to call home to Cathy. I’d just tell her that I was at a friend’s house doing my homework. Dobson did it all the time.
After I made the call and she’d said she would pass the message along I came back out to see them rough housing with the cups and wrapping things up.
I was sitting in my room with the window open and the screen popped out. What would I do in the winter I thought, when my parents and I fought. It’d be too cold to open my screen up and smoke. My parents had grounded me and my father had told me what a disgrace I was to this family, how I was embarrassing them in front of their friends and church. Hadn’t they given me food on the table and clothes to wear and a warm place to live? What kind of daughter was I. My mother had wrapped her dry hair in a towel and had walked into their bedroom, to get into the shower I guessed and my dad sat in his armchair, turning on a baseball game and lighting up his cigar. He waved me off and said he didn’t want to see me. I was an excuse for him to smoke cigars. I laughed. I walked into my room and locked my door even though I didn’t have to; I just wanted them away maybe just as much as they wanted me away. While I was ashing on the holly bush that wouldn’t ripen till the middle of November I watched his house again. It was the next night. I had gotten detention at school for falling asleep in Mr. Asteridge’s room, had been sent down to the principals’’ office because he took the grey lines under my eyes for smoking up. But the principal had just called my parents and left a message, which led to now. There wasn’t much traffic outside, either which way, up and down this street and from his place. J’s garage was usually closed with his truck parked in front and their living room light was usually on too, with his dad watching TV, which comforted me. Sometimes I’d see flickers of people crossing across the room that I could see from my window and I couldn’t be sure who it was because I couldn’t see all that well from far away. I had needed glasses for awhile now, maybe two years, but I wouldn’t admit it to my parents. I hadn’t given anything in return, except earning my keep in washing dishes, so I knew they wouldn’t be all for it if I’d ask them for an appointment with an optometrist. I’d used magnifying glasses up till now and so far nobody had really noticed or made fun of me for it.
I was stopping by the gym where the cheerleading tryouts were being held, waiting for Cathy after school. I sat on one of the lower leveled bleachers with my books on my knees, weighing me down. I could barely carry them back and forth at school; they were a burden, just looking at them was. She was good up there. Her hair was crimped in a high pony tail and she was sure of herself when she jumped and turned backwards and flipped because she was caught by her friends with the same amount of certainty. I felt weird watching. I looked up in the bleachers for anyone else who was staying here, maybe needing a ride like me and I wanted to wander off and see where the vending machines were. I put my books next to some mom behind me and asked her if she could watch them and then I walked out and meandered slow down the hall smelling sweaty gym equipment and plastic and dust and saw some boys running too fast in the halls. When I got down to the hallway I turned left and saw a room down at the end with a big window facing out towards the football field. I didn’t know a lot about football, but I’d liked going to Dobson’s games. I wanted to go now. I slipped my wrist into my pocket to search for my cigarettes, which is what I usually did when I was nervous, but Cathy was right outside and behind me. I couldn’t smoke here. I walked to the room and inside and I looked at the field again, crawling on top of one of the desks because I was skinny enough too, and wished Jay would come and find me in the dark, waiting for him so we could make out or sneak under the bleachers while everyone else went crazy over scores above us. But my grades were slipping already. I had done homework here and there since I started, but I’d gone out some and stayed some and watched J from my window and had shown up at classes empty handed. I turned around to see the blackboard and the stupid stuff written on it in yellow chalk. I wanted to drop out. There were a lot of kids that cared and read at night and did their work, that were an AP classes who complained about them. But I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t feel up to it. I had too much energy for something else. Why should I? And so I wound up hating the people next to me who did their work. I was spiteful and wanted to get away and I wanted to find somebody that felt the same way, so that I didn’t feel alone. I really wanted a cigarette now, and I didn’t know how long Cathy would be away doing her thing and her trying out so I felt it was fine for me to go outside and sit around the football field, thinking.
That night at dinner we ate in silence sort of because a game was on and Dobson and dad wanted to watch from their seats. We changed the arrangement of where we usually sat and I sat across from the dinette set while Dobson sat where I usually did. I bit at my buttered corn even though it was bigger than my mouth and watched my father butter his with his bread. My mother was having difficulty cutting her steak because it was too rare, since they all liked it that way. I got in trouble on steak nights and got hungry too because I couldn’t eat mine so uncooked, maybe more well-done, but not this way and it was too much trouble to ask for more. Cathy and Dobson cut up there’s just fine and then when Cathy was done she excused herself to the shower because she had come straight home to the table from practice. DOB wiped his mouth with one of the fancy cocktail napkins on the table and didn’t hold back when his team scored, cheering and beating the table. So did dad. My mom asked me if I was through since I hadn’t touched my steak in ten minutes and I asked Dobson or dad if they wanted my portion and said I wasn’t hungry. I knew dad wanted it but he made a face at my mother that said I was ungrateful, just to please her, and ten after a while he took it. My mother asked me to clear the table then, she hadn’t forgiven me for being so late the other night, and I got up to start taking the casserole bowl and empty plates into the kitchen. She was knitting something from her end of the table and I moved to grab her plate, seeing bits and pieces on it that she didn’t eat, just to seem humble I thought. I took the silverware and the napkins off Dobson’s side and then Cathy’s and set them separately on the other side of the sink from the dishes. I tried to hurry, turning on the warm water and rinsing things so that they’d go into the disposal before I’d have to face my mom looking over my shoulder and I was almost through by the time she’d come in. She sometimes got nurturing when she was cleaning, like it made her more content. She said, “Cathy said a friend of hers saw you smoking outside campus today.” My hands burned under the water and my face turned red. I’d had the yellow washing gloves on and I took them off to make a statement.
“Well that’s not true,” I said. I picked up the sponge and wiped hurriedly at one of the pans.
“You think it’s wise to do this in front of your teachers?” She opened a wooden cabinet door and pulled out an extra pair of washing gloves pulling at the fingers of the latex one by one.
“I …I (I was caught off guard)…I was holding it for one of the football players. I don’t remember who. But he scarped his leg. He was in pain. I said I’d hold his cigarette for him while I went to the restroom.”
“Well. That’s sounds like a story. Go in your room and start your homework. I’ll finish the rest.”
She was in a good mood, more than normal and I remembered it was because there was table wine in the dinning room. That was why she was knitting at the table and finding use for her fingers. She got figidy when she’d had too much drink. I was grateful and flicked my wet hands into the sink, walking quickly into my room where I wanted to climb out the screen and hear the wurr of a lawnmower in this heat enough to blur out the sound of me smoking and being immoral.
On Saturday my mother made me work the bazaar at church. They were giving away things to needy families across seas and I was put behind the sewing garments at a long foldout wooden table. Every time she walked by me she cursed me for wearing my dirty all-stars with my new pants, but I couldn’t find my dress shoes and they’d all hurried into the car so fast. I stood behind where she’d asked me looking at the sewing patterns that ladies at the church had sewn into purses and scarves. One girl who was my age but who looked more involved in church came up to me and asked me if she thought a blue and green scarf would look get on her. I tried it on first and said that I liked this one. Then I tried it on her. “Turn around,” I told her. “Spin one time so I can see how it looks.” She spun and I told her she had to get it. She’d regret it if she passed up a bargain like this one. I collected her four dollars and put it in a change bin that everyone at the tables got for the charity money. Then she asked me what my name was. “Your family just moved here, right?”
“Not too long ago. We moved from St. Louis. What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Sheila. Do you go to Valpo High? I think I’ve seen you before.”
“Uh huh. You probably know my sister better than me. Cathy Swinson? Or my brother, Dobson Swinson. He plays football.”
“They sound familiar. Are you familiar with stuff to do around here? You should come to a movie with my girlfriends and I this Friday, after school.”
I had been counting the change and how much I’d collected so far when I looked up at her. I thought right then that my mom had put her up to this. That she’d talked with some of the mom’s about my ways Maybe someone put her up to this.
“Sure, why not?” I responded. “What kind of movies do you guys like? Horror? Comedies?”
“Horror? No!” She laughed. “Just something fun, something my parents will let us go to. I’ll check the paper this Thursday and give you a call. Thanks for the help with the scarf.” I looked at her unsure , unsure of what to think and said no problem.
We stayed for a few hours at the church until my mom came by asking how much money I’d made. This was the part that I usually did good at, selling stuff. When I’d helped wait tables last summer my parents were impressed with how much money I’d made. This time I’d made more than any other table. I started folding things up and packing them back into the boxes so that the ladies could come collect which pieces they’d sewn. I was getting ready to walk across the hall to one of the older men who’d helped me set up the table to see if he could help me disassemble it when I recognized a face. It was J’s mom, the woman who lived across the street with her family from us. She had white curly hair and she was scanning one of the last tables to be taken down, over slowly. She had a beige handbag over her shoulder and she had a nice smile. She looked friendly. Just then my mom asked loudly from across the way for me to continue cleaning up my table. I came back and she helped me take it down.
On the way home after we’d had a potluck dinner at the church, I sat with a Crockpot on my lap and the cord hanging down off the seat in front of me as my mom drove us home. We listened to the pastor’s tape of Christian music that my parent’s purchased so that the proceeds would go to the Red Cross. We never said anything to each other on these rides home so I would stare out the window at the new houses, new neighborhoods that we passed, feeling awkward. I took a deep breath and tried to study J’s mom in my head. I tried to picture her at the dinner table, putting out dinner rolls on colorful pot holders and smiling and turning on lots of lights when they ate dinner. My mom asked if I’d talked to anyone new today and I told her I’d met a girl named Sheila that went to my school. My mom commented positively then turned the knob up on the volume for the tape. I turned towards my window and studied more yards and swing sets.
That night I sat alone in my room in an old nightgown I’d had since middle school, with Winnie the Poo faded into white on the front, while I smoked a cigarette out of my screen. I’d cranked open the screen and was sitting on the ledge, able to swing my leg back and forth through the primmed hedges and mulch by the plants. Mom had made corn on the cob and pork chops for Cathy, Dobson, and Dad since they had all been busy with work and school activities during the day. But she let me have a cob of corn at the table. I licked for butter that might still be on my lips. I heard some noise coming from next door and I got scared it might be my parents but then I heard a dog barking and it wasn’t the sound mine made so I realized it was our neighbors taking out their trash or something. I’d been studying a light that was on across the street from us and smoking. I was listening to my radio on low and wondering what J was doing upstairs in his room, while his mom was downstairs. I was wondering what their cabinets looked like and if they’d ever had a yellow tablecloth. I imagined a sliding glass door that let out from a kitchen nook showing some plants and a rock garden. I ashed in a soda bottle on top of some books. I was tired, but I wanted to stay up. I didn’t want to miss anything. I heard the sound of the garage opening and saw an older man, probably his dad come out and back his car out and leave. I crept out of my window. I was in my bare feet running across the mildew on the grass, keeping low to the ground. I still had my cigarette in my hand and when I got to the end of our driveway me ashed on the curb. I crossed the street and onto their driveway where I stepped on a nail or something, it really hurt. I got to the concrete part of their garage expecting any minute for his mom to come out or maybe him, but I didn’t care. I wouldn’t mind if they’d come out. I wanted to meet her. I looked at the walls and the tools and drills and green plastic bins holding god knows what. They had tons of stuff. There was a red Chevy sedan next to me on the left and I peeked inside the window seeing what was inside. It was pretty empty. J’s truck was behind it. There was tons of stuff in there. I remembered. The lights were bright and on and I leaned against the side of the Chevy starring at the door to their house willing it open. I smoked. But after five minutes nothing happened and so I continued scanning the walls for stuff. There were shelves on the right side of the garage too with storage stuff, bags and bags of Christmas ornaments and Easter egg stuff. I took a puff and came outside to lean against the side of the garage to ash onto the ground. I figured his dad would be home soon so I walled around the corner of the garage to see what was up over there. I was surprised that a car hadn’t passed making me feel sheepish in my nightgown. I ran my free hand along the chain link fence and imagined climbing over it with J to some party he knew about. The last one we’d gone to was fun. I wanted to come up with an excuse to hitch a ride with him again. I stared up at the clouds moving over the sky to get an idea. What could I think of? I felt a drop of rain on my eye and I kept walking towards the end of the yard. I heard a car coming and I figured it was his dad but I was enough out of his way, towards their backyard so that he wouldn’t see me. I heard him pull in, heard him get out, then shut the garage door. I walked towards it now hoping to get one more peek through the one of the three slit windows on it to what I’d memorized in my head, but it was dark because he’d switched off the light. I walked back towards my house walking backwards knowing there wouldn’t be cars behind me, watching the light on in the front of their house. A light was on in their doorway as if to say that anyone was welcome. What if I rang it? Their doorbell? Would they let me in? I turned around and smashed out my cigarette in our garbage and sneaked back to my window and climbed inside.
I was weary again in class, sitting against the wall in the back of it with my backpack on top of my desk signaling me being ready to go home, instead of my textbook. I was in the German teacher’s room again studying language. Funny that we were studying French. I wanted to French J. I sat back against my seat and tried to hone in on what our teach was saying at the front of the room. We should have been watching a French movie or something or some informational piece about how to speak it. He had a voice that droned on and on. Didn’t he know that? In the back of me were pictures of France, bridges and waterways and St. Michal’s Island. I wanted to stare at those. It was no fair that he’d put those in back of us for only the principal and IST’s to walk in and see. How fake. Out the window I could hear the birds chirping because it was sunny out. A good day for Dobson to play football. My teacher called on someone in front of me and I sat up. I hugged my backpack to my chest hoping he wouldn’t call my name. I had no idea what page we were on.
That night I found myself at the local bar scene around the corner and two doors down from a tight A-framed house with black and white shutters and a sunken in roof that I couldn’t stop staring at on my walk to here. There were some girls from school but mostly the druggy types that I recognized that were misfits in a different type of way because the one in front of me with the red hair and tarnished silver hoop earrings who sat in front of me in my geology class was mixing with two of her friends, one blond, and mixing two rows standing behind the DJs on the stage and talking about bullshit teachers. I was smoking a Camel I’d borrowed, well I’d get him back for it, from the bartender with the beard who could make any kind of fizz, cooler, cocktail, flip, or highball that you asked him and while I chewed the ice from mine I watched for the door to see if J or if one of the friends I’d seen at that party would come through. The wooden stool I’d been leaning back on only had three legs and so I bumped up back into the person who was behind me who happened to be eating some half-way romantic dinner next to the lady to him who was his wife and before I got my elbow out of the mushrooms and gravy on his plate I commented on the cherry in his drink and asked what he was drinking before I realized that I’d had three of my own. His wife rolling her eyes at me talking ‘this’ close eye to eye with her husband and the bartender was across to the other side lifting out a generic bourbon off the top shelf and talking about music or something that I couldn’t hear about from where I was sitting. J still wasn’t walking through the door and neither were his friends and my navy blue all-stars still weren’t scuffed up enough to go see any real cool concerts and so I just sat there and stared at them and sipped from the bottle of beer I’d gotten from a much older man sitting alone now in the corner of a booth, all by himself, with white graying hair and a faded black t-shirt and a guy across from him who looked like he’d been handling gas pumps all day. He smelled like diesel fuel. So I went over to their table, slid in next to the guy who’d bought me the beer and grabbed his head to smell what kind of shampoo he used or if he used any at all and I turned around to hear the band that was supposed to be playing start up and saw the girl with the reddish hair from my class look up at them sort of lost, sort of smiling along with her friends, chewing on the side of her straw and I left the guys to go over to her and ask her to say something “pllllease” bad, about our geology teacher. I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to vent about him. I swallowed the left overs from my beer pretty quick and shook it around a few times before looking back behind me over and again at the bartender who I recognized who’d made small talk with me and I brought up another subject to talk about with the red-headed girl because by this time she’d given me back one worded answers, turning around to her friends and asking them about things back at their homes. I looked back at the door watching for J but he hadn’t come through it and still neither had his friends. I glanced back at the bartender and then I left and walked out the door ignoring the guy who said something to me before I’d made it out through the bar. I wanted to make it through all the way to J’s friend’s house, the one’s where we’d had the party and I thought since I couldn’t get through to him here that I could find them at their house and so I walked. I walked past a row of one-story houses all dark because it was past eleven o’clock at night and I kicked my all-stars against the rocks as I walked staying under the shadows of the canopy of oak tree leaves that I could make out from the street lamps hovering over the cement sidewalks every fifteen or so feet. But then I was walking away into nothing passing a baseball field to my right where I imagined J playing softball or rugby or football and I dug my hands deeper into my red hoody, stepping onto the mildewed grass making out the stadium lights in front of the trees behind a metal gate that guarded more one-story houses and a swing set in its backyard. I searched around for a playground, maybe a swing set that I could get on and lose my mind too and I kept walking across the field and then around their building for a swing set or a slide that led to one and it got darker and darker because the street lamps grew dimmer dimmer since there were none near by and I stopped and turned around. I thought I’d heard voices, footsteps, whispers following behind me but thought nothing of it and just walked faster and faster as I got to back to the main street again, back to the road where the street lamps were lit and back to the corner eventually where there was that bar. The cars were going fast and there were one or two taxis speeding along the cross road in front of a motel and then more one-story houses to the right as I walked past them and the wind picked up a few times and I watched it go through the leaves of the trees first and then felt it when it came my way pretty fast. I walked and walked, walked some more till I got back towards around where I lived, cutting through some small neighborhoods that I’d cut through before. But I walked up to J’s house when I’d turned a corner and came up to the east side of our roads and up three blocks. His house lights were on in the front and there was that red Chevy parked out in front and his truck park behind it and I could see the bay window lights on too and the shadows blue, red, and green shadows reflecting off the window sill from a TV maybe somewhere towards the front of his parent’s living room. I imagined wooden coasters and macaroni soufflé and what I wanted them to have for dinner and I took out a cigarette from my front pocket and smoked to the left of the metal gate where it’s owner had come out to look for his cat a few nights back. I leaned on it now and looked upwards towards where I thought J’s room was, all lit up maybe hot from the heat, wooden paneling on the walls and CD cases littered against the baseboard that ran behind a twin bed. Of course I was just imagining all this, I hadn’t been up there. I puffed and sucked in and thought next about the closet and the aftershave in his bathroom and then about who else lived there and his brother or sister’s room or if there was an invalid, like a sick grandfather living at the other end of the hall and I sucked my cigarette in more. Did they have a pool? Did he have parties when his folks left? I walked up the side of their garage because I’d done this before and no one had caught me and I listened for the jingle from the wind chimes and didn’t hear them because the air was kind of stale tonight and so I looked up towards the second story window, waiting. I heard music from way off and I convinced myself that it was coming from him and that he was playing it somewhere off and then I heard a door slam and saw the top bald head of someone who moved forward through that small space come up to the window so that I saw him. I was stunned when I heard a garage door opening behind me and I stood still for a minute not knowing what to do till I realized that I should at least duck down and look out of harm’s way. I stared down from where I squatted on the grass towards my garage and my house across the way and I saw one distant light still on in my parent’s room and loathed going back. It was the weekend. They wouldn’t care. I took another puff of my cigarette and put it out on a cement block that served as a step towards the side door to their garage and stood back up looking up towards J’s room. He came over by the window and pulled it up and I said something out loud that came out like a squeak but that couldn’t be heard and so he didn’t hear me and he walked away and I heard the music go up louder and I walked back further and further until I bumped into the silver gate to their next door neighbor’s yard behind me trying to see up to J’s room and get a glimpse of him to make eye contact again. The figure upstairs kept going back forth, finding things, picking up, sitting down eventually and I heard other sounds like a synthesizer or a keyboard coming from the window. I took out another cigarette and fingered for a lighter in my left pocket until I dropped it on the ground next to a small rock. So I got up the nerve to toss the rock towards J’s window to make a sound but of course it went through startling the synthesizer music and turning down the other music playing on a stereo. The figure from the room walked slowly around maybe making out where it came from and then it walked towards me towards the side of his window and peering down where I stood and I stood there looking straight up at him at his forehead and his black t-shirt, at his hardened knuckles clasped over his sill and of his look that made me feel like I was the only one he was seeing anywhere, that I was the only one he was thinking about. My cigarette fell out of my hands and I thought in time to put it out before asking him to invite me up to hear some of his songs.