Friday, April 17, 2009

Snake handlers and Blonds

Looks like I can't post the chapter. For whatever reason, Blogger doesn't like the text and hairballs the whole thing. So... until I figure a way around it, I guess it stays off the web.

Meanwhile, since someone asked, let me tell you about the twins.

My senior year in high school, I went through an ugly breakup with the girl I'd been dating. Shortly after the break-up, I got a job over in the next county at a steakhouse. I washed dishes, but it was better than that. I was hanging out with a lot of college kids and people from Blacksburg. I didn't have any history with them. I wasn't the weird kid with the silly role playing game books. Nobody cared who my parents were or how much money I had. I wasn't remembered as "Susan's stupid brother" (the words were uttered on more than one occasion) or the goon with the on again/off again stammer. I got a clean slate and I relaxed (Which also reduced the stammer). I was just a kid who worked real hard, had his funny moments but was generally very likable.

Anyway, my first day, I met Angie. She was this slender, athletic blond (later, I found out she was a cheerleader) who had started the day before. She was friendly, funny and very, very smart. We hit it off incredibly well.

The second day, I met Traci. They were identical twins. Angie came in one day. Traci was there the next. Angie hadn't mentioned she had a twin. So, I'm very friendly and goofy and Traci is sort of staring at me, wondering who the hell I am. Eventually, it all unraveled itself. It was all explained. The joke, for them, was a familiar one.

We became friends and they were great. I was closer to Angie. In truth, I had a massive crush on her and maybe she liked me a little, too. We never moved into that direction. I was a coward, never pressed the issue, never even tried. The only thing that came out of my thinking about getting to know Angie better was I took up smoking. At parties, we'd talk and cut up, but after she had a couple of beers, she'd want a cigarette. Off she would go, in search of one. This broke up our conversation. So, I took up smoking. I bought the brand she liked, went home and asked my then 15 year-old sister how to smoke. She always knew these things.

Anyway, with Angie, I think there might have been a couple of openings for something more substantial than friends, but I was 17 and a goon --as opposed to the suave sophisticate I became. I was just intimidated by her being so smart, so funny and so amazingly pretty. She may have figured this out, too.

I didn't go to prom. There was no one I wanted to ask and that's the truth. At the time, all I wanted was to get the hell out of school and go someplace else --any place. I think if I could have lived in the parking lot of the steak house and not come home those last few months, I would have. By then, the only place I was really happy was at work, where I'd see Angie and Traci some of the time.

Prom night, I didn't make a big deal about it. I didn't tell anyone at work I wasn't going. I didn't ask for any time off and I don't know for sure if Angie and Traci knew, but it was a Saturday night. We finished up late, as usual. I was covered in slime, but they asked me if I was doing anything after. So, after the boss cut me loose, I met them out in the parking lot. We road around back roads, drank wine coolers and listened to a mix tape. Traci and a friend, whose name escapes me, sat in front. Angie was in back with me. I remember she sat very close to me and smelled like flowers, while I reeked of hamburger and bleach.

I don't know how long we were out. We had some laughs, listened to some music, drank sparingly, then eventually it was time to part ways. Before she got out of the car (we dropped the twins off), Angie kissed me on the jaw, just beside my ear, and told me good-night. The driver took me back to my car and I went home. My whole body was humming. It took me hours to get to sleep.

Eventually the twins quit the steakhouse and I left for the formative, but disastrous year in Tennessee. We were going to keep in touch, but we drifted after I took a semester off. I felt a bit ashamed to be out of school while they were still working on becoming accountants or whatever it was they were doing. I felt failed and lost.

It wasn't until six months ago, when I started screwing around with Facebook that I got in touch with Traci. I went looking for both of them. Traci and I exchanged a few e-mails, but they sort of faded out. I didn't ask about her sister. Twenty years is a long time and it would kill me if she didn't remember me quite as well as I remember her. I'd really like to think someone remembers me, not as a goofball, but as a sweet kid, who liked to make people laugh and wasn't the troll he believed himself to be. At least, this is how I hope she remembers me.

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