How did I get into blogging? People often ask me this. And I realized recently that I sort of lost sight of what drew me to it in the first place. Then the other night I had a dream that cryptically planted an idea for writing this series. No, really. So today I’m stepping a bit outside of my usual Helene-in-Between post to reach back to where I started. And I’d love to know what you think, even if you feel this is the worst idea ever.
I first began this blog when I was working in Special Events at Dave and Buster’s corporate headquarters in Dallas. My first job out of college, I was intent on being the best on the team of 16 or so. During our down time I cruised the Internet, mostly reading blogs. One blog I liked in particular was “Tales of a Fairytale” or something like that. It chronicled the story of how one girl met and fell in love with her boyfriend.
Everyday I waited impatiently for her to post. I savored each word, wanting to know more. I felt I was part of her story. I wanted to connect with others through the written word like that. So I got into blogging. To me that was, and is, incredibly powerful.
So in an effort to revisit what originally drew me into blogging, I’ve decided to launch a new series. And it starts today. Hopefully, every Thursday I will be back with more of the story. I’d love to know if you hate or like this idea. As always, I value your feedback.
I wipe beads of sweat off my upper lip and turn up the air in my white 1998 Honda Accord. It’s 9 p.m. and my lace-up jean skirt sticks to the back of my legs as I position the rear view mirror to check my makeup.
It is 2004, the summer before my senior year at Ursuline high school. Life feels squarely in the palm of my hands. My parents trust me, I make decent grades, I am involved in theater, soccer, and I have down-to-earth friends. The kind who parents aren’t worried that we might be off doing drugs. I don’t have curfew because all my other friends do and I’m usually the one driving anyway, so I’m home at a reasonable hour.
At every stage of my life, I’ve had, what I thought to be, a solid sense of self. I felt I knew who I was and what I wanted. Growing up Catholic, with a concrete family foundation, I considered my life was as it should be. Sure, I pondered the future, but mostly I was content. I was sure that a successful career, big house, dogs, children, were what life was all about. I never gave much thought to what I wanted. I figured it was all in the bag.
This summer I plan to go to as many concerts as possible and talk to as many boys as possible. I am on my way to mission accomplished after attending a KISS FM concert with my girlfriends, where I talked to a boy in a hat and sunglasses. Which means he must be interesting to care so much about sun protection at night.
Tonight I am going to my usual Friday night spot at Zevo’s — the designated party house since his mom is usually not there or seems to just not care that 50 + under-aged teens are drinking out of a beer bong and playing tinny pop music at ear-shattering decibels.
I listen to Ciara’s “Goodies” for the millionth time as I round down the streets of Dallas, picking up a few friends — all living in the same zip code. We wouldn’t dream of entering the party alone, despite knowing all attendees. We all wear various styles of jean skirts, Hollister shirts or tank tops, flip-flops, too much bronzer, and lip-gloss.
Despite my 5’2″ stature I don’t consider myself short. I breeze into the party, greeting everyone I see. I don’t drink much, if at all. Not because I’m worried about getting into trouble. I genuinely despise the only drink available: beer. I generally have a better time when I’m not plastered. And I have no qualms about dancing — by myself or with others — and am loud enough sober. Or so I’m told.
The usual suspects are here tonight. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until I see them — a group of unfamiliar boys standing on the deck in the yard. They are smoking CIGARS. What the hell are they doing? They look kind of cute. Who are these people?
I admit to having a high school chip on my shoulder. I attend a prestigious all girl’s Catholic school and as an almost senior I know pretty much everyone. Our brother school, Jesuit, is more fun and just as prestigious. And figure I know most of them, too. So I’m baffled at these strange, somewhat cute, cigar-smoking boys who I cannot place.
“Colleen,” I inquire, “who are they?”
She’s at least three beers deep and has enough courage to say, “I don’t know, let’s go find out.”
We saunter over and I still have that puzzled look on my face. I have no problem talking to anyone: adults, 3-year-olds who need to go to bed, right now! (I babysat a lot), middle-aged single parents who’ve had too much sun (I worked as a lifeguard), and boys. I attempt to be funny or sarcastic when speaking to the opposite sex, which often comes out awkward and/or rude. I usually don’t care because I’m not trying to fall in love or anything. But I do feel a bit off. Like I’m not sure what to open with. I can’t decide if it’s the temperature or my nerves creating moisture under my bra line. I look down to check if you can see the sweat on my shirt. I’m in the clear.
“Who are you?” I ask, peering through their ridiculous cigar smoke.
“I’m Michael,” he extends a hand to shake. Who shakes hands at a high school party?
“Hey I’m Garrett.” Formal greetings are exchanged and Colleen and I spend the rest of the evening chatting to the two newcomers who, turns out, aren’t new at all. They attend Jesuit, our brother school. But why haven’t I seen them? I still can’t figure it out.
We spend a few hours chatting about music and beer and senior year. Then Michael lets me know that he needs to drop his friends off before curfew.
“Oh, what’s your curfew?” I ask.
“I don’t have one, but they do, so I have to go,” Michael answers. Hmm, I think, he sounds like an upstanding cool guy. He has great hair. And he’s so tall! Okay, focus Helene.
“I understand that,” I laugh. “Have a good night.” I wave goodbye.
“Okay bye,” he turns and they exit the party.
I stand, a little dumbfound. He must not like me that much if he didn’t ask for my number.
It’s time for us to go, too, so I collect my girlfriends. I’m uncharacteristically quiet walking to the car, while my friends recount the night and the “new boys” we encountered. I’m about to cross the street to get into my car, when a black car with a busted headlight pulls up in front of us.
With the window slowly cranked down, apparently not an automatic, I see that it’s Michael in the driver’s seat. The car is packed with four other guys.
“Hey, um, what’s your number?” No pretense in his voice at all. Just a simple question, to which I give a simple answer. I lean in and tell him my number. He drives off.
I beam up at my friends. This might be the best summer yet.