You thought just because I’m gallivanting in Europe means that I won’t be posting this series?! Think again y’all. When we left off last, I just attended homecoming with this guy, Michael, and we had yet to seal the deal as boyfriend and girlfriend.
To me, in high school, having a boyfriend wasn’t the end all be all, by any means. I was very concentrated on school, theater, dance, soccer, and getting home to watch Total Request Live on MTV. I also watched 106 and Park on BET. I always liked rap and really felt like I could identify with the streets of Brooklyn going to an all girl’s Catholic school.
I’d like to note, I still own the Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt I mention below. You’ll see why.
Anyway, let’s get back to the story.
Part 5 starts now:
I was still on a Homecoming high the next few weeks. I floated through class, without a care. I didn’t even really mind that I was cast as a man in one of our high school plays. I invited Michael to attend the play but he couldn’t because he said he was “out of town.”
We were hanging out often. So often in fact, I was getting suspicious that he would never actually ask me to be his girlfriend.
The Texas November weather meant wearing jean skirts and chunky sweaters. Now, more than ever, I felt like our relationship was heading in the right direction. I was content but still wanting to know what we were.
It was Monday, and I was inundated with tests, papers due, homework to finish, and lines to memorize for the next play. Michael asked to meet at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Neither of us cared for coffee, but I adored their hot apple spice and he preferred the hot cocoa.
He came to pick me up after school, but I had enough time to go home and spruce up my frizzy ponytail and dab on some vanilla scented perfume, blush, and mascara.
I hopped out of the car, and he grabbed both my hands and looked me in the eyes, “You look so nice.”
Nice?! Like I have a nice personality? I thought.
Then all thoughts were silenced when he kissed me on the forehead, the end all be all of kisses. This is the kind of kiss that is serious. It’s a show of real affection in my book.
He ordered his drink, then turned to me, “My girlfriend will have, I mean, umm, she will have…Helene, what do you want?”
Did he just say girlfriend? I wondered why he would use that term when he knew I wasn’t that yet. I spluttered, “An apple spice, please.”
I felt giddy that he would even think to use that term, especially at such a public place. Michael asked if I could come over in a couple days to his house. Wednesday nights his Mom had choir practice, so we could hang out, just the two of us. I was pretty sure Michael wasn’t allowed to have a girl over, alone, with his mom gone, she was very strict. But I was too excited to care. I said yes and we kissed goodbye.
I went home and began outfit planning for the next day. I needed to look casual. I needed to look cute. I wanted to look like I didn’t care but that I was well kept together. I settled for a baby blue Abercrombie & Fitch graphic tee that read, “If I kiss him, will he stop talking?” Perfect. Look how funny and clever I am.
The next day I told my friends that I was going over to Michael’s house.
“I think he might ask me to be his girlfriend.” I announced at lunch to the table.
We went back and forth over the options and opportunities for failure. Lunch tables in high school, especially at an all girl’s school, are for strategizing. Who should we go to homecoming with? Where can we get booze? Where is the party this weekend? Why are we getting so much homework? Who stole who’s boyfriend and what are we going to do about it?
After school was theater practice, and it was a doozy. We were blocking for Our Hearts Were Young and Gay and I had one of the lead roles. I would be there until at least 9pm that night and I would try to write my essay on the book The Heart of Darkness in between times.
I was just writing “Honorbound”, as required, at the top of the page, when my phone buzzed. It was Michael.
“Hey, it’s Michael.”
“Hey, what’s up?”
“I don’t know. I’m just thinking. I just want to be honest with you, you know.”
“Um yeah…” I said. What is he thinking? He is making me really nervous. I walked outside the Theater to the dark, cool night air. I wrapped my arm around the other to keep warm.
“Well, here’s the thing. You know Valerie?”
Do I know Valerie? Is he kidding?
“Yes, Michael, I know Valerie,” I answered. The one that wanted a piggy back ride. The one that all of sudden liked Michael, right when I showed interest.
“Well you know, I think she likes me. And I used to like her. But I like you. I really do. But I also still kind of like her. You see, I liked her for a long time, and she never showed any interest. Then all of sudden she did. And it was kind of nice. So I mean, I don’t know. I like you. But I also kind of like her,” he rambled.
I no longer needed my arm to warm me up, I am getting hot just thinking about her. I began, “If you’re asking me to help you choose between her and me, I’m not playing games.”
Infuriated, I hung up, without niceties. I guess he wasn’t going to ask me to be his girlfriend after all.
I went home and ate my favorite meal: a Marie Calendar’s Chicken Pot Pie. I ate the whole thing then got into bed, draping my clothes all over the room.
I checked my phone one last time. Missed called from Michael: seven. Serves him right. I wasn’t going to call him back. No way. I was still too fired up to go to sleep, so I decided to play an intense game of “Snake” on my phone.
The bright gray screen lit up my face as I started the game. I couldn’t concentrate. I kept thinking about this stupid guy who couldn’t choose between me and some dumb girl. Why wouldn’t you want to be with me? I am pretty awesome. Sure, I can be short tempered. Yes, I speak my mind. But I’m fun, right?
After three games of Snake I couldn’t take it anymore. I am calling Michael. He picked up on the first ring.
“Hi,” I answered.
“So I just wanted to say sorry.”
“Okay. Good,” I said.
“I don’t know what I was thinking. I know I can’t take back what I said. But I do want you to know I like you. I like like you. I know that’s dumb to say. But it’s true. Will you still come over tomorrow?” he asked.
“I guess so,” I grunted. I am still mad. I hope he knows I’m still mad. Maybe I need to make it more clear.
The silence filled the line for a few moments.
I decided he needed to know, “You know, I’m mad. This is kind of rude.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m a guy. Sometimes we don’t think.”
“Well I’m glad you know it,” I smiled. I didn’t want to give in. But dammit, he was making me.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “tomorrow.”
I drifted to sleep, the phone on my pillow.
It was Wednesday. Today I’d find out whether or not this guy was for real or not. I spent the day scratching at my fingernail polish and checking the time, counting down the minutes until the final school bell rang.
When I got home, I changed, quickly finished some math homework that I’d probably get a C on, and headed to my parents room. Both my parents are college professors and my Mom was always home by the time my sisters and I left school at 3pm.
I threw myself on the bed as my mom typed away on her laptop.
“Yes, Helene,” Mom said, pushing her red half moon glasses farther down her nose. I tended to be a bit dramatic.
“Why are boys the absolute worst?” I asked.
“You’re just now figuring this out?” She wondered. “Helene they are the worst but also the best. You just have to communicate. That’s the secret to everything.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re a communications professor,” I countered. “I really can’t tell if Michael is just stringing me along or if he really does like me.”
“Well, you’ll know soon enough,” she said wisely.
I left in my 1998 Honda Accord, blasting the heat, listening to JoJo’s “How to touch a Girl” as I rounded out of the driveway. I belted out the lyrics as I turned onto the 635 Freeway.
It’s almost Christmas time. It would be so nice to have a boyfriend at Christmas. I thought about all the fun things boyfriends do around Christmas. Then I thought how I’d have to get the stupid boy a gift and how awful that would be. How terrible. Maybe I don’t even want a boyfriend.
I pulled onto his street and parked in front of his two story house. I checked my teeth in the mirror, then walked up to the front, pulling down my A&F graphic t-shirt.
Before I could knock he opened the door.
“Hey,” I said.
“I was waiting for you to come. Do you want a Diet Coke?” he asked. I love Diet Coke.
“Sure!” I enthused. I really didn’t want one. But I decided it was too nice to say no to.
We went into the living room where we sat on rose patterned covered couches and turned on the TV. I watched intently, sipping on my Coke, and focusing on sitting up straight.
Michael laid his head in my lap and I began to relax a little.
“You have great hair. And your eyelashes are so long. That’s not really fair, you know,” I said while watching the T.V.
“I have something to ask you,” he said, sitting up.
“Okay,” I said casually but my heart started beating faster.
“Helene, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you the past few months.”
This guy was being so formal. Why is he being so formal? Is he about to tell me I have a tumor? Are we at the doctor’s office?
He started again, “Anyway…what I wanted to ask was. Well. Would you be my girlfriend?”
I smiled so big, he probably already knew the answer. I declared it anyway, “Yes!”
I went home that night and screamed upon entering the house.
“I just want you all to know that I have a boyfriend.”
My sisters sat, looking at me in bewilderment.
“Okay, Helene,” Emma said, glancing at her twin and rolling her eyes.
“I just feel really bad for you,” I continued. “You see, I have a boyfriend. I am dating Michael. I don’t know what you’re doing with your 10-year-old life, but I have plans. And Michael is one of them.” I pranced around the room.
“That’s great LeeLee,” my Dad cajoled, still reading from his laptop.
I proceeded to call of my friends, screeching into the phone each time someone picked up.
I really was on cloud nine. I didn’t care about Valerie, tests, math homework, essays, or memorizing lines. I was just happy to be a girlfriend. And dammit if I wasn’t already falling in love.