I am wrote this post last week, but it’s interesting that I’ve started this series at this time. One person played a huge role in my life for the past 12 years and that was Michael’s mom, Jan. Last night, she passed away. The best way I can describe everything is: gracefully. She died peacefully with her family nearby. Michael handled this whole horrible experience gracefully. I am so proud to be around someone so incredible.
In case you’re just tuning in, I’ve decided to go back to my roots and why I got into blogging in the first place, the story. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, catch up right here.
I feel like she would want me to continue the story, so here we go….
As a high school senior, I’ve had multiple boyfriends, and so therefore experienced in knowing what I want in a partner — someone who likes to go to movies just to eat popcorn, will let me show them my new dance moves on a regular basis, someone funny, smart, cute and who tells me I’m right 98 percent of the time. Piece ‘a cake.
At 17, I feel certain of what I want out of life. I will go into theater after my sure-to-be-brilliant last year of high school. I will attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas, even though I have yet to submit my application or take my SATs. (My parents are professors there, so no biggie.) I will own a dog or two, have a nice house and 2.5 kids.
I am, however, not certain that I will get asked to the homecoming dance, which is all I can think about.
It’s senior year of high school. I’m nervous. I have some guys in mind but they are just friends. And I want to go with someone I like.
My friend Christina and I pull into the parking lot of Ursuline Academy. We’re running late, per usual, and we shuffle our books in our bags as we pass the lifesize statue of the Virgin Mary and open the white, wide double doors. Girls clad in red and blue plaid skirts, scuffed saddle-oxfords, drowsy faces, and unkempt hair roam the hall as the first bell rings.
I struggle to listen during the first two periods before I have a free. I have big plans for my free time. I’m going to get some cookies before starting on a paper I’ve been procrastinating about for days. I grab my backpack and head into a classroom filled with girls slumped in chairs, listening to music, chatting, or typing on a computer. Melinda Gates went to Ursuline, so with the help of the Gates Foundation, we’re one of the first U.S. schools required to have laptops. That’s pretty cool since it allows us to easily chat with each other on AIM throughout the day. As long as we remember to mute our speakers.
I open up a web browser and Microsoft Word. The blank screen stares back at me. The menacing cursor blinks at the top left of the page. I type my name, date, and “HONORBOUND” on the top of the page. It’s compulsory for all students to write honorbound, so as to declare that we are not cheating.
A familiar sound emanates from my laptop — a “doodle loop” as someone messages me on AIM. It is none other than “ozweego87,” Michael’s screen name.
ozweego87: Hey what’s up?
roxiebhart: Nothing much, just in free period.
My screen name is a mix of my two current favorite beings, Roxie Hart of the play “Chicago” and the B is for none other than Britney Spears.
ozweego87: Are you free tonight?
I look around the room and smile. I know that I should play it cool and be hard to get. But I just can’t help thinking about him. Since the summer we’ve hung out a handful of times, always in big groups. He called me on the phone once, on the way to his farm in South Texas and we spoke for hours, but this is more serious. He’s asking me if I’m available and I’m not going to play games.
roxiebhart: I’m completely free.
I hit enter and wait for him to type back. Today is Friday. That means there is a football game at Jesuit, our brother school, the school where Michael attends. Is he is asking me to a football game? I can feel the butterflies in my stomach.
ozweego87: Are you going to the game?
roxiebhart: Yeah! I was thinking of going.
ozweego87: Okay, do you want to go together?
roxiebhart: That sounds good.
ozweego87: Pick you up around 6.
I consciously avoid inserting 100 exclamation points.
roxiebhart: Sure. Yeah.
The bell rings. I pack up my stuff and count down the minutes until I can go home and get ready for tonight.
Christina drops me off after I tell her every detail of our short AIM conversation. I hustle inside, screaming, “MOOOOOOOM,” as soon as I open our red front door.
“What in the world, Helene?”
“I have a date tonight.”
My 10-year-old twin sisters look up from watching Nickelodeon.
“Oooh, a date!” they chime in unison.
“I do not have time to talk. I have to get ready,” I announce.
“It’s only 4, Helene,” Mom smiles.
“Yes, I have a lot to do.”
I skip off to my room to peruse my closet —jean skirt, obviously, black top, and my new multi-strand pearl necklace.
I spend 45 minutes on makeup — perfecting my eyeliner and mascara.
“Isn’t that necklace a little fancy for a football game?” Mom wonders.
I narrow my eyes, “No. Don’t stress me out.”
“You look great Lee Lee,” Dad says, patting me on the back, then returning to his New York Times.
The doorbell rings promptly at 6 p.m. Michael, in a blue polo shirt, shuffles his feet and straightens when I open the door. We hop into his red truck parked in the shade in front of my parents’ house. “Mr. Brightside” plays on the radio and I find myself at ease enough to sing along.
“You have a good voice!” he says.
I immediately stop singing, turning red. “Haha, no I don’t.”
“Aren’t you in theater?”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I can sing.”
He helps me out of the truck and we head toward the bright lights high above the football field. The noise from the crowd is already booming as players in white, navy, gold stretch on the field. I can hear the fair cheering of “Jesuit Rangers FIGHT!” I don’t care much for football, but there is something magical about a high school football game on a Friday night.
Michael buys our tickets and we sit with our friends in the stands. The bleachers feel cold on my bare legs.
We chat with friends while staying close together the whole night. After the game ends we all head to everyone’s favorite hangout: Sonic. We all park and mingle around our cars. We buy sweet, slushy drinks that taste good with vodka, which most seniors liberally.
The night is wonderful. I’m smiling and laughing. Until, SHE comes up.
“Oh hey, Michael,” she puts emphasis on the “l.”
This tall, lanky brunette with stars in her eyes is a known flirt. What’s she doing talking to him?
“Can I get a piggy back ride?”
I’m thinking, Bitch what?! Is she even sober?
To my absolute horror, Michael obliges. He actually gets up and lets her mount his back.
I’m furious. I go over to my girl friends. I am not putting up with this nonsense.
“Can you take me home?” I ask a friend.
I go home and am stewing with rage. How rude of him! How rude of her! Well, I guess that’s it. I am not going to watch as some other girl gets a piggyback ride with my date.
After about 15 minutes home, a text flashes on my Nokia phone.
Michael: Where did you go?
Michael: Oh, well you didn’t tell me.
Me: You were giving Valerie a piggyback ride.
Michael: Oh yeah. Well what are you doing tomorrow?
Okay, Helene, hang tough. He just gave some slut a piggyback ride. No. Nope. Nope.
Me: I don’t know yet.
Michael: Want to go to a movie?
Well, I do need a homecoming date. And he is so cute.
Me: What movie? I don’t go to scary movies.
Michael: Yeah, me either. “Friday Night Lights.”
Me: Oh, umm, yeah.
Michael: Great, a group is going.
Me: I’ll meet you there.
I am not having him pick me up. What if SHE is there again? What if she isn’t? Man, he has great hair.
I go to the movie. We sit together. He holds my hand and I feel myself melting. After the movie we head into the lobby of the theater, where everyone is chatting. The topic of homecoming comes up.
Someone asks, “It’s ‘70s themed, right?”
“Yeah! I’m wearing bell bottoms,” a guy says.
“Michael, are you going? Or are you going to be a cheapskate and not go?”
Everyone looks up at him. He’s 6’2,” so up is appropriate.
“I haven’t decided.”
My heart sinks. He hasn’t decided? Is he cheap? But this is HOMECOMING. Of our SENIOR year. What’s wrong with this guy? Maybe he’s not my type.
At home I’m grappling about who to go with to homecoming. And I AM going, no matter what. The phone rings. It’s Michael.
“I had fun with you tonight.”
“Me too,” I reply, sulking about homecoming.
“Well, have a good night. Can we hang out next week?”
This guy is toying with my emotions. Still, I agree to see him again and we hang up.
Clearly I have a major crush on this guy, but I’m confused. Should I keep talking to this twerp when what I need to be doing is zeroing in on a potential homecoming date? Hmmmmm.