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Thursday, 17 May
Track And Field

After my freshman year in college, I of course returned home to Idaho for the summer break. I worked a couple of jobs; one for the Forest Service doing something called "P-line surveying," which is exactly as exciting as it sounds; and occasionally (read: always) filling in on Saturday morning shifts at the sawmill doing cleanup, which is also thrilling: Oh boy! Several tons of wet bark! Let's . . . pick it up and move it somewhere else!

But I did manage to fit in a little recreation. And this being Idaho, the emphasis there would be on "little." But there were always the dances! Why? Nobody had any idea, but looking back, I would have to guess that it was a safety measure to get all of us desperately bored little assholes rounded up in one easily monitored place rather than have us do the alternative, which was to drive around like maniacs all night while drinking heavily.

The dances were simple to set up: Find a community center, or an old armory, or a skating rink, or a charnel house, and then play music, and wait for the drunk teens to show up and listlessly shuffle around for a couple hours before shuffling off for a couple hours of (the boys hoped) listless coupling. It was a remarkably successful strategy, if only because--we would never admit it at the time, but it was painfully obvious--that simply driving around on dirt roads and getting loaded is a profoundly depressing thing to do on a Saturday night.

As I said, I was back home from my first year in college, which I had spent madly and determinedly utterly reinventing myself from "pathetic hick geek/unclassifiable pariah" to "manic, mouthy idiot/unclassifiable buttinsky." In this I must say I was remarkably successful. One of the things I had made sure to do while away was take notice of how guys outside of rural areas danced: that is to say, I noticed that these guys actually moved, rather than sullenly shifting from one foot to the other in a circle, which is how all guys danced in Idaho--gloomily orbiting the girls (who cheerfully shimmied all they wanted), doomed electrons unable to de-quantize that one last step and pile into the nucleus of the whole thing.

Fuck that! At college--where nobody knew me or the shambling thing I had formerly been on dance floors since abandoned--I cut loose and really let it loose. I was unstoppable, and threw myself into every beat like a wino throws himself at an unattended beer truck. I was limber and loose-limbed; I vividly remember one night doing an immortal sideways pogo of sorts to "Dancing With Myself" and smacking my skull into a co-ed's nose, resulting in an impressive shower of gore. My friend J. remarked later, "I have to tell you that I love to watch you dance." With all the not-getting-it-ism of the truly stupid, at the time, I thought this was a genuine compliment.

I brought these newfound skills back home with me that summer, and one night in Greenwood, I let it fucking loose. I didn't break anyone's nose that night, but I was on fire. Looking at me at the time, actually, one might reasonably conclude that I really was actually on fire.

You see, I was still a terrible dancer, and I remain so to this day. I move like a duck on a hot plate, but I'm not that tall and pretty skinny, so my limbs fly around like several strands of overcooked pasta caught in a strong crosswind. But that night, I hadn't a care. I flailed around unfunkily to horrors while the rest of the dancers stared at me as if I'd gotten an expired inoculation. I'm different than I was! I thought, and I liked showing it. He's still so lame, but in a much weirder way, everyone else thought.

Then something unprecedented happened. In fact, nothing like it has ever happened to me since. A girl approached me during a break.

A pretty girl. She was leggy and lissome and confident and blonde and why was she talking to me? I wiped sweat off of my brow. "Hi," she said. "You can dance! Nobody else here knows how to dance."

"Thanks," I croaked. I introduced myself and promptly held out my now-sweaty hand, which she shook; it must have been like grabbing a raw chicken leg, and I cursed myself inwardly. But she was still smiling. "My name is N. You want to dance when they start the music again? I'm sick of dancing with these rednecks."

Well.

You have to understand that no woman has ever really approached me in this way, least of all while I've been perpetrating some dance crimes, unless it's to worriedly say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were being electrocuted" or "Are you a performance artist?" So this was really new. We danced together for pretty much the rest of the night, and I was suddenly getting new looks from everyone else: What in the fuck can possibly be happening over there? Is the world ending? She was beautiful, and we danced on.

At the end of the evening, she pressed a piece of paper into my hand: her phone number, about thirty minutes away in another town. I found out something else: she was also home from school in Eugene, Oregon--not too far away from where I went to school, in Salem. "Call me tomorrow," she purred. "I want to go out. You'll call me?"

Well.

Of course I called her. I may have been an astonishingly awful dancer, but I wasn't insane, and plus, she didn't seem to notice the bizarre carny geek aspect to my dancing, so. Being around this creature--she's in my car!--emboldened me, gave me confidence I'd never felt before, least of all in this town where I had basically grown up, feeling all the time like some fucking gargoyle of Idaho, a medieval thing dropped down somewhere I had never belonged.

"Let's get some beer," she said. I gulped, but pulled into a gas station convenience store. This is never going to fly, I thought as I nervously grabbed a six-pack. I took it to the counter, and the blocklike woman stared flintily at me as I smiled and held out a ten. Then she glanced out at my horrible car parked right out front in the window. N. lazed calmly in the passenger seat. The clerk looked at me again, drawing out her stare. Did a ghost of a smile touch her lips? She took my money and said, "You have a good night now."

"I will!" I practically screamed as I exited triumphantly, and then she did smile.

The rest of the evening unfolded just like you're thinking right now. "I have to go back to Eugene tomorrow," she told me while sipping her beer. She didn't look at me while I drove. She curled her legs under herself in the seat. "Will you call me when you get to Salem?"

"Of course I will," I said, meaning it.

"Take me somewhere to look at the moon."

Well.

So, in a fog, a fog not unlike the fog of uncertainty generated by the dubious heat of my unfortunate dancing, I drove us to the track field at my high school, where, yes, we fucked like only the young can fuck: loudly; vigorously; ineptly; quickly. I noted with some amusement in the morning that my underwear was a violent, rubbed-in green; I also noted with some quick yelps in the shower that N. had mercilessly raked my back with her nails.

I drove her home in the middle of the night, and sure enough, she left the next day. As promised, she had given me her phone number in Eugene. I dreamed of her for days. Being back home was a burden on me anyway, what with the unpleasant jobs and not being able to further reinvent myself back at school. I chafed at being home, and I'm sure I was an intolerable dick the entire summer. Fortunately for everyone, I was working too hard to really bug anybody for too long.

I got back to Salem, finally, that dead turd of a town (though I thought of it as Mecca). And I called N., who picked up on the second ring.

"Oh my God! I wasn't sure you were going to call!"

I puffed out my chest. "Of course I was going to call. I told you."

"I got us Grateful Dead tickets! All you have to do is come down here."

I felt a spear of ice in my chest. I hate the Grateful Dead.

"Oh! Um . . . okay."

"And I've cleared out some room for you."

Alarm bells were ringing.

"What?" The world was tilting dangerously now.

"I cleared out some space. I thought you were coming down. I cleared out some space so you could move in."

Holy fuck.

"N. . . . I can't move in with you. I like you a lot, but . . . N., we spent a couple nights together. This is starting to freak me out. I'd love to see you, but we . . . we're not . . . this is really weird."

(I'm leaving out a bunch of stuff about how I awesomely was starting to get back together with a different girl with whom I had enjoyed a previous relationship with, and so you can see how nightmarish this was getting, and it may have been all my fault.)

I have no finish to this story. Some stories don't. And they're usually awful.

I remember this one as being awful. She hung up on me, in tears. I never heard from her again.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

You had me at the physics reference.

Comment number: 013966   Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' on May 18, 2007 05:50 AM from IP: 152.17.113.58

College is, honestly, the time for getting into weird, fucked-up relationships. Well, that's what happened to me, anyway.

Comment number: 013968   Posted by: IanJ on May 18, 2007 09:20 AM from IP: 192.150.22.5

The hot ones are always crazy. At that age anyway, before the madness begins to make their visage twist & sag.

I wanted to be crazy; I though it would make me sexier. However, I was cursed with a frustrating level of excellent mental health.

Comment number: 013971   Posted by: Peggy on May 18, 2007 11:13 AM from IP: 128.95.169.35

She be crazy. But it could have been one of those crazy, passionate, breaking up and getting back together, scarring realtionship that haunts you for years and leaves you messed up in the head.

Comment number: 013973   Posted by: panajane on May 18, 2007 05:01 PM from IP: 200.86.9.61

Like Peg, I am cursed with a frustrating level of mental health, however, I am also an unrelievedly guilty individual. For two decades I have lived with much the same level of self awareness as you espouse here, Skot, on this shining testimony to abject humanity. I thought I was the only one experiencing it in quite this way.
Thanks for once again making me feel less separate, and more normal. You write so beautifully.

Comment number: 013981   Posted by: Alyxmyself on May 19, 2007 11:51 AM from IP: 68.201.0.251

I'm surprised you never heard from her again. I would have expected her to show up on your doorstep with a knife.

Comment number: 014012   Posted by: Kate on May 22, 2007 09:57 PM from IP: 70.132.7.150

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