There's something strange about writing in a moving vehicle: sometimes, if there's too much turbulence or a bump in the road, the writing suffers appearance-wise & you begin to think it's not worth it in the first place. Regardless, I shall try my first entry on a train tonight, as a necessary commentary on my first trip home from Kalamazoo... I stepped out into the Lisle Metra station parking lot Friday night at 8:22 PM Central time to find my brother motioning me over to the '95 Mercury. The train here was nothing special; I spent much of the time reading Henry Louis Gates' Colored People for C, R & E2, and only when I saw the images of Ron Magers & Carol Marin (WMAQ-TV anchors) on the Union Station walls, and the TIVOLI theatre marquee at the Downers Grove Metra stop did I start to feel the incipient pangs of weirdness. But getting into that green wagon of ours set my mind racing: I was finally home. Before I left, too, Gail Gr!ff!n3 had said to me, "Remember: home is a black-and-white Kansas" or some such thing, making an effective Wizard of Oz allusion -- but I wasn't about to let any pessimism stand in the way of progress. I peeked my head in my bedroom: how low my bed was! How bare, too, the place looked, strangely proportioned; quite familiar, but still odd. I sat at the kitchen table with the family, eating cereal (special care was taken to select a kind that Marriott would never have: Blueberry Morning won out) and running my mouth about all my classes, etc. Set my fingers down on the piano & remarked on the fact that it was still painfully out-of-tune, as always, but still retained a certain charm. "Someone to Watch Over Me" was opened before my eyes, as it was when I left it.
After all the preliminaries described as above, I asked for the car keys & at 9:52 or so, headed off to Bolingbrook High School, where my Homecoming date & countless other friendly souls would be, decorating for the night to come. The night road was weird: driving, for one, was an activity I had not partaken in for a month's time, though it was hardly forgotten. The best phrase that I could apply to the experience was "eerily familiar" -- like the Boughton/Rte. 53 stoplight I slowed down at was for the millionth time; and yet there was some detachment with it, some sense that I simply shouldn't have been there. My mind daydreamed to Joe Hill4 cast members, and these thoughts, experienced while turning onto Blair Ln., created a strange juxtaposition of sorts. Alexia would make the comment later, in reference to herself, but more eloquently put than anything I've said (more concisely, more like): "I feel like I'm leading a double life." Exactly. Anyway, when I entered the door, there was Paul W3bst3r, Jas0n Cud3bec, &
Mandy Z3ppi3ri (what the fuck -- I just wrote Zippy) J0hn Wr1ght, the recently coronated Homecoming King -- which meant, then, that the plan worked out & my very own date, Miss Kr1st1ne Emi Pr0v05, was Homecoming Queen 1996! I was so happy for her -- it was such a breath of fresh air for two honors students to be royalty & I made such a comment upon seeing her & hugging her, for the first time in 3 weeks. Well, as it turned out, she was being quite busy with the various decorations & I ended up chatting w/ Jase for a majority of the 20 mins. I was there, before the custodial staff kicked everyone out. It was okay with me: we'd have plenty of time the next day, I figured, although her seeming lack of interest in my presence left me feeling less than satisfied.
When I came home, I soaked up this "new" environment in which I now found myself & called Stace to see if she wanted to possibly go to the game on Saturday. Of course, we talked for longer than for just that -- 2 1/2 hours, as it turned out, but even though she said her seeing me was possible, the conversation was somewhat undesirable. She talked about Hyles-Anderson, I talked about Kalamazoo, and back & forth just like that, till I began to think, "I'm at home now -- I just DON'T want to think about college" -- but at this point, it was the common denominator ... I fell asleep in my own bed that night and worke up in a still, quiet, light-filled room, myself the only occupant. I was awake at 9:30 am, and though I knew I had missed the parade (or would miss it, unless I drove over right away in my PJ's!), I went over to school an hour later, anyway & chatted w/ Chr1s Carl3y, Julie Dus3k, Diane Br3ining3r & other such folk about matters of trivial importance. Fast forward now to the game -- the first ever varsity football game at BHS these eyes have ever seen -- and though Stace had called me at home to say she couldn't make it, I felt somewhat glad, in light of the fact that Kristine would be there & the circumstances might be awkward. Plus, I was sitting next to Adam & Alexia, hardly poor company to be in -- it felt like the Comiskey Park trip the three of us had gone on this past June, where the actual action on the field took a backseat to whatever gossip & conversation we had in our seats. Midway through the 2nd quarter, I ventured down to where Kristine, as drum major, was standing; we exchanged some polite conversation & I met her Japanese grandmother, "Bachan" (a nickname, I gather). Arrangements for the night were made after BHS's 44-0 victory over Reavis; we hadn't actually had a good chance to sit down & talk, but that's what I figured I was spending the night at her house for -- and I was, too, Barb having suggested it all, and my parents allowing it, albeit grudgingly at first.
So this begins the section of the entry devoted to the Homecoming dance, a godawful roller coaster of emotions for yours truly -- and you'll understand the reasons shortly. Kristine showed no signs of ignoring me initially: the pictures taken at each of our houses went well; we were each cordial with the other's parents & in a generally good mood. "This is it," I said, as we walked into BHS, she in her simple but elegant black dress, hair styled up, cool shoes, my wrist corsage carefully placed on her arm. (I wore a grayish dress shirt, burgundy & silver-striped tie & slacks) "It's Homecoming!" -- as if to suggest that what we had been waiting for for the last month was finally here & wasn't life great? She kind of nodded and kept quiet, though I knew she had a lot on her mind as chair of the dance committee, so I didn't make a fuss about it. She had her picture taken w/ Mr. Wright, and when the rest of the students poured forth into the Commons, I took my place next to her in preparation for the danceable fun I was soon to have with her.
The first person I became jealous of was Collin, energetically sweating & bumping with my date, his hair all loose & shaking down his face. Granted, I'm not the type to "get all into it" like he is, but she didn't have to seem like she was enjoying his risque moves -- especially, and this is what initially bothered me, especially when any dancing she did with me around lacked any specific eye contact or smile. She'd glance around, looking for Aimee, or suddenly walk off to talk to J3yne Ladag@, making me feel like some stranger who had merely chosen to occupy the same spot on the dance floor with her. What was up? I came here feeling proud that I was escorting the queen & yet nobody would've ever known I was her date if they saw us together. Meanwhile, since I don't know but a select group of students at BHS now -- my own class having graduated -- feeling close to someone was of dire importance, lest I find myself leaning up against the wall, all alone. A slow song was announced & I looked in her direction, assuming that it was assumed, and instead received a worried-ish look on her face, her asking, "Do you ... want to dance?" Well, fuck yeah -- isn't that the point after a month of talking about it? We weren't even that close either: I glanced around & saw Aimee's arms arond Joe's (R0senmay3r) shoulders; Kristine's hands lightly touched me. Needless to say, I was feeling disappointed. But still only that.
It wasn't until the next slow song came on & I see her already on the dance floor with her head buried in Russ M3i3r's (14-year-old freshman brother of Megan) shoulder, then dancing to the subsequent dance with her hand taking a hold of his, and his sad eyes looking into his that I said, "There's something going on. What the fuck is going on?" "Everything okay?" I said, as I tried to make eye contact with my "date." She nodded, unsmilingly, and said softly, "Yeah." What bullshit. I danced with Aimee in the meantime, confessing my feelings to her & comforted somewhat by her support: "She's acting very bitchy tonight" the trumpeter6 said. I hinted at my frustration with bits of sarcasm directed at Jase, Kaci B!ddle, St3phanie Dy, Chris, etc., and still no acknowledgment made on her part of me OR my feelings; she was occupied, talking to Russ about God-knows-what, something that looked very serious, though, by the forlorn expressions on both of their faces. At one point, they disappeared: I was stuck on the sidelines with her camera in my pocket, about the only thing it seemed I was good for, and about ready to cry, went on a mad hunt for the two. Finding them by the ticket table, I hovered around her until it was obvious I was invisible & proceeded to slump down in front of the Pepsi machine, a sorry sorry case. Stephanie lured me back up, and no longer wanting/able to feel sorry for myself lingering around the choir room, as I had been, saying hi to Dave G0nzal3z as Kat!e $zum walked up, without anyone to show off for my own -- I went straight to Kristine and asked the same question: "Everything okay?" ... and got the same response. "I almost feel like I should leave," said I, wallowing in misery. "What's going on?" "Nothing" she said twice. Knowing ths was a lie, I said, "At least tell me that you can't tell me" -- and she did just that. Responding to my first comment, she inquired, "Well, do you want to leave?" "No," I said weakly. "I want to be here with you. But ... do you want to be here with me?" Thoughts in my head of me trying to take her hand while going to fetch her tiara, she shrinking back & almost pushing me ahead ... "Yes," she replied, "but... (a squinting of her eyes, a shrug of her shoulders, a biting of her lips) ... (and then:) I think I'll go dance by Joe."
I felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode, like when George says to his date, "I love you" & she replies, "I'm hungry; let's get something to eat." Everything was beyond all hope; I could no longer even dance with anyone and had to pull Aimee aside to tell her what had just happened. Slowly, the truth was revealed: "I kept telling her to say something to you about it," Aimee said, the "it" being the loss of feelings Kristine had for me in the last week, to be replaced by those for Russ. "So what about tonight?" I asked angrily. "Am I going to Salerno's?7 Am I still spending the night?" -- I apologized then for my huffiness, and on Aimee's suggestion, went up to Kristine yet once more in an effort to work everything out, find some answers, etc. This time, she was willing to speak and revealed the same information I had already heard, us sitting down finally at a table in the back. Unsurprisingly, it was much more painful coming from her lips, and I put my head in my hands in grief. She'd always said he was a great guy, Russ, but I never caught on; she asked me earlier that week if I thought things were awkward & I brushed it off; slowly, all of her little behaviors from the previous evening were beginning to make sense: she was avoiding me because she didn't know how to break the news to my heart...
"So," I said, "am I still spending the night?" "Don't you think it would be awkward?" she asked. (This after another exchange: "Do you hate me?" said she; "I could never hate you" said I. "Are we still really cool friends?" said she; "Yeah" was my optimistic reply) And so I didn't quite understand why staying at her house was no longer an option. Believe me, I despised her behavior at the dance -- actively pursuing the interests of another guy while your own date sits idly by is not only tacky, it's cruel -- but now the dance was over & I was ready to accept this new role in her life. We didn't talk at all during clean-up; Russ was still around actually, and I found out that the gist of those serious-looking conversations was that she wanted him to come to Salerno's w/us, but he had to be home by midnight... But while I went around collecting various decorations from the Commons floor, I took on a strange calm: It was simply bad timing, I said. This will be good in the long run, I said. For chrissakes, we were never anything in the first place and why should it be my place to care who she likes now? Never mind that she betrayed me; I remained -- or tried to be, at least -- positive-thinking. With Russ having to be home early, Kristine thought it best to go with him in Aimee's car so as to be with him when he got dropped off on the way to Salerno's. Whatever. But since I just wasn't about to drive there alone, I hopped in the backseat of Chris' 87 Chevy, Sara Rich@rd (his date) in shot-gun & left any car behind.
The ride was therapeutic: I bounced my feelings off Chris & Sara, both of whom were supportive & sympathetic, and arrived at the restaurant having reached the final stage of those "4 Stages After Receiving Bad News": acceptance. (I think the other 3 are anger, denial & fear, and though I can't say I was ever afraid ... well, no, I take that back, I'm sure some sort of sinking sadness can be classified as such ... shows you how much a Simpsons episode can teach you: it was the one where Homer ate the poisonous fugu fish at the sushi bar & had 24 hours to live -- coincidentally, K.P. mentioned this episode in an e-mail once) Kris put her arm around me and said, "Is everything cool?" and I said "Yeah." What I was feeling for sure then, I'm not sure, but I wanted to believe everything was okay, and the fact that she initiated te question (and physical contact) put me at ease. We sat ourselves in perfect order at a round table for six (each of us both next to our dates & our next closest friends: me w/ Chris; Aimee w/ Kristine; Joe w/ Sara -- fellow juniors the latter couple are) and talked freely, bubbly, a good prompt meal & comfortable conversation. I was glad. Kristine was exhausted and therefore slap-happy; with my jacket draped over her bare shoulders, she giggled profusely over a bowl of soup & looked ilke a little old woman, the way her face gets scrunched up when she laughs. And it was with this same expression on her that I asked Kristine, as we walked out the door, what the final decision was. Things were looking promising already: though she said, "You don't think it will be queerish?" when I expained that I thought we needed time to try on our new romance-deemphasized relationship, instead of me abruptly leaving with an image of her in my head as a heartbreaker (though I didn't mention this last part, just as I didn't say anything cynical like I could have: "Guess you just have a thing for red-haired tubists, huh?" OR "I should've believed everyone who's said you screw people over"8), she consented, and we moved into Aimee's car for the ride home, during which she slept soundly.
The drive from the BHS parking lot to 649 C0chise was equally quiet; upon walking into her bedroom, Kristine fell flat on the bed, dead tired, and Barb & I had to remove bobby pins from the girl's hair. Only when we both got changed into our pajamas and curled up onto her bed, though, did she become for me again the Kr!st!ne Pr0v0 I know and love. It was as if nothing had changed: we laughed and talked and behaved no differently than I expected us to have, regardless of what happened earlier. Or maybe even if I had mused on how cool it would have been to really be close to her that night, the fact that she was so comfortable with me again, encouraging me to lie down next to her instead of merely sitting (when a few hours earlier I was invisible to ther eyes) made me forget that anything more was possible. I was satisfied once more, and I was happy. Things were clarified, too, and as we each crawled under our covers (I was in her soft bed; she in a sleeping bag on the floor), I felt good (such an empty statement, I know). This morning, Barb made us pancakes from scratch; we showered and had coffee and gossiped about Homecoming outfit no-no's (I was with 2 females, you have to understand). And when I said goodbye at 1 PM or so, she treated me to a beautiful, close friendship hug.
The next few hours I spent at home, feeling that same sense of weirdness that had occupied my being on Friday night and which had been wonderfully absent on Saturday & Sunday morning (this morning, I now realize) as so much was going on (at one point in Salerno's, I came to the startling realization that I was in college & none of the rest of my party was)... And as I sat down for a lasagna dinner courtesy my dad, my appetite disappeared again, the same ache arose from within my stomach, not so much lovesick anymore, but the pain one gets when he leaves behind a truly wonderful friend.9
-JMC 10:31 PM
1 Part of the reason why this entry seemed like a good and interesting one with which to start this blog back up again is that in the last few weeks I've gone back to visit Bolingbrook High School and Kalamazoo College and have had to deal with the dissonance of both these past lives with my current life in Chicago.
Also, NB: there were no paragraph breaks in the original entry, but I added some here to make it easier to read.
2 "Class, Race, and Ethnicity," my first sociology class at Kalamazoo, one of several classes I took taught by B0b Stauff3r.
3 Gr!ff!n taught my first-year writing seminar, the topic of which was "No Place Like Home." She was also my advisor, senior-thesis director, and favorite college professor, hands down.
4 A new, original play about the early 20th-century labor leader produced at K College during my freshman fall. I played two roles: the country doctor and Pres. Woodrow Wilson (hott pince-nez action!).
5 Since I haven't yet posted any of the build-up to the events described herein, a brief summary is probably helpful here. A mere week before I left for college, I went out a couple of times with K.P., since most of my friends had already departed for school and she was still a senior. It was the first time we'd really hung out one-on-one, and both of us felt an immediate connection. During my first month in Michigan, we e-mailed every day and talked on the phone regularly, and she even came up to visit one weekend after apple-picking in St. Joseph with her dad and stepmom. Long story short, I had totally fallen for her. Before I went away in September, she asked me if I would be her date for Homecoming. Of course, I said yes.
6 Aimee played trumpet in the band; she's now the BHS band director.
7 Some pizza place, I guess. That night was the only time I've been there.
8 Both references to my friend Jay J0rdan, whose relationship with K.P. I first mentioned here. (It is odd that he and Russ were both red-haired tubists, though.)
9 Oh boy. Some of this entry is painful to read because I can see how my behavior has repeated itself at other times in my life -- i.e., someone I'm close to hurts me, I refuse to hate them, and even still cling to them to preserve as much intimacy in the relationship as I can. This notion that K.P. and I are going to be great friends in the future is obviously delusional, one drunken night in Scotland two years later notwithstanding. (Ha.)