Saturday, August 30, 2003

Angelic Angela (a retro-post)

 PURSUANT TO MOVING, I've been cleaning out. This means finding all kinds of surprises from the past. This is a journal entry from 11 years ago (which I cleverly recycled into a "creative writing" piece for English Comp). I've titled this "Angelic Angela" because there's another Angela who was somewhat naughtier -- her story will follow.

June 1992

SO THERE I AM, home alone on a Friday night, and doing, of all things, a jigsaw puzzle.

I'm 18, it's the middle of summer, my parents are a thousand miles away cruising the Carribbean and my big brother's out somewhere, probably doing keg stands, and I've got the whole damn house to myself: the starting premise of a million crazy teen party movies. But I'm not a party guy. I'm actually feeling pretty antisocial; I don't want to go anywhere or see anybody. I'm usually like that. Give me a good book, a puzzle or a piano and I'll amuse myself for hours. Other people? Meh.

So it actually annoys  me for a minute when Angela, an old high-school friend who's home from college, calls me around 8:00. Maybe I'm annoyed because she's disturbed my peace; maybe, in part, I'm feeling guilty for not having been in touch with her sooner this summer. Over our entire freshman year -- she being at an out-of-state school, me being in Chicago -- she'd written about six letters to my 1 or 2.

So I tell Angie I'm busy, and that I'll call her back as soon as I can.

About an hour later, after I finish the puzzle, I call her back. She wants to go out and do something, or just hang out and chill. I tell her I'm broke; what does she have in mind?

"I don't know," she says. "Let's be creative."

I laugh and say all right. She wants to pick me up in ten minutes, but with a little haggling I get it up to 25. I don't feel like rushing.

So when the bell rings I open the door, expecting to see the old Angie from high school: the plain-faced, kinda nerdy girl with the mousy dishwater blonde hair pinned back and the nondescript, ill-fitted clothes.

But no. There standing on my porch is this lanky supermodel.

Not only is she wearing a touch of make-up (?!) but she's wearing some very form-fitting denim shorts. Suddenly, she's got miles of legs. Hips! And other good stuff. Hot damn!

So we jump in Angie's silver Dodge Aries. We have a lot of talking to do. But she wants to drive by the Jewel and cash a check. I go into the store with her, feeling a bit weird, as I always do when out in public with Angie. I guess I should explain: I happen to be black and 5'6"ish, and Angie is white -- very much so, with freckles -- and 6'4". (And yes, she did play center on the high school basketball team.) You can call me too self-conscious and a conformist or whatever, but trust me, you would've felt a bit like a circus act too. But, I just deal with it.

Neither of us is hungry, so she buys us a couple of Snapples and asks where we should go. It's about 9:30. I suggest the park over on Leavitt in Flossmoor. We go there and hang out and talk and play on the dark playground like a couple of oversized kids. After about an hour we notice that familiar Chevy Caprice silhouette creeping down the street toward us.

The cop stops in front of the playground, blasts us with the million-watt light mounted on his car and informs us the park is closed. He demands we show him ID as proof we're of age. Yes sir -- sig Heil! We display ID, though I feel tempted to give him a Nazi salute as he drives away. I'm sure we were the strangest twosome he'd ever seen.

So back in the Aries. I don't know of any all-ages place to go this time of night, and it'd feel weird to invite her to my house. I think of a place with a little more privacy: a condo complex located by a large pond. We get out and sit on the mowed grass, not too far from the water's edge.

The air is still and hot and in the distance lightning flickers mutely. We sit reclined side by side and we talk and we joke and we laugh and we tickle each other and I go take a leak over in the bushes and we talk some more.

We keep talking and by and by, something in her thaws out. The timid, reserved, girlish Angie melts into loose, languid, playful, a bit goofy, like she's been drinking--although all she's had is a Snapple. Her normal pinched little-girl voice has dropped about five notes and become husky and womanly. Before long she's lying there in my lap, almost drifting off to sleep (thwarted only by the ferocious mosquitoes). And I'm noticing that I'm not just there with my nerdy high-school girl-buddy: I'm there with a lanky, sexy supermodel with this sexy, husky voice and long, graceful, bared neck and she is warm and soft and right in my lap. Things start to happen -- the type of thing that happens to an 18-year-old guy when a beautiful girl (or anything, actually) is in his lap. And I'm kinda hoping she's not feeling it, but I'm kinda hoping she is. And I know how easy it would be for me to kiss her on the side of her long, graceful neck. How easy. If I did, she wouldn't stand a chance.

All through high school we've had some degree or another of friendship. But this is really the first time we've been together alone -- let alone this close. Neither of us is touchy-feely type. With me, at least, it's temperamental. I'm always reserved. Moreover, we are both Christians. I had kept it platonic in high school, knowing she had a thing for me, feeling the tension, not knowing how to handle it. With plenty of my own self-esteem and racial-identity issues to deal with, I felt even more awkward with Angie because of our double difference. I didn't want to call any more attention to myself than necessary. Plus, she was still a nerd back then, while I was trying to climb out of nerddom and get in with the cool kids. In hindsight, all dumb reasons to blow someone off like that. But teen-agers, by definition, are dumb and self-absorbed.

Wow, she smells good. Feels pretty nice, too. Part of me, the fun part, says go for it. The other part, the sensible part, says, sensibly: Don't make any promises you can't keep.

The sensible part -- maybe you call it the inhibited part -- wins this round.

I ARRIVE HOME at 5 a.m. Later that day, my brother asks me where I've been all night. "Oh, with a girl," I say with a mischievous grin, just to see the look on his face.

FALL 1996: I'm finally about to graduate college. I've recently gotten into a relationship, and it seems to be a really good match. During this time, out of the blue, I get an invite to Angie's wedding.

Since I can't schedule worth jack, I have absentmindedly set up my third date with the new galpal on the same night as Angie's wedding. There's no way the galpal can come to the wedding, but I don't want to call off what promises to be a pretty hot date (she's cooking dinner, and I'm bringing a big bottle of my favorite merlot). I end up leaving Angie's reception early to make the date -- two hours late -- pissing off both women. If I could do it again, I'd call off the date.

After the ceremony, I get into the reception line to greet the bride with her groom (who, unlike me, is height-appropriate). The new hubby, Brian, all smiles, says to me, loudly, in front of everybody: "So you're ____?  The one Angie had the big crush on in high school?"

Angie turns red--and under my brown skin, I'm surely turning red too.

But how strange, I think: What if that had been me? I still woulda felt a little like one-half of a circus act. We'd've probably found fame on daytime TV talk shows.

The new galpal and I ended up being together for the better part of a year. After me, she married, divorced, and moved to LA.  Then six years after our breakup,   she moved back to Chicago, looked me up, and we got back together. Didn't work out.

Angie and her Brian, a minister, ended up as foreign missionaries, and last I heard they're pastoring a church in Iowa. As always, I'm poor at keeping in touch.

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