I did not see Laura again that summer, but I did see a lot of Stacey. Every Friday night, we hung out with her friends at the Classic 50s Drive-In for burgers and Cajun curly fries. I saw less of Bijan as the summer went on, as he became focused on his musical composition, and I focused on Stacey. Then one warm Saturday night, two weeks before the start of my senior year, Bijan invited me to his parents’ house to stay the night.
We made a usual, almost ritualistic, night of it. We watched one of only three videos in his house, Dirty Dancing. The other two were Busty Blonds, which we discovered in his dad’s bedside table and 9 ½ weeks, which, although it had some sexy stuff with Kim Basinger it held little interest for us. But Dirty Dancing was part of our ritual. We knew all the lines. We made fun of it, but by the end, we always got wrapped up in it.
After the movie, it was street time. He lived in a quiet neighborhood, so there were very few cars at midnight. We felt adventurous when we would lie down on the street in front of his house. The concrete held the warmth of the day, and the air was very still. The cicada’s song had ended, and in the brush and creek running through the backs of the houses, the crickets’ song had begun.
“What classes are you taking?” Bijan asked reflectively.
“Database design, Numerical Analysis, and Differential Equations. I have one more English course. Honestly, I can’t remember what else. Oh, except for Choir. I got into the O.U. Choir.”
“Cool, with Dr. Baker?”
“Yeah, is he any good?”
“Philip says he’s awesome.”
“Cool,” I said, trying to pick out the Big Dipper in a night sky so clear that it could no longer hide its sparkling secrets.
“So, what’s the deal with Laura?” he asked.
For just a moment, a breeze blew across our faces and bare feet.
“I really don’t know. I haven’t seen her since the party.”
“Oh, you mean the one where you got drunk and made out with Stacey in the pool, and Laura got in trouble for the booze?”
“I had just assumed you guys would get back together now that she’s back.”
“Me too, but I think she’s with that engineering major, Chad.” I betrayed my secretive, jealous feelings in the tone in which I said his name.
“That dude? Do you know that for sure?” he asked, raising his voice just a little.
“Whatever, besides, things are going well with Stacey. I’m going with her family to the lake next week.”
“She’s so fucking hot,” said Bijan with just a hint of a sulk. “Are you guys doing it?”
“As often as possible.”
We lay quietly for a while, soaking in the heat of the concrete until we saw the headlights of a car turning the corner. We jumped up and walked to the house. The car began to slow, and for some reason, instead of going into the house, we ran around to the side and squatted down, perhaps an instinct from the many times in which we had thrown water balloons and wet toilet paper at passing cars in high school.
The car pulled to the curb a couple of houses down. The headlights went off, and the engine stopped. We could hear giggling and whispering.
“Shut the fuck up,” said one figure as it stepped out of the car. It appeared to be a Trans-Am full of girls, but we could not tell who it was. Someone was approaching Bijan’s house. When she got to the drive, she turned toward the car and made some sort of a gesture, maybe a thumbs up. She was holding something, but we could not tell what it was. She placed it on the drive and then very suddenly ran back the car, which roared to life and peeled off down the street. They hadn’t seen us at all.
“Dude,” whispered Bijan, “What the fuck.”
It was no larger than a Big Gulp, and we debated whether it was the size of a bomb.
“I’m not going near that,” said Bijan.
“Come on, it’s not a bomb. Let’s go see.”
We rose from our crouching position and walked very cautiously toward the object. The porch light was off, so it was very dark. I picked it up and examined it.
“What is it?” asked Bijan nervously.
“It’s a jar of Vaseline. It’s got something stuck in it. Come on, let’s take it inside.”
We stepped quickly into the house to take a look. Elaheh, Bijan’s younger sister, was in the living room watching television. We stepped out of view from her to examine the large jar of Vaseline, which had a cucumber stuck down in it. There was writing in lipstick scrawled around it, which said: “Go fuck yourself, BITCH!”.
We looked at each other, then at Elaheh. Neither of us said a word, but we were in silent agreement over what to do. I held the Vaseline jar behind my back, and we walked into the living room.
“What are you boys doing?” said Elaheh.
“Just hanging out,” said Bijan.
Then we walked through the living room to the kitchen without revealing the jar and threw it in the kitchen trash and went to Bijan’s room.
“Oh shit,” said Bijan as he shut the door. “What the fuck was that?”
“Girls are so fuckin’ mean,” I said, “Is she having trouble in school?”
“I dunno, but I don’t think those were friends.”
“Um, ya think?”
Bijan’s room looked like a music studio. It was full of recording and stereo equipment. He had the latest, greatest in music technology. Hooked up to his Macintosh computer, was his prized possession, his Kurzweil 2000 keyboard. This is where he spent hours composing music every day. He was two semesters away from earning his Bachelor’s in Music Composition, and he had already scored a couple of local independent films. I was very proud of his accomplishments, but it often meant that our hanging out centered around his music, which I was very bored with. So I often hung out with Elaheh. She was a junior in high school, too young to have any romantic involvement with, but she was very cute, and I enjoyed her company over the years of my friendship with Bijan.
As Bijan played his latest composition, a segment of a movie score he was working on for a student film, my mind began to wander. I was thinking about Laura and how disappointed I had been when she blew me off that day with my new truck. I did not see it coming. My heart began to sink into a melancholy as Bijan played his increasingly mournful tune.
I thought of the previous summer, and how everything was so carefree between Laura and me. We had spent countless days at the lake, swimming, her skin turning more and more tan, her brown hair highlighting with the summer sun, her freckles showing. We spent nights in her bedroom and my car, sharing our dreams and hopes and bodies. I didn’t believe in soulmates, but I felt a connection with her possibly founded in stars or fate or the cosmos. Where was that now? I thought. She had called me a few times earlier in the summer, but I made excuses not to see her. Eventually, she stopped calling.
“What do you think? About the piece?” asked Bijan, interrupting my thoughts.
“Did I really make that big of an ass of myself at Laura’s party?”
“Let’s just say that you and alcohol should not be mixing. It’s like, I don’t really like you when you’re drinking. I don’t even know who you are when you’re doing that.”
“Dude, we’re in college. Chill out on this, ok? I’m finally building up enough tolerance not to get sick every time I drink.”
“What utter bullshit.,” he said, turning back to the keyboard and playing again. “It’s your life.”
I headed back into the kitchen and poured a glass of orange juice over ice and poured in some vodka from on the cabinet above the refrigerator; then I sat down in the living room with Elaheh.
“’Sup, El,” I said after taking a sip of my screwdriver.
“Been listening to rap music again?”
Sup was cutting edge slang.
“You know me, just keepin’ it real, too legit to quit, sup, sup.”
She laughed, “I’m afraid you are just too cool for me.”
She was channel surfing, not watching anything in particular, as was her custom.
Elaheh was a late bloomer. The last time I had seen her, she was flat as a board with no hips to speak of, but all of a sudden, it seemed she had turned into a young woman.
“Are you looking forward to school?” I said, sinking back into the love seat.
She didn’t respond for a few moments as she clicked past an endless stream of infomercials, which was just about all there was on cable TV past twelve.
She sighed and said, “I don’t know. I just feel like there are a lot of expectations, you know? College apps, SAT, advanced placement courses…I really should have started all of that last year, but I just kept putting it off.”
“Yeah, I know, that sucks.”
She stopped on a Soloflex commercial, perhaps lingering on the shirtless dude in the red shorts getting totally ripped from a machine run on big rubber bands.
“I don’t know. It’s like I’m supposed to be like, a certain way. You know? Like, there’s this girl…blond, beautiful, as tan as I am. She’s just like…the cool kid, you know? Like we’re all supposed to worship her and want to be like her. But look at me. I was born tan. I’ve got this awful foreign name. There’s nothing I can do to change who I am to fit the mold.”
“Fuck that!” I said. “Why would you want to? This is just typical high school bullshit. In a year, you’ll be in college, and none of that shit matters.”
“Really?” She said, brightening up a little.
“Totally. I was a total loser in high school, and now look at me, I’m only half a loser and 100% mac daddy.”
Her laughter was like little chimes in the breeze. “No no. You are not that big of a loser. Maybe one quarter. But I’m afraid you are only 5% mac daddy.”
“Come on now. I’ve got moves.”
She laughed more. “Dude, is there something in your drink?” she said, eyebrows raised and smiling.
“Hand it over,” she said, reaching toward me from the couch. I handed her my drink. She sniffed it. “God, that smells super boozy. What did you put in there?”
“Some of your mom’s vodka.”
She tasted it and made a not-bad face and handed it back to me.
“Seems like you’re becoming less of a mac daddy and more of a party animal,” she said, perhaps with a tint of concern in her voice.
“Don’t even worry about it, El. I’m a big boy.”
Then, perhaps on an impulse, she said, “Pour me one.”
“El, I’m not going to corrupt a minor!” I said, putting my drink down.
“Maybe I want to be corrupted a little bit,” she said, smiling slyly.
“Your brother would kill me.”
“You think my brother will notice? He’s so wrapped up in his music that he wouldn’t notice if I snorted cocaine off his desk right now.”
“Ok. I suppose you’re a big senior now,” I said as I got up to pour her a screwdriver.
It was after one A.M., and all was quiet. Bijan probably had his headphones on, and his parents had retired hours ago. I brought her the drink, and she took first a little sip, then a big gulp, and released a mock breath of relief and a smack. “Just like we made them in the old days,” she said.
I shook my head and made a friendly scoff.
It didn’t take long before we were both solidly drunk and laughing at a B horror movie on USA’s “Up All Night”.
“So you met this girl at your old girlfriend’s party and Frenched her in the swimming pool out in front of everyone? Weren’t you afraid of her seeing you? Are you trying to ruin your chances?”
“What if my chances were already zero?”
“You don’t know that. You don’t know what they were even talking about. Gol, you are stupider than you look, James.”
“Ouch! Be gentle; it’s my first time!” I said.
“Your first time? Whatever.”
“What do you mean whatever?”
“You must have lots of experience with girls by now, what with Laura and this bitch, Stacey.”
“Ok, first off,” I began to laugh, “Stacey, is totally rad.”
She laughed. “You don’t get a lot of rad in the nineties. You get some phat, maybe a little dope, but you are just so totally tubular eighties. I thought you were supposed to be some sort of smooth daddy?”
“You are such a little bitch.”
“Hey now, I’m a jendeh!”
“What the fuck is a jendeh?” I said, laughing.
“That’s a Persian bitch–bitch!”
“Speaking of bitch. Something weird happened tonight,” I said.
“Oh, do tell?”
I got up and pulled the Vaseline jar and cucumber out of the kitchen trash and sat it on the living room table.
“What’s that supposed to be?” she said, and then she examined it a little closer. “Where did this come from?” she said with a serious tone.
“Some chicks in a Trans Am put it in your driveway.”
“I dunno. It was pretty dark.”
She stood up and began pacing around the room fuming. “That blond BITCH. She thinks she can come to my house with that shit! She thinks….” She broke off, holding back a sob. “This is what I mean,” she said, “Everybody hates me.”
She sat down on the couch in a slump.
“Hey, hey, hey,” I said, hoping to alleviate her concerns, “It’s probably not that big of a deal. They’re just being crappy little high schoolers.”
“James, I have to face these girls every day at school this fall. They won’t leave me alone,” she said, crying now.
“I’m sorry I showed you this. That was really dumb of me.”
“No. This isn’t on you. Maybe it’s better that I know. It’s ok.”
“You know what?” I said, inspired by her pain. “It’s not FUCKING ok.” Then I stood up and said, “Come one. Let’s go. Get your shoes on. Do you know where she lives?”
“Come on, let’s go over there and get her back.”
“No way! That will just make it worse.”
“You can’t let them treat you like this. You have to hit back, and you have to hit back hard.”
She sat up straighter and said, “What did you have in mind?”
“Come on. We’ll figure something out.”
I wasn’t sure what we were going to do, but revenge had become a part of my M.O. that summer.
“Bring the cucumber and Vaseline.”
She grabbed it, emboldened and excited.
The house was in the Smoking Oaks addition, where all the rich kids lived. It was a stately two-story house with massive Roman pillars and a circular driveway. I parked my pickup a couple of houses down.
“Ok. This is happening. Do you know which is her bedroom? No, no. Better. The front living room.”
“What are we going to do?” she whispered.
“We’re going to throw it through the fucking living room window and run like hell.”
“What?” she shrieked.
“Shhhh! Are you trying to wake up the whole neighborhood?”
“Sorry,” she whispered. “Are you sure about this?”
“Come on, let’s make this night count. You want to show up at school with some pride.”
“Ok,” she said, with some resolve, “Let’s do it,” and she grabbed the Vaseline jar and ran up to the house ahead of me. She paused for a moment, then threw it hard at the window, but it bounced off with a loud thump.
Then she was running back to me, saying, “Shit, shit, shit, shit. What do we do?”
The jar was made of plastic and was not hard enough to break a window. And whatever was going to happen was going to have to happen quickly because a nearby dog was barking its head off.
I ran up and picked up the jar and ran back to my truck. My backpack was on the floor of the passenger side. I picked it up and pulled out a spiral notebook and a black Sharpie and began to write.
“What does it say?” she said in a panic.
I finished writing and showed her what I wrote.
My boyfriend fucked your mom with this, and she fucking loved it.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” She said. “Do it, do it, quick.”
I ran to the porch and anchored the note under the jar and sprinted back to the truck. We shut the doors, started the engine, and took off down the winding Smoking Oaks road until we were out of the neighborhood.
As I turned on to the main road, we began laughing. We laughed so hard that I nearly drove into the curb.
“Oh my God. I wish we could see the look on her dad’s face when he comes out to get the morning paper and sees that!”
We chuckled a little but drove in silence the rest of the way home. It was three in the morning, and we were both tired.
We entered the house as quietly as possible. Someone had turned off all the lights. I wondered if Bijan or her parents had even noticed we had left.
As I started to turn toward Bijan’s room, Elaheh grabbed me by the arm and stopped me.
“Yes?” I said softly.
Then she pulled me close to her and wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed me.
“Thanks,” she said, with her head on my chest.
“You’re going to be fine,” I said, kissing her on top of the head. “Just get through your senior year, and then you’ll be free of all of this.”
She pulled away and looked me in the eyes and said, “Ok. Night.”
Then she shuffled back to her room and shut the door very quietly, leaving me with my reflections of the evening.
When I entered Bijan’s room, the lights were off, and he was asleep in his bed. I stripped down to my boxers, grabbed the folded comforter at the foot of his bed, and a pillow that was lying on the floor and laid down on the plush carpet falling asleep almost immediately.