At this point I feel the need to remind you that you’re on my side here.” – Mike Birbiglia
For the first two years of my high school career, I went to a weeeird school. I went to a school with about 250 or so students but little funding to go around. As such, the school had fewer amenities than the Big Soul-Crushing Public School, Man across town. Most schools had things like cafeterias, auditoriums, libraries and teachers who got paid. We didn't have anything like that, but we did have a guidance counselor, and she was kind enough to take an interest in the lives of her charges. Since she had so few students, she was the guidance counselor for all of us. She knew every intimate detail of every member of the student body. Non-sexually, of course.
I dated two girls my freshman year of high school, neither of whom really turned out the way I thought they would. I failed in both relationships. The first dumped me on my birthday because her parents thought I was a bad influence on her. The second dumped me on her birthday because I wasn’t a bad enough influence on her.
Going into my sophomore year, I got around to asking a girl out who I thought might want to date me for longer than a month. As always, I was way out of my league. She was smart, classy and dignified. If you have managed to read anything else I've ever written, you’ll know that those are three words that don’t describe me. Whenever people asked me why I felt insecure with her, I told them about our summer jobs. I worked at the A&P Supermarket, she worked at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I couldn’t compete.
There was one other thing that made me uncomfortable with her – she was afraid to kiss me. Anybody reading this who was ever the age of 15 knows that it’s impossible to convince a girl to kiss you without sounding like a date rapist. You just can’t do it. Instead of working through this roadblock, we just ended all of our dates with awkward hugs and I would sneak a kiss on her cheek on the doorstep of her parents’ house. Romantic, right? Well she hated it. I can’t be sure, but I think her parents didn’t approve of me being – believe it or not – a bad influence on their daughter. I couldn’t fucking win, man.
During this time I was eligible to be confirmed as a member of the Catholic faith. The bargain I struck with my parents was as follows: once I went through the rite of confirmation, I no longer had to attend mass with my parents anymore. I couldn’t have been more stoked to be confirmed, let me tell you. In my confirmation classes was a redheaded girl who I had never seen before. Apparently her parents moved from another town and she was to be confirmed at the same church as me. She was much more my type – angry, rebellious and a smoker. We had similar taste in music and that was really the most important thing to me at the time. She and I spoke for hours on end every night after I’d get off the phone with my girlfriend, a habit I would repeat two more times before I was done dating. Long story short, I fell in love.
That summer I grew apart from my girlfriend. Like I said earlier, she worked at Woods Hole and I worked scanning groceries, so we didn’t have much to talk about at night when we’d get home from work. It didn’t help that her dad wouldn’t let her stay on the phone past 9pm, which at the time I considered totally fucking lame, a position I hold to this day. We spent little time together that summer, and when we were together we’d sit around and watch movies. Her favorite movies were Benny and Joon and Harold and Maude but sadly not Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
As our relationship grew stale, I started talking more with the Girl From Confirmation Class. We’d see each other fairly often and she knew she had me wrapped around her finger. We would hang out all the time, doing things that could only be described as perfectly normal and perfectly healthy. We’d watch Internet porn, talk about our favorite hilarious Internet-only fetishes and listen to Tori Amos albums, all while never having sex. I wasn’t about to cheat on my girlfriend, after all.
Then one night we had sex. One night she came over because she wanted to learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons, and instead we had sex. I know I don’t need to tell you how this all happened - it’s a tale told since time out of mind.
The next day I called my girlfriend, planning to tell her that I had to break up with her, possibly telling her about how horrible a person I was. I got a hold of her and before I could say anything she was crying. Her fucking cat died. I couldn’t believe it. There was no way I could dump her then. If I ever got dumped the same day my cat died, I’d throw myself off of a cliff. I put it off, hoping that things would just kind of figure themselves out, as things are wont to do. Believe it or not, they didn’t.
I kept cheating on my girlfriend that summer, and that September we all had to go back to school. My girlfriend, the Girl From Confirmation Class and I all went to the same school of approximately 250 students, so we all saw a lot of each other. Needless to say, things were pretty nerve-wracking for me. There’s no worse feeling than being constantly reminded of how horrible you are as a person.
One night I was with the Girl From Confirmation Class and we were just starting to have sex when I stupidly decided to have a conscience. I told her I would have to break up with my girlfriend before any other sex could be had, but I would do it at my soonest convenience. We fell asleep without speaking to each other.
The next day, I was invited to lunch by my guidance counselor. Remember my guidance counselor? It’s a post about my guidance counselor. We went to lunch at the hippy restaurant near the school and she told me that my girlfriend would no longer need my services as a boyfriend. I couldn’t believe it – the GFCC told my girlfriend about our tryst(s) and was she ever pissed.
Small class size is a good thing if you’re a teacher. It’s less of a good thing when you’re a bad person and everyone knows in under an hour. I was virtually blackballed from school and I had to transfer to the Big Soul-Crushing Public School, Man just to avoid the constant shame. There's nothing worse than every single person you encounter on a day-to-day basis knowing that you're a wretched piece of shit. You’ll never fucking believe what book we were reading in English class that month. Say it with me: The Scarlet Letter.
A few months after I transferred, my now-ex-girlfriend and I started talking again. We talked about how much we liked being together and how I should have just asked her to have sex with me. She’d have said no, but at least we’d have broken up before I cheated. A few years later I’d be on the other end of infidelity and I finally understood how horrible it felt. Whenever I think about it though I always feel like I deserved it for how I acted in high school.
Josh Grimmer lives in North Hollywood with his wife and cat. He kinda sorta runs this blog, and has another one at http://mousebed.blogspot.com. Twitter him up at http://twitter.com/JoshGrimmer
If that's not a tale of vague unease, I don't know what is. The very, very attentive will recognize that story from my old blog, The Mousebed. I did a little touching-up, a little editing, a little re-writing, a lot of re-purposing. I thought we'd be a little light on stories this week, considering I had zero sent to me on Friday, but it looks like we did okay for ourselves. Thanks to all who wrote. An extra special super awesome thanks to the lovely Sabrina Parke, whose essay “Who Should I Make This Out To?” got a mention on Schmutzie's Five Star Friday this week. How great is that? I'll tell you how great it is. It's really extra special super awesome great. That's how great it is.
We shouldn't dwell on our past victories, though. What we should do is talk about this coming week's theme. Lying, Liar, Liest. Tales of fibs, lies, falsehoods and truth adjustments. Expect some fantastic essays from all of your favorite writers, as well as me.
The week after that will consist of essays about brushes with greatness. Remember the time Emo Philips came to get a cup of coffee from you at work and you nearly puked on him? That's the kind of stuff we're talking about here. Writers, please get those essays in by next Friday, December 10. That is all.
Josh Grimmer, Editor-in-Chief