It was only inevitable that she’d want to meet one day. The Greyhound was scheduled to arrive on a Thursday evening in March of 2004, and I must have been excited for her arrival because in my journal that day at work, I wrote: Christina is coming. I’m excited.
The bus got to Pittsburgh before I was done with work, so I told her to walk down the street to Eide’s, which is one of my favorite music stores in all of the land. I figured there’d be enough for her to look at, plus it would give me a reason to have to go there. Not that I ever needed a reason.
Henry pulled up along the curb and waited in the car while I ran inside.
I saw her immediately. And was taken aback.
Friends, I know that sometimes people can be quite slick with their self-photography, but Christina was clearly a master magician, her medium being cleverly forgiving angles. I am not a shallow person. I have never been embarrassed to be seen with any of my friends. For Christ’s sake, I’ve been parading Henry all around town since 2001! But I guess there’s always an exception to everything because I felt my face grow warm and couldn’t stop thinking that she looked like a troll. That’s horrible, right? I just wasn’t prepared for this; I don’t know if I thought she was going to be taller? Would that have made a difference? She was concentrated into a squat stature and short tightly-curled brown hair framed her big duck-lipped face. I don’t really know how else to describe her, and the way I felt seeing her for the first time. I could extrapolate, but then I run the risk of sounding mean just for the sake of being mean.
Hugging her in the middle of the store, in front of the entire two customers, I instantly felt like an asshole for having that moment of superficiality. But still, I broke apart from her embrace and led her outside to the car, where I flashed Henry with a saucer-eyed look of alarm. I knew he was internally gloating, as he always did when one of my Internet meet-ups went awry.
Driving across the Liberty Bridge, Christina leaned between the seats and said, “Here. Put this on,” as she handed over a mix CD. It was full of emo, pop-punk, mostly stuff I didn’t listen to as I was in the throes of my pretentious indie/dance-punk/post-punk/no-wave phase.
“Fuck, we have nothing in common,” I realized.
We drove straight to Denny’s, as none of us had eaten dinner yet. Christina entertained with stories of the scandalous Greyhound underworld, while I inhaled my veggie burger. I noticed that she didn’t do so much eating of her food, but pushed it around a lot on the plate, and then excused herself to go to the restroom. It was the first chance I got to ask Henry what he thought of her.
“She seems nice, very out-going,” he said with a mouthful of burger and semen. (No really, that’s the mayo in Henry’s land.)
“Yeah, she wasn’t quite what I was expecting visually-speaking, but she makes me feel comfortable. I like her,” I agreed, thinking that it was odd I wasn’t stuttering in front of her or using my fake Nice Erin voice. There was a vibe about her that disabled my social awkwardness and allowed me to behave the way I would around people I’ve known for years. And you know, not stiff and reserved like I tend to get around people for the first time.
While Henry slept that night, we stayed up late talking on the couch about everything, including painful childhood traumas. I found that, in person, she was just as easy to confide in as she was that night over the phone, only this time she shared extremely personal details with me as well. Eventually, she had tears streaming down her face. “I never talk about this shit with anyone,” she admitted.
“I feel like this isn’t the first time I’ve met her,” I wrote later in my journal.
Christina’s visit was smack in the middle of the Great Pregnancy Scare of ’04. While I was at work the next day, she took a walk around my neighborhood and bought me flowers at a local florist. Beneath the standard “Congratulations!” on the card, she had written “Hope you get your period!” A bouquet of flowers was not exactly what I was expecting to come home to that Friday, not from Henry and especially not from a girl. Henry didn’t seem very delighted by this, and left to pick up his sons, Blake and Robbie, who spent every other weekend with us at the time.
Sylvia evidently wasn’t very delighted either. Her girlfriend (they were in their 16th go-around at this point) had run off to Pittsburgh to meet the strange blond chick she was always hitting on via LiveJournal comments. I asked Christina what the deal was with that, why Sylvia was so jealous.
“She thinks we’re going to make fun of her,” Christina said disgustedly, with an eye roll.
“Well, we have been.” And we laughed.
Christina had updated her LiveJournal while I was at work that day, stating that she had taken a walk “a la Gothic Carl.” (She was actually confusing Gothic Carl with Big Headed Gordon, who, during his visit, would leave my house surreptitiously to walk around the neighborhood; I had told her about both of them the night before.)
And this is what Sylvia wrote in her’s:
Its hard because right now Christina is with “gothic
Carl” I am sure that it is not anyone but the fact
that she is with someone I have never heard of,
instead of me, makes me jealous. Is that so wrong? I
think it is. Some times I think she is just trying to
see if I get jealous. My bet is he is just one of
[Henry’s] kids or something. MAYBE it is the friend of
Erin’s that Christina told me about, that was going to
come over and meet her. But I would think that that
person was going to come over when she was there too.
Is Erin trying to hook Christina up with someone else?
What if Erin knows about her true feelings about me?
What if Christina does not like me as much as I think
she is starting to? I need to stop. I know that
Christina cares and loves me. I know that no matter
what we will always be a friend even though that is
what Erin is trying to do. * Sighs*
This, after Christina had spent an hour talking – nay, swooning – about her younger sister’s friend Steve, how she was secretly in love with him and that’s how she knew she wasn’t a lesbian. That she and Steve would secretly fuck behind locked doors and once, her sister almost caught them.
That was the part about Christina that was frustrating, even back then. It was like she was so ashamed of herself, who she really was. She wasn’t yet to the point where she could look at herself in the mirror and say, “You know what, I like girls. It doesn’t define me. The end.” So she was constantly trying to convince everyone that even though she had this rag doll named Sylvia, she was completely hetero.
“Have you ever thought that maybe you’re bisexual?” I asked.
“No, I’m sure I’m straight. I’m in love with Steve.” She said it with such certainty, and we moved on from there. I’m nobody’s therapist and it didn’t affect me one way or the other. I don’t choose friends based on their sexual preferences, but I just wanted her to be OK with herself because it seemed to be a topic that came up every time we talked.
That night, things got light-hearted again when Janna and my brother Corey came over to meet Christina. Corey was going through this stage where he was obsessed with playing a didgeridoo so he brought that with him and performed for us. Only, no one was allowed to watch him play.
Since it was Christina’s first time in Pittsburgh, we took two cars to Mt. Washington: Henry and his kids in one; Janna, Christina, Corey and me in the other. Mt. Washington is directly across the river from downtown river, providing the best unobstructed views of the skyline, bridges and Heinz Field if you’re into that football shit. Plus, there are two inclines which is always fun for idiots like me to board and commence acting out a scene from the yet-to-be-written DoucheBag’s Big Day Out.
Typically, it’s me acting out while my friends are inching away, embarrassed to be associated with me. My giddiness is oftentimes confused with extreme public intoxication, resulting in Henry gripping my elbow and dragging me back to the car.
But instead of shying away from this behavior, Christina joined in. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this would wind up being her first of many gigs as my sidekick. And of course, Henry’s kids (who were only 10 and 12 at the time, I think) were acting a fool too, and Henry was so completely pissed off.
I wanted a group photo, so we all pushed and shoved each other, trying to position ourselves around some stupid memorial on one of the overlooks. Someone walked past and said to Henry, “Here, let me take that for you so you can get in the picture, too.”
“I’m not with them,” Henry muttered.
On the way back to the car, Christina performed for Henry’s kids and Corey one of the raps she had written. I wasn’t paying attention but Corey told me later that it was directed to a man, and it was about stealing his girlfriend from him.