Six Octobers ago marked the official start-up of my relationship with Henry. We had been whatevering clandestinely for an entire summer prior, but if you know anything about me, you’ll understand that this means I spent that whole time pushing him away, screaming obscenities at him, slamming doors in face, refusing to answer his calls (but glady accepting gifts), and cancelling plans with him. In other words, nothing really changed except that we gave the arrangement a title.
Most of my friends had already met him because we were all regulars back then at a bar named McCoys, but my mom and brother had not yet had the privilege of meeting the man who would become their own private IT guy. (“Henry, I fucked up my computer again. Can you fix it? I can’t get onto MySpace!” — sadly, my mom, not brother.) I planned to remedy this by inviting him to my mom’s Halloween party; he nervously RSVPd as a positive, already worried that the age difference would cause ripples.
A few days before the party, I had all four of my wisdom teeth surgically extracted. It was a traumatic ordeal for me, as I awoke from anesthesia and was asked how I was getting home. “My mom,” I replied. Duh, she was in the waiting room. Except that she wasn’t. The whole procedure took only fifteen minutes and she couldn’t even wait that long? The dental team could not have made their distaste any more evident. I was apparently taking up valuable space in the recovery room.
My mom finally came back, and we had a huge fight later on while I was nearing a state of unconsciousness with shocks of gauze jutting out from my just-been-through-hell lips, because she didn’t want to fill my prescription until it was time to pick up my brother from school. You know, to save her trips, because the town of Pleasant Hills is so huge. Doesn’t it sound huge? And foreboding? Like, you hear “Pleasant Hills” and your mind automatically conjures a megatropolis with tall gray blood-tipped spires for a skyline, right? Like, Gotham City but even more stormy and sprawling; fatalies unfolding on every block.
Clad in my PJs (the shirt splattered with gum-blood – yummy), I wrestled my car keys from my mom and peeled out of the driveway. I do not remember the drive home. I do not remember stopping at red lights and yielding at crosswalks and even stopping at the pharmacy. But I know I made it home and my insurance wasn’t raised, so I guess I’m either pretty good at quasi-comatose cruising or I pulled some really slick hit and runs.
I knew that I had escaped imminent danger, and so when I awoke the next day with swollen cheeks and kohl-smeared eyes, I called my dear friend Keri and asked her if she would run to the store and please please please buy me some cans of soup so I wouldn’t have to deal with any vehicular manslaughter bullshit on my permanent record.
But Keri was watching a movie. She was really sorry (no, she really wasn’t), but maybe she would do it later.
Did you know that at the time of this truly tragic tale, Keri lived a few streets over from me? That’s right, we both lived in Brookline, and we have the convenience of a CVS drugstore and a Foodland, both within a 5-mile radius of our houses. But unfortunately, it appeared that Keri was watching some anomaly of a flick that would only be available in front of her eyes one time in her life. Just this once. She can never again watch that movie. So, yes, I completely understood why Keri was unable to pause it (hello, DVD player remote) and help out an ailing friend.
Unable to wait for Henry to get off work, I threw on a duster over my sweatpants and took my puffy cheeks for a car ride. My body was pumped up on Vicodin like a turkey on hormones, and while it was doing wonders for the pain of my wisdom teeth pits, it was really wreaking havoc on my emotions and decision-making skills. In the middle of the dairy aisle, a pair of downtrodden housewives as my audience, I burst into tears — the kinds that whiny girls burst into in Japanimation — because I couldn’t decide if I wanted 2% or skim. Which would make my tomato soup the creamiest? I didn’t know! And to make matters worse, the Vicodin was telling me to fuck the milk and go for some top shelf Tequila.
Drugs, recreational and otherwise, have never had pleasant effects on me. I could never even smoke a bowl without suspecting that every male in the tri-state area was diligently drawing up blueprints that detailed the precise actions they would employ to systematically rape every opened pit of my body. People would say things like, “Wow, it’s snowing really hard out there” and I, while under the herbal influence, would construe their innocent observation as, “And then you’re going to blow me while I anally rape you with this barbed wire.”
When I first came in contact with my older half-sister a few years ago (we share the same dad), she told me that she was so mentally incapable of smoking pot that she once tried to jump out of a moving car while stoned. “Oh, you really are my sister!” I enthused.
My mom had a Halloween the weekend after my wisdom tooth extraction.There are always labels on prescription bottles, warning people not to imbibe alcohol was taking pills. But what’s a few swigs of hard cider going to hurt, I thought, as I popped a Vicodin for the road.
Henry and my mom were meeting for the first time. I’m sure this was an awkward situation, but I wouldn’t know because the Woodchuck in my gullet was making the Vicodin coursing through my body do the Lambada. I was feeling good.
Two Woodchucks later, I was publicly attacking Henry’s mouth with my tongue. I vaguely remember Keri exclaiming, “Oh my god, she’s kissing him. In public! In front of us!” My mom said, “She must really like him.” Notoriously anti-PDA, I had never made out with someone in front of my friends before.
Another Woodchuck found me behind the garage, smoking a joint with my brother’s friends, a scene that did not make Henry very proud of me.
Five minutes later, I was supine on my brothers’ large trampoline, reaching my arms to the Heavens and wailing, “When are you going to come for me, Robert Smith?” This is a memory that was supplied by Janna, who had the honor of making sure I didn’t try to get too Mary Lou Retton on the trampoline.
Henry was not pleased with me that night, not at all. While I was off slutting it up with minors, he was left to his own devices with a group of my friends he barely knew and a mother who was undoubtedly judging him for his age. Basically, it would have made for a pretty good episode of The Real World.
Henry confiscated my Vicodin after that night and has since vowed to never let me take it ever again. I’m hoping that I won’t need a root canal any time soon, or I guess I can kiss my relationship goodbye.