As promised…the conclusion to this section will come tomorrow or this weekend…
Connect-the-dots handouts were a daily part of kindergarten life. It only seems logical: five-year olds are learning to count and draw straight lines. I loathed this activity. For one, I was troubled by the proper technique for actually connecting the dots. Should I draw straight lines? Because that resulted in an angular, digitized-seeming picture. It seemed that curving arcs were more natural, but sometimes even this seemed wrong. I spent a week using intentionally shaky, squiggly lines, only to be pulled aside by my teacher to be asked “Is everything okay at home?” (A few months later, my poor mother was called in for a conference because I was giving all the people in my coloring books purple hair and green skin. Although I would like to attribute this to a latent punk sensibility, I was really just bored.)
My other issue with the connect-the-dots involved the final stroke: drawing a line from the last number–let’s say 50 for conjecture’s sake–to the very first number, one. This seemed completely ridiculous to me. One never follows 50. I realize that some might argue that all of nature travels in circles. For instance, all of my budding philosopher friends in college liked to argue the irony of beginning life as a baby, only to return to a similarly helpless state in old age. I disagree with this. Sure, maybe both babies and the elderly require help in feeding and dressing themselves (and I won’t even broach the subject of incontinence), but a senior citizen is still the polar opposite of an infant. Tragedies and triumphs, sun damage and surgeries, rejections and embraces, scraped knees and broken bones…all of these shape the original person into something new. There is something to be said for the addition of a life lived to one’s blank slate. No one returns to one after fifty.
But I will agree that one moves to fifty as a result of one addition after another. The simplest action can lead to one result, causing another action and yet another effect.
The simplest choice, from where to eat dinner to the route one uses to drive to work can change everything that comes next.
I offer to you Exhibit A, a night several years ago wherein the seemingly minor choice to go out for a drink began the series of events that lead me here, thousands of miles away from where I began.
I dragged Brazzer to the Rainbo Club by convincing him that going out on St. Patrick’s Day was so uncool, that it had become ironic, and therefore, cool. Somehow this logic swayed him, despite lots of homework piling up on his desk. Sensing that I was on some sort of persuasive roll, I suggested wearing green clothing.
And so, we found ourselves seated at the bar, bored out of our minds, tossing back whiskeys. He was wearing a big moss-colored sweater. I was wearing my Girl Scout uniform, a medley of merry pines and grasses. Despite being surrounded by many people–most lacking festive outfits–no one seemed interesting. We played hangman on a bar napkin. I read him his horoscope from The Reader. I attempted to entertain him with non-amusing stories about cereal theft in the kitchen at work. After two minutes of silence, I realized that only a rousing game of pinball would save this evening.
We pooled our quarters and got down to business. I won the first round. Brazzer attributed this to my barfly status. This may have been somewhat true. After deciding that we should take a “best 2 out of 3” approach, we bought another round of drinks and begged the bartender for quarters. More drinks, more games.
At some point, I realized that I was inarguably drunk. This might send a wise woman home to bed, but it only convinced me that I was charming and lovely. I started talking to an innocent bystander, wearing a straw Amish hat.
“Hey, nice hat,” I slurred.
He smiled. I cannot deny this: he was really cute. Tall-ish, skinny, strawberry blonde hair, and blue eyes. Not my usual type, but he had a lot of boyish charm, which always wins me over.
Of course our actual conversation is a chatty blur. His name was Jacob. He grew up in rural Illinois and he was a librarian. He never explained that hat, but I didn’t care. Soon he was playing pinball with Brazzer and me. We were new best friends!
Before I knew it, it was last call and the bartender was begging us to leave. Brazzer practically carried me out the door. I was completely incapable of unlocking my bike, and so instead, I wobbled in a circle in the center of the street. I yelled after Jacob. “Come over to our house! We have a lot of good board games!” Months of careful study had taught me that luring attractive hipsters back to my house required a quirkier approach. Not that I was versed in the standard seduction techniques, unless you counted everything I learned from decades of Madonna singles.
Jacob twirled me around in the street and then lead me to my bike. Like a gentleman, he asked Brazzer if he really was invited back to our apartment. I snorted at this.
Brazzer was definitely drunk because he raised no objection. Just weeks before, he had awakened me early one morning with a stern admonition. “If you bring one more strange boy over here in the next month, I am going drag him out of the apartment and throw him down the stairs without his pants.” I attributed this to player hating. Then again, I couldn’t deny that there had recently been a steady stream of dark hair indie rockers leading through our front door and into my bedroom. I can close my eyes even now and imagine them as a single-file line of ants crawling up the stairs of our building, all wearing vintage plaid shirts and plastic-framed glasses. Some toted records and existentialist tomes, while others were simply just drunk.
I wasn’t always this way. Then again, I always wanted to sleep with a plethora of earnest hipsters, but my fantasies were foiled by commitment and the fidelity that comes along with it. Six months ago, I had broken up with the boy I had dated for four and a half years. He was my first and only boyfriend. Oh sure, I had a few incredibly disappointing sexual encounters in high school. And in college I asserted my newly acquired adulthood by sleeping with a handful of fine arts majors.
But when I ran into Andrew on my holiday break from my second year of college, I felt as if I had won the lottery. As a super-geeky, extra-weird ninth grader, I had watched him and his senior classmates with awe. I stole secret glances at him during orchestra rehearsal. Even now, I can’t hear “Ode to Joy” without thinking of the 18-year old version of him–skinnier and wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. He was on my mind during my first fumbling attempts at masturbation. If only I could find my barely pubescent self and whisper into my/her ear, “This guy will fuck you no less than 1300 times. Possibly more!” I can’t decided if that would have made the torture of high school more bearable or twice as agonizing.
Apparently he was pretty pleased with the artsy big city girl version of me. Suddenly he was inviting himself to visit me in the city. Next we were squeezing into my tiny twin bed, cleverly wedged into a closet for privacy. We didn’t go beyond third base for months. I was too nervous to actually make the move. And I think he thought I was a lot more innocent than I really was. Finally I drank enough malt liquor to work up the nerve to take off his pants. And the rest became history. We spent most weekends together. Eventually we moved to Chicago. We played house for years and most of our friends thought we were the “perfect couple.” And I have to admit, he was pretty great. We worked through a wide variety of my psychoses together. He always shared the cooking and cleaning evenly. He made me laugh more than anyone else in the world. But the itch to sleep with others began creeping into our relationship, leading to a lot of deceitfulness on his part and finely cultivated martyrdom for me. Ultimately it was my belief that I need to “experience more of the world”–meaning, sleep around, do drugs, and drink myself silly–that ended our extended run.