toad had been one of those pimply teens who immediately morphed into greatness the second his high school hit his rear view mirror. suddenly he figured out how to manage his thick, naturally wavy hair. maybe he lost weight. his skin cleared up. his sentence as the bottom-feeder on the social spectrum had given him ample time to develop a personality and genuine taste.
if i were the sort of jackhole who liked to pillage fannie's relationship compost heap [oh, wait], toad would be definitely worth the dirty fingernails.
toad broke up with fannie via email, which was pretty innovative for the latter part of the last century. he was returning from a summer in europe and his no-more than five sentence email served to tell her she need not pick him up from the airport, as planned.
i don't remember fannie freaking out too much. not even when toad's mom emailed her condolences and suggested a self-help book by christian evangelist dr. james dobson to help her get through this trying time. i'm sure fannie was angry and hurt and sad. most of these emotions would pop like a geiser months, a year, later, when the sioux falls, s.d., police department put toad in charge of us after fannie almost ran a red light after smelling a beer, but her immediate action was to begin a flirtation with a smarmy politico sort from her college. a guy toad hated. a guy toad always suspected was trying to snake his way toward fannie's heart.
smarmy schmoozed a pretty serious woo-fest on poor, broken fannie. he called. he visited. he called and visited some more. understanding the delicate nature of emotions, fannie kept things on the chaste "friends with potential" level.
then he invited her to cancun. his treat.
"you can't go to cancun for free as friends," hank told her.
"no way," big e said.
"it'll take one sunset for you to make out with him," i predicted.
she shook her head, deflecting our critique. no. she was going to cancun. for free. and the only thing to kiss her skin would be the sun. fannie. she's a stubborn one. and if she had even considered holding hands with him before she talked to us, he'd be lucky if she sat by him on the plane after our goading.
in the weeks leading up to the trip, this is all we talked about. hank would circle tables of strangers at the smiling moose and present the hypothetical to them, pointing at fannie and gesturing. keeping a tally in his notebook:
free trip to cancun. as friends. is it possible?
no way, the men said. well, maybe, the women said. absolutely! fannie insisted.
fannie packed her bags: summer skirts, tank tops, dresses, flip flops. and on the day of the trip, i stopped by her apartment to say goodbye just as she was uncorking a bottle of wine to celebrate her free, no strings attached vacation. old smarmy would be picking her up in an hour.
the first message from her was charming: he's late. i'm on my second glass of wine.
the next was a bit more slurred: i still haven't heard from him. i'm on my second bottle of wine. finally she got through to me directly, her teeth clicking against the phone as she mumbled something about the trip being off.
smarm-face had met someone else, and had given her fannie's free ticket. i'm assuming he gave it to a woman who's "with potential" was more emphatic than the "friends" part of the equation.
i drove to fannie's apartment, poured her into my car, and took her to mcmurphy's. i medicinally administered toxic levels of beer and tequila. we rehashed the circumstances to anyone in a five-table radius. by the time hank, big e and riggo arrived, fannie had turned into her own personal cirque du soleil. if smarmy had darkened the door of this bar, rochester itself would have converged on his throat.
"my god, she's smoking," hank said of fannie, approaching our table.
by the end of the night, it had been decided that she and i would go on a trip. it wouldn't be cancun, but it would require air travel and luggage.
i was still wearing a sharpie tattoo [a star with the word 'sheriff' scribbled inside] when she called me the next day to say we were going to boston. i updated our friends.
"i can not get this friggin' fish tattoo off my arm," hank said. "although biggie has no idea where the barbed wire on his arm came from."
fannie's dad -- easily the tallest feminist in the world -- drove us to the airport early the next morning, all the while congratulating us on seeking out adventure and being spontaneous. fannie's dad used to scare the crap out of me when he was our youth soccer coach. now i understand that he is a gentle giant, with a great chuckle, an enviable collection of used books, who makes the best popcorn in the world. i don't know how he does it. but he does something different.
when the plane landed, we both giggled nervously. no reservations, no plans, a vague idea of how to find a hostel. knowing me, i probably had 20 bucks to last the weekend. meanwhile, fannie's luggage was filled with beachware.
we claimed one of three sets of bunk beds, layed out our rented sheets, locked up fannie's flipflops and swim suits and began to investigate our surroundings.
the day eventually led us to a midafternoon drink at a pub, where we bellied up to the bar next to a firey looking irishman who was scribbling away in a notebook.
"dear john," fannie mocked his journaling, beginning a friendship that would span the rest of the day.
joe lived in an RV that he parked wherever he felt like living that day. parking tickets were cheaper than rent, he rationalized. he biked from the RV to work. he taught us about public transportation. he introduced us to his friend jesse. they took us to a place called the cosmic cafe for dinner.
"we'll take care of the tip," jesse said, then disappeared for awhile. something illegal had transpired, definitely. we had some drinks at a bar near harvard. we were 22-year-old rochesterites, living large.
we wound up at a graffiti-covered club i-have-no-idea where, but definitely cooler than anyplace i'd been before. we were going to a see a band. early in the show, i looked over at fannie, she was bobbing her head along with the music, two glow sticks short of full-fledged hippie dom.
the air was filled with the smell of burning rope. most of it seemed to steaming like a teapot out of the pores of our new friends. without saying goodbye, we pushed our way out of the club, sprinting along the charles river, and back to our 12 dollar beds.
our roommates were asleep when we returned. and someone had borrowed fannie's sheets.
the next day we walked the freedom trail, did paul revere things, and went to cheers, just like two good little tourists. then we ate lobster.
you can see from these photos that i was dressing like the secretary of the indigo girl's fan club, but not living the part.
unwilling to spend another 12 dollars to stay at the hostel a second night, we camped out at the airport for our early-morning flight back to rochester.
i'd been back in my apartment for three seconds when my phone rang. my dad was looking for me. in fact, he was looking for me in the parking lot of my building. seems a few days outside of the zipcode had turned my dad into a stalker.
"where have you been?" he asked.
"austin?" he said, referening the home of spam, 45 minutes from rochester.
"no. boston," i said.
this was one of those trips where we didn't really learn anything. but we didn't learn it in boston.
fannie never talked to smarmy again [although he has been spotted on facebook], and only today did it occur to me that hey, smarmy probably knew at least a week ahead of time that he wasn't taking her to cancun.
while we were surveying the etiquette of her free trip, he was finding someone who already knew what was expected of a travel companion.