Thursday, February 9, 2012

What happened that night ...

A few weeks ago I was telling my mom about the time that my friend Princess Linda and I purchased a copy of "The Get Him System: How to Get the Boy You Want and Keep Him" from the back of a bouncy-hair, fresh face magazine for teenaged girls. I was kind of surprised, kind of not, that she hadn't heard it. We'd had the loot, sealed in a super discrete plain envelope, sent to Princess Linda's house because her parents were millimeters cooler about her receiving strange, unmarked packages in the mail. My dad would assume the package was from a kidnapper I was planning to meet at a truck stop, who would let me say the word "God" in exasperation, eat Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch and watch "Dukes of Hazard."

I realized that I'm still hiding some of my teenaged hijinks, things that happened almost half a life ago, out of what? Something engrained. Some sort of residual parental fear lodged next to the place where I hide the call-backs for Catholic mass.

As recent as two years ago my mom has botched a question about a curious set of events from my senior year. She's never known the facts and she's muddied the clues in such a way that when she asks me about it, she always asks about it wrong and so I am free to cock my head and say: "Hm. I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"Mrs. Linda caught you guys doing something," she'll say. "You were up to something. What was that?"
"Yeah, huh," I say. "Beats me."

Here I am. Thirty-six (and a half) years old. Living in a house with my forever person and he is my emergency contact. We've split the costs of furniture and animals. I haven't had a curfew in years and if I want to, I can wear Jelly Shoes, even if they look trashy. So what the hell. Why not. Here it is:

What Happened That Night


We were seniors in the fall of 1993. I don't remember what that felt like, but it must have been bittersweet. Our love interests had gone off to college. Their girlfriends had gone off to college, too, even further away than the boys. So though we didn't see the boys daily in the Commons anymore and wouldn't be cheering for them during basketball season, there was a bit of relief in knowing they were far, far away from those wretched blonde ponytails, both standout athletes -- my nemesis played hoops, Princess's played golf -- girls they had favored over us.

And actually, I was back together with my boy. As soon as his blonde packed up her collection of sleeveless T-shirts and nylon shorts, hopped on her basketball scholarship and rode away -- earlier than most college students, practice started before classes -- I was back on speed dial, my bedroom window fair game for midnight rat-taps.

This was not a problem. I believed in true love more than I believed in pride.

We called mine Bombilla Forma La Cabeza, which we believed was Spanish for Lightbulb Shaped Head. Her's was No. 34 and though he wasn't her boyfriend, he was not really the kind of person to let a girl think there wasn't a chance she wouldn't be someday. The boys were roommates at St. Mary's, just 45 minutes from home. Close enough for them to return on the weekends to a place where their personal highlight reels were still fresh in our heads. Close enough for us to convince our religion teacher that we should really take a field trip to the university. Tour it, you know? See what college is all about. A Catholic college. We duped the Cool Priest into renting a bus, filling it with teens, and sending us off on a tour that made St. Mary's admissions councilors salivate and gave us a free trip to a place where I spent my free time in a room decorated in golf and Pearl Jam hues.

On the weekend in question we arranged an alibi: slumber party at MJ's house. This was a solid excuse as MJ's mom didn't really hang with our moms. There would be no casual "So the girls had that slumber party, wow, girls, huh. All that giggling," conversations where we could potentially get busted.  By the time they ran into Mrs. MJ there would have been more slumber parties, louder slumber parties, and the lie would be lost.

We took Princes Linda's car, as her mileage wasn't monitored by an Olmsted County Trained Observer. It was a mini red hatchback that whirred like a blender. We called the car "Annie," after the orphan. We pointed it toward a boys dormitory in Winona, Minn., and 45 minutes later we were on the scene of our greatest scheme, though, truthfully our scheme resumes were as short as they were not all that naughty.

MJ called. Mrs. Linda had done the unprecedented: A slumber party check in. She'd called MJ's house and asked to talk to Princess Linda, who of course wasn't there. We had about 14 seconds to scheme again and scheme harder. Princess Linda called her mom back from the dorm room, pretending she was at MJ's house, not even knowing that someday caller ID would make this an impossibility for teenaged schemers everywhere. Mrs. Linda told Princess Linda that she needed to come home. Immediately. No dawdling. She expected her home in the amount of time it took to drive from Central Rochester to Northwest Rochester. Slumber party over. No reason given. Just the command. This was also out of character, as Mrs. Linda tended to have a bit of give.

Now I was stuck. I had no place to go. My mom still thought I was at MJ's, who hadn't cleared a slumber party with her mom because it was fake. If I went home with Princess Linda, it would confirm to Mrs. Linda that she had thwarted a scheme. If I went home there would be questions. I couldn't stay in Winona, I'd be trapped there for days, months, I'd have to enroll, which I planned to do anyway, but not yet. And there was Bombilla, my boyfriend, who I only got to see so often ...

He came with us. We ripped Annie along the two-lane highway in the dark and dropped Princess Linda off at her house. We took her car, combined our meager resources, and found a $30-something dollar room at the Super 8.

"We have to pretend we're in college and home from break," I whispered to him before we checked in. "They're never going to let a high school girl rent a motel room. We need fake names."

I don't remember what we did that night, but if I know me I spent the whole time sure that my dad was going to drive past the Super 8, see Princess Linda's car in the lot. He'd pull in behind it, grab a flashlight from the glove compartment, send a beam into the backseat, check the door handles for fresh prints, feel the level of heat from the hood and examine the tire tread for the sort of terrain the vehicle had traveled. He'd get on his knees and look under the car and make some deductions. When I got home he would call me into the living room, where he would ask me the kind of questions that trigger lie ticks on my face and I'd be dead meat.

We picked up Princess Linda the next morning for cross country practice and we did it in a way where it seemed like her car had never been gone. Ignition off, slouched down low. I dropped Princess off at practice and she told the coach I was sick. During practice I took Bombilla back to St. Mary's, turned around and picked Princess up from practice. She drove me home and I never heard a blip about it until years later when my mom started fumbling the facts and putting together weird theories about one time I didn't get in trouble but should have.

We did get away with some stuff. Coed slumber parties and a single can of beer shared between six of us crammed into a car. We didn't get arrested toilet papering anyone, like the boys in our class. But most of the time we didn't even bother trying to scheme.

Our parents had eyes everywhere.

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