Our moms were best friends and our dads were best friends who had the same last name but weren't related. Then everyone got married and so here I was on a hot summer day in a cool dark basement covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. Even the support beams were wrapped in brown shag. Our moms were in the backyard, chin up toward the sun. His wore a one-piece romper and used straight up Baby Oil. Mine slathered in something more paste-like, less penetrable.
And there he was: Ugh, Brian. Seven months younger than me and a total shit sitting on the other end of the couch. His hair was a mat of dark coils, his brown eyes the color of a popsicle left to melt on a sidewalk. Even I, a sworn enemy, could tell he was cute. I could beat almost anyone in a foot race, except him. He'd tag the garage, sweat rolling down the sides of his face, and smirk. He was also skilled at Monopoly. And every time he pulled out that goddamn Starship Enterprise, I wanted to beat my head against the well-padded basement wall.
At his house we could drink Pepsi products from pink plastic cups and the ice came in uniform slivers. His dad worked for the company, so the supply was unlimited. We could also watch MTV. I first encountered Tears for Fears in that basement. "I don't want to rule the world," we thought we were hilarious. He continued to riff on the talent, but I was struck silent by the image of a woman dressed in all black, bare midriff, ankle boots, perm and oversized bow, dancing in a white room. "Wait," I said to him, having not blinked in three minutes. "She's cool!"*
I was also in his basement the first time I heard "The Warrior" by Scandal. The song's "Bang, Bang" constitutes the first time I remember having an inside joke. Brian and I would look at each other, make pistol fingers and say "Bang, Bang." It wasn't much; It was hilarious.
Brian and I went to the same school, our dads played on the same softball team and we regularly spent Friday nights in his basement playing games -- me always, always losing. We got into a fight on the playground in fifth grade, me swinging punches that barely connected, him kicking my shins while the rest of the kickball players made a circle around us. The volunteer playground monitor whistled us apart and I put my head on my friend Stephanie's shoulder when it was over and cried, exhausted.
Mr. K kept us in the hallway after recess.
"I understand you two have a long history," he said. "And a complicated relationship. You're probably a little sick of each other."
We avoided eye contact.
"I want you to stay out here until you've apologized to each other. Then you can go back to class," he said, and walked away.
We were silent for a second.
"Sorry I kicked your ass," I said, spun and headed back toward Mr. K's classroom.
"Blyeah," he mumbled. "Sorry I beat you up." And he walked back toward the other fifth-grade classroom.
Years later my best friend had it pretty bad for Brian. She took an entire cassette tape and filled it with the song "The Search is Over" over and over and over. He bought her a huge teddy bear and when they broke up she tortured it. In between, she used to ask me to the tell her everything I remembered about growing up with Brian.
This included the "Bang, Bang."
The Adult Contemporary Series explores the hits of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s and what they meant to me, inspired by a song heard while listening to Adult Contemporary radio in my Adult Contemporary Car.