Did my birthday wish come true? I didn’t kiss the girl I had a crush on in high school but I was surrounded by a couple hundred high school girls. Things don't always work out like you hope though.
Except getting a new epee sword, my birthday sucked. I didn’t get drunk, I didn’t get lingerie as La Senza doesn’t sell it anymore, least not in my town. Linda offered lipstick instead: my Dior choice was discontinued and the Lancome one isn’t available. I ended up going home early, as Saturday I would check for presents at my Port Angeles post office box.
Due schedule changes, I was stuck in Port Angeles for 5 hours. I wanted Port Angeles to prove to me that it wasn’t just a town of bearded men, potheads and women with shifty eyes; I really did.
Here I am in Port Angeles trying to get lunch: I walk to Subway, but am blocked by a 19 year old slacker skateboarder with facial hair. He scuffs his feet as he meanders along the sideway, interrupted by the scraping of the skateboard he is holding as it hits the sidewalk. This threatens to trip him up, making him stop as his brain tries to figure out how to walk and hold a skateboard at the same time. At Subway, the town baseball team is in line, most of them have facial hair. Directly in front of me is “Drummer man” a 20-something goatee guy whose mental demons are doing a congo-line in his brain forcing him to start drumming with his fingers before progressing to full out hand slapping personal rhythms on any available surface for the 15 minutes of intimate time we have together in line. Time in line slightly amused by goatee freak: 2 seconds. Time spent trying to make his head or hands explode with mental powers later used to control my overwhelming urge to grab his neck and squeeze while screaming “Die, Die, Die you noise inducing plague of societal decay!!!”: 14 minutes 58 seconds.
I have my sandwich, I sit to eat. The guy a booth over has decided to try and whistle along to the elevatorized music piped into the seating area. He’s not very good at whistling and seems to have a special hearing difficulty which makes him slightly off EVERY SINGLE NOTE. When he gets excited he tries to sing along, and eat at the same time. I have no place to go; he has no place to go – this is entertainment on a Saturday in Port Angeles.
I find the one used book store in town called “The Puzzle & Book Shop”, the girl inside doesn’t look up when I come in, she is turning over jigsaw puzzle pieces. She never looks up, not even when I ask questions about books. “I don’t know, I don’t know.” She keeps repeating that until I moved away from her. She turns over more jigsaw puzzle pieces.
There is a theatre so I go to a movie. I want to know when the movie ends as my ferry leaves at 5:15. I really want to be on that ferry. The usher, who I will call Tom instead of stupid-stoner-19-year-old doesn’t know when the movie ends. I point out that the next film starts at 5:00 – how big is the gap between films? He stares at me, “I’m sorry,” he clutches his head, “There was a question?” he staggers back a few paces. “I’ve been here two months.” He gives me a confused smile and can’t remember if I gave him the ticket stub he is holding in his hand. I leave Tom and go to the “entertainment center” which has five games and a pinball machine. Only one game is plugged in. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
On my way back to the ferry I pass the three guys standing outside the town bar. They don’t have any money to go inside. They are looking for anyone they recognize. Maybe later someone will come by who will buy them a drink. They don’t want to leave the area in case that happens. They were there when I got off the ferry at noon.
After five hours in Port Angeles I start to wonder how hard it is to pull the trigger of a shotgun with my toes; it’s that sort of town.
On Monday, Canada will celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Queen Victoria is long dead. In Britain, where Queen Victoria ruled, they couldn’t care less about Queen Victoria or her birthday. But Canadians do. In Victoria, they hold a parade and a competition of high school marching bands. This year 32 high school marching bands are coming to Victoria to compete. The Saturday afternoon 5:15 ferry from Port Angeles carries most of these bands: hundreds of teenagers in a confined space and me.
All the teenage girls are there. There are the girls who stand, listless and vain, looking 19 and modelish, waiting for the boys and girls who want to be their friends to approach them. There are the girls who spend the entire time in the bathroom, primping. There are the chunky girls and girls with acne who try to attach themselves to different groups. There are the smart and articulate girls who spend most of the time talking to the adult chaperones. There are the insecure girls who cling to oafish and selfish boys. There are the shy girls, and the ones whose clothes make them look awkward and foolish and the ones who change looks every week trying to find one that fits. One girl walks past wearing a man’s necktie with a skeleton on it. Cool. Then there are the girls who give off a “fuck-you” attitude. One has a butch blue spiky haircut and walks around like she doesn’t care about anyone or anything. I think she is probably the most vulnerable of them all.
Surrounded by hundreds of high school students, I remember high school. There will never be another time I knew so much about so many people as high school. There will also be no other time when I will feel so utterly alone. Make a misstep and you were out; don’t say the right thing to the queen bee or like the wrong movie or have the wrong fashion and you are shunned. Like I cared? I hoped they believed that.
I was accused of not having school spirit. I used to cheer for the faculty in student/faculty games. I once got booed by the entire assembly of the high school student body for being the only person to NOT support the football team by buying a dance ticket. Two people even bought tickets in my name; I returned them. I hated my private religious school and the way they tried to force me to think, and look and be the same. I hated those who bought into that and I wanted them to hate me. I wanted them to hate me because I hated myself for being a coward; I was smart, I was awkward, I was closeted. I couldn’t wait to leave high school for the “real” world where you weren’t given special treatment on your looks or who you know, where there aren’t any cliques, or exclusion, where being different isn’t a big deal and where the most important thing is what you can do instead of who your boyfriend is. Yeah. Love those high school days.
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