( Below are a few chapters from the book " Tales from a nobody". Enjoy or don't, I don't own you.)
My First Date
The first time a girl was really caught in the web that is my charm was at a high school football game in the eighth grade.
It was Katie and she was lovely. She was built like a china doll, and she had olive-colored skin, big green eyes and sweeping brown hair that seemed to wrap around her features. Her dark hair played well off her complexion, but nobody noticed because she had big boobs (at least for an eighth grader). I’m just guessing here, I didn’t have a lot of experience in knowing what was normal vs. abnormal for a woman’s development. To be honest, I still don’t really know.
While we both attended All Saints, her family was poor compared to mine – that is to say their ski condo was shared with another family. To me, it seemed that dating her would be very much like a modern version of Romeo and Juliet (sans the tights and overall beauty of the male lead).
Allow me to set the stage for you…
The football stadium at the Jesuit high school in our hometown was the gathering spot for all local Catholic kids on fall Friday nights. While the much older (and obviously cooler) high school students crushed up against one another in the stands at the 50-yard line, the younger crowd milled about the edges at the desolate 20-yard line.
For a thirteen-year-old, the thrill and freedom of Friday nights was just about the best thing going. All my friends gathered in the stands while parental supervision was at a true minimum. One father, maybe two, would be sitting high up the bleachers, busy drinking whiskey out of a flask and watching the game with a vacant stare. You can always tell the stare of a pre-teen’s parent. It’s a thousand-yard stare like that of a homebound soldier; “I have seen some shit man, I have seen some shit.”
These Friday nights became a ritual and a rite of passage. We would find our buddies and circle around, nervously eying the girls. It was very cliquish. Schools and genders did not intermingle. A head nod to a rival male would be the maximum allowable interaction. As for the girls, they were the targets. Pretty and innocent looking, they would stand like a herd of gazelles, some only slightly more or less attractive. The goal was always to charm one of these foreign girls into your control and hopefully find yourself alone with them. There was a rumored story where one boy had managed to pick off one of the herd and took her behind the bleachers and felt her breasts, but there has never been an eyewitness to confirm this. In fact, in the one hundred or so recorded years of Friday night football, no person has even risked breeching the chasm between the huddled groups to attempt a conversation with a girl. Most believed it would never happen in their lifetime.
It was a typical cold and dreary Friday night. There was a light frost on the field and a mist circled the stadium. It was too cold to brave the elements without a coat, so I was unable to properly show off my guns for the ladies. "Guns" or "pipes" are well-developed arms, not weapons. This can be misconstrued in some places, like Texas.
On this night the wind gusted in spastic bursts and whipped up leaves from the nearby park, providing an audible crunching under our sneakers. The lights were bright and the band played “Smoke on the Water” in a constant loop.
All the boys gathered together in a circle pausing only to allow an approved member of the pack in. Occasionally someone would throw their eyes over to search the faces of the girls before putting his head back into the circle and reporting back on the shape, size, and attire of whatever girl may have caught his eye. During a long-winded gust something happened that shook us to the very core. It was still early in the first quarter when from just outside the circle came an odd, high-toned voice. It was a girl from All Saints, and, oddly, she was calling my name. The circle opened leaving me exposed to three well-groomed young ladies. I am man enough to admit I was terrified.
The coven of little women stood in front of me. One, the ring leader, was rotund and tall with greasy brown hair that stuck together in clumps. She would pull at the tangled mess with her chubby hands and push it from her muddled brown eyes. She wore jeans that stretched over her protruding belly like the linen on a drum.
Next to the ring leader stood a dazzling blond who had light features, pale eyes and hair that curled just right to frame her face. We had all noticed her before. Her name was Carissa.
Next to Carissa stood a small, thin brunette with thick glasses and one eyebrow where two belonged. The three sent chills up my spine as they beckoned me with their fingers to approach them.
“What is it?” I stammered, trying to play it cool.
“We have a message from Katie,” the fat one said. She chewed her words. I was somewhat surprised a Chicken McNugget didn’t try to escape from her mouth. Every time I had seen her she was eating. And true to form, she had a jumbo bag of M&M’s in her hand.
“Katie?” I stammered. “That one over there?” I nervously pointed in Katie's general direction.
“Yes, that Katie. You know – you sit next to her at school,” the rotund one said. In unison they threw their heads back and cackled in a high pitched tone. Somewhere several dogs yelped in pain.
“What…what…what does Katie want from me?”
I looked for some support from the young men around me but they seemed too entranced by the coven to rush to any form of support. The exception was Andrew, who was obliviously eating a candied apple and watching the game. He had made it clear he had no interest in girls and preferred to focus on more meaningful things like football and blowing shit up with left-over fireworks.
“Katie,” the fat one spit, “has asked if you would like to be her boyfriend.”
“Me? Why Me?”
“It’s a wonder to me too. You sure are a little runt.”
Fatty then opened her huge, bulbous mouth and sucked the bag of M&M’s dry, then chewed the bag too (I assume for her daily fiber). She laughed with glee as she did this. She scooted closer to me as though to touch me. I stepped back to avoid her evil clutches only to fall over some bleachers and land on my backside. I looked up to see all three girls around me looking down. They were but shadows as the light of the moon and the stadium filled the space above me. Their horrible laughing pierced my ears. Fatty had another bag of M&M’s in her hand, which she opened with her teeth, spitting out a small piece of the packaging. Her eyes were red in the darkness, and I was afraid. Very afraid.
So I would die a Virginian. I was pretty sure that’s how the saying went. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Out of nowhere a pair of hands flew from the night sky. One grasped heavily on Porky's wrist while the other wrestled away her bag of candy. A shadow appeared between me and the coven, eclipsing the stadium lighting so all I could see was his silhouette.
“We will let you know. Now run along.”
“But that’s my candy.”
“No!” the silhouette yelled emphatically, “It’s my candy now.” Then he poured some of its contents into his mouth while the girls slunk back to their people.
It was F-ing Walsh. He had saved me.
Now we had a choice. Would I accept this offer or turn it down? Mike spoke first.
“I don’t see a downside to this. She's pretty, she asked you, and we all know Katie is easy.”
Dan spoke next, and when Dan spoke we always gave him great reverence. He only speaks when he has great wisdom to impart. “Yeah,” he said.
“Plus that one girl has candy,” added Walsh.
“Yeah, and she will have friends for us,” Mike said.
“So it’s settled, I will accept?”
“Yes, yes you will – for all of us.”
“But,” I asked, “who will go and tell them?”
I saw nothing but blank fear on the faces of my friends.
I couldn’t be expected to go. That would be suicide. What if I had to talk to my new girlfriend? It was decided that Mike and Andrew would go and speak on my behalf and accept. F-ing Walsh would go along to search for more candy.
As the first quarter drew to an end my three brave brothers approached the huddled mass that was the girls from the eighth grade class of All Saints. They were big, and they were mean, but my three friends seemed undaunted in their approach. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I saw some head nodding between the two groups. With the business side of things settled, the circle opened slightly and Katie appeared.
She appeared like the bloom of a flower from opening petals. It was my first look that night at my sudden new love. She was tall for her age, which would be an issue as I was short for any age. Her autumn hair was pulled back, with a slight curl forming at the end of the long strands. Her eyes darted from my ambassadors to me and back again. For my part, I slunk awkwardly behind Dan trying to look casual and not get caught staring at her. She caught my stare and locked in on me. A smile slowly played across her lips, and she let go of my eyes and looked shyly down at the ground. She dropped her eyelids, batting her lashes. She raised her eyes back to my gaze and replayed that smile. I, meanwhile, wet myself in fear. I think it may have gotten on Dan because he moved abruptly leaving me without any guard at all. I was in the open, completely unguarded.
Katie wore faded blue jeans and had wrapped herself in a heavy hoodie sweatshirt. She was, and still is, a beauty. When she laughed, she threw her head back and swished her hair back and forth. When she was nervous she would tug at the end of her hair and bite her lower lip. It was mesmerizing.
My men crossed back across the large chasm between us; the coven of girls watching them, scowls across their faces. Katie, however, had that lower lip under her front teeth and locked her stare on me. I returned the gaze, determined to not let her sense my fear.
When the men returned from their journey Mike spoke first.
“Done deal. I think you should grab her ass.”
Walsh added, “They didn’t have any more candy. All they had was some orange Tic-Tacs. Sorry.”
By the beginning of the second quarter, Prep led North Central 7 to 0 and I had a girlfriend. The night was young and full of promise, but I couldn’t help but think of a praying mantis that after coitus with her mate would kill him by ripping his head off. Somehow, I felt like I was in for the same fate.
As the second quarter passed the 8-minute mark, I noticed that my relationship with Katie had started to get stale. We were in the same boring pattern: I would look over at her and she would look away; I would keep staring, she would get uncomfortable and eventually leave; I would keep staring, but now at Carissa instead. Something needed to change before we lost sight of what brought us together in the first place. It was once again Mike who came up with an idea.
“You should tell her to meet you behind the bleachers.”
“Then you know, make out with her?”
“Don’t you think it’s too soon?” I asked
“Too soon? No. Remember, your goal is to at least grab her ass, maybe more.”
“More what, like her thigh?”
“Higher,” said Dan.
“I don’t know that I can do this guys. How do we know if she is even into that?”
“What are you talking about, of course she’s into it, “ Mike proclaimed. “She’s an All Saints girl, a Catholic schoolgirl. Everyone knows she’ll be insulted if you don’t try to make out with her.”
Thus, it was decided. Katie and I would meet behind the bleachers at half time. No one in our time had ever attempted this. To convince a girl to leave the herd, let you grope her, and to do it within earshot of your peers and – even worse, parents – was an unthinkable risk. The only real flaw in the plan was that we had to get Katie to agree.
My delegation would handle everything. With three minutes left in the quarter Mike, Andrew, and Walsh walked solemnly across the chasm between our two groups and waited for Katie’s representatives to arrive in the neutral middle ground. When both arrived, a very spirited conversation ensued.
Fatty was waiving her arms and pointing at Mike as he calmly nodded and pointed at the space behind the bleachers. She became more agitated and her arms flailed at great speed. Her eyes started to bug out and her face turned red. I am not sure if she inhaled for a full two minutes or not. I was tempted to end it all. Clearly, this was not what Katie had in mind for our relationship. We would be one of those couples who did not have sexual activity, like my parents. I tried to pull away and squash the whole negotiation, but I couldn’t slip from Dan’s grasp on my neck. I stared into the abyss and found Katie standing high on a bleacher looking my way. Not only did she seem intrigued by the summit, but she was watching my reaction. She even appeared, well, maybe excited by the thought of it.
When the men returned, it was with great satisfaction. Not only would we be meeting, but we also had to fulfill a seven-minute period alone together. If either one of us left early or chickened out there would be repercussions. If Katie left, early Mike would be allowed to touch Carissa’s leg from the knee to upper middle thigh. If I left early, Mike would never be allowed to talk to the girls again.
The game clock seemed bigger than life as it wound down. My stomach felt like I had swallowed fifteen pounds of buckshot. My legs were heavy and my heart was beating out of my chest.
This was the big time. I wasn’t ready for the big time.
Dan had claimed to have experienced the big time with a public school girl. Her name was Molly and she would hang around after football practice to watch Dan. I had seen them kiss, but no tongue. He claimed they would sneak off to his basement, but there were no witnesses. Speaking of witnesses, Mike said we would need some to make sure I didn’t chicken out. Andrew led a recon team under the bleachers to try finding an advisable vantage point to witness the debacle.
When the clock ran out and the end of the half sounded, I was green. I felt nauseous. I looked over at Katie and threw up a little in my mouth. This was awful. As the band took the field behind me I walked with Mike, Dan and Walsh to a quiet dark spot behind the north side of the bleachers. To the right was the bathroom and concession stand. We were tucked behind it. Katie was surrounded by her friends, but as soon as we showed our faces they started to disappear into the night. Mike tried to pull me together.
“Come on numb nuts, you can do this,” he began. “She's ready for you; just go over there and get her. Don’t let me down.”
No words would escape my mouth. All I could do was nod. My mouth was dry. And then we were alone. We inched closer until she suddenly reached out and took my hand. I may have passed out.
The moment was electric. Over my right shoulder I could hear the guys trying to get a proper vantage point of our ordeal. I felt bad that they were spying on us until I saw Katie’s coven over her left shoulder watching from the shadows. The fat one had a bag of pork rinds and anchored the trinity as the other two squirmed around her shoulders to see.
Katie leaned into my body, slowly sliding her hand from my palm up my arm and resting softly on my shoulder. She lifted her other hand gently onto my other shoulder. She slowly, nervously raised her eyes to meet mine. Even in the dark of the fall night I could see the power in her gaze. I was lost. On instinct my hands reached to her small waist and found the perfect resting place above her hips. The crowd around us created a white noise and I could hear the crunching as Fatty pounded down those pork rinds like it was her last meal.
I focused on Katie’s eyes and everything else slowly faded into the dark of night. It was just Katie and I. We had this moment, forever. As I felt her soft form under the fabric of her sweatshirt it occurred to me that this moment was ours. Life would go on and it was likely that we would not spend it together. She would seek out happiness in the arms of another man; I would fall in love with another girl, but this moment belonged to the two of us. Our first real kiss. A first kiss holds such power for a young man and woman. You only get one. So I’d better not screw this up.
We were still arm’s length apart and I could feel her hot breath. She took her hand and placed it on my heart and felt it racing. She giggled and took my hand off her waist and into her own and placed it over her heart so I could feel the rapid pace of our beating hearts and the warmth of her hand over mine. It was cold outside and yet my body was wet with perspiration. She took my hand and placed it on her cheek as she moved in closer to me. I could feel her body lean into mine and I was able make out her curves. I took my hand and swept her hair off her cheek and tucked it behind her ear.
Then our lips met.
At first it was a little awkward as our lips found their bearings, but then they just worked. She leaned into me until I felt like we were one. Her lips parted and then there was a tongue. It darted awkwardly from her mouth to mine. Not to be outdone, I took my tongue and ambushed her mouth with it, more assaulting than kissing. Then it was over. Our lips separated but I wouldn’t let go of her waist.
“Should we do it again?” I asked, too afraid to hear the answer.
“Well, we do have six and a half minutes.”
Back to work I went. This time I was determined to slide my hands from her waist to a lower position as instructed by Mike. I did this without any real argument from Katie. Maybe she just couldn’t talk with her mouth full. After what seemed like an eternity, or at least six and a half minutes, we pulled ourselves apart.
“I like you,” Katie said. “I hope you’re my boyfriend for a long time.”
She giggled. “There is something about you. You make me feel safe.”
“Walsh beat me up. Is that going to be a problem?”
“Okay. I just thought you should know.”
Our magical halftime had come to an end, and the game started again. We walked back to our bleacher seats with her hand entwined in mine. When we came to the chasm between our respective groups she turned to me and looked me square in the eye, smiled, and pulled away. It occurred to me suddenly that I had forgotten something important and I pulled her hand back into mine.
“Oh, shit. I was supposed to grab your boobs.”
She smiled and pulled her hand back. She was gone. We watched her walk back to her coven. I stood, jelly-legged and spent from what had just happened. Understandably, all the blood had rushed from my head and it was now trying to get back to its proper stations, making me weak. I knew something special had just happened. A rush of adrenaline overcame my body and I needed an outlet. My group of friends, patting me on the back, engulfed me.
“Did you do it?” Walsh asked. “Did you grab her ass?”
“Yeah, I did, and I put my tongue in her mouth.” I raised my hands over my head like a heavyweight champion.
“And I think she is going to let me touch her boobs,” I screamed to the stars above.
“They feel like warm water balloons,” Mike added, as if he knew.
I was the Casanova of this group. I was going to touch her boobs. I sprinted up the bleacher steps out into the concourse with so much adrenaline pumping through my body that I had to run it off before I imploded. Then I was sprinting around the outside of the stadium. All the boys followed behind me, intrigued to learn more. After two laps Dan squared me up and tackled me to the ground and a dog pile ensued, but I wouldn’t tell more. Besides no matter how often they asked or how often I told them I could never do the moment justice. It can only be understood by those who have been there, by those who have felt each other’s heart race with fear and anticipation.
Katie and I will share that moment for a lifetime.
When we returned to our rightful place amongst the riff-raff at the 20-yard line, Prep had built a dominant lead. Up 21-0, it looked like they might run away with the game. I sat on a bench pondering what had just happened. When I was getting ready for the game, my goal for the night was not to be thrown into the dumpster again like I had the weekend before by some freshmen. It never occurred to me that something like this might happen, that by the third quarter of the game I would be in a loving relationship with a beautiful girl whom I had always assumed was out of my league.
Yet here I was, content and in love, with the memory of her tongue jabbing frantically at my back molars fresh in my mind. On top of that, I felt like I was finally a part of a group in a way that I hadn't been before. The way my friends looked at me now that I had grabbed Katie’s butt was different. I could see the respect in their eyes. I had gone where no man had gone before – certainly none of the novices circling around me now.
I was so happy as I sat there on that bench. Were all my dreams really going to come true? I looked casually over at Katie. She stood rigid and straight, looking over the mass of bodies to the game on the field below. Her back arched, pushing her hips back and creating a curve. As an eighth grader, I was really starting to notice these things. Her scarf hung awkwardly, exposing some of her neck to the elements and my eyes. She caught me staring at her and smiled at me. I shamefully smiled back and then bore my eyes into the cement beneath my feet. I was wearing big clunky snow boots that my mother had insisted I wear. There was no snow, of course, but that didn’t matter since her goal was to mock me in front of my friends and to ensure I died a virgin. I didn’t need her help dying a virgin, I could do it myself. But now things were looking up.
“What do we do now?” I asked Mike
“Not sure, does she have any friends for us?”
“You saw them.”
“Ugh, no thanks,” commented Dan from the back.
“I am okay with them,” started Mike. “They aren't quality, but they’re here.”
“Well what do we do?”
“We have to come up with some sort of plan to get them to come over and talk to us. It has to be organic though, it can’t feel forced,” Mike suggested.
Walsh added, “What if we just slowly move our group over closer to them? We can just start talking to them when we are standing next to them. It will seem natural, and if we go slow enough it will seem like we have been there the whole time.”
It was both brilliant and foolproof. We gathered the circle in tight and put our arms around each other. We slowly moved across the chasm. Our feet churned over benches and steps. Andrew periodically poked his head out in order to steer.
“Two clicks west.” Pound pound pound.
“Okay one click east by northeast.”
“What is a click?”
“Who cares? Anyone know where northeast is?”
“Is that a star? I am just saying maybe we can use the stars as a compass.”
“Just turn left, dumbass.”
Pound pound pound.
It felt like a million years by the time we had zig-zagged through the gulf between our two groups, yet only a minute and eleven seconds had bled off the game clock.
Of course, the girls had noticed our approach, and they glared at us. Things softened, however, when Katie came across our circle, opening both groups in her wake, and threw her arms around me in an embrace. She dropped the hug, and then muscled Andrew half a click northwest to make room for herself. She clung tightly to my hand.
Then we were one: girls next to boys, laughter and smiles, banter. It had worked by God; it had worked. It was then that an adult moment washed over me. I was getting these more and more often as I sped towards being a grown-up myself. This may be the best of it, I thought. The joy and wonder I felt now may be eternal. I knew I would never forget Katie, but I also couldn’t expect her to be in love with me forever. I knew deep down that this moment was a gift.
She could change her mind on a whim. Women do that, you know. I could picture her in her white wedding gown, her smile radiating, eyes brimming with tears of joy. I pictured such beauty as she walked down the aisle. What I couldn’t picture was myself next to her. She deserved so much better, someone taller, someone who had defined muscles, someone like Joe Isthmus. I squeezed Katie’s hand tighter at the thought of him coming near her. She smiled at my show of affection and then pulled her hand from mine in pain.
Joe was the source of many of our fears. We ran into him from time to time. He was a public-school kid, hulking in a brutish, sullen sort of way. Not even the high school kids messed with him. Stronger than everyone else, he was the desire of many girls. Most of us avoided places he could be on the off chance he decided you would become his next target. He wasn’t above mocking you to tears in front of people. If you did decide to fight back, he would wrap you into a pretzel and toss you to the side. Rumor had it he had flunked seventh grade three times and could already drive. He certainly looked old enough. He often bought beer for all of his friends, and he never recycled the cans. As well as being a bully and stealing our girls, he consistently raped mother earth. Whatever Joe wanted, he tended to get it.
I didn’t have to worry about that right now. I was with Katie in this moment. Where we would go or what the future held was just that – the future. In this moment a beautiful girl was holding my hand and resting her head on my scrawny shoulder.
When the whistle blew and the third quarter came to an end, Prep led North Central by 34 points. All seemed right in the world.
Then all the hair on my neck stood up as I sensed a shift in the wind.
I saw him as a shadow at first. If he hadn’t moved I would have assumed he was just a stupid, inarticulate tree. Then he moved. Slowly, with his knuckles dragging on the cement and his back hunched, he strode towards us. We were spotted. Children and cats scattered in his wake, terrified. A dog barked only to have the hulking form grab the dog and strangle it, or at least he certainly could have.
Smiling, Joe Isthmus approached us. He shoved me to the ground and stepped on my chest and placed his freakishly well-muscled arm around Katie. He smiled with glee and said, “Hey guys.”
Oh shit. Joe Isthmus was here, and he wanted my girlfriend. I had a bad feeling about this, and it wasn’t just his boot squeezing all the air out of my lungs.
And thus started the fourth quarter.
Joe Isthmus was handsome in the way a baby born with large tumors about his head is handsome. He was a mystery that your human eyes would never see live again; you would have had no choice but to stare at him. Sometimes I couldn’t believe he wasn’t just some horrible nightmare induced by the extra Ritalin pills my mother would stuff down my throat when she wanted me to do her bidding. I had been taking Ritalin for the last several months, ever since my mother found me pounding my forehead on my bedroom wall in frustration. She thought it was a psychiatric fit, but it was in fact born of an encounter with Megan where we had tangled our braces together while kissing and had to be removed by Laura and Mike pulling at our waists in different directions. I can still hear the screams of pain and weeping tears. I think Megan was hurt, too.
Anyhow, Joe had now enveloped my beautiful girlfriend in his big meaty stupid hand. I may have been wrong but I thought I saw her try to pull away only to have Joe’s paw dig deeper into the soft part of her shoulder. Joe’s eyes darted from girl to girl, sizing up his prey. Joe wanted them all. Not a word was spoken as Joe sucked the air out of the circle. It was Ursula, the fat one, that spoke first. What did she have to worry about? She was the one girl there that Joe had no interest in.
“So Joe, what brings you here?”
“My bike, I rode my bike,” he responded in several guttural grunts.
“Yes Joe. I meant, why are you here?” Ursula prodded softly.
I had never realized before how meek Ursula’s voice was. I was always distracted by the fact that she never seemed to talk without stuffing her face full of potato chips, chocolate, and corn dogs.
“I heard Katie was going to the game and I figured she would want to see me,” Joe rumbled.
With that, he gave that beautiful and soft ivory shoulder a rough squeeze. Katie’s eyes pleaded into mine; she seemed to beg for help. My skin had gone ashen. The muscles of my body were too weak to move; even the muscles of my throat seemed unable to swallow gulps of air. I knew I needed to do something, but what?
My mind raced with scenarios but every one of them ended with me picking up my teeth and placing them in a Ziploc bag. Joe turned towards the field of action, pulling Katie’s shoulder, and thus the rest of her, away from me. She turned her head back to me and feebly raised her hand out to mine imploring my help. My fingers trembled and it took all my strength to stretch my arm out to her. But Joe had pulled her out of my reach.
“What do I do, what do I do?” I thought. How was this possible? Mere moments ago I’d had it all. My sweaty palm had been embracing hers. I could still smell the essences of her perfume in the air around me. She was so close, and yet so far. I was frozen in fear.
Chris Kordash had once stood up to Joe, and no one had seen him since. Theories abounded that he was dead, or at least so disfigured he and his family had to go into hiding.
I could always count on Mike to come to my aid and put things into perspective.
“What are you, some sort of pussy?” Mike challenged.
“Yeah, I think I might be,” I responded. “It would certainly explain why I’m numb.”
“Do you or do you not love Katie?” he asked.
“Of course I do. Everything I do, I do it for her.” Bryan Adams is a poet.
“Then fight for her. Win her love.”
“I thought I had when she had her tongue in my mouth.”
“That’s not love. You don’t have love until at least third base.”
I had to admit Mike had a point there.
“Mike, what I am supposed to do, fight him? He has the DNA of a demented gorilla.”
“Yes, you fight him. You stand like a man and you fight for what is rightfully yours. Just last quarter, mere moments ago, you had her resting her head on your shoulder; you had her hand in yours. She was yours man. Now someone wants to take that from you. Well I say 'no.' We stand here. We draw the line. No matter how big or how strong a man is he cannot defeat the true heart and soul of a good man. You’re not alone in this fight; we are standing right beside you. Not even Joe can defeat a group of true friends.”
A wave of adrenaline washed over me. What did I have to fear? I was a man made of flesh and blood just like him. Well, sort of. My flesh was saggy and unformed and my blood currently ran cold, but still, the basic cellular principle was the same. Besides I had an army of good men beside me, my friends. Katie was mine. I would fight for her. I would win her. Love would prevail.
Yet a nervous and doubting voice in my head kept asking, “But what if he kills you? What if you literally die?”
No. That was not going to happen. Fate would not allow it, and if it did, I would have died a man fighting for love. Is there anything more noble?
To be honest and historically accurate, it wasn’t a voice in my head, but Andrew standing behind me urgently whispering it over and over in my ear.
The two-minute warning sounded in the game. A warning, but to whom? To me, to Joe? This was going to be resolved here, tonight. By the time that clock struck zero I would hold my love in my arms or I would die for her.
I slowly approached the chasm Joe and Katie now filled, their backs to me. My brothers in arms fell in behind. I hadn’t noticed them slowly backing up.
“Joe,” I said. It was really more of a squeak, and no one could hear it. I would have to do it again. I steeled all my resolve and tried again.
“Joe, I'm talking to you.”
Joe turned leisurely to face me. He looked over me as I only came up to his navel.
He turned back towards the field assuming it was the wind that had carried his name. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder but I lacked the vertical athletic ability to do so. Instead I tickled him on the kidney. He giggled and turned and looked down on me.
“What is it little man?” he asked.
“I am not that little. And, and…that’s my girl. Katie is my girl, you hear me?”
“Oh my God, he's adorable.” With that Joe rustled my hair with his paw and turned back to the game. Katie looked at me pleadingly. At least I think it was pleading. In retrospect, it could have been gas or maybe pity.
I pulled every fiber of strength and focused it on the fist I had made with my right hand. I reared back and punched Joe in the lower back with all my might. Joe didn’t notice. I panicked. Not knowing what to do next I fell to my knees and bit his calf. My braces dug into his skin, leaving small punctures. Joe screamed and kicked me off his leg. I scrambled to my feet. I didn’t know what to do next. My eyes darted from the intense redness of Joes face to the look of helpless concern on Katie’s. At least I knew I had my brothers behind me, a force to reckon with. I turned to reassure myself and the little turncoats were scurrying up the stairs in fear. I was on my own, a dead man walking.
Joe raised his fist towards the sky. It all happened so slowly. My eyes found Katie’s and darted to the game clock. Five seconds left. The fist reached its apex and began its descent towards my face. Four seconds. My eyes widened in fear. Three seconds. A large moon served as a backdrop in a starless sky as his fist hurtled towards the bridge of my nose. Two seconds. My life raced before me. It hadn’t been much, but it quickly played out in my mind. The fights with my little brother, the Christmas dinners with my mother and father singing around a piano, the hugs before bed and the prayers as we turned out the lights. Wait a minute, that’s not my life. I was watching someone else’s life, a better life, before I died. That just figures. One second. I raised my hands in front of my face to try to ward off the attack. Zero. The horn blew. It was all over.
The fist broke easily through my hands and landed flush with the bridge of my nose. The blow staggered me backwards towards the metal bleachers. I refused to go down so easily and I reached for anything to steady my beleaguered body. My hand rested on a bleacher seat but only for a moment as the second blow found its mark on my cheekbone and drove me towards the ground. I could taste the blood coming from my broken nose. I fell to the ground and rolled over to see the heavens. I would be there shortly, I thought. Perhaps my beloved dog Scorpio would greet me. My eyeballs danced, trying to focus. Moments before I blacked out a beautiful face came into my gaze. It was Katie. I saw the concern on her face. Her eyes shimmered with life. Her skin glittered in the moonlight. Never before had she had looked so beautiful. Her skin was so clear and soft. As she leaned forward I could once again smell her sweet scent. I could still feel her lips pressed to mine.
This life, this death, had all been for the one moment of her kiss. Though I now knew I would die, I would die a man, a man who’d had the love of a good woman – a woman who had let him get to second base and likely third, had halftime been longer. The fourth quarter was over, but I had known love. Is that not a victory for any man? In our life can we ask for more? I say not. It was becoming fuzzy as my mind started to shut down, but I could see sweet Katie’s face.
“I think we should just be friends,” she said.
And then I died.