Awkward Things I Say To Girls


IT ALWAYS SEEMED LIKE THE RIGHT THING TO SAY AT THE TIME

It’s kind of weird that there is foreshadowing and allegory in this chapter, even though this is just what actually happened that day

Part 2, Chapter 9

On (Tuesday) July 9, 2002, I woke up to an unconscionably blue sky pouring into the little Michigan lake cabin. Hot Copy Editor was brushing brown hairs from each other and squinting asymmetrically at me. “It’s about time you woke up. I’m not going to row myself around the lake.”

“I would have been up earlier, but you kept me up with all that excruciating conversation last night at the beach.”

Her mother walked in when we were ~80% finished with bowls of Cheerios (“Do you like Cheerios?” HCE asks. “I eat Cheerios every day for breakfast!” I exclaim.) and ~18% finished with the spread-out puzzle on the table in front of the window overlooking the lake, continuing to chatter like extremely sarcastic little children. “What are you planning for the day?” the mother asks.

“We need to go to the beach and look for Petoskey stones,” chirps Hot Copy Editor. “And then, Justin, do you want to go to Arcadia? It’s a cute little town right on the beach with little gift shops and ice cream shops. It’ll be fun.”

“Plus I need to row you around the lake.” I add. “Don’t forget.”

Honestly, I was trying not to be an ass. If the girl you want has a boyfriend, and Hot Copy Editor certainly did, you can’t do or initiate anything inappropriate. I mean, that’s the rule. Right? I’ve only kissed two girls who had boyfriends ever, and one of them I didn’t know about at the time. The boyfriend. I knew about both the girl and the kiss at the time. Barely, though. She literally got me drunk. As in, this was said, sultrily: “I like you a lot. Here, why don’t you do several shots. Okay, now let’s go dance. Well, one more shot.” But that hadn’t happened yet in July of 2002, when I was still determined not to be an ass.

We tumbled into the car for a multi-hour beach walk to look for rocks near some lighthouses, then stopped at a local A&W for lunch (opening the menu, we simultaneously exclaimed “BLTs!” and then looked up at each other both wondering, like, am I being screwed with?) Early afternoon was spent in Arcadia, then it was back to the little cabin to change clothes and pack ourselves into the little rowboat, in which I was tasked with the rowing duties. I didn’t mind.

“Do you know what my boyfriend does that I don’t like?” she said. We were well out into the middle of the lake. The little lake, not the “great” one. My arms were unprotected from the sun and will be darker later.

“No, tell me.” I responded. I’m a sucker for this conversation. This is best female friend territory. Everyone knows that. But, look, every time I have this conversation I learn some things. And I’ve gone on to date a couple of the girls I’ve had it with, so it’s not entirely the point of no return, for me.

“He’s always saying he loves me. Seriously, every second. ‘I love you! I love you!'”

I squinted back over at the cabin in the middle distance, then turned to look square at the girl I was sitting in the little rowboat with.

“I love you.” she said, again, looking into my eyes. I’m kind of melting a little, here. I feel like I should say “As you wish.” Or make out. Or capsize the boat intentionally so that I would have to rescue her and claim that, despite her seemingly obvious signs of respiration and pulse, I needed to administer preventative mouth-to-mouth.

Instead, I did nothing.

She continued, unaffected. “I’m just saying, I hear it so much from him, I get tired of it.” She looked down at her hands. “You know?”

I pretended to be unaffected. “Sure, I know what you mean.” I said, and rowed her back to shore.

We made it to a romantic yet buggy outcropping of rock to watch our second straight sunrise over the water. I tried to dance with her jokingly, and she jokingly swatted me away. Then there was dinner with her parents, which was actually a lot of fun and not awkward at all, except for when HCE and I tried to order the same meal. Again.

Eventually, late at night, after her mother had told us to either quit working on the jigsaw puzzle or at least try to stop laughing and joking around and in various ways enjoying the hell out of each other’s company so noisily, because people are trying to sleep, here, I thought to myself: I could see myself spending one hell of a lot of time with this girl.

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