CAN IT BE THAT IT WAS ALL SO SIMPLE THEN?

Our family computer was in an alcove off the kitchen, in full view of the living room. Not the most optimal place to jerk off.

One day while both my parents were gone, I seized the time alone to visit an X-rated website and found a picture of a girl that excited me. She was a blonde laying back on a  sofa with her legs pressed together in the air. Wearing nothing but a pair of clear plastic high heels.

I didn’t have time to consummate my relationship with her right then and there like I wanted to. So I printed out a copy of her. It was a black and white printer so the resulting print out was a blurry black and grey. No one had color printers back then, except graphic designers or rich people. That blurry image was my best friend late at night when I was alone in my bedroom.

I kept her folded up in an ancient encyclopedia on my bookshelf. Eventually I grew tired of her and went back to perusing skateboarding and snowboarding magazines for the rare picture of a girl in a bikini to use for my nocturnal inspiration.

One morning, months later, I had just arrived home from a sleepover. I walked into my room and my Mom was sitting on my bed in her nightgown.

“Hi, Joey, we need to talk, come sit next me.” She patted the bed next to her.

I was hella weirded out and paranoid. There was a plethora of things I might be in trouble for. My mind raced through all the possibilities. Graffiti. Shoplifting. That port-a-potty we tipped over the night before. The big bottle of Carlo Rossi we had drank down at the bridge. Did one of our neighbors see us and call my mom?

I sat down next to my mom.

“Joey, you’ve been having cyber sex.”

The record in my head screeched to a halt. Cyber sex? What the hell was she talking about. I wasn’t having sex. Cyber or otherwise, with anyone.

“Mom, what are you talking about?”

She pulled out the folded up piece of paper with the naked girl’s blurry image printed on it.

“I’m talking about this, Joey.”

“MOM! first off that’s internet porn, not cyber sex. Second off, why were you going through MY STUFF.”

“Joey, it’s perfectly normal for a boy your age to be interested in girls. I don’t think this is healthiest way to explore that interest…”

“MOM, I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, DON’T GO THROUGH MY STUFF!!!”

“I don’t have a problem with you looking at pictures of girls, as long as they aren’t showing their vaginas and nipples. They have to be wearing bikinis at least.”

“MOM, I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. PLEASE GET OUT OF MY ROOM.”

“Ok, honey.”

She got up and left. She took the x-rated printout with her.

That was awkward.

Sex soon became a steady source of revenue for my friends and me. We would steal porno magazines from Tower Records on the Ave, then sell them to kids at school. We even had regular customers. I was meeting up with one of them in a remote staircase of my middle school.

“Twenty dollars for a magazine? That magazine only costs eight bucks at the store.”

“Why don’t you go there and buy one for yourself then? Oh, thats right, you can’t. Supply and demand little homie.”

“Fine,” he said, passing me a wad of ones.

I pulled a porno out of my backpack and handed it to him. I counted and organized the wad of ones. Facing the bills and straightening them. Twenty dollars spot on.

He put the porno in his backpack. He began to walk way, but stopped and turned back to ask me,

“You know those pocket pussies they advertise in the back of these magazines? If I were to get a money order from QFC or Safeway, would you be able to order me one?”

“Fuck no, you fucking creeper. What the fuck do I look like? A Castle Superstore?”

“It would be super easy, I just can’t have it mailed to my house.”

“So you think I want it shipped to my house? Get real!”

The boy frowned.

“Thanks anyway dude.”

He walked away.

I was running late for class. Washington state history. You had to pass that class to graduate the 8th grade.  I put on my headphones and pressed play on my silver Discman. Wu-Tang. I was even wearing my yellow Wu-Wear shirt.

Dedicated to the winners and the losers…

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

 Dedicated to all jeeps and land cruisers

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

 Dedicated to the Y’s, 850-I’s

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

Dedicated to niggas who do drive-bys

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

Dedicated to the Lexus and the Ac’s

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

 Dedicated to MPV’s that’s phat!

(Can it be that it was all so simple then?)

 Nigguh, yeah, yeah!

I got to class, barely making it in time. There she was, sitting across the classroom from me. She was beautiful. In tight jeans and a pink shirt. Black North Face fleece jacket and dirty blonde hair. If this was the Wonder Years, and I had a say about things, she would have been my Winnie Cooper, but reality was harsh, and I wasn’t Fred Savage. I was a chubby, socially awkward adolescent with a tendency towards hyperactivity, freestyle rapping constantly, and getting into arguments with teachers.

Her name was Amanda Sterling. Not the same Amanda that was Mackie’s sister. A different Amanda. There were a lot of Amandas. I balled up a piece of notebook paper and threw it at her. It bounced off the top of her head.

She looked at me across the room with an annoyed look on her face and mouthed the words,

“What the fuck?”

I grinned and shrugged gesturing with my palms. She shook her head at me and went back to paying attention to the teacher. I zoned out and practiced throw-ups in my spiral-bound notebook.

A couple of weeks later. It was Amanda Sterling’s birthday. When girls at my school had birthdays people would bring them balloons. You could tell how popular a girl was by how many balloons she was walking around with. I always felt sorry for the girls walking around with frizzy hair and braces clutching a lone balloon, maybe two.

Amanda Sterling wasn’t one of those girls. She had so many balloons I was surprised the combined force of the helium didn’t lift her right up off the ground and into the air like Marry Poppins’ umbrella. Till she disappeared into the sky. A tiny fleck in the stratosphere. Amanda had so many balloons she had trouble getting through the doorways of her classrooms, causing students to bottleneck up behind her.

Kids would walk home from school in groups. Some days I would walk with Seth in a more direct line to our neighborhood. Some days I would make a detour and go to the Safeway on 35th where kids would congregate and buy sodas and hot pizza sticks from the deli before walking home in huge meandering packs.

A group of my friends was hanging out with Amanda Sterling and her friends. She looked hella pretty in her brand new white North Face fleece she must have gotten for her birthday. The balloons floating from ribbons clutched in her hand made her look radiant. I couldn’t hold back my feelings for her any longer.

“Yo, uh, Amanda can I talk to you in private?”

“Yeah, sure. Of course.”

We walked away from the group, her girlfriends giggling. We went behind the Domino’s Pizza next to the Safeway. We were standing next to the dumpsters in the alley. It smelled like garbage and pizza. I didn’t know anything about talking to girls. I didn’t understand them. I had no clue how one was supposed to pursue one, let alone ask one out. I began,

“Yo, Amanda, you’re like hella cute and like hella awesome, and I hella like you a lot….um…I think you’re really great and stuff….willyougoutwithme?”

“Joe, you’re a really great guy and you’re super funny. I don’t want to go out with you though. You’re my friend.”

Her words stung. My throat was in my stomach. I said, “Oh..OK.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.”

Then something magical happened. She leaned forward and kissed me softly on the lips. The sting of the rejection floated away. I was elated. This was the first time a girl had ever kissed me. It only lasted a moment. I could smell her perfume and her lips were so soft. I wished it had lasted forever. When it was over she smiled at me warmly.

“Let’s head back to where everyone else is, OK?”

I nodded my head. I was speechless. I had just been friend-zoned and gotten my first kiss at the same time. I didn’t know how to feel. It was like a speedball of emotions. It definitely went a lot better than I expected it to. She could have told me I was a disgusting piece of shit and told everyone about how “Joe Flow tried to ask me out, what a LOSER, as if!!” which was my worst fear, social embarrassment. She didn’t do that.

We walked back to the group. A few weeks later she started dating my friend Chandler Mayor. Secretly I was jealous, but Chandler was a great guy, who wasn’t chubby and he played team sports. He lived in a big house in Laurelhurst and was super “popular.” Not that I wasn’t “popular.” I had hella friends and was at all the parties on weekends. I just wasn’t as “popular” as him. I still liked Chandler though and I couldn’t be mad at him or Amanda. I guess at the time it made perfect sense.

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3 thoughts on “CAN IT BE THAT IT WAS ALL SO SIMPLE THEN?

  1. This is good, I love the juxtaposition of porn with the reality of the first kiss…and that Safeway on 35th, the scene of your drama as an adolescent, and my drama as the mom of an adolescent… kinda funny.

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