This isn’t a story you’ve heard, even if it sounds familiar.
I’m thirteen years old, and I’m with my best friend, Anthony. We get this girl’s number from one of Anthony’s friends. She’s apparently super hot. We talk on the phone, and she sure sounds hot. She wants to meet us. She’s going to bring her two friends, we’re going to the movies, and her mom is going to get us into Vanilla Sky (2001) (rated R). Pre-teen blind date, go.
We show up at the theater, and we’ve told them what to expect: I would wear my favorite white Shrudy’s Pub hooded sweatshirt—the one I got from the Hummerock beach house, and that’s how they would know it was us. We get there, and we’re waiting in the lobby, and we see them. She walks over to us, and we’re thinking, oh boy. Later we would say, “It was so weird, because she sure sounded hot.” We see our friends from hockey, Colton and Dave.
The girls sensed something was up: “Did you guys…still want to see Vanilla Sky?”
“We’re going to see Behind Enemy Lines with our hockey friends. You guys can come if you want.” They did.
Don’t worry, I get punished later.
We got in line with Dave and Colton, and the girls got in line behind us. We said almost nothing to them (because we were in middle school, duh), as we kept shuffling closer to the front of the line. We bought the tickets, tension built, we semi-waited for the girls, tension built, we walked past the concessions, tension built, we got into the theater, and I ran to where our buddies had taken seats. I tripped, and fell down in one of the rows. The movie had not yet started.
“OHh I fell down!” I said loudly, in a made-up voice, as thirteen-year-old boys who are showing off are wont to do. I was picking myself up when I felt a strong hand on my neck, and then a pull on my hood. The guy behind me, about forty-five years old, lifted me from the ground by my hood hard enough to rip the sweatshirt at the collar.
“What the fuck are you doing here, spending your daddy’s money?”
The guy’s friend was there, smiling nervously. It took me a second, and then I said, “Actually, I paid for the ticket with money I earned.” (That wasn’t true. It was a free movie gift certificate.)
“Doing what, flipping burgers?!”
As a thirteen-year-old, this was a new experience for me. I could handle kids being idiots, but this guy was old enough to be my dad. (I also found it strange that the method of my earning money had to be to his liking.) This was all confusing to me.
“I earned it by working construction.”
This all came under dispute, as I recall—my ability to “work construction”, the money paid, hours worked, etc. There were more issues, more swears, and the guy was loud enough that my brother and his two friends, who were in high school and big and who just happened to be in the front of the theater, walked back and said, “Is there a problem here?”
And the guy sat down like a coward, and said “no” like a coward. And I squinted my eyes and bit my cheeks so that no tears came out when I said, “Okay” when my brother said, “why don’t you come sit with us.”
The whole time, the girls were watching this in the same row. The last memory I have of them, was one of their faces—a look of astonishment and worry, almost motherly as I walked with Tim to the front of the theater. I sat down with my stupid ripped sweatshirt, stupid red face, and stupid burn where the sweatshirt had braised my skin. I thought, if only I was older, if only stronger, if only tougher, I would have really showed that guy.