The air was dry and crisp and the cloud that escaped my mouth looked like the ones exhaled by the big boys when they smoked their Marlboros and threw free throws at the naked ring drilled into the neighbors utility pole.
It was dark now well before 8 pm. Many homes had turned their lights off already safe in the knowledge that their little ones were sound asleep while they curled up with their Fritos and Bryers ice cream watching episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island in color. Those that still had their porch lights on, like the house next door, would light the way of their newly minted teen walking home from the big birthday party around the corner.
I quietly pulled the wood door then gently clicked the storm door in its place. I walked down the sidewalk, maybe 12 feet at most, to the chalked front step, powdered grey from the fall time antics my littlest brother and toddler sister enjoyed until dinner. There was little sound now except for a far away revving of an unmuffled car and cranked up stereo mingled with my cloudy breathing.
We lived in a solidly working class enclave walkable to the nearest market and mall, but far enough away to avoid the seeping new light pollution. I had waited days and then these last few hours to get the nod from someone, anyone, that I would be invited to the party. I couldn’t bear to look out the window after 6 pm for fear I’d see them laughing and preening as they walked past my house and further down the street before they took the left and crossed up another half block.
He. Him. All I could think about and all I ever wanted was to be noticed by the blond boy around the corner with golden hair that fell carelessly over his mesmerizing eyes. He tanned brown every summer and had grown lanky and lean. He wore concert shirts (he loved Van Halen) and knee high white socks with stripes at the top and his Chuck Taylors were always pristine. He loved hockey I knew — and pretty girls too. I loved his roman nose– it was so different from the rest of the guys I knew. It gave him strength and character in a way, that at that point, I didn’t wholly understand. He never spoke to me much, only glanced over and whispered to one of the other girls sharing an inside joke. He was a year older than me and had a brother that liked hockey too. They both were adorable.
His name was like a movie stars name and in my opinion he could have been one. He was easily as handsome as either Dukes of Hazard or anyone guest starring on Happy Days. The dad he was named after lived in down south or some other God forsaken hot place at the tip of the country. I imagined he missed him and thought wouldn’t it be great if he had someone like me to be his girlfriend.
But he had that covered.
I knew many of the corner crew were there, as well as some of his school friends that also took a bus to the public middle school miles away. I wondered what they were doing now that the party was in full swing. There was probably music blaring from a boom box like the one my mom and dad got me recently to play FM and cassette tapes too. Were they listening to Cheap Trick or Zeppelin or Billy Joel?
Or maybe they were in the basement (did he have a basement? – I wasn’t sure) with the lights out and a flashlight spinning until it stopped on someone you really didn’t want to kiss — unless it stopped on him. I bet everyone there had already kissed someone. (To this point I had kissed one boy on the lips.) A boy who sat behind me when we practiced changing classes to go to Social Studies often tugged at my bra strap and teased me over my shoulder. I wondered if he wanted a kiss.
My hands were starting to get really cold and my nose was grateful for my warm breath. I kept gazing up at the cloudless sky with its beaming stars then back at the corner waiting for something or someone to change the scene. Maybe it was time to go home and the group overflowing with soda and chips and kisses would turn the corner and happen to come across me getting a breath of fresh air.
Where were you? They would ask. We were wondering where you were. And I’d tell them that yes, I wanted to come, but that I had been invited to another birthday party, one I couldn’t walk to, and that I had just been dropped off at my step and heard them coming. I’d pull out my cherry red lip gloss and tell them I was waiting to go in to my house so that my well-worn lips could cool down a bit. The bottle had stopped unusually often in my direction. That, in fact, I had a date for the skating rink the very next night.
But it only got colder and quieter and I grew restless of wondering and plotting so I turned back nonchalantly and with frozen hands turned the knob to the door. Maybe an episode of the Love Boat would be dreamy enough.