The first day back from summer vacation is the best day, really, despite all the complaining we feel compelled to do about it. It’s kind of like the big bang, the first second of creation, the primal instant of unique energy from which the entire high school year unfolds. And we’re all here, the stars and planets, fresh from a summer that, admit it or not, was starting to get a little stale, together again in an atmosphere of pure adolescence, freed from our forced immersion in the "real" adult world which has so little regard for us, back to a universe that, despite those ever pesky teachers, coaches and administrators, really does revolve around us, and in the initial flush of creation it seems as if anything is possible, as if this will be the year we’ll do all those things we’ve fantasized about, scoring touchdowns and hitting home runs – and not just on the playing field either.
Pure illusion, of course, but that’s what keeps the cosmos spinning, isn’t it, and before the opening convocation we mingle giddily in the commons room, intoxicated by the heady atmosphere of pure teenage hormones, burning with hope and energy, not yet dragged down by the gravity of the daily grind, careening around colliding with the people we’ve forgotten in the brief respite of summer, and, more importantly, those we’ve been unable to forget.
And at this moment it’s Heather who catches my eye – literally from across a crowded room – and what’s more she catches it on purpose, grinning and acknowledging me with a toss of her head even as she talks animatedly with her cohort Teckla. Then, to my surprise and the thunderstruck amazement of the friends around me, she strides purposefully over and throws her arms around me Charlie! and, being the horny teen I am, for a moment all I can think about is the press of her legendary breasts as they flatten against my chest.
I gasp finally. I wasn’t sure if you were going to say hello.
We’d spent a fair amount of time together that summer while working at the shore and, Heather being Heather, things had occasionally gotten physical, but I didn’t set much store by it, knowing only too well from bitter experience that those summer conversations don’t always translate into the quite different syntax of the school year.
Of course I was, you big dummy
, she says, releasing me only to wack me on the arm playfully. Hey, I was thinking, maybe we should have dinner again sometime – wouldn’t that be great?
Yeah, oh yeah, great.
Eating dinner together was how we’d realy gotten to know each other, huddling on our break at a corner table in the "doghouse," the shabby, dingy employee dining room at the hotel we’d both worked at, able to talk for once without the frenzy of work or the even greater frenzy of the never ending post-work party.
And it’ll drive Pam crazy, Heather whispers gleefully.
I follow Heather’s gaze. Pam’s twisted her head to glare at us over her shoulder, her habitually severe face even more pinched than usual – and realize that with a woman’s perspicacity Heather’s picked up on something I’ve missed. But is it really possible that my old adversary Pam has her eye on me this year? Even though we’d butted heads as usual that summer, for the first time our clashes had produced sparks of genuine attraction, once even igniting into a hot make out session in the hotel linen closet that Pam (of course) had immediately disavowed.
And thinking of Pam inevitably leads my thoughts to Virginia, the mutual friend in whose orbit Pam and I collided, the one person I’d set out (and largely failed) to get closer to that summer. She’s nowhere to be seen, no doubt catching up with the Neanderthals, the jock elite who prefer to congregate in and around their beloved Trans Ams and Corvettes in the parking lot, far from the annoying hoi polloi.
So where do you want to go?
To dinner, dopey!
Heather’s voice brings me back, but somehow the image of Virginia out in the parking lot has shadowed everything and I feel disoriented and confused. I know there’s a restaurant that would be perfect for us but I can’t quite put my finger on which one.
Pam turns away and I look back to Heather’s smiling face, which, despite all its beauty and familiarity now seems faded and unreal to me. I don’t know, I say finally. Let’s decide later.