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How to Love
Author's note: Being a teenager is hard enough. Especially when everyone in the world tells you that you are too young to find love.
“Never underestimate a teenagers’ ability to create trouble.”
You can make a night out of just about anything, especially when you have two cars full of your closest stoner friends, a bottle of Everclear and a campsite. Well, our campsite wasn’t really much of a campsite at all. It was more of an open field between a little patch of woods and a few houses. We knew we weren’t supposed to go hangout there, hence the large KEEP OUT hanging from the chain that blocked off access to the daringly steep gravel hill we had to venture down.
I was riding with Link Mariner, the rich and supposedly gay kid we used mostly for his car and the fat party house we hung out at all the time. Mike Meyers was riding shotgun, holding his 11 week old kitten, Peanut, that he took with him everywhere he went. I was in the backseat sitting with Magnolia, the adorable red-head hippie girl with the attitude of Mother Nature, and Woodhouse, who was riding b****, like always.
Chris Payne followed in his car with Teddy, named after Theodore Roosevelt, who had nothing to say unless it was about the corruption of the government and all of its conspiracies, half of which none of us believed were true. Lucy was in back playing off her whole “shy girl” act like she always did until the first drop of booze hit her lips and she was beating her chest while dangling off the Empire State Building. Okay, maybe not as dramatic, but Lucy Gray sure did have an appearance that gave people an impression much opposite of her true self. Kyrstin was the last one of our Motley crew, and she was a very attractive, yet new addition to our night, that Chris already seemed to have his bloodshot eyes set on.
We outvoted the few non-smokers and stopped at Walgreens for a cigarette run, sending one of the only two old enough inside to get multiple packs of Reds and some type of chaser.
We pulled onto a street and parked in a dimly lit cul-de-sac, piling out of the cars and popping trunks to retrieve the bottle wrapped in a plastic bag, a 30 rack of Bud Light, and 2 over-sized jugs of red Hawaiian Punch.
The whole lot of us crept down the hill, daring to breathe too loudly until we were out of earshot of the nearby houses. We made it safely down the hill by the light of our phones, and apparently quiet enough that we drew no unneeded attention towards ourselves. We all helped to lay down blankets, and sat in down in a circle while most of us simultaneously popped open a beer.
“Let the questing commence!” cried Teddy, cackling as he downed more of his Bud.
“Is it really strong?” asked Kyrstin, never having consumed such rough liquor before this night.
Yes, but chase it and you’ll be fine. But don’t smell it before hand, or you are not going to want to drink it at all. Just get it down and over with, cause the drunk is totally worth it. Your mouth goes numb after the first few shots anyways.” Chris knew as well as the rest of us who had been drinking the stuff more frequently that most adults can’t handle Ever Clear, let alone the amount of it we drink.
The bottle exchanges hands in a counterclockwise motion, along with the fruity refresher. While the night crept on, our level of intoxication rose, quickly. Of course, as soon as I forget everything that sucks and everything I wish I could get away from, and was just enjoying the time I had, my mom texted me.
Mom: home by 11
My curfew wasn’t the problem; it was having all my older, cooler friends know that my mommy wants me home. All it did was make me look young, and immature, but since we were all pretty hammered I didn’t really let it get to me. A few beers and a couple shots later I checked the time and decided that since I’m obviously walking (seeing as though everyone with a car is not in any shape to drive) and I had no idea where I was, I needed to leave. Soon.
“Anybody got a light?” I asked after double checking my pockets for the blue lighter I thought I had. I take Woodhouse’s, light my cigarette, toss it back to him and stand up, quite unsteadily.
“OK,” I started with, taking notice of how those two letters practically tumbled out of my mouth. “I have to peace, so someone should point me in the right direction.”
I made nothing of the different sets of directions and shortcuts being yelled at me.
“I’d walk you,” Mike offered, “but my ankle is still kinda broken and I’m just too shitfaced.”
Chris finished his beer off before standing and adjusting his shirt. “I’ll show you.”
Now, Chris offering to leave the fun surprised me, but not as much as the added fact of a sexy, drunk girl being all over him the whole night. We started towards the hill and once we were about halfway up, we both stopped.
“Much easier going down.” I said through a raspy breath.
“It’s easier sober too.” I nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” Chris said, still halfway up the hill. “Let’s toke.” He packed a bowl while explaining to me his interactions with Kyrstin and to me, it had looked like they were hitting it off. I totally missed the fact that he was not into her, while she was all over him.
While he talked, I studied his silhouetted figure against the black of the night. The way a skinny veined popped out on his forehead, moving as he talked. His teeth, perfectly together, shining in shadows.
“And when I told her I was leaving to walk you, she started crying.”
“Are you serious?!”
“Yea. And she’s been telling me how cute I am all night and… I don’t know it’s just awkward.”
“Oh, well you are cute Chris.” I said, clearly joking and just poking fun at him. Because even though I wasn’t lying and have always found him tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome, he was sort of untouchable in a sense. He was so confined, always doing things no one understood, going places without anyone noticing and disappearing for hours with zero mention of where he was. Not that anyone really asked, it was just Chris. He had a way of doing things, and it worked for him. After a while we all got used to him, and stopped noticing his sketchy behavior.
So when he replied, “Well you’re pretty cute too.” I laughed cutely and said thanks, mostly because I could tell he said it with a smile.
Once we finally made it back to the top and got out the neighborhood, I noticed it was the first time me and Chris had ever been really alone. What was even better than being alone with him was that it wasn’t awkward, or tense. We talked about music, ourselves, we smoked cigarettes one after another and kept bumping into each other and laughing as we swayed down the side walk. When we finally reached a road I recognized, I told Chris I could make it the rest of the way. He admitted that he would call me later anyways, just to make sure I got there.
And when we stood there for a second, just looking at each other, it seemed like neither of us wanted to walk away. We had to, so we did after a quick hug. It couldn’t have been more than two minutes later when he called.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hey, I’m glad to know you haven’t gotten pulled over or anything.”
“Nope, I’m all good. Where are you at?”
“I am currently sitting in a bush, waiting for my ride.”
I laughed, “Really?”
“Yea, I’m rather comfy actually. I just don’t wanna be in the open until I get picked up because I would not pass a sobriety test right now.”
“Hell no, me either.” I felt it was a good idea not to tell him I’d already seen two cops since we split.
“So what are you doing when you get home?”
“Probably the same thing I usually do at 11:30 at night; go shopping, walk my dog, cook baked Alaska.” I replied, hinting at sarcasm.
“Ah, see, I would have believed you but you don’t have a dog. And I doubt you can make baked Alaska. “
“You caught me. I don’t really know, why?”
“Just wondering if maybe you wanted to hang out again later.”
I stopped walking and made a face no one saw. “Ya, sure. Can I ask… uh why though? Before today we never really hung out alone. I mean your chill and everything, I’m just kind of surprised.”
I heard him laugh and even through the phone it made my face hot. “Are you kidding me? Do you even know how distracting it is to be at your house all the time?”
I smirked, “What, why?”
“Cause you’re like, hella hot.” He said, with sureness in his voice.
I laughed and kicked my feet in the air. “Well I hope the distraction doesn’t stop you from coming over.” Chris telling me he wanted to see me later and him thinking I was cute put a little spunk in my drunken swag.
“I think I can get over it okay.” I heard a car horn beep and Chris yell something.
“My rides here.” He said. “Do you just wanna call me when you get home?”
“Ya sure. Talk to you later.”
I was walking on cloud nine and when I was almost home, my pocket vibrated.
Chris: try to get home safe tonite, I really wanna see you
The full shock hadn’t even hit me yet, but that text was proof to my own eyes. The feeling of being wanted by Chris (of all people) was still so new. He was one guy I thought for sure I could never have, not that I would have even tried. And he wanted to see me.
I went straight to my room when I got home to avoid having my mom second guess my slurred speech and highly flammable breath. She was cool with me and Lessa smoking dope, and she even bought us our cigarettes. All she asked was that we didn’t drink, so we learned to cover it up with gum, perfume, cigarette smoke or we just wouldn’t go around her or if we were drinking.
I changed into a pair of cloth shorts and a blue tank, brushed my hair and teeth, re-did all my makeup and found two of the biggest blankets in the house that weren’t occupying someone’s bed.
Chris called to say he was on the way a few minutes after mom went to sleep. And I took my chances sneaking out, cause there was no way she was sleeping yet.
The window in my room seemed to make more noise whenever I use it to my advantage. It’s a 2-foot drop directly into the front yard. I cracked it so I could get back in later, and sat on the porch swing to wait. There was only enough time for me to finish one of my mom’s Marlboro lights before a navy blue Mitsubishi pulled in the driveway, showing off a noticeably large dent on the driver side door. Chris shook connected hands with the driver, showing they were probably bros, and stepped out of the car.
The sky was filled with the fullest of moons I’d ever seen in a city, accompanied by masses of visible stars. The moonlight made the smile beam off Chris’s face and directly toward me. The car backed out and I got up, leading him into the backyard.
I went to the most level ground I could find to lay the blanket down on, which happened to be in the very center of the yard. We kicked off our shoes, sat down Indian style on the first blanket and laid the second one across our laps.
“Do you wanna smoke a bowl, or are you enjoying your drunk?” he asked, holding up the blue/gold pipe he named “Zeus” and an eighth of sour diesel.
“Smoking sounds great.” I said, thrusting myself backwards to where I was lying flat on my back under a sea of sparkling wishes, waiting to be made.
The amount of light being filtered through the night was enough for Chris to pack us a bowl by moonshine, while I used the same light to admire his high-set cheekbones and flawless complexion. He coughed, looked up at the sky before hitting the bowl, and then handed it to me. We smoked a second bowl, (complementing our first) and laid back to enjoy our newly acquired buzz.
“It’s a really nice night to be out.” And it was true, the summer kept it hot during the days and at night it was perfect, with a warm breeze. He sounded so genuine, too. Like he could lie outside on a blanket even if I weren’t next to him. And he probably would.
“I’ll second that.” I agreed, pulling a Red out of my pack with my teeth.
We were sucking down cigarettes and giggling over things we wouldn’t remember in the morning when I reached over and poked him on his side. When he didn’t react, I did it again. He shook his head and smiled.
“I’m not ticklish.”
“I call bullshit.” I said, propping myself up on one elbow and reaching for his side again. I poked and his rib cage and hips, waiting for any sort of reaction. After minutes of him just lying there with an I-told-you-so grin on his face, I laid back down next to him and accepted defeat.
“I still think you’re lying. Everyone’s ticklish somewhere.”
He shrugged and said “Guess not.” Then smiled as he asked “Are you?” and plunged a hand into my side.
I shrieked out a “No!” while trying to prevent him from gripping my side.
Chris laughed, “Oh no, you’re not ticklish at all.” I pushed him over, then plopped myself back down. Then, we just sat there for a couple minutes. I could hear him steadily breathing and for a second it almost sounded like he was sleeping. But when I looked over at him, his eyes were wide open and reflecting the stars. He looked like he was seeing as far as his eyes would let him. Chris stayed like that until reality came back to him and he turned over to look at me.
The first thing I noticed was how the look on his face changed. Awkwardness, even slight embarrassment seemed to wash over his features, engaging my curiosity. The smile on his face even seemed tense, nervous. He made out “So,” before hesitating, taking a deep breath, and starting over. “So, I have really wanted to kiss you all night.”
I thanked God he couldn’t see every drop of blood in my body flush into my cheeks, yet he must’ve felt the warmth of them when he leaned in to kiss me.
I’ll be honest and say that the kiss didn’t emit sparks. But I still, haven’t been kissed like that ever again. For a second, everything felt still, frozen. Like even the summer breeze had been put on hold. But once our lips lifted off each other, the night resumed to its usual sounds and movement. And I found myself once again lying down next to Chris. This time, a little closer.