There are people you think are the love of your life, people you know are the love of your life, and people you hope to God aren’t the love of your life, but who you can never seem to escape. These are the ones that can not only push your buttons unlike anyone else, they can find entirely new buttons you never even knew existed. These are probably the closest to the actual thing. It’s also the category Anthony fits into best.
He wasn’t even supposed to be more than a high school fling. Our friend Nikita spent all of biology writing me notes saying he wanted to date me, and our other friend Elida spent all of health class (in between giving Doug hand jobs) telling Anthony I wanted to date him. Anthony and I had exchanged little more than pleasantries, but our mutual friends were convinced that we were “perfect for each other.” We agreed to try it, both under the impression that the other had expressed interest first.
After class, he met me outside of my classroom.
“So… I guess we’re supposed to be dating?” He flashed his bashful, intelligent, shit-eating smirk that would always make me fall in love with—and want to beat the holy shit out of—him. It was more of a grimace, really—a half wink mixed with a sneer that meant he knew he was being clever, even if it was at your expense—especially if it was at your expense. I hated that smile. I lived for that smile.
I responded to his comment by running away. We had been practicing slow jogs in P.E., and I had gotten pretty damn good at keeping to a steady, fairly quick pace.
“What the fuck?!” I heard his disbelieving, embarrassed laugh as I trotted off amongst the pubescent crowds, stopping only when I reached the common area and started talking to a group of friends. When he caught up with me, we were literally thrown together by the same people who had set up this blind relationship to begin with. Nikita grabbed me by the arm and swung me around while Elida shoved Anthony in my general direction. We collided and fell to the ground, grinding day-old tater tots into my cargo pants. Anthony smelled like teenage boy (not unpleasantly) and cheap cologne (not Axe). It was intoxicating in its raw attempt at manliness.
Most of our month-long relationship consisted of making out between class periods and my leaning awkwardly against him as he leaned cooly against the cafeteria walls. I had to keep moving his hands back to my hips—they kept wandering lower.
“I still can’t believe you fucking ran from me!” He’d say as we shifted a few steps to the left, making room for students trying to gain entry into the locker room.
“I…I was nervous.” I said, blushing. “Shut the fuck up. I didn’t even know you.” We went back to sucking face. I knew him now, of course. A week can change a person. A week and you can learn all you’d ever need to know to begin a teenage romance.
One morning, while waiting for class to start, our flirtation was interrupted by a loud “Ahem…” Anthony and I detached from each other’s faces and turned around—it was Katie, a mutual friend of our group, and someone that Anthony had spent all last summer chasing. She was tall and slim, with no hips or ass to speak of, but a rack that guys loved to drool over. Her long thinness echoed in her face: long, thin nose, long, thin teeth, long, thin chin. She usually wore wire-framed glasses and pulled her dirty blonde hair into a tight, slicked-back ponytail, and paired her hip-hugger jeans and Keds with an oversized men’s hoodie. Time after time, she shot him down, but these days, she seemed to have a renewed interest in their friendship.
“Hey, what’s up?” She looked past me and straight at him. Anthony looked from me, to Katie, to me again, unsure of the safest answer.
“I’m having a party this weekend, and you should come.”
Anthony looked away, running his hand through his hair, back to front.
“I dunno, man, I kinda wanted to go skating with Josh this weekend.”
Katie smiled, her eyes pleading. “Please? You should really go…because you’ll have fun…and because you love me.”
My face burned with anger and jealousy—I unconsciously clenched my jaw, but stayed quiet. I wouldn’t let her get to me.
Anthony looked back at me and smiled. “Maybe, man…we’ll see…fuck.”
Satisfied, Katie beamed, her long, thin teeth revealed in a vicious (if not small) victory. They pointed inward at each other, like an upside down pair of hands, fingers touching. Eeeexcellent, they said.
“Great! See you then!” I don’t remember if he went to that party or not, but he probably did. She always had a hook in him that way. After she left, I pulled him closer, pushing his hands further down on my hips.
Our first official date was Homecoming—my first ever dance as a full-time public schooler. I rode in with my cousin and a group of our friends, trying to laugh off the fact that I wasn’t being driven by my boyfriend, and dodging questions about why he didn’t rent a limo or pick me up himself. The truth was, I hadn’t known him long enough to ask such an imposing request, and I felt like if we were going to rent a limo, I should at least pay my half, and neither of us had enough money to rent so much as a tandem bicycle.
We arrived at the dance fashionably late, first stopping by our local Home Depot for the hell of it. I think the sight of five adolescent girls in formal gowns playfully browsing through the chain saws without any real valid reason as to why made the store clerk uneasy, and he eventually asked us to leave.
We finally made it to the dance, where the cafeteria doubled as a ballroom and the crepe paper and aluminum foil decorations instantly shattered any romanticized ideas I may have carried about the glamour of public school dances.
Anthony arrived a half hour later, fall-over drunk. He wore a white, button-up shirt with rolled up sleeves, a skinny black tie that disappeared sometime during the night, black Van’s skater shoes, and black Dickie’s work pants. His hair had been neatly combed and styled before he left, but now—since he always ran his hands through it from back to front, twirling and shaking it in nervous frustration—it was a bed-headed mess. I thought I’d never seen someone look so cool, so determined to resist all those high school societal norms.
During our first slow dance, his shoelaces kept coming untied. Between his duct-tape-wrapped (and therefore very slippery) shoes, the polished cafeteria floor, and the high heels my grandma and aunt both insisted I wear, it had become a hazardous situation for us both. I managed to wobble down onto one knee and started tying his shoes, because god dammit if I was gonna fall on my ass at my first real date-dance. My older cousin Jeremy—who had graduated the year before and was there with his girlfriend—laughed at me for months after he saw us.
The rest of the dance was spent making out, rocking back and forth in sweaty-palm-holding slow dances, and my hanging out with Kelsey, as Anthony went off into the bathroom to drink more malt liquor with his friends.
Our last dance was spent slowly rocking in place, front to back, his hands around my stomach. I tried to lean back and play the part of the blissfully romanced girlfriend, but every time I did, he would stumble backwards and try to hold onto me for balance, which almost took us both down. So I just, like, kind of leaned back on my heels, and ignored his beer breath. I would also occasionally shuffle a half step to the right, since he had a hard on that was poking into my ass in a pretty uncomfortable way. But, unfortunately, since I lacked the couth to say “Hey, your dick is poking into my ass, could you knock it off?,” he would just shuffle another half step to the right, readjust his hands a little, and let it settle back into my ass. Time of Your Life is a fucking long god damn song to have your first awkward boner cuddle with.
I dumped him on our four-week anniversary, when I realized that this boy was a great friend, but not someone I was romantically attracted to. It was mutual. At least, he said it was. Several weeks later, I’d realize that my feelings for him had renewed, no doubt fed by the lack of pressure of avoiding impromptu erections and having to make out with him every hour and fifteen minutes like it was my god damned job.
I asked him out as school was ending. It took me weeks to work up the courage, since I was sure there was no way he would reciprocate my feelings at this point. Not after I’d dumped him.
“Well…” he looked guilty, truly apologetic. “I was actually about to ask out Katie later today…so…” he kinda shrugged. I kinda laughed. We kinda left, both feeling like shit.
That started what would become a six-year series of one of us chasing after the other just as they became unavailable. Timing was a real cunt to me and Anthony, but it never lost its determination to get it right “this time.”
Anthony may have been boning Katie, but the two of us were always able to communicate with and understand each other in a way that didn’t come naturally with our other relationships. We both had a pretty shitty home life, so we would often skip school and hop the bus around Hillsboro for day, just visiting random friends at work, or browsing stores like Thriftway and Big Lots and buying cheap Mexican candy and Viso energy drinks. We’d hang out late into the evening, bitching about our families and lives, worrying about our futures, until we’d finally catch the last bus to the Hillsboro Transit Center and walk our separate ways. Anthony would be different on these trips. His loud, boisterous personality would fade into something softer, and more intimate. He’d stop saying stupid shit for laughs like “Nukka,” and “The fuck’d you say to me, essay?” His voice would lower, he’d mumble—just loud enough for me to hear. Occasionally, a Cartman impression or an Eminem-styled “fack!” would still slip out, but now it was more of a nervous tick than a shot at grabbing attention. He’d talk about his family—his hoarder mother who wouldn’t let him throw out plastic Kool-Aid pitchers, his abusive step-father who passed out when he got stressed, his younger, needy sister and her binge-eating disorder. His anger was so much more visible at those times, his desperation to succeed and leave. He’d tell me about problems with Katie, how she’d been smoking again, how he was pretty sure she was cheating on him with Tyler or Blake or Robert. I’d listen, and I think that was the most important thing to him. It hurt, but I needed to drink up his story, to hear what kind of life created this kind of man that I knew. Sometimes, he’d look at me, dead on. Small, dark, hazel eyes flecked with chocolate, bright and full of searching. Thousands of thoughts a second were racing behind those eyes, and they all saw right through me. My eyes felt too big in those moments—too open and exposed and naked to his sight. I could shut them, but he’d still see. I never shut them.
I envied Katie at times like these for getting to have these discussions in a bed instead of on a bus bench, and I felt superior to her because I knew that—bed or bus—these conversations were much less frequent for them.
“What do you think you’re gonna do after you graduate?” I asked him once, as he drew dicks in the bus window condensation. He dropped his hands to his lap and glared at his thick, grimy hands, lost in thought.
“I dunno…” he’d mumble, almost inaudibly. “I don’t fuckin’ know…”
We’d be quiet on the bus ride home, our feet aching, our jeans soaked with the rain from Oregon’s perpetually soaked sidewalks, smelling of outdoors and sweat and hormones. I’d sit there, closing my eyes, smelling him beside me, wishing for nothing more than to lay my head on his shoulder and sink into his oversized hoodie. I wanted it so bad, it made clear thinking next to impossible.