Sunday morning began with rustling in the kitchen. One of the roommates, I’m not sure who, got it in her mind to make breakfast for everyone. So, everyone (sans L) was in the kitchen, messing about and making French toast. At first, I felt like rising out of my sleeping bag and making my presence known, but soon decided against it. There I was, all snug and warm on the couch, while they were in the kitchen, with their girlish giggles blending with the music and a barrage of wonderful smells tickling my nose. It was one of those moments that was just absolutely perfect, and I wanted to stay all snug and warm on the couch savoring every moment in my half-awake state. With the snow gently falling outside, one of the women had the inspiration to put Bing Crosby’s White Christmas in the stereo, which soon led to a discussion on how Bing Crosby butchers every song he sings. How dare they say that! Bing Crosby was the Backstreet Boys of his time, for crying out loud. I had half a mind to get up and give them a history lesson, but it would’ve ruined all the snugness and savouriness.
I was still in my sleeping bag when L arose from her beauty rest. And it was also around this time that I felt I should be making my presence known. But, there was one slight little problem. See, I sleep in my underwear, and to get to the privacy of the bathroom to change would have meant walking through a kitchen full of women in nothing but my shorts. This was not the way I wanted the first time a woman sees me in my underwear to be. Or many women, for that matter. So, it was time to practice a skill I had honed from many summers tenting with my sister: getting dressed in my sleeping bag. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. You just kick off your sleep wear (only a thick a wall of goose down protecting me from four women, you can imagine my fear/excitement), then push all your clothes into your sleeping bag and hope you can wriggle into them. The whole process only takes five minutes in optimum circumstances. This morning took me half an hour. With pants firmly in place, I emerged from my slumber.
I really should have paid closer attention to who was doing most of the cooking that morning, as it was exceptional. That was great French toast, and I didn’t have to do dishes again. After that, it was time to make idle chit chat with the roomies. Harley asked how exactly my mother and her uncle work together. Yup, through a bizarre twist of fate, my mother and her uncle both work for Parkland School Division. So, I clarified that her uncle, as she knows, is the superintendent, and my mother has been a trustee on the school board for the past 15 years. I think I even pointed out that my mother headed up the committee that ultimately hired her uncle. But then, wanting to try and impress them, I couldn’t help but reveal that Mom is making the leap into provincial politics, and they couldn’t help but be supportive of her efforts. I wonder if I could get them to donate to the party….
At this point, Lady Jaye tried, in her own awkward way, to make small talk….
Lady Jaye>> [Holding forth a banana] What do you see?
Me>> A phallic symbol.
Lady Jaye>> Oh, really? Why do you say that?
Me>> Well, one time, a person held up a banana and asked me what I saw, and I said a phallic symbol, and that got a laugh. So I said it hoping I would make you laugh.
Lady Jaye>> Oh.
This was the second time I’d been through that “banana” exercise. Someday, I’m going to have to find out the point of it.
As the morning drew on, Lady Jaye and Ghost soon had to be off to various study groups and the like. Harley, being the neat freak of the group, was going to stay behind and clean up. L herself was meeting with a study group that afternoon, and needed to run on up to Staples to have some overheads made. While packing up my things, I offered to drive L on up there. I mean, with the first snowfall, it was chilly out, and I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman to make her walk all that way. When my stuff was loaded, I said my good-byes to Harley, and it was off to Staples! In the car, I couldn’t help but ask L a question that had been bugging me all weekend….
Me>> OK, I can’t stay quiet on this subject any longer. Which one is the lesbian?
L>> Lady Jaye. That’s why we were making all the jokes about her not liking boys.
Me>> Oh. I thought Chuck was just joking around when he said one of them was a lesbian. When you make one of them a lesbian, suddenly it goes from “a weekend at the Playboy Mansion” to “set-up for a porn movie.”
And, of course, what L never heard was how her words crushed my heart. You see, I was developing a bit of a crush on Lady Jaye, and now I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that our love was never meant to be. I’ve given a name to this pain: Harry Kim syndrome. See, Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager has this nasty character flaw. From Borg drones to holograms to the wrong twin, he always falls in love with unattainable women. So, whenever I fall in love with someone I can never be with, I chalk it up to “Harry Kim syndrome.” Since I am a 23-year old virgin, you can tell I suffer from it quite a bit.
We soon arrived at our destination, and, after seeing the icy sidewalks, my gentlemanly ways came to the forefront once again. Since I was in no real rush to get home, I offered to keep L company while she waited for her overheads to be completed, and then drive her home. And, since most people find wasting time with a friend better than wasting time alone, she gladly accepted. With her sensitive documents safely in the hands of a minimum-wage earning copy guy, we headed across the road to the mall.
Yes, I would have made an excellent mallrat. Weaving from store-to-store, searching for the better deal, evading two-bit rent-a-cops. But, I would have been even better in a group of mallrats. Someone to gloat with as “the man” stumbles by looking for you. Someone to tell bad jokes to over poutine in the food court. Someone who’s more fashion-conscious than you to help you choose clothes. And while the Duggan Mall pales in comparison to some of the larger inner-city designs, it was all that L and I needed to shed the confines of the verge-of-adulthood world and become a couple of crazy, teenaged mallrats. But, sadly, we couldn’t confine our inner geeks and most of our mallratting consisted of checking out Darth Maul action figures in Zeller’s. Still, though, it was a glimpse of what might have been.
The hours sped by, and soon we were returning to Staples to collect the overheads. L was certain that those images from The Sandman were just the thing needed to punctuate her group’s oral presentation. And, since she was meeting with her group in just under an hour, we knew it was time for her to go home so she could prepare. Back into my Markmobile, and we returned to her lair. Of course, Harley was there, and she was a little off-put:
Harley>> Hey! You said you were going home! You lied to me!
Me>> I didn’t lie. My plans changed since last we spoke.
There, in L’s kitchen, we exchanged our good-byes. It reminded me of that old song lyric: “Saying good-bye, why is it sad?/It makes us remember the good times we had.” With smiles on our faces but sadness in our eyes, I walked to my car and drove off into that blue Alberta sky.
I put my road trip tape in the stereo, turned up the volume, and set course for home. There was no sexual tryst. There was no awkward silence punctuated by even more awkward small talk. It was just one friend and another, hanging out. We’d watch movies until the crack of dawn, reveal hopes for the future, fears from the past, and tell each other those things that we would feel uncomfortable telling someone else. I didn’t find a fling. I didn’t find a stranger. I found a friend. And when all is said and done, that’s better than anything I can dream up.