As I watched Johnny Cash's life spill over the screen this afternoon, I was struck by what a cad he was - redeemed over time of course - but a cad nonetheless. It fit in well with the ruminations I have been having lately about my own past. I have been friends with cads. I have made excuses and fielded phone calls from crying girls for cads, but I was never much of a cad myself.
I came close once or twice. When I was a senior in high school, I ended up going to the Homecoming dance with a girl that I had been friends with since our sophomore year. I asked her because I figured that it would be a fun, easy date. We danced a little, then went out on the patio of the University Memorial Center to cool off. While we were standing there, I noticed that the other couples who were out on the patio with us were not exactly using the opportunity to "cool off" - if you catch my meaning. There were a great many teenagers mashing lips, swapping spit, tangling tongues under the moonlight.
I stood in front of her, looking for a cool line, wanting to sound like Bogart, but feeling more like Gallagher. "You know, I've always kinda liked you." It was the best my cad-free brain could come up with.
"Really? Me too."
I couldn't believe it. How could it be this easy? Was it always this easy? Why hadn't I tried this before? What opportunities had I missed simply because I was too busy - Hello, what's this? She's got her arms around my neck and leaning in - is she going to bite me? You're thinking too much, did you notice that? There are so many things that I want to say right now but I have a mouth full of someone else's tongue.
So, there I was, making out on the UMC patio in early Fall. This was pleasant and unplanned. What was I forgetting? Turns out there were two things: First, we had come to the dance as part of a double date with a buddy of mine and the girl he was planning on doing just what I had been doing but didn't stand a chance because she really didn't like him at all at least not in that way and what was the second thing? Stopping to breathe. That wasn't it though. The second thing was that the girl I was with drove. My license had been suspended for ninety days at the beginning of the school year, so I was still looking at a couple more months of bumming rides and bicycling to the places I absolutely had to be.
I needn't have worried. Turns out my buddy had become despondent at the lack of progress he was making with his date and was looking for us to call an early end to the evening. This coincided nicely with the revelation that the girl I was with turned out to be "fast." Well, to be fair, just about anyone would show up on a scale as "fast" compared to me, but I had the giddy sensation that she actually was hot for me. "That's okay, we don't mind taking you guys home first," she said. I could have kissed her - and later I did.
We waited patiently as we watched my buddy walk his date to the door of her house, endure the painful rejection of no goodnight kiss, and then come grumbling back to the car. From the back seat he asked if we wanted to go out to Denny's for a Super Bird. It wasn't a completely ridiculous suggestion, the three of us had made that trip any number of times over the past few years. Not tonight, however. Sadly, he was a little slow on the uptake as to the immediacy of our situation. He wanted to whine about his failed attentions and his misguided attempts at moving past the "just good friends" DMZ and into the fiery fields of high school senior heavy petting.
We dropped him off while he was in mid-sentence and headed for a spot where we could park. I'm parking with a girl. That just got me more confused. The fact that she seemed to have a spot all picked out didn't bother me in the least. Had she been here before? Didn't matter. Not now.
I made out. My jacket was balled up in the back seat, my tie was hanging over the rearview mirror. The windows were fogged over. I was making it all up as I went along based on memories of television and movies. The radio was on, but I couldn't tell you what was playing. I probably talked too much, since that's what I do when I don't know what else to do.
Then it was over. In hindsight I can only imagine why, but we seemed to reach a natural stopping point for the "making out" portion of the evening, and we readjusted our clothes (all but the jacket and tie had remained on), then she drove me home.
We didn't talk much on the way back to my house. I had talked enough anyway. I got a very nice kiss goodnight, then did my best to suppress the urge to skip up the sidewalk to the front door.
When Monday came, I saw her again. She was on her way to her locker. I tried to make some clever conversation, single or double entendre. She was friendly, which was nice, but she wasn't as friendly as she had been. It was obvious that any of the kissing that had taken place on Saturday night would not be taking place here in the hallway. As a matter of fact, it turns out the kissing was pretty much over between the two of us for good.
I carried a torch for her for a month or so. I tried to create scenarios in which the two of us could be alone, and I could try out my burgeoning cad line one more time. That time never came. We stayed friends. She came to my twentieth birthday party. She bought me Bruce Springsteen's first album. She told me if I'd never seen him, that I really owed to myself to check it out sometime. She went with me to see my first Springsteen show. She was absolutely right.
You know, I always kinda liked her.