Axel’s beat-up truck barreled down New Hampshire Avenue. I was sitting in between him and Amy. I wasn’t sure what to worry about most - the police pulling us over and finding out Axel had been drinking – that I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and we might crash and I would die – not making it home by my midnight curfew – or, worst of all, that the boy I had just met wouldn’t call me tomorrow.
The cool fall air blew in the window and washed over me. All those things I knew I should worry about just didn’t seem important. I knew we wouldn’t get stopped by the police. I knew we wouldn’t crash. I knew we’d make it home in time. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was whether he would call. And I really, really wanted him to call.
On Tuesday, when Amy asked me if I wanted to go to Jessica Rosenbaum’s party, I never expected to end the night thinking about anyone but Shawn. I had been thinking about Shawn continuously for a week. I hadn’t been sleeping, or paying attention in any of my classes, or even talking on the phone to my friends. I had alternated between pretending to be fine, and crying.
As a freshman, there would normally have been no chance of going to a huge house party. Two months into high school we had all heard about the keg parties older kids got to go to but none of us had been. But Jessica had an older sister who was a junior and her sister said Jessica could invite her friends to the party. We all knew this party was going to be legendary, and we all wanted to be there.
“C’mon,” Amy said. “There is no way we can miss this party.
She’s right, I thought, but what if Shawn is there with Carolyn. I’ll die.
“It will be so crowded, you won’t even see Shawn,” Amy said as she read my mind.
“OK,” I sighed.
On Friday we dressed carefully. We weren’t sure what people wore to these parties. I didn’t want to worry about a coat and the early November was chilly so I wore my new Jordache jeans and my pink Benetton sweatshirt. I carefully pegged my jeans and tucked them into matching pink socks. With the pink swipe on my Treetorn sneakers and my bangs as poufy as I could make them after a 10 minute spray of Aquanet and Amy’s vigorous back-combing, I thought I looked pretty good. Not as good as the senior Shawn had dumped me for, but as good as I could possibly get.
Amy’s mom dropped us off a block from the party and we could see kids streaming in. I though Amy’s mom would object to the thumping base we could feel a block away, but she didn’t say anything.
At the door we each handed over $5 to two huge seniors from the football team. I had a moment of panic that they would turn me away because I was too young or not pretty enough but they didn’t even seem to look at me. One guy in a letter jacket handed me and Amy red plastic cups and we joined the crowd pushing toward the kegs. With the crowd pressing against us from behind it was impossible to turn around and we couldn’t hear each other screaming over the music. The heat from the mosh of bodies made me regret the sweatshirt I had chosen. Finally at the front, another letter jacket filled my cup from one of the six kegs. By the time I had squeezed back through the crowd, the cup was almost empty from the jostling.
Amy and I made our way to the emptied living room, which had become a dance club. Immediately my eyes pulled to the fireplace, where a couple was dancing, two heads above the crowd. Shawn and Carolyn. Shawn’s eyes were half closed and I could tell he was drunk. With one glance I realized that in just a week, he’d become someone new. The sweet boy who’d apologized after kissing me for the first time was long gone. I didn’t know this sloppy kid grinding with a slutty senior who would have her gold hoop earrings ripped through her earlobes in a fight later that night in the McDonald’s parking lot.
I turned away with mixed emotions. I had seen him, and hadn’t wanted to die. It didn’t even hurt. I felt like a door had slammed shut. I turned to Amy, feeling ages older.
“Let’s dance,” I screamed.
Doug E. Fresh yelled over the stereo system, “La-Di La-Di. We likes to party. We don't cause trouble, we don't bother nobody.”
I threw myself into the beat, feeling better than I’d felt in a week, better than I’d felt maybe ever. Steam rose off the churning bodies and I felt sweat running down by spine. I closed my eyes and smiled.
My eyes whipped open as I felt someone press behind me. I saw Amy smiling as a really tall guy I recognized pulled her in to dance. Over my shoulder I saw a dark-haired guy grinning at me. I turned around and our bodies nestled together as we started grinding to the beat. As the song switched to Humpty Dance our rhythm shifted but we stayed together. I lifted my arms behind his neck. He was taller than me, but not too tall. I’d danced with boys before at camp and school dances, but never like this. This felt like exactly like I had hoped it would. It felt like joy.
After several songs he screamed into my ear, “Wanna go outside?”
I turned to Amy, pointed toward the backyard, and waved. She looked pretty happy dancing with the tall guy and I didn’t think she’d miss me.
Holding my hand, he pulled me through the mess of dancing kids, through the kitchen and out back through the screen door. The cool, smooth night air washed over me. I took a huge breath, filling my lungs after the beer-filled jungle air inside.
“I’m Ira. What’s your name,” he asked.
“Evva,” I answered.
“Are you the one with the banner in the cafeteria with the big rose?” he asked
Just the month before I had run for Freshman Class Secretary and had hung a huge banner in the cafeteria. My dad had come up with my campaign slogan: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Vote for Evva and She’ll work for you. I cringed as I realized how embarrassing that sounded now, how young and stupid. There was no way this older boy would think I was smart or mature.
He smirked and said, “I voted for you, when are you going to start working for me?”
As he learned down to kiss me, the world whooshed away. My legs felt numb, my cheeks flamed and head was full of cotton. So this is how it feels, I thought.
Too soon, Amy was saying, “It’s 10 to midnight, we’ve got to go!”
I pulled away, smiled and ran after Amy. Axel was in his truck, right outside, right where he said he’d be. Amy and I climbed in and Axel slammed the gas pedal down.
“What did you and that guy talk about when you went outside?” Amy asked me.
“Not much,” I relied. But that wasn’t true. We had talked about a lot – how his tall friend, Jason, had dated my friend Jodi last summer when I was away at camp – how hot it was inside – that he was in Amy’s biology class. I just didn’t want to tell her. She’ll think it sounds dumb. And I wanted to think about it myself, privately, before I told anyone else.
“I bet you weren’t doing much talking,” snorted Axel. Amy laughed.
I smiled to placate them, but I cringed inside. They were tarnishing something beautiful. I knew what I had felt that night was different and special. I felt the air between us like static. I felt like I’d known him my whole life. I felt like I’d never known anyone but him.
I turned toward the window and smiled to myself. I knew he’d call.