The Wrong Boy

Everyone is in Starbucks. The icy rain is coming sideways, the drops the size of spit, and the crosswalks are slushy, bottomless ponds. The only good thing about the weather is the reprieve from those hideous, ankle-height, spike-heeled shoe-boots ladies everywhere are wearing, oftentimes with little socks sticking out like floppy black flower petals, followed by an inch of lower calf, red from the cold. Anyway, Starbucks is packed with the computer-toting self-employed today, and, as usual, there is a quiet but friendly feel to the clientele.

When I hooked up to the wifi here, which you have to do by signing onto the Starbucks website, I noticed a photo of Greg Allman (Starbucks’ iTunes free pick of the day), now old, and remembered something: It was the summer between junior and senior high schools, I was fifteen, and I had a crush on an older guy, Dennis, who managed the hippie jeans store in my small Long Island town. Dennis was probably gay, now that I think of it, but I didn’t really know what gay was back then—all I knew was that there were the older guys who hit on me in pretty forward and disgusting ways at fourteen or fifteen, and then there were the ones who didn’t. The latter group was the one I sometimes allowed myself to like. My crush on Dennis had been going on from afar for a while.

In the meantime, I was dating one of the former group of older guys—the forward ones (don’t ask me why; I have no idea). He was a blacksmith and musician named Kevin, who, the first time he strung my guitar, strung it upside down, I think as a way to make me think he was crazy about me, which he wasn’t.  ANYWAY.

One evening I had a plan to take the train into the city to see the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore, and Kevin dropped me off at the train station in his truck. My friend from Junior High, Greg, was there, waiting for me, and so Kevin stepped out of his truck to meet him. When I introduced them, I said, “Greg, this is Dennis; Dennis, this is Greg.” But Kevin wasn’t Dennis—Kevin was my so-called boyfriend, and Dennis was the guy I really liked

Kevin said, “What’s this “Dennis” shit?” and I realized what had happened. Yikes. Wow—the mind is a crazy thing, giving it all away, even behind one’s own back.

That night I sat listening to the Allman Brothers with what was probably the worst headache I ever had, before or since. I’m not a hundred percent sure what bothered me more—that I’d introduced my boyfriend with another guy’s name, which couldn’t feel good, or that I was dating the wrong guy.

There are only a few more stories from that period, which was blessedly short, but they all are dark—darker even than this one.

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Distant Dock

So you know I lived in this house for the first eleven years of my life, right out there on the Long Island Sound. I spent a lot of time on the strip of beach behind the house, squatting by myself on the dark sand, examining shit: sparkly rocks, in particular—I loved the cellophane-y mica that you could peel off in layers—but also dried seaweed, washed-up condoms, dead eels and horseshoe crabs. One of the things that intrigued me most was the ancient remnant of a dock several yards out in the water: it was a few pylons, really, grey and worn and leaning in odd directions like crooked teeth. Gulls would stand on the pylons, but no one else—there was no way out there: the walkway was long gone. I wanted to go, though.

I always want to go.