December 1: AIDS Awareness Day
I was sitting in the living room this evening after school, procrastinating on my English essay, wallowing in self-pity, and fending off waves of bad cramps. “Blind Date” was on TV. It’s one of those dating shows you can’t stop watching because at least you’re not those people. This particular episode featured Gerald, a turgid Californian weightlifter with an orange fake bake. Gerald was big on first impressions. He started off by ridiculing his robust date’s nutritional shrewdness because she liked pizza, then proceeded to mack on her with slimy come-on lines. “If you would exude a more loving vibe, I swear I’d rock your world,” he crooned while trying to force-feed her organic pasta.
The doorbell rang. I got up, moaning. I saw in the peephole that it was Jeremy and creaked the door open.
“Come with me,” he said. “I’m taking you somewhere, to celebrate your victory.”
I smiled, feeling a little better. Maybe Jeremy’s first reaction was the usual guy thing of making a big scene and taking all the credit himself, but at least he was coming through now. I turned off the TV and grabbed my purse. Out by the car, Jeremy insisted on blindfolding me, despite my protests.
“You said you love surprises,” he argued.
He had me there. While tying the bandana around my eyes, he planted a soft kiss on my neck that melted me, the first iota of pleasure I’d felt in hours. We spun out of there in his Acura, me seeing nothing and him saying nothing, at least not that I could hear over the dissonant screech of some bad rock song. He’s being such a sweetie. Keep your mouth shut, Fran. But as much as I wanted to respond to his romantic gestures with sublime gratitude, my body had other plans.
I know it’s different for everyone, but the first day of my period is always the worst. It starts with the dull, persistent lower-backache. Then my stomach muscles are contracting in wave-like paroxysms of pain. There’s dizzying nausea. Once, freshman year, I spent eight harrowing hours in the fetal position in my darkened room.
“I’m sorry to be annoying,” I finally said, trying not to sound too whiny. “But could we listen to something a little more mellow?”
“Oh sure,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
He put on Sade’s Greatest Hits, which has sort of become “our CD” after serving as background music to more than a few make-out sessions. And I must admit, the first few notes of her luxuriant voice pacified me somewhat. But mid-way into “No Ordinary Love,” my annoyance had found a new focus.
“Um, about how close are we to our destination?” I asked, shifting uncomfortably.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”
“Because if it’s any longer than ten minutes, I’m gonna wig out. I’m sorry, but it’s just too sweaty and dark in here.”
Jeremy succumbed and took off the blindfold, and rays of light immediately hit my eyes. I cringed and blinked a few times.
“Are you all right?” Jeremy asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. I had a bad feeling it came out kind of snappy, and he didn’t respond, so I was probably right.
Finally my eyes adjusted to the light and I focused in on our surroundings. We were going north on I-65. To our far left, on the horizon, the sun was setting, a transcendent blend of periwinkle and iridescent salmon.
“Are we going up to Indy?” I asked.
“Were you planning to leave the blindfold on for a full hour?”
Which, as it turned out, meant “affirmative.” Fortuitously, though, Jeremy’s romantic skills are more finely honed than his kidnapping aptitude, because the place we ended up at was awesome. Located at the pinnacle of a skyscraper, the restaurant rotated slowly on its axis, clockwise, as we ate. The waiters wore suits with towels tossed over their forearms, and the cheapest entrée was like twenty-five bucks. Our seat was by the window, so we got to see the full panorama of the city. I gushed thank-yous at Jeremy over and over, feeling like such a jerk. But he shrugged them all away, saying he wanted this night to be special. And it was. Even my period queasiness abated, that is until just a few bites into my filet mignon. I looked down at the swirling city lights below and felt myself chewing in slow mo, getting more nauseated with each chomp. The fork stopped on its way to my mouth. I clinked it against the plate and closed my eyes.
“Are you okay?” Jeremy asked. I felt his hand on my forearm.
“Please don’t touch,” I said. “I—I, um, I’m feeling a little sick. It’s, you know, that time.”
“Oh man.” Jeremy’s face flushed, and a flash of annoyance passed over his features. “Are we talking Vomitsville here?”
“No, I think I just need to stop eating.”
“But you’ve only taken three bites.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me for being such an abysmal date. Trust me, though, it’s better than the alternative.”
“I’ll take your word,” Jeremy said. He got all taciturn after that, but I understood why. I mean, he’d planned this amazing night for us, and my body had to go and ruin everything.
Still, I sensed something else was bothering him, which he soon averred. “You know, some people have been saying that it was his way of flirting with you.”
I frowned. “What? Whose way?” I asked, even though somewhere inside, I knew.
Jeremy was looking down at his plate, chewing. “You know, with the whole President of Vice campaign. Some people are saying it’s his immature way of flirting, but I think that’s crazy. I think he’s just being a pretentious jerk.”
I felt my heart lurch. “Of course it is. I mean, he is.” My thoughts raced, trying to piece together the incongruous logic of what he’d just said. “I mean, what could be flirtatious about that? It doesn’t make any sense . . .”
“I can’t say it’s completely ridiculous. It’s kind of like in grade school when you chase the cutest girl at recess. That whole deal.”
I looked at him. He was doing that thing again, where he worked hard to pretend he didn’t care. He still wouldn’t look at me. Was Jeremy jealous?
“I hope you’re not—”
“Forget it,” Jeremy interrupted. “I knew you’d agree . . . How about a toast?” He lifted his glass of Coke. “To you, the new Vice President . . .”
I smiled and lifted my glass. “To . . . me,” I said with a giggle.
“And to us,” he added. “To taking our relationship to a higher plateau.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “To us.”