The Social: A Short Story About Young Hormonal Silliness
by Jake Lisabeth
Photo by Wiissa
Most people called it a social. Some called it coed activities, canteen night. One time I heard a kid call it a nice “hang around” which was weird. The ever changing name whatever it was, didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted a hand job.
It’s funny how we forget how much the idea of anyone but yourself touching you used to be literally the most exciting thing in a fucking lifetime. The first time I laid my adolescent, quivering body on top of another, her name was Leah Golder, I thought the universe had shown me something never seen before by man’s glassy and vulnerable eyes. It was during a social, when it happened. The summer of 2008 on the grass by the dug outs at my beloved little outdoorsy sleep away camp; Camp Algonquin. As far as I was concerned back then, there was nothing hotter or sexier or nothing more of a turn on than rolling around on the wet grass in a white tee and gap jeans with your cute little homie on a balmy July night; stars out in the sky in a place where you could actually see them, and your hope for the future shining above you just as brilliantly as the very constellations guiding our sweaty palms and finger tips up and down each other’s hips and thighs and faces and long hair.
Looking back on it, that’s how I feel. At the time, I’d venture to say that my only reading on the night would be something along the lines of: “I don’t know dude, she hasn’t touched it yet.” It was from this shallow nature of sentiment, that I would later in my life go on to break a girl’s heart, and later on we would get back together and soon enough she’d break mine. A few years later we’d try it again, and I would be a rude jackass and she would whisper things about me at sticky dive bars to my friends and then I’d buy her a whiskey sour and then we’d do things in the unisex bathroom that I told everyone about and she told everyone about. And then I’d meet someone else and then someone else and then someone else and it’d be fun, but at what cost to the original lady in question?
All the ceaseless strife always came from some intangible desire for more. She was a great girl, but whatever it was within me, call it teenage hormones call it malevolent intentions, something within me urged me to walk out of the front door and stumble into some other place. Girls, sure. Settings too though. This is a concept in my life that lives on today and maybe will never be eliminated completely. Maybe, I don’t want it to go away so finitely, just erased as if I were never the man I know so concretely to be me. Me, the mover. I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in that.
Here I was though. Sitting at some sunny cafe in a suburb of San Francisco. Sipping an iced tea and staring at me right on the other side of the small circular table was that very girl; Leah. A woman now, however when I looked into the deep centers of her pupils, I still could still see the sweet little girl I knew in summers of years so buried by experience and movement. “You’re here for a project?” She asked, as she always asked the first question. “Yeah, just doing some research for a story.” I was writing freelance; living the life I aspired to since about junior year of high school and it felt nice. But this isn’t a story about dreams some attained some not, well not in that sense. I watched her as she topped off her glass of water with lemon so carefully and steadfast, and it would be disingenuous to claim that my old feelings were not right there, just plopped on the table like the ratty table cloth and the brown napkins.
During the social, sometimes we would run off for the entire time. Sure, part of that time was used to hook up and throw ourselves onto each other as only young experimenting adolescents do. But that wasn’t the whole time, seriously. We’d kiss each other and then we would just lay flat on the grass. It was always wet. We’d look up at the sky and I couldn’t tell you for sure what was going on in her mind but if I had to guess I think it was the same as what I was doing; I hope it was. What I was doing was loving the world. I was staring into the abyss of tomorrow and the next day and I was feeling encouraged. Life moves without question, the most concrete pieces of our lives fade away like weak fog, and we’re left waiting at the station for a train which will undoubtedly never come. But for each moment I had under the wide open skies with a beautiful and sweet girl right by my side dreaming just as I, I was so grateful. I was so happy. I was so in love with the world. Crazy, when I think about it now. I learned at a pretty young age that when the winds are in your favor, life can really let you breathe. And not just one of those quick and necessary every day inhales. A real long contemplative breath. You inhale one being of thought, you exhale something or someone else entirely.
Who were the people at this table though? Who had we become? The corner of my eye met the little bar area in the cafe and then the eyes darted back to her. I was sent back to the nights at the local bar, the Crane Tavern. We were older then. Counselors at the very summer camp where we met as awkward little kids. Some nights were great and fun, some nights were not. That’s how it went. That bar was some goofy experiment. What happens when you throw a bunch of rowdy camp counselors into a small town dive bar with super cheap shots of whiskey? Tune in this week to see how the mayhem unfolds. That bar though. I asked her to be my girlfriend there. I asked her to kiss me there. I asked her to forget me there. I remembered the time when me and Ken Pilsner were asked to leave when we wouldn’t stop yelling Bob Dylan songs for at least an hour. When I walked out the door with my drunken head turned down, she followed me outside to share a cigarette. I looked at her as I took a clumsy drag from the marlboro red, and she very casually looked at me and said: “You can sing to me out here if you’d like.” I’m not sure if anyone can talk purely about seeing love but I think I’ve seen it. I saw it in the stars, I saw it in the way she spoke to me. I didn’t reciprocate however. There was the problem. Who knows why, but I was not the guy. Not the guy for her, not the guy for really anyone at the time. You can touch someone, kiss them, make love to them. But that doesn’t mean you’re really there, does it. Sitting across from her now made me think that I knew for sure, I wished to be there. To be there now. I wanted to kiss her again and love her again as I knew I once did. I wanted to hold her late at night when the balmy west coast air hugs you like a hot fiend and I wanted to feel like I had her. Sure there’d be trouble on the road to beauty but isn’t there always bumps and skids, swerves and trials. I can’t purely talk of love but I can purely dream of it. Dreams are just as pure as reality’s wishes. For me, my eyes are closed for both anyway. She was right there and I wanted to sit with her under the clean stars of a promised yesterday and sleep with her in ceaseless auburn. I wanted so much. I felt sick I felt tired I felt weak I felt dizzy. To fall down would be so sweetly about her. I felt like a child and that, at the end of the day is what I always hope to feel like. Just for a moment. The innocence. The blind pleasure of not knowing yet being so close to finding out. So blurry and amazing. Like a hazy afternoon so long ago at a outdoorsy summer camp.
I met her when I was eleven years old. It was at my first ever social. Some guys were calling it a carnival, some called it a hang, I think this one kid called it a “boy and girl fun meet up” which I found weird. It didn’t matter. All I wanted was to see what it was like to talk with girls; the curious creatures they are. When a group of us guys marched forward into the colorful gathering of the camp-going masses, I was astounded. Look at all of these people, I thought. And they’re all trying to get to know someone else. I was standing with my crew of about four other guys. If I had to guess it was probably Ken Pilsner, Jackie Parkridge, Jamal Wither, and Benny Fein. And out of the blue like a storm clearing with a steadfast barge coming through the vicious weather, came four girls our age. It all happened so fast and they started talking to us. Barina Modey told Ken she liked his hair, and Emily Tillis kept awkwardly cackling. And I was silent. I didn’t talk at all. All I did was stare at the girl standing in the back wearing a light gray shirt with Mickey Mouse playing guitar on it. It was her. It was me. It wasn’t love. It was just first sight. But I’ll never forget how I felt. So ready to know what all this fuss was. What everyone was always talking about. Giving all these names to. As I sat across from this Mickey Mose girl, now a beautiful adult, I was still wondering. Rather deeply. Still thinking. All these years later. What the social was really all about?