BY CON CHAPMAN
Copyright is held by the author.
I KNEW Trish before I saw her do it, her imitation of a cat. I’d been eyeing her, and my sister — who always noticed that sort of thing — asked me what I saw in her. “She has little pig eyes,” my sister said, but Trish seemed . . . interesting to me.
She was going with another guy, Amos, so I decided to just bide my time. I was at loose ends, I could’ve hooked up with another girl, but I decided it was Trish I wanted to be with. The fact that I’d heard she’d put out for Teddy had something to do with it, but that wasn’t all.
She’d say funny stuff, off-hand. It wasn’t your usual high school stuff. She read books, at first I thought to show off, because she’d be sitting with people and ask somebody if they’d ever read . . . Steppenwolf, or Alice B. Toklas, hippie books. She actually wanted to talk about them. What she read didn’t match up with what I’d read, so I never chimed in. At the time I’d pretty much given up on reading unless it was for school.
She’d broken up with Teddy and was going with Amos, like I said. I’d heard Teddy treated her like dirt, which was typical of him. One story I heard was they had sex in her little brother’s treehouse, in her backyard, when he was off at camp. I thought that was pretty clever of Teddy, that’s the way he was, a real horn dog. If I wanted to have sex with a girl I waited until my parents would be gone for the day to see my sister in college so we could do it in my bedroom, or we did it in a car parked way the hell out on a country road. I’d be crazy to do it in some girl’s backyard up in a tree.
Supposedly when they were done, Teddy puts his pants back on and says “Well, I’m going to Dairy Queen to get a sundae.” Just like that — didn’t ask Trish to come with him, didn’t ask her if she wanted him to bring her something back. Kinda crummy if you ask me, but that’s the way Teddy was. He thought he was God’s gift to women.
If somebody’s parents were out of town kids would throw a party at their house. It was hard to keep people you didn’t want from showing up. Somebody would yell that there was a party at somebody’s house out a car window, and pretty soon everybody knew it. It happened to me once — never again. I was in our front parlour making out with Lisa and when I got back in the kitchen some guy I barely knew was cutting a tab of acid on my mom’s marble-top table with a razor blade.
Anyway, I guess it was Trish’s turn to have a party when her parents left town one night, so I figured it was a good chance for me to get to know her so I followed the other cars over to her house. When I got out I saw this kid named Ricky who I’d gotten in a fight with. He came over to me with one of his friends and I thought he was going to start something, but he didn’t. He apologized — I wasn’t sure if it was a trick at first but we shook hands and went inside.
Amos was there, but he’d been drinking and was pretty much out of it. Trish was sitting with her friends on a couch. A couple of kids had beer, but everything was under control. The music was a little louder than Trish’s parents probably would have let her play it, but not so loud you could hear it outside. The neighbours might have noticed that there were a lot of cars on the street, but that could have been legit; it could have been Trish’s parents who were having a party or bridge club or something.
Teddy walked in and said hi all around in that shit-eating way he had. You know he didn’t mean it but the front door was open, anybody could just walk in—it was a party. If there were hard feelings between him and Amos nothing came of it. Amos was down in the basement smoking pot, acting real friendly to everybody like he was a grown-up who owned the place and was the host. He was a friendly guy, but he was friendlier to me than he’d ever been before. I guess that was the effect weed had on him.
I came back upstairs and got a beer out of the refrigerator— I don’t know whose it was, but nobody said anything. Then I just sort of stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, watching Trish. She was listening to her friend talk, nodding her head, smiling — my guess was she was high too. Her friend was going on and on — I couldn’t tell whether Trish was getting bored or what, but after a while, she made a paw out of one of her hands, licked it, then started rubbing her hair and her ears, like she was a cat washing herself.
“What are you doing?” her friend — now that I think of it, it was Cheryl — said. She was laughing but Trish just kept a straight face the whole time, like an actress who has her audience laughing. Finally, she broke down when the other girl on the couch started to laugh, too. It made no sense but it was funny. Maybe it was funny because it made no sense.
Then Teddy decided to intrude into this little scene. He stepped over a few people, beer in hand, and made his way over to the couch. Trish looked up and saw him, she was laughing with the others by now, and he smiled down at her as if everything was cool between them. Then he leaned over and said something into her ear — I didn’t hear anything but you could see him mouth the word “pussy.”
Her face turned angry, and she glared at him. She stood up and, after getting her balance for sure, she slapped him — hard.
I’d never seen a woman do that except in old movies. Teddy sure wasn’t expecting it. The people who saw it happen stopped talking, but the music was still playing pretty loud, so it wasn’t like everybody realized what was going on. Teddy put his hand up to his cheek—he wasn’t expecting blood, I don’t think, but he was surprised. He mumbled something half-assed like “Well, if that’s how you feel,” but he was in no position to get the better of the exchange. He walked out, beer in hand, and headed out to his car.
Trish sat down again and there was a bit of a hubbub with her friends — like “What did he say?” — but Trish just shook her head from side to side. She didn’t cry at first — she was mad. Then the tears started, and her friends put their arms around her.
Pretty soon everyone realized that something had happened even if they hadn’t been in the room — it was awkward. The music stopped and people stood there just . . . looking at their feet. Then they started to drift out. I hung around for awhile, then went up to Trish and tried to say something nice, something adult, which nobody ever did at one of our parties. Like “Thanks for having me” — it sounded stupid, but Trish looked up at me like she really appreciated it.
As I was walking towards the door Amos finally made his way up from the basement and in his high and drunken state it took some time for him to understand what had happened. When he finally did, he was all upset but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Teddy was gone, Amos wasn’t going to jump in his car and track him down and beat him up. He wasn’t like that.
A couple of years later Amos and Trish had broken up and I finally got together with her. We never talked about that night.