Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Center of it All VIII

Rachel and Fran were waiting for us when we pulled up to the corner at 8:30 in the morning. We had been out together every night since we met at the party, but today would be our last day together. I was heading back home the next morning, and Yoni would be going back to Yeshiva on Thursday.

Summer was winding down, and we wanted to make the most of our last full day. Six Flags was only a 45-minute drive from Chicago, and we made plans with the girls to spend the day there.

As we had done the past few nights, I moved to the back seat of the car, to sit with Rachel, while Fran sat up front with Yoni. We had been out late the night before, and Rachel quickly fell asleep, leaning her head against my shoulder. I spent the entire drive with my arm around her, smelling her hair and wondering if she would wake up if my hand accidentally grazed a boob.

We had seen each other every night since we met, but it had never gotten as physically intense as it did the night we met. Still, I bathed in her scent, fully aware that this would be my last opportunity to be in such close proximity to a girl for quite some time.

I tried to listen to the conversation in the front seat, but with the music playing, and me being forced to sit back in the seat, I couldn’t hear much.

The weather was perfect when we arrived. We bought tickets, and went into the park.

I reached out to Rachel, and she grabbed my hand. She looked fantastic. She was wearing a short denim skirt, with a short-sleeved T-shirt that said Bewitched across the front. Fran looked good too, in a long flairy skirt and a striped top. We were wearing shorts and T-shirts, with baseball caps instead of our normal yarmulkas.

It was my first time at an amusement park without any type of adult supervision, and the freedom was exhilarating. I had a girl on my arm, some money in my pocket, and I knew, the day was ours to make what we wanted.

The four of us started out together, but soon we split up. Yoni and Fran wanted to go on the Roller Coasters. I was never a big roller coaster fan, and neither was Rachel, and after the first one, when I thought I left my stomach at the top of the hill, I had enough.

We walked through the park, going on some of the smaller rides, watching a show, and recording a song together. We played some games, and I won her a small teddy bear with the Six Flags logo stitched into its bottom.

It was getting hot, and we decided to go on the log flume to cool off. The line was long, but moved quickly, and soon I sat down in the log, and felt her sit down on me. I wrapped my arms around her, and we were laughing as the log made its way up the mechanical hill. My legs were pressed into the foot rest, flat along the bottom of the ride. Rachel’s feet were flat on the floor, and her legs were bent at the knees. Her skirt started to ride up a little past her knee, her denim skirt holding her legs in place. I kissed her neck as reached the top, and felt her squeeze my hand as the log began its descent.

We reached the bottom with a huge splash, the water soaking us. The cool water felt good in the hot weather, but Rachel shrieked.

“The water filled my skirt,” she yelled.

“What,” I asked, not fully hearing.

“The water from the ride filled up my skirt and soaked my underwear,” she repeated. “I need to stand up so I can pour it out.” The skirt had acted as a basin, catching the water and holding it there.

“I heard they have fish swimming in the Log Ride,” I joked. “You better hope there aren’t any swimming in your skirt.”

The ride ended, and we got off the log, water pouring out of Rachel’s skirt and all my legs when she stood up.

We walked around for a few minutes, trying to dry off.

“I can’t keep walking like this,” she said. She pointed to the ladies’ room. “I’ll be right back.

She came back a few minutes later, smiling mischievously.

She leaned toward me, stretching her body so that she was whispering in my ear.

“Your girlfriend’s not wearing any panties,” she said excitedly.

She reached into her purse and took out the soaking wet panties. “Here’s something to remember me by,” she said, and put the balled up panties in my hand.

I wanted to hold them and open them and smell them, but instead, I put them in my pocket.

“I always wanted a pair of those,” I told her. “And a yellow flower pattern. Just the color I was looking for.”

It was almost one o’clock, and we had planned to meet back up with Yoni and Fran near the entrance for some lunch at one, so we headed back.

“What did you guys bring to eat,” Rachel asked. “I’m starving.”

“Umm, nothing, I don’t think,” I stammered. “It never occurred to us.”

Fran and Yoni were waiting for us when we got to the fountain.

“Hey genius,” I said. “We got no food.”

“Maybe we can get something here,” Yoni answered.

“My family always eats the popcorn and cotton candy wherever we are,” Fran offered.

“But is it Kosher,” Yoni asked.

“It doesn’t have any hashgacha, but there’s nothing in it,” Fran replied. “And I saw some kosher ice cream when we were walking through the park.”

“I’m not eating anything that isn’t kosher,” Rachel said. “But I guess I can survive on ice cream and some candy bars.”

That settled it, and we had Good Humor bars for lunch. Fran tried to get us to eat her popcorn, but none of us had any. I wondered if I would have had some if Rachel offered, and was glad I didn’t have to make that choice.

We made plans to meet at the Grand Music Hall for an eight-o’clock concert, and walked our separate ways. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of rides and games, each activity punctuated by a quick make-out session.

We had an hour to kill before the concert, and were walking around eating our third ice cream bars of the afternoon when Rachel brought it up.

“You’re leaving tomorrow, huh,” she said.

“Yeah. I gotta go home and get ready for Yeshiva to start.” I answered.

“When does school start?”

“Next Thursday, but I need to pack my stuff and get ready to go. I have a ton of stuff I need to do before I go.”

We walked in silence for a few steps.

“Are you going to call me,” she asked. “I mean, when you’re home, or in Yeshiva.”

“I don’t know if I can,” I said. The truth was, I knew I couldn’t just make long distance calls whenever I wanted, and as much fun as I was having with Rachel, I didn’t want to get kicked out of school over her.

“I really like you,” she said.

I was surprised when I heard those words. No girl had ever said anything like that to me before.

“I really like you too,” I answered. “I hope we can stay in touch somehow. Can you write to me?”

“Won’t you get in trouble for getting mail from a girl?”

“Not if you are smart. You just have to follow some rules.”

“Like what?”

“No girly handwriting on the envelope, and a fake name on the return address.” I wondered if I should give her limits, but decided against it.

“Will you write me back?”

“Sure, I will.”

“I’m really going to miss you when you leave,” and I thought I heard her voice shaking.

Please don’t cry, I silently prayed. Please don’t cry. I squeezed her hand in mine.

“I’m going to miss you too. I wish there was a way we could still see each other, but I don’t know when or how.”

I turned to face her, and saw a tear running down her cheek.

“Don’t cry,” I said, wiping away her tear. “Let’s just have a good time tonight, and we’ll let whatever happens happen. Besides, I will always something to remember you by,” and I guided her hand to the lump in my pocket.

When we got to the Grand Music Hall, Yoni and Fran were waiting for us. Rachel wasn’t in the mood for a concert anymore, and I was feeling pretty tired, so Yoni and Fran agreed to leave.

The ride home was quiet, and an hour later we were near the girls’ neighborhood. As we had done every night for the past week, we drove to a parking lot three blocks away, and let them out of the car.

I gave Rachel a quick goodbye kiss, mumbled something about how it was nice to meet her and I looked forward to hearing from her, and jumped back into the car before she could say anything.

We drove a block away before I pulled out the balled up panties from my pocket. “Rachel gave me her panties,” I bragged.

“Fran blew me,” he said, one-upping me.

“You win,” I said.

“I’m just messing with you,” Yoni said. “She didn’t do it.”

“Asshole,” was all I could say back.

For the next two years, from the beginning of eleventh grade through our senior year, whenever we needed to talk privately, we would work Six Flags into a sentence.

And now, “SixFlags” had gained me access into Yoni’s computer.

The preceding story is a work of fiction. You can read the beginning of "The Center of it All earlier on this blog.

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  • Friday, September 23, 2005

    Center of it All VII

    The air was stale, and the apartment was hot, but Yoni’s apartment was immaculate. I shouldn’t have been surprised; Yoni had always kept his room spotless. There were no signs of the daily chaos that had been a hallmark of any room I walked into. The counters were wiped clean, and there were no piles of bills and mail on top of his microwave. Books were neatly sitting on the shelf, and his remote control was the only thing on the coffee table.

    I felt like an intruder as I walked through the two bedroom apartment, half thinking someone was going to walk in and ask me what I was doing there.

    I had actually panicked as I opened the door, unsure if Yoni had a roommate, or if someone else had already moved into the apartment, but the house was all Yoni. There were some awards hanging on the wall, and a few trophies on a shelf, mementos from a career that ended far too early.

    There were some autographed pictures hanging on the walls, from animation performers I had never heard of, and a few cells I recognized from Butt Bunny.

    The kitchen area was spotless, like the rest of the house. I opened the fridge, expecting to find mold-covered cheeses and spoilt milk, but all I found was an unopened bottle of Diet Coke. The freezer was equally bare. Yoni seemed to know he wasn’t coming back, and emptied his fridge before his final trip to the hospital.

    There were two bedrooms, and I walked into the smaller one first. There was a bed, a desk, and a computer. The closet was empty, and so were the drawers in the desk. I thought about turning on the computer, but decided to get to that later. I wanted to finish looking through the house.

    The door to the master bedroom was the only door that was closed in the whole house. It was unlocked, though, and I walked in. Like the rest of the house, it was neat. The king-sized bed was made, and a few shirts were hanging in the closet. I looked through the drawers, finding carefully folded T-shirts and underwear.

    In twenty years, Yoni hadn’t changed the way he folded his underwear. I remembered we would joke about how he did it. First, he would fold the bottom upward. He would always make some joke about taking special care of his nut house. Then he would fold the sides over, ending up with a white square, which would fit easily in his drawer.

    He had been a good roommate. Walking into our room in ninth grade was like walking into Jack Lemmon’s apartment in the Odd Couple. There were areas where tremendous care had been put into ensuring everything had its place, and then their was my area, which looked like a tornado had hit. I had large piles of clothes on the floor, he had a laundry bag hanging neatly in his closet. My pens and school supplies were littered across my desk, while he kept his supplies neatly in one of the black plastic supply organizers. For every shirt he had hanging in his closet I had a hangar on the floor and a shirt on top of it.
    It was amazing that we got along that year. It wasn’t easy at first, but eventually we got into a rhythm that worked for us. I remember walking into the room that first night, and seeing all his things neatly put away. I thought his mom had come and set him up, but I quickly learned she was as disorganized as anyone. There was no way she would have been capable of organizing Yoni.

    I watched as he tried to keep his area orderly. It wasn’t effortless. He put a lot of energy into maintaining it, and when classmates would walk into our room and see him spraying Windex or Pledge as he cleaned, they would kid around and call him gay.

    But maybe it wasn’t a joke.

    I roomed with Yoni through the entire ninth grade year, and again in eleventh and twelfth grade. In all that time, I had never questioned his sexuality. Guys would tease him, but he was so much stronger and more athletic than anyone else in the class, that no one really thought he was gay. He was too much like us.

    I thought back to some of the conversations we had, lying there in the dark in our own beds. Ninth grade boys, separated from girls and forced to live in close proximity with other boys our own age, will talk about anything, and one of the hot topics was who was jerking off right at that moment. There were thirty of us in fifteen rooms on the floor from our grade. Proper jerking off protocol was to wait until your roommate was asleep before doing the deed, but sometimes your roommate would sound asleep, and hear the shuffling coming from your bed, and you were busted.

    We would talk about which girls we were thinking about when we did the deed, and I remembered Yoni tell me the strangest thing. Sometimes it would be a movie star or rabbi’s daughter or a girl from home, but sometimes, he said, he would be thinking of something beautiful, or an animal, and get a hard-on. And then, nature would take it’s course.

    I never thought about what he meant by that, but maybe, even back then, he was telling me his sexual imagery was far more diverse than mine was.

    I closed the underwear drawer, and kept on looking.

    After two hours in the apartment, I had gone through every drawer and cabinet I could find. It was like a ghost lived there. There wasn’t a single bill, or piece of mail. There were no signs of any correspondence with anything outside the apartment, and when I went down to the mail slot, it was empty.

    It was nearly midnight, and only one thing remained for me to try to look at. The computer.

    It was a state of the art Apple product, a G-5, with a monitor that easily ran Yoni well over $2000. The machine, like many of the items in the apartment, seemed out of place in this neighborhood. It belonged a few miles away, where the more fashionable neighborhoods lay. Where this immaculate apartment would not seem so far out of place. It was just another mystery that Yoni had left behind.

    I turned it on, and waited as it booted up. It took a minute, and then the log-in screen came up. The user name, jwinters, autofilled, but the password field was blank. I hit enter, hoping their was no password, but was not permitted access. I tried typing in jwinters, and was denied access again.

    You have been denied access twice, the screen said. Would you like a hint?.

    I clicked OK, and read the next dialog box.

    Think back to the summertime. You know the password.

    I thought for a moment.

    Then I entered the password.

    Welcome, the screen said.

    I was in.

    The preceding is a work of fiction. You can find the first six parts of this story on this blog.

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