Suburban Snapshots

The Wiener Dog that Ruined My Life

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In high school I had a crush on a boy who was so introverted he was practically inside out. He would often visit my house and we'd spend hours leaning against opposite walls of my bedroom, separated by eight feet of angst and adolescence, Morrissey warbling from my tape deck. I quietly envied my sisters' parade of boyfriends who seemed to be constantly eating Taco Bell on our couch, perfectly able to relate to other human beings in a not-totally-agonizing way.

My sister's guy friends drove loud cars and did stupid things like graffiti the shuttered grocery store up the block or get kicked out of their houses, like, once a month. They'd get in fights and smoke pot, ride their bikes and curse - sometimes all at once. And even though it wasn't really my scene, at least my sisters weren't stuck in a dark room with a Trappist monk who may or may not have liked them-liked them but who wasn't about to make a move regardless.

For a while this boy was coming over pretty often, so we had ample opportunity to make uncomfortable, stilted conversation that I'd overanalyze for days afterward and try to figure out which of the four words I'd spoken was the wrong one. Phone calls were painful to the point that after a solid thirty second silence I'd be hoping for the usually dreaded, "I'll let you go now" because his phone manners made me more uncomfortable than the time I accidentally found a box of my stepdad's condoms.

We'd pass each other in the halls at school as though we'd never met, staring at our feet. I wasn't all that insecure but I acted the part, making my way from class to class scrutinizing my shoes and wondering if my butt looked big, or if my bangs looked cool the way they hung over just one of my eyes. I tried to shrink for him because I've been five-foot-eleven since 10th grade and in high school, everyone loves the tiny girls.

I felt big and loud in the shadow of his moody contemplation. And he'd sometimes respond to me with a snicker, the kind that makes you reevaluate everything you've ever said in your entire life. It was such perfect teenage torment; I'd call my best friend and we'd be like, "He almost hugged me good bye!" or "He looked up that one time when I asked if he wanted Doritos!"

One night when my mom had agreed to drive him home whenever we were done not talking, touching or otherwise interacting like normal teenagers, my stepdad stopped us as we walked out of my bedroom at 1 A.M., and like a man who had never met me before this very second said, "Hey BUD, it's one in the morning. Don't you think it's a little late for you to be in my daughter's bedroom?" People, I died a thousand deaths in the hallway of that split ranch, right there on the mauve carpet that ran into the livingroom and down the front stairs in exactly the path I wanted to follow. My crush stood there looking at his feet — naturally — but was actually answering my stepdad's angry questions. I was sort of jealous of my stepdad just then. But I was also thoroughly humiliated. I'd tried so hard in school to seem smaller and here I was in my own house effortlessly breaking into atoms.

Even after this first encounter that ruined my life, the boy kept coming over. Occasionally I'd find myself alone with him, and I'd sit there, perplexed by his presence, wondering why he stayed; his parents weren't abusive, he lived on the fancier side of town in a nice house with a pool, and at home, there was no risk of running into angry fathers who'd call him Bud.

We'd been hanging out in my livingroom for a change one night when both of my sisters were at home, running in and out of the house, flirting like fully-functional teenagers instead of like the two inept ones sitting on separate couches avoiding eye contact and waiting for something to happen.

And then something happened.

My sisters, who were as subtle as a pair of jackhammers in a library, came charging out of the kitchen and practically leapt into my lap. They whispered to me like I might be wearing protective earmuffs: "BREN, DO YOU HAVE YOUR PERIOD?" Oh, I immediately hated them. The burn started in my low back and radiated to the tips of my ears; I remembered our Dachshund and the bathroom garbage. Oh no. No no no no no God please let it be in my bedroom, please make these two shut up, get them off of me, WHERE ARE ALL THEIR BOYFRIENDS?

Then I saw it lying between the livingroom and the kitchen like a wounded soldier. My dog had dragged a maxi pad out of the trash and left it lying face-up in the middle of the dining room floor. My sisters continued to exhibit the kind of compassion normally reserved for sociopaths and conservatives. There was no way for me to subtly get up and remedy the situation. I was frozen, horrified. This was high-level mortification.

I don't know if my crush caught on — and how the hell could he NOT have? — but just then he decided to go get a glass of water. I swear it was like he wanted to see it. Maybe because he only has a brother, maybe he really didn't notice how I puddled into the floor like the Wicked Witch after my sisters threw that bucket of humiliation all over me, but HE WALKED RIGHT FOR IT, and I'll never forget how he did this little grimace, curled up his shoulders a little — and I'm not totally sure of this part but I think he actually stepped right over it.

I have no memory of picking up the hygiene product that ruined my whole life, but it made its way to the bathroom trash and the boy managed to get home. We drifted into different groups later in high school but I don't think it was because of the maxi pad, and eventually we got back in touch.

He's still pretty quiet, but he's got two kids now and I can only hope all those nasty baby messes have erased any memory he might still have of the night my dog got into the very wrongest trash.

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