Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ugly Naked Girl

One of the problems with moving back home is that you bump into your past all the time. It's never the people you'd like to see again. It's the ones you'd like to forget.

Last Wednesday, my BFF of twenty years, Plak, gave birth to her first daughter. I went to the hospital, and rocked my soon-to-be goddaughter in a rocking chair, while talking to Plak and her husband. Rain and thunder beat against the dark windows. All of us felt quite serene and amazed at the miracle of life.

Then Plak's mom, Miss Jen, came in.

"Anney, Mike Shaw is looking for you."

"What? Why?"

"He wants to apologize. He wants to take you out to coffee."

"Oh God." I rolled my eyes.

This guy, Mike Shaw (not his real name), is a nurse with Miss Jen at the hospital. Fifteen years ago, he and I were sophomores, flirting in the halls of our Catholic high school.

One weekend, we'd gotten together at his house while his parents were out. I'd sat on his bed, trying not to talk about my ex-boyfriend, who was also his best friend, and the whole reason I was there. Call it revenge. Call it a rebound. I just wanted to get the pains in my heart to stop.

But as we leaned in, drawing our faces closer together, I felt the air punch out of my stomach. You know how faces look different up close? That was Mike Shaw. From a kissing distance, he looked creepy, almost alien-like, with dripping desperate eyes and a tiny pointy chin. I pulled back. I couldn't do it.

He said it was okay.

Rejection is never okay to a fifteen year old boy. Next week in school, he told everyone that we'd almost hooked up-but that the sight of me sans clothing made him physically unable to take it "further." Not only did he lie about what happened, he also painted this portrait of me as an ugly naked girl, when I hadn't even taken my clothes off.

Now, fifteen years later, after the military, college, nursing school, Mike Shaw wants to apologize, officially.

Miss Jen said, "I think he's really changed. He's grown up."

I'm not so sure.

Supposedly, we grow up, get jobs, husbands, wives, kids, and we realize what's important. The old petty drama doesn't matter anymore. By asking me to coffee, Mike Shaw implies that it DOES still matter, that there IS a need for an apology. The slate is still dirty; the childish rumors and adolescent rejections stay with us. In that way, I see him as growing down.

Why would I take time out of my day, so he can get this off his chest, and feel better about the past? If consensus gives words their true definitions, then Mike wants the absolution that I'll never have. He goes down in high school history as a funny guy; I'm the ugly naked girl.

I'm not bitter. I just don't want to go to coffee and rehash all of that again.

So for the next two days, I came to visit my BFF and the baby, I moved through the hospital hallways, as stealth as a member of the A-Team. I took the stairs. Down the corridors, I crept, ducking behind nurse's stations and in doorways.

Not until I reached Plak's room, sat down in the rocking chair with my goddaughter, did I feel safe. I looked down into her big ponderous eyes and felt cradled by the clear, clean promise of the future.