Read Nothing Real Volume 1 Online

Authors: Claire Needell

Nothing Real Volume 1

BOOK: Nothing Real Volume 1
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Nothing Real

Change Your Life

The Bubblemen

My Name Is Adam

Back Ad

About the Author


About the Publisher

Nothing Real

Joe was Angie's cousin. One summer, back when we were ten, Joe came to town to stay with Angie's family, and we all went to day camp together over in Tarrytown—Angie; her brother, Johnny; Joe; and me. There were two sides to the camp: two sets of grassy fields and archery ranges, separated by a large, domed swimming pool. The boys stayed on their side of the camp, and we stayed on ours, except for swimming. Sometimes, the guys would be leaving the pool area when we were coming in, and they'd swat at our bare legs with their wet towels.

Joe was skinny back then, and on hot days, he'd have his shirt off, and you could count every one of his ribs. He and Angie and Johnny all got so tan the counselors called them the Cherokee Nation. But they were really Italian. Angie and Johnny both had ink-black hair, but Joe's hair was sand colored, and his skin in the summer was darker than his hair. Also, Joe was blue eyed. He didn't look Indian at all, just coffee-with-milk dark.

The only other time we'd see the boys at camp was down at the tennis courts, but this we had to arrange. Every Wednesday and Friday we had the option of playing tennis during afternoon elective period. There must have been a counselor hanging around somewhere, distributing balls and rackets, but there was only one set of courts, and we'd have it planned out so the boys would come down there too, and I can't remember anyone ever bothering with tennis instruction.

We'd hit back and forth for a bit, me and Angie, and Joe and Johnny, and this other kid who Angie liked, Michael Lessing, and a girl named Sally who liked Johnny, until she left camp at the end of July, and then a girl named Sue took her place.

Eventually, one of the boys would hit a ball over the back fence into the woods, and then he'd ask one of the girls to search through the weeds to find it. Once, when Joe and I were hitting, just volleying back and forth, Joe suddenly took a baseball swing at the ball, and up it went, clearing the back fence by about three feet. That was when I knew Joey Shabetti, Angie's cousin from Philadelphia, was going to try to kiss me.

Joe came back the summer I was sixteen to work with Angie's brother painting houses. It was good money, and our town didn't suck too bad in the summer. There were parties a lot of nights, and there was the public pool just down the street, and a tennis court.

My summer job was a nothing. I sat around this store called Ragtime, and sold silk pajama pants to middle-aged women. When these women sometimes brought the pants back the next day saying, “My
husband hates them!” Carol, my boss, who owned the shop, would say, “We don't sell husband clothes; we sell women's clothes.” Carol was a short, slightly overweight Japanese woman who had little patience for our customers who failed to appreciate her up-to-the-minute taste.

It was my job to show the ladies how to cinch in the oversized shirts with a thick belt, and how to roll the pants to show your ankles weren't fat. I wore the pants around the shop with big silver hoops and the turquoise sandals I got with my employee discount. It was a pretty extreme eighties look, but the ladies in town liked it, and also liked how I had my hair all spiky on top and longish in back. They all had bobs with highlights, or straight blond hair pulled back like they were still sixteen. They giggled like girls when they tried on the harem-type pants and saw how wide their asses looked in them. They bought them not for appearance, but for comfort.

Some ladies worried about the husbands, though, and left the pants hanging in the dressing room, and opted instead for a tank dress that showed off their tennis players' arms. There was nothing new about the jersey tank dress, but we had to reorder them every month. “They are what they are,” Carol said. All solid colors. All hit you at the natural waist.

Sometimes, on a hot day, we'd get only three or four customers in the store. Carol would send Jessica, the other shopgirl, home, and I'd stay on since she'd known me longer, and knew I could be trusted to lock up. Then, once Carol left, I was alone with the radio, and I'd play hits or coffeehouse instead of the endless NPR talk that Carol
liked to play. I'd keep myself busy dusting the jewelry case, polishing all the little silver heart necklaces and Irish wedding bands Carol had brought back from a trip, and thought might start a trend. Maybe the UPS guy would bring some new dresses, and I would spend an hour or two tagging, steaming, and hanging. Maybe I would take a break, put the sign on the door, lock up, and hang with Angie for a half hour. I never stretched it out, though. Carol trusted me, and that was one thing I didn't want to fuck up.

Angie worked down the street from Ragtime, at the drugstore. It was all right over there, too, since they sold a lot of cosmetics, but she had to deal with people buying other crap also, like diarrhea medicine and vaginal creams. She said she acted real professional about it, just putting it all in a bag, ringing up the total, and never looking the customer in the face. You didn't really want to know what someone else's mom was purchasing at the drugstore.

I remembered Joe from those camp days, and a few other times when he came up in the winter, sharing a room with Johnny, and the two of them would sit all day with their model-airplane parts spread out, and these little tubes of glue. Johnny's grandfather got them for him, insisted the old-school models were more fun than any “digitized dog fight,” as he put it. Angie and I would come in, grab the white-and-red metal tubes, and pretend we were sniffing the glue to get high. Joe would get all wide-eyed, and snatch it back.

Even later, Joe was the straight type who never touched anything—not weed, hardly even beer. Joe would always say, “Love is
my drug.”

With Joe, I think it's always been the same. Ten years old, back at the tennis courts, in the high weeds that scratched our legs, Joe had kissed me not in a shy, tight-mouthed, first-kiss way, but with his hand on my hair, mouth opened, like he'd watched movies where people kissed this way. I had on a little girl's T-shirt, yellow with red embroidered flowers, and he'd reached under and slid his hands first up the back, and then around to the front, like someone had told him how.

Back when we were kids, back in the woods behind the tennis courts, when Joe was kissing me and I could hear Angie yelling at Michael to hit the ball already, I remember telling him no. But I didn't do it right away. First, I let him do what he wanted.

For weeks after that, I got a headache every time I thought how he'd touched me. I had just the smallest beginnings of a chest. I wanted to tell someone how he'd reached up under my shirt, and how he'd kissed me with his tongue, and how I knew these things were wrong, even for older girls. At night, when my mother kissed me good night, I tried to tell her. I said something vague about boys being crazy, and she nodded like she knew something I didn't.

I had let him touch the just-started part of me.

We were hanging out at Angie's back in late June, just a couple days after school got out, and the guys were already painting houses all day, and coming back sunburned and sweaty. Johnny suggested we go out for pizza and beer. Angie and Johnny got along all right for a
brother and sister, and it was easy to get served with Johnny, since he had a full beard and looked about twenty-five. We went over to Sam's and no one got carded, but Joe just ordered a birch beer.

“You know that's not actual beer,” I said, but he just shrugged, and drank and ate, and seemed like he was having as good a time as anyone.

After Sam's we all walked over to the river. There was a park down there with a slide and stuff for kids to climb on, and even a little beach, though you really couldn't go in the water. People liked to sunbathe on the muddy sand and picnic, but the current was fast, and the water was scuzzy. Johnny found some kids' rubber spud ball by the shoreline—half deflated—and started kicking it around. Then we started throwing it at one another, like we used to in gym class, Johnny and Angie against me and Joe. The guys were throwing hard at us—winging it at our feet—and we kept jumping away. Then Johnny threw it at me, but a little too high, and I caught it. That cracked Joe up, when I caught Johnny's throw hard against my chest, and so he ran right at me and tackled me. We went down in the wet grass, Joe falling on top of me, and once we made that kind of contact, I felt hot inside from my throat all the way down.

Later, Johnny wanted to get a beer at Larry's, and Angie wanted to meet up with this guy Mark Jones, and so those two went off, and Joe and I were walking around, sort of heading back toward Angie and Johnny's house, and sort of just walking. We ended up down at Leonard's Field.

We lay out there under a chestnut tree, and talked for a while about nothing in particular. I showed him the scar I got at that same field, when there was a town fair and I was five, and my sister hit me on the chin with a horseshoe. He traced the length of the scar with his finger, and then kissed me lightly on the same spot. I showed him how to pry open the spined husks of the chestnuts, how the smooth nut beneath was just like the kind you could buy at the grocery store, and roast in a fire.

Joe picked up my hand, and took the chestnut and tossed it off into the silence of the dark field. Then he took my fingers, and began kissing them. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. I picked up his hand, and did the same thing to him.

Joe had a sweatshirt with him, and he spread it out so I could lie back on it. He slipped my shorts down. Then he started whispering the things he wanted me to do—not like dirty talk, but more like instructions. I began to think back how he was when we were kids. About how Joe and Johnny would spend hours with their model planes. I wondered if there was something to all that, to knowing exactly what to do first.

“Next time,” Joe said, leaning on his elbow, “it'll be even better.” It surprised me that he didn't think any more of the fact that I'd just lost my virginity, other than that it had been a slight drawback.

I'd gone out with two guys junior year: James Addison, who was funny and smart, but had bad acne, and kissed in an openmouthed, slobbery way, and Alex Ross, who was short, and slightly fat, and was always begging me to do it with him, which made me not want to do
it at all.

“What makes you think there's going to be a next time?” I asked. I didn't want him to think I was getting romantic on him.

“Whatever you want,” he said. “But I think it'd be nice.” He said this like it was a back rub, or an afternoon at the beach—sensual, but harmless. Then he smiled his crooked smile, with those full, brownish lips. I had never noticed how his two front teeth overlapped slightly, or how long his eyelashes were.

“Well,” I said, “maybe if you're lucky,” and he laughed and said, “I already am.”

We walked back up to Angie's house, where my car was parked, and we kissed. It was a good-bye kiss, and not the way you kiss someone you can't stand to leave.

The house was dark when I got home. My parents were already asleep, and my older sister had stayed out in Colorado for the summer. I got myself a glass of milk and ate a couple of Oreos, and went upstairs. When I looked at my face in the mirror, I felt a momentary shock. I looked like a girl who'd just done everything I'd done. But I didn't look as though I was in love. I wasn't like one of those girls in the movies who keeps smiling to herself, even afterward, when she's alone.

The next day I worked, and by around four I had still not heard from either Joe or Angie. It was a slow day at Ragtime and I was thankful for the distraction when Mrs. Lerner came in.

“Hi, Jennifer,” she said. “I was hoping you'd be here.” Mrs. Lerner
was always friendly to whoever was on, probably so we'd give her the ten percent off that we always gave our good customers. “I wanted another pair of those pants. Those silks?”

BOOK: Nothing Real Volume 1
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Miracle Boy Grows Up by Ben Mattlin
Haunting Warrior by Quinn, Erin
The Blue Horse by Marita Conlon-Mckenna
Tastes Like Winter by Cece Carroll
Dissident by Cecilia London
The Mentor by Sebastian Stuart