In case you haven't noticed, my teenage life is officially ruined.
Rabbi Glassman said he realized he wanted to study to be a rabbi when he was in high school. To be honest, I think God chose him to be a rabbi
instead of the other way around. He's too unbiased and wise to be a regular person.
Yes, I had to last the rest of the night with wet, sticky banana-encrusted jeans. And no, Jessica and I still aren't talking. Miranda is, though.
"That was so much fun, wasn't it?" Miranda says as we get into Jessica's car at the end of the night. I put down a plastic bag before I sit in the back seat while the engine is warming up.
Jessica grunts and I say, "Yeah. Great fun." I love being laughed at by an entire group of high schoolers and smelling like baby food. Where can I sign up for the next meeting?
"Sorry about your pants," Miranda says from the front passenger seat. "I'm glad you came, though. There's not many kids from CA here."
"We don't necessarily have a huge Jewish population at the Academy," I say, leaning back and hearing the bag under my butt crinkle with every movement I make. Jewish kids probably make up fifteen or twenty percent of the student population at Chicago Academy, and CA isn't the biggest school in Chicago by far.
"They think we're rich snobs," I blurt out.
Miranda turns and faces me while Jessica concentrates on driving us home. "People don't think I'm a snob. They think of me as the fat girl. They think you're a snob because you're pretty and don't smile a lot."
"Smiling is overrated."
Miranda looks animated now. She's going into excited mode. "Smiling takes years off your life. Did you know it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile?"
"Did you know it takes more energy to talk than to be silent?"
Did I just say that? Oh, man. Miranda bites her lip and turns around, slinking down in the seat. I didn't mean it. I just wanted to stop feeling like I was bombarded with everyone pointing out what's wrong with me.
Jessica stops the car. I think she's so pissed she's going to dump me off the side of the road and order me to get out. But now I realize we're at my building.
Keeping up with the I'm-not-a-good-friend-and-I-don't-smile theme, I open the door to the car and step onto the sidewalk. I'm about to swallow my pride and thank Jess for the ride, but she blurts out, "Close the door."
As soon as I shut the door, Jessica's off like a NASCAR driver.
I feel like the biggest bitch. Maybe I am. Should I feel better that I'm a bitch with a conscience? Because I feel totally wretched.
I stay on the sidewalk for a minute before I turn and walk into the building. I want to smile. I want to be a good friend to Jessica and even Miranda. Miranda doesn't look or dress or act like me, but she's nice and smiles. Does she smile because she's genuinely nice or is she perceived to be nice because she smiles?
Does it even matter?
Exhausted physically and emotionally, I pass our night doorman Jorge who opens the door for me as I head for the elevator bank.
"Did you have a good evening with your friends, Miss Barak?" Jorge asks.
"Not particularly," I answer back.
"Some days are like that, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, some days are crap."
In the elevator, I lean my head against the wall. The doors start to close, until I hear someone stopping the doors from shutting with their hands. Those hands are attached to none other than Nathan.
Nathan enters the elevator in sweats and workout pants. A lady who I've only seen a few times who lives on the fifth floor follows in right behind him.
I close my eyes to block out everything. When we stop on the fifth floor to let the lady out, I open my eyes.
Nathan is staring right at me through his glasses. His eyes are as bright as Kermit the Frog and the gold specks in them are shining in the lights of the elevator. Stupid lights. Stupid elevator. They make my mind think stupid thoughts, like wondering what I could do to make Nathan like me.
He takes a drink from a water bottle he's carrying in his hand. I start breathing heavily, as if my mind is one big mashed potato. I stare at his lips. I've never noticed them before, but now they're shiny from that water.
Nathan hates me, but maybe...
No, I can't.
But he's looking right at me; our eyes are locked. I can't change anything else in my crappy life, but maybe I can change his attitude and animosity toward me.
If I don't try it, I'll never know. I drop my purse on the floor of the elevator and rush toward him, pressing my lips to his. I'm kissing Nathan in the elevator as we ride up from the fifth to fortieth floor, my eyes still locked on his while I'm waiting for some reaction from him.
I get none.
My hands. What should I do with my hands? I place them on his chest, which feels unusually hard for a guy like him, and tilt my head to attempt a more intimate kiss.
Nathan isn't responding. His lips are soft and inviting but he's standing stiffly with his arms at his side. He's not shoving me away from him, but he surely isn't acting like a guy who's being kissed by a girl. His lips are parted slightly against mine, his breath is warm and smells sweet. But he's not all here. He's not into it and I'm the one doing all the work.
When the elevator dings and the doors open, I lift my hands off his chest and lean back.
"Well, that was pleasant," I say as I lift my purse and step out of the elevator.
"For who?" Nathan responds, walking right past me.
We're in the hall on the fortieth floor of the building with nobody else around. Nathan is in front of his door and I'm in front of mine. I look down the hall at him while he fishes for his keys. "For nobody, Nathan. That was a joke. You obviously don't like girls."
He gives a short, cynical laugh. "Whatever you say, Barbie. Did anyone ever tell you you smell like fruit?"
"Stop calling me Barbie!" I yell, ignoring the fruit comment for the moment. Nathan doesn't respond as he opens the door to his condo and slams the door shut behind him.
The door quickly opens to my condo and my dad rushes at me. "What's wrong? Who are you yelling at?"
"I heard you yelling. Are you okay?"
"Don't spaz on me. I'm fine," I say, then brush past him.
My dad follows me to my bedroom, my private sanctuary where I go to be alone. "I'm your father. I have a right to spaz. Why are you acting like this? And why do you smell like bananas?"
I give him my famous sneer. "Acting like what?"
"Like you're angry with the world."
"I'm not angry with the world; the world is angry with me. And for your information, I sat on a banana. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like some privacy so I can change." That gets him to leave pretty quick.
After I shimmy out of my now crusty jeans, I dress in pj's and head down the hall to brush my teeth and scrub my face. With all the stress I'm under, I'm bound to get a zit or two...or twenty. I'm in the bathroom, scrubbing my lips and that kiss away with a washcloth. Back in my room, I look up and see my dad standing in the doorway.
He leans against the door frame. "I admit I'm not used to teenage girl problems. But I'm here to listen."
I can tell he's mentally preparing for some heavy discussion. He's not used to heavy teenage girl problem discussions. My dad is such a guy. He needs some feminine influence in his life. "Why don't you want a girlfriend?"
"Because relationships are a time commitment."
I roll my eyes and say, "It's no secret you have commitment problems. Let's just get that out in the open. Are you refusing to date because you're in love with my mom?"
"I'm not talking about this with you."
"Why not? You're obviously not talking about it with anyone else. And if you think by working yourself to death you can hide from the truth, you can't."
"I'm committed to you, Amy. I hardly have time to spend with my own daughter these days, which is killing me inside. How can I add something else to take me away from my family?"
"You call two people a family?"
My poor dad doesn't get it. "What about when I go to college? You'll be all alone while Marc and Mom have more babies together. And what about after you retire? You'll be sitting at home by yourself with nothing to keep you company but a set of dentures and an old, wrinkly body."
The side of his mouth quirks up in amusement. "Thanks for painting the full picture. Consider me officially forewarned of my future fate."
"Great. Now will you go on a date?"
"No. But I'm coming home early tomorrow to spend time with you. After working at Perk Me Up!, I'll take you anywhere you want to go. Tov?"
Leave it to my dad to slide in a Hebrew word now and then. " Tov" I say back.
When he leaves my room, I let out a long, frustrated sigh and look over at my cell phone. I was really rude to Miranda tonight in the car. I practically told her to shut up. And I hate fighting with Jessica. Every time we argue I feel sick.
I decide to text Jessica.
Me: You there?
Me: Want to talk?
Crossing my room to my desk, I take out the CA student directory and dial Miranda's number.
"It's Amy. Um...I just wanted to say I'm sorry I was kinda rude tonight. I mean, if I hurt your feelings I didn't mean to. It was the banana incident and--"
"And your fight with Jessica," she says, stating the obvious.
"Yeah, that too. Well, I just wanted to apologize."
Phew. One person to check off my list of people pissed with me. "Maybe we could hang out sometime."
I think Miranda just dropped the phone, 'cause I hear this big bang on the other end of the line. She recovers pretty quickly, though. "You really want to hang out with me?"
"Sure. I know you're in pretty much all AP classes and I'm not, but you were really cool tonight."
"Wow. Thanks," Miranda says excitedly. "You're way more popular than me, Amy, but you must know that. I just thought you would think I was lame like the other girls at school...well, except Jessica. Although Jessica and I don't hang out unless it's for the youth group."
Here's the thing about popularity: it's the ones who declare themselves popular who usually get pegged as popular. You've got to know how to talk big and act like you're someone important and people will treat you like you're big and important. My wonderful mother taught me to be who I want to be without making excuses. I admit sometimes I go a bit overboard with my comments and actions, but I have a conscience. I apologize.
Of course it's only to the people who deserve an apology.
I guess you can call me apologetically selective. (I think I just made that up, but I like it.)
"Don't you live next door to that new guy from school?" Miranda asks. "He's totally cute."
Ugh! "You mean Nathan?"
I can feel the vibration of excitement over the line. "Yeah. Nathan. He sits in front of me in calculus and has the coolest eyes. Like emeralds."
"Don't waste your breath, Miranda. He's not into girls."