Sunday, September 7, 2008

Knicker Smeller

A few days ago my friend John called me up. When I answered the phone he said, "So, are we still friends?"

He'd gone away for the summer, so we hadn't gotten to see each other any of the times I was back in Buffalo. He had a job out in Iowa, and he had a busy summer of charming girls with white-blond hair and playing shuffle board and working with people who have developmental problems. He was never around when I called him, and after a certain point in the summer I got a forlorn message that said, "Hey, it's me. I lost my phone. I love you."

So, even if we didn't get to talk a lot, and even if we didn't get to see each other at all, I told John of course we were still friends.

"Okay," he said, sounding unsure. "Would I be in your top ten friends? Rank me. Seriously. Let's hear it."

I started naming names.

"Wait a second," John said. "Was I ever in the top ten? I mean, I assume I was, especially back when we were working together, but you tell me."

"Yes, you were in the top ten," I said. "You're in the top ten now." And then I finished my list.

When he came out at eight, he huffed out an upset breath. "EIGHTH?" he said. "I'm EIGHTH? Way to go squeaking me in there, kid."

He then forced me to concede that perhaps I'd ranked him incorrectly, that possibly he deserved to be higher than some people I went to grad school with on the grounds that he has known me longer. I bumped him up a spot in the rankings and he was satisfied.

"Good," he said. "Seventh. Good. Okay, now let me tell you about my summer."

I already knew bits and pieces of his summer--I'd heard a rumor here, a rumor there--but I listened as he ran through his list of favorite accomplishments, which included beating townies at an intense shuffleboard match and hooking up with a girl from England, a girl with a tinkling British accent and dark makeup.

After he revealed he'd hooked up with this girl, John said, "Do you hate me? Do you think I'm a bad person?" This is what he always asks me after he reveals another indiscretion, another fling, another summer affair. He does well at racking up numbers in these categories. There's just something about John and his moppy hair and his ability to quote any Simpsons episode ever that makes girls go all starry-eyed and giggly.

"I don't hate you," I said. "Why would I hate you?"

"I don't want you to think I'm a slut," John said.

"I don't think you're a slut," I said.

"Good," John said, "because now I am going to tell you the story about how I lost my phone."

I said okay. I said I couldn't wait to hear. I said, "Let's hear it."

So he told me about this girl he met, a girl he was working with at the camp in Iowa. She was real cute. She had a nice body. And--the kicker--she was from England. John liked it when she talked to him in that accent, when she said all those funny British words. She came up to him one night after he'd had an awful lot to drink and she was saying flirty-flirty things and John thought he was getting the green light, so John said, "I'd like to go down on you."

The girl stood there staring at him for a minute. It was an uncomfortable minute for John, who wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen to him. He figured it was a very real chance that he was three seconds away from getting kneed in the groin or punched in the face. He almost said something to her--something like, Just kidding! or Psych! or Gotcha!

But then the British girl tossed her hair over her shoulder and leveled her eyes at John's lips. "That," she said, "is hot."

The next thing they knew, they were trudging through the woods and trying to find a place they could be alone. Being at this popular camp in Iowa afforded very little privacy, and the bar--where they were when John made clear his desire--wasn't much better. That's why John suggested they find a quiet, dry spot in the woods, where they could fool around a little bit.

And that's exactly what they did. They fooled around and fooled around and fooled around. It was the middle of the night, and everything was wet with dew. There was very little moon, so it was the blackest kind of dark. When they were satisfied, when they were finished, they started to get themselves back together. That's when John realized he couldn't find his phone. Somehow and somewhere it had gotten lost in their scuffle, their tossing, their rolling. But the lost phone was the least of their problems.

The British girl was frantically patting at the ground around where they'd stretched out. "My knickers!" she shrieked. "I can't find my knickers! Where are my knickers?!"

John didn't know where her knickers were, and he couldn't find them either. They looked and looked and looked, but they had no luck, and they left without the phone, without the knickers. The British girl walked back feeling a little uncomfortable in her new freedom, and John walked back feeling pretty impressed with himself.

The next day John went back to look for his phone. He figured it would be pretty easy to find in the daylight, so he searched the woods where they'd been the night before. Nothing. He couldn't find his phone anywhere. But while he scuffed his feet through the underbrush, John's shoe tangled in something. When he looked down, he saw the girl's panties--her knickers--on the ground.

And then John did something that surprised even him. He picked those knickers up and stuck them in his pocket. He wasn't about to leave the woods empty-handed.

At this point in the story I interrupted to say, "So you gave them back to her? Was she happy you'd found them?"

John paused. He cleared his throat. "Well, that's the thing, Jess," he said. "I didn't give them back."

"You what?"

"I kept them."

"You kept them? You kept that girl's knickers?"

John said yes, he certainly did. He kept them. And instead of tossing them while he was packing his things to come back home to Buffalo, he picked those knickers up, held them in the palm of his hand, and then stuffed them in a small zippered pocket at the bottom of his luggage. He drove home with them, unpacked them, and looked at them when he was finally settled in his old room.

I asked him what he was going to do with them now. It seemed weird to have a pair of a girl's knickers in his bedroom at his mother's house. John said he didn't know exactly what he was going to do with them, but he wasn't about to get rid of them just yet. Which made me wonder, really. I've known this boy for a long, long time, but maybe there are things I don't know about him. Maybe I've got him all wrong. Maybe when I was thinking this was a good boy, a sweet boy, a conventional boy who just wants to see as many naked girls as he can before settling down with the one then having a passel of babies who have his moppy red hair--well, maybe that's when I was wrong. Maybe all this time he has been hiding his deviance from me and everyone else. Maybe he's secretly one of those guys who keeps ex-girlfriends' panties stuffed in the back of his sock drawer so he can take them out and--every once in a while--rub them on his cheek and hold them to his nose.

The next time I'm at his house, I'm checking his sock drawer. Mark my words.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Maybe he's secretly one of those guys who keeps ex-girlfriends' panties stuffed in the back of his sock drawer so he can take them out and--every once in a while--rub them on his cheek and hold them to his nose.

I think right there you might be addressing a large number of very young, very single guys. As in, rule--not exception.