HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY contains strong language and some themes not suitable for audiences under 17. Viewer discretion is advised.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Let Love In

"I'm David, and I'm a narcotics addict."
"Hi, David."

"Is he always like that?"
"Unfortunately, yeah. You'll get used to him, though. I'm David."
"Yeah, I know. I read your column in the school newspaper every month."
"Really? I thought everyone made hats out of The Sentinal."
"Oh, they do. But they read your column first. I'm Steve."

"Steve Weiss is bad news."
"What's so bad about him? He seems really nice. Odd--very, very odd--but nice."
"Well, he probably forgot to mention that he sells drugs."

"Look Steve, I don't know what you heard, but I don't do that stuff."
"Why? Afraid you'll end up in rehab again?"
"Um, I think that's a pretty legitimate fear."
"David, just take one pill. I'm sure you're feeling some pain right now."

"You are the only guy for me, and no matter how many hot guys I see on the beach in Florida, none of them will hold a candle to you."

"I want my money back."
"You still bought the pill, so I can't give you your money back."
"Fine. But don't ever try to sell drugs to me again, because if you do, I'm going to kick your ass."

"Would you like to go out for Coffee sometime?"
"Sure. When would you want to meet?"
"Do you have anything going on right now?"
"I think I can squeeze you in. My car is parked over there. Let's go to the Coffee Plantation. They have the BEST coffee."
"You've really never seen The Dark Knight?"
I laughed about what I had just revealed to Callie, a beautiful girl I met at N.A.

"Not EVERYONE has seen that movie."
"But it was Heath Ledger's final performance! He won an OSCAR for it!"
"Because he was dead."

She shot me a dirty look, but it was a playful dirty look.

"Well, for your information, there was Oscar buzz before he died."
"There was Oscar buzz about the Hannah Montana movie, but that doesn't mean they were serious. It's how they get you to see the movie. And I guarantee you that there were bandwagon fans at that movie theatre who saw it for one reason and one reason only--Heath Ledger."
"Well, I can tell you that I am not a bandwagon fan. I actually enjoy Batman."

Callie and I were on our way to the Coffee Plantation to talk, drink some coffee, and just chill--but it was NOT a date.
My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And going out with a new friend who just happens to be of the opposite sex is normal.

However, my best friends, Michael Florence, Aaron Stanwick, and Mark Adams would disagree.

"I just got a text from David. He said that he's going out for coffee with that N.A. chick."
"Seriously? Does he not listen when I speak to him?"
"Maybe he's too busy trying to decipher what it is that you're saying."
"He just texted me again and said that it's not a date."
"The hell it isn't."

The next thing I knew, I got a text from Michael.

"w/e it is ur doin, get urself out."

I rolled my eyes.

"What's up?"
"Oh, nothing. My friend just texted me."
"What did he say?"
"He wants me to get out of AP classes. He thinks they're ruining my life."
"Only if you don't do them the right way. I'm using my AP classes to get into NYU."
"NYU, huh? What are you going to study?"
"I don't know yet. Journalism, art, maybe anthropology."
"That's a broad list."
"Yeah, well, this year is about deciding what I really want to do."
"Good idea. I have no clue what I want to do or where I want to go."
"Well, I'm sure you'll figure it out."

We pulled into the shopping center where the UPS Store and the Coffee Plantation were. I had been in the same parking lot a day prior, but I hadn't been in this section of the parking lot since before prom. It all looked so different; as if there was some big construction job done to it. But then I saw two familiar cars close by. A red truck and a green Jeep Wrangler. Was it a coincidence?

"Is something wrong?"
"No. I was just--thinking."
"About what?"
"Nothing important. Let's go inside."

So many things were running through my head at that very moment. Why were the guys there? Would my ex-girlfriend Joy be working tonight? And did Callie realize that this wasn't a date?
As we walked into the Coffee Plantation, I braced myself. The door felt heavy as I held it for Callie. With a swift motion toward the counter, I noticed that Joy wasn't there. I sighed out of relief as I follwed Callie to a table.

"I'll go get the drinks. What do you want?"
"Oh, I'll pay for myself."
"No, I've got it."
"Well, in that case, I'll take an espresso with sugar and cream."
"Alright, I'll be right back."

As I walked to the counter, I thought about the evening as it had played out so far. Was it a date? And if it wasn't, why was I making it like a date? Holding the door, paying, what was next?


I was pulled into the hallway where the bathrooms were.

"Got him!"
"I knew those were your cars out there! What the hell are you guys doing here?"
"Stopping you from making a very big mistake."
"I told you, it's not a good idea to get involved with someone right now."
"Get involved--you guys are ridiculous! I'm just going out for coffee with a friend. I do have other friends besides the three of you."
"But why the Coffee Plantation? You said you would never come here again."
"And you said that Faye Winston was the one. Things change."

My friends looked at me, but not in anger or disgust. It was a look of curiosity. Finally, Mark spoke.

"You're not over Joy."
"Come again?"
"David, it makes perfect sense. You ask a very do-able girl out and take her to the one place that you're bound to see your ex. And why? To make the latter jealous."
"Callie was the one who suggested that we come here. I just--didn't say no."
"Because you're not over Joy."
"It doesn't even matter. She's not here."
"Really, because I'm pretty sure she just stepped behind the register."
I turned my head quickly and saw that it was indeed Joy at the counter.
"Shit, what do I do?"
"Well, do you want to deal with it like a man, or do you want to leave and continue to shove it under the rug?"

Michael was right. I had tried to leave all of the baggage that came with our break-up at the baggage claim, but there's a reason that you always put your address on the luggage tag. No matter where you leave it, your baggage always returns to its rightful place.

On the otherhand, I could always deal with it later. I wasn't really in the mood for coffee anyway. In fact, I was kind of hungry.

I returned to the table empty-handed.

"I expected coffee to come with you."
"Well, I was thinking, would you want to go out for dinner instead?"
"Sure. I don't have to be home for a while. Where do you want to go?"
"There's this great pizza place, 3.14. It's not far from here. If you don't mind driving more, would you want to head over there?"
"Yeah. I don't mind driving at all. In fact, I enjoy the company."
We made our escape. I don't think Joy saw us, but if she had, I didn't care. I didn't belong to her anymore.

"I can't believe he's still avoiding it."
"I can. It was his first break-up, his first relationship, his first love. Who wants to deal with that?"


"Speaking of first loves."
"Hey, babe! How's Florida? What do you mean look outside and ask for yourself? Okay...I'm walking to the door of the Coffee Plantation...I'm opening the door of the Coffee Plantation...I'm outside the--OH MY GOD!"

Michael's girlfriend Leslie Lawrence had come home from Florida early and surprised Michael. According to Mark, Michael lifted her up in the air, spun her, and passionately kissed her.

"What are you doing here? How did you know I was at the Coffee Plantation?"
"I saw it on your Facebook page and thought, I just had to come surprise you. Did you miss me?"
"More than you know."

As they started kissing again, Mark made a very odd observation.

"You guys fucked!"

They stopped kissing and looked at Mark.

"Um--how would you know that?"
"Because, you guys act like you haven't seen each other in years, which means that neither of you feel like you've had sex in a very long time, thus you guys are horny for each other, and that level of horniness occurs only if you've fucked before."
"Oh. Well, yeah, we had sex."
"And it was great. Why didn't we start having sex earlier?"
"It wasn't the right time."

While Michael and Leslie continued to revel in their love for each other, Callie and I arrived at 3.14. It was where Joy and I had our first date, and where the guys and I took Jamie for lunch that day. A lot of memories were held here, but the pizza was so good that I was able to forget about all of the memories and focus on Callie. What new memories would come out of our relationship?

"So, David, I know a lot about you now, but what about your family?"

Months earlier, Joy had asked me the same question, and because of my answer, our first date was ruined. I had to think of how to answer this.

"They're okay. My dad left at the end of the school year, so now it's just my mom, my sister, my brother, and me."
"Why'd your dad leave?"
"Who knows? It could be any number of reasons. He's apparently going to be a rabbi now, though."
"Oh, so you're Jewish?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure how much I believe in all of it. I mean, I believe in God, but how likely is it that he parted the red sea?"
"Well, God works in mysterious ways."
"I'll drink to that."

We lifted our water glasses and clanked them together.

"So, what about your family?"
"Well, my parents are both writers. My dad is my biggest inspiration, actually. He always says to write what I know and that one day I will know everything. I'm really lucky to have him--both of them."

I thought about what Callie was saying. It was almost impossible to remember a time when I actually liked my dad. He was a deadbeat, and when the going got too tough, he just walked away. I didn't hate my father, but I had no respect for him. There was a difference there, right?
After dinner, it was still kind of early, so we decided to see a movie. It wasn't the most amazing film I had ever seen, but I was happy seeing it with Callie. Being with her made me feel like I did before the accident, before prom, before Jamie ruined everything.

On the way home, we continued talking about all kinds of things--movies, music, books, vacation spots. When we arrived at my house, I leaned in very close to her.

"I had a really great time tonight."
"Me too, David. I really like you."

We leaned in closer to each other.

"I like you too, Callie."

We closed our eyes, and just as our lips were about to touch--


My 14 year-old brother, Jake, was calling.

"Excuse me. Hello?"
"David, whre are you?"
"I'm right outside the house. What's up?"
"It's Dad. He collapsed in the middle of Shabbat services."
"Oh my God! Is he alright?"
"We don't know. We're about to go to the hospital, and since you're home now, you can come too."
"Okay. I'll be right inside."

I looked at Callie apologetically.

"What's going on?"
"My dad's in the hospital. I've gotta go. I'm so sorry."
"It's alright. I'll see you around."

We hugged awkwardly and I got out of the car. As I walked to the front porch, I thought about our evening. It was a date. There was no doubt about that. The question was whether I was going to have another date with her. We had forgotten to exchange phone numbers, and there was no guarantee that she'd be at the next N.A. meeting. I turned around and her car was gone. I may have missed my only shot with her.

Cal was waiting at the hospital. He was in a comfortable looking bed, and some very attractive nurses were attending to him.

"Oh look, my family's here. Thanks for all of the help, ladies."

The nurses left and Jake, Libby, and I approached our father.

"Hello, Cal."
"Hello, David. Jake, Libby."
"How are you feeling?"
"Much better now that you're all here. Where's your mother?"
"In the waiting room. She'll come in when the three of us leave."
"What happened?"
"I was davening and all of a sudden I felt like I couldn't breathe. Next thing I knew, I blacked out and woke up here."
"But you're feeling better now."
"Yes I am."
It was silent for a minute. I looked at my father, who was obviously vulnerable and upset. It was the only time I had ever seen him where he actually seemed real.

"I decided tonight that becoming a Rabbi was not the right thing to do."

I couldn't believe that he actually admitted that he had done something wrong.

"I realized that religion was not going to keep me away from my problems. It's not a cure-all, you know. All that having faith does is give you something to believe in. God gave us all brains, and for the past 30 years I haven't been using mine right."

I was in shock. I think that all three of us were.

"So, does this mean that you're coming home?"
"If your mother will allow me to, I would like to. And I'll have a chack for the rent every month."
"With what job?"
"Rabbi Lewitt was able to get me a job teaching at Levi Dershowitz Jewish Community High School. I'll be teaching a class about different perspectives of religion. Rabbi Lewitt felt that it was a good place to start."
"And credentials?"
"I enrolled in PVCC yesterday. Got a scholarship, too."
"Wow, Cal, I'm really impressed."
"How about calling me Dad?"
"One step at a time."
"Hey guys, let's go so Mom can come in."

I hadn't completely forgiven him, but it was a start. If my mom would let him back in the house, Cal and I could work on our relationship, and maybe even have the same relationship that we had when I was a kid.

The funny thing about baggage is that you always carry it with you, but you can unpack it any time. You can deal with your problems or you can sweep them under the rug. You can fight the battles worth fighting or forfeit the ones that are yours to win. You can pretend that your ex-girlfriend doesn't exist, or you could get together with her over a large pizza and talk about your relationship.

"Hi, Joy."
"David! Hi!"
"I was wondering if you would maybe want to have dinner with me next Friday?"
"Sure. Meet you at 3.14?"
"It's a date."

Only this time, unlike dinner with Callie, this really wasn't a date.

David Adler
Normal High School Student