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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking Chances

"I'm not looking for anything serious right now, especially with all of this stuff going on with my family, and work, and journalism, and--"
"Who's asking for something serious?"

"So I was thinking, friends go out to dinner, right?"
"And friends go to movies together, right?"
"Do you really not know where I'm going with this?"
"I do. Sure, let's go to dinner and a movie. We're friends, we can do that."

"Do you like her?"
"Yeah. I do."
"Then what's so complicated about it?"
"It's not really. I'm just not looking for anything serious right now."
"It sounds like you're really messed up."

"Your father owes Lucy Greer a lot of money."
"He has a three year-old daughter with her, and now has four thousand dollars in child support that he has to pay."

"I'm coming to your concert on Friday."
"That's great. Hopefully the music will be good."
"I'm gonna take a date with me."
"Look, David, we never said we were exclusive. We're--"
"--just friends. I know."
"Are you really surprised by this?"

Michael Florence is quite possibly the most intelligent person I know. He's also the most cynical.

"Well, she had told me she wasn't seeing anyone else."
"But you gave her the freedom to date other people. I thought that this wasn't supposed to be serious."
"It wasn't. It's not. I'm just--surprised, that's all."

The sad fact was that I really did like Callie Anderson. She was smart, funny, beautiful, and like me had gone through a drug problem that few people our age understand. She was perfect, but I was scared.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And after everything I had been through, it was normal for me to be a little scared of committment.

I decided not to think about the end of my fling with Callie and focus my attention to our fall concert. We had one more day until we were onstage in tuxes and gowns, and some of us were still a little iffy on our parts.

"Can I hear that interval?"
"Can you please play the tenor line at 19?"

"Does anyone want to hear a joke?"
"Randy, would you please not talk?"
"Sorry, Miss Connolly."

Our music was nowhere near where it needed to be, but every day we got a little closer. The bell rang, and we all left the auditorium praying that we would sing well at the concert.

"Please, Lord, allow us to perform well at the concert. Amen."
"Aaron, haven't you ever heard of separation of church and state?"
"I'm not leading a service, I'm just doing a short prayer. We need all the help we can get."
"I don't understand why everyone is making such a fuss. It always comes together in the end."
"Not always. Don't you remember the holiday concert sophomore year?"
"Oh yeah. Damn, I haven't thought of that in a long time."

While Mark Adams and Aaron Stanwick reminisced about the days of old, Michael and I continued talking about my present situation.

"Why don't you just tell her you like her?"
"Because she doesn't want anything serious. And neither do I."
"But you obviously like her, right?"
"I do. It's just that--well, everything with Joy was so complicated, and Callie is fun. I feel like when I'm around her, I can forget all the bad shit in my life and focus on her."
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is that things are so crazy in my life, with the editor-in-chief position, and the concert tomorrow night, and lest we forget the newly announced love child."

Michael looked at me with concern in his eyes.

"Joy knew everything on our first date. After three weeks, she got to see it. Letting her into my life that way scared the shit out of me, and I'm not sure I'm ready to do that again."

Michael continued his silence for a moment before he answered.

"You said that when you're around her, you forget about all that stuff, right?"
"Then why do those things have to play a role in your relationship?"

I thought about what he was saying for a second before he continued.

"Look, sometimes you just have to take a leap. I took a leap with Leslie and I've never been happier. Love comes when you don't expect it. I've gotta get to a meeting, but just think about it, okay?"

While I worked in the newsroom during lunch, I thought about taking leaps. I had taken a leap with Joy by letting her into my heart. I had taken a leap with my father, Cal, by trying to give him another chance. It seemed that every leap I had taken ended with me falling flat on my face and breaking my nose. What would make this leap any different?

As I thought and worked on story assignments, Mark, Aaron, and Leslie were in the courtyard discussing Mark's current dilemma.

"Mark, I don't know how to tell you this, but I don't think she's going to sleep with you."
"What makes you say that?"
"Mark, she works at the soup kitchen--for recreation."
"We all have our hobbies."
"The point is that she's a good girl, and I doubt she's going to fuck the first thing that comes around."
"She's probably waiting until she's in love, if not waiting 'til marriage."
"Aaron, no one waits until marriage unless they're Mormon! And even then, not everyone does."
"You won't find that very often. Honestly, I'm perfectly fine waiting until marriage."
"But is this God of yours going to hate you if you do have sex?"
"I guess not..."
"Then why make such a big deal out of it?"
"You know what, Mark, I've never once questioned your belief in God. I don't understand why you're always hating on my religion, but I'm done with it. This is what I believe, and I don't have to justify myself to you."

And on that note, Aaron stormed away from Mark and Leslie.

"So what happens now?"

Aaron told me everything as he, Michael, and I walked to the parking lot after jazz choir.

"I don't know. I don't want to end our friendship, but I don't think I can handle it anymore. He doesn't say anything about you being Jewish or Michael being Catholic."
"Well, it's just that your beliefs are so different than mine and David's. We swear, and we drink coffee, and we have sex."
"Still a virgin."
"But not by your own choice."
"The point is that you and Mark have never really seen eye-to-eye about anything. I'll admit, your love/hate relationship is hilarious to watch, but how much of it is love?"

Aaron stopped in his tracks to consider this. He and Mark were friends, but we always questioned how close they really were.

"No, we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and yes, he sometimes annoys the crap out of me, but when all is said and done, he's one of my best friends. I don't wanna lose him."
"Then just call him tonight and tell him that you don't want your friendship to end. It's as simple as that."
"It is, David?"
"This isn't about me and Callie! This is about our two best friends continuing to be friends. The last thing we need is unnecessary awkwardness."

On the drive home, I thought about what I had said. Maybe my situation was just as simple as Mark and Aaron's. What if all I had to do was pick up the phone and say how I felt about her? What if I could just take a leap?

That night, Aaron called Mark in order to clear the air, but instead, it just got more clouded.

"Honestly Aaron, I'm sick of your whole 'holier-than-thou' attitude. I'm tired of you feeling superior to me."
"But I--"
"Save it, Aaron. We all know that you feel superior to me and everyone else that's not Mormon."
"You know what, Mark, if that's what you think then you can go right ahead and think it. I'm done."

Aaron hung up and the two of them sat at opposite ends of the phone line, astounded that their argument had led to this.

Concert night came finally, and none of us were really in the concert spirit. We all had something on our minds that had nothing to do with music. I was thinking about Callie sitting in the audience with some other guy, Mark and Aaron were thinking about the end of their six year friendship, and Michael was distraught over all of us. If the concert had been one week prior, everything would have been fine. Mark and Aaron still would have been friends, Callie and I would still be seeing each other, and Michael would be content knowing that we were all content.

Miss Connolly stood up in front of the entire choir program to start the pre-concert warm-up, a tradition meant to pump us all up.

"So, it's the first concert. Is everyone excited?"

There was a short period of rambunctious cheering, and then Miss Connolly settled everyone down.

"Okay, everyone close your eyes. Think about where we started this year. Think about where we are now. Think about the first time you ever walked into this choir room. Think about the first time you stepped onto that stage out there. Now, with everything in mind, go out there and just have fun."

Walking onstage for the jazz choir set, I thought about more than the things that Miss Connolly had mentioned. I thought about my relationship with Joy, I thought about my time in rehab, I thought about my relapse and my first date with Callie. I thought about every fight my parents have ever had and my reluctance to let Cal back into my life. But after our set was over, I decided to stop thinking because life is not about thinking. It is about living.

After the Acme Choir's set (which sounded really fucking good, by the way), we headed out into the lobby for meet-and-greet. After saying hi to my family and hugging every single person in choir, I found Callie and her date, Scott.

"Hey, good job!"

She gave me a hug and I went in to kiss her. She kissed me back, and after a couple minutes, we unlocked our lips to find that Scott was no longer standing there.

"What was that for?"
"I'm tired of staying on the ground."
"The last relationship I was in fucked me up pretty badly, but I'm tired of letting it stop me from trying again. The only way for us to work is if we leap; if we forget about the possibility of us falling on our faces. Otherwise, we're never going to get off the ground, and we'll never be able to fly."
"I feel the same way."
"I'm so happy to hear you say that."

We kissed more and then Michael interrupted us.

"Forgive me for interrupting, but are you gonna go to Sonic with us?"
"Um, Callie, a bunch of us go to Sonic after choir concerts. It's a big tradition. Do you want to come with us?"
"There's nowhere I'd rather be."
"Great! I'm going to go get changed, but I'll meet you in the parking lot?"
"Yeah. So Callie, where are you from?"

All in all, things turned out really well that night. Our music sounded amazing, our choir program benefited greatly from the big crowd, and my relationship with Callie was finally off the ground. I wondered if anything happened between Mark and Aaron. Maybe they had settled their differences. Maybe they were gonna carpool to Sonic. Maybe--

"Oh Aaron, I've wanted this for so long, but I didn't think you knew I existed."
"I've been wanting to ask you out for a while, Lupe, but there's always been something in my way."
"Like what?"
"It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we're together now."

The thing about taking leaps is that you take them because you believe that you will fly. You think of the possibility of falling flat on your face, but ultimately, if you see fit, you take the chance and leap. But the one thing you don't consider when taking a leap is the reaction of the people you will leave on the ground.

You never think of the ones who are choking from the dust you leave behind.

David Adler
Normal High School Student