I played basketball with Andrea every day in gym class in 8th grade. She was on the basketball team and she always beat me by a lot. We always laughed and I could never make a basket.
But I didn’t know who I was until I started high school. I remember picking up my schedule on the first day. All nervous. I didn’t have the same classes as a lot of my middle school friends. My first three hours of class read: Auto Shop, Auto Body and Wood Shop. I was in a resources room too. I guess a lot of people got into normal classes, like real math, like algebra, and real science, like Biology and Chemistry. I was in Tech Math 3 and Earth Science. There were some older guys in my classes that kept having to repeat because they failed the year before. I sat in the back with them. They were funny as hell.
Andrea lived out of town in a big house on a lake that only had a few other big houses on it. I hadn’t heard from her all summer, which was weird, because growing up she always had parties with campfires and swimming. I think she went on vacation a lot.
I rode my bike around town during summer, played video games and drank and smoked weed few times with my friends. It was my first summer without a babysitter, so I could do whatever I wanted.
It was mid-September already and I was serving two weeks’ worth of after-school detentions for spraying a fire extinguisher in the boy’s locker room. I wasn’t the only one who did it. My friend Mitch sprayed a fire extinguisher too and we were spraying each other. But his mom died over the summer so he never got in trouble for it.
I had to help the janitor clean the cafeteria after school, wiping down tables and vacuuming. The janitor’s’ name was Josh and he thought the whole thing was funny. He chewed tobacco and told stories from when he was an alcoholic. In real life he was a biker, not a janitor.
It was Friday and Josh told me to go the fuck home. I was walking through the gym to go out the front door and then across the street to catch up with some of the older guys I had class with. They were going to drop acid and play Disc Golf. They wanted me to try it. The gym was kinda dark and empty with half the lights turned off. A blue mat was in the corner and Andrea and some older girl I didn’t know were sitting on it. Their tan shiny legs were spread out, wearing short gym shorts and cut-off T-shirts. Andrea saw me and shouted for me to come sit down, patting her hand into a spot on the mat next to her. Everything echoed. As I got closer, I almost didn’t recognize her. She had changed, she was beautiful, she always was, but she looked like a grownup now, with big bright eyes. I was glad I wasn’t wearing gym shorts.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said, sitting down next to her.
“Hey, Zack. Nothing too much, just finishing up volleyball practice,” Andrea said. “What’ve you been up to? Haven’t seen you in forever.”
“Yeah, my schedule is different. It’s easy though.”
“Oh-my-god, I’m so jealous. I’m in AP English. It’s soo hard,” she laughed.
I didn’t know what AP meant.
“Hey, aren’t you the kid who stole that fire extinguisher?” her friend said.
“… Um, yeah. That was me.”
“This is Michelle,” said Andrea, nodding at her. Michelle looked like a Barbie doll. She was older.
“Why’d you do that?” said Michelle, scrunching her nose.
“Me and Zack were basketball buddies in middle school. We go way back.” Andrea patted me on the back. “How many Home Rooms did we have together?”
“I think four,” I said.
“I remember you made Mrs. Kinery cry in the third grade. She had just started teaching too.” She shook her head at me smirking.
“I remember her. She was really into Jesus. I didn’t like her.”
“But what’re you still doing here though? I mean it’s like 4 o’clock.”
“I was helping Josh clean the cafeteria. I have to do it for detention.”
“Who’s Josh?” said Michelle.
“He’s the janitor. He’s cool.”
They both glanced at each other. Sometimes when I talked people look at each other like I couldn’t see them doing it.
“But hey, I’m getting good at Disc Golf. I got some Discs and was going to meet up with some people at the course if you wanted to come?” I could feel my chest starting to thump a little.
“Oh, really? How good?” said Andrea leaning back on her elbows looking up at me.
“Like pretty good. It’s not like basketball. I think I could beat you.” I nudged her in the shoulder and she rocked on her elbows but never took her eyes off me.
“I’ve never played Disc Golf, but I’m pretty sure I could still kick your ass in it.”
“Oh, yeah? Not if I do acid.”
Michele snorted, “What?!”
Andrea’s forehead crinkled. “What’s acid?”
“It’s supposed to make you really good at Disc Golf. Eddie in Shop class was saying how it made a baseball pitcher throw a no-hitter. It’s supposed to give you superpowers.”
“That doesn’t sound right, Zack. Have you taken it yet?” Andrea said.
“No, but the guys at the course said they’d save me some.”
Michelle curled her legs up and sat like a monk leaning forward. “You should totally take some, man,” she said nodding her head with a big grin.
Andrea gave her a look with a raised eyebrow. “Well, me and Michele are going to get ice cream. I think you should come with us.”
“I don’t know if my car has room,” said Michelle.
“We’ll make room. Zack is a pretty compact guy.”
Michelle exhaled hard. I didn’t like Michelle.
“Let’s go change,” Andrea patted me on the leg and we stood up. We walked to the girl’s locker room. I stopped walking when we got to doors. Andrea waved me in saying that nobody was in there. I hesitated and she laughed saying it wasn’t a big deal.
The locker room was bright and smelled like perfume. It even had an old couch with big sunk-in cushions. Andrea and Michelle walked further into the locker room to change. I sat on the couch and looked around, no urinals, there was a radio softly playing music. Andrea walked back around the corner with no shirt on, just her sports bra and a towel draped over her shoulder. She had a bellybutton ring and was looking down at her phone while she walked at me.
“Here Zack,” she said handing me her smart phone with Angry Birds on it. “My parents got me this phone for high school. Just stay here though, okay?”
I’m not sure but I think I nodded and said ok. I didn’t have a phone.
She turned around, her body moving like waves as she walked away. What the fuck was I doing in here? What if someone walked in? Like a coach or a teacher? I was already in trouble for the fire extinguisher. If I got caught just chilling here I’d be helping Josh clean the cafeteria all year. I saw a fire extinguisher in its red case on the side of the white brick wall and my stomach tightened up.
I used one finger to fling the red bird on the screen into a treehouse thing spotted with green pigs. Everything fell out like dominoes.
The shower water stopped and I heard them talking. I think they were in front of the mirrors.
“Are you still texting Tommy?” said Michelle.
“Yeah, he’s sweet. He wants me to go to that party Saturday,” Andrea said, her voice carrying back to me on the couch.
“You coming? I can pick you up.”
“Sure, I’ll have to make up something to tell my parents though.”
“Good girl. But seriously, you should hook up with Tommy. He won’t be sticking around long if you don’t put out.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about that.”
“What? Feel his dick. He’s cute and has money.”
“I don’t know. He’s an athlete. Drives a convertible. Don’t you think it all seems stupid, like cliché?”
“Cliché? Who cares. He’s dumb as shit. You could take him for a ride, and dating him would get you noticed by more older guys.”
I kept sling-shotting the bird on her phone. I thought about putting my number in her phone, but I didn’t have a phone number, and I didn’t know how to work her phone. I was an idiot. I wondered how it’d play out if I was Tommy. I’d still be sitting on that mat in the gym and Andrea would never give me her phone either. I was raised by high school girls. Making me dinner and packing my lunch for the next day, my mom working late. High school girls driving me to stuff, making out with their boyfriends on the couch, me in my room, playing video games and reading comic books, spying on them, thinking that when I was in high school I’d get to make out with girls too. Now I was in high school and Andrea was a high school girl and it felt like I was still being babysat. I flopped the phone on the cushion next to me. I was pissed at her now and I wasn’t sure why. She didn’t even do anything.
Everyone else always talked about getting pussy. The older guys I sat with in earth science had pussy stories and so did Josh. I never got any pussy. I didn’t even know how to start. They never said how they got it, just that they did.
Was I just supposed to say: Hey, Andrea come over here and give me pussy?
Or: Andrea, I’m going to fuck your pussy.
Or: Let me get some of that pussy.
Or: Put my dick in your pussy, slut.
But no, none of that sounded right. We’d been friends since kindergarten. I didn’t want to talk like that about her, to her. That’s how the older guys talked about the girls they got with. Andrea had called Tommy sweet. But I bet if she got with Tommy he’d talk about her like that to his friends.
I was starting to wish that I never ran into Andrea. That I had just gone disc golfing and dropped acid.
Then she came around the corner, her hands on her hips, smiling big, with sandals on and her giant gym bag that looked impossible to carry, hanging from her shoulder.
“You ready to go?” she said.
“Um… I don’t have any money for ice cream.”
She gave me a look with her eyebrows. “Zack, stop being an idiot. It’s my treat,” she said walking at me. “You didn’t like the game?”
“I got bored…”
“Well at least you didn’t discharge the fire extinguisher,” we laughed.
She picked her phone up off the couch and then combed her nails through my hair. It felt like rain drops. We went and got ice cream, Michelle texting the whole time. I didn’t think about Tommy or Michelle or acid or pussy. I just enjoyed hanging out with Andrea after school on a Friday in the sun like we were little again.
Jon Berger lives in Saginaw, Michigan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Five 2 One Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Occulum, The New Engagement, and elsewhere. He tweets @bergerbomb44.