I don’t remember exactly when it was he told me how he felt, but after I knew, I couldn’t stop looking at him. I stole glances whenever I could. He lived further from me than many of my other friends, but I saw him regularly. I could feel him watching me, too, or so I imagined. I thought about what it would be like to kiss him.
Those thoughts filled my days.
Across the room, those times when I would see him, I would stare and stare and blush when his eyes met mine. He would always smile then, and his cheeks would colour too. Most times, I didn’t know what to say to him, so I let him start most of our conversations, although there weren’t nearly enough of them. And I couldn’t fathom the passing of time when he was near. He was all I could see.
He was one of the only people to comfort me in losses, and one of the first to congratulate successes. That was both unexpected and discomfiting, because I didn’t know the proper responses. I never knew what to say, how to hold my arms, where to look. I suppose I didn’t really know who I was when he saw me.
He invited me to his house. It was a warm afternoon, and I went on my own. It took me a while to find it. We watched movies and he made me brunch – fried hashed brown potatoes with green onions and a tall, cold glass of chocolate milk. He told me how much he loved my smile.
I thought I’d never be able to stop smiling.
But at the same time, there was an uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. There was a shuddering in my mind’s eye. Why is he really saying this? What am I supposed to say? Should I compliment him? Should I thank him? How can I change the subject?
I needn’t have worried.
“Do you want to know what I heard on the news?” He asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“I heard there was this man in New York or Chicago or something, and he was a frequent flyer, and so one day, he tried to get on the plane with his pickle wrapped in aluminum foil.”
I stared at him, and watched his eyes sparkle as he laughed.
“Can you imagine having to explain that to the people at the metal detectors?”
I sat back and thought about it. I could, indeed, imagine that. But where would he keep the pickle? I wondered. “I would totally do that,” I heard myself saying.
He stopped laughing. “What?” He asked incredulously.
“I would do that. I would totally wrap my pickle in foil and try to get through the metal detectors.”
He was staring at me, and he had the strangest look on his face. It was the sort of look that said ‘I am confused’. “But cenobyte,” he said tenderly, his voice full of concern. “You’re a girl.”
It was my turn to stare. “Yes,” I agreed. “I am.”
We stared at one another over cooling plates of hashbrowns. “…do you mean…” he began slowly, deliberately. “That is something…you would do…if…”
“If I had a pickle at the airport. Yes, yes.” I was impatient with him.
Something was wrong. He kept glancing at me sidelong.
It wasn’t until I went home later that afternoon that I realised he had used the word pickle synonymously with penis. This was an idiom I had not previously encountered. The entire conversation of that morning unfurled in the nascent folds of my memory.
I wondered if my preteen self ought to pick up the phone and explain to my first serious boyfriend that I thought he’d meant some fellow had wrapped an actual *pickle* in foil, and that I had thought that would be a ridiculous amount of fun to not be willing to explain to airport security, and that I’d had no idea that he actually meant that the fellow had wrapped his own johnson in foil, but then I thought better of calling him to explain all of this to him, not because I didn’t want to admit that I’d been confused, but because it was more than a little embarassing to not catch on to an entire conversation for HOURS. I never did explain it to him. I did, however, wonder why anyone would wrap their wang in foil at an airport.
But then I thought about how much fun it really would be to take various random objects wrapped in foil through security and figured that the fellow who’d done it couldn’t really be that dissimilar from me in the end. Not *really*.
Little did I know that that conversation would be one of the cornerstones for my reputation for years to come.