Saturday, July 7, 2007

AWOL (Part 1)

She walked out on the fucking asshole. Teach, that is. Right in the middle of class (what was she thinking?)

"Well, you just proved me right", Sir Preacher goes on, look how immature that is. And, ah, her friend, obligated to not lie down for that. Her staunch advocate, I quickly conjured up a defense of her actions, though I barely understood them myself. He applauded my bravado, but warned me about Ash’s future.

“She’s insecure, looking for attention”, he said, “You watch, she’s headed for trouble”. I shook my head in shock.

Ashley was my confident savior. She brought me out of my shell, from an insecure thing sucking in my stomach when walking through the cafeteria, to a flamboyant girl dancing in the hallways. She was an extraordinary gymnast, a flawless and rhythmic spring of energy who stunned any audience. She achieved Level 9 at the age of eleven. The next step would have been the Olympics. She would have been the youngest American competitor ever.

Ash was content to remain within this realm as a child, but as the reality of high school approached, she desired a change. “High school girls don’t dance like this,” she’d say, relating to her creative choreography, “They just dance with their butts.” She’d start buying shirts that she’d lovingly name “slutty”, and changing on the school bus. At dances, she’d push the limits of what was socially acceptable. One step away from exhibitionism, she’d shed all inhibitions on the dance floor.

She joined a sub-culture of aspiring sexual objects. This is a convoluted world, where good is willing and bad is prude. Please him, and he will say you’re beautiful, or so sexy that he just can’t handle himself. Refuse, and your friends are shocked, branding you as uptight. In this world, I was labeled a flirt, a vessel of empty promises. Like every insecure adolescent, I quickly became attracted to the empty compliments, to the wonderful thought of my own appeal. On another level, I was scared. Our prince charmings were greasy, desperate upperclassmen, with bad breaths and sob stories, people who would give us the attention we desired. I could act interested, but I felt dirty at every touch. I always pulled away. Ashley was disappointed.

She gained and thrived on the label of a school slut. I continued to be her defender, snapping at any dishonorable rumor, yet she was growing tired of me. I was so sheltered, so prudish, apparently. I resented that label so much.

Over time, we drifted apart in an ordinary way. For the past couple years I’ve wanted to call her, inquire to her whereabouts, but either I was too busy or too cowardly.

Three years later, I drove to her house. Little house with a little porch, and no one home. I sat out in the mist, conveniently placed for my melancholy, wondering how I'd explain myself if anyone showed up. 20 minutes into my remencent pity party, a silver BMW parked up with her father suspicious inside. He got out, more tired than wary, and said if I was asking about Ashley, she was gone, somewhere, western mass. Brother's cell phone and three calls later, what do you know?

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