Stories I Haven't Told - 1
I had been treated to the occasional sip of beer or wine since I was a baby. By the time I was a teenager, when my mother and I ate out at least three times a week, I would occasionally have a glass or two of wine with dinner. This was never considered to be a big deal; it was just the way civilized people shared an evening meal.
He had been brought up differently. To him, alcohol in any form was evil and sinful. He confided that, one summer, the most fun-loving but least upright of his uncles had given him and some other cousins a bit of chewing tobacco, and he had felt a buzz. He enjoyed it, but was terrified of feeling that way ever again, through any non-spiritual means.
As is so often the case with iron-clad life rules, none of this had been clearly spelled out. Of course I knew he wasn't part of the keg-chugging crowd--but neither was I. I knew he didn't approve of the drunken weekend antics of some common acquaintances--but that wasn't my thing, either.
My mother offered him a glass of wine when he came to dinner with us at the restaurant. "But only if you think your parents won't mind," she added. She was vaguely aware that his family abided by mysterious religious guidelines unfamiliar to her, and she had no desire to offend. He accepted half a glass, and sipped it warily throughout the meal.
I was giddy. The food was good, I was madly in love the way only a fifteen-year-old can be, the three of us conversed and laughed and sometimes he would put his hand on my knee under the table, or reach for my fingers, and I would go weak. He was a boy my mother liked and approved of, and I thought he was the hottest thing ever. Oh, life was certainly good.
I had three glasses of wine. I think; it may have only been two, and the rest of my euphoria simply hormone-induced. It was all too long ago to remember exactly.
After dinner, we went for a drive. We would spend hours driving around endlessly, his old metallic mint green Dodge Dart the only place we could be assured of privacy. We would drive through neighborhoods, roar down the bright major thoroughfares lined with strip malls and fast food restaurants and discount supermarkets, glide along in the dark countryside only moments away. Sometimes we would talk, often we would listen to music, occasionally we would bask in contented silence broken only by the hum of the engine.
This time, he guided us down towards the river bottoms. Missouri Bottom Road,
its inky blackness void of streetlights, farmland stretching away on one side,
the ground sloping down towards the river in a jumble of trees and reeds on
the other. I sat back in the seat, happily taking in the warmth and intimacy
of the evening, enjoying the afterglow.
"I feel a little tipsy," I confessed. "My head is spinning."
The silence was broken by a sharp squeal as he slammed on the brakes, jerking to a halt in the middle of the deserted road. When he turned to face me, I was stunned to see that he had tears in his eyes, and that he trembled with anger. "I didn't know you were that kind of girl!" he yelled through gritted teeth.
I could only look at him in shock, still not really understanding what I had done. As he went on, enraged as I'd never seen him, never imagined he could be in the two years I'd known him, it gradually dawned on me just how serious a breach of his moral code I had unwittingly committed.
I argued back. It was just wine, for goodness' sake, and it's not as though I was drunk, really, just... relaxed. Feeling alright. (Or had been, until he began acting so unreasonable.) And my own mother had been right there, so it's not as though I'd done anything really wrong. To say I had was not just to condemn me, but my mother and our entire family's moral values.
He ordered me out of the car. I barked a short laugh, surprised that he would
joke in the middle of this, our worst fight to date.
He wasn't joking. He got out of the car himself, and in a millisecond had opened the door on my side and was pulling at me. I let myself be pulled, and stood to face him, leaning my head back to meet his eyes nearly a foot above mine. He was still talking, but I wasn't really hearing his words, just absorbing them like acid rain, trying to reconcile this furious beast with the sweet boy I knew.
The next moment, he was driving off, red taillights disappearing into the soft night.
I should have been afraid. I was a fifteen-year-old girl standing beside an unlit deserted road at night, with no means of transportation. By car, my house was less than five minutes away, but it was quite a walk. Instead of fear, though, I simply felt a kind of dazed numbness. The warm and cozy evening had turned sharply frigid, and I found it too surreal to fully accept. I started walking, following the white line along the side of the road, marveling at its pure metallic glint in the feeble light of the moon and stars.
He eventually came back, not too much later, and drove me home. We made up.
Obviously, though, I never really forgave him.