Sounds of ecstasy and appreciation followed you around the room as you traced the row of desks with a box of doughnuts in hand. I had arrived early and some of your classmates were still seated. People I didn’t know receiving treats from someone they did know. There was a tension as you drew nearer. Did I get a doughnut? Did I deserve one? Why would I get one? I was someone from another class who hadn’t so much as offered a hello. You obviously had formed a special kinship with those in yours or else you wouldn’t have bought and shared this delicious wealth of confections. I was worried things would become awkward or standoffish when you got to me. Maybe these were a celebration for a project well done or a get-well indulgence for someone’s heartbreak and I was certainly not a part of that in any way shape or form– “Want one?” You asked. Thank you.
You said that your only regrets in life were that you never skateboarded or rode a motorcycle. We said that you’re never too old to start. You told us that you were a producer on Sleepless in Seattle and that you were meeting Tom Hanks next week at the very restaurant we were standing outside of. He was to play you in a movie about your life. I asked if his head was as big in person as it is on screen. You smiled wide. You told us that you loved us. We said we loved you. You said that you had to be crazy to love someone and that the world needed more crazy people. “Wanna know how crazy I am?” You asked while reaching into your jacket pocket. I assumed either a knife or a wad of 100’s was to follow. When a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup sat in the palm of your hand I knew for certain there was love in the world.
In grade 6 when I called Sarah Pritchert to ask her to be my girlfriend I was more scared at the thought of talking to her than receiving an answer. I hung-up when her father picked up the phone. When I called the prison to see if you were incarcerated it was the same feeling only I was terrified of the answer. I imagined you shitting in one of those tiny, metal toilets built into the wall of your cell just like I had imagined Sarah Pritchert and I holding hands as we walked to Social Studies class. Your cellmate would ask to have a look at it when you were done. All of my friends would ooh and ah as she and I went down the hall. A voice recording immediately informed me that information on inmates could not be shared due to the privacy act.
I get nervous around attractive people. You waved to me and my palms began to sweat just like they did the time I met Tim Allen at Disneyland when I was thirteen. My initial defence in this situation is to make jokes. I told Tim his fly was down when it wasn’t. He didn’t get it. There wasn’t anything to get. I was thirteen and terribly unfunny. When you approached I made an ill-placed jab at Justin Trudeau’s campaign strategy. You didn’t get it. There was nothing to get. Thankfully you brushed it off and we talked about your photography. I asked you if any of your models ever had nipples shaped like everyday objects like how you can see a toaster or a lute in the clouds. You said no. I excused myself.
It had been happening all night at roughly five-minute intervals and the bartender and servers couldn’t figure out why. They walked up the stairs, down the stairs and brought their faces close to the stairs to–I assume–check for any voodoo incantations carved into the wood. They left stumped and we started placing bets on when people would slip down the cursed steps. We traded wins and losses for most of the evening; victory resulting in beer, defeat in more beer. Then you went upstairs to the washroom and walked slowly back down on your return, your face contorted in mock fear. We laughed and then laughed harder as you actually slipped and hit the last three steps with your ass, which in turn meant you won the latest wager. I called collusion you called on us for another drink.
There was an abrupt flash of memory when I saw you sitting on it–myself as a child watching television in the basement on Saturday morning, the last cartoon’s credits rolling past. I had a tendency to fidget while under the trance of the T.V. Sitting on that same worn oak chair, then beside it and eventually under it. When the first funk-fused baseline came through the speakers I knew something was wrong. Then as the hulking, animated train heaved across the screen I knew I was in trouble. In the throes of my unconscious fidgeting I’d managed to get my head stuck in the space between the seat and the back of the chair. My first reaction was to cry. Beautiful curvaceous women danced to the sounds of Heavy D, Monifah and my blubbering until my mother ran down and rescued me. I came back to the present when you asked me what was wrong. “Nothing” I said as the long, melting baritone of “Soul Train” echoed through my thoughts.
Every so often I come to your shop to buy potato chips because I like potato chips and you sell them. I usually accompany the snack with a lottery ticket and make the timeless joke “I’d like a winner please” while making the purchase. We both laugh and you wish me luck. This has happened on innumerable occasions now and every time the chips taste the same–a little stale, your laugh stays earnest and full and the pain of always losing on the ticket is constant as dreams of backyard concrete skateparks and border collies are violently snatched away as if attached to a bungee cord. I know it has always been a joke between us but I hope this time you can see past that and give me a reason to celebrate or I might have to start eating those expensive rice cakes from Whole Foods.