Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Calzone Incident

My dear friend the Italian Saxophonist likes to to tell or at least refer to this story every time we hang out. Probably because this story involves 1) another italian 2) calzones and 3) me being oblivious.

I was at a summer program up north when I got my first-ever boyfriend. I'd never really had the urge to date before, but everyone was getting a summer program significant other and I was kind of bored after classes. This super short (long distance in high school is always doomed) relationship taught me two valuable lessons:

1) "My parents go to church" does not mean "We are totally Presbyterian soul-mates." It means his family drags him to church, where he promptly falls asleep.
2) "I don't smoke weed anymore" means "I don't smoke weed anymore... around you. Unless you are super naive, and then I will be blazed around you all the time."

[disclaimer: This post is not to pass judgments about marijuana smokers. Some of my closest friends do it daily. This is to laugh at an awkward situation at my complete obliviousness and general "reefer madness" understanding of weed at the time.]

We head out one night to the local calzone shop around 10pm or so (Out so late! These excursions to calzone shops in my formative youth are why I blow a substantial portion of my paycheck at Artichoke & Basil.) and he sees some of his friends milling about in the back corner. I get briefly introduced and then shooed away to order my calzone and let them talk.

What? Rude.
But you know, whatever. I am cool. I am seventeen. I have disposable income with which to buy my own calzone. I am paying for my food myself like an independent young woman --


Well, damn. I rarely carry cash, even to this day, because I'm bad with change and more likely to spend spend spend. Aha! I think - my significant other just got paid at his summer job and could surely float me $6 until we got back to our dorm and I could pull out my emergency cash. But a whole teenage-feminist (or more likely, stubborn individualist) concern stopped me. ASK a guy to PAY for me? Wouldn't that mean I was indebted to him? Would he think of it of typical googily girlfriend behavior? Would he expect me to ask him to pay for other things? Could I live with myself knowing I'd fallen into a stereotypical relationship cliche of "the guy pays?"

Rumble rumble. My stomach decided that I could live it, and I was HUNGRY NOW. Holding my head high, probably like Oliver Twist when he went to beg for some more porridge, I walked over to the clutch of guys -

Shuffling. Grumbling. Quick movements and suspicious glances. Hands in pockets. Boyfriend not happy to see me.

"I, um, don't have any cash, and if I could just BORROW $6, I would pay you back the second we got back. I promise I'd pay you back right away and it wouldn't be like, a THING, you know..."
"I don't have any money."

WHAT? I was shocked at the audacity of the lie. He had just been paid the afternoon before and had been bragging about the sudden increase in wealth. He listed things he planned to buy, put away some savings for college - all. gone.

"Now I know that's an exaggeration; you just got paid yesterday..." I was trying to be tactful.
"I spent it all."
"You spent it all? In LESS THAN A DAY? On what? ARE YOU CRAZY?!" So much for tact.
"Uhh... stuff." (Do you see where this is going? Sketchy people, suddenly depletion of money, irritability of a nosy bystander coming up...) "Go to the ATM down the street, I need to talk with my friends."

I tentatively poked my head outside the door. It was dark, with few streetlights or people. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE GET RAPED AND MURDERED, I thought. Walking around alone, in an unfamiliar city, to gather money, in the dark. I was already an anxious kid; not to mention PROGRAM RULES stated we couldn't be alone in town. Liability. I glanced back at the guy, now deep in head-bowed, muttering negotiations. No help there. My stomach grumbled again.

I RAN to the ATM, clutching my little canister of pepper spray for dear life. The ATM took forever to crank out the requisite $20, and I stood with my back to it, eyes darting around for any potential predators. It felt like a struggle for survival. I was an urban warrior.

I made my triumphant but still kind of embarrassed return to the calzone shop and gratefully received my melty meatball, mozzarella and marinara meal of marvelousness. Boyfriend seemed happy to see me again. I said "bye ya'll" to the friends, who collectively raised eyebrows at my southern sweetness, probably wondering how I managed to find my way above the Mason-Dixon line.

The next couple of evenings, after locating my boyfriend from strange, inexplicable absences, I noticed a peculiar burnt-rope type smell. I knew he smoked cigarettes sometimes, which had a lingering funk so foul I usually requested the brushing of teeth. His summer allergies must have been acting up, because late at night his eyes would be all bloodshot and red. And surely classes were taking a lot out of him, because he kept asking me to calm down when I was in the midst of chattering about ponies or rainbows or whatever teenage girls with their first boyfriends say. Chill out. Just be mellow. (Mellow... yellow? To this day, I have no idea what "being mellow" actually entails.)

The awkwardness, of course, entails when this story is told to the rapt audience of my lunch table a month or so later - a mix of AP students and the extra artsy freaks. I have a real boyfriend! Look at the quirky stuff he does! Isn't that odd?

My friends laughed harder at the story than I though its funniness warranted. I mean, fighting for my life on the cold streets of a gentrified college town while my boyfriend was a cold-shouldering jerk is humorous, but they seemed to be laughing at something else... at me.

"R. Grace, you do realize what he was doing while you were buying your food, right?"
"Being a dick and ignoring me for his friends? But I mean usually he's JUST THE BEST and-"
"He was buying weed."
"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAATTT" Came my shriek of not entirely disbelief, but shock and horror. "He would never do that. he told me he wouldn't and he really lov- well, likes me a lot. Sometimes. When I'm not too loud."
"All the allergy symptoms you listed are signs of being stoned. And the weird smell? Totally weed."
"But... but..." I realized I'd been taken for a fool.

I also realized I was less important than a plant.

This story gets retold by friends almost any time I start seeing a new guy, somewhat as a ghostly warning of the-ghosts-of-Rebecca-boyfriends-past. And the added laughter of I could probably be dating a serial killer and probably never suspect anything.

But I've heard they're usually such charismatic guys...

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