You can let out a great big boozy sigh of relief now, for we’ve come to the point in my tale where I go into what is, undoubtedly, one of your favorite muddled recollections of mine: the night we first met.
But first, some setting and contextualization is in order. It was the end of the summer of my seventeenth year. I had largely played recluse that season, only leaving my house to ride my bicycle or to put in a few hours at the comic book store I was working at. You see, after many years of being the recipient of bullying gibes, I had decided that I would finally endeavor to lose weight.
I wasn’t always thin, Dionysus—I used to be a regular zit-faced porker. But I wasn’t always fat either. I believe it was around the fifth grade that I looked in a mirror and was surprised at the overweight whelp that stood before me. My youthful weight problem could be attributed to many things: my bookish disposition, my aversion to sports, my fondness for chocolate and cheeseburgers. All I knew was that I wasn’t born fat and I’d be damned if I would enter into adulthood fat.
So I went into a period of self-exile. That summer, my primary obsession was to get thin; it was the only thing I thought about. I counted calories and fat grams and gave up meat and sweets. I forced myself to ride countless miles and miles daily on a blue two-and-a-half speed 1977 Schwinn that routinely threw me on my pimpled face. And I would weigh myself three or four times a day, spending hours at a time locked in the bathroom looking at my reflection, scientifically gauging my progress by the definition of my ribcage. But no matter how quickly the pounds melted away (it was quick, Dionysus), it simply wasn’t quick enough. And no matter how much work I put into it (so much work, Dionysus), I just wasn’t working hard enough.
In reality, it was too much work done too quickly. As you know, however, I’ve never been much for patience, have I, my dear? Which isn’t all that surprising considering my longstanding distaste for virtue.
So I began the summer an overweight, unnoticeable child and came out of it something quite different (at least as far as superficialities were concerned). At the time, my friends didn’t really have any idea what was going on with me or why I had essentially disappeared off the face of the earth. Our group was very close knit; we did everything together. Our bond was one wrought by a mutual ostracization by our social peers. Some saw my absence as a small betrayal, while others simply chalked it as one of my characteristic eccentricities. But more on them later; this letter is about you and I, Dionysus.
I don’t quite recall how I ended up attending that party. It was some end of summer shindig, of the sort typical amongst high schoolers. I believe it was my brother who brought me along. Even though he was year and a half younger than me, he was always far more popular, with girls especially (and this party was at a girl’s house).
I took an inordinate amount of time getting ready, trying to find that perfect sartorial balance, the one that made the statement “I’m punk rock and I fucking hate you, but please talk me. Especially if you’re female.”
I knew most of the people at this party from school. Some of them had never said two words to me, others hade made jokes at my expense, and others still had been, for the most part, kind. Regardless, I think I knew just about everybody there.
It was still all very awkward. I had never been to a legitimate high school party before, and especially not one where mostly unsupervised teenagers openly smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. The girl’s parents were home, but they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they were the ones providing the hooch.
So there I was, a very punk rock, yet very square boy, amongst a bunch of smoking and drinking teenagers who were carrying on like it was no big deal.
Like most everything in life, the prospect of smoking and drinking terrified me. I believe it was my mother who had instilled me with the concrete and unshakeable conviction that people who smoke and drank not only ended up on the streets, but ultimately ended up in hell. By this time I didn’t believe in the latter, but the former was certainly a real place that I did not want to be. I was from the suburbs for Christ’s sake—my only conception of homelessness came from reading Dickens (and I didn’t fancy myself Oliver Twist).
But something happened that night. Well, to be more precise, a combination of things happened. Firstly, the reaction I was getting from long-time acquaintances who hadn’t seen me since I lost weight was making me feel strange and unusual. Not in a bad way in the least, but strange and unusual, nonetheless. People were coming up to me (girls, even!) and telling me how great I looked. A fair few people who knew me asked what my name was because they didn’t even recognize me.
I am not going to lie, Dionysus: it was positively intoxicating. Can you imagine how it could have felt? To have people who had ignored me for so long, even made fun of me, look at me in astonishment and compliment me? Of course you can: vanity (validated or not) was another of our common traits, wasn’t it?
I was having a fantastic time, Dionysus. I was enjoying myself famously, being in the company of these people that I had, prior to this point in time, convinced myself that I loathed. The truth was that I still loathed them, but I loved my ego just a little bit more. I reveled in it, but, like the greedy, impatient miscreant that I am, I wanted more. I needed more.
And then the second thing happened, something seemingly commonplace that would change me and the trajectory of my life forever, although I would have no way of knowing that then. It wasn’t an unusual or extraordinary incident in any regards: I’m sure it’s happened to millions of teenagers before and since, but the results in my case would be most miraculous and, when all was said and done, disastrous.
Somebody offered me a drink and I took it.
In spite of my upbringing, in spite of my personal convictions, and in spite of all the Minor Threat records I listened to, I drank that fucking thing straight down. I don’t even remember what it was, because it didn’t matter. It still doesn’t.
And there you were, Dionysus: bigger than life itself and twice as entertaining. The most beautiful, breathtaking creature in all of existence, and you only existed for me and I for you. I knew at that moment that we would be together forever and that no man or woman or institution or creed or law or moral would ever come between us.
I don’t remember many details of that night past that point. I can recall sneaking into the garage (which was strictly off-limits) and stealing wine coolers that probably belonged to the mother of the host. I couldn’t care less (about her or what kind of booze it was, as I wasn’t yet discerning in such affairs).
The only other bit I remember (and this is something I will never, ever forget as long as I live, Dionysus) is running into a girl I had attended middle school with, but who then went to a different high school than me. I had been absolutely crazy about her, but of course I never would have dared to say a word about it then. But now she was at this party, and I spoke to her.
She didn’t recognize me at first, but I recognized her straight away. I would have been so very nervous if you hadn’t been there holding my hand, Dionysus. I probably would have never even talked to her in the first place, but with you cheering me on from the sidelines, I was charming where I was typically awkward and smooth where I usually stuttered.
She ended up giving me her number, and I walked out of that party feeling like a famous conqueror of old, even though I hadn’t conquered anything except perhaps the looming threat of having to look her name up in the phonebook if she hadn’t given it to me. But none of that mattered, because I was fearless.
Until the next day, of course, when I sobered up and stared at the little slip of paper that had her number on it, promising myself that I would surely call her tomorrow and that she would surely fall irrevocably in love with me and that we would surely ride off into the sunset together. Tomorrow…
But right now I am late for an engagement. I’m not a scared kid anymore and you ain’t a childhood crush, so I will be calling on you tomorrow, Dionysus.
</3 Sir Rateval Hurtlinge
P.S. That girl never fell in love with me, Dionysus. Because I never called her. In fact, I would intentionally misplace her number in a drunken stupor not too long after getting it so that I wouldn’t have a constant reminder of my cowardice lying around. A natural born Casanova I was not, but I was a willing pupil, wasn’t I?
P.P.S. That girl is happily married wit a beautiful baby girl now. As if you care, Dionysus…