Chapter 3

What a cool August morning, Tammy thought as she entered the holdings of the school she was still getting to know. Cool, but not bitter. Though nervousness ever lingered in the background of her thoughts it was not as frightful as it was a few days before. Not as terrible as she feared it might continue to be for she now knew... She mustn’t be alone. She had the making of friends. She just kept reminding herself of that very fact. Friends… Walt... Friends… A people amongst the many nations that inhabited this terrestrial space to call her own. The possible was not dismal. The future was not necessarily dark. She possessed now the fruition of friendship and the yearning for something more. More than just witnessing the passing of time. Swiftly. She felt her heart beat swiftly. But her fear was not its charge. Swiftly. She felt her heart beat swiftly. A precious new day lay before her and…

“What the hell are you so cheery about?” Melissa asked.

“Nothing.” Tammy said with a gentle smile. “Just glad to see you that’s all.”

“Glad to see Melissa?” Mrs. Sarah asked. “Guess there’s a first time for everything.”

“Thanks for that.” Melissa said.

“Sure, sure.” Mrs. Sarah said. “Melissa’s right though.”

“Right about what?” Tammy asked.

“Ya, right about what?” Melissa chimed in.

“About your damn attitude.” Mrs. Sarah said. “It’s like you’ve been on a crescendo this whole week ever since you got freaky with her brother Walt.”

“What?” Tammy said in shock. “Who told you that?”

Walt… why?

“Don’t worry sweet thang.” Mrs. Sarah said patting Tammy’s hand. “Your boy toy hasn’t been spreading rumors or anything.”

“Melissa told me.” She continued. “She said she caught you two frenching outside her house on Monday.”

“We weren’t frenching!” Tammy proclaimed in her shyness.

“And he’s not her boy toy!” Melissa said with an undercut of fury. “Right Tam Tam.”

“He’s not my boy toy.” Tammy said. “I don’t know…”

“You don’t know what?” Mrs. Sarah asked. “You like the boy don’t you?”

“I do.” Tammy said trying to avoid Melissa’s gaze. “It’s just…”

“It’s just what?” Melissa asked with heat. “I knew you were…”

“Would you shut your damn mouth.” Mrs. Sarah said to Melissa. “The girl said she liked him, alright?”

“Let her figure the rest out herself.”

“I can see you three are starting the day off pleasantly.” A voice said from the front office door.

“Ah Mr. Michaelson you’re just in time!” Mrs. Sarah said.

“Good morning to you too Mrs. Sarah!” He said. “Just in time for what?”

“Our favorite new student has got herself a little crush already.” Mrs. Sarah said.

“I see you’re making some inroads already Ms. Tammy!” He said.

“You guys are the worst.” Tammy said blushing.

“Seriously.” Melissa said.

“So who is the poor fella?” Mr. Michaelson asked with a wink. “One of our school’s favorite pretty boy jocks?”

“No, ya dummy!” Mrs. Sarah said. “Give the girl a little more credit than that.”

“Well shit!” He said. “Spit it out then.”

“I’ve got a job I gotta get back to.”

“It’s my brother for the love of God.” Melissa blurted out.

“Walt?” Mr. Michaelson exclaimed. “Well hot damn I didn’t see that one coming!”

“Yup.” Mrs. Sarah said. “Walt, the one and only, Bradshaw.”

“You’re kidding me!” He said. “Walt Bradshaw.”

“What the heck is that suppose to mean?” Melissa barked.

“What I say to you about watchin’ your mouth!” Mrs. Sarah said.

The three of them went back and forth like this for a while, until Mr. Michaelson went back to his office, but for Tammy it was all silence and nothing but silence followed. Silence and her thoughts. Something about what was said made this so. This silence. Her crazed thoughts. They were imposed upon her by the words of others. Warmth and ice corsed through her veins as the tantric abyss… I’m not alone. I’m not… alone…

“Hey fucktard!” Melissa said playfully. “What’s got you in a tussle?”

“Huh?” Tammy asked.

“Well one, the bell just rang and you haven’t moved an inch.” She said. “And two, you look like you just shit your pants and you don’t know what to do about it.”

“No I’m fine.” Tammy said. “Just daydreaming that’s all.”

“Look, I know I’ve had my bitch moments about whatever is starting between you and Walt.” She said. “But he’s my big bro and all.”

Walt… Mr. Singer’s class.

“So I guess I just wanted to say…”

“Shit, gotta go!” Tammy said rushing out the office door. “Gunna be late for class.”

“What the fuck?” Melissa said half shocked. “I was trying to fucking apolo…”

“I know!” Tammy said looking over her shoulder as she hurried down the hall. “Sorry!”

“Did you see that shit?” Melissa asked Mrs. Sarah as they both watched Tammy rush away into the distance.

“Mmmm hmmm.” Mrs. Sarah said.

“Mmmm hmmm what?” Melissa asked.

“Walt in her next class?” Mrs. Sarah asked.

“Yup.” Melissa said. “But what’s that got to do…”

“Mmmm hmmm.” Mrs. Sarah said once again.

“That bitch!” Melissa said as her anger exposed itself in a playful laugh. “That little fucking bitch.”

....

“So I hope you all had a chance to journal last night and dig into our fine reading of Dostoevsky's Notes From The Underground.” Mr. Singer said.

Tammy… I know Mr. Singer was talking, and I was doing my best to pay attention, but that was proving more difficult than it sounds. I did my fucking homework last night and everything just like he asked. Caught up on my journaling. Shit, I even finished the damn book already. Not that I hadn’t read it over summer break. Mr. Singer had given me his copy right before the end of last semester. Little did I know it was a dirty trick of his to get me to actually read it for class the following year. It was a solid read and all, even the second time around. I didn’t mind reading it twice, but then again my focus was barely on the text. All I could think about the past few days was her. When I was reading...when I was writing. All my mental faculties were devoted towards one focality. Her. Would I ever stop thinking about her? Would thoughts of her ever cease? Tammy…

“Mr. Bradshaw.” Mr. Singer said, snapping his fingers in front of my face. “Woo Whoo, ya here with us Mr. Bradshaw.”

“Ya sorry.” I said. “Just had a long night writing and what not?”

“Well that’s wonderful.” He said. “Mr. Bradshaw will be our first reader today class!”

“I thought we only did that if we volunteered.” I said, knowing what he was about to say.

“Well consider yourself… what’s the word I’m looking for class?” He asked with a boyish smile.

“Volun-told.” The class repeated automatically.

Some were giggling to Mr. Singer’s usual and predictable antics. Some merely droned out the words as if they had become conditioned to his witticisms. I, on the other hand, experienced a mix of displeasure and excitement. Displeased to bare my soul to mindless mongrels and future sorority girls. Excited, though, to impress Tammy with my verse and prose. Where was she? I was so lost in thoughts of her that I barely noticed she wasn’t even present. Where was she?

“Sorry I’m late again Mr. Singer!” Tammy said as she rushed in. “Got caught up with helping Mrs. Sarah in the front office during free period.”

“What a philanthropic way to spend your free time.” He said, as some of the ‘pretty girls’ scoffed at the extra attention she was already seeming to get from Mr. Singer. “Fine, but let’s not try to make it more of a habit than it already is.”

“Sorry, I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t.” She said.

“Ok well you’re just in time for young Walt here to muse us into poetic ecstasy with his journaling from last night.” He said. “Please take your seat and enjoy!”

“Hey Walt.” She said, as she headed to her seat and I to the podium.

“Hey Tammy.” I said with small smile.

As I reached the podium and peered out over a sea of adolescence, all neglecting any recognition of who I was. Things like this don’t matter to them... well at least to most them I don’t think. I grew nervous in the blindness that peered upon me, and my hands, tattered and cold, began to shake... But then I saw her and her eyes shined. I saw her and I spoke.

“We all aspire for something more in this meager life that we are given, for that is our human calling… to aspire, to dream, to dream and make real. To inhale our tragic being with the fullness of a loving heart and exhale something beautiful into the world. It is our ability to do such that so greatly defines us as a species, as beings, as beings who care and do so dearly. Against even our greatest cruelties and faults we, the beautifully broken, aspire and hope to new heights. And none… none of our aspirations falls greater than our courage to love in perdition so that salvation might be found.”

“Huh, gayyyy!” I heard from one of the jocks in the back as the whole class laughed in hysteria.

Fucking jackass. Fucking kill me.

“Thank you Mr. Johnson for that lovely response to Mr. Bradshaw’s excellent reading into the human condition.” He said as his smile turned into an anger withheld. “But given the sheer homophobia you just expressed and your disregard for any level of respect for your fellow classmate I’m going to have to ask you to get the hell out of my class and go see Principal Wheeler for a nice little chat!”

“You’re joking right!” The jock said half in shock.

“Not in the slightest.” Mr. Singer said.

“All right then.” The jock said while getting up, keeping his hateful eyes locked to mine.

“I’ll see you after class teacher’s bitch.” He whispered as he came within an inch of me.

Oh God what did I do? I didn’t fucking do anything to that kid!

“Now that we can safely say the IQ in the room has retained some level of normality we can return to Mr. Bradshaw’s journal entry.” Mr. Singer said with a sigh of relief.

“So Walt, I really like your entry and there’s no doubt you have mastered the existential poetic to a fine degree, but I have one question.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well, where are you in all that poetry?” He asked. “Where’s Walt?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, slightly confused.

“Well the assignment was to tell us, to tell yourself, who you were from the outset of these readings.” He said.

“Didn’t I kinda do that?” I asked.

“Kinda is the key word in that statement Mr. Bradshaw.” He said standing up. “But there is no kinda when it comes to grappling through the facades of who we think we are!”

“There is only you and the you that  you think you are!” He bellowed. “And in this case you have seemed to dodge telling us who that you is.”

“Well…”

“Well it looks like come Monday we will have something a little more direct to listen to from you Mr. Bradshaw.” He said. “Now feel free to take your seat.”

As I moved from the podium toward my seat, the next unlucky soul moved forward to pronounce what they had written the night before. Failure. I wasn’t use to failing so quickly… especially with Mr. Singer. He had never confronted me like that. Never once laid such harsh denouncement of my work. Was he challenging me to do better or just disappointed that I hadn’t gone far enough? Failure. Disappointment. Two words that I feared so dearly. Failure. Disappointment. Were these who that you was truly to be…

“Walt…” A voice said from behind me.

Failure. Disappointment…

“Pisssss…” The voice whishpered. “Walt.”

“Huh?” I asked, now dispelled from my mind’s fixation.

“That was gorgeous.” The voice said. “Where’d you learn to write like that?”

The voice was Tammy’s, and as soon as I realized that my heart began to flutter, as it too often does in her presence.

“Oh hey Tammy.” I said as a morbid mind and a joyful heart came into conflict. “I don’t know I guess… just a lot of reading.”

“So you’re a thief?” She asked with a quiet giggle.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad thing.” She said. “All the best writers are!”

“Alright if you two lovebirds are apt to take a little pause from your romance I think Ms. Olsen is up next for sharing.” Mr. Singer said.

“Sorry Mr. Singer!” We both said in unison.

“Well Ms. Olsen.” He said while tapping his fingers oh so slightly on his desk. “We’re waiting.”

“Oh ya right!” Tammy said, as she shuffled out her journal and made her way to the podium.

....

        Tammy reached the front of the class after eons seemingly passed. Each step an eternal wither of perpetual motion. Walt… What was he going to think? She had struggled throughout the night preparing her journal entry. Somehow she knew this was going to happen. That she was going to be called upon to bare her own self before the masses. What could she have written that could have possibly been deemed worthy of such an assignment as this? Truth. But the truth was but one lovely facade amongst many, and she knew she didn't want to come across as too fallacious with such judgements at risk. The types of judgements that only one’s peers are capable of providing. Lies. But lies wouldn’t do. They never had and they likely never would. And, of all those that sat idly in the room, how could she even hope to lie to Walt. He would know. He was destined at this moment to know her lies or the honesty of her heart. But which would she give? Which would he see?

        “Well Ms. Olsen.” Mr. Singer said. “The floor is yours.”

        “Ok.” She said, taking a deep breath in.

“Tammy Olsen. That was the name given to me on March the 4th 1997 at 3:32 in the morning. There is much to be said about one’s name, and I don’t mean that in any new age sort of fashion. Our names. They become the focal point for all that we are to be and all that we are to be known for. For all the words of blessing and misfortune that we attain for ourselves become but adjectives for that word we call our own. Everything we are is subsumed and intimately connected with that word. Whether we be kind or cruel, loving or distant, all these words can be known to ourselves and to others who know us with the mere mention of this word, this name of ours. Tammy Olsen. Tammy. What this word means for others will always be a fearful curiosity for me, but for me it is… who I am. Tammy is a girl who is scared of being alone, because she’s worried she might always be. Tammy is a girl who doesn’t always laugh out loud, because she is sometime nervous that the things she finds funny aren’t quite as funny to others. Tammy is girl who smiles even when she doesn’t feel like smiling, because she believes that smiling is the right thing to do and that maybe her smile can make others smile too. Tammy is a girl that just wants people to know her, even as much as that can terrify her, because she thinks she’s worth getting to know. Tammy finds bravery in the shyness she often feels, though shy she doesn’t often seem. Tammy is crazy, passionate, and caring. Tammy is a girl of many features, but most of all Tammy is me, and Tammy I will always be.”

The room was quiet but for a moment, and then a gentle applause began to grow.  They’re clapping… Some are even smiling. She wasn’t sure what to think at the advent of such a moment. Walt… Though his eyes were downcast as they usually were, Tammy could see that he was smiling ever so softly and then he looked up. e looked at her. He was smiling and looking at her.

“Well done Ms. Olsen.” Mr. Singer said. “Well done.”

As Tammy moved to take her seat, and the clapping became a cacophonous rhythm, she felt an air of contentment about her. And though the room grew quiet, she felt brief inklings of joy. I’m alive. She had always hated public speaking, especially when it concerned a public declaration of anything remotely personal, but this time it wasn’t so terribly hard. I survived. Now sitting, she was still in the haze of her secret accomplishment. That she had declared herself amongst her peers and Walt alike. I’m alive and I survived. She felt that rare notion that she just might be okay in her current situation, not only ok, but maybe even good. I’m alive and I survived.

“That was really nice Tammy.” Walt whispered to her as the next student rose to take her place.

“Thanks Walt.” She whispered back.

Walt… Walt… I just want you to know…

....

        I was standing here again. I was standing here again waiting for her. It had been just a few short days since I was first standing here. Anxiously staring at the side door leading to the parking lot. Feeling as if my breath had left me by the wayside. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be waiting here like this for the rest of my life? Waiting? I had been thinking about her every moment since last we were together. And I don’t mean the little, yet sincere, exchanges we had in Mr. Singer’s class, or the smiles we swapped as we passed one another in the hall, or even the friendly chaos we knew at a lunch table we now shared. No, I had been thinking of her since the moment she first kissed me on the cheek in the cool warmth of that fall night. The moments we shared together alone in our own company. They seemed like the only true moments I had yet to know in this simple life of mine. For in the grace of her embrace I felt whole. A wholeness I had been feeding upon since we had parted ways. But I was also deeply off put in those moments that filled up the time proceeding Mr. Singer’s class. I knew what the cause was, though I know not exactly why. It was what she had shared from her journal. They way she painted herself. It just didn’t… it just didn’t seem real. And if it was I didn’t want it to be, because that’s not how I saw her. She was…

        “Hey guys!” Tammy said as she approached our group.

        “Hey biotch!” Sammy said with flamboyancy.

        “Hey Tammy.” Roderick said.

        “Hey Walt.” She said sweetly.

        “Hey Tammy.” I said with a smile.

        “Sweet Jesus!” Melissa moaned. “Well now that we’ve all said our fucking hellos can we get the fuck out of here?”

        “Chill girl.” Roderick said. “We’re all just giving a good ole hello to dear Tammy.”

        “Ya don’t have a fucking conniption fit about it.” Sammy barked playfully.

“Fuck you.” Melissa said condescendingly, as she marched off to her car.

“Don’t mind her.” Sammy said, putting his arm over Tammy’s shoulders. “She has days like this all the time.”

“I think she hates me.” Tammy said.

“Don’t confuse her love for Walt with hate for you my dear girl.” Roderick chimed in.

“Ok Roderick!” Sammy said. “Feel like riding with Ms. Poopy pants and leaving these two lovebirds alone for a minute?”  

“Sounds good to me!” He said, as they both dashed off in Melissa’s direction.

As I saw them run off I grew excited and petrified at the promise of some alone time with Tammy. Though this comes to no surprise in the slightest, I often find my hope and anxieties intermingling these days while in her presence.

“So, finally alone again.” Tammy said, nudging me with her elbow.

“Finally.” I said. “And really don’t mind Melissa, just the epitome of an overprotective sibling”

“I figured as much.” Tammy said. “But nonetheless you got to respect the girl for her emotional honesty!”

“It is a terror as much as it is a joy Tammy, I will tell you that.” I said with a sigh.

Mainly a fucking terror, but whatever.

“So you want to get going?” She asked.

“Sure, we don’t want to be too late or they might assume we started boning in the…”

Oh my fucking God…

“What did you just say?” Tammy said with a brash smile.

OH MY FUCKING GOD!

“Nothing… I mean… I’m sorry I have no fucking clue why I said that.” I said, as i tried to cover my tracks in the most frantic and apologetic fashion.

“Don’t be so sorry all the time Walt.” She said, brushing her hand over my shoulder. “You’re allowed to make jokes with me.”

“I am?” I asked stupidly. “I mean I know I am that just seemed a little…”

“Presumptuous?” She asked flirtatiously. “Come on funny man give me the keys, I’m driving.”

I didn’t even question her demand as I handed over the keys. This simple act was a feat in itself if you ask me, considering my current state of awe. Considering how fast my heart was racing from the stimulus of her playful smile. Considering how hot my face was burning from what I could only assume was a fervent blush that now laid siege upon it. And most of all, considering how I felt as if I could barely move this trembling body of mine. But move I did. Moving as if in the warmth of a dream. My whole mind zeroed out to a stillness of peace that I had rarely felt before. It was love. A love unfettered from the anxious burdens of teenage angst and doubts. I was in love with her and this I knew. Before it was all lustful shadows. Shadows now dispelled by rays of magnanimity, for she was  truly magnanimous. She was beauty. She was unabashed, unblemished, and universal. All she was and was to be I wanted to consume and never relinquish. I wanted her to be mine and I hers. I wanted…

“Jesus Walt you drive a stick?” She asked with laughter. “How proto-fifties masculine of you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, returning with a laugh of my own.

“Oh nothing I’m just talking nonsense that’s all.” She said.

“So I’m guessing you know how to drive stick then?” I asked.

“Why because I’m a woman?” She asked.

“No I didn’t… I didn’t mean anything by it.” I said timidly. “Just a rhetorical question I guess.”

“I know Walt.” She said. “I’m just fucking with you.”

“Oh I knew that.” I said.

No I fucking didn’t.

“Sure you did.” She said. “We need to lighten you up a little.”

“Ok you’re gunna wanna be gentle with… Fuck!” I blurted out as the car jolted forward with tires screeching on pavement.

“Don’t piss your pants there Walt.” She said, while swiftly maneuvering the car over the curb in front of us. “Let’s see what this little bugger’s got in it.”

“Ok we might want to…”

“So where to Mr. Bradshaw.” She asked.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Well I don’t know exactly how to get to your house now do I?” She said.

“Oh ya right.” I said. “You’re going to want to take a right on…”

“You know what, fuck that.” She pronounced. “Let’s go on a little adventure.”

“Should I call Melissa and them and tell them where we’re going?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” She said, diverting her eyes from the road towards mine. “Should you?”

“I don’t want them to think that we…”

“Oh they’re all big boys and girls.” She said. “They’ll be fine.”

“Ok, let me just shoot them a text that we’ll be there a little late.” I said while pulling my phone from my pocket.

“Walt.” She said with a different sort of tone.

“Ya Tammy.” I said lowering my phone.

“Let’s put the phones and the concerns away and just be with each other for a second.” She said. “Just you and me, you know, actually talking with one another.”

“Ok I can do that.” I said.

“Good boy.” She said with wink that could only denote a folly of some sort.

“So where to then I guess.” I asked.

“I don’t know, let’s just drive.” She said. “Let’s just drive and see where the big girl upstairs takes us.”

“The big girl upstairs?” I asked.

“You know God.” She said.

“I didn’t know God was a woman.” I said.

“What, God can’t be a woman.” She asked.

“Well it would be hard for him or her to have a gender whatsoever given God most likely doesn’t exist.” I said with a slight laugh.

“Oh so you’re an atheist are you?” She said. “That’s intriguing.”

“Intriguing?” I asked.

“Just learning more about you that’s all Walt.” She said. “Remember… Lighten the fuck up.”

“Sorry, I’m starting to get the hang of it.” I said.

“No worries.” She said smiling. “I’m patient.”

“Good.” I said smiling back.

“So pitch it to me.” She said.

“Pitch what?” I asked.

“Your argument for the unlikelihood of the divine.” She said.

“You want to do this now?” I asked. “I don’t want to offend you or anything.”

“Yes now.” She said. “And that’s the last thing you have to worry about.”

“Oh ok.” I said. “Well it’s not that I would ever say that God doesn’t exist objectively, because I personally don’t think that we have access to objective knowledge in the first place. I’m even sceptical of science being quite capable of assessing that sort of knowledge, let alone any sort of theology. So when I say God probably doesn’t exist I mean that in the subjective sense, that he’s honestly irrelevant existentially for most people and is most definitely irrelevant for me. Ya sure people pray, go to church, and try to do the right thing because they think God told them to, which is full of problematic notions in itself, but honestly how much of their life does that compose. I mean, people still murder, rape, and steal, religious or not, and God doesn’t seem to prevent many people from the sins of this world very often. If anything it seems like the people that honestly claim to believe in him are the ones usually worse off than anyone else. I’m not talking about those hypocritical evangelicals who, more often than not, are cheating on their wives with men, or make themselves feel better by working at the food bank once a year. I’m talking about the real destitute of the world. If God was so glorious and intoxicating, why do they seem to suffer more than anybody else. Why do they seem to shoot up or smoke down or snort this or that just as much as the rest of us, if not moreso. If God was so good and relevant to the people who truly do believe in him, then why isn’t he enough? Why doesn’t he actually change the lives of the vast majority of people who actually believe in him instead of leaving them to wallow in the muck. The only explanation I guess, for me, then is that he’s just a delusion, and not a very helpful one at that.”

“Wow.” Tammy said. “If that wasn’t a multi-layered argument for chaos if I ever heard one.”

“What do you mean…”

“So what’s your solution to human condition and wallowing in the muck and what not then?” She asked before I could insist on her clarifying her previous statement.

“Well that’s complex too.” I said.

“What, you don’t think I can follow you on this?” She asked.

“Fucking with me again?” I asked.

“He’s catching on ladies and gentlemen.” She said. “He is catching on.”

“Well, there are a lot of good philosophical and existential solutions I guess, but initially speaking, I would say it’s part Hedonist, part Marxist.” I said.

“Go on.” She replied.

“Well concerning the Marxist dimension I would say we have to dump all our human energies into removing as much scarcity and toil from the human life. Keep at it until life doesn’t suck that bad anymore and we could finally get along with one another for once in human history. Once our day to day needs are met then who would need a God to pray to anyway.” I said.

“So you’re searching for utopia as your solution?” She asked.

“I know it sounds contradictory to a critical notion of God, but I think if we look at the course of history we’ll see that things like infant mortality, starvation, and war are decelerating to smaller and smaller levels. Smaller and less often conflicts between nations. Higher levels of industrialization and technological elevation. Longer and healthier life expectancy. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.”

“What world are you living in?” She asked with a soft chuckle.

“I’m not saying we don’t have a lot to conquer still in the realm of moral striving. Capitalism obviously has to go. Nuclear disarmament has to happen. Nationalism in general needs to be absolved. The list goes on and on, but at least it’s a definite list that can be made and striven towards unlike a magical wizard in the sky and his fairytale kingdom who we’re just waiting on to save us.”

“Interesting.” She said. “So, in the meantime, what do those of us who might never get a chance at the ideal future of your’s do?”

“That’s where the hedonism comes in I guess.” I said. “We all need to do our part to the best of our abilities to try to make that better world, but in the meantime we should honestly make weed and drugs of the sort more accessible, sexuality and self-expression more prevalent to the masses. In doing so we might ensure that man, as whole, doesn’t feel like they have to shoot themselves in the face while we strive for bigger and better things.”

“Ahh.” She just kind of laughed.

“You may find it funny, but I’m telling you I’m on to something.” I said playfully laughing back.

“I’m sure you are.” She said, still giggling a little.

“So your turn!” I said.

“My turn?” She replied.

“Ya, sell me on your God or divine female or whatever.” I said.

“Don’t sound so damn misogynistic when referring to the possibility that the most powerful being in the world might just be a woman.” She said.

Misogynistic? What the fuck?

“Seriously.” I said. “It’s your turn to pitch to me!”

I hope that didn’t sound as gay as I think.

“Oh Walt, I don’t think you’re ready for that kind of knowledge.” She said.

“I’m almost insulted.” I responded with a chuckle. “Don’t you want to convert me or fucking something?”

“Don’t be.” She said. “And I’m not that kind of Christian.”

“Oh so you are a Christian, huh?” I asked with an air of playful condescension.

“Of sorts.” She replied.

“If not for insult then why don’t you think I can handle it?” I asked, now a little more curious.

“Just don’t want to dismantle your worldview that’s all.” She said while looking forward at the road.

“Afraid I’ll off myself in the midnight hour do to my own despairing over a broken and meaningless world.” I asked.

“Something like that.” She said, now returning to her laughter.

“Oh I’m so fucking touched.” I said, feeling more at home with her than I had before we got in the car.

The conversation from that point on digressed to more average levels of commerce. We talked about school, music, good flicks we had seen in the past, what schools we were getting ready to apply to and things of that nature. We were still in the process of getting to know each other, but I was nonetheless in love. I was in love and intrigued. An intrigue that only heightened love’s passion. And so we continued to drive everywhere and nowhere in this delightfully mid sized city we called home.

We drove and we talked and we talked and we drove until the sky grew dark. And as the sun finally set, Tammy flipped on the her phones GPS so we could navigate our way back to her house. We had managed to get ourselves a little misdirected along the way, but you wouldn’t have known it from the tone of our voices… At least I couldn’t. I was at peace in her presence, in this company we now shared. And as she pulled my car into her driveway I saw her mom standing on the front porch waiting with the light on. We said our goodbyes and she kissed me on the cheek again. This was real. She was real.

Tammy didn’t live too terribly far away from me. Too far to walk, but only about a 12 minute drive, so I was home soon enough. As I pulled in my own driveway I peered upon a similar visage as when Tammy and I had pulled into hers. My porch was brightly lit by the light that hung above, but below it stood not my mom. No, little to my surprise Melissa stood perched up against the wall, staunchly positioned in my direction. I could feel her gaze penetrating through even though a solid ton of steel and glass set between us. She was just a little too far away for me to tell if that gaze was perpetrated by eyes beholding an untimely venom or nothing other than pure bewilderment. As I got out of my car and made my way towards the front porch I half expected my ass to be fully chewed out by her for ditching her and the guys, but to my surprise I was met with only silence and her gaze. It wasn’t till I had fully ascended the stairs that the questions, which I was only slightly prepared to answer, were unleashed.

“Where have you been?” She asked in an  almost disturbingly calm manner.

No ‘fuck’ in that question? No venom? Surprising.

“Uh me and Tammy got caught up.” I said while trying to make my way past her to the door.

“What, were you two fucking in the parking lot all day or something.” She asked, tone raising with her glare as she blocked my clear passage to the door.

There’s the venom. There’s the fucks.

“No, but I’m not surprised at the slightest that you thought so.” I said with a slight laugh at the coincidental knowledge I had of my sister.

“And why the fuck is that?” She barked.

“No reason in particular.” I said while stopping my forward progression so I could look her in the eye.

“Is there something you want to get off your chest sis?” I asked quite frankly.

“Since when did someone grow a pair of balls?” She said, half impressed and half insulted.

“Because if not I’d like to grab a bite to eat, do my homework, and go to bed.” I said, maintaining my frankness.

“I just wanted to thank you for ditching us today to hang out with your new little girl friend, that’s all.” She said, now acting like she was spitefully indifferent to the whole affair. “And you can thank me for covering for you with Mom and Dad.”

“Well I’m sorry.” I said while trying to show some level of concern for her feelings. “Tammy and I just decided to drive around and hang out a little, one on one.”

“Well next time a little heads up would be nice.” She said.

“What’d you tell Mom and Dad I was doing?” I asked.

“That you disappeared with that girl of yours and we might never see you again.” She said, mimicking my frankness.

“We really need to work on what ‘covering for me’ entails.” I said. “But, on that note I will now make my way inside.”

“Well don’t come crying to me when that little Natia 2.0 breaks your heart.” She said. “I won’t have to go through that with you again.”

Natia. Fuck.

“She’s not Natia and she is not going to break my heart.” I barked at her as I pushed past her toward the door.

“Walt.” She said with a strange flux of love entering her voice.

“What?” I said in quite a pissy fashion, trying not to explode at the low blow she just dealt me.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry for bringing Natia up.” She said. “That wasn’t cool and you know I’ll always be here for you no matter what, but something in my gut is just screaming at me not to trust this girl… not at least till we know her a little better. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”

“Well this has nothing to do with you trusting her, it has to do with me trusting her.” I said, as my anger lessened. “She’s given me no reason to believe she has or is going to do anything wrong to me other than actually wanting to develop something meaningful.”

“Walt.” She said. “You’ve known this girl for a week. Don’t you think you’re running a little head long into this?”

“I know who she is.” I said, as I moved slowly through the door while thinking that this whole exchange was meant to dismantle all that I had come to realize over the course of the day. “I know her Melissa, I just do and she’s not fucking Natia.”

I know her. I fucking know who Tammy is. I know her. I fucking do!