January 21, 2003

Disjointed Flashbacks and Cringeworthy Memories

I used to bike all over town when they were putting new roads in. I had to be the first one to bike on each of them- to lay a new streak down the virgin asphalt that had already been caked over by a fine layer of dust. Raw exposed earth was the symbol for Orange County back then and still is. One Saturday when I'd done a big loop from Del Obispo to Stonehill to Niguel to PCH to Crown Valley to Del Avion and back down Golden Lantern I stopped at Josiah and took a roundabout detour through the Bible houses—Mom always called them that cause all the streets were names from the Bible— Josiah, Jeremiah, Seth, Rachel, names like that.

We knew lots of families that lived around there, through AYSO and scouts and baseball and of course school. I had a prolonged, debilitating crush on a girl whose family lived on Priscilla and though I knew no one was home that weekend I passed by their house four times before I took off back down Golden Lantern with half and eye on the fence above me in case the LeBlanc's maniacal dog slipped his leash again and pounced on me from three feet above, but he wasn't there so I kept going and passed school and the worn out all-purpose field where I'd tried out for soccer my freshman year and been cut right away cause the coach was a new guy and my parents didn't know him so they didn't give the athletic department any money or at least it was something like that according to my grandpa when he asked me if I knew why I was cut.

Light traffic on Stonehill so I ignored the red light and streaked through the intersection, building up speed so I could take the immediate drop downhill at the highest velocity possible (or so it seemed). The iceplant (I think that's what it was) became a green blur to my right and in no time I'd also zipped through the Selva intersection and nearly killed an old man who I could still hear screaming “You belong in the street, goddammit!!” even though I was miles away by the time he finished the sentence and had forgotten it in any case cause traffic was starting to thicken up towards the PCH signal so I slowed as little as possible in order to make the hard right turn but still managed to miss the sidewalk and ended up in the bikepath instead which was ok since it's PCH and I was able to coast on all that leftover speed until the hill rose again after Blue Lantern but I only had to work a little to get up over the curved rise and then the road stretched straight until Niguel so I went north a bit faster while I passed a couple on 10-speeds wearing spandex and helmets and I remembered in junior high when Dad would drive us by cyclists dressed that way he’d say “ok Derek I’ll roll down the window so you can reach out and pinch that lady’s spandexed ass!” and I’d laugh nervously semi-shocked cause even though my parents were separated by then it was still weird to hear Dad say things like that cause he did have a girlfriend then (I think).

Mom says this section of PCH was supposed to be turned into a freeway like it is in Capo Beach and you can tell by the bridge that’s passing over my head right now and I wonder is it really that or do the people living in Niguel Shores just want the one road linking the two halves of their neighborhood to be inaccessible to everyone else and that’s closer to the truth in my opinion but it’s not as if it keeps trouble off it cause in elementary school I knew these two twins who used to launch water balloons off the bridge into oncoming traffic and they did it for three days straight until they got hauled away cause someone said they were throwing rocks and supposedly proved it with a shattered windshield. When I would hang around with them in junior high all the time I was half afraid I’d get busted for any manner of dumb shit they used to pull like the one night when they and I went along with this asshole they knew named Jody and his girlfriend Gina over to her neighborhood by Cook’s Park in San Juan, way down the Ortega out there in the dark.

That night we’d trooped through the wet grass where I used to play soccer as a kid in a bright orange uniform and the whole place had looked so different at night especially since the other guys’ voices were so loud—I couldn’t believe no one in the homes across from the park had called the cops on us yet even though it was so totally obvious to me that we were interloping over a silence that was supposed to be there and we should have got the hell out of there to go home or something cause this was so wrong and it only got worse when Jody and the twins said we should go swimming somewhere and Gina said she knew a house where the family was gone for the weekend and they had a pool so we went over there loudly except me cause I felt too weird making noise at that particular time and place and Gina kept saying “it’s ok Derek” like she was my fucking mother or big sister or something and I wanted to scream at her that I wasn’t afraid but then if I described how I felt she’d probably laugh and the guys would for sure.

I swallowed the scream and let her get away with this crap because she was wearing a tight Warrant t-shirt that was old, threadbare, and way too small for her but I didn’t care that I hated Warrant either cause I was staring at her chest and maybe in the dark she wouldn’t notice like she did yesterday in English class but then all she did was smile and turn around and it made me think ‘she’s not as slutty as people say’ even though she was going out with Jody at the time and I kept thinking that afterwards when a few months later I was ditched by my date at the eighth grade dance and the Priscilla girl wasn’t paying attention to me either so Gina felt sorry for me again I guess and she let me slowdance with her to some awful Janet Jackson song but I don’t remember anything else about that cause I was so terrified that she could feel me under my stupid baggy pants and for whatever reason I wasn’t surprised when I never heard about her again when we went to different high schools except once when some fat guy in my 5th period art class who was at Serra and Capo-by-the-Sea said that she’d run away from home and he laughed so hard about this that I couldn’t decide whether or not to deck him or ask what he thought was so funny but pretty soon it didn’t matter that much anyway.

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