Just One Of The Guys
I screwed up big time in high school.
I was never one of the in crowd but I wanted to be. I used to hang out with the guys that were popular. They never invited me to their parties but they didn’t kick me out if I showed up. I tried out for football. I didn’t make the team but the coach let me be the water boy. That was me in high school – the water boy.
One night after practice I went with the guys to Simpson’s Ice Cream Parlor. They didn’t ask me to come; I just tagged along as usual. You have to understand about Simpson’s. It had big old fashioned high backed booths. Half a dozen of us crowded into one of the booths. I was facing away from the door so I couldn’t see anybody come in. The guys on the other side couldn’t either except for Mark Smith who sat on the outside.
I heard some girls come in and take the booth to my back. I couldn’t see who they were but I heard them giggling. It was then that Mark Smith started talking to me. I should have tumbled to what was going on then. I mean, Mark Smith never talked to me. He was the captain of the football team. I was nothing to him. He never put me down but he never talked to me. It was as though I didn’t even exist as far as he was concerned.
“Hey Joey,” he says to me, “I hear you’re quite the ladies man.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I wasn’t hot with the chicks. There was a girl, Carol Wilson, that I had dated a couple of times. We never did anything. I wasn’t even sure that she liked me. I mumbled “Naah” in an embarrassed way.
Mark didn’t let it ride. He leaned forward and said, “C’mon, you can tell us. I’ll bet you’re getting it as a regular thing. Guys like me and Rob, we talk a lot about it but we aren’t getting it. It’s the quiet guys like you that are the real studs. Isn’t that right, Rob.” He turned to Rob Howard who was sitting next to him and poked him in the ribs. Rob piped up, “Yeah, Mark, that’s right. I just wish I had all the action that Joey gets.”
Mark turned back to me. “That Carol Wilson that you’re dating, I hear she’s real sweet on you.” Rob chimes in, “Yeah, everybody knows that. I wish I had a sweet girl like hanging all over me.”
I guess I must have been a little red by then. I mumbled that I had been seeing her.
Mark leaned forward and spoke low and confidentially, “So, are you getting any? Is she putting out for you?”
That’s when I screwed up. I should have known better. Mark had never given me the time of day and all of a sudden he was playing buddy buddy with me. I should have smelled a rat. I didn’t. The same guys who had never given me the time of day were looking at me with respect and hanging on my every word. I ate it right up.
So I lied.
I smiled and said, “You got it.”
Mark and Rob hit me with questions, one after another: Was she hot? Did she feel me up? Did she make a lot of noise? Did she scratch my back? Was she tight? What were her breasts like? Did she give head? Did she like giving head? Did she swallow? Was her cunt hair blonde? What really turned her on?
The questions went on and on and I kept making it up as I went along. I just sat there in the middle of that admiring group, soaking up attention, and talking and talking. I heard some gasps in the booth behind me but I didn’t think any thing about it. Finally the girls flounced out. I heard that. About then Mark leaned back and said, “Hey guys, I gotta split.” Then he looked at me and said, “Joey, you’re quite some guy.”
I felt real good about myself when I went home. I was finally one of the guys.
That night my sister was on the phone for most of the evening. About an hour before bedtime she got off the phone and grabbed me for a private talk. When we were alone together she just looked at me and said, “You know, Joey, you’re a real asshole.”
I was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“This afternoon you sat there in Simpson’s and told all kinds of nasty lies about Carol Wilson while she was sitting in the booth next to you. It’s all over school now. Everybody has heard about it.”
There wasn’t anything I could say to that except, “Oh, Shit!”. It all fell into place. Mark and Rob had set me up. I tried to call Carol to apologize and explain. Her mom answered the phone and told me that Carol didn’t want to talk to me. Her mom sounded kind of frosty so I guess Carol told her something.
That last year of high school was pretty miserable. None of the girls, especially Carol, would have anything to with me. Mark and Rob just smirked when they saw me. I told the coach to get a new water boy; I didn’t want anything to do with the team. I stopped hanging out with the guys because I never knew what they were saying about me when I wasn’t around or what they were thinking when I was around.
After graduation I went to work in the plant. I heard that Carol got married right after graduating to that dorky Bob Markus who worked at the filling station on Main street. Her folks made a big deal of the wedding. Most of the kids in our class got invited but not me. I sent her a card anyway.
Working at the plant was good. I liked getting a pay check and having money of my own. The really cool thing was that I could put high school behind me. It didn’t matter that I had screwed up. The guys I worked with were a new gang. This was my chance to start over and become one of the guys.
It wasn’t easy. The guys at the plant had been working there for a few years and they all knew each other. I was a newcomer and somehow I didn’t quite fit in. I hung around them though. They didn’t exactly make me feel welcome but they didn’t tell me to get lost. After work most of the guys on my team who weren’t married would go to a local bar, the Snake Pit, and have a few beers. I went with them. After a few beers every body was friendlier and I fit in better. I didn’t get invited to any parties though.
After I’d been there about six months they brought in a dummy, Billy was his name, to work as a janitor. He was a retard that the company had hired as part of a “help the handicapped” program. I think they got paid to have him around. He was great fun while he lasted. The guys used to play tricks on him and laugh at him when he got mixed up. He never caught on until the end. He thought we were being friends and that we liked him and that was why we were laughing. I liked playing tricks on him – it made me feel like one of the guys – but I was always extra friendly with him when I did.
He lasted about a year. One day after one of the guys had tied his shoes together he caught on. We weren’t laughing with him; we were laughing at him. He just stood there and looked at us with big sad eyes and asked me, “Joey, why are you guys so mean to me?”
We stood there, embarrassed and not looking at him. Finally I said, “Because you’re a retard, Billy, because you’re a dummy.”
With that he started crying. He just stood there, not saying anything, tears flowing down his face. We didn’t know what to do. Finally the foreman came and led him away. He never came back.
That night I got a call from Carol. It was the first time she had talked to me in two years. It was short and ugly. She screamed at me, “You bastard! Why can’t you leave me alone!”, and hung up.
I didn’t know what that was about but I figured it must have something to do with Billy. The next day I collared the foreman and asked about Billy, where he had come from and what was wrong with him.
The foreman explained that Billy had a congenital defect, some genetic thing. He had been in an institution most of his life. The doctors had thought that he might be ready for a limited life outside the institution. They got him a job with the company and then when he had been at it for three months he went to live with his sister, a local woman named Carol Markus. The foreman shook his head and said, “I guess it just didn’t work out. He’s back in the institution now. They don’t think he’ll ever come out.”
That hurt. I realized why Carol was so mad at me. Billy was her brother. I’d never known that she had a brother.
The foreman went on to say, “You did good, Joey, by coming to me. Nobody else asked. Nobody else cared. You’re a good guy, Joey. You cared enough to ask. Billy always thought you were his one real friend.”
That hurt even more.
I kept working at the plant. There wasn’t anything else for me to do. I could see where I wasn’t going anywhere. Someday I would find a girl and get married or maybe I wouldn’t. Most of the girls I used to know were married now and had kids. My sister got married. Underneath I don’t think she liked me. That doesn’t matter; we’re kin. We have to like each other, at least where it shows. She told me that Carol had a kid now, a baby girl. I think she wanted to keep me up on what was happening with Carol just to stick it to me.
Married or single, it didn’t matter. My future was laid out for me. I was going to keep working at the plant for the rest of my life until I was tired and worn out like my dad. Every morning I got up and went to work. Every evening I went over to the Snake Pit with the guys and had a few beers. I guess I was one of the guys now but I didn’t care.
It happened one Friday about a year after Billy left.
One of the guys had gotten engaged and we had a little party for him. It was Friday so we didn’t have to get up early in the morning. We could stay late and tie one on.
It was late when I left the Snake Pit and it had been raining. I’d had a few more beers than usual and I was pretty fuzzy. I might have been driving too fast; maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t. I don’t know. I do know that I almost missed the turn at Water street. I made a sharp turn and the car took off and skidded right into an oncoming car.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a bad accident. It all happens so fast. You see it coming and then before you can even think about it it happens. There’s a lot of noise and then you’re just sitting there and you’re numb.
I guess I must have been in shock. I’d busted some ribs and I was all cut up and bloody but I didn’t feel anything. Finally I got out of the car and walked over to the other car. There were pieces of metal and broken glass everywhere, glittering in the rain. I knew that car. It was the Markus car. I looked inside. There were two people inside, Carol and her kid. They were both dead. The kid was cut up bad; it was something ugly that you don’t ever want to see. Carol sat there, her head at a funny angle, her face all bloody, staring at me with her dead eyes. I stood there in the rain like a dummy, tears flowing down my face, and I kept saying, over and over, what I’d never had a chance to say to her before:
“I’m sorry Carol. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to hurt anyone. All I ever wanted was to be one of the guys.”
This page was last updated April 3, 1999.