Wednesday, April 27, 2005

a familiar face

The way it was set up, you’d think I was being hauled up before the principal for smoking behind the bike sheds. Well, I suppose in many ways, I was. I had done a very bad thing, and it was time for me to face the consequences.

The principal’s secretary (Mike’s Mom) had a stern look on her face as she let me in and guided me through to the waiting room (the Portugal family’s living room). I sat there patiently waiting for about five minutes as I went over in my head what I was going to say. Eventually I was instructed to go on up to the principal’s office (Mike’s Room)

Mike Portugal was a very serious person. I was friendlier with his next door neighbour Keith Harley, but they pretty much came as a set, and they always used to hang around together in school. I think Mike appreciated the way Keith and I had similar senses of humour and he probably saw his association with us as a way of being drawn away from his solemn stereotype.

Now, however, was a time for being serious, so naturally I was off my guard. This was no time to be making wisecracks. I knew he had to own this conversation, and the less I said, the better the outcome would be. Besides, he was usually so goddam quiet and sombre that you had absolutely no idea how he would react if he got angry. At least I knew since his “secretary” was downstairs there was no question of punches actually being thrown.

I almost, ALMOST, started laughing when I went into his room and saw the way he was sitting. He was leaning back in his chair at his desk, where he spent a huge portion of his time as he had always been an extremely devoted student, and he had his hands clasped together in such a way that between his touching pointer fingers and his touching thumbs he made an almost perfect pyramid shape. All I could think of when I saw him was that he must have been practising this pose all the time I was waiting downstairs.

“Hi, Jeff, have a seat.” I took this to mean I was to perch on the end of his bed, a couple of yards away from him. “Thank you for coming.”

“Sure, I mean – thank YOU for inviting me.”

“I wanted to give you a chance to explain to me what happened the other night.”

Long sigh. “That’s fair enough. Before I start I have to say that there’s no excuse for what I did ok?” Awkward silence. “OK – here goes …. Ok, well you know the way I brought Shelly with me?”

“I should know that yes, you were both guests in my house before the debs, remember?” By the way, what Irish people call debs, the Americans call “senior prom”.

“Yes, indeed we were. OK. Well, even though I wasn’t going out with her, I still thought I would, well, you know, be with her on the night and all that?”

“Yes….” The fingers atop the pyramid started slowly tapping his lower lip. Meanwhile I don’t think I held the same position myself for more than three seconds at a time. “Yes, well, when I went to kiss her, she told me she was going out with someone and that I wasn’t to try anything on. I was, well, a bit annoyed.”

“Ok, then what happened?”

“Well, I told her to fuck off and went to the bar and knocked back about three or four pints in quick succession.” I could see by his face that he did not believe this, but I really did!!! “Then a slow song came on, and I just wanted to dance with someone. I went to our table and said ‘Does anyone wanna dance?’, then, well, Cathy stood up.”

Fingers still tapping lip, his eyes darted right, then back in my direction. I had already had enough of this; I just wanted to apologize and go.

“Well – of course I knew she was your date and all, but, well - we danced for a bit, I asked where you were, she said she didn’t know. Before I knew what was happening we were kissing. Mike, I really am sorry.”

“Jeff, I appreciate your coming here to explain it to me. I accept your apology, but I hope you realize we can’t be close friends anymore.”

“Mike, I fully understand. Thank YOU for giving me the chance to explain myself. Maybe one day you’ll let me buy you a pint, but I understand if you want to leave it for a while.”

“Yes, we should leave it for a while”

“OK. I’ll see myself out, ok?”

“No problem, Jeff.” When I got to the door he turned and said “Oh, and just one more thing…”

What’s this, an episode of Colombo? Wait-NO WISECRACKS!!! “Er - yeah?”

“Are you going to see her again?”

Talk about a rock and a hard place! At the end of the night she had invited me to her debs which was a week away, and in my drunken horny state I accepted. Eventually Mike gave me a way out of my prolonged silence.

“Jeff, it’s ok, at least if you two went out with each other then I’d know it was all worthwhile!”

Hm – could be a trap. “Yes, well, we did trade numbers; I guess I wanted to see how the land lies with you before I did anything.”

“Jeff,” he sighed, as he released himself from his pose and swung round in his chair towards the college books on his desk, “to be quite honest, you’re welcome to her.”

And so I hooked up with Cathy a few more times, and we found out we actually still got along quite well when we were sober. Despite the fact that I knew absolutely noone from her school, I agreed to go to her debs, only because she would have originally asked Mike and since that particular bridge had been reduced to ashes, my pulling out would have pretty much left her stranded.

And so there I was, back in my tux, escorting her into the bar in Jury’s hotel for her school’s big night. She was educated in a rather exclusive establishment downtown, so the crowd was smaller and I knew absolutely nobody apart from my date. My primary mission was to get through the night and somehow escort home the same girl that had earlier picked up, as this seemed to be quite a challenge for me up to now.

I’m sure she meant well, but Cathy did not help my social awkwardness by constantly asking me if I was ok. We’d stand chatting to her friends, her teachers, more of her friends, and each time in mid sentence she’d say “Are you sure you don’t feel like a prat standing there?” which of course bestowed instant pratness upon me in front of everyone.

Finally the corner of my eye informed me that a familiar face was but a few feet away. At the time, I was being quizzed by Cathy’s English teacher all about the equivalent department in my school. Although I was able to respond, I was eventually able to anticipate the prat question.

“Ah, poor Jeff, he doesn’t know anyone here at all! I bet you feel like a bit of a…”

“Prat? No, actually, I think I just spotted a guy I know over there,” and I motioned in the relevant direction with my right hand. For the life of me I could not work out why I got such quizzical looks from those before me.

“Over there? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, in fact why don’t I leave you all to it and I’ll go over and say hello, ok?”

And with that, I moved away from the group, and towards the familiar face.

The good news : the familiar face also spotted me and was moving in my direction.

The bad news : I had neglected to notice that the entire wall of the pub was decked out in full length mirrors.

There was no escape. I either had to attempt to shake hands with my reflection, or meekly return to the group and try to laugh it off.

Of course the one time I needed a witty wisecrack, there was nothing there.

Naturally all who witnessed my folly were also to join us at our table for the dinner, so the incident was referred to several times throughout the evening – believe me, it was the nearest thing to a highlight there was.

I saw Cathy home, but never saw her again. A few months later, I bought Mike that pint as promised, and he nearly fell off his chair laughing at my mirror story. It was good to know that I could at least get him laughing again.

Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories


sex scenes at starbucks said...

My very own irishman! Yea!

Once I was drunk and told my friends, "At least I'm not as drunk as that girl over there!" Except I was, because it was me in a mirror.

Great post.

Michèle said...

This story is precious! (And a major comfort to those of us who regularly embarrass ourselves.) Thanks for sharing!

Buffalo said...


kieran said...

I've run into sliding glass doors and the such, but I can't say I've ever tried to shake hands with my reflection. Great story JP.

JL Pagano said...

Thanks everyone.

My doppelganger says thanks too.

fairygirl701 said...

LMAO! That had to be embarrassing, especially in high school.

shandi said...

That was too funny!!
Why is it that men can (with time) forgive eachother for stealing the girl? Two female friends can't even look at the same guy without a cat fight breaking out.

Great story!!