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Worldwide Ace » Foreign Exchange – Part III

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Foreign Exchange – Part III

7 February, 2009 (10:54) | Unlucky 13, Women

For context, read
Foreign Exchange – Part I,
and Foreign Exchange – Part II.

turtleneck

“The appalling thing is the degree of charity
women are capable of. You see it all the time…
love lavished on absolute fools. Love’s a charity
ward, you know.”
– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

There was no doubt he was a pretty boy. He had thick black hair, gelled back in that utterly suave and tasteless Eurotrash style, and thin blue eyes that slipped from beneath bushy eyebrows, beckoning. His smile was soft and whimsical, as if he was too cool to care, the smattering of dark peach fuzz on his upper lip only accentuating how smooth the skin on the rest of his face was. His name was Francois, or Fritz, or Fabian, or Franz, or something equally creepily European. I was instantly jealous the moment he appeared in the dimly lit doorway.

“Gutentag,” Swiss Frank squealed, his high pitched voice carrying down the stoop to where I sat petting a stray cat and trying hard to seem like I didn’t care. He leaned in and kissed Anika on each cheek. I seethed.

“Let’s go,” she said, bounding down the steps toward me and skipping past to the car.

“So you are Ben,” he said, offering his hand. I shook it, squeezing harder than normal. “I have heard many things about you.”

“Yeah, good to meet you,” I rasped.

“Are you boys coming?” cried Anika from the driver’s door.

Swiss Frank hustled over to the car, squeaking “SHOTGUN!” as he did. I sauntered over, trying to play it cool. I’m sure I was failing miserably.

We were lost nearly instantaneously; Anika in the most literal sense, Swiss Frank in conversation, and I in the pit of jealousy and self-loathing.

“So I am out for six month, and it is quite nice. I like America,” Swiss Frank announced to his captive audience. I heckled him in my mind, but I didn’t dare say anything. After all, he was only hanging out for a little while and I wanted to show Anika how mature I was. “There are many nice persons here. My host family is wonderful.” He turned around in his seat and smiled at me before unleashing a string of German at Anika.

“So,” I cut in, trying to forcefully include myself, “what are you studying?”

“Oh, you know, the normal high school things, though school here is very different from Switzerland,” he replied. HIGH SCHOOL!?!?

“Oh yeah,” Anika laughed, “he was one of my campers.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“I am fifteen.” My god, I thought, he’s a Freshman. “But I will be sixteen in the July.”

“Good for you.” He beamed at my mocking approval. After a moment of silence, the two of them resumed bantering in German.

We looped up and down streets I didn’t know, through neighborhoods I didn’t recognize, meandering through the city and lodging me in boredom and fear.

“So where are we heading anyway?” I finally asked.

“We thought we might catch a movie,” said Anika.

“Yes, she promised me a movie,” agreed Swiss Frank.

“I’m not really up for a movie,” I told them. It was true. I was running low on cash, and there wasn’t anything out that I wanted to see.

Anika pulled over and sheepishly turned to me. “Actually, I was kind of thinking it would just be me and Swiss Frank. I did promise.”

If it hadn’t dawned on me already, it did in that moment; it wasn’t he that was the third wheel, but me.

“If you want, I could drop you off at the bus,” Anika offered. “I mean, you’re still cool to stay with me, but you’ll need to wait till after the movie. You could go see a different movie?”

I should’ve taken her up on the bus. I should’ve gone back to campus and sulked or drank or gotten stoned or anything but staying. But the way she smiled at me apologetically lessened my rage.

It’ll only be an hour and a half. And it’s only because she promised, I told myself. Besides, I’m always in Boulder. How often do I get to be in Denver. I’m already all packed. It’ll be fine.

“That’s cool. I’ll just chill. I’m sure I can wander through stores and hang out or something,” I told her. I smiled, trying to hide my sadness behind what little hope I had left.

“Great,” she said.

“Great,” said Swiss Frank.

The moon was full and the stars were glimmering above us as we pulled into the parking lot of the Cherry Creek mall.

“Why don’t you go ahead and get the tickets,” Anika told Swiss Frank, slipping him a twenty. “I’ll catch up in a minute. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly to me, Swiss Frank busy at the ticket window. “I didn’t mean for you to be here for this. I just—”

“It’s ok,” I lied.

“I promised him. Afterward, we’ll drop him off and we can hang out. Plus we’ll have all day tomorrow together.”

“Sure,” I said.

“I really am sorry.”

“Are you coming, Anika?” called Swiss Frank.

“Yeah. Be right there.” She turned back to me. “You sure you’ll be fine hanging out?”

“Yeah, I’ll make do.”

cassiopeia1“See you in a little.” I watched her clutch his arm, towering over his five foot frame by 8-10 inches. He smiled at her as they disappeared behind the velvet ropes, leaving me out on the cold tile floor of Denver’s most upscale mall.

The Cherry Creek mall has all sorts of stores. There are clothing stores, a Build-a-Bear, a Sharper Image, a Brookstone, a couple of cell phone kiosks, and plenty of sundry places of business. It’s enough to keep someone busy for hours… assuming any of them are open.

As was my luck, the movie they saw was just starting as the clock struck nine. That just happens to be the same time as all the stores closed. I watched grates fly down as I approached, left with nothing to do but spend two hours walking in silence, berating myself for not taking the bus.

I checked my watch with regularity, wandering the rooftop of the parking lot, picking out constellations, trying not to think about the juvenile Swiss Frank and Anika sitting in that theater without me. I lay down on the hard cement and spotted Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Andromeda. I sang quietly to myself and scripting angry lyrics to new songs. I embraced the crisp chill of Autumn around me and waited until the time when we’d drop Swiss Frank off and my weekend might get better.

“It is not love that is blind, but jealousy.”
– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

To Be Continued in
Foreign Exchange – Part IV,
and Foreign Exchange – Part V.

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