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Worldwide Ace » Foreign Exchange – Part V

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Foreign Exchange – Part V

9 February, 2009 (06:47) | Unlucky 13, Women

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

LoveBite, the hickey machine.

“It’s unthinkable not to love—
you’d have a severe nervous breakdown.”
– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

Beneath the table, I could feel the note wrinkling in my sweaty palm. Her parents, meanwhile, chatted about this and that, questioning me about my major, my life back east, my family’s time in Switzerland, and every other topic under the sun. On the one hand, I was glad for the distraction; on the other, I wanted solitude with the note.

Anika came back downstairs wearing a blue turtleneck flipped up to hide the shameful red spot. She ate briskly, not saying much and hustled downstairs to rouse Swiss Frank shortly thereafter. He didn’t sit down at the table, instead ushered out the door with a quick goodbye. I never saw him again, and I was appreciative of that.

I excused myself from the table and slipped downstairs, carefully hiding the precious slip of paper as delved into privacy. As soon as I was around the corner, I peeled open the note and read the contents as if it were a missive from the front and lives depended on it.

Ben, it read.

I’m sorry about last night. I didn’t expect for things to get so serious with Swiss Frank. He’s only here until the end of December, so I felt like this would be my only chance to see him.

I didn’t mean for you to get dragged around like that and I feel bad. I do really like you, but it’s so hard with these kinds of things, you know?

If you don’t want to hang out, I understand. If you’re still interested, though, maybe we could go on a proper date tonight after the party.

XOXO Anika

I slowly folded the piece of paper, a grin breaking out on my face. I did a little dance, keeping it as sharp and quiet as I could, then I collected my things and went back upstairs, elated at the one little scrap of hope given back to me.

The white house was practically a mansion, a second building standing erect above a garage 20 feet across the driveway. Green fields and a small wood could be seen in almost every direction, marking the upscale home an oasis in the Colorado foothills. There were a dozen cars parked around the driveway and what looked like a clan of a few poser skater punks and some hangers on coasting toward the end.

Anika’s family were old friends of these people, though it seemed a pretty clear crossing of class lines. The kids were mostly friends of the hosts’ sixteen year old son, though Anika knew him from way back.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked.

“My parents and the older folk are going to play some bridge. Toni the guy with the backwards hat. He’s got a half pipe in back, and it sounds like they’re going back to skate around,” she told me. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Yo dude,” called Toni. “Can you skate?”

SIDE NOTE: I had a skateboard once. I found it in the middle of the road. I could get on it and roll downhill, but I was terrible. It ended up sitting in my garage until my parents threw it out while I wasn’t paying attention. I came back from boarding school over Christmas break with the intention of removing the trucks and using it on the snow, but it was nowhere to be found. I never had the desire to get on a skateboard again.

“A little,” I said, but I wouldn’t have skated anyway.

“I didn’t know that,” commented Anika.

“Cool,” called Toni. “Then I’ll see you two at the pipe.”

I had no desire to hang out with Toni or see anyone “at the pipe.” The more I thought about it, the more I felt I’d be better off playing bridge, even as the only youth there. I loved bridge. I was bad at bidding, but card games and strategy were things I excelled at.

“You know, I think I’m going to stick around and play bridge with your folks. Is that cool?” I asked Anika.


“Yeah. I’m not much of one for skateboarding,” I admitted.

“Whatever. I guess I’ll catch you later,” she said and ran off with the others.

bridgehandFor the first time the entire weekend, I was having a grand old time. The adults loved me, loved that I could play bridge, and loved that I played well. There were seven of us, so as each hand was dealt, the dummy would switch into the other game. It allowed everyone to play in both games, and it meant my aggressive and poorly refined bidding created more glee than trouble.

“Well this is wonderful that you could join us,” Anika’s father said. “If only more of Anika’s friends were like you.”

“Oh yes,” said one of their friends. “It’s so rare kids these days have any sense of decorum. Let alone a killer bridge sense!” They all laughed.

“Um, thanks,” I replied. “I’m really enjoying this.” And I really was.

As things wrapped up and it was getting on dinner time, Anika came to retrieve me. I ducked into the bathroom on my way before climbing into her car, excited for our first official date.

“So,” I said, my eyebrows waggling in anticipation, “what did you have in mind?”

“We need to break up.”

“What? But we haven’t even started going out!”

“Yeah, about that…” Her gaze was piercing as she glared at me in the passenger seat. “It wasn’t really cool of you to play bridge with my folks. And while you were in the bathroom, they wouldn’t shut up about how awesome you were.”

SIDE NOTE: Parents have always loved me. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s the way I present myself or perhaps it’s that I can actually have an intelligent discussion that isn’t reduced to “hey, yeah, that’s cool.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

“No. I’m going to have to deal with them asking about you forever now.” She sighed as she said it, as if it were the biggest chore in the world. “And when we are done, they’d compare all my other boyfriends to you, so we can’t date.”

“What do you mean when we’re done? What if it works out?”

She laughed. “It wouldn’t work out.” I was silent. “I’m going to give you a ride to the bus. I’ll see you back on campus. I’d appreciate if you didn’t bring this up again.”

I wrote a song about the entire ordeal on the bus ride home. By the time I was back in my dorm room, I was laughing because there was nothing left to do. I spent the next week throwing myself into work at the radio station, spending every waking hour I could in the basement refuge with the hipsters.

After midnight one night, when I had been up late at the station working, I returned to find a note on the white board on my door:

“I went home last weekend and my parents wouldn’t stop asking about you. – Anika”

My neighbor opened his door and leaned out bleary-eyed. “Stop that fucking laughing. I’m trying to sleep.”

There’s a little part of me that hopes I haunt her relationships forever.

“There are only three things to be done with a woman.
You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.”
– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)