Barry Melrow: Day 1
I start my day as I usually do by staring at the imperfections on my face in the bathroom mirror down the hall from my bedroom at six o’clock in the morning.
It’s when I use my index finger to poke at the cartilage around my nose to make its size smaller, until I convince myself that the world sees me differently than what the mirror is telling me; that the light reflecting off my face is ’the worst case scenario’ for how I really appear in everyday life.
Now, some might call this notion, ‘Body Dysmorphic Disorder’.
But I like to call it a ’human body disorder’.
This unusual routine that I have usually follows after I grapple with my own little reality: I’m unintelligent, unattractive, unfunny, unathletic, and when I pee, I usually miss the toilet by about a foot and a half.
I also have the droopy eyelids of an eighteen year-old-going-on-forty and the slouched stature of an early depiction of what human evolution must’ve looked like.
And these are my good qualities...
I have to scratch my belly in moments like these because 1) it itches, and 2) I like to think about what it would be like to live at a time when people were just apes and didn’t have to wake up to their Moms screaming from below the trees to, “hurry up and eat this toaster strudel while it’s still hot!”
Those must have been the good days, I think. It’s retirement and bananas and hammocks all year round.
Where did we go so wrong as a species?
Today marks the first day that my best friend Jessa Wright and I have begun a tradition that’s long been discussed, procrastinated, and ignored since we first met in the Doylestown, Pennsylvania delivery room over eighteen years ago:
A one month diary of entries before we never see each other again for the rest of our entire lives!
Okay, that’s overly dramatic.
We’re going to separate colleges next year, and both of our Moms are freaking out about it because apparently, we can’t live without each other... which we can (we’ve proven it on multiple occasions through bathroom breaks and sleep schedules).
Mrs. Wright and my Mom came up with the idea when they cried in each other’s arms at the thought of losing their children to higher education at some point in the future.
My Mom: You know, there’s lots and lots of jobs that don’t require a college degree.
Me: Yes, Mom. And those jobs are usually assigned to kids who can’t spell ‘GPA’…
So. If you’re Jessa’s future grandkids and happen to stumble upon this dusty, old binder that Grandma Jessa left out again (because of her ailing dementia):
The Rules are as follows:
1) You must tell your deepest, darkest secrets and emotions… leaving nothing to the imagination
2) Is an amendment to the first rule: You mustn’t hide any details
3) You mustn’t look at each other’s entries until after graduation
4) I just wanted to end on an even number of rules
We’re taking turns every day to write about each other and what we’re doing, so when we go to college, we can take each other’s thoughts with us for an eternity and beyond… or wherever I find a job after graduation four years from now.
That’s the idea, I guess.
So - Mom - if you’re reading this… you’ve probably stolen it from Jessa, so please, please give it back when you’re done drying the tears off my Journal entries...
In the meantime, it’s time to turn on the jams!
It’s Jessa’s mix-tape playlist she made featuring bands that make me look cooler just by acknowledging the fact that I’m their fan:
I wonder if years from now, I’ll be ashamed to have actually admitted to listening to, and memorizing the lyric’s to Blink 182’s First Date.
Is it cool if I hold your hand, is it wrong if I think it’s lame to dance…
I blare the speakers and jump up on my bed in my tube socks until I get high enough to catapult myself onto the beanbag chair that’s across my room. Cowabunga!
Jessa might say that I’m a dork, but unlike most the seven billion in the world, I’m not afraid to be myself.
Think about it: There have been a hundred billion people who have lived on this overgrown rock that we call earth, but there’s only one me who’s ever lived.
What are the chances…
Okay, it’s now time to relay my first secret in this entry (because isn’t what this is all about?): I have an internet pen pal that I’ve been keeping secretly hidden from everyone for the past two years.
Now, as alarming and ‘internet-predatorial’ as that may sound, the kid is from a village in Northern Pakistan.
But don’t worry, I did my deep research on the kid a long time ago.
Facebook background? Check
E-mail verification? Check
IP address identification (Computer geek Charles from school helped me with this one)? Check
All systems are a go. Roger-Roger.
Everything I dug on the kid is actually pretty darn impressive: SAT scores, technical blogs… He runs a website that’s dedicated to computer geeks who need live assistance with setting up their technical equipment.
He’s going to be like the Bill Gates of Pakistan.
I am now truly convinced that teens from Northern Pakistan are more technologically advanced and savvy than anyone at my school.
It also doesn’t hurt that the kid happens to be a legit genius and helps me with Calculus homework and English (his fifth language!) - which is the reason why I’m hiding it from my parents and everyone I know.
I know how it would go:
Mom: You’re soliciting an illegal immigrant to help you cheat?!
Me: I really don’t even know where to begin correcting your political inaccuracies…
It’s a trade-off of services, really.
A business agreement between the two of us: I teach him about the great American culture and lingo and saying things like: McDonald’s burgers aren’t really considered food, and he helps me finish my Calculus homework if, by chance, Jessa and I had stayed out too late at the quarry down the street the night before.
Before school today, I get an e-mail from AmericanG8sta69@hotmail.com (he has a long way to go):
Here the homework requested by you. I fix for you a slight miscalculation on questions already done by you. Hope it is Okay :) Finished it all in ten minutes.
How is America? I heard news on Yahoo! about Kim Kardashian gets married. Why is she famous for?
And what is a Chipotle? My cousin lives in New York City mentions to me this all the time.
And what is a Belieber? Did I spell right?
And tell your girlfriend that Monu says hi.
Youre friend, Monu
I didn’t get a word of that.
It’s easy enough to understand, and the time needed to respond doesn’t take nearly as long as the homework would have:
Thanks for the homework. You saved my life (Not literally. Don’t freak out again.).
Everything is fine here. America is basically the same as ever - it’s just a bunch of rich people who work in media, telling everybody they can, that the world is ending soon so that the price of gold can keep going higher (conspiracy theories are pretty big here, too).
Spring is upon us now, which means summertime is almost here. So American terms like Beach Body and Bikini Babes will start to surface around the internet soon. We’ll start to see a lot of advertisements for diet pills and diet shakes and diet everything here in the next few weeks. If your cousin has ever been to Madison Avenue in New York City, he’ll know what I’m talking about.
Nobody in America really actually knows why Kim Kardashian is famous... which I think actually answers your question, ironically enough... It’s also the reason why every show in America is always about solving mysteries that nobody can ever figure out. Look up ’cliff-hangers’ on google.
Chipotle is basically overpriced Taco Bell, sans the stomach-ache afterwards.
You spelled Belieber correctly, unfortunately. It’s what fans of Justin Bieber are called. Which doesn’t really make any sense to a lot of people.
I’m a believer in bieber?
I believe in - what - his ability to make music?
There are a lot of weird religions here that I can’t really explain the meaning behind (I’ll tell you about a religion famous people started called Scientology sometime).
I’ll be sure to tell Patty you said Hi.
Your friend, Barry
He’ll get the jist of what I’m saying (like I did his).
I read over what I wrote before sending, almost amazed that people outside the United States actually care about the sudden fame of a swoopy-haired teenage Canadian.
Another thing that Amazes me: How similar my writing is with Jessa’s.
Almost every year, whenever we hand in our first writing assignments for English class, every teacher we’ve ever had accuses us of plagiarizing each other’s work. And no matter how often we deny this accusation, we would always eventually be forced to re-write our first writing assignments in front of the teacher - after school.
Just to prove that we weren’t cheating.
“That’s not cheating,” My Mom would say to the new teacher every year (her words becoming memorized and robotic after saying it so many times). “That’s the product of two kids who spent more time with each other, than with their own families.”
Both of our Moms would smile at that fact (which is kind of weird, if you ask me).
Nonetheless, I click send on my e-mail momentarily and print out the homework he scanned.
I know I’ll have to copy the solutions by pencil during class, because I check my watch.
I slap on some clothes, half-brush my teeth, and slide down the banister, almost right into my younger sister’s phone-yielding hands.
“Watch it!” She scoots by me, actually tripping up the stairs while texting.
“Done being a pre-teen yet, Margaret?”
She sticks out her tongue at me.
Pre-teens these days...
Mom and Dad are in the kitchen already when I notice the smell of salty bacon and fried eggs hitting me like a brick wall.
“How much sleep did you get last night?” Dad asks while sitting and tinkering on his classic chevy engine parts.
Mom has to stop what she’s doing so she can turn around and watch my answer.
“Sleeping is what dead people call taunting, Dad,” I tell him. “I’m a better man than that. And why do you ask?”
“Stampeding Elephants make less noise than you do,” Dad says.
“They’re also a lot less messier than you, too,” Mom adds, while I grab a runny egg, cheese, and bacon bagel from a side plate.
I say, “There’s other ways to compliment a son, you know,” while licking my fingers. “Did I wake you up?”
“You woke the whole street up.” Dad wipes his hands. “What were you doing out that late?”
“Out with Jessa.”
“I said what were you doing out that late.”
“Right.” I kiss Mom on the cheek and give Dad a tap on his elbow before making haste out the kitchen. “Jessa thinks her shed is haunted - gotta operate on the ghost’s time if we’re gonna catch him, you know?”
Mom yells, “You’re a very strange boy!” before I close the front door and hear the sound of a car honking at the end of my driveway.
It’s Jessa’s Jeep.
My best friend has driven me to school almost every single day since High School first started.
The last time she didn’t, was she’d broken her right foot from falling off a tightrope that was strung between our bedroom windows.
I’d told her “You’re crazy,” before she started walking across a thick rope that was twenty feet off the ground.
“Crazy is relative, Bear… Everybody in the world is considered -”
She didn’t finish that thought.
The next sound I heard was a thud and a word that’s only used in movies that are rated PG-13.
For two weeks I had to choose between the options of riding the bus with two terribly behaved toddler twins, or hitching a ride with her and her Dad - who once managed to single-handedly ruin the song Piano Man for the rest of my adult life when he played it on repeat during a two hour-long road trip last summer.
I’ll take that to my grave, Mr. Wright.
Walking to school wasn’t all that bad, though.
I just never realized how many steps are required to walk to school.
What made it all worth it was telling Jessa the count of steps I took every day, just to see her reaction while she’d still been on crutches…
“Ugh,” she’d huff. “I hate you, Barry.”
But today is different.
Today, I hop into Jessa’s Jeep Wrangler and immediately yawn.
“Oh, stop complaining,” She pops the clutch. “It’ll all be worth it once we catch this ghost. Or, as I like to call it: The Bone-colored bastard.”
“What?” She twists.
“We talked about this,” I say. “Every time you curse, just think of a word that rhymes with it.”
“You do realize that takes the entire purpose of cursing, don’t you?”
“Remember when my Mom went on a tangent with your Mom about how cursing isn’t lady-like.”
She shifts gears before glaring over at me… “Duck your mom.”
I’m lucky to have Jessa… as a best friend. We’ve never gone out, and we’ve never dated. We’ve never even kissed…
Except for that one time - by accident - when we both turned a corner wall in her house at the exact same time.
It was right in front of her twenty relatives and cousins at their family reunion.
The way I remember it, she ran into me first (it’s a debated topic still to this day).
Her Aunt Lucile called it “cute”, while her weird and hippie cousin Jerry called it, “The Big Bang Theory,” and started rolling on the floor, laughing at his own joke.
Jessa’s Mom had then leaned over to my Mom and said, “There’s a sour apple in every batch”.
To which my Mom said, “With those, you can make a mean apple pie with.”
Look, I’ll admit it just to get it out of the way:
Jessa’s a smokin’ hot babe.
And I’m sorry, I’m not afraid to admit that fact.
She puts off more heat than the TNT that was used to make our town quarry. Ten times over.
She’s so far out of my league, I would need to make up another sport just to stay in the game.
If I were to do the ratings game (which I know all women must love):
“That is so unbelievably specific,” was Jessa’s reaction to it.
Jessa also thinks I’m higher than a 6.21 on the scale. “You gotta put your personality into the mix.”
“That defeats the entire purpose of the game, J.”
“Oh my god. You boys are so shallow… do you all just - like - think that the shower is a swimming pool?”
“Says the girl who’s dating Brad.” I say.
Jessa is also dating the High School quarterback.
“Brad was accepted into every school I was,” is her defense.
And Jessa is also more intelligent that I am.
And Jessa is also going to a better college than I am next year.
“Brad gets into those schools because god made him out of every part that was supposed to go to me,” I say.
“Oh, don’t be so insecure.” She sips on her black coffee. “Remember: Fake it till you make it.”
This is usually when I rub my eyes in agony, thinking about the quotes from that self-improvement book J got me for Christmas last year.
Me, unwrapping her present: “Are you trying to tell me something here?”
Jessa: “Yes, you’re insecure. Read this book.”
Mom: “Kids, don’t fight on Christmas.”
Jessa’s Mom: “Yes, that’s what boxing day is for.”
Mom and Mrs. Wright then laughed and indulged themselves with breakfast wine, happily living their lives no more than fifteen feet away from each other, ever since the two of us were born.
It’s been that way since I can remember.
Which makes me convinced that there are few families out there who are tighter than mine and Jessa’s. But I guess that’s what happens when you live a soft sneeze away from each other’s bedroom for eighteen years of your life.
I wasn’t complaining, though. It’s Jessa Wright who lives across from my window.
“That’s a gift from above. For crying out loud!” Is what my Grandpa Jack would say about that fact.
Jessa also likes to brag to my parents that her baby hands were the first to touch mine… therefore rendering her: first to meet my acquaintance.
To which my Dad usually says, “It’s also the last time Barry’s touched a girl,” and everybody around us gives a roaring laughter at my expense for the thousandth time in the short amount of life I’ve lived here on this planet Earth.
What my Dad says isn’t true, though, because I do, in fact, have a girlfriend.
And no, she’s not omnipresent (another term for imaginary).
And yes, she’s an American citizen.
And yes, she lives in America (Happy, Uncle Charlie?).
Her name is Patricia Placer.
Yes, you read that right.
And so how else would my girlfriend and I start any other day as a couple would?
“Barry Melrow, I cannot believe you!” I hear her scream from beside me at my locker.
Note: Patty’s eyes are also big and wide (a future theater major’s greatest asset). “Why didn’t you get your passport book yet?”
I hide my face into my locker immediately after hearing it. “Passport book?”
“You don’t remember?”
It’s tough to remember Patty’s requests sometimes.
Actually, that’s not true.
It’s near impossible to remember all of of her requests.
Let me clarify:
Just last week, Patty had asked me to remember which striped socks she was wearing. Calming stating, “I’ll ask you for the answer next week. Not the color of the socks. The color of the stripe on the socks.”
When I’d asked her “Why?” she plainly stated, “Because I asked you to.”
I think Patty is going to do wonders in motherhood. It’s going to be filled with as much insanity as an asylum, and as much verbal abuse as a Jerry Springer show.
She is absolutely the bully who tells other people to “stop being a bully.”
Patty is also going to the same college as I am next year.
Which college, do you ask?
Well, I have a rule for that: If you have to google the college name, it’s not worth mentioning.
So back to today’s fight… I can already hear it now. Let’s get ready to rumble...
“I don’t remember anything about a passport, Patty.”
“Ugh,” She sighs. Deeply. Almost enough to physically knock me over. “How are we supposed to get into Cancun this summer without your passport?”
My forehead feels the cold metal of the locker next to mine.
Me, thinking about an entire week of “vacation” with Patty (I put vacation in quotes because 1) it’s not a vacation if there’s a planned sleeping schedule, and 2) repeat number one).
For Spring Break this year, Patty wanted me to watch her rehearse her Senior Theatre Play and take diligent notes.
How in god’s name do you critique your girlfriend’s theatre performance - without ending up in crutches?
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