Chapter 10 - Realistic Aspirations
THE SUDDEN downpour is just a tiny drizzle by the time we head back toward the park. Jake says we should duck into a restaurant and wait out the rain. I don’t know if he feels obligated to buy me a meal now that we’ve banged. I say no. I thought bad boys are supposed to sneak out after sex and not call you the next day, no matter how much they promise to love you forever prior to popping your cherry.
I don’t know what Jake wants. He got what he wanted, didn’t he? What’s he still doing here?
Yet, he is still hanging around, looking for a place to go eat, like we are on a date or something.
We’re not on a date.
I got what I wanted. I was able to take my mind off my Physics test for a little while.
You might be wondering, dear reader, why I’m so freaked out about that test. It took me a few minutes of self-reflection on the subway ride over here to figure out too. My dad was a Chemist, you see. I never talk about him because he’s not in my life anymore. He left after my mom got a divorce because he was never around to be much of a husband or dad.
I guess, deep down, even more than I wanted to show those Piotr students that I’m just as good as they are, I wanted to impress my dad. I might have even flirted with the idea of study chemistry myself and work on developing drugs to cure cancer. Maybe in that life, I would date Nick, and we would go to charity galas together.
They say that girls without strong father figures tend to act out and sleep with boys who aren’t very good for them. I look at Jake with his messy locks of black hair and his bullish frame, and I decide he’s the textbook definition of “bad news.”
“I’m still not hungry,” I tell Jake and play with the straps on my backpack. I kick an empty soda can away with my foot. I wonder how to tell him that I’m going home now.
“If you’re not hungry, how about let’s get something to drink,” Jake says as he snaps out his wallet again. This time, instead of producing a wad of odd bills, he shows me a damp, faded New York driver’s license. I notice the big red “Under 21" letters were absent from it. According to it, he is Jake Villin, 24 years old.
“It’s a fake,” he tells me. “I had it made down in the East Village. Let’s go have some fun.”
I don’t think getting drunk with a guy I barely know is a very good idea. Then again, I’ve already slept with him, how much more trouble can I get into?
We go to a weathered old shack that’s selling funnel cake, hot dogs, and beer. Jake buys both of us Corona Lights. He gives me mine with a wedge of lime in the neck. I push it into the bottle until the beer fizzes around it. I’ve never had a beer before, and I hate the taste. It’s smelly and bitter.
Jake laughs at the face I make as I force down a mouthful. He sips on his beer as though he does this all the time. He’s so buzzed after one sip that he’s leaning against one of the outdoor tables like the Fonz from Happy Days. He passes the beer bottle from his right hand to his left and then back again. He gulps it down. I don’t think it’s the beer that is making him nervous.
“You can suck on the lime to get the taste out,” he tells me. “It helps if it’s your first time.”
“It’s not my first time!” I snap. “I drink all the time.”
That is a lie. The only time I’ve had alcohol before was that my grandma accidentally fed me Irish Whiskey Truffles on Christmas. Those tasted better.
“Once we get a buzz going, we can check out the rides,” he tells me with a smirk on his pretty lips that look as though they were made for pouting.
“Do you want to know a secret?” I ask him. I deep feel a warm, fuzzy feeling in my gut. I suddenly feel like laughing, and I want to tell him something funny to make him laugh too. “I didn’t think you were the kind to stick around after getting what you want.”
“You’re already buzzed? Jesus, you barely had a sip.” Jake takes a huge gulp of his beer like he’s trying to catch up. He smiles at me after he swallows. I think he’s also a little muddle-headed now. “I think that’s not the only secret you’re keeping from me.”
“Oh?” I ask, “What do you think my secret is?”
“I don’t think you dragged me out here today just because you’re impressed by my creative writing.”
I laugh a bit too loud at that. I pretend to wipe tears of humor out of my eyes.
“No, you’re right about that.”
“Why are we here?”
“There was something I wanted very badly. Something that was going to lead to something else. It doesn’t matter. It’s all gone now.”
“Well, whatever it is, I hope you feel better,” Jake replies and flops one of his big arms around my shoulders. His breath smells like beer, but strangely I like the way it smells coming from his mouth. Maybe, it was the alcohol talking, but I enjoy cuddling against Jake’s t-shirt. It is soft and cozy against my skin, and use barely hinted at the hard muscle underneath.
“Do you know what it’s like to be really good at something you don’t care much about? And to be really bad at something you really really care about? I wanted to be a chemist like my dad,” I whisper. “But it’s only my first week here, and I failed my Physics quiz. Maybe, I thought if I could cut it here at Piotr, I could impress him. My dad’s not even in my life. I don’t even know why all this matters to me.”
“Do you like Physics?”
“Then, why do you care?” Jake asks and taps the remainder of his beer bottle against mine. “Maybe you should care more about things that you like. I’m going to assume the thing you are really good at is —no, don’t tell me — at being a grade-A seductress.”
I chuckle at that. “No. I wish.”
“I’m just kidding. I understand. If we’re talking about daddy issues and career choices, I’ll tell you my story. My dad works with computers. He’s an engineer. When I was a kid, he had a contract with the government to program the catalog system in the central NYPL. He was stationed in an office at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. He used to leave me in the Rose Reading Room because it was practically free babysitting. I used to scribble notes and hide them in the books there.”
“So, you’re like the Phantom of the Rose Reading Room?” I tease. Jake grimaces and pretends to punch me in the shoulder. I laugh and run away, spilling my beer all over my lap in the process. “No, that’s a cool story, bro.”
“What do you want to do with your life?” Jake asks. “Other than being a pain in my ass?”
“I don’t know,” I reply and stare into the gold depths of the remainder of my beer. Its glistening, bubbly surface reminds me of Nick for some reason. I wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t failed that physics test if I hadn’t cut class today. Would I be at the park with Nick and his friends right now? It would have been nice, so very nice. I smile sadly back at Jake. “What do you think I should do?”
“Beats me, whatever makes you happy, I guess.”
“What would make you happy?” I ask, turning the conversation back to him before he can scrutinize my life choices anymore. “Do you want to publish your Sci-Fi stories?”
“Nah,” Jake replies. “Although if someone came knocking on my door, I wouldn’t say no.”
“Only 0.01% of authors make a living writing, you know,” I retort. This was a figure that I knew pretty well. That’s why I wish I were good at science instead of writing. If only we could choose what we were good at in life, I would not have chosen to be WilderLuna15. Though being her did make me happy. There was no money in it, but it did keep me from being lonely. For instance, I am here in Coney Island right now because I know that even though to the rest of the Piotr, Jake is a scary leather-wearing motorcycle-riding bad boy, deep inside, he just wants a couple of hits on his esoteric Sci-Fi. He’s just a geek deep inside, just like me—a literature geek.
“I know,” Jake says. “I guess I can work at Friendly’s or something to make a living. Isn’t that what all the starving artists in Manhattan do?”
“That’s only cool until you turn 30,” I reply. “Then, it’s just sad.”
“You’re awfully pessimistic,” Jake says. “Can’t we just forget about grades and school and just be two kids enjoying our underage drinking for a second? I promise you that when you turn 30, you won’t remember what grades you got in Piotr, but you’ll remember throwing back a couple of beers in Coney Island during the first week of your Junior Year.”