So I will tell you this: when I was sixteen I was dumb, really dumb. And I lied and I was treacherous too. But mostly I was dumb. It’s true that when I fell in love I became even dumber but really, it would be a bit unfair to blame everything on love.
And who was she, this girl that stole my naïve heart? Her name was Katie and she was skinny and pretty and vain and frivolous and a little bit cruel and when I heard her voice on the phone line something inside me would try to fly away. If she touched me on the arm, I would forget what I was saying even though I had practiced it for days.
Now there was this other girl called Deb. When you first met her you didn’t think much about her looks but you sure remembered what she said. Deb was smart. She showed me a book of poems by Leonard Cohen; she had a poster of Che Guevara on her wall and said she wanted to be the first female prime minister of Australia. When she touched my arm she left her hand there and looked straight at me until I turned away.
One day Deb rang to ask me to go with her to the school graduation dance. “I don’t think I’ll go,” I lied and I knew as I said it that it was not even a clever lie. You see, dear reader, I knew that Katie liked me, I knew I could make her laugh, I hoped I could make her love me. I waited for her call and it came. Then I didn’t care about the lie, I pretended to myself that I could somehow hide on the night and Deb wouldn’t realise that I was there. OK, so I told you I was dumb.
I had never heard of Karma but it was waiting for me big time all those years ago. I was in high spirits as I dressed for the night. Even the fact that a wart that had been burned off my palm had turned into a large blood blister did not dampen my starry visions of Katie in my arms beneath the mirrored disco ball. I covered the blue black lump with plaster and practised ways to hide it.
The evening started with the presentation of awards and certificates. I noted that Deb was way up the front so I placed myself well at the back. So far so good. That is until the Principal announced that Deb and I would share that year’s prize for literature, her for an essay on revolution, me for a thinly veiled ode to Katie. Together we walked up to the podium, the liar and the girl who came to her graduation alone.
If I hated myself for a minute, it passed as I considered how the award must only lift my estimation in the eyes of Katie. But the gods knew my shallow heart and they had not finished with me yet.
We all made our way to the dance hall and soon I was dancing with Katie. Of course, it wasn’t as if I really held her in my arms. Everyone just sort of faced their partner and waved around a lot and sweated to the music. Sometimes we’d yell to each other stuff like, “This is a great song, isn’t it!” But, folks, let me tell you, I was in Heaven.
Then the DJ put on a song by Slade called Get Down and Get With It and we all got down and got with it. I could see that Katie was excited, her eyes blazed and she was looking at me differently. This could be our song, I thought as we stomped our feet and shook our heads. And then the singer yelled to us those immortal words:
Everybody raise both of your hands in the air
I said clap your hands
Everybody clap your hands
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Ma ma ma ma
Everybody clap your hands ma ma ma…
And, my brother, let me tell you that we did clap our hands and I did very much forget about my blister and I clapped and clapped and this blood did spurt across the dance floor and struck Katie across the cheek and splattered across my new shirt and she thought I’d been shot and I wished I had. And then her friends told her about her bloodied face and she rushed off with expressions not redolent of deep undying love and my hopeless words ringing across the room, “But it’s only blood from my wart!”
Let us draw the curtain there, dear reader. Soon after this night of farce and ignominy I ran away to College. Then one day Deb sent me a letter and it was clever and smart and friendly and I knew what I had missed and I never answered it. And Katie? She hooked up with an older guy who she ended up marrying and I wrote her lots of letters and she never replied.