My first date took place in a closet. Not a big closet either. A tiny airless space crammed with winter coats and wilted cowboy boots.
It was eighth grade and somebody was having a party in their parents’ panelled basement. Fifteen or twenty teenagers with perms and the kind of coloring you only see en masse in Canada: blue eyes, pasty January pallor, and hair the color of a rat’s tail. Few of us had begun experimenting with drugs or alcohol yet, but the lights were low and, unless you were making out or involved in some heavy petting, you weren’t allowed anywhere near the couch.
The uncoupled sat in a circle on the floor and played Spin the Bottle, every last one of us hoping we wouldn’t have to go into the closet with YB, with her tinted green glasses, stringy hair and enormous teeth.
I’d heard that EH wanted to “go around” with me, so I was praying pretty hard he’d spin the Coke bottle in my direction. Eventually he did. Which meant it was really happening. EH and I were going into the closet where he’d ask me to be his girlfriend. I could barely breathe, I was so excited. EH was the best-looking guy in school – dark skin, green eyes, bone structure you only see on mannequins and Hilary Swank. People called him SOS pad because of his hair, but hey, I was willing to put up with anything for a drink of those eyes.
I followed him into the closet. Giggling a bit, we settled ourselves onto the jumble of boots and fallen hangers and let our eyes adjust to the grainy darkness. He put his arm around me and told me I was cute (this was a first for me, and I made a mental note of his tone so I could repeat it to my best friend after the party). I was far too scared to tell him he was cute back.
Then there was this long silence. I figured he was working up his nerve to ask me. Maybe he’d even let me wear his ring on a gold chain around my neck since he’d be my actual boyfriend. Finally he spoke.
“Do you want to meet Roger?”
As naive as I was, it didn’t more than two seconds for me to realize who–or what–Roger was. And I really, really did not want to meet him. I’d never even seen a…Roger. I shook my head no.
“C’mon,” EH said. “Roger wants to meet you.”
“No, it’s okay,” I said. EH’s SOS pad hair scraped against my cheek.
“Just for a minute,” he said.
And there he was. In the soupy darkness of the closet, Roger glowed like a great white shark. Actually, I remember being reminded of an oversized Lowly worm, only without the impish grin.
I wanted to burst out of that closet. Go home with my friend where we could eat rocky road and watch crappy late-night movies. But I just sat there, wishing Roger would slink away so EH and I could be alone.
Eventually I mumbled some excuse and left. Like I said, it was a pretty small closet. There was only room for two.