Thursday, November 18, 2010

Captain Slurpee and the Great White Lie

It is funny how a song can take you back to a particular time and place. That was the case just the other day when I was going to work. I was racing down the back streets hoping to improve my all time record of dropping the kids off at school and beating the time clock with my boss standing over it counting the minutes. Then I heard this song I had not heard in years. It was Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together". It was the crowning jewel of the 70s. The Cheese Whiz of the cheesy variety. And yet I found myself being honked at as I was sitting through a green light just listening to this really dated song from yesteryear. As bad as it is it leaves me feeling really good. It takes me back to my innocents. I travel back in time to my childhood and the years spent living with my Grandmother. It reintroduces me to my first girlfriend. I was 5 years old and she was 6 in a world that felt like a Captain and Tennille song. Life was all light and fluffy. We both had families with problems, but when you are a kid it is just part of the norm and everyday no matter who is shedding tears. For us it was just one big recess.

My girlfriend and I (who used to just be my buddy) got into all kinds of trouble. She would usually start it by daring me to do something. I would do it because I was to stupid to realize that I would get caught and get into trouble before she had her turn. I would get yelled at and then hit with the flyswatter by my Grandmother when I got home. The flyswatter was the equivalent of the switch. I would cry. Shanna would go home laughing. And then we would do it all over again the next day.

I remember the first time Shanna asked me to go with her and her mom to the bank. Going to the bank meant that they usually stopped off at the local convenient store and got a Slurpee. I loved Slurpees and this was my first trip without my family taking me anywhere so it was a big deal. We sat right next to each other in the back seat of this giant car. You have to remember that this was in the 70s and seat belts were not in vogue yet. Every car on the road was enormous until the Ford Pinto came along. But let's not dwell on mistakes.

Shanna's mom drove up to the bank window. Shanna reaches over and grabs my hand. My first thought was "weird". I saw adults do this and I always thought it would be slimy and gross after a while. But then again it felt kind of nice and comfortable. It was like a warm blanket on a cold night when all you want to do is curl up in it. And that's when it happened. THAT song came on the radio. "Love Will Keep Us Together" was a huge hit that year. At least it was in San Angelo, Texas. Shanna and I didn't say much on the way to the corner store.

When we got there we rushed in to get our one of a kind Slurpees. Another cool thing about that beverage is that you got to make your own. As a kid you didn't get to do much on your own so this was waaaay cool. After we got our drinks we walked over to the pinball machine and watched the teenagers play. I loved the sounds and lights it made. I was completely in  trance. Shanna reached over a held my hand again. Why did she keep doing that? I guess I didn't mind so much because I don't remember pulling my hand away.

We got back in the car to go home after a quick emergency refill of Slurpee. Kids invented the refill. It wasn't legal back then. But how are you going to tell two troublesome kids no. So like I was saying, we get back in the car. We must have let go of each others hand in order to get in but I'm not sure when because we were still holding hands on the way home. Her mom asked us if we wanted to listen to some of her music. Then she plopped in an eight track tape. And guess who it was? Like I said, it was a popular year for Captain and Tennille.

Shanna looks at me and asked,"So what are you going to wear to our wedding?"

The question didn't even phase me as I quickly answered, "I really really want this Batman T-shirt and my mom says we can't afford it. So I'm going to save up and buy it. I'm wearing that to our wedding."

"That's stupid. You can't wear that to our wedding. You have to wear something fancy and nice," she scolded.

"Batman is nice! It is a real nice t-shirt too!" I shot back.

"You can't wear it to our wedding."

"Why not?"

"Because you are marrying ME! That's why not! You need to wear nice shoes, a dress shirt, and a bow tie."

I sighed, "Okay. So what color dress are you wearing?"

"I'm not wearing a dress. I don't like them. Not even for you. I'm wearing A nice white shirt and white pants. I have them in my closet now." She sounded very proud of that fact.

"You can't wear white. You'll get it dirty."

"Then what color should I wear?"

I looked at my lime green frosty drink. "I think you should wear green."

"Boogers are green. I'm not wearing a booger on our wedding day." She shook her head. Then she smiled. "Hey, you wanna see who can drink their Slurpee the fastest? I'll give you a head start."

"Okay!" And I took a big gulp. A few seconds later... "OOOOOOOOUCH!"

"HA HA! Brain freeze! Your so stupid." she began to slurp on her straw.

"No I'm not"

"Yes you are," she said with more confidence than I had used. "That is another reason we need to get married. It's so I can tell you what to do."

"I don't need you tell me what to do!"

"Yes you do. All boys need to be told what to do. That's what girls do. I tell you what to do and you do it. Very simple. So you just better just get used to it."

I couldn't  win with her. I never could. So I was just content in my Slurpee and holding her hand. She was content in being right as usual.

"Your so stupid," she laughs.

"No I'm not! And if I am then why do you want to marry me?"

"That makes no sense. You either are stupid or you're not." She shook her head as if a gesture could say a thousand words. Words I have heard from her before. Then she looked out the window. "Because I like you." She held my hand tighter. I was cool with that.

After a few moments and the end of the song of the year she turns to me and said, "So do you think your parents will come to our wedding? You know, since they're not around much now."

"Shanna," Her mom interrupted, "I think that's enough talk about a wedding. You both are to young for that anyway."

"Okay," we both said. It was quiet for a little while.

Shanna's mom turned down our street for home and Shanna holds my hand even tighter and said, "Hey you wanna see who can drink their Slurpee before we pull into the driveway? I'll give you a head start."

I looked at her and said, "Okay!" You can assume what happened next.

There were more trips to the corner store that year. I heard that damn click of the eight track tape in her mother's car to the song that wouldn't fade away over and over again. Shanna and I held hands, drank Slurpees, and watched the pinball tournaments in the back of the store by the bathrooms next to the bucket of mop water. Despite what was going on at home, I felt good.

Then one day she calls me over to her house. She tells me that things are going way to fast and we have to call off the wedding. She gives me her red Ronald McDonald plastic watch to remember her by. I give her my Lime green Hamburglar watch. She hugged me. Weird. At first. I went home to my Grandmother's house. Shanna didn't tell me they were moving. A few days later she was gone. The neighborhood felt different after that. It felt like winter all the time. Cold and empty. There was no one to get in trouble with. Shanna was right. I was stupid. I never really knew what she meant with all the talk about weddings. I thought it was just a game. Why did she hug me? Why did she always want to hold hands? I didn't have a clue. But I sure missed it when she was gone.

When you are a kid you are always caught in little white lies. Everything is little when you are a kid. But suddenly things start getting bigger. No one took me to the corner store anymore. Captain and Tennille lied. Love can't keep us together. Now Shanna was gone just like everyone else in my life. I started to realize how she had managed to show me how good life was... my life... our life. Then one day it's all gone and all your left with is a stupid song in your head.

My mom came back for my sister and me a few months later. My parents tried the family thing again a few months after that. I always thought my mom and dad needed to hear that song. Maybe there life together would have been as simple as mine Shanna's was. Maybe not. My parents are still together and now I have my own family. I wonder how Shanna's life turned out. All I know is that I'll always remember her whenever I walk into a convenient store that has a Slurpee machine. I'll think of her when I smell the mixture of mop water, motor oil, bad air fresheners, and cheesy nachos accompanied by the sounds and lights of a pinball machine. It is funny how some of the weirdest things help you to remember some pretty good times. And they may not have been long winded but they are times just as important in developing who you are. Apparently this song reminds me of my buddy Shanna too. It is such bad song, but It made me realize in my car that was stopped at the green light the other day that I AM stupid. Love does keep us together if only for a short moment in time in our hearts. Do you remember when the coolest thing in the world was holding hands. I do. I need to remember to do more of that.

So, for old times sake, as Humphery Bogart once said, "Play it again Sam."

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