Jordan had convinced me. Well, he’d told me a story, and when I looked at my conundrum from a different perspective, it was much easier for me to see what I needed to do. The surprising thing was how obvious it had been to him. But that I needed to break up with Jessica was now clear even to me.
That was so much easier to say, to realize, to accept, than to do. There were many good reasons not to do that. Jessica was a force of nature. That was, in fact, why we were going together. She’d asked me. I’d never have asked her. She was popular and dynamic and hot. I was none of those. I wasn’t really shy, but I did know my place in the teen-centric world I inhabited. She was a class above me, not in years but in substance. I was just another kid at school. I think she saw something that I wasn’t aware of.
She’d watched a number of boys before making her pick. What she’d wanted was someone who’d be easy to control, would be acceptable to the crowd, and who wouldn’t reduce her status; someone she could mold into what she wanted a boyfriend to be. She saw that in me. Why, I didn’t know, and the fact was she’d only been partly wise in her choice. I did have my own thoughts and personality and stood up for myself and did it to a degree that she hadn’t thought I was capable of. That strength of character was what would give me the courage to dump her.
She’d made it clear that she was interested in me. Girls have wiles. Young teen boys don’t. Well, nothing like girls do. We’re kind of innocent, and most of us are a little dorky and lacking much confidence. Smooth operators we’re not. Many of us have zero poise or couth when it comes to girls. We like looking at them but from afar. They’re mysterious creatures and could be aliens for all we know about them. If they talk to us, it’s easy for us to become tongue-tied and fidgety and very ill at ease. Why do so many of them enjoy screwing with us like that?
She’d started subtly flirting with me. She’d probably known that anything overt would scare me to death. I was into boy things—soccer was high on my list of who I was and wanted to do—and girls seemed far off in the distance and unapproachable. What would I say to one? Why would I want to be talking to one in the first place? Sure, I had sex on my mind a lot and a graphic imagination, but that was all in my head, and she was live flesh and blood. So different!
So she more or less seduced me into being her boyfriend. Started by just being friendly in a very nonassertive way, the only way I could respond to without tripping over my own feet.
Mike was already far ahead of me in the boy-girl relationship. He’d met Maryann after having a crush on her which I’d never understood. When I questioned what he saw in her, why he was interested, he told me I was a late bloomer and I’d understand soon enough, so there was no reason to try to explain it to me. But he was into her, and as soon as she made it clear she was into him, too, he had her sit with us at lunch. And soon thereafter, Jessica was sitting with us, too.
Jessica was smart, saw how I was, and got me talking about why such and such happened on the soccer field; I could talk about that without my tongue getting tangled up in knots. That went on a while, and I got used to her. When Mike told me that we were going on a double date and that I was going to ask Jessica— the order having come from above, meaning the two girls—I didn’t have a problem asking Jessica. To me, it wasn’t anything romantic, just a movie I wanted to see, and Jessica was good company.
It progressed, of course, which was her doing much more than it was mine.
I’d liked having a girlfriend when that finally was officially decided and announced. I liked what that meant for me at school. I actually liked our rudimentary sex play, too. I liked that she enjoyed getting me hard, touching me. I liked feeling her breasts, which she seemed to like more than I thought reasonable. They were just breasts. When I touched mine, it was no different from touching the rest of my chest. Were hers so different? All I knew was she’d moan and squirm and act like I did when I was playing with myself in bed. I wondered if this was an act she was putting on for me. It was a breast, for heaven’s sake!
I liked her touching me much more than I liked touching her, especially down there, but all boys felt like that, didn’t they? Well, I had no one to ask but Mike, but somehow, though I could and did talk to him about almost everything, asking him if he liked touching Maryann down there just, well, that seemed too personal, too invasive maybe, too borderline insensitive. I didn’t think one was supposed to ask questions like that about a guy’s girlfriend, not one he seemed to be liking more and more as time passed. What he thought about her private parts was private, wasn’t it? Anyway, I was pretty sure I was right. I was sure boys liked being touched more than touching but thought Mike would look at me funny if I asked him for verification of that. It just made sense, so why ask? But I liked Jessica fondling me and so I fondled her without much finding much joy in doing so, doing it more in a quid pro quo sort of way.
But the whole thing, being boyfriend and girlfriend, holding hands in school, finding a place to make out where we wouldn’t be interrupted, where we’d have some privacy, just the four of us because everything I did with Jessica was on a double date, was all very exciting for an innocent like myself.
When we were able to make out, there was the touching-and-feeling-and- rubbing part, the loss of some-but-not-all-clothing part, the looking-at-things-that-weren’t-usually-bared-and-hadn’t-been-seen-before part. Too, I liked the excitement of the possibly-being-caught part that was always in the back of my mind. All those were good, the good parts of the relationship. The less-than-good things came as I got to know Jessica better, and she started losing her softer, nicer personality and became bossier. She wanted me to be at her beck and call, assumed I’d be a pushover in whatever she wanted. She began to act like she owned me.
Breaking up with her would be the right thing to do, and the more I thought about it, the more fixed that became in my mind. I began to see the breakup more clearly, see how right it was. Now all I had to do was figure out how to do it.
She was going to be unhappy. Well, she was going to be pissed. She wasn’t all that pleasant when she was happy. Pissed? Oh, I so I wished I could do it on the phone! In person, I was risking life and limb. She could get physical when she was mad.
But both Mike and Jordan convinced me I had to face her. Mike had been surprised when, the day after Jordan had convinced me this was what I needed to do, I’d told him I was contemplating breaking it off with her. But I’d explained why, and he’d finally seen it from my perspective and agreed breaking up was the right thing to do. He’d noticed her becoming bossy and pushy. I was surprised he understood and was on my side and thankful he was. He said he thought I’d be better off with a softer girl, a more compliant one. That really, really helped. I cared about what Mike thought. Plus, he knew girls better that I did.
But he agreed with Jordan that the dumping had be done face to face. And he laughed, laughed, because he said she wouldn’t be expecting it for the simple reason that she wouldn’t think I’d have the balls to do it. I didn’t see why; she’d had her hands on my balls and damn well knew I had a pair. But I could see their point. If I did this in one of the several ways that made chickening out possible, like over the phone or in an email or by hiring a skywriter, she’d be able to tell everyone what a wimp I was, that I’d been unable to tell her to her face. If I did it right, talking to her, explaining myself, at least she couldn’t hold my timidity against me.
Their opinion was that it was better to do it quickly than put it off. The sooner I did it, the sooner it would be behind me, and I could be done with it. Move on. Yes, I’d very much like to be able to move on and get far, far away from Jessica.
But I had to plan how to approach her. I could see disaster if I screwed this up. She could be vindictive when unhappy. She probably would be no matter how I did it, but it was best to have a plan.
I arranged to meet with Jessica at a cafe that didn’t cater to the high-school crowd. I didn’t want anyone either of us knew to be anywhere near when I dropped this bomb. It could be bad, and I didn’t want witnesses.
She’d agreed to meet me at 10:30 in the morning on Monday. I’d called her Sunday evening after talking it over with Jordan and Mike much of the day. She’d said she’d be there. Breakfast was mostly over when I got there, and lunch hadn’t started, which was just what I’d hoped for. There were only a few people still eating, and most of the booths were empty. I chose a booth because it would be more restrictive than a table. It would be easy for someone to jump up from their chair at a table and land a right cross to my head; harder to do that sitting in a booth.
Not that I thought that Jessica would hit me. Well, I didn’t think the chances were higher than fifty-fifty. Or only a little.
She came in about ten minutes late. That was about normal for her. She liked to keep people waiting for her and to make a grand entrance.
She’d wanted to go out with me on Saturday night, and I’d told her I thought I was coming down with something—I was coughing and sniffling—and if I was getting a cold, I didn’t want her to catch it. I told her when it cleared up, I’d call her, and maybe we could get breakfast together. Then, I’d made that call on Sunday. 10:30 wasn’t late for breakfast for kids our age; actually, it was a little early.
She’d asked why I chose this particular cafe as it was off the beaten track, and I’d told her that I had a surprise for her and she needed to meet me there. I was proud of that response. If I’d not come up with some mysterious and maybe exciting reason for this cafe, she might have figured out what I was about to hit her with. But expecting a surprise, she’d think she’d be getting something good.
The cafe was a little fancier than the ones kids from the high school attended. The booths had black vinyl cushions and high wooden backs on the seats, so they were more private than booths generally were. The floor was alternating black and white vinyl tiles. There was a counter with stools, and the place was light and comfortable and very clean. I thought the atmosphere was such that it would preclude any violence from anyone who happened to get dumped there. It was not the sort of place someone would be prone to start a melee.
She sat down across from me in the booth I’d chosen. I picked a booth not just because it would help keep her in her place once my announcement was made. A booth would make talking easier if she sat across from me, where she’d be most likely to plunk herself down. It was easier to talk when sitting across from someone, but I was thinking of another benefit I’d have, sitting that way: she’d be farther away from me physically.
“What are you ordering?” she asked.
“Well, I wanted to talk to you first before we ordered.”
“Jessica, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. You’re wonderful, the best girlfriend a guy could have, much better than I deserve. But you’re much more serious about dating than I am. You want to move forward more quickly, and I’m not ready for that. I think you ought to date an older guy who’s more mature than I am.”
“What?” I didn’t like the way she raised her voice but wasn’t surprised. She almost always got loud when she was upset; the setting didn’t matter to her.
“Are you breaking up with me?” Her face started to redden. I’d have liked to move backward, but the booth restricted me as much as it did her.
“I guess so. I really like you but don’t think we’re in the same place. You’re looking for more in a boyfriend than I’m able to give or actually want to give right now. I want to concentrate on soccer and school. You’re more into the relationship than I am.”
Her eyes got big and her face redder. “You bastard,” she screamed.
Yeah, screamed. I was very happy there was no cup of hot coffee or chocolate on the table to fling at me. The few people who were in the cafe turned to look at her. She didn’t mind. She liked an audience. “You can’t do this,” she yelled. “We’re a couple. That’s how kids look at us. You can’t dump me. I cannot be dumped! You’ll be sorry. I’ll make sure of that. No way anyone will believe you dumped me. I’ll tell everyone what a pussy you are, and I just couldn’t be with someone like that. I’ll say you can’t even get it up. That it’s tiny, and you can’t get hard. That’s it! I’ll tell them you’re gay and that I broke up with you because of that.” She was still shouting, shouting so loudly that everyone in the cafe could hear. A man came out of the kitchen and stood behind the counter, looking at us. I was so happy there weren’t any kids from school around.
I didn’t know what to say to her. I’m not sure she’d have heard whatever it was. She was enjoying her own tirade too much. But I felt myself sort of shrinking. I wasn’t gay, but how would I fight off that accusation at school? I didn’t stand up to teasing well. She could paint a vivid picture of how our dating had gone. How I hadn’t responded when we’d been making out, and the reason I’d never gotten aroused was because I was gay. And how I’d tried to hide it by dating a girl.
It would be awful.
I was just sitting, lost in my thoughts, looking at her but only seeing what was in my imagination, when I had to slide over in the booth. I came out of my head enough to realize what was happening. The plan we’d made Sundat night was being put into effect.
I had to slide over because we were joined by someone: Mike.
We three friends had talked over how this breakup would go, and we’d decided I’d need help. What I’d expected to happen was what had happened but to a greater degree than I’d thought possible. I’d told them I’d need backup. We’d discussed who would be best and decided Mike should be there in case I needed it. Just what he was going to do had been left wide open. Hard to plan your defense when you have no idea what sort of offense you’ll be facing. But he’d said he’d be there, and I trusted him, even knowing how he hated arguments and confrontations.
I’d been tickled that Jordan was willing to help but thought about how shy he was with strangers and how facing an angry Jessica wasn’t something he was built for. No, Mike would make a better wingman.
So here he was to help me. I was happy to see him because I was tongue-tied and Jessica wasn’t. She was ready to continue her loud attack, and I was just sitting there, speechless. So Mike—my pseudo-brother, my best friend—appearing just when I needed him most, was more than just appreciated. He was a godsend. Perfect, in fact.
Okay, not a godsend. He was there because we’d decided he might be needed and had come early with me.
Mike was a really good friend. He’d had my back for a long time now, just as I’d had his. A friend like that when you’re growing up is invaluable. Now, having heard Jessica ranting, he was angry. He’d been sitting on one of the stools with his back to the rest of the room so Jessica hadn’t known he was there. Now she did.
“So,” he began, talking over her, “You’re going to embarrass David. Out him. Ruin his life at school. Maybe get him beaten up. Maybe kicked off the soccer team. Lie about him and why? Just to soothe your bruised ego.”
He stopped but stared at her hard. She opened her mouth, began to say something, but he just talked over her again. “I don’t think that’s wise. I think if you do that, he’ll have to respond just to defend himself. And what do you think he might come up with? Hmmm?”
Jessica opened her mouth again, but then closed it. I guessed she was trying to figure out an answer to his question. Again, Mike beat her to the punch.
He looked at me this time as though gauging how I might respond. “I think he’d probably come up with lies to match the ones you were throwing out there. He might say you were into weird stuff, kinky stuff, and were pushing him to do things that were kind of disgusting, things that he didn’t want to do. I could imagine him telling people he isn’t into ass play. I can see kids cringing, then asking what else she wanted, and if David were in the right mood and the crowd was eager enough, he might even describe some of those things. Hey, if you can make up he’s gay, he can make up that you’re perverted and something of a nympho. His stories would be much more graphic than yours, and people would believe him and pass around everything he said. Even if they didn’t believe it, it would be out there and talked about. The only dates you’d get after that would be from the kind of boys those stories would appeal to. They’d want you to do those things with them. Your reputation at school would be ruined.”
Jessica was looking back and forth from Mike to me to Mike. She was the one who was speechless now. I figured it was my turn to talk. “I’m sorry this didn’t work out, Jessica. I do like you. But I’m not ready for steady dating yet. So, I guess I’ll just say goodbye.” I looked at Mike. “Let’s go, Mike.”
I slid out of the booth after him and stood up. Jessica did, too. She faced me, and I saw anger or hatred, one or the other, in her eyes, and then she hauled off and slapped my face hard, very hard, before walking away.
Tears came rushing to my eyes, and I staggered back onto the booth bench again. Mike knelt down next to me. “She hurt your feelings?” he asked, sounding concerned.
Through my tears I looked at him and said, “No, not my feelings. My face. That really hurt!”