Never Been Kissed Michigan: Pool Sharks and Broken Hearts
thenameselodie is a pool-playin' hustla; she'll win the game, but will she get the guy?—Sparkitors
Last week I was at my friend Holly’s house, engaged in one of the most ancient of female traditions: trying on outfits in anticipation of what I call a Maybe Date. A Maybe Date occurs when plans are made between two parties, and it might be a date, but neither party thought to clarify while finalizing said plans. Consequently, the ambiguity of the Maybe Date causes extreme stress, which culminated in Holly kicking down the door and yelling, “Screw it, I’m not going!”
I was talking her off the ledge with a cute shirt and some heels when I got a call—it was another friend, Allison. She threw all those “hey how’s it going” formalities out the window and shouted, “NOAH INVITED ME TO A BAND PARTY!”
"A band party?"
She explained to me that Noah (her crush) was throwing a surprise party for another band kid and that she had been invited, but she needed me “for support,” despite the fact that I wasn’t a band kid and would likely be the subject of the question, “Who the hell is that girl? Did anyone even invite her?”
So Friday night found the two of us driving all around town in search of this party. Allison was panicking; I was sitting in the passenger seat, struggling to make a card for the birthday boy, with whom I’d had about one conversation, so the card turned out like this: “Happy birthday Ben. We’re making this card on the way to your house, which by the way is very hard to find.”
“I’m starting to think this place doesn’t exist,” Allison fretted, pounding her fist on the steering wheel in frustration.
But it did, and we found it, and Allison and I spent the first twenty minutes hunched over the snack table. There was a game of Euchre going on somewhere, and a few guys started playing pool. Allison and I played Air Hockey—my technique was violent but unpolished, so I lost magnificently—until Noah meandered over. As I watched Allison laugh at his lame jokes and watched Noah make lame jokes specifically for her benefit, it became clear to me that I should vacate the area. I slipped away and stood irresolute at the snack table, feeling… lonely. Allison had a crush who clearly liked her too. Holly had a Maybe Date. Even my little brother had just progressed to the “casual texting” stage with his French class crush. Where the hell was my romance?
I watched the party whoosh by for a few more seconds before wandering over to the pool table. I asked tentatively if I could join the next game. The wholly unenthusiastic “sure,” coupled with the exchange of this I-guess-we-have-to-let-her-play look, did not make me feel particularly welcome. But I just smiled brightly until it was my turn, and then I transformed into Elodie the Badass (she emerges when the moon is full, or when there is pool to be played) and sank one, two, then three balls. There were dropped jaws and shocked expressions all around.
“We didn’t know you were good,” said one guy, Ace, but he was grinning and he gave me a high-five.
“Well, thanks,” I said sarcastically, slapping him on the back and going way overboard in my trying-to-be-one-of-the-guys technique, but it blew over. And so began the longest pool game of my life. I can only say, Sparklers, that after this game, Ace, Stephen, Jack, Ben and I shared a bond much like the one shared between victims of a plane crush or some other trauma. We were playing with these ridiculous rules where we started over every time someone scratched. Considering that we had a very loose interpretation of the word "scratching," this game could potentially go on forever. Whenever Ace got overzealous and shot the ball off the table, everyone groaned; whenever Stephen failed to hit anything at all, we berated him. Whenever Allison (who came to watch) asked, “What are the rules again?” we threw chalk at her. Ace and I regularly had sword fights with our pool sticks, and I’m sure hardcore pool players around the world cried for reasons they couldn’t explain. When Ace complained that he'd had to pee since before we started, Stephen yelled, "NOBODY PEES UNTIL THIS GAME IS OVER!"
At the one-hour mark, we changed the rules a bit. At the two-hour mark—and by now we were sick of one another and bemoaned the tragedy that brought us together—we threw out the concept of “scratching” altogether. The game finally ended, and the rest of the party (they’d been alternating between watching us and watching some sort of medley that incorporated Euchre, Spongebob Monopoly, and Twister) cheered in response.
“I feel really close to you guys now,” said Stephen, collapsing into a chair. “I feel like we all just took part in something spiritual.”
“I’m going to go take part in something spiritual,” said Ace, throwing away his stick and racing to the bathroom. “See you in ten minutes!”
The rest of the party was a blur—Ace and I staged a coup and managed to take over the Nintendo 64 in the corner. (We actually drove everyone away with our lengthy debates on the merits of various video games. Granted, it wasn’t a Napoleon-style takeover, but I’d say it counts.) We proceeded to argue and chat and whack each other playfully with controllers.
“No way,” he said. “No way. Mario Kart on the N64 absolutely sucked!”
“Hey, don’t knock it.” I threw a bomb at him in the game; he dodged it. “That game—I just threw you off the Temple, how in the world are you not dead?—was the essence of my childhood.”
He threw a bomb and killed me for good measure, then remarked with a smirk, “Well, you had a sucky childhood.”
We both agreed to have one more game of pool, just the two of us. This time there was less name-calling and jeering and high-fiving; it was a serious game. I could feel him watching as I took my shots, and I analyzed his technique as he took his. By the game’s end, he formally relinquished his title as “the best pool player in this room.” When the night was over—when the Euchre/Spongebob Monopoly/Twister game in the corner had finally wrapped up and the video games were silent—Allison and I waved good-bye to everyone. She and Noah had this awkward half-hug, half-handshake, and Ace said to me, “We need to hang out sometime. That last game wasn’t exactly conclusive.”
“Are you questioning the newly appointed Best Pool Player in This Room?”
He smiled. “You’re going to have to defend your title.”
And then we left. Allison and I were both quietly headbanging to some pop song on the radio for a good ten minutes before Allison breached the subject and asked, smiling shyly, “Do you think Noah likes me?”
“Ask again,” I said, “and I’m going to punch you in the face. How many times did you whisper that in my ear during the party? Too many.” I paused and smirked at her. “But yes, I think he likes you.”
She just smiled to herself in the semi-darkness. I rolled the window down a little, trying to figure out how best to articulate the twinge of excitement I felt in my gut, and the fact that I was smiling a little bit too. The bitter night air whipped me in the face as we flew under streetlights. There’s always been something about driving at night that I love—there’s something reckless about it, something not easily defined, and that indefinable something prompted me to say carefully, “Ace is quite a character, isn’t he?”
“He is,” she agreed. “There’s a massive chalk mark on my shirt with his name on it.”
I was on the verge of telling her—on the verge of saying I kind of, maybe had a tiny crush on Ace, and that we had so much in common it was crazy and okay, yes, so I liked him more than just a little—when she said, “Yeah, did you know he’s going out with Lydia Masters? Isn’t that bizarre?”
This is, quite literally, the story of my life. There has to be some kind of limit on the amount of times you find out the guy is interested in someone else. But I haven’t given up hope! Far from it—this just proves that if I can meet a suitable guy at a party when I had previously planned to eat Oreos and watch reruns of House all night, then anything is possible.
UPDATES: Spencer has a Maybe Girlfriend (see definition for “Maybe Date”). And I talked it out with Peter. I explained (nicely, I hope) that I would only ever see him as the eight-year-old kid who projectile-vomited marshmallows into the sink one time on a dare while I was babysitting. (His mother wasn’t pleased.)
LYDIA MASTERS?! WHYYYYYYYYYYY? But you've got the perfect attitude, Elodie; don't worry about Ace, we know there's someone out there who's perfect for you!
Related post: NBK Michigan