I walked into Morgan and Tara’s housewarming last night and the past slipped a banana peel under my heel and I pratfalled (pratfell) directly into 1988.
Angus and Jane were there, down from the Queen Charlottes. When I was in Grade Nine, Angus loaned me my very first Led Zeppelin album (Yes, it was a record. ‘Hot Dog’ had a skip in it so I didn’t record it on my tape and thus never discovered the song for several years.) and Jane and I once had a ski race wherein I skied into a pole in the lift lineup and sustained a mild concussion.
Angus gestured to the slightly burly man leaning on the counter.”This is Sam. Russel.” And I was completely addled for about an hour.
Sam was simply the coolest boy we could imagine when we were fifteen. He skipped class to do stretches and martial arts. He wore all black. he had long hair and guarded brown eyes. In shop class, he made a Samurai sword. (Wears all black and makes a Samurai sword? Today he would have been flagged for psychological assessment, but back in the Neverneverland of the Eighties, before Columbine, that was fine.) He didn’t talk much. Sometimes he half-smiled at someone’s joke. He was perfect crush fodder for angsty teenage girls.
“Are you really?” I gasped. He laughed. I examined him, trying to find evidence of that teenage enigma.
“No one’s ever asked me that before, when introduced to me,” he offered after a while.
I laughed and made some mention of him being in the Mossad and so hard to spot, but since he didn’t know what the Mossad was, it kind of fell flat.
I chatted and smiled and drank some sangria, and covertly, I watched Sam for some sign that he was that boy. You know where I found it? His body language. Fifty pounds and two decades later, and he still stands the same way, feet slightly splayed, pelvis relaxed, arms crossed.
But those loafers? Black and glossy as a beetle’s carapace. They belonged on some kind of salesperson. I didn’t have the ‘So, what do you do?” conversation with him (largely out of nerves on my part, couldn’t I think of something more original?) but those shoes broke my heart a little bit. Gorgeous Sam, doing the splits on the grass, should never do anything as prosaic as sell things.
A little while later he grabbed another beer from the fridge. “I’m doing the world tour of non-alcoholic beer,” he informed me quietly. In a massive conversational hemorrhage, I came back with, “I don’t drink nonalcoholic wine. There are too many juices and stuff to fill the gap.” “Too much sugar,” he replied.
Sometimes in the past twenty years, I have asked myself, “What would I do if I ever saw Sam Russell again?” Be friendly and open? Act charming and relaxed? Smile mysteriously? No. The answer is clear. I would make a fool of myself. And I did.