Cast of Characters (Chance, 1.3)

 

There’s a saying that every seven years, you become a new person.

It’s reflected in the scientific truth that apparently every seven years, all the cells in your body are replaced with new ones, making you literally a new person.

It’s also true in a human development sense. I don’t remember where I read this or all the details, but the gist is that as a human you go through phases that are seven years long, bookended by drastic neurological growth and / or transformative events in your life.

That’s my only explanation for what happened to me that summer and fall of 2008 at 21, when my social life inexplicably blew up.

That summer I had flings and flirtations with the following boys:

Alex, The First Love Ex. I was sleeping over at his house several nights a week. We were having dinner, camping in his backyard, taking trips to the beach, to the city, to the mountains, etc. etc. (We were not together.)

Holden, The Toxic Ex. I was trying and failing most of that summer to keep him at arm’s length, but we were in touch online. he visited me once on the condition that we wouldn’t have sex, but We Did Anyway. we were both in our college town at the same time, and had an awkward walk and talk before I drove by him as he kissed another girl.

Lije, a friend of B’s. we cooked dinner, took walks, went to the beach, watched half a movie, and got to third base on two nights, before I fled his house and vanished from his life forever.

Gene, Vlad and Dima, also friends of B’s. Gene was picking me up and swinging me around and in general competing to take me home on that night I went with Lije (and then abandoned him). Vlad and Dima were also competing but in a less hard-charging way, mostly jostling for my attention and for positions where they could put their arms around me.

Jeremy, my childhood friend from the Days of the Fort Down the Hill from the Playground. At a party at his house one night he took me by surprise and kissed me, although he had a fiancee.

Besides boys, I had met my first female soulmate, Ali, in June. Ali, if you didn’t read the posts about her or don’t remember, was that beautiful, pixie-like girl with the throaty voice who was always laughing at a joke no one got, who had kissed Holden and then become my best friend.

We moved in together that fall with Kayla (another girl who had both kissed Holden and become a close friend, although in reverse order, in case you’ve forgotten). Nearly every night that September, the three of us were together, cooking dinner, watching movies, buying groceries at the Chopper and curtains at Target, drinking wine.

Kayla soon went MIA, staying over at her Motorcycle Man’s place every night, but autumn winds soon blew in a whole new dizzying swirl of people:

I started spending more time with Sam, a gay Latino guy who’d been in my Spanish class, whose favorite activities were dancing with much hip-swinging, singing as loud as he could, judging people, getting offended and laughing hysterically.

Sam introduced me to his best friend Samantha, a Long Island girl with long, frizzy hair dyed copper-red who managed to be both extremely worldly and oddly childlike. One night I was lying on the grass outside the English department building, looking up at the stars; she happened to walk by, and lay down next to me without question or comment.

The three of us became inseparable, going downtown and dancing, going for drives in Sam’s car with the radio turned up so loud the whole car shook, drinking rum in Samantha’s dorm.

Sometimes we were joined by Ali’s friend George, a homeless musician who had asked to “be my wolfie” that summer and still held a torch for me.

A few times we were joined by Samantha’s friend Marv, who was a writer like me (theoretically; I hadn’t written a word in years).  Marv had been a London freshman with Samantha, and had suffered a schizophrenic episode where he thought he was Jesus. Samantha stayed with him and took care of him until his mom flew in.

Marv was a chain-smoker; he would leave our marathon hours-long conversations every half hour or so to go outside for a cigarette. This gave him the constant smell of smoke, as well as taste, as I found out one drunken night in my room when Marv started pushing me and Samantha down on the bed in turn and shoving his tongue down our throats. We kept telling him to stop but he didn’t seem to understand and kept laughing.

Later that night, as we all ran around the park and climbed trees, Marv kept coming up behind me and wrapping his hands around my neck, or sliding them down the front of my shirt. In the morning, he was trying to get me alone in my apartment and wouldn’t leave. We had to physically kick him out.

We stopped hanging out with Marv after that.

There were a lot of new things that fall. I was living in my first apartment. I was interning for a daily newspaper. I’d cut my hair short and streaked it red earlier that summer. I was single for the first time in five years.

But as always, it was people who created the biggest shifts in my life. Sam and Samantha, by creating this constant, easy friend group I’d never had before. Ali, who was opening my mind and heart to the magic in the world.

And then there was the last person we met that fall, before Chance, the person who would destroy our friend group forever and usher me into the next phase of my life.

Eben.

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“Those guys look sketchy” (Chance, 1.2)

A/N

This post, and many of the Chance posts that will follow, were originally written about eight years ago — just months or weeks or sometimes days after the events they’re describing. Which is why you will see Chance described in a certain tone, that does not reflect how I feel about him today.

Forgive the slight overlap with my first Chance post, and with my Holden series, in terms of this Price Chopper parking lot scene. (Interesting to see how my memory of that day differs from my memory of it now, though.)

~*~

it’s easy to remember the night I officially met Chance.

it is not so easy to remember the day I ACTUALLY met Chance, which I gradually came to realize was much earlier. the funny thing is that I encountered him at least twice without remembering him afterward.

the first time was apparently in the parking lot of the local Price Chopper on my first weekend in town that summer… the weekend I met Ali. the DAY I met her, I believe.

“speak of the devil,” Ali said to me that evening, as a small group of young adults across the parking lot turned their heads to watch us approach.

“what?” I asked.

“it’s Adam.”

she’d been dropping his name since I met her early that afternoon — Adam, the guy with whom she’d been tumultuously involved until a short time ago.

Ali, Kayla and I joined Adam and his companions. greetings were exchanged.

Adam was a clean-cut, earnest young gentleman in a button-down shirt. I don’t remember the faces of his friends — I only recall that they didn’t speak to us right away, only looked at us for several long moments, assessing us.

then the short niceties were dropped. they didn’t seem particularly interested in striking up a conversation. I remember the super-cool vibes I got from them, and I was intimidated… I felt very young. or insectlike.

I now know that Adam’s two friends that day were Chance and his girlfriend Nadia, who is now a legend.

Ali stayed out in the parking lot talking to them while Adam went inside with me and Kayla. I later had to go back out for Ali after our attempt at buying booze was unsuccessful… I don’t remember if Chance and Nadia were still with her.

“I remember every time I met you before that night at my house,” Chance told me one day, matter-of-factly as usual. “I remember every single thing you said.”

one of Chance’s many skills (in addition to picking locks, hypnotizing people, treating hypothermia [ha], giving massages, and a host of others) is remembering things. he has very good memory. it unnerved me when I thought back to all the stupid things I probably said around him that I can’t even recall now — things that enter into his judgment of me along with everything else.

Chance said he actually spoke to me in the parking lot that day — he told me I was hot. I apparently responded and seemed either angry or uncomfortable, so he backed off. I don’t remember this exchange at all. maybe I was distracted and on edge from being around Ali, whom I was still extremely cautious toward, and Kayla, who always gets to me a little. maybe they just blended into the friends-of-friends category.

in any case, Chance said he and Nadia thought I was cool and some kind of punk. that surprises me. I went a little punk later that summer when I cut my hair short, highlighted it red and started dressing all grungy, but that day I was dressed for the interview I’d had at the daily newspaper that morning — brown ballet flats, pretty slick dark jeans (which Chance would later tell me he liked), my most nice-girl sleeveless trapeze top (flowy, floral, blue and white)(Chance also likes it… ha), and snappy brown blazer… with my hair, still very long at that point, in pigtails.

it was my moment of least-punkness that weekend, so I’m at a loss. I mean, by the end of that weekend I was wearing torn jeans, an asymmetrical top and that much-loved, paint-spattered oversize flannel shirt that Ali gave to me (after stealing it from someone else)… but at that point I was very much the sweet-looking girl. so clearly something is amiss.

I also clearly remember the second time I met Chance.

it was the night Ali arrived in Saratoga a week or so into the fall semester. she and I and my friend Samantha (I had just introduced the two of them) set off into the cold, clear autumn night to retrieve Ali’s laptop from our friend Tom.

we wandered hopelessly for a while trying to find his house and were just retracing our steps when we saw two guys coming our way on the other side of the street.

“those guys look sketchy,” I said nervously to Ali.

“don’t look at them,” she cautioned me.

they were clearly looking at us. when we were level with each other:

“Ali?” one of them called.

she let out a squeal. “it’s YOU! and we thought you were SKETCHY!”

I don’t remember exactly who the two of them were… I think one of them was a guy (Ed) I met recently at Chance’s house, very nice and a little dorky. the other one may have been Chance himself. I can almost hear the peculiar questioning timbre of his voice coming out of the darkness. plus he immediately invited us over to blaze —

(“what’s it mean to blaze?” I asked in an undertone.

“HA!” said Ali.

“it means to smoke,” Ed said kindly.)

— and that is characteristic of Chance, as well as the gentlemanly gesture of accompanying us for part of our way, the earnestly warning us about Tom’s (actually) sketchy house and housemate, and the extra mile of arranging to wait at an intersection while we completed our errand.

I DO remember interacting with Chance later that night when we all went back to his place. he was surprised to find that I hadn’t smoked before, but he was very kind and gave me tips — and then a drink when I began to cough my lungs up — and even rolled a blunt in honor of my smoking initiation (they’d been smoking spliffs before, which had been making me cough more due to being harsher).

then he made me and Samantha elaborate grilled cheeses. I remember being impressed by his hosting skills and categorizing him as one of those unusual (though not unheard) of people who just do nice things for other people.

my theory as to why I didn’t remember Chance at all the first time I met him was because I was in a bad state, met him so briefly, and was paying all my attention to other people and things. as for the second time, he was again one in a group… though I have less of an excuse for that time because I should have remembered his generosity, at least.

(and I did… I just didn’t attach it to a name, or even connect it back to Chance until long after I met him the third time.)

my other theory about why I didn’t mark him in my mind the second time is for the same reason as the final time, the time that stuck: I wasn’t seriously considering him.

I had him pegged as kind of a goof, always horsing around and cracking jokes and saying deliberately stupid things. he was also so decidedly OTHER that he wasn’t even on my radar — he was older, a lot older, in Ali’s stage of life, not mine… he had his own apartment, which was rather run-down, and our lives had no common points.

so that is probably why I didn’t remember meeting him until the third time — which is the story I intended to tell anyway, but now I’m a little sad because it reminds me that I blew off going to see him yesterday when he called at 2 a.m. and he didn’t call today and it frustrates me that his not calling can affect my mood.

I need to get a life.

-2009