Touch My Monkey
Those of you who have been reading for a while know me as a cynical, foul-mouthed, reformed degenerate criminal. And that's those of you who actually like me.It wasn't always like that, though. In fact, I was a relatively naive individual up until the age of, oh, fifteen or so. I don't know how many of you grew up in this region, in the small towns and rural school districts of the farming Midwest. Those of you who did, know all about the skating rink.Back in the days of my dewy youth, say 1989-ish or so, the skating rink was where it was at, and by "it", I mean a place where your mom and dad could drop you off between the hours of 6 and 10 on weekend nights and go do whatever the hell it was they did when they weren't being your mom and dad. You paid your two bucks, you strapped on your poop-colored loaner skates, and propelled yourself in ridiculous postures to bad music and slurped down bubble-gum flavored slushies and tried like hell to avoid making eye contact with those scary 9th grade girls with all the eyeliner who SMOKED, as IF, right there in the bathroom in plain sight, sitting on the counter so you couldn't wash your hands. I mean, the nerve!So there I was, a sixth-grader, eleven years old with a C-cup and about as much practical knowledge as an inbred cocker spaniel, gliding around in my acid-wash jeans and pseudo-60's-print trapeze top, because I was a fucking rebel, all right. My jeans weren't even tight-rolled, if you can believe it.And there was this boy who turned out to be about 19, after everything came out, and he smelled kind of funny like Dad's garage back in the autumns when I was much younger, and he was really tall and gangly and more than a little spotty, but for tit's sake, he told me I was pretty. Okay, so he didn't tell me I was pretty, he told his friend Greg to tell my friend April that Brandon thought I was cute. So after hyperventilating in the bathroom for an hour, I told April to tell Greg that I thought Brandon was cute, too, and then Greg told April who told me that Brandon was going to ask me to couple-skate.Oh. My. G-d. Actually couple-skating.See, I never got to do that, except once or twice when me and April, who was pretty but fat, and this scary girl named Hannah who wore Slayer T-shirts and was skinny but ass-faced ugly, would get a sugar high from the aforementioned bubblegum slushies and do a couple of defiant locked-elbows girl-trio rounds before slinking off the rink proper, cowed by the tacky lighting and moony pre-teen couples clumsily and heartbreakingly beautiful in their cow-legged courtship. Assholes.Anyway, the night wore on, I got a big old sugar buzz, the couple-skate came up. I don't remember much about it other than the fact that I had to pee really badly for the whole song, and it was the first time a boy had touched me on purpose without meaning to cause me physical pain. Thanks to the kick-ass assistant manager who would occasionally take the floor and teach one of us dorks something really cool, I was the one skating backwards, his hands on my waist and mine on his shoulders, which was awkward as hell since he was at least a foot taller than me. I'm sure we made a hilarious sight, come to think of it. At the time it wasn't magic or anything like that, I was just trying not to fall on my ass or spit in his face while I uttered the two or three sentences I managed to choke out. He said he liked me, I replied in same, because, well, I was eleven, right? Then he said I was going to be his girlfriend, and I said that was awesome, because then I could tell the girls at school I had a boyfriend just like they did, and then maybe they'd stop spitting on my cafeteria tray. Well, I didn't say all of that, but you get the idea.And it was only like fifteen minutes after the couple-skate that the place cleared out, and all of our parents pulled up to haul us back home again, and I left the rink and went to school that week wrapped up in the fact that I, Misty Pukesick (really, the kids I went to grade school with had neither imagination nor mastery of the language), had a real live boyfriend, who other people had seen, even if I didn't know his last name or how old he was or whether or not he thought it was super-retarded to like reading more than shopping. This is all background and exposition, though, because the true hilarity didn't happen until the next Saturday night, the big social event in Parsons if you were that age.I showed up at the rink in an outfit I'd actually spent time picking out, which means it was quite likely even more horrible than usual, but I can't really remember. It was on the cusp of the '90's in the rural Midwest, though, so it probably involved stirrup pants and some sort of horrible tunic/sweatshirt, and big mismatched earrings, 'cause that was my signature and all.And I skated a little, but mostly I waited for Brandon to show up, and once he did, I waited for him to talk to me, or at least for one of his friends to break off from their rink-table (did anyone else's skating rink feature those big . . . I don't know, you can't call it a bench, you can't call it a table, the only things they could have been were those big wooden spools the telephone company used to haul their cables on, bolted down to the floor and covered in the same filthy fire-toned shag wall-to-wall as the corridor floor itself) and mutter something to one of the girls at my own filthy carpet-growth.And it was about an hour before closing when it happened, after many trips to the frightening girls' room, the last of which had attracted the attention of the smut-eyed smoking girls, one of whom, in a fit of kindness and sympathy, had advised me to "Screw him and his bullshit, honey. With those tits you'll have them all wrapped around your pinky if you ever get a backbone," it happened, the departing of one brave messenger from his home camp into the strange swampy territory of hysterical Girl.In a moment of uncharacteristic courage, I stumble-slunk (that's the closest you can come to calling the movement of rink skates on matted, greasy, coated-in-sugar-rotted-beyond-sticky twelve-year-old shag carpeting, over to where I could hear the mutterings for myself."Um, Brandon says he's breaking up with Misty 'cause she won't play with his monkey.""Okay. 'Bye.""'Bye."And with that my first pubescent relationship was shattered. April started back to relay the message, but it was unnecessary. I was already making furious rounds on the rink, gaining speed and banking harder and harder and wondering what the hell was going on. This was crazy, this was the stupidest shit I'd ever heard of. And this is where I made the misguided ballsy charge that, in four or five breathless sentences, robbed me of every bit of courage that would have stood me well in the next three years.Brandon and Co. were at this time occupying a booth in the concession area of the rink. I flung myself out of the rink proper and onto the concrete floor, stormed up to them and pulled up short with a sharp little wheel-angle trick, just like I'd learned in figure skating."What do you mean, I wouldn't play with your monkey?"They all shut the hell up, and looked at me with expressions I was really too young to recognize, but there should have been something in my lizard-brain that started screaming, dammit.It didn't."I didn't know you had a monkey! I love monkeys! You never even ASKED me to play with your monkey! Where do you keep it? You bring it skating with you? Who wouldn't want to play with a monkey?"And even when they started laughing, I didn't get it. I stood there for another minute or two, dumbfounded.And when I skated off, red-faced and humiliated, I still didn't get it. I stopped going to the skating rink a few weeks after that, because everyone made "ook ook ook" monkey noises at me and skeezy older boys kept coming up and telling me that they had a monkey in the woods behind the parking lot and I should come with them to pet it. Seriously, I was that stupid at 11, I shrugged it all off as some cool-kid humor I didn't get and forgot about it, mostly (except for the object lesson that I was a weird-ass freak who nobody would ever really want to go steady with until I lost my virginity in high school and discovered the power of pussy), and just quit going. Despite that, I was known as "Monkey-Girl", "Monkey-Petter", and numerous forgettable variations on that theme for years. And all because I really wanted to play with an actual monkey, and nobody had bothered to tell me that some boys use that term for their junk.G-d bless adulthood, and experience, and the rare blessing of completely forgetting an incident until we are old enough to just crack the fuck up when we finally remember it, and get it, and tell it well.