My friendships remained strained after the fiasco with Dana finally died down. Aaron, my best friend, was the only person not thrown for a loop by the situation. Four years and two grade-levels my senior, Aaron had his head on straight… most of the time. His parents were in the midst of an ugly divorce when his first serious girlfriend broke things off unexpectedly. He bore these emotional burdens in relative silence, becoming vehemently opposed to spending time in the presence of cute, potentially interested girls — until he met someone new.
“So there was this girl at Jerry’s this weekend…” Aaron said. I begged him for details. Jerry was a rich kid with negligent parents, colloquially known as “Jerry the Jew.” The nickname was not chosen to reference his family’s religion so much as it was to reinforce the notion that they had more money than God. While my group of friends was relegated to partying in our parents’ basements, painfully aware of the adults lurking nearby and ready to pop downstairs at the first sign of fun, Jerry’s parents provided zero supervision and gave him free reign of the house, along with their bank accounts. His parties were not to be missed, a safe haven for underage drinking and making out in the dark.
Was it the unfamiliar face, short blue hair, or allure of her Rubenesque curves that caught Aaron’s eye? He wasn’t sure. Fina — short for Josefina — was a recent transplant to our milky-white suburb from New York City. Few boys caught onto that charming detail, too overwhelmed by her massive assets to hear a word coming out of her mouth. It was just as well — this provided the perfect excuse for her to ask Aaron for a ride home. Still wary of the fairer sex, he turned down her repeated sexual overtures before dropping her off in front the McMansion she now called home.
Aaron told the story of meeting Fina on an infinite loop that lasted for weeks after they met. Just when I thought I couldn’t bear to hear the tale one more time, he worked up the courage to ask her out. Pandering to Fina’s affinity for the East Coast rave scene she left behind, Aaron invited her to Tryy2k. This laughably-named gay club served as the centerpiece for our paltry party scene. Their events, advertised as “16 & up,” provided entry to minors as well as a small room in the back that served alcohol all night, provided you had proper ID and didn’t venture beyond the dedicated safe zone.
Despite their confusing age allowances, T2k stayed under the radar of the local drug task force while wrangling a consistently impressive DJ line-up. The place was always packed; teens in rainbow tank tops and massive Kikwear pants lined up half an hour early every Thursday, ponying up a healthy $20 to be seen at the only local party worth talking about.
Aaron arrived nervous about his date, unaware that she’d already been there for an hour. He didn’t make it more than a few steps inside before a security guard came whipping out from a back room, looking for him. The hulking, hard-bodied employee was panicked, wrists flapping emphatically as he dragged Aaron across the dance floor. In the back office, Fina was puking blood into a trashcan. Between heaves, Fina was adamant that she did not need to be taken to the hospital. The staff didn’t argue, knowing that if doctors got involved, so would cops. Public record of a 16-year-old overdosing in their club would be very bad for business. Aaron flew off the handle in the way only a hormone-laden 18-year-old high school boy can, putting his fist through one of the club’s mirrored walls. Once the management stopped threatening to kick him out, he agreed to bundle Fina up and take her home.
Barreling from downtown to the suburban sprawl, Fina lost consciousness several times before she stopped breathing. Aaron performed CPR on the side of the road before taking Fina’s phone, scrolling through the Nokia’s contact list until he found the most important entry: HOME.
Fina’s mom picked up midway through the first ring. She demanded Aaron to drive her daughter home instead of directly to the ER. After moving the deadweight of his date from the passenger’s seat of his car into her mother’s Jeep, he watched the SUV’s tail lights roar off into the night.
In the morning, Aaron showed up for class with his hand wrapped in gauze and medical tape. He avoided talking about the events of the previous night, completing his finals before quietly inviting me to accompany him home. I spent the weekend on his couch, coaxing him into revealing the details of his disastrous date and Fina’s overdose. He was, understandably, hesitant to share them with me.
Fina was discharged from the hospital several days later, though it took a month before her step-dad allowed her out of the house again. Unclipped from her parents’ short leash, Fina was quick to repay Aaron for his kindness on the desk in her dad’s home office. For all intents and purposes, they were effectively a couple. Excessive partying, innumerable plastic pony bead bracelets, and questionable sexual encounters filled the next eight months. There was so much ground for them to cover before Aaron left for college in the fall.
School picked up right where it left off after Aaron moved. Fina and I spent an increasing amount of time together, lamenting the absence of our over-protective do-gooder. Inexplicably, Fina began calling me by the nickname Dana had given me the year before. It was a nagging reminder that I had been thrown aside by the girl to whom I’d professed my love. But I didn’t correct her — Fina had her own ideas about how to dull the sting of lingering heartbreak.
We spent a lot of time with a group of friends she’d made on the campus of a local community college, snorting and smoking whatever they happened to put in front of us. Without Aaron to rein me in, I followed Fina’s lead, sure that she would not steer me wrong.
The nature of our friendship changed, slowly. On our way home from parties that went past dawn, we’d pile into the back of overly full minivans, taking turns sitting in each other’s laps, snuggling before succumbing to exhaustion.
Somewhat-chaste kisses relegated to the end of late nights escalated toward something stronger, something that urged us to lace our hands together during movies, to stop excusing our tenderness as some facet of the drugs we were on instead of genuine intimacy.
I knew Fina had ‘been with’ girls before, and wasn’t all that surprised when she told me that before her step-father came into the picture, her mother, too, had shared her bed with another woman. Fina’s mother looked suspiciously like a trophy wife; thin, pretty and soft-spoken with a lush, unidentifiable Spanish accent. She was a striking contrast to the bubbly, cobalt-haired partygirl I’d been seeing.
Fina revealed that her mother had ditched her lady lover to wed the wealthy executive who she and her friends now knew as her ‘dad.’ Upon delivering a male namesake, Fina’s mom sealed the deal that ensured a free ride into the more expensive gated communities suburbia had to offer for both her and her daughter.
This wouldn’t have been so bad had Fina’s step-dad not had a violent temper, partially brought on by his Enron-exec-styled coke habit, the rest being rooted in good ol’ boy machismo.
Her parents were wary of me, knowing that I hung around with the same group of kids they deemed responsible for Fina’s near-death experience and ensuing hospital visit. Our sleepovers were few and far between. This made us doubly determined to make the most of the rare privacy given to us.
The first time Fina went down on me, we had just finished addressing the fact that her mother was standing in a doorway down the hall, listening in. From between my legs, Fina held a finger to her lips before scooting to the foot of the bed. Her already ample bust doubled in size as she flattened herself onto the mattress. I didn’t know what to do, other than watch.
Tentatively, the tip of her tongue touched my skin. Her big brown eyes looked up expectantly — as if I had any idea what she was supposed to be doing. I didn’t experience even the first tingling of orgasm. There was no big finish. When her mother knocked at the door after the first few minutes, it was actually a relief. I was spared the embarrassment of my body’s lack of reaction, and Fina the assumed responsibility for not making me come.
The distance between Aaron and I became greater the longer I shared Fina’s bed. He attempted to survive his freshman year out of state while I struggled to find something — anything — that would make high school suck less. The only solution I found happened to be fucking my best friend’s girlfriend. She never seemed to come up when Aaron and I talked, fooling ourselves into believing our threadbare, internet-based conversations counted as “catching up.”
Considering how small our circle of friends was, it was inevitable that Aaron was going to hear about the pubic displays of affection between his girlfriend and me. In the midst of a typical teenage relationship squabble, Fina sent Aaron an email graphically detailing an amorous encounter with a popsicle.
Though I was sure that such an event had not occurred — at least, not with me — I couldn’t deny sleeping with her. The conversation didn’t take long. Aaron told me never to speak to him again and signed offline.
Guilt-ridden, I ran from the argument into the arms of our mutual lover. Between caresses, Fina assured me she hadn’t said anything about popsicles. Eager to believe her, I allowed my doubts to be quieted. Fall faded to winter, and I spent the colder months wrapped in the blissful cocoon of a teen girl romance.
When Fina’s mom caught us kissing outside the mall in broad daylight, our regular sleepovers were brought to a screeching halt. Neither of us had the energy to balance study groups, late nights lost to writing papers, all-weekend benders and battling the accusations of homosexuality angrily articulated by her mother.
I knew we were on the outs when I rode along with a friend to pick her up and found myself sitting next to her new beau, a chubby ne’er-do-well from a nearby high school with bleached hair and a permanently stuffy nose. The ride was only made more awkward by the song my friend chose to blare on repeat: an insufferable techno remix of the Speed Racer theme. The song started anew as we stopped in front of an unfamiliar house to let Fina and her new friend out, and I watched them walk inside with sudden, painful understanding of the position I’d put Aaron in.