Friday afternoon, Becky and I went to see the new James Bond movie. When we came out and checked our cell phones to see if we had missed anything important, I saw that I'd missed three calls. One was from Ex-Keith. Two were from my brother. Two.
I was shocked. My brother would rather do many unpleasant things than be forced to talk to me. He'd rather have teeth extracted, be forced to watch girly movies, work a double shift, get his hand caught in his car door. But on Friday afternoon, he called me twice. And he left a message.
"It's your dear brother," he said. "I need to ask your opinion about something. Call me back as soon as you get this."
"This can't be right," I said to both Becky and Amy after we'd gotten back to their apartment. "He doesn't care what I think about anything."
I called him back. I asked him what had come over him. I asked him what the hell his problem was. I asked him if he'd had any head trauma as of late.
"You and I had a conversation once," he said, "and you said you liked eyebrow rings."
If that was true—which I highly doubted—it had to have been ages ago, like when I was an undergraduate at Fredonia, when I had a thing for a boy in my first creative writing class. It was the first semester of sophomore year and I was still shaken because Keith had cut me loose after cheating on me with a girl he would later refer to as "Psycho." I was looking for a boy to save me from my misery. I was looking for a boy who would read my writing and think I was brilliant. Keith had never read my writing—always said he would, never did, never has—and I wanted someone who was his exact opposite. I wanted a liberal boy who liked to read.
Enter Chris from Intro to Creative Writing. He sat in the back, wore backward hats, and he wrote really awful poetry. I decided I'd ignore the bad poetry. I decided I'd take it, because it was sure better than loving a boy who refused to read anything except the sports page of the newspaper. Chris, at least, was trying.
He also had a piercing in that divot between his lips and chin. More than anything, I wanted to know what that piercing would feel like when he pressed close to me, when he kissed me. I was in love with that piercing more than I was in love with Chris's whole package. It seemed rebellious and badass. I pictured running into Keith when I was holding Chris's hand. I pictured Keith turning red with rage because there I was—his good, sweet, innocent ex-girlfriend—hanging out with a boy who had an attitude and a piercing, a boy who would rub that piercing over my lips before catching them in his own.
To catch Chris and make him my own, I did what I was capable of. I leveled what I assumed to be sultry looks in his direction during class. I said witty things . I tried to distract him from the very beautiful girl who sat by the windows—the one with the best curly blond hair I'd ever seen, the one who wore low-cut jeans that exposed the tattoo of a fairy cresting above her butt. On the last day of class I dressed up in clothes I thought a punk boy would approve of. I plaited my hair in tight braids against my head. I wore chunky shoes. I put on extra mascara. After we were dismissed, I sat and waited and prayed that after he gathered his things he would come over and ask me out. I waited, waited, waited. Chris picked up his jacket, yanked his backpack up off the floor, and walked out.
I hated that I'd never said anything directly to him. I wanted to know so badly how that piercing would have felt. Amy can certainly verify that. I used to spend thirty, forty minutes sitting in her dorm room, discussing that piercing and how I had to have it, and the boy it was attached to, for my own.
After that, though, I could have cared less about piercings, so Adam must have remembered me talking about Chris from Creative Writing and the silver stud in his face.
I told him this. "That conversation must have been forever ago," I said. I almost told him that right now if I met a cute boy who was my age and had a strange piercing I'd tell him to grow up and take the thing out of his chin, his eyebrow, his nose. I almost told him that, but I had a bad feeling, so I shut up and let him reveal why he was asking.
"Well," he said, "my friend Megan told me I'd look good with an eyebrow piercing, and I remembered what you said, and some of my other friends said it would look good on me, too, so I went and got it done this afternoon."
If I hadn't been in the movie, if I hadn't been busy coming 180 degrees on my perception of the new James Bond and his sexiness that I hadn't understood until I saw the movie, then I could've answered the phone and talked my brother out of it. But that chance was gone forever, so I did the only thing I could do. I raised my voice several octaves and tried to sound excited.
"Well, that's nice," I said. "Does it look good?"
He said it did and that his friends really liked it.
After we hung up, I told Amy and Becky what had been done. They were appalled, just like I was. Then we tried to examine why we were appalled. Hadn't we all at one point had a thing for a boy who had a non-ear piercing? Yes. Hadn't we all at one point looked at boys who sat in class with us, boys who had piercings, and thought nothing of it? Yes. Then what was our problem? Were piercings over, or was it just that we weren't nineteen years old anymore? We finally agreed it was the latter, that there is a short period of time where piercings are seen as badass and hot and cool, and then girls grow up and want a boy who has left his piercing days behind, a boy who can do his own laundry, a boy who has stopped throwing up in the bushes behind the fraternity house.
Adam's friends—girls with names like Kaylyn and Emily, names I associate with pretty blond girls who want to grow up and go to cosmetology school—are still in their piercing phase. They're a couple years out from wanting the boy who can separate his own laundry into piles according to shade and fabric. And so they talked him into it.
Last night Adam came out for our bi-weekly Family Dinner Night. It was the first time my father and I got to see the piercing. Adam walked in, looked at us, and said, "What? What? You guys are looking at me funny."
"I'm doing no such thing," my father said. He stirred his beef stroganoff. "I think someone's got a guilty conscience."
"Jesus Christ," my brother said. "Everyone hates it! This has been the week from hell! I'm sick of everyone looking at me like that!"
Apparently my mother hadn't been too fond of the piercing. Apparently her boyfriend had made fun of Adam and told him it was a stupid decision.
"I think it's fine," I said. "I think you can do whatever you want. You're twenty years old. If you like it, then that's all that matters."
And the thing was, I didn't hate it. I actually thought it was pretty cute. I looked at him and thought, Yeah. He looks alright. Of course his little girl followers would like it.
So I guess I don't really care about his piercing. I won't say anything about it, and I won't make fun of him for it. It's fine. I don't care. He can do what he wants. But I do care that the other day he said to me, "I don't have thirty dollars to split that part of Dad's Christmas present with you," to which I replied, "Alright, fine. How about you just give me what you can and I'll pay the rest?"
Two days later he went out and did this. Merry Christmas to him. That kid owes me money.