Don'tcha make my brown eyes blue
I was 15 when I started talking to Johnny, a smart, amusing techie, on a local mIRC chatroom. When he wasn't using his sarcastic wit to make me laugh, he was flattering me with mock declarations of love. There were never any breaks in our conversations, which usually went back and forth for hours late at night.
A year after our first chat, I agreed to meet Johnny in the computer section of a Barnes and Noble (the public, neutral place I usually chose when meeting people off the Internet). I arrived there a few minutes early, wearing a tight blue shirt and cute denim shorts. Though I had sent him multiple pictures of myself, Johnny had never returned the favor. He described himself as 5'11", with long hair, hazel-brown eyes, and a tiny scar on his left cheek.
I was surprised to see a tall, long-haired man already browsing the shelves of the computer section. I watched him for a couple of minutes from behind a display and approached him only after observing the small scar Johnny had mentioned. "Wow, people are hardly early when I meet them here," I said to him, flashing my best pleased-to-meet-you smile.
I talked to him excitedly, mentioning some of the more hilarious conversations we had online. We walked over to the astrology section, where I pulled out a copy of Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs," the definitive authority on the subject. I recommended he read it some time, and he nodded as he flipped through the Aries section of the book. For a second I wondered why he was reading it, since I remembered his birthday was June 28, making him a Cancer.
We also walked around the occult section of the bookstore, taking a few minutes to make observations about the more hokey vampire books. I decided he was sort of cute but a little older-looking than I had expected. We browsed the shelves full of magazines downstairs, and I made reference to his habit of using symbols for swear words. He laughed a little, seeming uncomfortable. It was then that I noticed his eyes were blue, not hazel as he had claimed.
After an hour of hanging out at Barnes and Noble, he said he had a few errands to run. He asked if there was a good place in the area to pick up a quick bite. Though I was a little offended he didn't invite me along, I directed him to the restaurant next door, which served good bagels. I gave him a hug and saw him off before returning inside to wait for my ride.
Later that night, I got online to see what Johnny had thought of our little meeting. He immediately messaged me, yelling at me for standing him up. I was understandably confused and figured he was just joking. I described our meeting in detail, but he kept on insisting I was lying. I kept asking, "Johnny, you are kidding, right?" But at this point I wasn't so sure.
Then he started laughing. He didn't stop for a few minutes, when he caught his breath long enough to type, "It wasn't me you met."
At that moment, all the little details came back to me. The astrological sign. The eye color. The older-looking face. Leaving to get lunch without me. I had written them off before, but now I felt like an idiot for not taking them more seriously. Johnny admitted that if an attractive, crazy girl approached him in a bookstore, he'd probably follow her around too.
Johnny ended up moving to Florida shortly after I left for college. We never ended up getting together for real, but seeing "him" was still the most interesting experience I've had meeting someone off the Internet.
-- Rubina Maden, Atlanta
Homecoming from hell
Senior year. High school. Let's call her Val. We'd enjoyed an hour of furious, shirtless necking in the bushes of a kegger, and she accepted my invitation to our 1979 Homecoming. I was a long-haired Robert Plant wannabe, she was a wrong-side-of-the-tracks brunette with hippie sensibilities, and we'd definitely raise the Barbie & Ken eyebrows at the dance.
And hey, maybe I'd get laid!
She called the day before and asked if her best friend (let's say "Beth") could join us; Beth's date didn't have a car. Beth was cute.
So, Saturday night: Dad's giant Olds, a navy polyester three-piece suit (with gold buttons) and a floral-print acetate shirt. I picked them up, and on the way to Beth's boyfriend's house, Val casually said, "Yeah, Todd can't drive. He just got out of jail again."
Todd was old -- a tall, scruffy wall of muscle in a wrinkled suit, complete with a stained formal shirt, open almost to the waist to display massive, weight-yard pecs. His face was already deeply lined, and his gruff voice, with its sleepy, dull slur, suggested a low IQ and a day's drinking. He had a booming laugh that sounded dangerous -- think Dim from "A Clockwork Orange." Nobody said what he'd done time for (perhaps having sex with high-school girls?).
The night began uneventfully... Todd chain-smoked and drank from a six-pack of cans. We did an obligatory five minutes at the strobe-lit school cafeteria and then headed out into the distant suburbs for a party we'd heard of at a Hilton hotel. On the way, I stopped for gas and unknowingly ran over a fuel hose when leaving and tore it from the pump. I also had one of Todd's beers on my roof.
Next stop: a restaurant, for directions to the Hilton. Val ran in (after a hearty "C'mon, Todd!"). Moments later, Val and Todd jogged out, jumped in the car, and said, "Let's go! They didn't know where it is!" They were in a noticeable hurry, and I stepped on the gas and pulled out of the lot.
Just down the road, I saw flashing lights in my mirror and pulled over.
The cops, who'd been called by the gas station, questioned me about the fuel hose (and the beer on my roof). However, we were four fairly dressed-up teens on Homecoming night, and so the cop and his partner chatted quietly about the gas station, the consensus being it likely wasn't my fault. When they returned my license, one of them said, "Hey... whose money is that?"
I followed his gaze to the front seat: between Val and myself lay a massive pile of wadded bills, spilling onto the floor. Before I could even get out a gasp, Val and Todd pointed to me and, in near perfect unison said, "It's his!"
Right then, the officers were interrupted by a radio call, and the cop blurted a "Drive careful -- watch the drinking!" I yelled, "Hey, where's the Hilton?" He pointed straight down the road and called "Two miles!" as he sprinted for his car, hit the sirens, and sped off. We headed on to the party, and I got the full story about the cash.
Turns out that while Val and Todd were waiting in the restaurant for a hostess, Val noticed the unattended cash register. She hit the "No sale" button, emptied it, and sprinted out the door.
Now, one would think that, at this point, I would have found a way out of this situation ... or at least realized I'd told the police right where we were headed. At the very least, I could have noticed that my companions were more than willing to leave me holding the bag. I suppose I could blame it on fear of the large ex-con in my back seat, but basically I just kicked into walled-off survival mode, thought "Whatever...," and drove on to the hotel. And hey, maybe I'd get laid!
There was no word of a high-school party at the hotel, so Todd -- with his newfound wealth -- got two adjoining rooms and told the receptionist to send the kids our way if they showed. We settled into our rooms, and Todd and Val headed back to the lobby to "get some smokes."
Hours passed. Beth passed out. I fell asleep after a couple trips to the lobby. Then came the knock on the door, the sound of a key, and loud calls of "Get your clothes on, kids!" I suppose that after the restaurant called in the empty register, it didn't take the cops long to remember the kids with a carload of cash, headed for the Hilton.
The cops, hotel security, and managers burst in. We were fully dressed and half awake. They tossed the room, saying, "OK, where's the money?" They frisked us, cuffed us, and dragged us into the hall.
"Where are the other two?" the cop from earlier asked.
"We don't know... we think they left." Meanwhile, the other officers had entered the adjoining room, and we heard a loud scuffle, yelling, cursing. Todd was dragged out by three cops, handcuffed and fighting all the way, dressed in only his pants, his face bright red and feral. Val followed, adjusting her wrinkled dress.
"You bitch!" yelled Beth, and she lunged at Val. It sort of went on from there, Val yelling, "Fuck you TOO!," Beth crying, Todd wrestling, cops shouting. And me? I was just sort of hanging out, quietly amazed by how tight the handcuffs were. Eventually, we were led through the lobby, handcuffed, Todd still shirtless, resisting and shouting. I ended up in the back of a patrol car, on my side (the only way I could sit with the cuffs on), hoping the driver didn't get in a wreck.
At the jail, Val and Todd were put into cells, while Beth and I sat in a small office. Todd was eventually sedated, and his shouts finally stopped echoing through the station. Beth, in tears, related the whole story to the cops, muttering all the while about "that cunt Val!" I of course professed complete ignorance. The cops brought me the small bag of pot they'd found when frisking me, and a trash can. "Wanna throw this evidence away?" he asked. I was more than happy to, and Beth and I were released to our parents at 3 a.m.
Oh, and can you believe it? I didn't get laid.
-- Name withheld