I Was a Teenage Failure and a Disaster With Women
My first few experiences with women were disrespectful and damaging, and I had to learn my lessons the hard and messy way
I was 16 years old, and my life was over. I’d been changing positions in the bed, trying to maneuver myself into the best spot to enjoy the blessedly cold air coming from the vent in the ceiling. We had been in Tucson a month, and I’d still not gotten used to the staggering heat of the desert.
On the bed in my room with a book was the place you would find me most times if I wasn’t working — unless I was sitting in a chair in the library. After finishing work that day, I took a shower, but could still smell the hamburger stench on my hands. It was in my skin, and no amount of scrubbing would remove it.
I was reading The Stand for the third time, but I should have been studying the book for the bible study that night. I didn’t want to go to the meeting, but it made my parents smile, and they didn’t have a lot to be happy about when it came to me.
It was the least I could do for the people who had saved my life.
A month before, we had left a shitshow in Louisiana. I had lost everything I cared about except my parents, and they got me out of that terrible situation, so I wouldn’t have to deal with how badly I had fucked up my life.
Tucson was boring, but at least I had work to keep me busy and provide me with a little gas money because my dad was letting me take the car whenever I wanted. Every so often, I would explore the city, or sit on top of “A” mountain and stare at the lights stretched out before me. Sometimes I would get a NearBeer and drink it, wishing I could have a few real ones to take the edge off my anxiety.
On the nightstand was a letter from a friend in Louisiana that I’d become close to in the months before we left. When I say close, I mean, we would find a secluded place to park and make out in the back of her blue and white Mustang pony. I was still too brainwashed by the Witnesses ever to go all the way with Christine because it was a sin, but the main reason I never had sex: she was my best friend’s older sister.
It was a little weird, but I was a teenage boy, and when someone asks if you want to feel her boobs, you don’t turn down the opportunity.
We kept in touch by mail because I wasn’t a big fan of the phone, and long distance service wasn’t cheap anyway. I think she wanted to be more than friends, but I had just lost the love of my young life, and I wasn’t ready to give my heart to another woman.
I put the letter in a drawer and made a mental note to write her back in the next few days, but for now, Randall Flagg was about to do something evil and dark, and even if I already knew what happened, I wanted to lose myself in the story again.
Months went by, and the days became repetitive. The mood in my house was tense because I wanted nothing to do with the Witnesses, but my dad already had a study path planned out for me to get back in the good graces of Jehovah.
I know my parents were sad and a little angry, and my dad was very close to pulling the old standby, “If you live under our roof, you live by our rules!” I never once talked back to my parents because I respected them way too much to act like a jerk. Just thinking back to some of the things my brother used to do before he left gave me anxiety.
My brother ended up as a manager in a Kinney shoe store in Gallup, New Mexico, and was making decent money for a guy who wasn’t even 21 years old yet. We talked every so often, and he told me about all the partying he was doing after work. It sounded like he loved the freedom of being his own man, and I envied him.
He even asked me if I wanted to move in with him.
Of course, the thought of doing my own thing was attractive, but I was only 17 by that time, and I never thought my dad would let me go, so I didn’t talk to him about it. But my brother Lee must have mentioned it to him because one day, on the way to yet another Watchtower study I didn’t want to attend, he asked me what I thought about moving on my own.
My dad explained that it was hard on him and my mom to see me depressed all the time, and they were heartbroken watching me reject my faith. My parents loved me, and they only wanted the best for me, and what they thought was best was for me was to be a faithful Jehovah’s Witness who would survive Armeggedon and live forever on a paradise earth.
But, they could see I was moving away from them and their faith, and it hurt them, and for my dad, his hurt turned into irritation with me. I was always respectful, but my dad didn’t know how to deal with me anymore.
After that talk with my parents, we decided I would move in with my brother, and everyone seemed happier about the decision we’d made. I made a promise that I would find out where the Kingdom Hall was and go to meetings, but deep down, I knew I never would.
Once I was free, things would be different for me.
My parents dropped me and the little stuff I brought with me to my brother’s small second-floor apartment, and after some tears and hastily made promises to be careful, my parents started back to Tucson.
As I settled in my room, I had to admit to myself that I was frightened of being on my own. This whole situation’s success hinged on me finding a job quickly because I had not brought very much money with me to survive.
I cried that night because I missed my mom and dad.
The next day was Friday, and I didn’t do much but stay around the apartment and play my brother’s albums. It was the first time I had ever heard Marillion or Kate Bush and the sound from my brother's high-end stereo system was flawless.
When Lee finally came home, he brought beer and a bottle of Jerimiah Weed, and we spent the night drinking ourselves silly and listening to Led Zeppelin and 38 Special. I drank so much that I puked more than I thought any human being could, and spent all day Saturday and Sunday sleeping off the hangover.
Monday rolled around, and I put on a good shirt and tie and walked to Burger King to see if they had any openings. They did, and I had a job immediately.
I only worked there for two weeks, because a guy offered me a position in the management trainee program at the theater in the mall.
But I had a problem. I wouldn’t get paid for another two weeks, and I was out of money. My brother either wouldn’t or couldn’t lend me money, so I had to make $10 last until I had another check.
I worked every night at the theater, eating only fruit pies that I got ten for a dollar, and ramen noodles. Every so often, the girls at the concession stand would sneak me a hot dog or some nachos, but they couldn’t do it often because everything got counted at closing.
But, I was young and bold, and the girls loved to flirt, so I would usually always have something tasty to eat in the projection room as I was setting up the movies.
The other guy who worked there was a dude named Paul and he and I became fast friends. We had the same sense of humor and passed the time making jokes about our boss or harassing the customers who were watching the movies. The rule was that no one could put their feet on the backs of the seats, and we loved flashing people in the eyes with our flashlights and making them take their feet down.
It was fun work, and I got to see a lot of movies for free. Life was treating me well, even if I was anxious all the time, and those lonely nights at home came with chronic depression. I do remember the voices leaving me alone most of the time, so I counted my blessings.
Everything was fine except for the loneliness.
All the time I was in Gallup, I was still writing back and forth with Christine in Louisiana, and I told her about how lonely I was. She wanted to come to see me, so I sent her a little money. But she never came, and I didn’t hear from her for a while. I didn’t know what happened to her.
By this time, I was working at another theater in town owned by the same company, and there were always new girls at the concession stand to flirt with. I was a big talker, but when it came time to ask someone out for a date, I always chickened out.
All the girls toyed with me, except for one, and I never could figure her out. Linda was beautiful, but I could tell she wasn’t buying any of the shit I was selling.
She intrigued me.
I talked with her a bit here and there, but I never tried to make moves on her.
My friend Paul asked me one day if I wanted to go to Albuquerque and see Van Hagar in concert, and never having been to one before, said yes. But first, we had to drive up to the stadium and buy tickets, and we were going that weekend. Paul was bringing his girlfriend, but I didn’t have one.
Linda overheard us talking and mentioned that she liked concerts, and I nervously asked her if she wanted to come with us and buy tickets.
She said yes, and I was confused and a little giddy because she had never shown any interest in me before that.
On the way to the city, Linda and I sat in the back seat of the car and talked. She was pleasant to talk to and told me about growing up on the reservation.
We made it to the stadium to buy tickets, but as we headed back to Gallup, Paul told me he was going to run low on gas and didn’t have any money. I checked my wallet and it was empty too, having spent the last of it on the two tickets for Linda and me.
We had a problem because we would never make it back on the gas we had in the tank.
We thought about pumping and driving away but were too chicken to pull it off. We had made it halfway and couldn’t go much further when Paul said he had a knife in the glove box. I thought he wanted us to rob someone, but instead thought we could sell it at a pawn shop.
We only got about $5, but it was just enough to take us back to Gallup.
It started getting dark, so Linda and I spooned in the back seat and slept the rest of the way.
I was starting to think there could be a future with her. My lonely nights were over.
After Paul dropped me off, my brother met me coming down the stairs. He had gotten off the phone with Christine from Louisiana, and she told him she would be arriving on the bus the next day. I failed to tell him she might be coming when I originally sent the money. But, he was mostly upset because she had said to him that she was moving in with us.
What the fuck?
I don’t hear from her for months, and one day she shows up saying she is moving in? I don’t remember what I told an upset Lee about the whole situation.
As for me, I was confused. Up until then, Christine and I had only been friends that made out a few times. What was she expecting? I thought she would come for a week, and we would hang out, have a few laughs, and she would go home.
When she arrived, she kissed me, and I knew my worst fears were real. Lee had taken me to pick her up, and all the bags she brought barely fit in his little Datsun’s trunk. She was chatting away, talking about our wedding, and Lee would look at me every so often in the rearview and raise his eyebrows.
I didn’t know what the hell to do. I was too embarrassed and scared to tell Christine the truth, and that was my biggest mistake.
The worst part was I had had a fabulous night with Linda and had no clue what I was going to tell her.
“Hey, Linda, meet Christine, my fiancé, who I failed to tell anyone about, and who will be living in my room from now on! Just forget the whole spooning thing in the car because I already have a girlfriend.”
I should have said that because whatever I did say didn’t go over well, and I could tell Linda hated me with the thousand fires of hell after that.
Or, at least I thought she did.
I decided I would make the best of the situation, and that night had the sorriest excuse for first-time sex that ever was performed by me or any other man on the planet. Worse yet, I didn’t even use a condom!
Yes, I was that stupid.
By the end of the next day, I already knew this wasn’t going to work because I realized I didn’t like her as a person that much, and I resented the hell out of her for it. She never stopped talking and, by the end of the first week, I wanted to kill myself.
Paul hated her, my brother and his fiancé hated her, Linda hated her and hated me as well, and that is the thing that bothered me the most. I didn’t want to be with Christine; I wanted to be with Linda.
Somehow, I started talking to Linda at the theater, and much to my surprise found out she actually still thought about me in that “special” way. It wasn’t long before I would sneak out after Christine went to work, and spend time with Linda, talking and telling her all about my situation.
I must not have made enough of a secret of my dislike, because Christine started catching on and it finally all blew up when a few of the other girls at the theater found out and took it upon themselves to tell Christine. The also made it a point to make Linds’s life miserable until she finally quit.
Christine started airing all her dirty laundry at her new job, and I guess she figured if I didn’t want her, someone else would because she started sleeping with a coworker.
I wish I could say I was sad, but I really was that much of a little asshole back then.
We broke up and much to my annoyance, instead of deciding to go back to Louisiana, she got a room in one of the local hooker hotels and spent her nights partying. The stories I heard about what she was doing were hard to believe, and I felt utterly responsible that I put her in that situation. She decided to party that hard, but I was the one who sent her the money in the first place and somehow gave her the idea that I wanted to marry her.
The whole thing was a clusterfuck.
I knew it would come to a head, and it did when Christine called my dad in Tucson and told him a bunch of terrible lies about me. The truth was bad enough, but she embellished enough that my dad drove up to Gallup from Tucson, picked her up, and put her on a bus back to her hometown.
I have never seen my dad so ashamed of me.
I told him the truth about what happened, no matter how bad it made me look, and he told me the only reason he was paying to send Christine home was that at one time, she was studying to be a Jehovah’s Witness, and he felt an obligation to make things right.
My dad is all the things that make a man upright and good. Even through the shame of seeing his youngest in a situation like that, he made it right, and that is the kind of thing my dad did all the time.
He is and always will be, my hero.
He was on his way back home soon and left with the promise that I would pay him back for the whole fiasco. I learned a hard lesson the messy way, and never forgot I needed to treat people with respect, even if they didn’t give it back.
To this day, I regret acting like such a dick, but it wouldn’t be the last time I hurt someone in my life.
I never heard from Christine again, and I can only imagine what she told her brother, my former best friend when she made it back home.
My depression and loneliness had caused me to confide my feelings in someone, and she got the wrong idea. Instead of setting things straight in the beginning and sending her home on the next bus, I took the easy way out.
I messed up badly, and I felt stupid and sad. The sadness turned into depression, and I spent the next few weeks lost in my own mind and making a list of ways to kill myself.
I did survive, and one good thing came of that whole situation: I had a budding relationship with Linda, and she saw my depression, took pity on me, and gave me a shoulder to cry on.
We ended up getting very close. But that is another story.
It took me a lot longer to screw up her life too.
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