I can never predict when it’s going to happen. I never know when a normal conversation is going to turn into a confessional. Had I known everything, I would have recorded this long talk on a tape recorder. In Nixon’s office, I would have pressed the button with my foot and his words would have been documented. Maybe if they had been recorded, I would have realized that they weren’t that special. Maybe after fifteen years of thinking about that conversation, his confession has grown in significance than it actually was. All I remember are a few sentences from those three hours, but they seem so important to me.
Calvin looked around the cluttered kitchen. He had just sat down, was leaning awkwardly on the high chair and slurred, “Dude, why do you come to these parties?” I remember feeling like an outsider. Calvin, an outsider himself, was questioning my right to be there, so I defended myself, “She’s my friend. I have just as much right to be here as you do.” He shook his head and laughed to himself, “No. I mean why are wasting your time with these guys? You should be?” He lifted his hand arbitrarily and waved it around. It was the same hand that had the half-empty warm beer. He took a swig and I prayed that I hadn’t handed him someone’s chew spit. My friend had many brothers, all of whom chewed tobacco and spit into whatever was handy. I hadn’t even thought to check it when I handed it to him. He grimaced at the taste, put it down and got a cold one out of the fridge. Her fridge had a seemingly never-ending supply of beer.
He popped open the fresh beer and looked at me for an answer to his question. I responded, “Where should I be? Studying like a good girl. I do enough of that.” Instead of saying that I wasn’t good enough to be there, I was somehow too good to be there, which was just as insulting. It was as if he thought that smart people didn’t need to have fun. It was somehow beneath me. “Man, if I was you, I would study all the time. I would get straight A’s?”
Then it came, like a rusted pipe, gurgling and splashing brown and mucky liquid all over me. He told me everything. It was convoluted and messy, but he told me what he wanted. He wanted more than anything to be me. He didn’t want to change places with Football Player, who was poking a cheerleader as we spoke. He didn’t want to change places with the skater that we knew that went professional and was getting paid to play. He wanted to change places with me because I had a chance and he didn’t.
He had seen a lawyer on television. I don’t think it was an actor playing a lawyer, I think it was a real lawyer who was defending someone here in Salt Lake City. Calvin had been inspired by this man. This lawyer, who was probably some publicity-hound ambulance chaser, represented the epitome of success to Calvin. “If I could be a lawyer, I could do some good. I could talk to anyone and just talk so perfect that no one could argue with me. See, if I was you, I would go to college and get to be a lawyer. Nothing could stop me then?” He trailed off. He had been talking for a long time about the lawyer, about how much he wanted to be like him and about how I could be a lawyer, if I just studied harder. He was just staring at the clutter on the kitchen table.
“Calvin, you could be a lawyer.” The minute I said it, I knew I was lying. I had been thinking of the slimy lawyers on the back of the phone book, but even they had to pass the bar exam. I looked at Calvin and for the first time, I saw him the way teachers saw him. I saw him the way the world would look at him. The teachers saw Calvin, the Super Senior, who was taking four years to graduate instead of three. The teachers saw Calvin, the stoner, who got “sconed” every day and was rarely seen straight. The teachers saw Calvin, the abandoned, who lived with his sister because there was nowhere else to go. The teachers saw Calvin, the skater, who didn’t study because it was his “destinate.”
“No, but you could be a lawyer.” He had been pushing this idea during his confession, but I wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t want to be some slimy lawyer. That’s your dream. You could do it. I don’t know how you would do it, but you probably need to stop smoking pot first.” He shook his head. “I can’t. It’s too late for me.” I silently and guiltily agreed with him.
Calvin, if you are angry with me for revealing your deepest thoughts to the world, come haunt me, you skinny bastard. I haven’t seen your face in so long that I am eager for the meeting, even if you are angry with me.