Stu wants to know why Valentine’s Day is meh to me.
“It’s like I told that Jan kid,” I say, dumping my gear into my gym bag post-practice—
“Yawn?” Stu interrupts, and picks the wedgie out of his singlet.
“Aka, Chekov. From Mr. Johnson’s class.”
“Anyway, it’s like I told Chekov a while back. I knew Quan my freshman year, became her BFF, helped her with her homework, took her to the movies, took her out to eat, gave her a shoulder to cry on—I thought we were totally in love with each other. Then senior prom came up, and she ditched me for some college baller who knocked her up and split, like, immediately after. So, a year’s worth of supposed love with me versus one night of biology with him. Do the math.”
“She broke your heart. Human condition.”
“I’m making a point. She chose biology over love. And possibly money, I don’t know the guy’s financials. But there was definitely biology involved when it came to her getting it on with him. He was bigger and better. I was love. What chance did I have?”
“Wow. Bitter much?”
“Not at all,” I say. “It hurt when she dumped me, but I’m not saying she made the wrong decision or is a bitch or anything. I’m saying when it comes down to it, we all choose biology over love—whether we know it or not—because love doesn’t exist. Love is a myth, an invention, a societal dance used to pretty up the basic biological urges that drive chicks and dudes to flirt with each other. Men want women who can conceive healthy babies. Women want men who can help them conceive healthy babies. Love is the excuse we use to bang.”
Stu shakes his head, slings his bag over his shoulder. “You’re never going to get laid with that attitude.”
“That kind of proves my point.”
“You have a point?”
I nod. “The end game when it comes to girls and dating and all that is sex, right?”
“Then what is love?”
“Do I look like a greeting card to you?”
“Love is nothing. Sex is everything. James Spader said it when he played Robert California on The Office. Everything we do or say is about getting laid. Knowing that, then, am I interested in procreation? No. Sexual release? Sure.” I hold up my hand. “Already taken care of.”
“Dude,” Stu says, “you’re stacked. On the wrestling team. I’ve seen you in the shower—you hang a solid wang. That you’d be satisfied with your own hand rather than shell out a few bucks every now and then for a chance at slamming pelvis with some lucky lady baffles me beyond belief.”
I zip up my bag. “What’s wrong with being single? I like being single. I want to be single.”
“It’s all fun and games and one-handed sex now, but wait until you’re thirty and living alone in some shitty off-ramp apartment. That’s when I come knocking on your door to say I told you so.”
“Really? Thirteen years from now you’re going to take the time to drive out to wherever I’m living just to tell me that? Really?”
Stu waves his hand. “You know what I mean.”
Grabbing my bag, we start slowly across the gym, toward the boys’ locker room. “I’m not saying I’ll never date again. I just want the girl to be into me for me, and not for what I give her on Valentine’s Day. No false boners.”
“I’m afraid to ask what those are.”
“They’re the various types of artificial love and pretense everyone throws at each other during V-Day. Like the Obvious Couple. Destined to be together from the day they first met in Kindergarten. He gave her half his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she shared her grape juice, and they’ve supposedly been in love ever since. They’ll go to prom, lose their virginity to each other, get matching scholarships, eventually settle down in the suburbs with two-point-five kids and a Tesla. Then one day they’ll make the news when it comes out he’s been beating her since the sex went bad, she’s been neglecting the kids due to a latent online gambling addiction. False boner.”
“You’re grim, dude.”
“I’ve got more,” I say. “Gay for Days. Closet Couple. The Reverse Double-Standard—that’s what I had. Old Love. Old Love Lost. Can’t Live With or Without You. Kindred Spirits. Us Against the World. Babysitter Bling. Long Distance Runaround. Premarital Sexposition. All false boners.” I pause, spotting Eva on her way out of the gym. Theo’s waiting for her near the exit. “Then there’s Hopeless Romantic, played artfully by that little Theo dude. I’ve seen him watching her from afar, hoping, aching, wanting…”
“Speaking of watching from afar,” Stu says, “Thrailkill’s been eyeing you ever since practice started.”
I, too, had noticed her smoky presence earlier. Now she’s left the bleachers to intercept me at the locker room entrance.
Like the wuss he is, Stu recedes to a respectful distance.
“Hello there, Mr. Howard,” Thrailkill says to me, and takes a drag from what must be her fiftieth cigarette of the day.
I smile politely. “Hi, Mrs. Thrailkill.”
“It’s been a while since I last saw you in my office.”
“I’ve been busy.” I heft my gym bag.
“I can see that.” She pinches one of my biceps, nods obviously at my crotch. “Nevertheless, I’d like to assess your…development. Say, tomorrow at three o’clock?” She leans in close, whispers into my ear, “Play your cards right, and I’ll make sure you’re valedictorian.”
Behind her, Stu nods, gives me two thumbs up while mouthing the word “biology.”
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