read an excerpt from
My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World
Exploding Adopted Kids
The bell rang but I stayed sitting on the steps by the cafeteria trying to decide if I was going to skip out again or go to English. Trinity walked right up and sat down next to me.
Two weeks and she hadn't said a word and she sits down like nothing had happened.
“I know I've been a bitch. I'm sorry.”
I shrugged. “Maybe we've both been a bitch.”
I didn't have a clue what I meant. This happened to me a lot around her. Somewhere between my brain and my mouth the words got all mixed up and the wrong ones came out.
She paused but only for a second. That was Trinity. She'd let the little stuff go. It was one of the things I liked about her.
“I want us to be friends, Simon,” she said.
Kiss of death word. Friends. How could it go from pie-in-the-sky love to friends in two short weeks.
I guess it was desperation that made me say it. “This is going to sound crazy, but what if we just took off together? What if we just got in the car and drove away?”
“You mean like a vacation or something?”
“No. Like going to the North Pole. Or like Stanley and Livingston in Africa. A journey. Only, we'd go to California. We could live on the beach. Learn to surf. Maybe sell exotic sea shells for a few hours every day.”
Exotic sea shells? Mind to mouth problems again.
She stood. “I'm sorry, Simon.”
“Not exotic seashells. But California. Sun and beach and stuff.”
She took a breath and I knew something terrible was going to come out of her mouth. “I'm with someone else now.”
I shook my head. “That's not possible.”
What I meant was--not yet. I hadn't stopped thinking about her. How could she have not only stopped thinking about me but found someone else? There had to be a mistake. “I've been wanting to say something these past two weeks. It's about that night you told me about your father.”
“I don't want to talk about it.”
Our last night together she told me a secret and asked me to tell her one. A secret for a secret. Why did my being adopted bother me so much? I couldn't answer.
That was it. The end. I became another on a long list of Trinity's ex-boyfriends.
“What I mean is I know I should have said something. I understand. It's my fault. If you just--”
She looked away from me. “Forget it, Simon.”
“I can't forget it. How can I forget it?”
She had a temper and something I said raised it. She swung around like she was going to slap me. “I lied, okay? I lied.”
“Okay?” I said. “No, it's not okay.”
“You made me crazy always holding everything in. And I was mad at my father for leaving me and my mom for his twit co-worker. I made that up about him getting into bed with me. It was stupid, I know.”
I couldn't think of anything to say. Finally, I did. “You're right. You have been a bitch.”
This didn't go over well. She stormed off without saying another word.
David Hooter just happened to come down the stairs then and he did what he always did when he saw me. He made a lame explosion sound and moved his arms in a way that was supposed to resemble a mushroom cloud.
Normally I would have just ignored him, but Trinity had made me crazy. I reacted without thinking. I shoved him up against the lockers and then spun him around to the floor.
He had a surprised look on his face. I was pretty surprised myself. I probably would have got off him on my own, but before I could Mr. Brown, history teacher and football coach and big admirer of David Hooter who was his starting corner, pulled me off. He was not a big admirer of me.
He marched me down to the principal's and put me in a chair in the outer-office while he went to have a word with Principal Van Dyke.
I sat there thinking. First, I thought about how insane everything had become lately. With Trinity. With my parents. At school. Then when Mr. Brown still didn't come out, I thought back to that day when Todd Hooter, David's older brother, had told me I was adopted.
It was seven years ago. I was ten. I was playing air guitar with David Hooter over at his house. We got into an argument about whose sounded better. Then a wrestling match which I was winning until Todd picked me up and held me in the air like he was trying to decide where to throw me.
I was a little scared because Todd could be pretty mean, but he just set me down. David got up and came at me, ready for a real fight now that his brother was there, but Todd shoved him back.
“You don't want to set him off.”
David rubbed his shoulder. “What?”
“Make him explode.”
David and I both stared at him like he was talking in another language.
“That's right,” he said. “He's adopted. His parents aren't his parents.”
“They are too,” I said.
“Some of these adopted kids are put here by foreign governments, and when they turn eighteen they're going to explode. He might be one of them.”
David looked at me with a new respect.
“Unless they get set off early,” Todd said. He nodded knowingly at David who took a step back.
“You liar,” I shouted and ran the two blocks to my house thinking the whole way that I might go off any second. When I got home, I screamed at my mother. “Am I going to explode when I turn eighteen? Am I?”
“Going to explode?” she said, giving me her half-smile, the one she always got when something confused her.
“Am I adopted and am I going to explode when I'm eighteen?”
She told me not to move (which I took as confirmation of my condition and began to cry). A few minutes later she came back with my dad and said that Todd had been lying about the explosion part but that I was, in fact, adopted.
“Are you sure I won't explode?”
They were sure. I wasn't. “He said you weren't my parents.”
“Of course we're your parents,” my mother said, “but you have other parents, too.”
“What other parents?”
“These other people couldn't keep you,” my father said. “They couldn't and we wanted you. That's all there is to it. You're lucky. You should consider yourself lucky.”
And that was that. I tried to bring it up one other time, but my father didn't want to talk about it, and my mother got a hurt look on her face. It was like it was something shameful between us. I didn't bring it up again.
Mr. Brown finally came out and held the door open for me. Mr. Van Dyke was sitting back behind his big desk. He let out one of his nose-whistle sighs as I sat down. He looked more tired than angry.
“Here we are again,” he said.
“I guess we are.”
“What is it, Simon? What's going on with you? Trouble at home? What?”
The thing was I did have trouble at home, but it wasn't something Mr. Van Dyke was going to understand. I mean my dad had sort of come to believe I would disappoint him and I'd come to believe in his belief. We argued all the time.
I got along pretty well with my mother, though she embarrassed me by reading these novels with disgusting covers (strong chinned, heavily muscled men and beautiful, bosomy women locked in scandalous embraces). But the truth was my mom was starting to look at me like my dad did, especially after last weekend when I got arrested for smoking pot out at the reservoir. A month earlier I'd been arrested for underage drinking.
I shrugged. “Teenage angst.”
He frowned at me. Then we both sat back in our chairs. He stared out his window, and I stared at the pictures on his walls of boats on the ocean. I kind of liked them, even if they were a little corny.
“You ever wish you were there?” I pointed at my favorite one.
“All the time,” he said, and then looked as if I'd tricked him. “But I have responsibilities. You should think a little more about that word. Where would we be if we all just did what we wanted?”
“Paradise?” I said.
He didn't crack a smile. “Out. Three-day suspension starting today. You get to come back after you, your parents, and I have a little talk.”
I walked out of school down to my dad's old Chevy Impala thinking about that talk. One word kept popping into my head. No.
I drove straight to Martin's mom's small, junky house and walked around back to the basement where I saw Martin through the basement window sitting in his Lay-Z-Boy drinking a Jumbo Dr. Pepper. I knocked. He motioned for me to come in.
Martin was a big person. He weighed in the neighborhood of two-fifty and had a stomach that could keep him afloat on an angry sea. He had greasy, shoulder-length, blonde hair, pimples up both cheeks, and bad teeth. He could look kind of frightening in a certain light. In another, he just looked like someone in need of a crash course in hygiene and nutrition.
Martin gave me his psycho killer look, which actually seemed very realistic. “Where the hell you been?”
“Around, huh? I got other people want to sell pot for me, Simon. You don't want to do it then get the hell out. I ain't going to hold it for you any more.”
“You don't have to hold it for me,” I said.
“I don't have to do jack for you.”
“You know? Shut up, you asshole. A pusher has to push. You ain't pushing hard enough.”
In a weird way, Martin reminded me of my brother, George, who was in advertising and always talking about motivation and how to get ahead. My feeling was one way to improve the world would be to get rid of all the advertisers.
I sat down and watched some “Dukes of Hazard” reruns with Martin. We talked a little. He didn't talk to me about my disappointing sales anymore at least.
A shadow fell over me and I about jumped out of my chair, but it was just Martin's creepy mother. She was ghostly white, thin as a pole, and had the same greasy blonde hair as her son. Martin glared at her. “I told you never to come down here.”
Martin was giving her his evil look, but he was walleyed. Imagine a High Plains Drifter Clint Eastwood type squint going off in two directions.
“Your father's at the door,” she said.
“Not a penny.”
“He's bad, Marty.”
His father was a wino who didn't live at home anymore. He lived on the streets.
“You get the hell out of here.” He struggled out of his Lay-Z-Boy. I was a little afraid for her, but she hurried up the stairs.
Martin went to a storeroom by the water heater and got me a kilo brick of Costa Rican wrapped in a grocery bag.
“I want to see your ass back here in three days with my money, Simon.” His voice still had the threat it had when he spoke to his mother.
“Sure,” I said.
“Don't sure me. Just do it.”
I drove home and locked the door to my room and got out my scale and baggies and broke the pot into quarter pounds and a few ounces.
Then I went down to the basement where I knew my dad had cleverly hidden--if a thief happened to be visually impaired-- his lock box under the work bench. I picked the lock with one of my mom's bobby pins just like I'd done when I'd first found it.
I pulled out my birth certificate and the sheet attached with the adoption agency stamp across the top. Two names, two addresses: Dean Dalton of Austin, Texas, and Kate Dalton of Dallas, Texas. I knew what it said but I just had to see it again to make sure I hadn't dreamed it. I put it back in the box.
Up at school, I had my going out of business sale. I slashed prices left and right. I was sold out in twenty minutes.
Here's how I left: I got in the car, put it in drive, pressed down on the accelerator, and didn't look back.