We all have our stories, right? The ones we tell while getting to know someone; the ones about funny things, about slightly embarrassing things, about our personal quirks. We have the stories we tell when everyone's talking about childhood fears and beliefs, and the ones we share about food, about sleep, about bad sex.
My bad sex story has made the rounds. Any day now, I expect it to be told back to me as something that happened to the friend of a friend of a friend.
The story evolves a little with each retelling, so when it comes back to me, I may not recognize it. Or it may be someone else's story; I'm sure I'm not the only one this has happened to.
This happened years ago, when I was still living with my parents. They were out for the day and Russ came over and we were... hanging out. In my room. Naked. Right... so we were having a good time, when I started to feel a burning sensation in an unfortunate place. I excused myself and tried peeing, thinking about bladder infections, but this felt different. I went back in to the bedroom and confessed to my naked boyfriend that something was wrong and that there wouldn't be any sex, given the uncomfortable circumstances.
Russ blushed. He isn't normally a blusher, but this time he was red.
"I swear, I washed my hands."
"Before coming over, I was over at Shane's. And we were making chili."
"And I was chopping the fresh jalapeños. I washed up really well after, but maybe I missed some of the oils."
The burning took a couple of hours to complete go away.
It's a good cautionary tale; they might want to add that to some sex ed courses where they still have such things.
The other day, a friend started to tell one of my stories to a mutual friend, but she'd already heard it. I can't remember if I was the one that told it to her. I don't think I did. Maybe I did. It's a good story for telling to new friends.
There's a point in a new friendship that requires a little self-deprecation; a little revealing of a weakness or flaw. Nothing serious – not kleptomaniac-tendencies, homicidal fantasies, or a little problem with compulsive lying – but more like always pronouncing "animation" incorrectly or forgetting to turn the clock back every Daylight Savings Time. I like to tell this story:
Some friends and I meet at a major bookstore at a major cross-street. We walk along a major street for about seven blocks to a restaurant. Once at the restaurant, we only have enough time to get menus and order drinks before another friend called; she's nearby: can she join us?
She's familiar with the bookstore but not the restaurant, so I volunteer to meet her at the bookstore. I get there fine – seven blocks in a straight line – greet her and we head back. I set out with confidence; after all, it's a seven block walk, in a straight line.
We're chatting as we walk. We walk for about six blocks before I notice that we're not on the bright main street but strolling alongside dark office buildings. I don't know where we are.
We turn around and walk back to the bookstore: six blocks in a straight line. Once there, I figure out where I went wrong: when we headed out, I went at a 90 degree angle from where I was supposed to and got us lost even though we only had to travel straight back the way I had just come. There were four other people there that day, and they will never let me live it down, and neither will all the friends they've told, nor will the ones I've told. It works for me; I really do have an awful sense of direction, so the spread of the story means that people don’t expect me to lead, give accurate directions, or follow them.
I have saved some stories; held them close, for the right moment. A story about stories needs, perhaps, a story about story-telling.
When I was in grade four or five, the story of Bloody Mary
went around the school yard. Our variation involved entering a dark room at midnight, spinning around several times, flashing a flashlight on and off several times, and then looking into a mirror. Several girls claimed to have tried it and to have seen an awful figure coming through the mirror before they fled the room.
In the schoolyard, I was a voice of reason:
"If you spin around fast enough, you will get spots in front of your eyes. And if you are flashing lights on and off too, you are bound to see things. The other morning, when my mom turned on the lights very suddenly, I saw a spot in front of my eyes shaped like a pony."
Others seemed to believe me. Fears quelled, the myth of the murdering woman in the mirror disappeared from my circle of friends quickly.
In the dark, however, the story still had power over me. I developed a fear of seeing a mirror in a dark room. I never told anyone this fear, so to avoid seeing the mirror in the bedroom I shared with my sister, I would sleep with Susie the Seal on the outside and cover her with a thick duvet, to make the pile high enough to block my view. To this day, I don't allow a mirror in my bedroom.
The stories of other people were stronger than my own. Perhaps it is often that way.