Monday, July 6, 2015

Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Bar Mitzvah Experience
            Flashback to April 2007.  Miguel Tejada was the Orioles starting shortstop.  Don’t Matter by Akon was #1 on the Billboard Top 40.  Disturbia was at the head of the box office, with Shia Labeouf convincing every teenage boy that it was okay to spy on their neighbors.
            At this point, Jake had been to about 40 Bar Mitzvahs, but it felt more like a million.  Every weekend he went to synagogue and watched his friends chant Hebrew verses, voices cracking, white teeth covered in steel wire and neon rubber bands.  He was now an expert at putting on a tie, and it wasn’t even a zip-up.  He went to more Saturday night parties in seventh grade than the average college student.  Back then, Jake didn’t fully appreciate his father’s willingness to be his personal chauffeur.
            On this particular evening, when he stepped out of his dad’s Volvo convertible, Jake had a plan.  He’d had enough of the corndogs and chocolate fountains.  Airbrushed t-shirts, glow in the dark sunglasses, and Guitar Hero were no longer of primary interest.  He’d been waiting a long time for this night (since last Saturday to be exact), and there was no room for distractions.
            His first step was locating the DJ.  Any seventh grader at Jewish day school knew that befriending the man in charge of the music was the key to a successful Bar Mitzvah party experience.  Of course, 99% of the songs that would play that night were guaranteed to be poppy crap, but the other 1% was of the utmost importance: the slow song.
            At the time, You’re Beautiful by James Blunt was all the rage, but Jake knew better.  So, he calmly approached the booth and explained to DJ Mikey Mike that he absolutely must play Collide by Howie Day before the night’s festivities were over.  Of course, Mikey knew Jake well—a local high school student, he had handled at least a dozen Bar Mitzvahs for them already.  Mikey grinned at the eager youngster and promised that he’d make it happen.
            An hour later, after Jake had gone through the make your own ice cream sundae bar twice and had almost forgotten his earlier request, the lights dimmed.  The DJ announced that it was time for obligatory, awkward, middle school slow dance (although he undoubtedly phrased it more eloquently).
Jake scanned the room for her.  She was the love of his life, or so he thought in his thirteen-year-old naivety.  Alison Goldberg was the cream of the crop when it came to middle school females.  He spotted her across the ballroom and began walking towards her, finally ready to proceed on his over-calculated night’s plan.  All he had to do, now, was ask her to dance.
But, before he could make his move, he was interrupted by a gentle tap on the shoulder.  He flinched, and spun around, only to find a face that he hardly recognized.
“You’re Jake, right?”  This strange girl with curly, brown hair and a pointy face asked him, as if he was supposed to know exactly who she was.
“Yeah,” he replied, although his mind was clearly elsewhere, “what’s up?”
“I’m Jessie,” the girl smiled sheepishly, “I’ve heard all about you.  Would you like to dance with me?”
He tried to hide the shock on his face.  This definitely wasn’t the plan, but she was kind of cute.  He looked up and Alison already had another boy’s hands around her waste.
There was no choice now, so, Jake said, “Sure,” and Jessie grabbed his hand, dragging him to the middle of the dance floor.  She held him around the shoulders, and stared into his eyes, as Howie Day sang his favorite lyrics over an acoustic guitar.  Almost immediately, he forgot the name Ali Goldberg, entranced with this new, mysterious, specimen.
A few moments later, as the song came to a close, Jessie leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.  He didn’t know how to react—this had never happened before—so he just smiled, blushing.  Then, just as suddenly, she walked away.

Jake wouldn’t see her again for quite some time.