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Single White Nerd: Recycling Ritzy

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a blogumn by Michael Kass

Confession Time:  I don’ t have any fresh ruminations on singlehood today.  Or nerdom.  I’m sure I could come up with something, but I’m running late to go read a book to pre-schoolers and tell them all about youth homelessness.  So while I shatter the innocence of unsuspecting four-year-olds, please enjoy this bit of recycled angst and heartbreak from my last Chi Chi’s Word Parlor appearance:

Photo Credit: Paul Hocksenar

Photo Credit: Paul Hocksenar

Ritzy rides horses.  Ritzy feeds the bunnies.  Ritzy ties her hair back into a blonde pony-tail when she swims.  When she smiles, everyone around her smiles.  When she laughs, everyone around her laughs.  Except me—I cry, but only on the inside.

I am nine years old and I am an expert on Ritzy Boyd.  I am nine years old and I am—wait for it—in love with Ritzy Boyd.

There’s no other word for it.  In idle moments, I fantasize about feeding the rabbits with her.  This is not a euphemism—I actually imagine what it would be like to stand next to her feeding the rabbits.  Feeling their little bunny mouths nuzzling my palm as she looks on approvingly.  Or we’re grooming the horses.  We go to school on a farm, so all this nature imagery isn’t quite as bizarre as you may think.  Though, I admit, it still ain’t quite kosher.

Ritzy knows I exist—in a class of 25, it’s hard to be anonymous.  We even qualify as more than acquaintances and, were I not incapable of speech in her presence, we might make the leap into full fledged friendship.  She has made overtures in this direction.  One time, she, Clayton, and Kirin stood together in the rabbit hutch feeding, you know, the rabbits.  I loitered nearby affecting an intense interest in my velcro-fastened Keds.  She said “Do you want to help?”  I said “No thanks, I’m good,” pretended to have finally solved the mystery of my shoes and ran, hell bent for leather, into the forest.

I am nine years old and I am not-so-swift.

My not-so-swiftness manifests in quite a few ways.  I not-so-swiftly conceal myself in the trees near wherever she plays.  I leave her anonymous notes in her desk then retrieve them before she can see them.  One day, I walk by as she and some other classmates play with the class’ pet squirrel “Scrabble.”  Scrabble bounds onto my back.  I shriek like a girl, terrified by the small pin-pricks on my back.  Ritzy laughs along with everyone else.  I hide for a week.

My not-so-swiftness reaches its peak at my 10th birthday party.  I plan it for months—an exclusive gathering of five held at the locally renowned Magic Palace, no parents allowed.  For two hours, my four guests and I will eat pizza and view a sure to amaze magic show.  My guests will be my friend Kabir, his crush Katie, life-long friend Morgan, and, of course, Ritzy.  I call Ritzy to make sure she will be receptive to an invitation from me.  My voice quavers as I blurt out the question:  “My birthday you want to come if I send an invitation you don’t have to but there will be magic?”  She gracefully accepts.  My heart leaps.

The day arrives.  I spend an hour doing I-shit-you-not my hair.  I put on a blue sweater—it’s the middle of August, but when someone in class wore a similar sweater, Ritzy complimented him on it.  Besides, I rationalize, the theatre will be air conditioned.  Coiffed and suited up, I trundle to the car and my parents drive me to the Magic Palace.

Standing outside with my parents, I’m a bundle of raw nerves.  Granted, we’ve arrived a little bit early, but what if no one shows.  What if Ritzy does not show?  What if another engagement came up?  A better birthday party?  A horse riding show?  My palms—already moist from the heat—start to perspire in earnest.  Sweat trickles down my back, soaking through the blue sweater.  By the time my guests—including Ritzy—arrive, I’m a bona fide mess.

The parents leave, we go inside.  I try to make small-talk.  “So I wore a sweater.”  Things like that.  It does not go well.  Ritzy takes in the small number of party guests and I see it happen.  I see understanding creep up on her.  Her eyes widen, she and Katie exchange a glance.  And suddenly the conversation is all about their boyfriends.  Their older boyfriends who they are, like, totally in to.  Josh this and Kevin that.

I am nine-cusp-of-ten years old and my world crumbles around me as a man in a cheap tux pulls doves from the hidden lining of his jacket.  Presto.

After the show, everyone comes back to my house to wait for their parents.  This qualifies as a Momentous Event—people do not come over to my house.  Particularly not People I Am In Love With.  Ritzy and Katie make themselves at home in my room.  Despite that fact that I now know as much about Ritzy’s boyfriend as she does (he’s 13.  He had his bar mitzvah.  He plays the drums.  He is blonde and sooooo cute.), I refuse to give up.  I will win her heart by catching a ball.

‘Hey,’ I say, ‘watch THIS!’  I pull out a racquet ball and wing it against the wall.  It makes a satisfying thwack and zings back towards us.  I’ve been perfecting this game for months.   I execute a flawless dive roll and catch the ball, springing to my feet with a triumphant grin sure that accolades will fall upon me.  Ritzy and Katie look at each other then back at me, smiling uncertainly.  “Neat,” says Ritzy.  Kabir, in the corner, just looks embarassed.

Seeing my last-ditch-can’t-fail plan failing miserably, I do the only thing within my power:  plunge onward into oblivion.  I throw the ball again, harder this time.   Bounding forward, I miscalculate and it ricochets off the wall, beaning me in the head.  Ever been hit with a racquet ball in the noggin?   It stings.  But I ignore the pain and laugh it off.  “Hah,” I shrug, “hah hah.”  Ritzi and Katie exchange another look.   Kabir tries to blend in with the wall.  The ball escapes into the hallway.

I go to retrieve the ball and the door shuts behind me with a soft click.   The door to my room shuts behind me.  The door to my room does not close of its own accord.  Someone has shut the door behind me.   I try to open it.  It will not open.  The door does not lock.  Someone is barricading the door against me.  “Hah, open up,” I say.  The sound of giggling and whispers “hold it shut, hold it shut, teehee.”

I am nine-cusp-of-ten years old and the object of my affections has just locked me out of my own bedroom.

I bang on the door a few times then, wasted, sit in the hallway, my dreams of feeding the bunnies with Ritzy lying in tatters around me, shredded by a 13 year old named Josh and my stupid racquet ball.

I am now ten years old and I have just learned a valuable lesson about love.  I’m sure I have.   I just can’t figure out what it might be.

Go see Michael Kass tellin’ tales at Chi Chi’s Word Parlor on November 3rd.  Click here for the details.

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[Editor's Note: I'm on Chi Chi's Editorial Board and I can guarantee that Michael's story is worth coming out for. Plus drinks and snacks after, so do reserve your spot.]