I have a mental list of people that I would consider as possible suspects, in case I ever get murdered or kidnapped. (Doesn’t everyone have this list?)
Some of them are old co workers who excelled at giving off a creepy vibe or always had that weird look in their eye. A few are old schoolmates or acquaintances who seem really into me, although I haven’t talked to them in person since I was seven. I have shared this ‘persons of interest’ list with my husband, so if I do happen to go missing, be sure to talk to him and ask about it.
One of the people that has been on my potential future kidnapper list is a strange man who used to live around the corner from me when I was growing up in the Antelope Valley. Today I could have sworn I saw him driving the same beat up old car he always had in his driveway, but this time he was in front of me on the Esplanade. The license plate was the same old-fashioned blue background with yellow text-style plate we Californians has in the 80s. The license plate frame said ‘Valencia’.
Right then, as I was coming back to work from my lunch break, I was 16 again and traipsing down the street in my underpants.
Allow me to back up a bit.
The year is 1996 and although my high school years were completely free of alcohol, drugs or learning the art of smoking a cigarette, my friends and I decided to dabble in the art of Truth or Dare. No joke — we were amazing at that game and we were more than capable at accomplishing debauchery without booze, drugs or tobacco. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Somehow or other, though, our sleepover shenanigans almost ALWAYS ended up with us daring each other to run up and down the street in our underpants. Not very creative, if I think about it now.
Our neighborhood was a quiet one with personal mailboxes for each house positioned on the good conditioned neighborhood sidewalks. There were lots of cul de sacs and it was very rare to see a dumpy house. Most people there had lived there for a long time. It was a great place to grow up.
In high school, we were serial sleepover participants and if it was a Friday night, you could almost guarantee that we were all at Becky’s house around the corner, getting our soda/chip/sugar-high on ‘til the break of dawn. We also excelled at Phase 10 competitions that would involve the non-stop hits of the Oldies on K-Earth 101.1 FM. Good times.
If it was one of our larger girl-gatherings, you could be pretty sure that less than half a mile away, in the other subdivision across 25th St. West, there was another sleepover taking place, but with a group of rowdy boys from our class.
The guy-hang out (something tells me they never called them ‘sleepovers’) was within walking distance and it was the ongoing task of our girl-gaggle to sneak over and attempt to hear the boys talking about how into us they were. Well, at least that was my goal. See? I’ve always been into myself, especially when other people are into me too.
The one time we caught the boys actually outside and within eavesdropping range, they were playing basketball and talking about lame things like video games and sports. It was not the riveting ‘Whose cans are the best in class?’ or ‘How adorable are those cheerleaders, anyway?’ topics that we were hoping to stumble upon.
We ended up stomping back to our sleepover and decided to act as cool and carefree as we could, all the while, glancing furtively over our shoulder to see if the boys had just so happened to try sneaking over to spy on us.
A few times, we actually were wrapped up in doing girl stuff (talking about the boys and trying on each others clothes) and we were surprised by the guy-group. They had snuck over to our neck of the neighborhood and were chucking apples at the tent we had set up in the front yard. (In our neighborhood, this was a completely safe thing to do and we didn’t run the risk of waking anyone up in the house with our high-pitched shrieking.) Why apples? I have no idea. I just figured it was a weird boy-thing.
I will always feel proud of my quick witted deduction when I analyzed the apples that were being thrown at our tent.
“Wait a minute. These apples are Golden Delicious apples. Vinny had a Golden Delicious apple with him at lunch today! It must be the boys!”
Quickly we checked our hair and outfits and burst out of the protection of our tent. We eventually hunted them down a house away, crouching behind a cinder block wall. It always did feel nice to be the ones being pursued.
It was this truth, that at any time, the boys could possibly be hiding around a corner, that added such a thrill to Truth or Dare: The Scantily Clad Edition.
Late at night, we’d dare one of the girls (usually Becky — the bravest streaker in the bunch) to run across the street, touch the other sidewalk and then we’d let her back inside the house. The dare-posse would hide in Becky’s bedroom and watch the dare-victim scamper across the road in everything from bra and underwear, bra and pajama-boxers, etc. Sometimes we’d even make our streaker wear high heels and a garter we had lying around from an old French Maid Halloween costume. (Note to self: NEVER buy my daughter a French Maid costume. You never know what lascivious acts those accessories may induce.)
I will not go into the details of how Becky earned the nickname “Bucky” but I can assure you, I was too embarrassed to even watch her claim her infamous title after she dropped her robe on the sidewalk and strutted fearlessly to high school glory. Man, was she awesome! No one else ever had the guts to bare all.
An Unexpected Audience
One evening, we got a hankering to walk from Becky’s house to my house. Usually we drove my car, but we purposely chose to be active that evening. Not something we did often. We were fully clothed and chatting about how the objects of our affections came ‘this-close’ to actually being as awesome in real life as we had built them up in our heads.
As we walked by the creepy-guy’s house (technically, I think it was his handicapped mother’s house and he just happened to live there with her) he was in the front yard and approached us by walking toward his front gate. Picture an older man with a comb-over wearing a tight, white, undershirt tucked into short 70s denim shorts (not cut-offs). He also wore socks pulled up straight (too short for knee socks) and fast-food worker-ish black sneakers.
Creepy neighbor: Hi there.
Us (avoiding eye-contact but responding because we had good manners): Hello.
Creepy neighbor: You have any sleepovers lately?
Us (Confused because we were totally naive to the fact that ANYONE could have easily seen us): What? No…
We kept walking and turned the last corner onto my street before we realized — OH MY GOSH! THE CREEPY GUY IS TALKING ABOUT OUR STREAKING CONTESTS!
Then two beats later we realized — Wait a minute…he doesn’t live anywhere near Becky’s house! OK, sure, he lives on the walking path between our houses, but he doesn’t live in a place where he could have looked outside and seen us scuttling about. Nor is his house on a path that he could have been driving by her cul de sac that was located in the back part of our subdivision.
We were beyond freaked out.
I’m pretty sure that we had already given up our tawdry ways before we had our Megan’s Law candidate encounter, but it surely helped put the final kabosh on any future nude activities.
Even this past summer, nearly 15 years later, when Becky and I went for a walk in my old neighborhood, his house still gave me the chills.
I’m really hoping that wasn’t him driving down the Esplanade in Chico.
If you are one of my offspring, please read this:
I’m glad that you have somehow managed to find my blog and that your reading level has improved to get you this far into the post. Be sure to write down your reading times so we can add it to your homework log!
Now, you may read about some things that mommy did when she was in school that may shock you. I hope you take them as examples of stupidity and not examples of awesomeness.
Although they certainly seemed awesome at the time, there is nothing commendable about dangling your teenage body (or any aged body) out as bait for potential creep-encounters. I will continue to pray that you will grow up with more sense and personal dignity than I had when I was a teenager. Now get back to your homework/music lessons/SAT prep tests.
Love you, forever,