Rockin’ After Midnight
Did I ever tell you about the time someone slashed the tires on my car? This was back in high school, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t. It was a dark time, but reading a book a friend wrote TOTALLY brought me back to that place and time. In his book, his main character thinks someone is trying to break into his house and it turns out to be something else. Something like that happened to me way back when.
Join me, won’t you?
FLASHBACK: 23 YEARS AGO
So way back when I worked at the old Apache 6 Movie Theater (don’t look for it, like much of my memorable past, it’s been torn down to make way for something awful), I was an usher. It was a prestigious gig. I got to wear a dark Mann Theaters suit coat that never got laundered, I tore tickets in half, I swept up popcorn kernels off of the retro 1970’s carpet, and I got to bust little kids going that tried to sneak into R-Rated movies.
It was just shy of awesome.
At the time I had a girlfriend and like most high school romances, it was super serious and not to be tampered with. In all honesty, I was with the one girl I had a crush on (and in typical TKT fashion) made absolutely no move to try and win her over. How and why we ended up together is a story for another time. But, let it be known that I was dating this (to me) dream girl and was pretty darn content with how things were going. I was making minimum wage, I got to see free movies whenever I wanted and I was eating as much delicious movie theater popcorn as I could fit into my stupid gob.
As the folks at Miller would say: I was living the high life.
Then, a new girl started working at the theater. She ended up being a concession stand gal, which is where you started when you entered the ranks of the old Apache 6. I did my time there, ringing up orders without a cash register and doing all of the math (which I’m awful at) in my head. I didn’t think much of the new girl. Sure she was cute and whatever, but I was dating someone and it didn’t really matter. Who cares, right?
This is the part of the story where I take you aside and tell you about me way back when. Um, how do I put this nicely? I was a complete idiot when it came to girls. I couldn’t tell if one of them liked me on my own. Naive as all get-out, you literally had to hit me over the head with a shovel to get the message across. Plenty of friends and family along the way told me about girls at school and elsewhere who had a passing interest in me. Almost every single time I was like: “Really? How do you know?”
For some reason, I NEVER knew. Call it low self esteem or just being plain ol’ daft, I just…didn’t…get it. Ever.
My wife will tell you the same thing. We met at work and apparently she was flirting with me months before we ever went out. I never picked up on it. This was a little over 8 years ago.
Yeah. Some things never change, I guess.
Okay, back to the late 80’s…
So, as you might have put together by now…it turns out this new girl sort of-kind of liked me. At least, that’s what I learned much, much too late.
I’ll be the first to admit: If I hadn’t been dating my high school girl friend, I wouldn’t have minded dating the Apache 6 New Girl (herein referred to as A6NG…catchy, isn’t it?) She laughed at my dumb jokes, I laughed at hers, we talked about movies and stuff. We made fun of customers and the people we worked with. In my head? We were becoming pretty good friends. Since I knew there wasn’t a chance we’d ever be anything more, my 16 year old head didn’t consider other possibilities. Even when she and I hung out together at her house to watch a movie one time…I didn’t think anything of it.
Until later. We had, I guess as all guys and gals who aren’t on the same page, a TALK. She talked about where she was with stuff and I felt like I was punched in the stomach. It went something like this (I think?):
“I like you,” A6NG said.
“I like you, too.”
“Not like that. I LIKE like you.”
“Oh,” I might’ve said. “But I’ve got a girlfriend.”
“I know,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Me too,” she said.
And that was sort of the end of it. Things were weird at the old Apache 6 after that. She didn’t really want to talk to me anymore and I felt guilty, but not sure why. Wouldn’t I have felt worse if I’d done something horrible? Broken the sacred bonds of teenage love? I didn’t know what to do or what to say, so I sort of didn’t say anything. Guess that wasn’t the right move either.
When I woke up one morning and went out to my car (a killer maroon 1974 Oldsmobile I affectionately named ‘The Missile’) I discovered that all 4 of the tires were slashed.
When you’re a successful movie theater usher pulling down less-than mad cash ($3.85 an hour back then), buying 4 new tires is not a quick n’ easy purchase. I was devastated. Someone had it in for me and (in true TKT fashion) I couldn’t figure out who. All I knew was that I wanted some justice. My dad, who was a police captain at the time, asked me all of the cop-esqe questions:
Dad: Did you make someone mad?
Me: Me? No!
Dad: Who has it in for you?
Me: I don’t think anyone does. (I wasn’t dumb enough to think everyone LOVED me, but I didn’t think anyone hated me THAT bad, you know?)
Dad: Think of everyone you know. School. Work. Everyone.
Me: That’s a lot of people.
Dad: Can you narrow ’em down?
So that was that. I didn’t think about any of the goings-on at Apache 6 or anything. My mind was clouded with revenge and how when I found out who did it, I was going to break out the hammer of justice and crack it over their tire-slashin’ head. Like the dark n’ twisted stories I used to write in my youth: I was looking for the payback.
So, I hatched a plan. I decided that I was going to catch this person. I ended up borrowing some money from my dad and replaced all the tires on the Missile that same day. I knew that if the person who did this saw that my proud V8 beast was back on all fours again, he (or she!) would likely come back and try to slash the tires again. I would catch them red-handed and a piping hot plate of justice would be served.
This was a plan that could not fail.
As luck would have it, my bedroom at my parents house had windows that faced the front yard and a side window that faced the driveway. From my bed, nestled right next to the windows, I could peer through my mini-blinds and see the entire driveway and my awesome car…just waiting for someone to mess with it. As the rest of my family went to sleep, I turned out my lights and stood (well, I was laying down) vigil by the window, watching the empty street. We had a street lamp at the end of our driveway, so the entire front yard was nice and illuminated.
I checked out every car that came down 30th Avenue. I was just waiting for the one that stopped or even so much as tapped the brakes as it went by.
Hours rolled past. My mini blinds got a workout. click! A car was coming! click! Nothing.
I sat up well beyond midnight.
You know how if you stare at something for long enough, you start seeing weird stuff? This started to happen to me. I don’t know if it was a combo of my dedication, stupidity, or fatigue, but I swear I was seeing Q*Berts and trolls and Abraham Lincoln dancing around on my front lawn. This was dumb. Whoever slashed my tires wasn’t coming back. Why would they? They’d delivered the message, even if I didn’t know what the message was.
I looked at the clock. It was 3:30-ish AM. It was time to pack it in.
As I looked out again, I didn’t see anything. I let the window blind snap itself back into place click! a final time and settled down on my pillow. I didn’t so much as close my eyes when I heard a car slowly coming down the street. Immediately, I sprang up and peered out. There, slowing down in front of our neighbors house was a car. The lights were off and someone was running across the lawn with something shiny tucked under their arm.
“Holy Hannah, they’re back,” I’m pretty sure I whispered. Like that dude in the Night Before Christmas, I threw the blankets back and ran out of my room, through the kitchen, out the back door and hit the driveway in my bare feet like a savage. I scooped up a handful of rocks from the basement window-well as I ran past it. I saw the car pull in front of my house and spied the mysterious figure dash across our lawn. I let the rocks fly. Three of them flew out of my hands and with perfect aim, they whacked against the side of the car in the street.
Bam, bam, bam!
“Hey!” Someone yelled. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“You guys slashed my tires!” I shouted back. I was standing in my shorts and a t-shirt, my mullet blowing in the early morning breeze. By all rights I should’ve been freezing, but the adrenalin kept me nice n’ toasty.
“What’re you talking about? Are you nuts?”
I looked at the guy coming out of his car, the I looked at the younger guy standing in my front yard. Holding…
A Sunday newspaper.
“Last night…” I stammered. “Tires…”
“We’re trying to deliver your newspaper, you maniac!” The guy looked at the side of his car where I’d peppered it up with some well-placed rock shots.
“Oh,” I said.
In moments my dad was outside and found out what had happened. I explained how someone had slashed my tires and I was waiting up to see who it was (again…WHY would they show up the next night?), but I felt about 2 inches tall. And dumb. And even more naive than ever. I apologized profusely and the newspaper dudes didn’t press charges or anything like that. I realized that I might never know who slashed my tires and had discovered that couldn’t-fail plans usually did. Badly.
It wasn’t until weeks later that my best friend totally figured it out. While I’ve never been able to prove it and have since gotten over it, he thinks it was a dude that worked at the movie theater with me. He was convinced that A6NG and the dude confided in each other and that since everyone knew I broke her heart (I did?) that he decided to do something nice for her and slash the bejesus out of the Missile’s tires. That’d show me.
Here’s what’s crazy: I’m actually friends with A6NG again. After years and years and marriages and kids and stuff, we’ve reconnected (through the magic of Facebook) and this time we truly are friends. I’ve never asked if she sent out some goons (or a certain tattooed solo goon) to slash my tires, but I don’t think I need to anymore.
I mean what’s the point? What am I going to go to his house and throw rocks at his car? Nah. I got it out of my system decades ago.