In 1978, like most everyone in 10th grade I had a fake ID, mine was my older brother’s license, which I had stolen from his wallet. I’m sure stealing your brother’s license is outlawed in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, but back then I didn’t live by God’s law, unless my mother said I had to, then I usually folded.
With my brother’s license in hand, a whole new world opened up to me, I called it heaven, but most called it Big Daddy’s Lounge. Big Daddy’s was a bar that was attached to a liquor store, and like most bars trying to capitalize on the disco craze, they put a parquet dance floor in, added a DJ , some lights and idiots like me showed up, trying to live out a Saturday Night Fever fantasy.
I would strut up to the door, confidently flash my “I.D.” at the bouncer and buy a Malibu and Coke (because it seemed like something the Bee Gees would drink). Then I’d hang at the edge of the dance floor, nodding my head to the beat, hoping that I could catch some girl’s eye, whereupon she would ask me to dance, realize I was awesome, buy me more Malibu and Cokes and take advantage of me sexually. I know it sounds more like a fantasy than a plan, but that’s because it was.
It was a Saturday night, the place was packed, everyone’s smoke was wreaking havoc with my sinusitis, and the Malibu and Coke I had been nursing for the last 90 minutes, was flat and flavorless. I was stationed where I always was, at the lip of the dance floor, between a six foot high speaker and the lady’s bathroom. My goal was to catch the attention of women as they rushed by, I called this the “Nod To The Ladies” move and it was something I picked up from Richard Gere in American Gigolo. Although, I have to admit, when I did it, I looked less like a hot guy rich women paid for sex, and more like a serial killer, who lives in his parent’s basement and has Ms. Pac Man on his “bangable women” list.
The DJ was segueing from Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street to The B-52’s Rock Lobster and the room erupted into a frenzy of moving bodies. From across the room, this woman, easily 21, caught my eye. She was tall with blonde hair, cut into a Dorothy Hamill type bob. Hey eyes were blue and her teeth were so white they looked like they were lit from behind. I was smitten.
This was it, my “Nod To The Ladies” had finally paid off. I glanced at my watch and tried to calculate how long it would take her to get me drunk and have sex with me, figuring that if I had to, I would fake the getting drunk part so I could get home before my curfew.
When she was about fifteen feet from me I casually checked to make sure my 100% polyester Nik-Nik shirt, emblazoned with a Cherokee Indian on horseback, chasing down buffalo, was buttoned low enough. I wanted my mystery woman to see the puka bead necklace that was lying against the mat of chest hair I had painstakingly made look thicker with my mother’s mascara brush.
She was about ten feet away when she smiled at me, and mouthed the words, “Hi, how are you?”. This was virgin territory for me, I had never rehearsed talking. In my fantasy I never needed to talk because she kept saying, “Don’t talk, I need to drink your hotness in.” So I went with what felt natural, I mouthed back, “Groovy, and you?”
I made a mental note that I needed to come up with sexier replies.
Now she was seven feet away, she was spreading her arms. Shit! She wanted a hug! Should I stop thrusting my hips to the music now or is it okay to thrust through the hug? I decide that I should focus on the hug, stop thrusting my hips, and smile, adding a wink for good measure.
Five feet away, I wonder if she has bucket seats because I bruise easily and don’t want to get hurt when she drags me across the Hurst shifter I imagine sits in the console of her Trans Am.
From three feet away, I can see a sheen on her lips and hope that she went with bubble gum or watermelon lip gloss. Not that it matters, she could’ve had a herpes sore the size of a Gary Coleman on her upper lip and I’d have still made out with her.
Two feet away, I prepare for the embrace, although I’m feeling a little self conscious because of the erection that is making the pleated, high-waisted jeans my mom had bought in the Sears “Far Out” department look like I had a very small goiter next to my zipper. I have an anxiety attack. Will she be flattered or disgusted? I make another mental note to carry a roll of quarters in my pocket so I’ll seem more substantial next time I’m in this position.
With my arms spread wide, she comes so close to me that I catch a whiff of her perfume, it’s either Charlie or Baby Soft, either way, it smells classy.
I was in the moment, I was in control, I was finally “the man”. The whole room slow down. Destiny was mine.
Then the strangest thing happens. She doesn’t stop, instead she walks right past me and into the open arms of Mark Fiesler.
Just to give you some reference.
This is me in high school (notice the pubestache)
And this is Mark Fiesler.
Mark Fiesler was in my grade in high school, and he was everything I wasn’t and wished I was. He had pop star good looks, with the kind of perfectly feathered hair that would’ve made Jan Michael Vincent envious. Mark’s smile was warm and inviting, and he could make conversation with anyone. I would’ve been happy with any of these qualities, especially the feathered hair, but Mark went beyond that. Mark was a jock, and not the big stupid bully kind, he was finesse. He was our quarterback and our star pitcher, striking out 21 batters in one game. But what made Mark most dangerous was that he was a nice guy. I really wanted him to be a dick, a complete and total asshole, but he wasn’t. It’s hard to hate someone who isn’t hateful.
Understanding my own shortcomings, my daily ploy was to use my sense of humor to make Mark laugh so I could hang with him in the hallways between classes. Like Mark’s own personal remora I hoped to get any of the cast off girls who lined up to get his attention. In reality, it was an abject lesson in how invisible I was and how easily being popular came to him. I felt sure he was somehow stacking the deck by releasing sexual pheromones as he exhaled. I couldn’t smell it, but every woman’s antennae went up before he entered any room.
One time we were hanging in the hallway watching everyone walk by and without looking at me, as if he were talking to himself, he said, “Man, I haven’t gotten laid in two weeks.” I was shocked, I turned to him, “Two weeks! Two weeks! You’re looking at 17 years here! You have any idea what kind of backup you get from 17 years on the dry couch? Do you? I’m fucking dangerous, I rub against a doorjamb wrong and I could explode.” Mark laughed, “Keep hope alive Stein. Keep hope alive.” Then he turned and walked off to class.
As “Rock Lobster” segued into “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner I watched my blonde fall deep into Mark’s embrace. Somebody was getting laid, but it wasn’t going to be me. I was tempted to turn and explain that she was making a mistake, that if she knew me, she’d prefer me, but it would’ve fallen on deaf ears. Mark had “it”. I also had “it”, but my “it” included astigmatism and the uncanny ability to tell my friend Mike what he’d eaten by the smell of his farts.
In 2000, I heard Mark was going to show up for the 20 year reunion and I secretly hoped he would be fat and bald, but he wasn’t. He was still handsome, with that fucking dreamy smile, doe eyes and perfectly feathered hair. He still had “it” and I was devastated. When he saw me he put his hand on my shoulder and told me I looked good. We talked for a little bit, as the girls from our class fluttered by, still hoping to catch his attention.
I don’t remember how the night ended, but I don’t think I gave him a proper goodbye, tell him that I liked him, give him a hug, see if I could get him to laugh. You never really think about that until you realize you’re never going to get a chance to do it.
On June 10th 2011 Mark passed away.
I always thought one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made was not telling the people who I cared about how much they meant to me. You graduate high school and all these people who were intricately involved in shaping your life suddenly disappear and you don’t say anything because you aren’t mature enough and you don’t have enough perspective to know you should. And then you graduate college and the same thing happens.
So I’ve started making a point of telling people who’ve made a difference in my life that I care about them. That they are important to me. I give big hugs and in fits of emotion tell friends that I love them.
I have no idea what had become of Mark, what his life was like, where he had been living, or why he died. None of that is really important. I only hope he passed painlessly, surrounded by the people he loved…and I hope they had a chance to tell him how important he was to them.