The extended adolescence that masquerades as American higher education ended quickly for me. I wrote a semi-libelous editorial in the school paper that attacked a beloved copy-editing instructor. The professor, whose skin was as thin as a nursing-home lifer, had his former students spray an AK barrage of letters, in that same paper, to destroy me. I became a hallway pariah to even my closest friends, who had their own professional ambitions to consider. So to save myself, I wrenched some AP credits from the depth of my transcript, and thus finished my college career a semester early.
Early matriculation meant I had my whole life, or at least three months, to do whatever I wanted. I needed to return to school by early June and attend my commencement. In the words of my mother, to not do so would be to "disappoint" my grandparents. Honestly, I didn’t need the grief.
The plans for my three-month break were intricate and noble. I purchased a multiple-stop ticket on Amtrak that would take me from Chicago to the West Coast, and, reluctantly, back. First, I would travel to Oregon for a few days. After that, my friend Gregg had agreed to let me stay in the storage shed of his beachfront rental house in San Diego, where the chicks were hot and the weed delicious. Who cared if I was going to live without electricity, plumbing, or air? I’d be soaking in an eternal spring of sexual conquest!
On the train somewhere between Milwaukee and Minneapolis, within the first two hours of my trip, I met the reform-school girl.
As soon as the train pulled out of Union Station, I headed to the lounge to buy myself a beer. A couple of cars back, I saw her, with the curly blond hair that went down past her shoulders, the low-cut black frilly blouse from which her creamy breasts nearly spilled, the river-wild blue eyes, the nose slightly bigger than perfect. Perhaps it’s only memory talking, but I swear I smelled something sweet and alluring in that car. I floated toward her like Bugs Bunny to a piece of carrot cake,
"What brings you to this fine train?" I said, so smoothly.
"My mom’s taking me to reform school in Minneapolis," she said. "I guess she got tired of me fucking drug dealers."
I said what most guys say when encountering an obviously dangerous woman who they nonetheless
Who was it going to hurt if I bought this inverse Daisy Miller an overpriced light beer on the Amtrak?
want to sleep with: "Oh. That’s cool."
Then it registered.
"You’re too old to be going to reform school."
"Only if sixteen is too old," she said.
I told her about my uninteresting life in a very uninteresting way. She chomped her gum and bragged about all the drugs she’d done. Lord, she was such a floozy!
"You wanna buy me a beer?" she said.
She was a bad, bad girl, but I considered myself way too nice a guy to contribute to her corruption.
"Haven’t you had enough trouble for one life?" I said.
What was wrong with me? Who was it going to hurt if I bought this inverse Daisy Miller an overpriced light beer on the Amtrak? Why couldn’t I ever close the deal?
An hour later, I found myself in the observation car, talking to a creative-writing professor who was on his way home to his wife, also a creative-writing professor, in Minneapolis. He, like everyone in every creative-writing department in North America at the time, had been a student of Raymond Carver’s.
"Sad about him dying," I said.
"Yes," he said.
His eyes took on a glaze of extreme insincerity. He said,
"I still miss him."
Well, enough of that shit. I went to the lounge car, where the reform-school girl was playing cards and drinking beer with a passel of bad characters. She looked at me, her expression loaded with gloat and malice. I sulked and mourned the fact that one of these pieces of sub-human biker trash was going to take what should have been mine by birthright.
Later, I went downstairs, to the bathroom. She was coming out of the ladies’. We brushed past each other in
I felt her tongue flick knowingly along the roof of my mouth.
the very narrow, very private hallway.
"Oh," she said. "I didn’t recognize you without your glasses."
"Do you think," I said, "There’s a chance that two people like us, who . . . we . . . could . . . "
She pushed me against the wall and started kissing me. I felt her tongue flick knowingly along the roof of my mouth. My torso shuddered with the sweet thrill of the illicit. One of her hands moved from my neck down my chest, landing on my crotch, where she began rubbing in a circular motion.
"Mmmmmmph!" I said. "Wait. Please."
I grasped desperately for her nether-area. But she brushed me away. She swirled her hand on my dick and her tongue in my mouth. I felt a happy tickling throughout my body, which bloomed quickly. Then I shuddered with joy, and squirted off into my jeans.
"See ya!" she said.
And she was gone.
From my seat, I caught a glimpse of her on the Minneapolis platform, in a fur coat that went down to her ankles. She walked with a confidence, even an arrogance that no woman her age, no person of any age, could possibly feel without a heady dose of self-delusion. I’m sure that since then, my life compared to hers has been a joyous music festival on a perfect summer weekend. But while the result of her efforts calcified on my underwear in those seventy-two hours following our encounter, and particularly during the interstice when the North Dakota farmer and his wife led my entire car in a rousing chorus of the "She’s Too Fat For Me Polka," reform school seemed like a pleasant fate indeed.
Bad Sex With Neal Pollack appears monthly.