XXVI: Amy May

{Disclaimer: The name Amy May was chosen in an arbitrary manner. I know of no person named Amy May, and any similarities to anyone named Amy May are purely coincidental. The story, Amy May, is purely a work of fiction.}

Intro to the characters in the Kwik Shop:

Some of the most peaceful people I know love over-the-top murder and mayhem in their movies. It’s what we call escapism. Some of us are the types who put spiders outside, as opposed to killing them. In our movies, however, we love the blood and guts. What about the victims? In most “fun” blood and guts features, we know little to nothing about the victims. Do we want to know more? Would that ruin our enjoyment, or would it intensify the scene? In most “fun” blood and guts features we learn just enough to want to see them die and no more. We want to cheer as their blood and guts decorate our screen. We don’t want prolonged emotional involvement. What if the main character did something to someone we cared about? What if he did it to us, and I use the word “us” in the heartfelt manner that we grow to identify with fictional characters.

Most of us have a love/loathe relationship with bullies. Some of the times, we are the bullied, and some of the times we are the bully. When we are not forced into the role of the former, we want to be the latter. It’s the king of the hill mentality, and nowhere do we gain more satisfaction than those scenes, or moments in life, when the invulnerable (the athletes, the beautiful) are made vulnerable. We’ve all participated in these scenes. We’ve all had our roles. What happens when the bullies become bullied? The other three girls in the Amy May story, bully the beautiful. Amy May is/was the girl who had it all, before she moved. She had new kid status thrust upon her. Do we cheer on the less privileged, or the privileged? What happens when those same three bullies begin to get bullied? We did not care for these three characters in the previous scene, but we don’t want to see anyone get bullied. Do we cheer? How confused are we? How much do we cheer, how far do we want their bully to go? When does enough become too much, and at what point do we begin to feel an empty sensation in our gut for cheering on excess?

Final Note: Some puzzle pieces just don’t fit. Amy May was once a part of a novel. “It doesn’t work! Cut her Loose!” She’s free now. Amy May has no constraints. Consider this Amy May’s coming out party. She, and her companion piece William fricking Mathe, now serve no master, and they justify their existence by claiming to enhance intrigue in the greater novel.

Anyone who has written a novel knows that excising a chunk of your hard work is as painful as removing an organ must be. Your doctor tells you that that organ is unnecessary, and it has to come out, but there is some fear attached to your decision making process. “Doesn’t that organ help fight impurities, germs, and other things that are vital to sustained health?” To a degree, they say, but yours has to come out. It’s crunch time. It’s time for you to decide. You know there is no decision. You’ve just received a dire, well-informed ultimatum, but that doesn’t make it any easier to decide. You’re a “Man of Golden Words”, and if you know the rule of golden words, you know there aren’t many. You know that not all of your words, and side stories, are germane, but that doesn’t make it any easier to decide.

They may feed the theme, as Amy May does, and they may be entertaining, I believe Amy May is, but they’re so far from the overall flow of your novel that they appear to be such an awkward addition as to be a short story in a novel, an appendix in the body that needs to be cut loose for a tighter, more focused product. I considered adding these two pieces as a flashback sequence, but that would’ve meant making changes throughout the Kwik Shop chapter, and it would’ve taken away from the story. Long story short, nothing I thought of worked. So, these two are now stand alone stories that work well together.

 Amy May

“Oh my God! Oh my God!! Oh my God!!!” Three of the top four cheerleaders of Calvin Coolidge High School whisper shouted hopping up and down behind the southwest corner of Calvin Coolidge High School, and they were whisper squealing, panting sarcastically, and fanning themselves. The other cheerleader, Amy May, was never sure how much sarcasm was packed into such displays, but she wanted in.

Amy May spent what felt like a lifetime on the inside looking out at her old school, but her dad made too much money, and the company laid him off. The Mays had to pull up stakes and seek work in the city. She was the new kid in school now, and it felt like she would spend the rest of her life on the outside looking in.

“What is it?” Amy May asked. She attempted to join the laughter and all of the foolishness, even though she had no idea what it was all about. She was the new girl. “What is it?” she repeated.

“It’s William fricking Mathe,” Debbie squealed.

Amy May knew William fricking Mathe. Everyone knew him. Everyone called him William fricking Mathe, or every girl did anyway. Whether a girl was saying it with awe or bitterness, they always said William fricking Mathe. The tones were the only thing that changed.

“Where?” Amy May asked nudging her way forward on the corner.

“Don’t look,” Mary Heather said pulling her back.

Amy May wasn’t afforded much time to look at Mathe before Mary Heather could corral her, but she did see that infamous ‘76 cherry red Monte Carlo idling in the parking lot right above the football field. The Monte was almost as famous as he was. When people saw it pulling into the parking lot, they talked about how Mathe found it in the city junkyard when he was fourteen. They talked about how he: “Built the thing from the ground up with paper route money and a job he got delivering pizzas for the local Pizza Hut.” They talked about how: “The Monte was the coolest car in the city a year before he was even legally allowed to drive it.”

Others said that was all hype. They said: “Mathe just knew about hype years before the rest of us did. He knew how to craft an image for himself when the rest of us were still focused on the plot lines of Bugs Bunny episodes.” Others said: “You can call it hype if you want, I call it outright lying, and the whole Pizza Hut, paper route money is a bunch of crap too.” They added. “Drug money is how he bought it and built it, if you want to know the truth. Oh, he may have started doing the Pizza Hut and paper route thing,” they said, “But he got impatient, and he started selling drugs to build her to perfection. You think he could’ve afford a” —and here they would mention some car parts he added to the Monte that must’ve been extravagant, but Amy May knew nothing about cars or parts— “making pizzas and delivering newspapers. You’ll need to learn how to sort through the facts and the fictions about Coolidge’s beloved quarterback, because you’ll hear it all.”

Amy May never was good at sorting through facts and the fictions. She took everyone at face value, until they made it plainly obvious that they were fictional. The one thing she did know was that, good or bad, everyone talked about William fricking Mathe and his Monte.

You don’t need to worry about any of this shit,” one of the cheerleaders, named Renee, said pulling Amy May further away from the corner of the school. Renee pulled on Amy May’s sweater with three quick, meaningful tugs to punctuate the next three things she said, until they were face to face. “Mathe ain’t into your shit, and he never will be. Got me?” Renee’s lips were pursed. “Mathe’s mine.” She lifted an eyebrow on Amy May, “You got me?” They were so close, at that point, that Amy May could taste the jack and coke on Renee’s breath.

“Renee, for God’s sakes,” Debbie said. She had urgency and compassion in her voice. “Amy ain’t going to mess with him.”

“I ain’t taken any chances,” Renee said pulling Amy May even closer. “There ain’t no way no tiny ass, here, is gonna move in on my Mathe addiction.” She was bunching Amy May’s sweater, and Amy May tried to knock her off, but Renee was too strong. Amy May was jostling and pushing to break free from Renee’s grasp, but Renee wouldn’t budge. She was too strong. It was intimidating.

By high school standards, Renee’s ass was larger than normal, but she had boobs too, and boobs go a long way to countering any abnormalities in the ass.

“Maybe if Uwie’s in there, you can have a shot at him,” Renee said of the running back Aaron Mays that always hung out with William. Everyone at Coolidge called Aaron Mays “Uwie”. Amy May never did find out why, but she knew now was not the time to ask. If Amy May wasn’t rattled by Renee pulling her in the way she did, she would’ve laughed in Renee’s face. Uwie was cute and funny. Actually, he was gorgeous and hilarious, but he was forbidden fruit. There was no way her dad would go for her dating a black guy. He said so a number of times on their move to the city.

“How do I look?” Renee asked after releasing Amy May. She turned to Mary Heather and Debbie with the question. She didn’t appear to care what Amy May might have thought.

“You looking good girl,” Mary Heather returned. “I’m fucking nervous,” Mary Heather said with laughter. They all laughed with her. “How many times have we seen William fricking Mathe like this … just fricking sitting here?  It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity!” They all laughed hard at that and brought William’s attention on them.

“Shh,” Debbie said. “He heard us.” She was at the edge of the corner looking out on Mathe. Amy May moved up to her side.

Amy May spotted what she thought was disgust on William Mathe’s face. She swore she saw an eye roll. If it wasn’t an eye roll, his reaction was at least disinterest. He was sitting in his Monte, with his buddies, doing nothing, and that appeared to be all that he wanted to do on this night. Amy May thought of reporting her findings to the girls, but she was sure that Renee would screw that up into some kind of competitive statement that would put Amy May in her place. She remained quiet. Before she left that corner, however, Amy May took one last look at him, thinking that this William ‘fricking’ Mathe could save her from the life of the ‘new kid’. If word got around the school that the two of them were dating, she wouldn’t have to be a cheerleader, or second seat on the sax. She wouldn’t have to take part in any other extra-curricular activities to make friends. Everyone would want to be her friend. Even if she only went on one date with him, and someone spotted them, they would all want to know who she was.

“Ready girls?” Renee asked. She turned back to Mary and Debbie. She didn’t look at Amy May.

They all walked over with such confidence. Even with all of the hype William fricking Mathe generated, and the hype they had all generated in Amy at the corner, they appeared to whisk that all away in the walk to his Monte. Renee took the lead, of course, and she appeared to be the epitome of confidence. She knew what she was doing. She always appeared to know what she was doing. Mary Heather and Debbie flanked her with an almost equal measure of confidence. They appeared to know secret things about body language that Amy May hadn’t even begun to understand, and she had a difficult time mimicking it.

“William fricking Mathe,” Renee said sauntering up to the Monte. She immediately went in on the door frame and lifted her backside out a little to give William the best possible view of her cleavage.

Amy May slouched down to get a view of the back seat. She saw an older woman in the back with the Matt Tange guy. Matt Tange was the star tight end. Tange was as uppity and arrogant as Uwie and Mathe could be, but there was something about his obnoxious, loud behavior made him entirely unappealing to Amy May. Matt Tange was the prototypical jock, as were Uwie and Mathe, but Tange put a lot more effort into attaining what Uwie and Mathe carried naturally.

Amy May didn’t recognize the lady near Tange. The woman looked to be nearing forty. Amy May’s mouth fell open when she realized Tange had his arm around her.

“Uwie,” Renee said pumping her head to Aaron Mays, “What up! Beaumont?” she said looking to a guy in the far left corner that Amy May could not see from her vantage point. “Beaumont?” she said adding the latter in inquiry to William. “I thought you guys didn’t do ganja the night before a game.”

“Fuck off Renee!” Aaron Mays said with a mouthful of chips.

“Must’ve stole a good batch huh?” she said looking to Beaumont. Beaumont was the son of a D.E.A. agent, and he always had what everyone called “primo shit”. All the kids swore he stole it from his dad’s evidence rooms.

“The stuff is too good for him to get it from the street,” Amy May heard two boys discuss in study hall. “I heard someone say it was Afghani grade.”

“So that’s how Mathe got that ride?” the

“That’s right,” the kid said. “Beaumont won’t sell it, because the link would be too strong. He’s too afraid of his dad, so he has Uwie and Mathe sell it for him.”

Renee leaned in, and her hand went down on Mathe’s pants. She let out a measured breath. “How they hanging tonight Willie?”

“C’mon,” Mathe said knocking her hand off him. He looked at Renee, and his eyes lazily tossed off to the right. That afforded him a look at Amy May. Amy May knew that that look was incidental, but she swore that when his eyes landed on her, they stayed there for a beat longer than what one would call a casual glance. She managed to avoid reacting. She didn’t smile, or step to the left or the right, but inwardly she was dancing. He was different. He didn’t care for Renee’s brutish sexual nature. Amy May liked that. Renee didn’t appear to care. If she did, she didn’t even pause.

“That face,” Renee said lining his chin with her index finger, “That beautiful face.” William remained calm and unfazed. His gaze went forward, away from her. “That hair,” she said twirling his dirty blonde locks. He appeared to be one of those who could go without bathing and still have all the girls at Coolidge watching his every move, waiting for him to look at them. “God sure took her sweet time with you,” Renee said concluding her flirtation with a twirl of her index on one of his nipples. William wore what the girls at Amy May’s old school FDR High called a wife beater T-shirt, and it had holes all along the neckline, but Amy May couldn’t take her eyes off him, until he looked at her again.

She looked away quickly. She wasn’t ready for him, and she feared Renee.

“Fuck off Renee,” he said, “you bore me.” He swatted her finger away.

“Fuck you William Fucking Mathe!” Renee yelled, “You ain’t fucking shit.” Amy May could hear tears in her voice.

William was even unfazed by that display. It shocked Amy May. Throughout the months she spent with Renee, she never saw her that mad, and the girl was always mad about something. Her tirade lasted a good twenty seconds. Amy May thought Renee was mad enough to strike him.

“Who’s the new one?” William asked pumping a head towards Amy May when Renee finished. No one answered. Amy May took a step back. It wasn’t intentional, but she did it anyway. She quickly stepped forward to maintain her stance before him. Renee looked back at her. Tears rimmed Renee’s eyes. She leaned back from the window frame, still leaning on it, to look at Amy May. They were all looking at her at that point. Uwie was leaning down, and Matt Tange was leaning forward. She smiled, but she didn’t know how to stand.

“C’mere,” William said looking around Renee.

Amy May approached. She smiled. “Hi!” she said.

“Have a name?” he asked.

“Um, Amy May,” she said weakly. She could feel face blush. She was about to say it louder. She wanted her reply to be stronger for him and for all of them. Before she could clear her throat and speak with more power, Renee interrupted:

“Amy May!” Renee said entirely removing herself from the car’s window frame to turn to Amy May. She said it with a high pitch and a mock southern drawl. “Amy May Walters is from the south.” She pronounced Amy May’s former locale with an exaggerated drawl, then put her eyes through Amy May with her nose up, and her eyebrows furrowed.

“Let’s take a look at you Amy Lou,” William said with a simple waggle of his finger.

Amy May stayed put. Renee was in the way, and she didn’t appear ready to move. She thought that Renee conceded to her, but she wasn’t sure. Amy May thought about what sort of character she should play here. She wondered how Sandy Olson would’ve played this. She remembered the bonfire scene in Grease with Danny Zukko. She also recalled her aunt telling her: “Nobody likes it when you’re just yourself deary.” It was her Aunt’s only dating tip. Her aunt was a font of information on just about everything in life, but dating. For dating, she only had one piece of advice. “Everyone tells you to just be yourself. It’s a crock of hooey dear. People like someone exciting, not that you’re not exciting dear, but if you can enhance your character just a little, you can reel them in for a little more.’

“It’s Amy May,” Amy May corrected.

“What?” William asked.

“You said Amy Lou,” she said, “It’s Amy May.”

“Sorry Amy May,” he said with a smile curling the corner of his lips. Amy May couldn’t take her eyes off that curl. It was so pure, so confident. It was intoxicating. She didn’t think she cared for thin lips until that moment. She thought a guy with fuller lips would be a better kisser, but she couldn’t imagine William Mathe with full lips. It would mess up the angular structure of his face. He had a dimple. That smile brought out a dimple. It was so beautiful. It was intoxicating. She saw William Mathe in the halls, and she had fourth period study hall with him, but she never saw him smile before. She never saw that curl in the corner of his lips before, and she never saw that dimple before. She wanted to draw that dimple, so that she could have it on her wall. “You’re new here aren’t you,” he asked. The only answer Amy May could manage was a nod. “Say hello to the fellas Amy May. We have Uwie here, excuse me Aaron Mays, Matt Tange is back there, and that’s Ben Beaumont on the horn.”

“Hi,” she said looking in the window to see that the Beaumont character was, indeed, rolling marijuana cigarettes on an iPad. She said hi to Matt Tange, and she smiled at the woman sitting under his arm.

“Sorry,” William said, “That’s Matt’s Mom.”

“Fuck off Mathe!” Tange returned.

“That’s his girlfriend Anna,” Mathe corrected with a chuckle. They exchanged hellos and William propped himself up on the Monte with his forearms on the windowsill. He held her gaze for a moment longer. Amy May was so nervous she almost peed. “Let’s see your tits,” he said looking at them.

“What?” she asked with a smile. She sent that smile to Mary Heather and Debbie. They weren’t smiling. They were looking at Renee. They were concerned. “No,” she said, as if this were some elaborate, group joke. When she saw that no one was smiling with her, she looked back at Mathe with more conviction. “No!” For some reason the second no got everyone laughing.

“You go girl,” Uwie said snickering into his hand.

“C’mon baby,” William said with a smile. The smile was a sly one. It was one of mischief. There was no dimple on that smile, but the curl was more pronounced. “Just a peek,” he said. “Just for me?” he said.

“No means no motherfucka,” Uwie said bouncing with laughter now.

The only ones not laughing now were William and Amy May, and the nonverbal intensity that grew between them got the best of Amy May, until she said: “You need to mind your manners when you talk to me!” That response had force, that had conviction, and it silenced everyone.

It alarmed her how silent everyone got. She lost her sense of indignation. She feared she didn’t have as much conviction as she thought. She thought of repeating it more matter-of-factly, so that everyone wouldn’t be so silent.

Her anger was fueled by the fact that everyone was so nonchalant about this moment, as if it was something they did to pass the time on a relatively boring Thursday. What man asks a woman to show her breasts to him? She thought less of William Mathe for asking the question, but she thought even less of those who failed to come to her defense by scoring William for his outrageous request.

Aaron Mays leaned down to look at her face. “Damn,” he said, “Brother Mathe done got in the chops,” he said laughing. “Good on you girl!” he said. He turned to Mathe, “Power to the people motherfucka!” and he raised a fist with his head tilted down and to the left, and he returned to fiddling with whatever he was fiddling with.

“I never bought a car without checking under the hood first,” William said with a challenging stare. “Your last chance.” His ice blue eyes looked so genuine when he said that. Amy May couldn’t tell if the pain on his face was genuine, or if he did that just to do it, but she thought she might have embarrassed him in front of all of his friends. His friend Aaron Mays, or Uwie or whatever his name was, appeared to be a real jerk who enjoyed calling his friends out in such a manner. She felt bad. She could see it in William’s face. She had hurt his feelings.

“No,” she said more matter-of-factly.

“What a jip!” William said leaning back in the car seat. He popped the gear into drive.

“Wait,” she said impulsively. He looked up at her. He went back to park. His face said that he had had enough of her games. It was put up or shut up time. Amy May looked over to Mary Heather. Mary Heather was probably the only person in the parking lot who might help her through this, but she even shrank back. No one was going to tell her what to do here. “Ok,” she said. “Just for you.”

Amy May saw it in William Mathe’s face when she undid the first button of her cheerleader sweater. It was a subtle, almost imperceptible twitch, but she saw that she was making a huge mistake. She should’ve stopped. She should’ve put that button right back through the hole and sent him away, but she feared that she might never have those crystal blue eyes on her again if she rejected him. His eyes had a hypnotizing effect on her. His face wasn’t dark but he was one of those who appeared blessed with a constant tan. That jaw line was so well defined. She loved having all that directed at her, and she didn’t want it to end. He looked at her once, passing her in the hallway, en route to class, and he looked away from her just as quick, as if she was a nobody. She saw him at a Wal-Mart, and he passed her as if he never saw her before. She went through three different aisles, abandoning her parents, to try and procure a chance meeting. It didn’t happen. It never did. This was her one chance to have him look at her. When he had pulled his eyes away from her and pulled the car into gear, she decided that she would do anything to keep him looking at her. He was the most beautiful man she ever saw.

She didn’t have any breasts, so she didn’t know why he would want to see them, but she enjoyed being a big deal to him just the same. She thought about that for a half second when she undid the final button. She held her shirt open in such a manner that only he could see, and he said:

“May I touch them Amy May?” She was spellbound and silent. She couldn’t believe she was doing this, but she couldn’t break the spell his eyes had on her. She nodded. Her face felt like it was on fire. Her legs wobbled a bit.

His hands were Goldilocks soft: Not too hard and not too soft. Hands that were too hard robbed moments such moments of their sensuality, and hands that were too soft felt creepy. His hands were perfect. She wanted to kiss him to provide punctuation to this moment. She wanted some sort of progression. She broke the spell his face had on her, for just a second, to watch his hands, but she went immediately back to his beautiful eyes. A smile came to her lips when she realized she had made the right decision. This subtle degradation paid off. Even her friends back home, at FDR, would’ve done this, if they saw his face and that smile. If they got one look at those ice blue eyes, Amy May knew Marla and Nancy would’ve told her she did the right thing here.

“Fucking A right!” she pictured Nancy saying in her way. “I would’ve shown him a lot more than that!”

“All right,” William said sliding back into his car seat, “That’s enough.” There was absolute revulsion on his face. The look on his face said things to Amy May no one had ever told her about boys. He peered straight through her and said: “What’s wrong with you people? Do you have no control at all? You’re all fucking sluts!”

She should’ve slapped him or cursed him or done anything but what she did. It shocked her to hear such things from him. She did not see it coming. The thing that really got to her was that she thought she was a strong, independent woman to that point. She knew she was smart, she was ambitious, and even her dad said that he thought she was going to be a special person, and that she wouldn’t need a man in life to support her. Praise like that from her dad, and others, helped Amy May through the tumult of being the new kid, having no friends, and all of the psychological aspects of change that could cripple a lesser person.

“I am a strong, independent woman who can overcome any obstacles put before me,” was the mantra she would repeat any time someone challenged her. She repeated this line a number of times since she entered Coolidge, and she became more aware of certain things happening to her before they happened. She learned to prepare herself for the mean side of humanity that so many protected her from at her old school, but she wasn’t prepared for this display from William Mathe.

Her impulsive reaction was to be angry at herself for seeing the warning signs and failing to heed them. At the time, she was overwhelmed by William Mathe, and the prospect of dating him, and how it might help ease her transition in this new school. She had many experiences with people who weren’t what they appeared, but she was not accustomed to people flipping on a dime like that. Most of the people in her past life were consistent, and you could take them at face value, but she only realized how consistent they were in the face of Mathe’s inconsistency. What was the point of him flipping on her like that? How could he sleep at night after doing this to someone?

Perhaps it was as senseless as most things are, she reasoned. Boys don’t think about the ramifications of what they do. They act on impulse with no philosophy. They do it, simply because it feels good. They do it, because they’re bad boys and bad boys do bad things. You can dig into their background and try to learn their motivation, but everyone eventually comes to the conclusion that there are just bad guys out there. There are some who simply do bad things, but there are others that are simply bad. Amy May wasn’t sure which William fricking Mathe was, but at the time, she wasn’t really concerned about it in the moment.

If you knew all that, she would ask herself later, why did you do it? Why did you unbutton your sweater in front of a boy you hardly knew? You did it because you know you don’t have Renee’s aggression, Debbie’s personality, or Mary Heather’s beauty. You did it because you’re so insecure and shy, and you didn’t think a William fricking Mathe would ever look at you again if you let him down.

She didn’t think of all that in the heat of the moment. In the moment, she did the one thing that she shouldn’t have done: she took two steps back and ran. She ran until fatigue drowned out her embarrassment and pain. She ran until no one could see her discovering the harsh realities of the world, a new world, a world in which she was the new kid, the mentally limping girl at the back of the pack that no one turns around to rescue from the jackals.

“You can’t run away from your problems,” her dad had told her so many times in so many kid situations when she would run away from people who were mean to her. She heard it so often that she repeated his words as he said them. She didn’t think her dad ever knew the problems she faced. He never had a problem getting people to like him. He was one of those guys everyone liked the moment they met him.

She made a vow to her dad, sometime after the last time she ran away from her problems, that she would never run away again, yet here she was literally running away from another problematic situation.

She knew she would have to face the ramifications of all this come Monday. Very few, if any, would confront her with this, but everyone would know. Everyone would tell their friends and they would tell their friends, until it was well-known that Amy May couldn’t deal with confrontation. But up to that moment in her life she hadn’t been asked to deal with confrontation. The people who cared for her in life, from her family to her friends, shielded her from confrontation, and she hated them for it now. She thought of all those people, her people, who stuck up for her at FDR, and she hated them for not allowing her to build her defenses up. She thought of how her dad stepped in to thwart the battles she had with her brothers. She thought of how guys at FDR threatened to beat up her boyfriends if they made her cry, and she hated them all for it, until she was behind the first house she could find with no lights on, so no one could see her, crying away her pain.

No one followed her. No one was that concerned about how upset she was. No one would be sitting next to her, rubbing her shoulder while she cried. It wasn’t that kind of world for her anymore. She would have to cry alone in this world, and no one would know from this point forward when she did.

 

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