November 1, 2008

The Last Summer, Episode 3

So, last week we did some character development with Izzie. This week, the newly developed Ben and Izzie get to meet. And next week, some shit will go down!


When Ben arrived at the party about an hour and a half after most people got there, he debated whether or not it would be acceptable for him just to stand in a corner all night with a Corona in his hand humming sad love songs to himself. He didn’t want to chat up girls. He didn’t want the risk of a girl liking him and his friends forcing him to ask for her number. Ben wasn’t arrogant. He knew he wasn’t irresistible, but drunk girls were less likely to realize that, and so there was a distinct risk he might be forced to try to go home with one of them.

Ben decided the best way to avoid having to chat a girl up was to fly under the radar by actually going and talking to a girl. He would spend his whole night working on just the one, he thought, but a girl he was pretty sure would reject him. Brilliant! Then he wouldn’t have to screw anyone.

Ben sauntered into his cousin’s living room. It was pretty sparsely decorated. There was a bright red and blue polka-dotted rug that didn’t go with the lime green couch or the orange walls. Virtually the only thing that wasn’t hideously ugly about the apartment was the brand new flat screen tv in the centre. The priorities of the apartment’s residents (ie. Watching European league soccer) were thus obviously visible in tromping having a cosy domestic space that didn’t make one’s eyes bleed for the ugliness.

Perched in the corner, however, as everyone else was watching Ali G reruns, was a girl Ben liked the look of. She wasn’t beautiful, and she really wasn’t cute. Her face had a fixed serious expression and she didn’t look like she smiled very often, as something about her frown told Ben it was familiar to her face. There was, however, something a little bit lovely about her if you got past the grimace. Her hair was a rich dark brown that was really almost a black and her deep chocolate brown eyes sparkled even though she wasn’t smiling. He also had to admit that her figure wasn’t bad. She seemed to be about average height, which was a little bit boring, but her body curved in pleasant ways. Letting his mind wander to an erotic place, for a split second, it occurred to Ben that, in a bikini, this girl would probably look something like a 1950’s pin-up girl. Despite this, something told Ben she probably had never, and would never, wear a bikini in her life. What Ben liked best about the frowning girl sitting on a lawn chair in the corner was that he was pretty sure she would reject him, but that she would be too polite just to walk away at the beginning of the night. He could therefore pretend he was hitting on her for hours, and then walk away as though he had struck-out at the party’s end, and his friends would be none the wiser.

Ben approached the girl in question with his brilliant plan in mind. He wasted no time in taking up the lawn chair beside her, and introducing himself. “Hello, I’m Ben. I’m the host, Mark’s, cousin. What brings you here this evening?”

“I’m Izzie. I know the host, Mark, your cousin, through my friend Jenny, who is currently on the roof smoking pot.” Ben couldn’t tell if the look Izzie was giving him was one of begrudging tolerance or absolute disdain. Did he smell? It’s not like he had used an obnoxious pick-up line. Was he being too obvious? He decided he must be being too obvious, which was ironic, because he didn’t actually want to pick her up.

“What’s your deal? What do you do? I’ll go first. I’m a law student at Queen’s.”

“I just graduated from there, actually. I’m doing my master’s in history at Cambridge starting in the fall. I work at a law firm right now, though. There’s a lot of paper work.” What did that even mean, “There’s a lot of paper work?” Was she taking the piss out of him? This girl was clearly brilliant. She was studying history at Cambridge. Was she being condescending? Or was it just one of those bizarre observations people make for no reason at all. Why the fuck was this girl so confusing? What was he supposed to say now?

“Really, you went to Queen’s? It’s weird that we never met. We seem to know a lot of people in common.” It was a boring observation, but it was the only thing Ben could think of to say. But, surprisingly, Izzie indulged him by agreeing that, yes, it was strange they’d never met. She even asked which street he lived on in Kingston, which ended up only being two blocks away from where she herself had lived. Ben realized he had to get this conversation out of the geographical realm, and so he decided to try to open with up by asking her what kind of history she specifically wanted to study at Cambridge.

“So, Izzie, do you know what you want to write your thesis on yet?” Ben was proud of himself for asking such a thoughtful, mature question.

“Well, yes I do!” Izzie’s eyes lit up even more. She was smiling in her excitement. “I’m studying the history of transgendered women in the Victorian era. Most works of history just assume that women who loved women in the past were lesbians, but I’ve done a lot of research that implies this people might have been what we refer to today as transgendered men. Reading their journals, you often get the impression some of these women might have had gender identity crises. While we can never say for sure if these women would have identified with the transgendered label, or the lesbian one for that matter, I want to make visible the history of anxiety and crisis over one’s gender. Transgendered people are a blank space in the queer theory discourse now. It’s a real shame. If we can prove feelings of gender trouble have a history, it is my hope that people will be more accepting and tolerant of trans people today.” Ben hadn’t realized just how smart this girl was until now. He also now seriously wondered, despite the fact that he knew one did not have to be queer to care about queer history, if this girl was gay. If she was, great. Then he REALLY wouldn’t have to hook up with her.

“Wow, that sounds like pioneering work. There’s going to be a lot of research to do there, won’t there?” Ben was proud of these follow-up questions.

“Yes, it will be a LOT of work, but I love it, so I don’t mind.”

“That’s how I feel about the law. You’re right that it’s a lot of paper work, but at the end of the day, it sounds corny, but I love the idea that we can make sense of our world, and hopefully make it a better place, by agreeing on laws that reflect who we are and what we want our country to look like.” Ben knew he was running the risk of sounding cheesy, but he really was enchanted with the law. He had faith in its potential to organize society for the better, despite the fact that he knew it didn’t always do that.

“You know, we should all be so lucky to end up working too hard on something we love doing.; most people in today’s economy work way too hard at jobs they hate, if they’re fortunate enough to have jobs.” Did this girl really talk like this? No one Ben knew talked like this. No one he knew discussed the economy at parties, but he liked it. Any time he brought up politics at the bar with his friends, they always brushed it off, preferring to discuss a girl at the next table over with a great ass. If he’d brought up the economy, he definitely would have been disowned.

And so, for hours and hours, Ben and Izzie talked. They didn’t move from their respective lawn chairs in the living room. Instead, they sat in their own little bubble, ignoring the hip indie-rock music permeated the party around them. They discussed everything from an appropriate exit strategy for Iraq to how hypocritical it was that the Ontario government would pay for Viagara, but not birth control. They talked the way people never talked at parties, about real things and real opinions. They dared to disagree with each other and were not always polite, and yet they were friendly. Never once did one feel insulted or threatened by the other just because they disagreed on whether the Canadian military should extend its mandate in Afghanistan beyond 2011.

It wasn’t until 1:30 am, when Izzie excused herself to use the washroom, that Chris approached Ben with two beers and said, “Drink up, man! Jenny tells me Izzie’s parents are out of town. She’s definitely into you, so I think you should definitely go home with her and tap that sweet ass of hers tonight.” Ben had almost forgotten that this would happen, and now, he didn’t really know what to do. He hadn’t anticipated liking Izzie, but was beginning to suspect he did. This development made the entire situation that much more fucked up.

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