1. Jersey Boy.

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He was the sort of good-looking that makes you forget how feet and doors work; the type of handsome that has you stumbling over sentences and ankles, falling head-first into a stuttering mess of unfunny.

We’d stand gawping at him on the boardwalk for the best part of our day.  When you’re a teenager getting paid $6 an hour, there really isn’t much else your employer can expect you to do.  

We ran the rides on the pier, and he worked at the games stall opposite, with a lop-sided money-pouch, a practiced-swagger, and an endless too-cool-lean against the pole of his basketball hoop. How we longed to be that basketball pole.

He was all blond-disheveled hair and a baggy blue-shirt reminiscent of Dicaprio in Romeo and Juliet: Every inch a young Leonardo, a 6-foot-3 masterpiece to our 19-year-old eyes, tanned by a July spent in the sun and under our smoldering gazes. Not only was he beautiful, he was a local: A genuine Jersey boy, with a Kennedy-smile, the confidence of the New Kids on the Block, and future-VISA-potential written all over him.  He made our immigrant ovaries burst.

Our inability to actually just go up and talk to him meant he’d acquired the enigma of Gatsby, and was only discussed in hushed whisperings with other female employees in the lunch queue:

“I heard he’s the boss’s grandson…”

“Sara said he’s cousins with Bon Jovi.”

“He models for Abercrombie.”

“Nah, he was in a Britney video, or some shit?”

Nobody doubted for a moment that any of this was untrue. Absolutely all of it was mutually possible, and probably even under-exaggerated. We’d have believed if someone had said he was a demi-god. Remove the demi, and we’d have been even more certain.

So, imagine my absolute delight when he swaggered over one day and presented me with an invitation to his birthday party.

“I’d like you to have this.” He announced, with all the cock-certainty of an American. “You can bring a friend. It would be great to have you there.” Then he smiled and strolled off, as casual as he’d come, leaving me hyperventilating at my ride, with a queue of angry guests that I was now too flustered to let in through the gate.  “BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BROCK!” the invitation said, “JULY 29TH. NO NEED FOR PRESENTS, JUST BRING YOUR PRESENCE!” Followed by an address on the other side of town.

I told EVERYBODY. Obviously. And EVERYBODY wept because they’d been denied this summons into his life. 

The following night, me and M rocked up at the address on the invite. Like two too-giddy British girls invited to be extras on The OC – We’d packed a litre of vodka (the procuration of which was a saga worthy of The Iliad in itself for these under-age heroes) and a stack of red-cups, because this was going to be our FIRST AMERICAN COLLEGE PARTY; we were sure it was going to be everything Dawson’s Creek and American Pie had promised us, but probably more!

The invite said 6pm – a little early for a raucous celebration? Ofcourse we waited until 8:30.

The house was huge, and all the lights were on. There was clearly a chaos of activity inside, we should definitely have bought more spirits.  And yet why were people not spilling out onto the porch armed with beer-bongs yet? Why was there nobody passed-out-drunk or getting frisky in the garden? Conservative America.

A permed middle-aged woman answered the door with a flourish, “Gifts go over here, sweetie!” She fawned, taking our carrier bag from us and placing it on a table full of overly-wrapped packages – I almost snatched it back, but you can’t assault the host: we weren’t in Swansea anymore.

“You’re a little late for the games, but food has just been served!”

What was this? Organised ring of fire? Scheduled beer-pong? Ordered alcoholism! I liked the sound of it all immensely.

“Why does she think our vodka is a present!?” I whispered to M, outraged. I guess the invitation lied.
“That boy is so fine, he can take ALL my alcohol and money and body.”  She answered.

“Fine… He can have the vodka,” I decided, worryingly eyeing the sad-looking carrier bag on the table full of decadently displayed gifts, “but what are we going to drink now?”

My question was answered by the permed-woman thrusting a drink into my hands. “Cheers!” She beamed, “Brock, some more friends are here!”

The drink, to my disappointment was some form of juice. Maybe even a squash. A watered-down juice. Christ.  Just a mixer, surely?! We started looking around for something to put in it, but all we found were the judgemental eyes of a blond JESUS staring down at us from pictures on the walls. 

There were lots of older people stood around drinking, relatives we soon realised, after Brock had bounded over and introduced us to fifteen aunties. What the F was going on!?  Nobody was wasted. Nobody was shirtless. Nobody was having any fun whatsoever. This party was clearly too high-brow for us. We wanted college boys, not Uncle Bob’s tales of how he’s one 18th British too, and how he’d like to visit his ancestral homeland if it wasn’t for all the rampant communism in Europe.

“Hey girls! I got Worms 4 on the PS2 for my birthday… We’re having a tournament in the den! Come on in!” Brock was super excited. We? Suddenly weren’t.

We’d have thought it impossible, but there was something not-so-sexy about him now that he wasn’t in his baggy work-shirt. We’d spent HOURS fantasising about seeing him out of that shirt. Yet, now that he was wearing a baseball-hat indoors, and seemed to have invited us to a Republican gathering. Now that he was ushering us into a room of skinny white boys, who looked much younger than Brock, all sat huddled about a blurry TV screen. They went awkwardly silent when we entered.

What sort of family-friendly nonsense was this?!

It was then M clocked the banners in the den. “Oh… Shit…” 

 “Happy sweet sixteenth, Brock!” they announced, like it was perfectly normal for something that looked like that to be less than 200 months old. 

Our trauma was broken by Brock’s cry of, “HEY! My uncle’s out front in his fire-truck! He said he’d ride us round the neighbourhood as a birthday treat!”

Yeah… We’d unwittingly attended a CHILD’s birthday party; left a litre of vodka on the gift-table (of a kid five-years under the legal age), AND been lured there under the false pretence of being able boast to all our friends how HOT our evening was. Only to go cold at the prospect of jail-time.

We bailed. Quickly. And never looked across the boardwalk at that fraudster-of-age-and-law; that 6-foot-3 toddler, ever again.


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