so there was this guy I was into my freshman year. a real hip guy. so hip, in fact, that at first, I mistook him for retarded.
pardon my political incorrectness, but let’s call a spade a spade for a minute. and let me be candid here, those were my exact thoughts the first time I saw him – “is he hot, or retarded?” So if you are uncomfortable with that term, just substitute “extra righteous” in its stead.
but really though, the line is fine between the two. there seems to be some recent character rule that whoever the hippest is, also looks the most handicapped. this is not always the case, but there is some undeniable correlation. it actually becomes a little silent game I play to divert myself: who likes Lambchop and who likes Lambchop? Who just spent their lunchbreak looking through the denim rack at DI, and who just took their DI lunchbreak? hard to tell.
INT: Smith’s grocery store, night.
He was classically good looking, big brown eyes, disheveled hair, like a roughed-up Milo Ventimiglia. wearing a one-piece brown long john, booties (untied, laces askew) , and –well, guess this is the most economical way to say this —retard glasses (these will be important later on). All the immediate signs pointed to handicapped, but my fascination remained. America and Kate were with me, caught me looking incredulously in his direction, and together uttered a preemptive, though tardy, “no.”
“what?” I said. “he’s hot!”
“no.” they said, and kept walking toward produce.
“yeah, or maybe he’s retarded." i said, looking back at him. "I can’t tell.”
“it’s the latter,” kate said.
and I wanted to believe her, but I was intrigued and needed to know if this was someone I could have a romantic future with, or if those hopes should be dashed.
“it’s all in the eyes,” I said, hoping to believe this once voiced. "I just need eye contact. I'll be right back."
I proceeded to follow the magnetic little creature around the store, daring him to look me in the eye, so I could determine, as I had hypothesized, whether he was hot or retarded. I needed a recognition, a smile, an acknowledgment, a sudden tongue-kiss, something.
but he wouldn’t look at me! or anywhere near me! he kind of just looked around to himself, muttering and scratching himself and standing in front of the sausage case for an uncomfortably long time. it was hard to be a spy when my subject was so, I don’t know, docile. boring. And I couldn’t just stand next to him all that time without giving up the ruse. I pretended to read labels on an end-cap display, but you can only do that for so long before someone questions your mental stability.
I saw him heading down the frozen foods isle. I quickly ran down to the end of the aisle next to his isle and cornered it so we’d pass each other going opposite directions. I stared him down, but he walked past me as if I wasn’t there.
Eventually he moved on toward dairy, still without any groceries and no apparent interest in me or anything else in the store.
Deflated, I trotted back to my shopping cohorts to give the verdict.
“Can’t tell. but I’m leaning towards retarded.” I said. “But I’m still attracted to him.”
The three of us continued our shopping for another ten minutes, and pulled up to the check out lines when what do you know, there he was next to us, Mr. Special (Needs?), carrying –let me be exact –a 2 liter bottle of store brand grape soda, and a package of hot dogs. no buns in sight. that was it.
Amy and Kate congratulated themselves on their judgment call, and I slung a sack of mini wheats over my shoulder and headed out to the parking lot.
And there he was, outside, chatting up a girl in my geology lab. and they were having a normal conversation as far as I could tell, smiling and laughing and sharing anecdotes that probably don’t involve accidentally mistaking finger nail polish for a condiment.
I stood corrected. And slightly ashamed. So there it is. what a strange world. what a strange bird.
EXT: Smith’s parking lot, night. FADE OUT.
Later that year I’d see “Hot or Retarded Boy” (as he came to be known) around occasionally, at shows, or the old Diego’s, or walking down University scribbling away to himself about who knows what. I never intended to initiate anything. he was too interesting an observational specimen to actually get involved somehow. and then he eventually faded away entirely, a hyperbolic figure only to be brought up at dinner parties, during lulls in conversation.
i met him again, quite inadvertently, about 5 years later, when he, i, and our mutual friend carpooled to salt lake for a show. I honestly hadn’t thought about him for a few years. but there he was, in the car when she came to pick me up. I had to catch myself from loudly exclaiming “Hot or Retarded!,” myself like the latter, proudly recognizing and properly naming a Person, Place or Thing and expecting accolade or a vanilla wafer in return.
HoR looked slightly less handicapped this time, dressed like any ol' hip kid, but somehow he looked crazier. and it was something in his eyes that told me this. it was like he hadn't closed them at all in the last five years.
I introduced myself, and then said nothing else. And after spending a bit of time pretending I didn’t know him, hadn’t had jokes with friends at his (and my, per my attraction) expense, I came to conclude he was actually more than sufficiently intelligent. just marched to his very own, very small and musically difficult to decipher drum. good for him.
long post short, I bought some glasses recently.
I didn’t realize it until I made jared try them on for fun, that they are eerily similar to the glasses HoR was wearing. what does this mean? what does this MEAN!
what I have learned:
don’t judge a book by its long johns.