Part II: The Night/Day When Oso Determined My Life Path

Giving more of my history with Oso–says Julia–wasn’t on my to-do list. The current blog administrator has already found her goose cooked in hot soup over failing to fulfill promises pertaining to serial fiction (see how vague her language is, how it has vaporized like fog). But Jessica Thomas is correct (see comments on Christmas with Oso) when she says there is more to this story. The history is, to be honest, intrinsic. And it isn’t altogether complex, either, just longer than what could be written in one post.

As I said previously, Oso and I have known each other since birth. Still, we would never have befriended each other given a different set of circumstances. He was a force to be reckoned with–by high school, a field and track star who had the thighs to out-jump and out-hurdle just about anybody he contended with. And, for god’s sake, was he competitive.

We found each other in Claire’s history-cum-journalism group; all of us who fell for Claire’s excitement with Lockean ideology, including Cecilia, also signed up for her “freedom of the press” journalism course that published the best high school newspaper in the state of Washington. We were a group, a team, that nobody could break in or tear apart. At the time, I recognized our ridiculousness, but so loved belonging that I went along with it.

One night just before graduation, we all hit the twenty-four hour hotcake house on the highway. We split into two groups: three of us in Claire’s clean sedan; the other three in Oso’s rattletrap Rabbit. I somehow ended up in Oso’s vehicle that carried the odor of his awful cologne combined with the previous owners’ penchant for smoking. This bouquet ringed my head and settled in my stomach with a strange mix of exhilaration and nausea.

After stuffing myself with three disgusting plate-sized buttermilk pancakes, the exhilaration abandoned me. I ordered coffee to stabilize my system. If it weren’t for the coffee, my life might have turned out differently. Claire, being the thirty-something teacher she was at the time, decided she needed an early, relatively speaking for one in the morning, night of it. Everybody ditched with her, leaving me alone with Oso as my only ride back to my parents’ house. He, too, had drunk too much coffee, laced with packets of sugar. We were wired.

The two of us had never conducted a tete-a-tete. No, I generally avoided a face-off with the high-energy, competitive Oso. Aside from his ambitious nature, he was a know-it-all, and I couldn’t abide males of this type, males who needed a few hired thugs to drag them out back and beat the shit out of them just to make certain they understood they weren’t kings of their own little multiverses. In fact, if I’d had the money in those days, I might have made a deal….If I had my own money today, rather than Oso’s….

“So what are you doing next year?” Oso asked me.

“Going to State.”

“Yeah, but what’re you studying?”

“Romance languages, I think. I already know Spanish, and I’m starting to learn French. I’d like to be a translator.”

“No,” he said.

Monosyllables were typical of Oso’s speech patterns, and if I didn’t know better, I would’ve doubted his intelligence. His status as class valedictorian told another story. I squirmed on the red vinyl seat and painted the gray Formica with syrup traces. What the hell did he mean by negating my future plans?

“And why not?”

“Because you’re not suited for it. You should go into a scientific field.”

“Why? Nothing in my high school career would lead me to believe that. Or in my life thus far.”

“You know, I put together that part of the paper, where the list of honor students goes. You were always on it.”

“Yes, but I made up for my mediocre grades in math and science with French, English, history, journalism.” I ticked my successes off on my sticky fingers. Oh, the humanities!

“That doesn’t matter.” He didn’t flinch. He ripped open a packet of sugar, dumped it in the brown coffee mug, then added a creamer from the base of the pyramid I’d built in the centre of the table. It didn’t collapse. “I know these things.”

Where were those thugs when I needed them to bloody his big nose? And yes, his nose was a little on the large size, not that the size of it deterred most females from throwing themselves at him. “No, you don’t.”

“I do. I know your mind. I’ve been senior editor of the paper for long enough to know the inner details of every one of my writers.”

His writers. “It’s a high school rag. People don’t put their real selves in it. I certainly don’t.”

“Doesn’t matter. I know you. You should go into one of the people-oriented sciences, behavioral or whatever.”

“No, thanks. And you? What will you do next year, aside from make money?” In the yearbook, that was his response to the ubiquitous future-plans question: What are you going to do with your life? I’m going to make money, he said. Sigh. Imagining the thugs. Imagining.

“I have a scholarship to Stanford, and may go into pre-business, but I’m not sure if that will get me any closer to my goals. I think I already have what it takes to succeed.”

I couldn’t help it; I laughed at him. Blame it on the coffee, which was akin to liquor in my juvenile mind. I laughed, while he glared with those bright, glassy eyes of his. What an ass was Oso–what an ass he still is. But he was right. He didn’t need Stanford. And before I’d concluded one semester at State, I knew he was right about my future, too. I hated him for it, and was relieved at the same time. How else could I account for my utter lack of enthusiasm for the humanities, and the way my heart nearly exploded when I took the plunge and entered a biology classroom?

Oh, but that’s the rub, isn’t it? Biology–mine specifically–and Oso’s manner of exploding my heart every few years were the true fates of my life, geneticist though I am now. Thanks to Oso. Where are those thugs, again? They’re hiding inside my soul as the mauled victims of a big, black bear.

Oso Part V
Oso Part IV
Oso Part III
Oso Part I

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