MY BOYFRIEND CAN TOTALLY DANCE
Today, in honor of the holiday, I have two very scary stories to tell you.
First, I need to tell you about my phone. You know how when you type a text, your phone tries to second-guess what you are going to say? Maybe you are trying to write something like:
I am going to the store.
But your phone offers up the words:
I am goner to the stove.
You can understand mistakes like those. Phones are not inherently smart. For all your phone knows, you really do talk like a hillbilly en route through a kitchen. It just wants to make you happy, and it’s just guessing using the words stored in its little phone brain.
My phone, however, seems to have a kind of agenda. It doesn’t make simple, understandable word substitutions. It only has one word it wants me to use all the time.
That word is werewolves.
At least once very other message or so my phone jumps in and says, “Werewolves? Did you mean werewolves just then, when you typed the word very? Because I am so ready to type the word werewolves for you.”
“No,” I say to it. “I want you to type the word very. As in, you are a very dumb phone.”
“Werewolves?” it asks eagerly. “Please let me use the word werewolves.”
“Very,” I try again.
This is not a Halloween-only thing, this werewolf fixation. This is all the time. Predictive text is supposed to mirror the kinds of words the phone’s owner is likely to use a lot. I can assure you that I don’t use the word werewolves in my messages.
I don’t know what my phone is trying to tell me.
Now, let’s get to the real, beating heart of the matter. I am going to tell you of a Halloween haunting that happened during my first semester of college.
The plain fact of the matter was that I had been locked up in the gulag (my Catholic girls school) for four years. For four years, I’d had to wear knee socks pulled up to my nose. The only guy in our building was our resident priest, Father Hickey (no, not a fake name) and our genuinely disturbing 21 year-old religion teacher, who I’ll call Mr. Weevil.
(A side note about Mr. Weevil: one day in class, he claimed he had a mathematical formula that proved the existence of God. I asked to see it, but he said it was too complicated. I said, “But Mr. Weevil, if you actually have a formula proving the existence of God, shouldn’t that be the only thing we study? Like, ever?” Mr. Weevil basically told me to shut up. I got my comeuppance when he was summarily fired for behaving in an excessively creepy manner.)
But you see my point. That was high school. And now, I was at college! I almost burst a blood vessel in my head when I looked around and saw that I was free! And that there were boys! LIVING WITH ME! Something had to give.
So I broke up with my boyfriend, who I had dated very seriously all summer. And I freely admit that I didn’t do it very well. I did it over the phone, which was cold. But I didn’t know any better then. Some would say I deserved what I got.
My boyfriend took it hard. He wanted us to stay together. To win me back, he launched a massive campaign called “let’s spend all of our free time at Maureen’s dorm.” He didn’t go to my school. This meant that he drove over from his school several times a day. The main tactic of this campaign was excessive, relentless niceness and cheer. He brought stuffed animals and left them by my door. When my roommate and I wanted to rearrange our furniture, he would miraculously show up with tools. I would sometimes find him herding up my friends and taking everyone for pizza, and, of course, I was invited. I had to keep my door closed for fear that he would turn up in my hall leading an impromptu conga line . . . again.
I considered this unfair. He had no right to keep showing up and leaping around on the green in front of my window like some kind of deranged gazelle. Those were my friends! It was my hall! My friends, for their part, liked the pizza and the conga lines, but were getting tired of answering questions about me.
Weeks went by like this. I became known as the “girl with the ex-boyfriend who won’t go away.” It was like I was haunted.
One Friday night, right around Halloween, I was walking through the lobby. I was on my way to a pre-Halloween party, an event I had been looking forward to for some time, as the guy throwing it had promised to make it a Maureen’s-ex-boyfriend-free zone, which meant that I could have fun and flirt with guys. This was very pleasing to me.
I was skipping across my lobby with joy when I noticed a friend of my ex’s, a high school guy. This particular friend (I’ll call him Pesky) seriously looked like he had never seen a girl before—never, ever, ever. At this moment, Pesky was slumped in a chair with glazed-over eyes.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, exasperated.
“Just sitting here,” he said in a sing-songy voice. “Watchin’ all the girls-go-by.”
This was creepy. And they usually signed in under my name, so I would be the one blamed for bringing the pervy guy into the building. I was going to fix this problem tonight. I was going to eject them all from the building. I was getting my life back.
“Where is he, Pesky?” I demanded.
Pesky didn’t even try to cover. He just pointed in the general direction and continued staring. I stalked off down the hall, glancing in the open doorways until I found him in my friend’s room. They had some loud music on. For some reason, my ex-boyfriend was lying on the floor, on his back.
“Hey Maureen!” he said. “Remember breakdancing?”
Before I could even reply, he flashed me a goofy “I am trying to win you back by being completely insane!” smile, then he started to spin on his back.
He spun and he spun and he spun. He spun right across the highly-polished linoleum dorm room floor like a top. It was, I have to admit, some first-class spinning.
The laws of physics tell us that an object in motion will remain in motion until stopped by an outside force. The outside force in this particular case was a desk, and the point of contact was my ex-boyfriend’s head.
It sounded like a redwood coming down in an empty church.
And he wasn’t moving. We all went over to him. He just lay there, completely still.
I was just getting over the fact that he was here being festive again, when it suddenly appeared that he had KILLED HIMSELF WHILE BREAKDANCING.
Okay, and yes, for one tiny, tiny second I thought to myself, “I’m free!” But then I was really worried again, instantly.
Finally, he let out a little groan and rolled on to his side. We helped him on to the bed.
“I think he really did something,” my friend said. “He doesn’t look good.”
“He’s fine!” I lied, as my ex-boyfriend coiled into a fetal position and clutched his own head.
After what seemed like an eternity, he managed to sit up and speak.
“I think . . . maybe . . . I should go and get something to eat or something,” he said.
“Good idea!” I replied. Anything to make him go.
He stumbled off across the street to a restaurant, taking Pesky with him. And hour or so later I got a call. He wasn’t doing so well. He was mumbling over dinner and kept forgetting what he was saying.
“I’ll be okay,” he slurred. “I’ll just drive home.”
This couldn’t happen, even though I knew what it meant.
“No way,” I said testily. “You are not driving anywhere. You just smacked your head open. You are going to the hospital.”
My bedside manner is usually much better than this, but I was feeling sorely tested. I was now going to the hospital with my ex instead of going to a party—and I was going because he had hurt himself while breakdancing in my building.
It turned out that he didn’t have his insurance card with him, so we would have to drive back to his house. Then we had to drop Pesky off, and pick up another friend who could take over the driving later. All of this took hours. This new friend sat in the car and tried to break the awkwardness by showing us how many golf balls he could get into his mouth, but nothing helped. We went to the hospital in stony silence, broken only by the soft noise of golf balls being spit out.
The emergency room was packed with people, many of them in costumes. The triage nurse was overwhelmed with damaged vampires and scraped-up superheroes.
“What should I tell her?” my ex-boyfriend asked.
“The truth,” I said. “You are going to tell the nurse how you did this. You are going to tell her that you crashed into a desk while you were breakdancing.”
I know. I was very mean. This isn’t one of those stories that makes me look good.
So he did. The nurse just stared at him for a moment and wrote this down. This was not nearly as important as the car accidents and accidental shootings that were going on that night, so we sat there for hours and hours and hours next to a guy dressed as a bee who had some kind of really bad splinter. All the while, my ex fixed me with this moony look that could have been love or brain damage.
For my part, I tried to make sure that my expression gave a clear message of its own: “NO. THIS IS NOT HOW WE WILL BE SPENDING OUR NIGHTS FROM NOW ON. I’M ONLY HERE BECAUSE I’M AFRAID THAT IF YOU DIE, YOUR GHOST WILL FOLLOW ME AROUND. AND THERE HAD BETTER BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU, BECAUSE IF THERE ISN’T, I WILL MAKE SOMETHING BE WRONG WITH YOU.”
The weird thing was that as the night went on, my annoyance with him slowly went away—even when we finally found out (at 3 in the morning or whenever it was) that he was completely fine, and the nurse just started laughing at him. This melted my cold heart. I must have really cared.
About a month later, I broke down and got back together with him.
And then he broke up with me.
And then we got back together. And I broke up with him. And then we got back together. This went on for a YEAR.
I don’t know what any of it means, except that it is scary, and that if your ex-boyfriend shows up in your dorm this Halloween and starts breakdancing, just run away. Be careful out there, you guys.
Also, werewolves. Very werewolves.