Mike? Mike was the Ferris Bueller to my Cameron. If you don't pick up on that reference, odds are you've been very confused by my entire blog.
Dude had girls ALL OVER HIM. I kid you not, one night, we were at a party wherein Mike was juggling three, THREE different girls, all of which he was dating, and none of whom knew the others existed. It was straight out of an episode of "Three's Company", making him Jack Tripper and me...Mr. Furley.
One night, when we were 15, Mike decided that we were going to the main strip in Elmhurst, Illinois, a well-to-do and charming community of very, very white people. Nearby York High School housed some of the cutest girls in the western Chicago suburban area, and weekend evenings, packs of them, wearing their designer jeans and Member's Only jackets would descend on the strip to, well, walk up and down the strip.
Mike lived about 5 miles from me and another 2 miles from Elmhurst. Both of us being 15, we had no way there but to either walk, like normal human beings, or...hop the freight train like two idiots.
Guess which one Mike talked me into.
I am TERRIFIED looking back at what we did, nearly as terrified as I was in the moment. But Mike had a knack for sniffing out danger. So my mom dropped me off at his place (I'm assuming because I didn't want to reveal to her that we were going to chase skirts), and we walked the few blocks to where the train would be ambling by any moment. And when I heard the locomotive's "WHOOOOO!", my stomach turned into a pile of dogshit and I nearly puked. Not letting on to Mike, who was howling and laughing up a storm.
"This is gonna be AWESOME!"
Yeah. Awesome. Awesome like, oh, I don't know, GETTING RUN OVER BY A FUCKING TRAIN.
The train couldn't have been going more than 5 miles per hour (a pace we could have nearly kept walking), and I remember him shouting to me, "Run alongside it, get to speed, and then jump forward and up into the boxcar!" Perfect. I'm going to die like a hobo, I thought.
My heart was thumping like it wanted to bust through my ribcage, but there I was, right behind Mike, jogging alongside the train until an open car pulled beside us and BAM. In and up he went.
My legs pumping, shit nearly running down my leg, I kept pace and thought, I HAVE to do this now - he's in the car already, which was a stupid rationalization on my part, I realize now. I sucked in two lungfuls of air, held my breath and rocketed myself into the car, landing on Mike.
"YEAH!" he screamed and slapped my arm.
10 minutes later, we jumped off the train as it pulled in to Elmhurst, screeching to a stop. I think I may have been in shock for the first hour of our wandering around, because this entire night is as vivid in my head like it happened today, save for that first 60 minutes.
Mike was a fucking rock star. He had no issues walking straight up to a group of tittering, giggling girls and introducing himself, usually, at the very least, getting them to chat for 5 minutes while he and I did "The Russ and Mike Show", which resembled street comedy improv fused with the stench of desperation and failure.
So in other words: Street comedy improv.
We dicked around for a couple of hours, grabbing frozen yogurt at "TCBY" (The Country's Best Yogurt, which, at the time, it was the ONLY frozen yogurt in the country, so a job well done!), avoiding the annoyed stares from adults that I myself now give amped up teenagers, and finally, curfew time rolled around.
Well, MY curfew time. Mike treated the concept of curfews like I treated the concept of flirting with girls: Not with a ten foot pole, man.
So in Mike's usual impulsive haste, we were left stranded 2 miles from his house and 7 from mine. I broke into a sweat, worrying about not making it home in time. I voiced my concerns, which Mike waved off like the stench of a fart.
"Hang on," he told me, striding away toward a gaggle of giggling girls.
Within minutes, he spun on his heels and signaled "come on!" to me with his hands, a smile spanning so wide, it wrapped around his head.
"This is Russ," he introduced me to - I kid you not - the most ADORABLE 3 girls I'd ever laid my pimply eyes on, "and he one funny son of a bitch."
"My car's over there," one girl said through her Lipsmacker-glossed smile, pointing at a tiny Toyota that in no way was built to house 5 people. But, our advantage? We were teenagers and couldn't care less.
One young lady in particular seemed to laugh at every voice-cracked word that dribbled from my mouth: Light blond hair, skin as clear as daylight, and a grin that lit up the car. As she sat. On my lap.
In my mind, I was just trying to be funny and get her to laugh, and I'm sure I. Was. Hilarious (sarcasm intact). Mike was faring well up front with the driver, making small talk, exchanging phone numbers, and once in awhile peering over the headrest to give me a wink of confidence. That's when it hit me:
Holy crap: I'm flirting. And she's flirting back!
The ride lasted far too short, and before I could even get her name, I was out of the car, Mike riding as the solo male in a car filled with bubbly females. As I began waving goodbye, Mike told them to hang on a second and jumped out to say goodbye.
"Have fun?" he asked, devilish smirk on his perfect face.
"Yeah, yeah," I responded, unsure of what I'd just gone through.
"Did you get her number?"
"You have to get her number!" he whispered, punching my shoulder.
I heaved a nervous sigh, as I felt the same terror that had visited me while jumping aboard a moving train. I, in fact, was longing to be risking my life sprinting alongside a train at that moment.
I don't remember her name, but she did write it down, her perfect fingers handing over her perfect phone number in her perfect penmanship.
I never did call her: Baby had just learned to walk and wasn't about to run a 5k at the Olympics. But that wasn't the point, I realized. Mike had just given me a coaching in self-confidence. And every day after that night on the town, I had an instilled confidence that hadn't been there until I'd met my friend, Mike.