The real story is the one I never used.
I always made some shit up when I wanted to skip an after-school commitment.
“I didn’t make it all the way to Hebrew School because a drug dealer came up to me and offered me pot on 83rd Street. What, why are you mad, I thought you’d want me to come right home!”
“I LOVE ice skating, I want to go but I’m not feeling well! I just threw up. I’m so upset, I really want to go! Mom, why are you checking the bathroom, I flushed the throw-up. It was just a little but I feel so sick!”
When something actually happened on my way to piano, I didn’t think enough of it to use it, or even repurpose it some other day.
I was 11. On my walk from home to 86th Street, where my piano teacher lived and taught, a white-haired man with a paunch started walking with me.
I’d say “old man” because I thought he was an old man, but he could’ve been in his late 50s. That’s plenty old to an 11-year-old.
He was perfectly nice. He asked my name, where I was going, and if I enjoyed piano.
Every kid is told not to talk to strangers, but I never had it in me to tell someone, “Don’t talk to me.”
(Even now, I barely get up that kind of nerve for the Greenpeace kids on the sidewalk. I told one just today, “I’m not going to stop and talk to you, but have a good day.” I felt very assertive. I usually just pretend I’m on a phone call or can’t hear them through my earbuds.)
I kept thinking the man was going to turn, but he stuck with me.
By 84th Street, he’d been by my side for 2 blocks. That’s a long way for a stranger to keep walking with you.
I told him, “Well, I have to stop in this store.”
We’d just reached Menash, one of my favorite stationery-and-more stores. I went there for new 3-ring binders, pristine Caran D’Ache colored pencil sets, Matchbox cars when a boy in my class had a birthday, Smurfs, and Hello Kitty everything. There was a whole section that even had the lesser Hello Kitty spinoffs like Little Twin Stars and My Melody. Pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, drinking cups, comb sets, the works. When I smell bubblegum eraser, I think of Menash.
This was where we should’ve parted ways. Instead, the man said, “I’ll wait for you out here.”
I lurked in Menash a while. Tried out florescent highlighters and Rolling Writer pens on the little scratch pads. Looked at Smurfs, hoping to find a new one I didn’t already own.
Now, I’d be late for piano and my teacher, Paul, would be a little mad. (He never got a lot mad, except one time when he lost it and said I was acting like a real brat, which I was. I didn’t want to practice Sonatina in C by Clementi, the piece I’d begged him to teach me.)
The man was still standing there, as promised, when I came out of the store.
“Ready?” he asked.
My memory after that is fuzzy. I can’t remember how I escaped his company. I think I darted past him and ran the rest of the way to the safety of Paul’s grand, full-block building with the fountain in the courtyard.
I know I felt satisfied that I’d lost my tail, so he couldn’t wait and find me after my lesson.
I wasn’t thinking “child molester” or “pervert” or “stranger danger.” I was only thinking, “I don’t like this weird man walking with me. I don’t feel like talking to him and answering his dumb grownup questions.”
When I told Paul why I was late, he was freaked out. I thought he was overreacting. Either he insisted on walking me home, or I told him he didn’t need to and he dropped it.
I don’t think about that story a lot, because “I might have almost gotten molested” isn’t much of a story. But I really could’ve used it to get out of piano.
Did you make shit up to get out of things when you were a kid?
Have any memories that recently came back to you, that you realized you glossed over or shrugged off but should’ve freaked you out?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.