It was Saturday. I woke up late before going downstairs. Mom, Dad, and Sherwin were downstairs installing a new DVD player they brought earlier at the mall. The problem was that we didn't have any DVDs to watch. My younger brother Sherwin told me to go to the video store and get some movies. I put on my clothes and walked downtown to the video store. Not knowing which movie to get, I asked the guy who worked there which movies were good. He told me to get The English Patient since it won so many Academy Awards. When I came back home, we watched the movie as a family. Mom, Dad, Sherwin, and I all sat on the couch and tried to enjoy ourselves. The movie turned out to be boring. Well, I thought it was a good movie, but Dad and Sherwin both fell asleep, and Mom stopped the tape when the sex scenes came on. Mom blamed me for getting a bad movie and told me to get a good movie next time I go to the video store.
Later that day, I went to the video store again and made sure I got something that didn't have sex scenes in it. I got a movie I had already seen: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. When I brought the tape home, Sherwin laughed at me even more. He said that only kids watched that movie. He refused to watch any movie made for kids. The third time I went to the video store, Sherwin came along. He recommended I get some horror or action movie. He found a video with the goriest and bloodiest front cover and immediately borrowed it. After the whole family watched it at night, both my parents were very happy with Sherwin's choice. Mom, who criticized me heavily for getting a movie with a small sex scene, didn't seem to mind the violence and torture scenes. Dad loved the special effects and said it was one of the best movies he had ever seen. Sherwin smiled proudly when Dad made this compliment.
Sick of watching movies with my family, I told everyone I was going to the mall to watch a movie by myself. Sherwin then told me that going to the theatres by myself was the lowest and saddest thing I could possibly do.
"Like going to a restaurant, going to the cinemas is a social event," he said. "Only losers watch movies by themselves."
I didn’t listen to my brother. I ignored him and walked upstairs to my room to get ready to go to the theatres alone. As I put my jeans on, the phone rang. It was one of my friends from school. He invited me to go to watch a movie with him and his friends at the mall. In a way, I was glad I didn’t have to go to the movies alone.
At the mall, I wanted to watch Mystic River, but since none of my friends heard about that movie, we watched Finding Nemo instead. After the movie ended they asked me whether I liked it or not. I lied and told them it was okay, even though I thought the movie was weird.
Not knowing what to do after the movie, the older kid in the group of five suggested we go to a strip club in the city. One of the girls wanted to go while the other—a devout Christian—wanted to go home. Not wanting to go to a strip joint, I lied and quickly told everyone I was a Christian. Disappointed, the older boy told me to escort the 12-year-old Christian girl home because her parents didn't want her walking alone.
The girl I had to walk home with was Fiona. Before we went to her house, we decided to get something to eat at McDonald's. When we sat opposite each other, munching on our burgers and nibbling on our fries, we stayed silent for the first three minutes.
By teen magazine standards, Fiona was slightly fat, but I honestly didn't mind. She had a very pretty face. I suspected she wasn't comfortable talking to me because she was conscious of her fatness. I wanted so much to tell her how much her fatness didn't bother me, but I was afraid that by telling her such a thing I could make her feel bad because maybe she was unsure about whether she was really fat or not.
She started the conversation by asking whether I was really a Christian or not. I told her I was but after she asked me a few more questions about whether I went to church, read the bible, or got baptized, I decided to change my story and tell her the truth. I wasn't really a Christian. My mom and dad went to church, but that's all they really did. They neither read the bible nor talked to me seriously about religion. I only told everyone I was a Christian so I didn’t have to go to the strip joint.
Fiona started to tell me that she wrote poems and short stories in her spare time. I asked her whether she'd be willing to show me some of them when we got to her home, and she said that she would, even the personal ones she wrote for herself.
Fiona started talking about some of the exciting things she did the night before. She told me that last night, while she was bored, she got a blank piece of paper and started writing down the names of everyone she could remember in her life, from the girl she played with in pre-school to all the teachers, relatives, karate instructors, ballet teachers, priests, friends from school, friends from Christian camp, and so forth. She told me that as she wrote the list, she reflected on each name. She told me that the happiest memories were often those that involve relationships with other people, and reflecting on past relationships was one of the most potents ways of inducing happiness and beating depression.
"It's amazing how many people you bump into in your life," she said. "And it's amazing how quickly you forget them."
When I asked Fiona how she managed to make so many friends at school, she told me something I thought was funny.
"Everyone loves watching television," she said. "It follows, therefore, that if you want people to love you, you must be like a television—funny, dramatic, unpredictable, entertaining, and so on."
I later learned that she went to Sunday school and made a vow to God, to her family, and to herself that she would not have sex before marriage. As she said, "the hardest part about looking into the eyes of an innocent eight-year-old girl was knowing that eight years later there was a 50 percent chance she would lose her virginity. Furthermore, there was a 70 percent chance she would regret it."
Fiona had a nice two-story house about ten minutes away from mine. Unlike my house, hers had a larger garden. The lights were on downstairs. The family was in the living room watching television. Fiona asked me if I wanted to go up to her bedroom so she could show me her poetry. I told her it was getting late and I was tired. She seemed disappointed with my rejection, which made me feel guilty. I promised I'd talk to her tomorrow, but she said tomorrow was Sunday and she had church in the morning. I told her that tomorrow I'd tell my dad to take me to church so I could see her. I haven’t been to church in ages. Tomorrow would be my first time in a long time.
This was taken from version 1 of a novelette I wrote called The Little Girl Next Door.