The other day during my less-than-24-hour hiatus/nervous breakdown, I started writing a fictional story based on things I witnessed in high school, then I realized how absolutely droll it was, devoid of any interesting references. A wise man once told me there are really only two compelling stories to be told: Unexceptional person in exceptional circumstances, or vice versa (I tried not to use colons, Cormac, I gave it my all). Everyman can stumble into a spaceship or Wonder Woman can get a job ringing at Target, but that’s why Superman doesn’t work without Clark Kent. That’s why Doctor Who is usually at its best set on Earth with a down-to-earth companion. If everything is fantastical, nothing stands out. Likewise, if everything is run-of-the-mill, prepare for nap time.
It would be a bit Marty Stu of me to declare myself the exceptional guy, and I’m not sure being part of a national-award-winning small town concert band is too huge of an accomplishment, especially since I felt like I phoned that shit in (second chair best chair), so there’s no weird autobiographical twist I can throw at this without fictionalizing the shit out of it. I could fall back on that old standby, “Make everything cool I ever witnessed happen in one weekend, or one day,” which is the crux of every party or road trip movie ever written, but as I’ve said before, I’m not going to lie to you.
That’s why I’m going to tell you about all the sex on the band bus.
I don’t know that it was an inordinate amount of fucking, but I’ve only ever witnessed two other couples screwing in person and, surprise surprise, they were also people who were on that band bus. When Gina and I started watching Mozart in the Jungle (which I highly recommend, by the way) I wondered aloud if the promiscuity depicted was accurate, then I thought back to all the musicians I’ve known and said, “Yes, yes it is.”
I also don’t want to out anyone because I still talk to some of you guys, at least occasionally. I’m going to go ahead and assume that what I witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg, so if I actually saw four acts on a particular trip, that means there were sixteen other undocumented incidents. You can fill me in if you like, your call.
Maybe I’ve oversold this a bit. Two people in a long-term relationship pretending to sleep (you can always tell, they squeeze their eyes shut too tightly) and performing the slowest slow hump ever recorded under a blanket on a Greyhound (look that shit up in your Guinness Book) isn’t enthralling either, but it needs to be placed in context with the environment.
Long road trips were common, and if we were tagging along for anything sports related, we often chuckled about how the cheerleaders and the football players were forced to board separate buses. I say “we,” as if I had some participation in this orgy. Oh no. Bob Talbot was high and dry until the summer after he graduated. I had maybe one make out session in all my high school days and I was dumped immediately for being clingy, which was fine, because unbeknownst to me, she was pregnant. Dat glow, though.
In fact, I had so little game that one time I asked someone out, and they said, “Where?” and I was like, “What?”
She said, “No, you asked me ‘out.’ Like, where? Are we going somewhere?”
“Um, uh, no. I mean let’s go out.”
“Okay, sure, but usually when you ask someone out, there’s a destination involved,” she said, but probably not in words with so many syllables.
“Uh,” I said, falling apart, “I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“Hahahahahahaha!” she said.
On that note, there’s not much of me in this story. I am but Virgil in the Inferno, an observer on this journey through the nine circles of rural Arkansas pre-marital sex. I mean, in those days I masturbated in every shitter I ever laid eyes on, but when you’re 16 and jerkin’ it five or six times a day on average, it’s par for the course.
It was not surprising in those days for my bench buddy to tap me on my shoulder, give me the ol’ wiggly eyebrows, and gesture towards one seat or another where some couple would inevitably be engaging in mutual masturbation under a blanket. Most, but not all of these folks were weirdly religious bible beaters, and while some abstained from fornication (I’ll never forget being dragged to one of their churches and watching one of them raise their hand and weep when the preacher asked for all the proud virgins to testify), most of them found dubious scriptural loopholes or decided to just ask for forgiveness later.
Our band director, who often led prayers before and after football games and contests back when people did such things without fear of reprisal, had to have been ignorant of these goings on. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I assume the weird conservative memes he posts aren’t indicative of a recently developed outlook. I can’t shit on him too much, because he led us to victory after victory, and while I hated how cruel he could be from time to time, even then I admitted that it may have been a necessary evil. Corralling teenagers for a common purpose is about as easy as herding cats or getting left-wing Americans to agree on political strategy. You have to break a few egos to make a One at contest.
Still, it is perhaps a bit ironic that we were surrounded by Southern Baptists and worse, Pentecostal folk with small, cult-like churches and strange views about “devil music.” Some of the same folks who told me I was going to hell and bullied me into their churches did the band bus blanket mambo in front of me, and maybe it’s punching down to ridicule poor uneducated rural kids who didn’t have proper access to birth control (no struggle but class struggle), but at least I didn’t get anyone teen pregnant with my involuntarily-celibate satanism.
I was a metal teen incel, next on Springer.
Most of these people have gone on to have happy lives, and they love their unplanned kids. I’d never wish to travel back in time and erase them by providing sex segregated buses or gasp better sex education, but I wonder if my ultraconservative ex-band director knows how many potential humans he’s at least somewhat responsible for creating? We’re talking 20+ years of trips at different schools, and I know teenagers haven’t changed much. I can’t comment on the quality of education people currently receive in the Arkansas public school system, but I daren’t suggest it has improved. I’m not suggesting anyone actually got impregnated on a torn vinyl Bird Bus seat while they hurtled down AR 149 to Earle. I’m certain the money shots took place on a Tulot turnroad in a Chevy Citation, but those budding relationships were planted on delightfully long, dark bus rides.
But, dude, if you’re reading this, maybe take some extra precautions. On that note, don’t assume your kids are so devastatingly awkward that, like me, they’ll all self-sabotage the nuclear inferno of their teen libidos. You would be absolutely stunned to know which particular kids were giving and getting head after practice.
It definitely wasn’t me. I was the guy who went home early and wondered if that thing was true about Marilyn Manson having a rib removed. I’ve never been very limber, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.