Last Friday Night
Iâ€™m out with my â€śfriendsâ€ť or â€śco-workersâ€ť or whatever you call the people who are obligated to invite me along on a Friday night. Weâ€™re having fun, or whatever you call it when everyoneâ€™s sitting around a table of mini-quesadillas and well drinks and discussing their love lives. Even Iâ€™m participating in the madness, and Iâ€™m usually so shy. Then, someone suggests we move the party down the street, to the nearest bowling alley, because sheâ€™s heard bowling is back. Because of how prevalent group-think is, next thing I know weâ€™re all on the way to the lanes just south of Pico. I try to be enthusiastic supporter of such a plan. I think of the fun beer and pizza that accompany nachos. I mean that accompany bowling. I think of the Big Lebowski, a movie I always pretend to have seen in its entirety, a movie about beards. I mean bowling. I think of the fun shoes, and colors of weighted bowling balls. Itâ€™s an aesthetic experience, too, you know. This is bowling.
So I borrow wool socks and I get in the back of Asalâ€™s prius, and sheâ€™s playing Clint Manzell and I feel pretty cool. I try to forget that I am terrible at bowling, and that being so terrible reminds me of all the other times Iâ€™ve been terrible at games that require feats of strength and agility. But I canâ€™t.
â€śI donâ€™t know about this,â€ť I say.
â€śThat light was totally still yellow,â€ť Asal says.
â€śNo, not your blatant disregard for the law of the streets,â€ť I say. â€śThis bowling thing.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t be silly, bowling is so fun!â€ť Scott says.
â€śDonâ€™t be ridiculous, itâ€™s perfectly safe,â€ť Asal says.
â€śWonâ€™t there be hamsters there?â€ť I say
â€śWhat are you talking about,â€ť says everyone else.
â€śYou know, giant hamsters,â€ť I say, eyes wide like I was telling a ghost story.
â€śStop making dumb excuses, â€ś they say. â€śYou can sleep when youâ€™re dead.â€ť
The first time I ever sincerely prayed to God was in a bowling alley. It was the first coed birthday party of the fourth grade. It was the first time I’d driven alone anywhere, having stolen the keys to my Dad’s Ford Explorer in a fit of rage the night before. It was the first time there werenâ€™t any bumpers in the lanes, but it hadn’t occurred to me this might change my game entirely.
We were broken up into coed teams, probably by alphabetical order of our last names or something equally arbitrary and prejudiced. As it were, my team seemed to be made up of natural little athletes, and me.
My first time up at bowl, I crouched down and pushed the ball forward from my crotch. It moved at the sloth speed of a sloth, but at least it moved deliberately. The slight force of my roll succeeded in wobbling a back row pin. It was to be my best attempt.
In the end, I bowled the same score I got on my last Pre-Calc w/ Analysis exam before I had to drop out of Pre-Calc with Analysis and down to just regular Pre-Calc: A zero. I still remember the total humiliation of being stripped of my graphing calculator and sent away from the rest of my gifted and talented peers.
I like being different; I don’t like being the worst.
At AMF Lanes last Friday, somebody, I don’t know who, pays for our lanes and change of shoes. I don’t really have any choice.
“It’s just for fun, Ilana,” these friends try to cheer me on.
â€śJust keep your wrist straight,â€ť they offer useful words of encouragement.
“You’re being a poor sport,” they say, rightfully.
“Guys,” I say as I threw a 5 lb ball down in disgust. “I’m actually really good at darts?”