Scene I It Only Gets Worse
224 West 92nd Street, the heart of Manhattan. That's where I live. Lived. Yes, past tense. My mom is moving us out of the greatest city in the world to the middle of nowhere because Dad met a stewardess (and damn it, she's nice and understanding!) and now I have to have my bar mitzvah there!
Where is the middle of nowhere, you ask?
I'm so screwed.
"How bad could Appleton be, Ev?" This is my best friend, Dan. We go way back, as in, sonograms. Our moms grew up together so we did too. But now I have to leave him and all my friends behind because Mom went crazy and cut Dad's head out of photos and is hopped up on depression meds!
"That's not even the worst part. The second I turned 12, everything went to hell! And it's only gotten worse since my dad met that stewardess! And now I'm moving to Indiana? I'm freaking out, Dan!"
"You think 12 is bad?" He laughs.
"Well, 12 is hell / I've memorised / My mom's yell / My life was great / In New York state / But 1 day in October / When even Uncle Jack was sober / And I turned 12 / My life went to hell! / Chores to do / Girls confuse / Puberty / And I'm a casualty!"
"Okay, but it only gets worse! / 12 is hell / But the ride's not over yet / And it's a one way ticket," he sings right back.
"I can assure you, Evan! / It only gets worse!" The rest of the kids in the park chorus.
"Becoming a man / Is awkward and terse," the guys sing, hanging their heads in shame.
"Being a girl / Is 10 times worse," the girls sing, glaring at us.
"How so?" I ask, curious.
"Tampons / Menstrauting / Cramps / Cliques / Backstabbers / Gossip / Rumors / Boys!" They belt out. Oh, my Jewish God.
"Whoa! TMI! Evan, why would you ask them that?" Dan smacks the back of my head.
"I didn't know it was that bad!" I exclaim, rubbing said spot.
"Whatever. Just, let me explain how terrible turning 13 is going to be for you. The birds and the bees / When Dad talks about puberty / Your friends go insane / What the hell happened to your brain? / The pressure mounts / You have your doubts," he explains.
"'Cause it only gets worse!" The kids chorus.
"And becoming a man / Is hell over again / So I've got 'til 1 day in October / When even Uncle Jack is sober / And then I turn — " I sing, the tempo slowing.
"13!" They chorus, the tempo back to speed.
"It's getting worse!" Dan exclaims.
"Why's this happening?" I groan.
"Dude, it freaking sucks!" Dan tells me.
"Does it only get worse?" I ask.
"Yeah, it only gets worse!" We melodize.
"You're becoming a man / If only they'd tell you what that means," he slows down the tempo again, patting my back.
"I'm just Evan / I don't know these scenes / I forget the words to the song / Mix up my lines along / The way / 'Cause 12 is hell / And apparently / 13 is worse / But where does it end? / It can't be a 1 way ticket / It can't get worse!" I croon.
"But it only gets worse!" They chorus.
"Hormones / Boners / Voice cracks / B.O. / Testosterone / Dating / Girls!" Us guys exclaim. It feels good to let it out. It feels free.
"And your parents / Just don't get it / They forget it / Is hell! / And they're like broken records," we all harmonize.
"They keep going on about — " I sing.
"No, you're not ready," the guys sing in unison.
"No, it's not right now," the girls chorus.
"No, it's not time yet!" We all belt.
"Well, when am I ready? / When is it ri — ight? / When is it ti — ime?" I sing, frustrated with it all.
"What if I want it? / What if I act out? / What if I kiss him? / What if I put out?" The girls chorus.
"What if I don't want to? / What if I lash out? / What if I stop caring? / What if I smo — oke?" Us guys sing.
"They keep raging that / I can't do this / I can't do that / I'm not old enough / So I'll stop listening!" We all harmonize, forming a chord that sounds almost as repressed and strained as us. Well, to me.
"Did they ever stop to think that it's because they won't let me?" I belt. It's so frustrating. They won't listen and they won't let me do anything and they keep screaming!
"So what if I rebel? / I can't do anything else!" Dan exclaims.
"12 is hell / But it only gets worse! / They keep pushing / School is demanding — " we all chorus.
"Am I fat? / Why'd Karen stab me in the back? / Does he like like me? / Am I going crazy?" The girls sing.
"I look dumb / Sports aren't fun / My voice keeps cracking / Why's this happ'ning?" Us guys vent.
"But it only gets worse!" They all tell me.
"I'm losing my mind!" I yell.
We leave today. She'll have to drag me to the airport. She'll have to pry my fingers from the fire escape! I can't leave New York!
Especially not for Indiana. All my friends are here. Dan is here, Steve is here, Al is here, Jerry is here, Avery is here, Taylor is here, Luke is here, they're all here. Nina Handelman is here. Nina. Handelman.
My mom dragging me to Indiana is ruining my love life too! I almost had Nina Handelman and now I'm moving!
"Evan! Hurry, we're leaving!" My mom calls. Do you know what that really means? It's Jewish for: don't even think about escaping through the window! Which means the fire escape is a bust. Perfect. Just perfect.
"Coming," I groan, grabbing my suitcase. Grabbing. My. Suitcase. I grab my suitcase. My suitcase. Do you see what's wrong with this? Do you? I do. And so should you. Oh, my God—I'm rhyming! Why am I rhyming?
I hate this.
"Evan!" Translation: we are leaving—whether you like it or not! Dear God, strike me down if you have as much mercy as The Bible claims.
I hold my breath and squeeze my eyes shut. My finger nails dig into my palms. Okay, no, that hurts.
Nothing. Well, that's just fan—fucking—tastic. Isn't it!? Okay, Evan, breathe. In and out, in and out, out and in—wait a minute. You mixed it up. Great. You managed to screw up directions. Gah!
I'm going to die.
Patrice. My next door neighbor's name is Patrice.
That's the first thing I learn about Indiana. Well, no. The second. The very first thing—it's the lamest place in the world. I'm serious. She told me that.
It went something (and when I say "something," I mean exactly) like this:
"Oh, you must be the guy Pam was talking about. Evan Goldman, the latest victim of the lamest place in the world. I'm Patrice, maybe she mentioned me, maybe she didn't."
I kid you not, she called Appleton, Indiana "the lamest place in the world." Her own hometown. She seriously hates it. Apparently, the kids at school—Dan Quayle Junior High—don't help the counterargument. Counterargument. I'm using words like "counterargument." That'll be great for making friends.
Speaking of friends—"get the gnome, buddy!" I throw this weird naked lady gnome-esque (even more words great for making friends; note my sarcasm) as far as I can for Pam's giant dog to fetch. He and Patrice are my only friends so far. I can live with that.
Patrice is pretty cool.
And pretty. Never mind the last thing. Please? Anyways, she likes old, black and white movies and can tell you what year the American revolution started (1775) and she throws like hell.
She gets sort of quiet when I ask her about school though. It's weird. The most I can get (after a single successful interrogation thingy) is "just drop it, Evan." Talk about progress.
"Hey, Evan, wanna go to the Dairy Queen down the road?" She pipes up.
"Why not? Rover might break the naked lady if we keep playing fetch," I laugh a little, wiping his saliva from my hand.
She smiles. It's bright and warm and happy and for a second, it won't get worse. Then Rover tackles me.