Trying to Understand Thanksgiving (And Drunk Teenage Girls)
Thanksgiving has lost its way. No longer do we gather 'round the cornucopia, swapping stories with family, or whiskey and blankets with Native Americans. No, somewhere along this American pilgrimage we abandoned the true traditions of the holiday, and the cultural significance withered on the vine as a result. But hope is not lost. This year, I resolved to save Thanksgiving single handedly. This is the story of my success. It is a tale of triumph, and kissing a drunk high schooler, and more triumph.
Let me explain.
Last year I spent Thanksgiving in a Denny's, a man dressed as Santa Clause slept in the booth across from me. He stirred only once to throw up in a cup. It was enough to make me weep into my Grand Slam, loudly. As if connected to my own heart, the waitress pushed past empty chairs to my table, "What the hell is going on?" she sang. "Exactly," I read her nametag as I pressed my face in the warm cleft between her breasts, "Janine, what the hell is going on?"
While Janine was strong, and capable of dragging me against my will, she had no answers to give.
My sweet Janine. So soft, so strong.
She lacked the cognitive tools to fully assess the situation, Janine was just a working class woman trying to scrape by, she was not, as I was, an acclaimed writer. I swore that by the following Thanksgiving, I would save the holiday with my own hands, a pen and a delicately articulated thesis. Holy fuck, I am outstanding.
Naturally, I let it slide. I was busy throughout the winter exploring the cultural treasures of other countries and publishing piles of literature about it. And the spring through summer was occupied by unbridled humping. Then, in the dying light of November, I remembered there was something I was supposed to do: I had to save the shit out of Thanksgiving.
I didn't bother with adults or the elderly because they were lost causes, I needed to start with the next generation of family makers. My answers were hidden among the blank slates, among high school coeds. My charm and youthful eyes allow me many conveniences in this world, one of them being a disarming ear to the candid ideas of others, another being the ability to infiltrate a high school campus undetected.
High school, as it turns out, doesn't do much on the week of Thanksgiving. Having graduated with an MBA at sixteen, I had been out the academic weeds too long to remember. Fortunately, the athletes were bound to school grounds by false dreams of cardiovascular excellence, and soccer practice. I seized the opportunity.
I met a doe-eyed sophomore wearing shin guards in the parking lot as she climbed into an impossibly cheap car. I rolled down my window while deftly lighting a cigarette.
"Hey, you," I waxed.
"I'm Soren. I'm the new kid."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Want to know how I got kicked out of my last school?"
My Planet Hollywood jacket is a time machine.
"Knife fight. I'm bad news."
"I hate math." She broke my gaze.
"Your car is blocking me in," she whispered seductively.
"Want to hear me play guitar?"
She didn't. Or said she didn't. I kept her there until she revealed the location of a secret party for popular kids. Jacob Walker's parents had gone to visit their daughter in college for the week, he was hosting a bonfire on the family ranch. Fortune smiled. I prepared my questions on note cards, a recorder in my back pocket. I would discover what giving thanks actually meant to these orphaned kids on a dwindling holiday.
No one at the party was interested in being interviewed. After he caught me sipping a shot of schnapps, Jacob Walker accused me of being a loser.
"Yeah well, what have you ever done?" I demanded.
"Threw for 185 yards against the Bulldogs, six touchdowns."
"Have you ever been the guest columnist on a popular website?"
"Well I have."
It almost came to blows between us but all was forgiven when he discovered I could buy beer. I spent the rest of the night sitting on the outskirts of the party, practicing my signature in the air with a flaming stick. I could see the colorless silhouettes of teenagers in front of the fire, drinking the booze I paid for. They laughed and took shots with arms around one another, much like a family, I noted. I let the stick fall from my hand as I watched. "My god," I thought, "I am so bored."
Witnessing the world there shot in black and white, a girl stumbled toward me with two drinks in her hand and one on her shirt to remind me that the world was color, and color was not very forgiving. As she got closer I realized she was Indian, but the wrong kind for my purposes.
"You're that guy," she told me.
"What are you doing here?"
"Rescuing an American institution." She danced in front of me to no music.
"I'm drunk, you want to drive me home?"
"Ugh," I told her firmly.
I watched the ember from my stick smoke and glow in a dried pile of grass. I stomped on it and the ashes jumped and caught in other piles. "Yep," I said. "Let's go." In the car she asked me what I do. I fanned the printed comments sections from my most recent online articles across her lap. We drove on in impressed silence. Her house was huge, her parents absent. We stumbled up three flights of stairs so she could show me an autographed Lady Gaga poster which I never got to see. Instead, we sat on the edge of her bed as she cried and told me how lonely she was. Something I hate.
"Do you think things will ever change?" she sobbed.
I didn't answer, I was pretending to be asleep.
"You know my parents are in Cabo right now? They left me for a four day weekend in Cabo."
"Shhh," I told her in a tone I hoped was both soothing and encouraged her to stop talking so much. But she persisted. Finally I did my best to console her in the most comforting and legal way I could think of: I recited Black Ice, my most recent hard-hitting article about race relations on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado in its entirety. Awash in the absolute truths, she found solace I noticed, because she ceased to cry and started to yawn. I tucked her in and kissed her forehead, much like an esteemed journalist. I kissed it again, slowly, and she asked me to leave. I consented. Taking the stairs two at a time, I froze on the second level and sprinted back to her room with something important I had left unsaid.
The door was inexplicably locked upon my return. "You're welcome," I whispered through the crack at the bottom of the door. "You are welcome young Indian girl." I drove home through warm tears, tape recorder in hand. The air smelled of smoke but whether it was from some distant fire in the night or the spark in my own heart I couldn't say.
She had taught me the importance of Thanksgiving. The holiday wasn't dead, but it needed my help to survive. It was never about family or tradition or any of historical nonsense I had assumed. Thanksgiving was about helping weaker people through trying times and then being brave enough to say, "You're welcome" to an Indian girl, even if she's the wrong kind.
Watch Soren pretend to be a pretentious douche bag on film in The World's Greatest Magician Doesn't Do Tricks. Or see what he's like in real life as he interacts with co-workers and defuses a bomb around the office in Agents of Cracked.