In which, through an act of reprehensible drunken thuggery, we learn a very valuable lesson about our behavior.
First of all, I am in no way responsible for Frogboy’s undignified, if appropriate, sobriquet. That honor goes to Daria, one of my fellow layabouts at my college’s writing center, who had only minutes before been propositioned by the wretched little creature whom we later learned was named Evan Spieglemann. He was polite, she told me, and said that Frogboy had offered her a shy smile when he asked if she wanted to go with him to the movies, suggesting that they walk to the theater in town, as he had no car. It might have been a touching, if ultimately futile, scene if not for an unfortunate occurrence. “When he smiled,” she said, “his gums began to bleed spontaneously.”
Why Frogboy? It’s hard to say just why some names fit almost magically. It’s not that the pitiable little creature known as Evan only to his parents actually looked like an amphibian; he didn’t. But he looked like a Frogboy. Frogboy was short, and thin almost to the point of emaciation. His dark, oily hair stood in stark relief to his pale skin, still marked by splotches of fading acne and the blue-black tinge of a perpetual 5 o’clock shadow. He wore chunky black glasses with lenses as thick as a baby’s finger, magnifying his heavy-lidded and mud-colored eyes, lending a slightly contemptuous effect. And of course, the pièce de résistance was his million-dollar smile: each of his long, yellow teeth seemed wholly remote from the tooth next to it, brought into relief by the darkness to either side of it. And the bleeding.
The first time I had the privilege to see Frogboy up close and personal was in the men’s restroom. I was standing at a urinal, the only occupant of this low-traffic bathroom beneath the college cafeteria, and looked up when the door opened. At first, I didn’t know what to make of the comically-horrifying creature in the doorway. Frogboy, in addition to being possessed of the unfortunate physical traits described in the previous paragraph, wore garishly patterned weight-lifter pants with flourescent green highlights, and a plain blue muscle shirt that highlighted his pale, pimple-studded shoulders and girly broomstick arms.
Despite the two other perfectly good urinals from which he could have chosen, Frogboy chose the urinal next to mine (a brief digression: ladies, as you like to gab in the can, you may not be aware that except for those fellows interested in a bit of the rough trade,¹ choosing a urinal next to one which is occupied when an unoccupied alternate exists is simply not done). He pulled his shirt up and tucked it beneath his chin, which was pressed into his chest. As he began to go about his business, all the while accompanying it with a litany of grunts (in retrospect it seems so obvious that the boy had Tourette’s, but at that time, I thought the condition just made you cuss-crazy), I got out of there in a hurry.
There is the assumption that anyone so freaky and physically deficient must therefore be brilliant. Although Frogboy had the requisite arrogance and look of house-bound scholarship, his intellect was disappointingly pedestrian. But, like the rest of us, maybe he was fooled by his own appearance. We were in dummy physics together, and I can still recall how exasperated the professor would become with Frogboy’s inane, nonsensical questions and bizarre theories about the nature of science.
That would have been the limit of my interaction with Frogboy if it hadn’t been for a night of drinking. I woke up on a Saturday morning after spending the evening with a bottle of Rebel Yell and assorted attitude adjustments, gripped by a wicked bellyache and a vague but persistent feeling of wrongdoing. It didn’t take me long to find out why that was.
“Dude, you were kind of an asshole to Frogboy last night,” one friend told me. Before an hour had passed, at least four people stopped by my room or called to let me know they’d been witness to my ugly behavior. I never got the full story–never wanted it–but the crux of the tale is that I spent part of the evening being an ass to Frogboy, pushing him around and even, I’m told, boxing his ears.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, I was not an intentionally hurtful young man, but more like a reckless puppy, living as I did in my collegiate world of low-impact consequences. Given that I stood almost a foot taller than Frogboy and outweighed him by about 100 pounds and moreover that I was possessed of a conscience, I was overcome by shame at what I had done. In the long-term, this incident would have a profound impact on my behavior–I grew much more respectful of alcohol and more cognizant of my behavior when under the influence.
But the incident also had a profound effect on my final year in college. Not long after being apprised of the extent of my buffoonery, I found Frogboy sitting alone in the cafeteria. “I’m sorry, Evan,” I told him honestly, adding that I was deeply ashamed and that I hoped he would forgive me, although I didn’t deserve it.
To my surprise and relief, he forgave me immediately. However, I should have remembered that nothing comes for free, and that if I was truly to learn a lesson, there would have to be attendant consequences. For me, those consequences took the form of a friendship. Frogboy and I were now pals, and for the rest of my senior year I was friends with a guy who didn’t know how to be friends.
After I graduated, I never saw Frogboy again. But a few years later, one of my friends was working in a deli in San Francisco when who should walk in but Frogboy. He recognized my friend and addressed him by the wrong name. He remembered me, though, and asked after me.