Friday, July 31, 2009
The Crush. Innocence to Experience. Short story by E. A. Monroe
When I went to spend the summer of ’66 with my best friend and walked into her bedroom, she jumped up and down and said, “I’m in love!”
Photos clipped from the latest teen magazines of all her favorite guys — John, Paul, George, Ringo, and a new group I had never heard of, Paul Revere and the Raiders — plastered the whitewashed bedroom walls.
“The Raiders are the coolest guys on Planet Earth — next to the Beatles, of course! Fang is absolutely the cutest! I adore him!”
The contagion of my best friend’s excitement swept over me. Forget the Man from Uncle. Forget Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriyakin. They were kid’s stuff, history. Curious, I stared at the faces, my first encounter with an collage of guy's pictures cut from magazines, taped and tacked to my friend’s bedroom wall; she introduced me to the new guys — Drake Levin, Phil “Fang” Volk, Smitty Smith, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere. “I’m in love with Fang! Oh, don’t you absolutely love Mark! Tell me you love him!” How could I not? One look into those soulful newsprint eyes left me gazing into a mirror. I was Mark Lindsay’s younger twin; surely his long lost, teenage girl soul mate! My friend and I cast aside dull ordinary her and dull ordinary me, and during the summer of ’66, she became Salty Smith and I donned the guise of Silky Revere. After I returned home, Salty and Silky kept in touch, writing adventurous letters in which we described our antics as Smitty Smith’s and Paul Revere’s kid sisters and those of our loves — as much as any small town, naive fifteen-year-olds could know about such things. We reinvented ourselves and the fantasies we spun from teenage imagination sustained me through the trenches of teenhood, family moves to new towns and new high schools, separations from childhood friends, graduation, and growing up. I look back upon those halcyon days of summer and the homemade, ice cream flavor of first love, innocence, and time spent with a dear friend who has remained true, despite separation as we each tread our life paths and the distance between the towns where she and I lived.
High school social activities sucked us into busy lives, and one day Salty Smith’s letters stopped arriving in the mailbox.
During the middle of my junior year, my family moved from our small Oklahoma town to a larger town and a larger high school than the smaller towns where we had always lived and the smaller schools that I had attended, where the kids were related to each other and most of the teachers had taught the parents, if not the grandparents of their students.
One hot July, during the drudgery of cleaning the garage, I boldly announced to my mom, “I am going to marry Mark Lindsay!”She laughed!I was crushed.But, the truly desperate never give up trying to meet their teenage heartthrobs! I had read how one could send a fan letter with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to a favorite celebrity. Okay, I could do that. Better yet, what if I sent an entire box of stationery and at least half of the envelopes stamped and addressed to me? Brilliant!
I bought a box of white stationery laced with a delicate edge. I wrote my adoring fan letter to Mark Lindsay, tucked the letter into the box of stationery and the stamped, self-addressed envelopes, and sent the package to an address I had found in a teen magazine.
As hard as it was, I went on with my life, until one day I received one of my return envelopes in the mailbox. I held the envelope to my nose and inhaled — California, sand, surf and a whiff of cologne, Sandalwood — the scent I imagined him wearing. I savored that envelope. I wanted to lick its sweetness. The letter had come from him; he had touched it! Mark Allen Lindsay! Wow!
I tore open the envelope, more excited than I could remember ever feeling — even more exciting than Christmas, birthdays, and the Fourth of July. A photo fell from the opened envelope. No letter; only a photo — a wallet-sized, black and white glossy autographed photo.I suppose that was my first disappointment, but I put his photo in my wallet and carried it everywhere. I lost count of the times I pulled out the photo and marvel at how wonderful and beautiful he was in the black and white glossy photo. Any day, I expected the arrival of another stamped, self-addressed envelope, a personal letter written on lacy white stationary and tucked inside.
The days slid into weeks, and the weeks disappeared into months.
My mom pressured me to date. I was in high school, but I was not interested in boys or dating. After all, I was in love and I was going to marry him! Whenever a boy called, I always said, “Sorry, I can’t,” or “I have to go to my Grandmother’s house this weekend.” My mom was furious when she discovered what I had done; mothers in small towns talk to other mothers.
Eventually, I dated; I even went on-and-off steady with a boy from my high school and I went to all the teen hops and movies. The feelings weren’t the same though, for I could never love anyone else as much as I already loved him. But, like youth and summer, love fades when the expected letters never arrive in the mailbox. Life drifts into tomorrow, and a teenage girl sets her gaze upon the horizon where the final year of high school and college looms. She grows up.One Saturday night, after cruising the Boulevard, I sat in the passenger’s seat of a car with my girl friends at the PowWow Drive-In. All the kids parked their cars and hung out at the PowWow, because eventually all the high school kids, and kids from nearby towns, who were cruising the Boulevard that night would make the rounds.Music crackled through buzzing speakers tucked beneath the PowWow’s tin awning that covered the parked cars — Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Otis Redding crooned the mood I felt that night as I watched the cars packed with teenagers circle the PowWow, and listened to boys and girls shouting to each other, their laughter raucous and carefree, car hops delivering orders, the slam of car doors, the blare of a car horn, wheels peeling out on gravel.
Sitting there, feeling the future rolling toward me upon a wave of departing summer, I knew I was never going to meet Mark Lindsay, much less marry him. I was a teenager headed toward graduation and college.
Somewhere, beyond the PowWow Drive-In, my future waited and my future wasn’t a black and white glossy photo that I carried around in my wallet.I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I needed the liberation. I took his photo from my wallet, pinched its edge between my fingers, and gazed at his face, an unchanging face captured in time.A warm breeze, smelling of cheeseburgers and limeade sodas and whistling the late-sixties music of the PowWow Drive-In, floated through the open car windows. I leaned my arm out the window, lifted his photo to the breeze, and opened my fingers. Mark Lindsay fluttered away upon a summer wind.
“Hey! Look! A photo of Mark Lindsay!” a girl screamed to her friends. Debby. I remember her name was Debby, one of the popular girls, and I remember the joyous rapture that brightened her face when she held up the black and white glossy photo of my long-lost soul mate.And I smiled.I have often wondered whatever became of the photo. Perhaps Debbie carried him around in her wallet, and from time to time, she took out the photo, looked at him, and remembered how she found the photograph blowing across the gravel beneath the awning of the PowWow Drive-In. Did she ever wonder where the photo had come from? Someday, I may ask her.On that sweet summer’s night, I let go and never looked back.
Well, how am I going to top that for quality?
Just gonna add an awkward vignette of my own:
It is Sunday. I had decided to do nothing at all, keeping the Sabbath sort-of, even though I am not a Seventh Day Adventist...Met one in the rain forest one day. "My name is M. Dennie Mark. Very well educated. I am a Seventh Day Adventist."...Didn't know if he was going to eat me or greet me. Gave me an education. I became a candidate for MD of the rain forest. Shake, rattle and roll.
In any event, though it might be Sunday and I am idle, I hate being idle. Makes me nervous. "Keep busy or go mad," says Voltaire. I must work on a vignette.
Do you ever talk to your plants?
There is one humoungous tomato plant in my garden. It is an underachiever. Though the others are bearing fruit like crazy, it just sits there and throws fake yellow flowers, but no tomatoes. "Gimme some fruit, or you get pulled," I admonish.
I am about to pull the tall plant out, when it seems to yell
"Uncle" and shows me a little polyp just under the flower. "Aha. You're making tomatoes. Spared for a day. I won't do a bad-tempered Jesus on you."
Next come the flowers.
Marigolds fer to keep out the aphids.
And a few poppies and a little hemp I keep around for arcane purposes.
Shasta daisies which don't like to grow in late August.
My savage garden. "Grow, you bastards. Produce, or you get pulled." The daisies dance. We're doing all right, Jack. How about you?
Well, not so good. There is a full moon coming on, good for my plants, but bad for my mood. If a full moon can rais a volcano, think of what it's doing to your head?
Strange sense of impending doom, over nothing at all. Just a guy talking to his plants on a full moon. That's normal, no?
A tulip that I called Blanche.
Suddenly whispered, "Avalanche."
I knew the plants were trying to tell me something.
A tulip saved my life today.