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GLINT


All I Did Was Talk and Talk About You: 7.29.09


I spent the weekend staring into wizened baby stares and appreciating toddler logic, all under the teetering stacks of cumulonimbus (cumulonimbi?) that stock the midwest horizon but are far too large to fit these eastern skies. It was very pleasant. On Saturday afternoon, I peeped into my pocket-size-computer-phone-mailbox-teensy-albatross-of-constant-connectivity and saw a harmless leetle message from M. 'Hey!' M said, 'Blah, blah, and yak, yak, and I found a box full of photos of J! Come over for dindin and see 'em this week! Blah, blah, and yak, yak.'

But, oh. Oh, dear reader, if the most tremendous wave of nostalgia didn't just rise up and slam me, drench me and slam me down among the swirling silt and tidal debris, 20 years worth. It was just that feeling too, a shocked, feet pulled out from under you, loss of equilibrium--but it's only momentary. Then you're up, scrambling back on your feet, bleary and salt soaked and thrilled, already turning to run out deeper next time. Exhilaration. Oh, but. Maybe because I hadn't had occasion to remember him in so, so long.

We were, in effect, fixed up by M, who was dating J's best friend. I know I met him at a party first, I remember, but not too clearly. Then there were phone calls, the Harvest Gold rotary phone on the kitchen wall suddenly a glorious portent every time I flew down the hall to answer it. Maybe a movie. Another party. And then, late nights heavy with humidity, full to bursting just before the early morning dew lets out a little release, and I was up to see its pinprick dots on the hoods of cars and feel it on the grass that grazed my ankles when I was running across the lawn at dawn to the porch light, left on like an accusatory glare from my parents. But it didn't matter. Because J reached up and touched my neck the way he did, and we never even saw the movie, and he grabbed my hand and held it under his on the gear shift while he was driving home and smiled, once right there on Calvert Road, and said, "You're too far away."

He picked me up after school, his white truck rounding the circle drive while I balanced on the stair railing, perched and posed. Once, we had some kind of fight over the weekend, I remember, and I was sitting on the steps that Monday after school, calculating the bus or the train, and there at the bottom of the hill, his truck nosing over the first speed bump. And we would park three houses up on my street, sometimes for an hour, before letting out the clutch and coasting to the top of my driveway, where I could see my family framed in the front bay window, a wannabe suburban sitcom, already getting up from dinner.

Once, a Saturday afternoon and a jaunt downtown to Olsson's Books and Records, their LP bins all long gone now, where somehow we ran into my uncle, I remember--he must have emerged from the dim recesses of their vast classical section in the back of the store--who shook J's hand, like a proxy for my father. And yes, for whatever reason I do remember exactly what t-shirt and shorts J wore that day and what I wore, and when we were back on the orange line, heading home, I was sitting in the crook of his arm and turned to look at the window, which in the tunnel was really nothing more than a smudgy mirror, glommed up with fingerprints and grime that reflected my dark stare resting on his extended forearm and his profile, and he pulled me in closer saying, "Whose hot breath is that on my arm?" Which again, for whatever reason, I remember as clearly as something that happened just five minutes ago.

Yes, I was gone on J, gone, gone, dead gone. And I didn't care about much of anything except for one niggling problem. I was pretty enough according to the girls, cute enough according to the boys, I was funny and acerbic and sarcastic enough according to most everyone. In my own little tight size four plaid Goodwill peg leg pants and cast-off vintage sweaters filched from the back of my mom's closet, my smart-ass, bright, quipping, cautious, rebel-rebel little way, I could get by for sure. The problem was that J was cool. Oh, so completely. Older and cool, cooler and older than I even knew how to approach or approximate or fake or mimic.

Of course, there was his band. Of course, there were his friends. His truck. His cigarettes I could taste when we kissed. His beat-up Vans and skateboard calves, no curfew, cut-rate district line liquor store runs, mix tapes, gigs, school day dollar movies, and weekend parties. All so cool I could barely stand it. He actually wanted to date me, for a little while at least. Amazing. And all those things paled before what I knew was the glaring gap in the plan. I wasn't cool.

But, dang it. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to feel the edge of not belonging but somehow clued in to something better, off the grid of high school cliques, I wanted to know I was accepted by the fringe, the out crowd that was more in than anything in my eyes. Two-tone skavoovie, hardcore right downtown, punk, Joey and DeeDee, and college radio, somewhere between the blurry Psychocandy lines I bore into on my turntable, I knew it was in music. Of that, I was certain. Hair that stayed up or fell just so, worn out chucks, 8 hole Docs, Levis folded and faded, chess board checks, plaid, black, second-hand, somehow it was connected to how you staked your distance with style. Blase', bitter, angsty, angry, over it, on to something better, far away, England, or Long Beach, even just Fort Reno, somehow it was also in what you knew and how you carried it off.

Did I want to date J or be J? Saturation through infatuation. A question that has come up time and time again in various incarnations since. J was cool, but he couldn't make me cool because then I was so achingly far from knowing the first thing about what I needed to know about how to pull it off. I was in over my head with him, his friends--even M, his band, his cool. I didn't know how to act, how to drink, how to smoke, how to not care or care like I should. I remember feeling tongue-tied and unsure, hanging on J's hand after the band had finished or standing in the circle of people outside at the party. Of course I tried, and I must have been passable because it worked for a while. Until the miserable reality of my shy, wary, young self probably just caught up. Just outside the bedroom door, I'm pretty sure, is where we collided.

He and I broke up and got back together and broke up. There were some awkward parties, that show I ran on, trundling up the stairs to breathe in big gulps of cold F Street air and cuss out my shy, stupid self. But after that, I think I just picked up and moved on. More at my own pace. My uncool cadence of just sixteen and uncomplicated confusion about everything I was going to do and be. But J was part of that, for a little measure, quick and double time. Even as M and I lost touch, and I went on to other boyfriends, finally more at ease, and then to knowing there may be some secreted rubric to growing up but there was no safecracking code, all through that, there was a thick patina of fond nostalgia that got caked on to the time J and I spent that is impossible to scrape off. It dulls some detail, my memory is notably rusty anyway. But nothing is fully obscured. J, patient J, he was a nice guy. It's that simple.

And just after I looked and saw M's message, my brother tossed me my sweet, little niece. And I propped her in the cradle of my arm and fell into her four-toothed lopsided baby grin for about the seven millionth time that afternoon and I thought: Whoa. Whoa. I hope that when you, baby niece, are just about sixteen you get that too. The chance to first fall hard for a guy you've half made up in your mind and half believe in. And then growing up into summer nights of driving around, listening to music, feeling pretty near perfect, finding that fully realized corner of yourself where it starts to fit together, finally flush to your own ease, when you know you can. But, check this out. When you get those things, I'll be rounding fifty years-old. Whoa. I hope I'll still be able to relate to that, to all this, for you.

I thought all that, but I didn't hope too hard because it's clearly not fading fast for me.

Of course, my brother also made me watch "Super Bad" and it called up some pretty severe high school reminiscences itself. All in all, a good weekend.


reflect - reinvent ....rayclaire@gmail.com... what i used to think... what i hear... what i see... where i'd like to be...


the black apple... the girl who... sarah brown... thunderpie... evany... jenny b harris... posie... claude le monde... artsy... fartsy... jeff... random person in texas... another rachel... smitten kitchen... more of me... still more of me... even more of me...and yet still more of me...more of me but not for free...


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