Scene 4
First Contact

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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Flashback time again.

I bumped into Heather at school occasionally. I told her my friends and I went to a certain dive bar just outside downtown every Tuesday for free pool and cheap beer and she should join us. I probably had to badger her about it a few times before she finally showed up a few weeks later, sometime around her birthday with her new boy in tow.
His name was Jason. A nice guy, really. Cute too.
My alpha male instincts went into overdrive.
It didn’t help that he had the same name as my younger brother, same hair too, and not too much different in age. It didn’t help that he had invaded my territory, my bar, on my night.
I apparently made a complete ass of myself. I’ve always been labeled obnoxious, but according to witnesses, and Heather, my flirting with her and disdain for him were less than subtle.
I wrote a poem about it some time later, entitled “The Boy”

He's a grown man,
But I just call him The Boy.
He's the Other Man, the Competition.
She says "He's wholesome and good."
But that makes me want to put a hole in his head somethin' good.
Queen Jealousy Envy prods me nightly,
Her jade and emerald scepter piercing into my brain,
But I can't let her get to me -
I've got to be wholesome and better.
Swallow hard
and say "I hope you have a nice time with him" again.

A few weeks later she came back to the bar without him.
Again, I wasn’t exactly subtle.
“So how’s the boy?” I asked.
“He’s OK...” she answered, halfheartedly.
“That’s not exactly a strong testimonial,” I replied.
“He’s nice.”
"He's the kind of guy you’re supposed to fall in love with, marry, have kids...”
“But?” I asked again, leaning forward on my pool cue.
“But... there’s just something missing.”
My roommate, Dave, and I tore into him like starved wolves. Dave knew I wanted her so he helped drag the prey in for the kill.
“Well if it’s like that after only a couple weeks you might as well give it up. It isn’t gonna get any more exciting,” I pointed out.
The conversation continued, my roommate and I tag-teaming The Boy’s good and clean image into the pavement.

"Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde; but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience."
Robert Louis Stevenson, from The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

DavidHe was out of the picture a couple weeks later.

Soon after, Heather asked if I’d like to go with her and a friend of ours out dancing.
“Of course,” I replied.
That night I actually had a full-fledged panic attack. I knew I had to be my best, keep cool, be suave, all the shit we humans tell ourselves when the clouds roll in and you can’t see that if you just relax and be yourself you’ll be much more suave than if you work really hard trying to act suave. I sat on the floor, hugging my knees and mumbling to myself “It’s gonna be OK, just go, have fun, it’s gonna be OK...”
I actually considered canceling. A 27 year-old who had a reputation of being quite the ladies man, freaking out on the floor, almost unable to talk himself into getting up and heading out the door to go dancing.
I somehow pulled my shit together, got off the floor and went.

We met at a local fetish-themed dance club, a place with a mix of “alternative” people and those who want to see “alternative” people in their “alternative” atmosphere. The word “alternative” was just beginning to get it’s ironic flavor at the time and the fetish scene had long since been assimilated into the mainstream, but the place was as good as any for dancing and drinking.
Our mutual friend, Jason (no relation to The Boy, just a popular name for newborns in the mid-70’s) and I ordered drinks and watched Heather watch the crowd. Jason and I chatted for a bit, then Heather got bored and just walked off into the middle of the dance floor and started dancing.
Jason and I stopped mid-sentence and watched from a distance. It usually takes a few drinks before I relax enough to dance. I’m good at it, for an untrained po’ white boy, but my shyness makes me awkward without the proper antifreeze and I barely had half a drink in me at that moment.
I handed my half-full drink to Jason and walked right out there.
She looked up and was surprised to see me follow her onto the floor. Again, I wondered at her surprise. This time I asked about it.
“Most of my friends don’t dance so when we go out I usually end up dancing alone,” she answered.

I was utterly manic, a nervous wreck, but I must have gotten so much adrenalin flowing that it pushed me past the nervousness, over the edge into utter abandon - that feeling of no inhibitions, like having just the right amount of alcohol in your system. I danced up a storm.
Jason came out and was everything I feared I would be - awkward, shy, dorky. But I was a machine. I flirted with Heather, I flirted with other dancers, I even flirted with a little gay boy that danced with me for a few minutes, then I danced away from him, leaving him confused.

Michelangelo's SlavesBy the end of the night Heather was impressed. The shy, boyish Frederick she’d known from art class was now a sensual, sweaty man, like one of Michelangelo’s slaves emerging from stone.
I positively glowed, and I don’t glow often.
I think we went for breakfast at the Waffle House or something after, I can't remember. But I do remember her riding off with Jason while I went home alone, yet triumphant.

A few days later I asked her if she wanted to join me and my gang for my birthday party, a trip to Helen for Oktoberfest.
Helen has set itself up as a faux Alpine town, nestled in the Appalachian hills of North Georgia. Every October they have a big festival, ignoring the fact that the real Oktoberfest occurs in September, where hordes of drunken frat guys from UGA stampede through the town. Every year I assembled anyone brave enough to go with fully ironic, sardonic grins.
Heather agreed to join us so I picked her up and drove to Dahlonega where we met the rest of the gang at Brud's house.

We assembled the gang and headed to Helen, eventually winding up at our usual spot, a restaurant that features a large patio where two old men with a drum set and a Casio keyboard crank out bad polka versions of random tunes, from the expected Chicken Dance and Roll Out the Barrel, to weird covers of The Love Boat and The Mickey Mouse Club themes - basically anything they can do with a polka beat.
The place was packed with grinning idiots guzzling Lowenbrau, unaware or uncaring that the stuff isn't even made in Germany any more, and trying to polka, though they don't know the first thing about the dance.
We stood on benches at the edge of the fray, looking down at the swirling masses and giggling. But eventually voyeurism wasn't enough to keep us entertained so I pulled Heather down into the crowd and joined in the manic polka efforts. Unfortunately the writhing bodies were packed too tightly to move, so my friends and I created a new dance - the slampolka - to clear out enough room for us to jump about, pausing frequently to laugh hysterically.
"It wasn't really any fun until we started dancing," Heather said on the way back to Brud's house.

Brud's has been described, accurately, by my previous girlfriend, Ashley, as "that horrible little shack in the woods."  It was a typical country house, built some four decades before by a former moonshiner with little attention to square angles, level floors, etc. In the years since it's construction the floors had settled comfortably, even more out of level, the trash piled up, the paint peeled - all signs of inhabitation by extreme slackers. Not a pleasant place to stay the night, but better than driving all the way back to Atlanta.
Heather and I were sleeping in the same bed, an arrangement she didn't argue with.
"Dammit, I wish I'd thought to bring warmups," she said in the chilly, dirty room.
I whipped out the spare pair I'd brought along just for such needs and tossed them to her.
"Wow, you thought of everything," she said, impressed.
I'm sure a cocky spread across my face.
We slipped under the pile of comforters into the sway-backed, squeaky old bed and turned out the light. Out in the country, with overcast fall skies, in a room with one small window covered in drapes, the night is so dark you can't see the back of your eyelids and the only sound is your own breath and the occasional squeaking spring.
I lay there staring at the void, wondering if she wanted me to make a move on her. Before I knew it, I was waking up with morning light streaming through the yellowing curtains.

We went on a real date, just the two of us, soon after. She wanted to show me one of her favorite places as sort of a birthday present. She took me to a park by the Chattahoochee river, a rare secluded spot in the middle of Atlanta’s sprawl. She had partied there often as a high-schooler, one of the only places you could get “back to nature” without an hour drive.
A prime make-out location.
It was a chilly, late-October evening. We walked down a muddy trail next to the river for a few hundred yards before coming to a quiet spot on a big rock. The trees surrounded us and gave us some cover from the not-distant-enough civilization. We talked, we sat in silence, we laughed, the usual things people do on a date when they already have a strong chemical connection.
She complained of sore shoulders, or maybe it was just the oldest move in the book on my part, I can’t recall, but somehow I ended up rubbing her shoulders while we sat.
I mentioned that I had a reputation as quite the ladies’ man? Well in all my years it’s almost always the ladies that make the first move on me. I’m far too shy to take that first step. On one hand, I wish I were more forward. On the other I think it’s part of my charm. Women feel safe with me.

I feel terrified with them.

“What would you do if I pushed you down on the ground and just started kissing you?” Heather asked, pulling me away from my thoughts of “Wonder if she wants me to take the lead?”
“I don’t think you’d get any objections,” I replied.
“You wouldn’t mind if your jacket got dirty?” she asked.
I just kind of let out a choked “Feh-“, but it got the point across.
To remember her kisses makes me far more weak than saying her name aloud. Her name carries all the memories, bad and good, all the frustrations of that period of my life.
Her kisses only remind me of the bliss.
Remember that person that kissed exactly like you always wanted to be kissed? Remember how they kissed like they really loved the way you kissed too? Kisses so tender, but with that tinge of passion, hinting at what might come after? Soft lips, parting for a meeting of tongues, slippery and warm at first but then cooling around the moist edges, stuck together like two magnets that can’t pull apart, only slide against each other?
Those kind of kisses.
I didn’t mind my leather jacket getting muddy. Hell, I’d have tossed it into river if she had asked. We lay in the dirt and enjoyed each other’s bodies immensely.
But there’s only so far we were willing to go in a public park, and it was getting cold out. So we headed back to my car and I drove her home. In her mother’s driveway we sat and chatted. Eventually we ended up in the back seat for more serious action than we had dared out by the river. A Saturn wagon isn’t exactly a make-out-mobile, but any space will suffice for two humans pumped full of hormones and my apartment seemed light-years away.

A week later we went out for Halloween. Both of us loved the holiday but we spent too much time rolling around in my bed beforehand to come up with costumes. We ended up at the best live music show of the year, three of my favorite bands at a famously run-down strip club, in the basement of the famously run-down Clermont Hotel. We were maybe a third of the way through the opening act when she looked at me and said “Nice boots. Wanna fuck?”
On one hand I was sorry I missed the rest of the show. On the other...

"It's like a big surrealistic drawing by Picasso with this and that reaching for this and that - even Picasso doesn’t want to be too accurate. It’s the Garden of Eden and anything goes. I can’t think of anything more beautiful in my life (& aesthetic) than to hold a naked girl in my arms, sideways on a bed, in the first preliminary kiss. The velvet back. The hair, in which Obis, Parañas & Euphrates run. The nape of the neck, the original person now turned into a serpentine Eve by the Fall of the Garden where you feel the actual animal soul personal muscles and there’s no sex - but O the rest so soft and unlikely - If men were as soft I'd love them as so - To think that a soft woman desires a hard and hairy man! The thought of it amazes me: where's the beauty? But Ruth explains to me (As I asked, for kicks) that because of her excessive softness and bellies of wheat she grew sick and tired of all that, and desired roughness - in which she saw beauty by contrast - and so like Picasso again, and like in a Jan Müller Garden, we mortified Mars with our exchanges of hard & soft - With a few extra tricks, politely by Vienna - that led to a breathless timeless night of seer lovely delight, ending with sleep.
We ate and plowed eachother hungrily."
Jack Kerouac, from Desolation Angels

Some time later, she said one of the reasons she liked me was that I'd thought to bring warmups that night at Brud's and that I'd been a gentleman and not put the moves on her, even though she wanted me to.
Sounds like the beginning of your typical love story.
Would you prefer I fast forward a bit, like some made for TV movie where we don’t have time for the intimate details, and can’t get them past the censors anyway, so we cut straight to the trouble and strife with no real  plot or character development in between?
Too bad.

"After all, the only reason for life or a story is 'What Happened Next?'"
Jack Kerouac, from Desolation Angels

This story isn’t about the beginning or the end, but the ride in between. You’ve got to take the whole ride, the dizzying highs, the terrifying lows...

“You know, some folks like the merry-go-round. But it just goes round and round. I like the rollercoaster.” to paraphrase the grandmother character from the Steve Martin film Parenthood.

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