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 didnt help that he had the same name as
my younger brother, same hair too, and not too much different in age.
It didnt help that he had invaded my territory, my bar, on my night.
I apparently made a complete ass of myself. Ive 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.
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 wasnt exactly subtle.
So hows the boy? I asked.
Hes OK... she answered, halfheartedly.
Thats not exactly a strong testimonial, I replied.
"He's the kind of guy youre supposed to fall in love with, marry, have
But? I asked again, leaning forward on my pool cue.
But... theres 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 its like that after only a couple weeks you might
as well give it up. It isnt gonna get any more exciting, I
The conversation continued, my roommate and I tag-teaming The Boys
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
He was out of the picture a
couple weeks later.
Soon after, Heather asked if
Id 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 cant see that if you just relax
and be yourself youll 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 Its gonna be OK, just go, have fun, its gonna
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.
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 its 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-70s) 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. Im 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 dont 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.
the end of the night Heather was impressed. The shy, boyish Frederick
shed known from art class was now a sensual, sweaty man, like one
of Michelangelos slaves emerging from stone.
I positively glowed, and I dont 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
"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
"Dammit, I wish I'd thought to bring warmups," she said in the chilly,
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 Atlantas 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 cant 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 its almost always the ladies that make the first
move on me. Im far too shy to take that first step. On
one hand, I wish I were more forward. On the other I think its 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 dont think youd get any objections, I replied.
You wouldnt mind if your jacket got dirty? she asked.
I just kind of let out a choked Feh-, but it got the point
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 cant pull apart, only slide against each other?
Those kind of kisses.
I didnt mind my leather jacket getting muddy. Hell, Id have
tossed it into river if she had asked. We lay in the dirt and enjoyed
each others bodies immensely.
But theres 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 mothers
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 isnt exactly a make-out-mobile, but any space will suffice
for two humans pumped full of hormones and my apartment seemed
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...
like a big surrealistic drawing by Picasso with this and that reaching
for this and that - even Picasso doesnt want to be too accurate.
Its the Garden of Eden and anything goes. I cant 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 theres 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
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 dont have time for the intimate details, and cant get them
past the censors anyway, so we cut straight to the trouble and strife
with no real plot or character development in between?
all, the only reason for life or a story is 'What Happened Next?'"
Jack Kerouac, from Desolation
This story isnt about
the beginning or the end, but the ride in between. Youve 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.