I am not white and yet I feel white. Some might say, I am brown or olive skin. Though to me, being olive makes me sound like I’m green around the edges. I’m not, of course. Continue reading
Life. A carousel in motion, whizzing by and turning everything into a dizzying blur. As it spins, every once in a while I catch a glimpse of my life. A girl with no goals, no ambition, and definitely no … Continue reading
Seeing the cop walk toward me immediately sets me in panic mode. He has one hand partially concealed as if he is about to reach for his gun. I turn around in search of Daniel, wondering if he’s disposed of the two joints that are in his pockets. But Daniel’s not looking at me. He’s staring straight ahead, completely mesmerized by what is transpiring. Continue reading
I will never forget that day in the park with you and Sam.
A clear, warm day in May, filled with the scent of black-eyed Susan and primrose flowers. We sat on the grass, and you plucked two puffy dandelions, handing me one to make a wish upon. How many wishes did we make that day? I remember mine, and refusing to tell you, even when you tickled me until I squirmed and cried uncle. I so wanted my wishes to come true.
I wished that day would never end. I wished you’d kiss me, and ask me to be your girl, and I wished us to be okay, unfettered by the perceived thoughts of others.
I also wished I could be as good to you as you were to me. Kind, sincere, James. I fell hard for you that day, as we wandered through the park, aimlessly chatting. Sam seemed happy, too, ignoring our flirtation and, instead, he kept cracking us up with his jokes.
There was much laughter that day. Laughter and mirth.
But stop for a moment and think. Did you know? Could you see what I was harboring inside? Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes I was truly happy, as I was that day in the park, and I could forget. But it was always there, James. Inside me. I was crumbling, finding it hard to cope with–
It was the moving-on part I was dreading most, what with senior year looming for me. But, first there would be summer and all that it would bring. After that, the thought of what lay ahead–the unknown of it–was frightening. I wanted things to stay the same, but with each passing day, that appeared less likely.
Sometimes I felt as though my skin was made of tempered glass and if I moved the wrong way, I’d fall and burst into a million pieces. Other days, I’d stay in bed, fearing if I stood up, I’d find my feet sinking into quicksand.
But then I’d go to school and smile and kid around, like the best of them, feeling happy and joyful, seeing you and my friends, and singing. How I loved to sing! I’d flit through the day, dancing like a sprite, and singing. And sometimes, the sadder I was, the louder I’d sing.
There was also George. Silly George. Drab George. Why did he keep coming back for more? He had a crush on me, I don’t know why, and I could feel nothing in return. Though I tried, I really did.
But, that was a good day, our day in the park with Sam. A fine day. I remember noticing the sun on your hair, flickering like stars flitting about your head. Your skin so pale and smooth, your black, soulful eyes, inviting, and your smile that still gave away the layer of shyness beneath. I drank them all in. My heart pulsates, remembering.
I was punch-drunk giddy that day, for you brought out the best in me, and I was deliriously taken with you. We were happy, James, the three of us together, bantering, teasing, and you, no longer shy around me.
I won’t forget how every conversation and every story I shared, I’d use as an opportunity to impishly touch your hand, your shoulder and yes, even your leg, on the pretense that I was making my point. I’d leave my hand on you longer than needed, for I craved the feel of you. And, you smiled, all the while, knowing what I was up to, reminding me of a Cheshire cat that had swallowed the fish whole. Ah, the folly of it all, we were kids in a game of love.
When it was time to part, we lingered as long as we could. A sideways glance, a forlorn gaze–now I knew why I disliked goodbyes. Out of earshot from Sam, you softly said,
“Meet me here next Saturday. Just us.”
Eagerly, I nodded. Without hesitation.
The following weekend was even more magical. We met soon after breakfast and, meandering through the park, you took my hand. It felt so right, talking about everything, except the future. Only the now. When we reached a clearing, we stopped and sat on a bench.
And, that’s when you looked at me. I mean, you got all serious and looked at me, and I felt my blood rush through me. A little scared, a little sense of anticipation. Right then, I wanted to say, I love you, James!
But, the words hesitated on my tongue, held back by a fleeting fear. And, that is when you kissed me. Your lips brushing against mine, delicately and sweetly at first, then more intense and I lost myself in the moment.
That day would be the beginning of a relationship filled with sultry kisses, looks of longing, and endless passion. Oh, yes there was passion, James–and joy. But, there was also pain. We’d meet after school, most often at your home, in your bedroom, in the shadows of our solitude. Wrapping ourselves in each others arms, you were my panacea, for all that ailed me.
When I’d head home, I’d be overcome with guilt, and the next day I wouldn’t show up. You’d wait for me and I wouldn’t come over. You were a tenth grader, after all, and I was too mortified to tell a soul about our relationship. And, that was adding to the ache gnawing inside me. You must’ve felt it, too.
Loving you, James, brought me unbridled joy. It also chipped away at me, exposing the rawness beneath. Though you swore age didn’t matter, it did, James, which is why I kept you a secret.
I was leading a double life, and I needed to make things right. For this reason, I accepted George’s invitation to the prom.
Only I couldn’t tell you, James.
Secrets. They sure can mess you up.
(To be continued.)
Missed an installment? Catch up by visiting the page, Lightning in a Jar: High School Years.
Anxious. That was me. I was on the phone with George, and the clock was ticking, as I was supposed to meet up with James and Sam at Eisenhower Park in less than an hour. My plan had been to get an early start, so by now I should’ve been on my bike, halfway there. After all, it was six miles away and I didn’t want to show up all sweaty and out of breath. I needed time to compose myself, and here, one phone call was threatening to derail everything.
George was being his usual, persistent self.
“Who the heck is James?” He’d repeated his question, a question that startled me out of what had been my quiet reverie and anticipation of seeing James soon.
Who the heck is James? His intonation made the name sound more like a contagious disease than someone for whom I was feeling a growing attraction.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure I owed George any explanation. After all, it wasn’t as if he and I were going steady or anything. We’d just dated a few times and after the third date, I did all I could to discourage him, short of demanding him to cease and desist.
For the first time, someone was daring me to explain what I was not prepared to reveal, all because of a slip of the tongue. My slip. What could I possibly say that would make any sense, when I, myself, hadn’t figured out what James was to me?
James was my secret, hidden from prying eyes. Partly because I was embarrassed to admit I liked him. Partly because there was something so different about him. Nothing like the other guys I knew. James was like an orchid requiring extra care from outside pollutants, and I worried letting others in would spoil it. They’d draw their own conclusions and judge unfairly. I’d told no one about my friendship with him and Sam. Not even my closest friend, Liza. Not a soul.
So why bring him up now, especially to someone like George? In all likelihood, he’d run and tell Jake. Not that he’d care. The two of them would probably just have a good laugh over how, after being dumped by a senior, I was dating a measly sophomore. Which, wasn’t true, of course, but soon word would be all over school as if it was. Yes, I cared what people thought. Opinions of others mattered. Which is why I decided to ignore George’s question, and instead focus on the purpose of his call.
“Hey George, what’s up?”
“Okay, if you’re not going to tell me, fine. I’m calling to see if you’d like to go on a bike ride today, and maybe stop at Friendly’s?”
Was this his way of saying he was on to me?
“Um, don’t think I can,” I said cautiously.
Think, think. “My mother needs help with a sewing project?” I said the first thing that came to mind, more like a question than a statement. Which was dumb. Most people knew my travails with Home Economics and sewing. If my mother did need help, I’d be the last person she’d ask, on account I couldn’t sew a stitch.
He was quiet for a moment, which should’ve been my in to say goodbye and hang up, but instead, I asked, “Is there anything else?”
He took a deep breath. “Well, I was calling to see if you’d like to be my date for the prom.”
The prom? As in the senior prom–the one that I had hoped to attend with Jake? Somehow, the idea of going with George felt like it would be a consolation prize. George, with whom I didn’t have a thing in common or felt an iota of spark. And yet…
Yet, I had to admit, the idea was tempting. It could be my last chance to remind Jake of what he’d given up, and make him pine for me in a way he never had before. This thought made me waver, though, when I thought of going to the beach with George, and making out, I wasn’t as sure. I’d sooner swallow fistfuls of sand.
“Hmm.” I paused, then added, “Let me get back to you on that.” I needed time to think this through. Time that I didn’t have right then. The clock was still ticking.
“Okay, but let me know soon. ” He seemed disappointed.
“I will. Promise.” Click. Poor George. I was sure he deserved better.
Looking at my watch, twenty minutes had passed since the time I had originally planned to leave. With the half hour it took to get there on bike, I wasn’t sure I’d make it on time. I needed to make haste. I bolted out the door and hurried to the garage to get my bicycle.
When we first moved to Long Island, I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. I never had one in Queens. It’s not that I was deprived. I did own a tricycle, which I used until the age of five, but a bike didn’t seem a neccesity in Queens, where you could get just about anywhere on foot or by public transportation.
But soon, after moving to Jericho, my brother, who’d figured out how to ride a bike on his own, offered to teach me. I was 12. From then on, there was no pinning me down.
My, she was yar. I’d heard Katharine Hepburn say it to Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story, about a yacht they once owned together, and the sentiment sounded perfectly apropos for my bicycle. “My she is yar,” is what I’d say when anyone asked me why I spent so much time on my bike. Purple and shiny, I could give a little upward flick to the kickstand, climb onto the triangular seat, and be off in one fell swoop.
I’d go anywhere. I knew all the short cuts and back roads to get to school, the library, and the parks. I could ride my bike to the mall, and to neighboring communities, through Hicksville, Westbury, Mineola, East Meadowbrook, and even all the way out to Jones Beach.
My, she was yar.
There was no greater feeling than the one of riding your bike at top speed, along traffic, weaving in and out as I pleased to get where I needed to go. I even rode along one of the highways, and through lush winding roads dense with foliage, as well as through corporate parks and along railroad tracks. Just me and my bicycle, free to be me. I’d astound myself by how far my bike could take me before I’d turn around and head home.
Now, I was pedaling as if my life depended on it, and maybe it did. I’d been so miserable, these last few months after the breakup, that I didn’t realize until now how much I needed this. How much I was looking forward to it. Yes, there it was again. A yearning deep inside, beckoning me forward. To him.
As I reached the appointed spot for our assignation, I eyed James and Sam right away. James looked up and I could see his face immediately relax. Sam made a face and said something about it being high time I got there and what took me so long.
But I wasn’t listening. My eyes were on James and his on me, and my heart was full.
We were magically entranced, until Sam broke the spell by making a big deal about getting on his bike. James and I followed suit, and soon the three of us took off down a trail that led deeper into the park.
Just James and me–and Sam. There would be no more talk of prom that day.
(To be continued.)
Missed an installment? Catch up by visiting the page, Lightning in a Jar: High School Years.