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by Jordan E. Pease
It was summertime,1947, and a warm breeze swirled through the neighborhoods caressing old brick homes with white painted porches and radios blasting out tunes by the Harmonicats. Those were the days when milk was still brought to your door in cold sweating glass bottles which the doorman delivered clinking to your doorstep and sleek black cars cruised by on white wall tires blaring horns that really let you have what for.
My father had come back from the war three years before, gaunt and etched, a ghost of the man he’d been — returned back to us from across some raging ocean surrounded by killing fields, entire countries become crypts. He was further away now than he’d ever been during the war. He drank Schlitz on the porch all day every day, that’s what he did, from sun up to sun down and my mother and I mostly just stayed away.
But I was 13 at the time and it was glorious summer. I spent every day with Tommy Miller, a scrawny boy to be sure, but a renowned hellion. We spent that summer roaming creation. We shot at squirrels and birds in Oakree forest with our slingshots and fished all along the banks of Carr creek, a mobius band of swishing waterfalls and silvery pools. Its creekbed pocked full of deep holes where mighty catfish and river nasties lurked and the days whipped by .
I tell you it was just pure joyful life, and I was alive and it was me and Tommy best friends forever, and that’s when I saw her and everything changed. She wasn’t just any girl, her name was Laurel, and she was the tail of a comet or a shooting star, whispy cold and beautiful. The sky I remember was shouting blue and we were playing baseball with the other 8th graders out on Hest field and she came walking by with a group of girls and I tell you that was it. Man I must’ve looked like a fool standing there with my mouth agape while those girls passed by — I don’t even remember how the game ended and I don’t remember the next few days. Where those memories should be I see only grey fog and her.
But I remember every bit of the moment I saw her, every second, the way the grass felt between my toes, the smell of dirt and summer and trees and the clenched knot in my stomach. My heart skipping and jumping and stopping and triple beating and I knew from the moment I saw her that I was in love – deep everlasting head over heels love.
Her skin was pale porcelain starlight and her eyes were lightning blue and her pouty lips were promises wrapped in red ribbons and yes sir I tell you I knew it from the moment I saw her, she was for me and I for her and we would marry and have kids and grow old until we faded away into our golden years sipping lemonade on porch swings. Two old farts in love. One of us would go first, probably get cancer, and we’d hold hands in the hospital until twilight called the other home.
And so I planned how to win her and thought myself silly but knew what I lacked in experience I would more than compensate for with enthusiasm.
A day passed then two, two nights of dreams of Laurel. Sweet lark filled dreams of gentle moonlight and grassy green plateaus and starless skies forever. I saw an elk in my dreams, I was the elk and I ran for days and nights through white crystalline snow, lightning beneath my hooves and she was the sun and moon that lit my way.
Til Saturday arrived. It was Saturday june 14, 1947, and not a cloud dare defy the radiance and fullness of that day — I remember! I had chosen Saturday because I knew there would be a pickup football game down on Brower field. I knew my friends would be there and the other boys from Camry street would be there and we would become clashing titans that day and the gods of Olympus would be watching, they’d be watching as we battled for glory just as we had done every Saturday for the last few months, the gods would be watching but more importantly the girls would be watching too. The, girl, would be watching…
They always came by to watch the games, pretending to be interested in football. I’d told my mother about it once and she said “well now Isaac, girls aren’t interested in football, they are interested in the boys playing football.” It hadn’t made much sense at the time but Laurel had awoken in me an understanding of the nature of boys and girls and that primal desire to love and be loved and I knew then as I know now she had not been interested in football all along, or even boys, she had been interested in me. I was the reason she came to watch football on Saturdays.
I was going to play the game of a lifetime, those boys weren’t going to know what hit em, I would play so well that she couldn’t help but see me and only me. After the game, after I had impressed her, I would ask her if I could walk her home, make small talk, and hold her hand. We’d follow the creek and on the way we’d stop to sit along that old flat rock that perches over the pool where minnows dart like quicksilver and moss sways in the rippling blue water. There is an opening in the trees and when the sun is low enough a dusky orange glow shines through and illuminates the rock and it is warm and beautiful and takes your breath away. My plan was to kiss her at that perfect moment, when the brilliance of it all had taken her breath away so that she we would kiss me deeply and I would be her breath.
And it worked – to a point. I remember playing well although I don’t remember who won nor did I care. Afterwards I jogged over to where her friends and her were standing looking uninterested and I introduced myself to her. It went well I think, or think it must have because although hesitant, she did agree to part ways with her friends and let me walk her home.
And as the sun set in shades of brilliant red and shadows grew long we walked and talked along the soft muddy banks of Carr creek. The lapping musics of gurgling water filled the pauses in our talking and so there were no awkward pauses of the kind you’d expect during inexperienced newly blossomed romances – I had planned well.
She told me of her mother and father and laughed when she spoke of her mother’s new hairdo. She told me how it flipped up in the front like a duck’s bill and when she yelled her husband’s name, Hank, she sounded like a duck. It was funny and we both laughed long and loud.
And so it went until we came to that large flat rock and my palms did grow sweaty then and my heart skipped beats, this was where we’d stop and sit and I’d kiss her in the setting sun. Only there was a hiccup in my plan, she did seem to grow nervous at the thought of dallying too long, of stopping to sit on the rock, she said her parents would grow worried and I understood. My parents – at least my mother- were like to tan my hide whenever I showed up after dark.
So I rushed things and I began to bumble when she refused to sit and stay. I shifted my plans and as she turned to continue walking past the rock and towards home I grabbed her hand to turn her towards me moving in swiftly to kiss her and just as our lips were so close I could feel the warmth of her breath, she pulled away.
Normally one would take this as a sign to stop and adjust strategies but I knew our fate. I knew that we would grow old together and that once I kissed her and made her understand, she would be mine and I would be hers, forever. So I tugged as she tugged and I being the stronger forced her into me and my lips to hers and they touched and even so she struggled until she and we slipped on muddied rocks and fell into the creek. I banged my knee on something sharp and she her elbow on a rock I know for she let out a yelp and I laughed and giggled as we had made a mess of things — two lovers falling in a creek. Two children eternally young at heart and in love. Oh how I laughed and laughed and I knew I must kiss her more and more. She continued to struggle and I knew that in her struggles she was wasting time and avoiding truth and that I must make her see and understand. And grasping her throat with both hands I pressed mightily her head towards the water and she screamed then still not understanding how much she loved me. She struggled like a wild cat, but I laughing and in love knew only the power and joy and strength of unfathomable love. Her screams turned to gurgles as water filled her mouth and her eyes widened lovely gorgeous green and I pressed more mightily and squeezed more tightly as she more struggling gradually died. A stolen breath here a screaming gurgling gasp there and still I pressed – water bending and refracting images of my love basked in orange rays until her porcelain skin and red lips turned blue.
I pressed deeper into the water and I knew she was close to understanding but still she fought so I began smashing my fist into her mouth, punching – my fist rose above the water and rocketed below to pound and smash her mouth and I think I cut my fist on her teeth but I was in rapture driven ecstasy. And then as suddenly as she had fought so suddenly she ceased.
When she became limp and accepting of my love I knew she finally understood. She wanted no other than me and I no other than her and I knew I must find a place to hide her away. A place to keep the world’s prying eyes and jealous heart away. And I did, being so very clever, I thought of a place where no one would look.
I walked along the middle of Carr creek until I felt a sudden drop, a hole wide enough for Laurel, but small enough to keep her cozy.
I cradled her and held her in the light, kissing closed her eyes and kissing her smashed and bloodied lips a broken tooth scratched my lip and I remember my exact words to her at the time for they were my vow, “Goodbye my love I’ll come to see you soon do not be afraid for I will always love you and I will keep the world at bay. I’ll come back and kiss you until my flesh is no longer able but even then do not be afraid for as a phantasm I’ll lay beside you in your embrace.”
I then submerged her below and into that hole and pressed with the sole of my shoe until her body filled that hole and I carried several of the largest rocks I could find and filled the remainder of the hole with them until she was completely covered and safe. You see how much I do care for her don’t you?
Then I went skipping home a boy in love.
And so my secret is revealed and you probably are thinking that I couldn’t be happy because I never get to see my darling love. But I do see her! Once a year on the anniversary of that special day I go to Carr creek and walk into the water until the water is to my chest and I lift the rocks which cover her and bring her to the surface and cradle her in my arms and kissing her renew my vow and make love to her in the light of the moon.
And she grows more beautiful by the year. Although her flesh is gone, we have grown in trust and companionship. For what is love but sacrifice and trust?
I have sacrificed my primal urge to judge beauty by the flesh and instead I love her for who she really is. What is devotion if it isn’t unconditional love? I go now for my final visit in this fleshly form. I go to place myself where I belong near Laurel. I’ll find the biggest rock I can and carry it till I am submerged in the hole with my darling and using my last breath and strength I’ll pull that rock over our heads and the deep darkness will keep us for eternity.
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away
– Hughes Mearns
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