[I] may be crazy but I'm the closest thing I have to a voice of reason.

10 March 2010

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Today's blog is the opening section to the most popular chapter of The Movie Lovers, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. If you like it and want more, let me know. I could post the full chapter as a serial.

Where will I be instead of writing tonight? Just an hour ago, my body announced that we would be hosting a sudden a cold in need of shelter. I shall be nursing my toddy and cookies. No, cookies don't help a cold, but they improve this slap-dash tequila toddy. Go with what you got, I always say.

And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
On the profit he’s made on your dreams. . . . . .
But spirit is something that no one destroys
And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high heeled boys. . . .

The first pair of boy’s underwear I ever wore was after nearly drowning on the Oregon coast. I was eighteen, and I’d driven to Seal Rock in my ‘64 Bel Air station wagon with my new best friend, my first best friend who was gay. We made this trip to the coast specifically so that he might help me redefine my life in terms I could understand. It was like this. From the day we met, my best friend and I did everything together. We went to the underage dance clubs, drooled over the same guys, swapped clothes, we even slept together (it was the wall next to his bed, not mine, that had to be cleaned the morning after I got sick on sloe gin), we did everything but . . . you know. So one day I just came out with it. “This is great, what we have,” I said, “but . . . I need sex.” Next thing there we were, me, my best friend, and his friend, all sleek with teenage hormones, all strolling along the sand in the sun at Seal Rock on the first day of our weekend together at the beach.

It feels strange, this arrangement, but the boy is tall, taller than me, and I like the sound of his voice, soft and deep, and the look of his fingers, strong, smooth. So, at some inevitable point, my potential boyfriend and I link hands and wade out into the shallow surf. My jeans are rolled thigh-high, the thrill of the surf rising up my legs, and I like the feel of his fingers interlaced with mine, so I let the boy continue holding my hand as we walk out further, further, and I’m starting to think the situation looks pretty good when the bottom falls out -- literally. It’s water water water and when I surface the boy has swum ashore and is yelling toward the ocean, "Swim! Swim!" Now, I suppose I should have known that the boy getting quickly to shore meant we weren’t that far out, but from my sea level vantage point it seems a very long way, bobbing as I am in small waves much bigger and taller than my tiny head, and the instruction to swim struck me, in that moment, much the same way that a psychiatrist’s later admonition would strike me -- “You need to learn adult skills, he said” -- like this could help me while I’m in over my head.

I can’t swim, not anchored as I am by the weight of water-soaked denim and flannel, and I can’t get my arm high enough to signal for help. So, I begin paddling -- like a dog -- paddling and panting, I-believe-in-God-I-believe-in-God-I-believe-in-God. I didn't. At least I hadn’t up to that point. The shore is impossibly distant. God isn’t helping. I do the next best thing: strip. I’ve unzipped my jeans and I’m struggling to yank them off when my toes touch sand. I drag out of the sea like some half-dressed, half-drowned Venus on the half shell, the red letters of my T-shirt still announcing my game before I arrive: “flirt!” Years later I would see the sign warning of sinkholes, right there for any idiot to read, which pretty much describes how my life went in the two decades following high school. So captured was I by the vision of what I wanted, what I needed, what could be, that I missed the obvious warning signs, such as the fact that I was dragging myself out of the surf without any offers of assistance. I noticed, of course, but this awareness did not keep me from getting involved with the boy -- or from having sex -- for then, as now, I plunged ahead like a teenager in love (or lust, anyway) certain that the surface of things reflected what they actually were. One way or another, that’s a lesson we all get to learn.

We three teenagers drove to the tiny trailer where we were to stay. It had no shower and no hot running water, but it was dry and when I was dry, too, my best friend gave me some of his clothes: a red and blue striped pullover that made me look like a ten-year-old boy, Levis that were two inches too short but rode just right around the hips, and white, size 28 shorts. Jockey shorts. The kind with the wide elastic waistband and the double flap in the front, the flap that fascinates girls until they grow into women and begin washing their live-in boyfriend's laundry. I liked them instantly. With my skinny thighs and teenage hips, these undershorts fit me good good good.

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