Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Catholic Boys: third installment

9. Interjection: The present day

I just spent half an hour on the internet. I found Amanda immediately. They did marry—she has his last name—yours, I mean—but it’s unclear whether they’re still together. She has a good job now, a serious job. There’s a headshot on the net: she must be forty-three, minimum, but looks good, even better than she did when I knew her. Her hair is dark, her skin dewy and unlined. Perfect teeth. I had forgotten her teeth, very straight and white. When you have bad teeth you notice things like that.

Anyway, beneath this head shot were accolades from customers, colleagues, and so forth. Maybe Mandy and Jay have children, medium-sized kids with terrific teeth and Jay’s squared-off nose and barking laugh. Maybe Mandy drives a van. Is a soccer mom.

I cannot find you on the internet. It’s as if you’ve fallen off the earth, or are dead, but I would know about that. If you were dead.

I am also on the internet. Because of my work. My name is, anyway. I did not take my husband’s name, though I keep thinking someday I will.
No photograph, though. It was suggested and I refused.

Maybe you’ve Googled me. The whole business is strange, people randomly searching each other out, making unwanted contact. Eventually I stopped looking for you. It felt too weird, like stalking. Writing about you is bad enough.

10. An honest way of life

I was attracted to what I perceived as your way of life. My classmates were attending B’Nai B’rith youth, making out their applications to the University of Michigan. Marcus read Guns and Ammo; it lay out on the table beside Mandy’s Glamour. Marcus liked guns, hunting. To my great relief, you did not. But your house lured me, a male enclave barely lightened by transient women and the few furnishings your parents left behind. An old couch with a torn rattan back, an ancient, rabbit-eared television. The Miller High Life mirror, which hung over the couch when not in use. Worn brown carpet. The kitchen filled with overflowing bags of empty beer bottles, saved for the 10-cent rebate. A dining room-cum-mudroom with a card table and chairs. Your bedroom, upstairs beneath the slanting roof. You had few personal possessions, stored in an old-fashioned armoire. A cheap digital watch. The leather jacket you wore in all weathers. Three pairs of shoes: sneakers, motorcycle boots, suede lace-ups with heavy rubber soles. The kind of shoe popular in the late seventies, worn into the eighties by a certain type of boy.

A certain type of boy: comb handles protruded from their back pockets; when these boys whipped them out, they stroked back their long feathered hair in rapid, I-am-not-vain strokes, one hand holding the comb handle, the other resting atop the comb’s spine, smoothing the freshly combed strands. You did not do these things, smoke or carry a comb for constant grooming. You were still one of those boys, though. You wore the shoes, the plaid flannel shirts. You managed to finish high school without any of your teachers noticing your intelligence. Nobody suggested college. Once upon a time boys like you went to work on the line. But now the line wasn’t at Ford or GM or Chrysler. Instead The line formed every second Thursday, spiraling out the Employment Development Department around the block.

I misinterpreted blue collar life as a finer, more honest reality. Such distinctions are important to sixteen-year-olds. Of course blue collar living was no more honest than any other kind of life. It took me years to understand this. I found you infinitely more appealing than the nicely groomed Jewish boys following in their parents’ well-heeled footsteps. I wanted Neil Young and long nights of coke-numbed fucking, not wait-till-we’re married-the first child will be named after dead grandfather Schmuel or matriarch Fruma.

You were smart. Have I said that? How smart you were? Just the other night I was on the telephone with my mother. Somehow the subject of your family came up. He was so smart, my mother said of you. I wonder if he ever finished college?

11. A Party.

A costume party. I rented a French Maid costume, a heavy black satin dress that fit amazingly well. With I wore a white apron and black flats. I carried a feather duster and my camera. I was quite the photographer in those days, eagerly shooting the monks and clowns and pirates. Later I stowed the camera in your bedroom and went to do lines with you and some of your buddies.

While we did up somebody went into your bedroom and opened the camera, destroying the film. I was lucky it wasn’t stolen. What was I thinking, leaving my precious camera unattended at a house party?

You were furious. We changed into street clothes and walked a few blocks; the bracing cold calmed you. We went home to bed. After love you drifted off, but I was too coked up for sleep. At six a.m. Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen” drifted up the steps, playing on the radio that had been left on all night. I lay wide awake, sniffling with coke post-nasal drip, sandy eyed, listening.

12. Soundtrack.

The Yes Album, Yessongs. Neil Young. The Moody Blues. For a long time I could not listen to the Moody Blues at all: Ride My Seesaw was especially killing, as was I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll band.

Now the Moody Blues are ancient: even the classic rock stations no longer play them. So their impact fades as newer, fresher pains replace the agony of Tuesday Afternoon. Though the rare hearing still evokes you. It always will.

I’m just beginning to see. Now I’m on my way.


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