Thursday, February 19, 2009


They are there still waiting to go into writing, so clearly there because they are in Brownie snapshots remembered from the time. Elyssa is smiling beside me on a sofa. Tina it leaning against a tree.

It was in time that I was suffering. It was because I had become that worst of all figures in life or books ­ a betrayer. Me the betrayer, although earlier in the summer in North Adams, where her doctor father drove us because we were too young to drive, Tina had seemed the betrayer. This time in North Adams that was supposed to be a high point, if not the culminating point, in our romance, which most of the time till now has been conducted at a distance. She was up at St. Mary's, sending me scented envelopes that said SWAK on the back, Sealed With a Kiss, letters containing protestations of undying love right out of the movies if not stories in our English anthologies. And I was sending daily letters with the literary Victorian touch that the stamp was upside down because due to my love for you I am too distracted to get it right side up.

Mostly at a distance, but the empty space around us was the negative space around our infrequent necking times - intense necking that we knew was very far from fucking but which at 15 seemed close when it was happening. Hands on bodies there in the shadows at rare joint events between our schools.

And how I longed for Tina one night when she was up on a stage in bright light. I was alone in shadows at the back of the Plymouth Teachers College auditorium, where I watched a joint glee club concert between her school, St. Mary's-in-the-Mountains, and mine, Holderness, watching from the shadows because I had been turned down and told I would never sing - but watching my love up there, this pleasingly chubby girl I had necked with now forming an "O" with her lips as she sang a glee club song about a place called an ash grove.

This was part of the build-up to my long-planned visit to her home in North Adams at the end of the school year, But the visit turned out to be no culmination of anything. She ignored me, flirted with another boy from our school who lived there - cast me out, it felt, withdrew all that had been given me - like something I vaguely remembered from deep childhood about a naked woman who went away.

Tina and I kept on with our daily letters, as if nothing had gone wrong. But later in the summer, up in the White Mountains, I met my sweet gorgeous love
Elyssa, and now I felt really guilty. A
big part of the guilt had to do with how Tina was not that gorgeous.

I already had pictures of Ellysa, so cute and contained, so loving. Then Tina sent a picture. She was in a skimpy sun dress leaning against a tree. The Brownie had caught beauty, if conditional beauty, that I had overlooked. A come-hither smile, and her skin in the snapshot apparently smooth and shiny now. So maybe it was okay. Maybe she was okay and so it was okay that I was betraying her.

I kept a Brownie snapshot of Ellysa on a sofa,
smiling together as if at a secret we shared. I might have wondered at the time if either of us could look that content and contained again.

The tree picture survives only in my mind. Tina had come to a fall weekend, and in our dorm, which we vacated for the St. Mary's girls, she had found my letters from Elyssa. And later I placed all my pictures of Tina and all her letters in a shoe box filled with rocks and wrapped it in twisted coat hanger wire, and I took the heavy packet to a muddy pond where I sometimes fished for vicious-looking, sharp-toothed pickerel, and I hurled it out into that muddy place.

No comments: