Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 87 – GIRL
I was here in this particular present and at the same time feeling I was here in my past as I stood outside the house called White Wings. White Wings, where I had spent summers when I was three and four years old at the end of the 1930s. I was leaning up now, speaking to this familiar, now graying woman Mickie, dressed in the clothes she wore for cleaning her barn, her face strained with the annoyance of a marijuana hangover. I saw her at this moment in her work clothes, and I could also see her as a spirited girl in a bathing suit halter, a flirtatious smile continuing the perhaps unintentionally taunting promise of her partially bare young body.
In her middle age version now she was standing on the upstairs outside walkway that connected the house’s two wings. And though this was 1986, it was just as much the summer of 1951 when Mickie was 14, just a touch younger than me, and Mickie’s parents had come in from Grosse point to put the finishing touches on their new summer house, which had been one of our summer houses, and she was such an appealing and promising girl, so smooth, as cute as she was sinuous, her legs, her breasts, a seeming avatar of a new sphere I might enter. At that time I had recently had my first experiences with puppy love, and also had begun masturbating, and had not till Mickie’s arrival in the mountains seen much connection between the two.
Behind me right now were the familiar mountains of the Franconia range. They were partially obscured by trees that had been allowed to grow freely by the raw outsider who now owned the infinite acres of White Pines, the biggest of our family’s old formal houses. And yet I could see the mountains as if they were not yet blocked by untamed trees, see this old view in this present as if I were in the deep past when the woods were more controlled.
To my left was the wing that had been my grandfather’s writing place, near which no one could talk for the great man might be in the midst of another formidable novel. It was the only part of the house they had substantially changed when Mickie’s family came in from Grosse Point – this family that the old-time summer people treated with some suspicion, as they did with anyone new. But I didn’t care what anyone thought about Mickie’s parents.
They had ripped apart this forbidding place where the great man had worked in silence, and they had had the floors sanded to light shiny wood, and the old dark wall paper had been removed and everything painted white and the place had been dedicated not to an old writer but to gorgeous Mickie and her little brother. It was not like the children’s ghetto houses that the old families had, not like the Boys’ Wing down at White Pines. It was somehow a part of a bigger world, a world beyond these summer places.
That was then. Now in this time I was still seeing the young Mickie while leaning up to talk with this rough aging woman version of Mickie on the walkway. The wing that had been light was now dark again. The walls inside were now gray and splintery. There was a country person’s old wood stove there now. The floor was encrusted with dirt, and a dozen dogs were in residence, and also a young handyman whom Mickie had brought to her bed, saving him from abuse on one of the sparse local farms, which had mongrel cows on rented rocky land and no money even to maintain silos.
To Mickie’s left, as she stood on the walkway, my right from down below, was the shuttered main wing. Her mother talked on the phone almost daily from her latest rehab in Michigan to the one-man Sugar Hill police force to get reassurance that Mickie, though living here now, would be arrested if she broke into that main wing.
And that part of the house had not changed, as I found when we broke into the wing together. They had lived in it but kept it as a museum honoring the same past my grandparents worshipped. A complete set of Gaga’s books was in there. The same wallpaper – a pattern of pagodas – had been preserved from some distant time when Nana had been on the crest of new things and decorated their houses with fashionable chinoiserie. Out front was a new replica of the old striped awning that I remembered.
And the mountain air was as refreshing as ever, and it had the sent of balsam, and the northern birds still sang the songs of their brief summertimes.