We talked for hours every night. Him, hot and sweaty, just home from football practice, Me, not yet 14, not yet a wild child. I sat Indian style, wringing, twirling the curly que Princess phone cord in my left hand, receiver tucked between my ear and left shoulder, until hours later it left hickies on my ear. With my right hand, I scribbled “I love yous” on sheet after sheet of blue lined notebook paper. He told stupid stories, and stupid jokes, and had the body of a man. Even at 13, I could see that. He was the Captain of the Catholic High School Football team. I was a not-even-Catholic cheerleader at the St. Michaels of the…..(I really can’t remember of what!)
We met at the School Fair. The first time. I was working the GO FISH booth and he was spending dimes and tossing lines. The second time was at our football game. I saw him in the stands. Three rows above the Nuns. Laughing. We looked good. In our Christmas green uniforms, hemmed to 4 inches above the knee (Catholic regulation) with the little green bloomers just beneath. But this time we had a punch line. A surprise. We had choreographed it ourselves. Come up with a little twist. (With a little help from MY Mom!)
“Choo-choo. Bang-bang. Got’s to get that boomerang. Ungowa. Great power. Hit em to the west. Hit em in the chest......
W A R R I O R S !
And we spun and fanny faced the bleachers, flipping corduory skirts to the sky, spelling our our team’s name in bold yellow letters on 8 teenage rumps! W A R R I O R S !
The crowd went wild. Mother Moriarity went crimson. Eight cheerleaders got suspended. My Mom was retired from being our Coach. He called me that night.
I went to his games. He went to ours. And in early December he asked me to THE DANCE. The High School Christmas Dance. A car date. My Mom had to talk to his Mom, I was mortified, he laughed. And we were on! My first date. A double date! To the Garden Center for a semi-formal. Pictures at my house beforehand. Home by midnight. My entire 8th grade class was in awe, envy, on the edge of their couch....waiting for "the scoop".
I forgot to mention that going to Catholic school when you are not Catholic is expensive. We were broke. "Not poor, just broke". I don't know how we got in the doors, a friend of a friend of the family's, but we were there. And so it comes as no surprise, that at 13 almost 14 I had no idea what SEMI-formal meant or no means to dress the part. My Mom was sure it meant formal, but short. I thought it meant really short. (I later found out it meant, the girls wear formals,long flowing beautiful formals and BIG HAIR, the boys shirt and ties!)
Having no money, but not much need...I was already a hippie spirit and didn't want or need a hairdoo, thank you, I was going in my Peggy Lipton straights! But hello, world, I did need a dress! We bummed a prom dress from my Mom's friend's daughter, already married and busting with her first, surely she wouldn't need it again, and proceeded to lay it out on the dining room table and FIX it! First, we chopped, literally, about 3 feet of fabric off the bottom, and another foot off the top, and then we put it back together. The puffy sleeves were swiped and it was now skimpy to show off my December (we didn't yet know it was dangerous to live at the beach) tan. The little pink cinderalla dress was now an Empire waisted lace Micro mini. I threw on some pantyhose , slipped my size 7 feet into a pair of borrowed size 8 bridesmaid slippers spraypainted to match, stuffed the toes with TP, and took a twirl. I can do this!
I had never felt so beautiful!
My parents drank cocktails, dark ones, while I dressed. My Father paced and Mom babbled on, often peeping through the venetian blinds for his arrival. The doorbell rang and there he was! My first date!
We posed for pictures, smiling up and down. Giddy to go. (We never told him there was no film in the camera...God, I wish we had those pictures, but there was no money for things like that! ) Still, my Mom thought we should go through the motions...posing and smiling and later, anticipating the film coming back! At least he had that anticipation, I was already practiced in the parade! Kodak moments are best kept in the heart!
And then, we were off! In a car! Flying down Davis Highway with the windows open and the music on. Less than 1/2 a mile from my house, they( My first date, his best friend, and the gorgeous brunette in the totally formal gown, rhinestone earrings m make-up and BIG HAIR) opened the wine , lit the cigarettes, cranked the music and started the party! I was mortified.
Being 13, not yet 14, and all.
The dance is a blur. I loved the band, they could care less. I wanted to dance. He wanted to make out. I wanted to dance. He wanted to step outside and smoke. I wanted to dance. He wanted to drink. I wanted to stay. They wanted to leave.
And we did leave. Spinning tires. Music blasting. We exited in style. Leaving behind the last dance, the one I had been dreaming of, to the girls with dreams that came true. And made a bee line for my house. Or so I thought.
I saw the familiar glow of the dock lights at the Bayou and finally, rested my head on his shoulder. We're almost home. He'll kiss me goodnight. My first kiss. And I'll spend all day tomorrow on the phone! But the car slowed, and the headlights dimmed and I could hear the tires on the cold coquina of the shore. We were "parking".
I heard the key in the ignition clicking off. The music stopped. No one said a word.
"I wanna go home"
"Let's take her home" he said. "She's only thirteen"
And they did.
No first kiss.
And we never spoke again.
Until he followed me to the airport years later.
When I landed safely back home, 450 miles later, he was still at the airport, calling from the payphone...
and I was still dancing.
Timing isn't everything. And then again, sometimes it is.