Posts Tagged 'Summer love'

Wonnerful

My Deaf Mother flips down the visor and studies her face in the mirror.  She is wearing her post cataract surgery sunglasses.  They’re the cheap, plastic kind that wrap around your head to seal out the light and seal in the dark.

“I look like Movie star”, she muses.

“You do, Mommy”.

The traffic moves like an old man getting up from a nap and we are driving into the eye of a perfect storm.  It’s a Wednesday afternoon which means the stores in the area give a discount to anyone over 65, which includes everyone in Holiday City, a retirement community of ten square miles of the same 6 houses differentiated only by their lawn ornaments.  My parents have lived here for twenty years along with a set of gnomes, a twirling pinwheel and 3 fairies that poke out from the shrubs. These are the shrubs that my father manicures in the front yard with a pair of kitchen shears so they are perfect.  He likes to use a level.

I am driving my father black 1987 Mercury Grand Maquis, it is Jersey after all, and we creep/roll/inch/ along route 37 East which intersects exit 82 of the Gardens State Parkway.  It the main thoroughfare through Holiday City and it is the only road into Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Point Pleasant and Long Beach Island.  It is July, it is sunny, it is Senior discount day and I am on the only highway to the Jersey shore.

I glance over at Mommy who sits on the edge of the seat bolstered by a car pillow looking like a chubby origami bird.   She closes the visor shut with a raised, penciled-in eyebrow.  The snap says, “Damn you Arlene, you never listen to me.”

The stop and go traffic lights are every few blocks and at the entrances of Sam’s Club, Walmart, Rosata’s market, Panda Palace, Burger King, the community hospital, the grey medical building, the blue medical building and the brick medical building.  I bear down on a yellow-turning-red light and Mommy throws her arm across my chest to brace me.  The old don’t drive like this.  They are slower, more mindful.  I am angry and in a hurry to go nowhere fast.

Mommy raises her penciled eyebrow again. “We should leave more early.”

“It’s only 3 miles away.”

“You never know, I no wanna be late.”

“We’re fine, Ma.”

“I like early.”

“I know.”

“Maybe we miss the doctor.  Then what happen? ”

“We’re almost there.”

“You can’t fool around with the doctors.”

“You’re right.”

Mommy readjusts her sunglasses.  “I got glasses free.  I like.”

“They were not free.  You paid for them with the surgery, believe me, you paid for them.”

“It’s wonnerful, I can see everything.”  She says as she leans forward towards the windshield to look at the sky.

“Operation yesterday, today I can see.  Unabelieve.  Almost is clear 100% but still blur a very little.”  She points to her eyes and then gently rubs her splayed hands against each other in front of her eyes, the sign for hazy, unfocused.   We’re stopped and I am grateful for a red light because I am having difficulty shifting my gaze between her hands and the road and I realize I am out of practice.

Deaf people can drive and have full conversations, arguments even with everyone in the car, the back seat included.  Their eyes dart attentively between the rearview mirror, the road in front of them and the hands along side of them.  Daddy’s never had an accident in 61 years and in the one accident that Mommy’s had she was in a parked car.  Their insurance rates are amazing.

The traffic light changes and the car lurches forward.  It’s got a hare-trigger gas pedal that I’m not used to.  I am not used to a lot of things these days; blowing out 53 candles on the carvel ice-cream cake, my parents moving from our house on Buffalo Ave, living though another Chicago winter.  “Sorry” this car is different from mine.” my hand quickly signs.

A year ago my sister called and said that Mommy was wearing shirts with food and stains and when she tried to ask about it Mommy got defensive.  I didn’t give it another thought because Diana and my mother were always quibbling over this and that.   But when I went home for Christmas the kitchen counters were a mess, there was dust everywhere.  When I went to go clean it she would snip “Arlee, Why for you clean again?  I just did”.

“Look, Mom, it’s dirty.”

But she would shrug and turn away, a physical punctuation mark to let me know that “conversation over”.

“I no see nothing. You too much fussy.”

Nothing could be further from truth.  She was the fussy one.  My mother could keep house, do laundry, check homework, be chaufeur and make homecooked meals while holding a full time job.  Yes, Mommy was 83.  Yes, she had stenosis that gave her back troubles.  Yes, she had trouble sleeping but I knew she hadn’t slid into the abyss of old age.  Up until that point I had never allowed myself to.

When the opthamologist told Mommy that she had cataracts she balked by saying that “I see fine. doctors try steal money from old people.  I know their way”.  Later, she confided that she was scared to have the surgery because she was Deaf and didn’t want to be blind too.

“You know blind worse than Deaf.”.  I told her, “Mom Helen Keller said that blindness cut her off from things, but deafness her off from people”.  My mother made a face and said, “She no know what she talk about” and left it at that.

Prepping for the surgery, with the exacting and demanding schedule of eye drops every hour, was more difficult than the surgery itself.  Although the mere thought of staring into a blinding light while a laser peels away your cornea was enough to make my stomach blerg but I kept my trepidations to myself .  Daddy teased Mommy about divorcing him when she saw how he really looked.   After interpreting and getting Mommy situated, the surgery it was over in less time than it took me to read the old People magazine in the waiting room.

The surgi-center itself was sterile and austere and surprisingly deviod of color.  I didn’t know if it was just bad decorating choice or purposefully designed so the office wouldn’t be too overwhelming to the newly sighted because Mommy was speechless when she realized what the world really looked like.  “Unnabelieve”

In the car while I’m yielding to the GD cars coming out of the  GD I Hop parking lot Mommy shakes her head in disgust.

“You never listen.  You no know what the traffic is.  I know because I live here.  You want too much your own way.”

“You’re right, I was wrong”,  I say taking a banana out of my bag.  It occurs to me that it’s probabaly not a good idea to drive, eat and sign at the same time but I’m hungry.  Mommy senses this and peels it half way and hands it to me.  As I reach for my breakfast, I see them out of the corner of my eye; a jeep full of girls wearing bikini tops and the long-legged swagger of youth, and I am reminded of that summer.

It was the summer of fervent anticipation, five best girlfriends, and a rented house down the shore.  It was having a drivers license, a job, scorching tight jeans and our freedom.  It was the joy of being lifted by a lazy wave, the lure of being pulled by an undertow as powerful as first love and the sting of a shaved bikini line in the salty surf.

It was the summer of Sun-In and lemon juice that made blondes turn golden, redheads turn penny and brunettes turn orange.  It was the blistering looks from skittish mothers as they dragged their children away from the melee.  It was the silent exchange of smug glances at the women we vowed never to become.

It was the summer of surging beer shots and bong chasers, sleeping three to a bed and tiptoeing through a houseful of dozing bodies to make the noon shift at Maruca’s Pizza Parlor.  It was nursing sun burns, sand burns, whisker burns and rug burns with community tubes of Neosporin and aloe-vera.   It was letting ourselves be swept away by the endless flirting, the public make-outs and the sloppy breakups.

It was the simple, secret belief that we all would be young forever.

Mommy looks over at the girls, then back to me, takes the banana peel and puts it into a tissue.  “That was you a long time ago.”

“Thanks”

“Me too”.

“Yup”.

I watch her adjust the arm of her wrap-arounds where they bite into the soft skin above her ears. She sighs,

“Nothing stay the same.  Everything change.  That’s what life mean.”

“I know Mom.”Image

She smiles at the girls who bounce and sing along with Ke$ha’s, We R who we R and murmurs. “Unabelieve, I can see.  Almost is clear 100% but still blur a very little. It’s wonnerful.”

She tilts her head thoughtfully,

“Next time we should leave more early.”

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Zipless

This is what we are reading in class:  “The zipless fuck was more than a fuck. It was an ideal. Zipless because when you came together zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff.  Tongues intertwined and turned liquid.”

Soft core porn dressed up as Feminist Literary Criticism???  Oh my God! I love Grad school.  It’s the 80’s.  I listen to Blondie, wear parachute pants and my hair is focused on one simple concept – volume.  Aids does not exist and you could eat sugar, fat and deep fried everything without walking into the Valley of Death.  I’m young, I am tan and I am aware, even as it’s happening that I should be living the perfect summer.

“Listen to this part”, I say.  I’m on duty and talking to the nice guy I work with in the dorms. It was our job to enforce quiet hours and make sure the students didn’t do anything stupid like throw a burning couch out of the window. Which they did- twice.

“This book says “zipless” is defined as a sexual encounter for its own sake, without emotional involvement.”

He smiles, Where do you get this stuff?

“It’s literature- Erica Jong.  She’s a fabulous feminist and very famous. She believes that the zipless trumpets unfettered freedom as women’s birthright”

“I am in the wrong major”  He sighs

I tell him, “You know what would make this a great summer for me?  Having a Zipless. It could be my feminist statement in support of all the women who have suffered under the tyranny of the patriarchal double standard”.

“Oh Christ” he says, You are insane.

The truth was- I was lonely, bone crushingly lonely. Only a few months before I had been plopped into the middle of the Midwest from Jersey to go to grad school. I knew Malls an big hair and NYC not this tiny collegetown that had a Farm and Fleet and a “Flying Ear of Corn” as a mascot. But the school had offered me a full-ride, a stipend and a parking space (which really sealed the deal).  My old roommate was moving out to California and I just couldn’t be bothered to find someone else to live with, so Grad school looked like a good alternative.  It was the bookish girls version of the army.  But that summer was hard on me and I thought “If I’m going to be lonesome I ain’t doin’ it alone”.

For my Zipless endeavor I decided stick to my tried and true menu of bad boys. The older, sophisticated, Mr IBM was perfectly appointed in a navy blazer, Izod with the collar popped and the bulge in his khakis indicated that he was a human torpedo.  We meet at a Ramada Inn hotel bar in the afternoon.  He is suave, he lights my cigs his fingers lingering on mine. We drink our Manhattans, he caresses my knee but seems incapable of forming a sentence without the words me, my or I in it.  It crosses my mind that If his conversation style is any indication of his zipless style- UCK!  So I go to my Data Analysis and Regression class even though attendance is not mandatory.

The long days continue to melt by like peach ice cream in the afternoon sun and I hang out with the nice guy constantly.  We eat together; we go out drinking, he cleans my apartment. “OK”, I say to him, one night as we scrape the vomit from the elevator.” I’ve eye lured 3 zipless candidates”.

“What is the eye lure?” he asks.

“I learned it from an article in Cosmo magazine called “How to Be a Man Magnet”.

#1. Make eye contact and smile. #2. Avert your gaze. Then #3. Look back and hold for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  I once did it accidently to a blind guy in the quad and if it worked on him it will work on anybody.

“Anyway”- I continue, “here’s the Zipless update:  The torpedo is too self absorbed so I’ve moved onto the Brazilian painter”.

“The one who lives out of his car for artistic integrity?” the nice guy asks,

“Yes, he says he wants to sketch me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” He says.

“I’m going to lie on a chaise and say- “Yo quiero su carne.  Su carne es muy caliente”.  Which means I want your meat.  Your meat is hot.  You can really learn a lot from a Taco Belle menu”.

The nice guy locks his eyes on mine.  “Why are you wasting your time with these assholes?”

That’s when I see it- he doesn’t want to be my friend.  He wants to be my boyfriend. I don’t want a boyfriend- let alone him. You see, he was 2 ½ inches shorter than me and I had 20 pounds on him which meant my ass would always look fat next to his.  We’d look like Sasquach and Stewy from “Family Guy”.  Besides he wasn’t my type.  He was nice. I didn’t like them nice.  I liked them Italian and dangerous and from Brooklyn if possible.  He was was dangerous as thread.

I decide not to spend as much time with the nice guy and I definitely do not tell him about the hot bartender from TGIF who was studying for his GED on the side.  Then one morning the nice guy corners me as we’re dumping the dorm because some idiot has pulled the fire alarm at 3:00am.  “Lets go out to dinner”.  He sounds happy and hopeful.  There is nothing is worse than a happy, hopeful nice guy moon-pieing over you.  Then the nice guy gives me the eye lure.

Oh Christ, Now I’m going to have to give him- “the I’m really flattered-but I don’t want to ruin our friendship” talk.    Why do you nice guys always do that?   Why do you ruin everything by being so nice?  For dinner he decides on TGIF, which truthfully was fine dining in the town of the “Flying Ear of Corn”.  We go to dinner on a Tuesday night.  Not a date night.   I order ribs with extra BBQ sauce.  Not a date food.   I eat my entire plate and some of his.  Not date behavior.  We talk and laugh until I am snorting.  Not the right time for the “It’s me not you talk”.

As the nice guy goes to pay the bill.  (My one concession to the no date rule because I wanted to him feel good.) I see the hot bartender tossing bottles, literally throwing bottles of alcohol in the air- like Tom Cruise in that horrible movie.  I think “with talent like that who needs a GED?”  I don’t want my bartender to think I’m with-with nice guy I so strut up to him, a woman ablaze with defiance and purr “I’ll meet you at close”.  I give him the eye lure, He eye lures me back.  God it really works!

Later the nice guy and I sit on the loading dock behind the dorm. The night air is hot and humid. My skin glows in the shallow yellow streetlight. We’re silent, too silent. The “talk” is coming and we both know it.   As he idly plays with my hair, shivers start to pass through my body igniting a thousand goosebumps. I can feel us breathing together.  I start to. .. . No, No, No !  He’s the nice guy.  You don’t do nice guys. But my heart is racing and that irresistible pull is tugging.

As I as turn my face towards him I think “If I kiss him now will I ever get him off my back”.  He pulls me close and it is all sweet mouths and hot, salty necks.  Just as I am about to sigh “ give me a minute to shave my legs” he pulls away.  I can hardly catch my breath.  What?  What are you you doing my body screams? But instead the nice guy puts his hands into his pockets, brushes past me and quietly murmurs “I’m the happiest man in the world” and continues down the stairs, past the dumpster and disappears.  It was the sexiest night of my life.

I often think about that nice guy and wonder.  I wonder what time he’ll get home from work and what we’re going to eat for supper.