Huge ragged holes open the knees of my jeans, deep crescents of shadow banding my spindly legs. Bulky engineer boots, comical fat-soled knob-toed Frankenstein feet sprouting from calves as thick as my forearms.
Toss on my leather jacket and trench coat on top. Its cold outside. West Texas cold. Fonzerelli scarecrow shivering in the darkness.
Footsteps echoing along the concrete walls of the underground parking lot. Sounds sharpened by the chill.
The borrowed white Cougar sits majestic, its 1976 body huge, beside the new Hondas and Beemers.
The interior is plush, insulated. The V-8 rumbles to life without hesitation. I put a punk rock tape in the casette deck. The warm air humms through the dash slits. I light a Lucky Strike and drive out onto the street.
As I drove along, I pictured her gleaming blue Chinese eyes set in that pale white skin. I shudder in uncertain anticipation. Pretty face, limp dick, life everlasting…
The stench of burning fat from the rendering plant ghosts through the air vents, lessening as I get closer to affluence. The Cougar sliced… bludgeoned its way through the darkness, unseen, unheeded, flowing over the ragged pavement, softly, like quicksilver.
Her neighborhood, her legacy, lay hidden behind a curtain of trees planted on the far side of a grassy field. Turning up the drive I am again in awe of the claustrophobic opulence bursting forth, like a sunrise from behind those trees. Three storey brick castles set back on sprawling green lawns. New cars freshly washed, waxed, glimmering in the streetlight, or nestled in circular driveways. The Cougar parked by the curb. Like a battleship in a bowl of Fruit Loops. I step into the chill.
The chiaroscuro of her bedroom light, spilling onto the dark lawn like stage lighting, draws me stealthily nearer. I rap lightly at the pane. She motions me to go to the side of the house, into the Quasimodian shadows. I’ve never seen her parents, and if it was possible I probably wanted to meet them less than they wanted to meet me.
Their backyard was a shared immense, sprawling park, ending in a man-made lake, which is not on the map, and known only to the houses which hid it. I hear the moun and clatter as the garage door ran up the tracks, followed by the soft humm of a Volvo engine, pulling away. The door closes.
I stand there in the empty night, feeling the sense of wrongness, dependence, cowardice of a thief in the night. I shiver.
She rounds the house and calls me out. I am almost man, a runaway slave hiding from the master, a wolf at the edge of the campfire. I see that she’s wearing a jacket. I’m not invited inside.
She leads me through an archway into a Spanish-style courtyard, surrounding an empty swimming pool. We sit on black wrought-iron furniture. I watch my breath float away on blue-tinged breezes.
I try to imagine my babyfat princess swimming in there, on a warm night, and I cannot see it. Much less could I picture her angelic face or round bottom, skewered on the end of my questionable masculinity.
I really don’t know why I was out there in the cold with her. A pretty face? Hope for a kiss? A gamble to relieve the loneliness?
It was something to do. Something concrete for me to consider, looking back from years to come.
Austin, TX. 1993