We were poetry, from the get-go pure poetry. I met JJ on my 16th Birthday. For real; he was my sweetest, most delicious birthday present ever. I was imprisoned in my family’s traditional Memorial Day / Jacqui’s birthday party, the commencement of summer out at the beach on the East End of Long Island. I had outgrown the lure of the family festivities, my Grandmother’s watchful eyes ubiquitous and overbearing in my teens. Gracie made her infamous ham and homemade beans that stunk up the whole house. As kids, we rolled our eyes, held our nose, heckling, squeaking making fart noises. Mom glared fiercely at us with the look, and we knew we had to eat it or else…..no dinner and, far worse no beach parties. Sunday mornings after church, DaddyBear would make us pancakes or eggs. Years later, I long for those kitchen smells. I miss the laughter of the large family dinners, the post meal skits and songs, the kids at the small round table adjacent to the grand adult table which I, finally, was privileged to sit at on that momentous night.
The phone rang during dessert, it was for me. “Hi Fitz, it’s Cat. Raff, Vinny and a bunch of us are meeting down at the Surf Club.” I was free.
He was wearing a white turtle neck, brilliantly contrasting his jet black, thick, shaggy hair which glistened against the perfect backdrop of the Van Gogh sky. His sleeves were rolled up showing a tanned, muscular arm. He straddled his orange moped, one foot grounded, gravity holding him steady as he leaned up against the sandy pavement of the Surf Club parking lot, his other foot deftly perched on the other pedal, clearly coordinated because there was a precarious slant which he was handling with quiet, cool, confidence. His warm, brown chestnut eyes twinkled and smiled deeply, his one sleepy eye lay coyly, revealing far more of him. He smiled and like a shooting star bursting across the heavens, I blinked and was newly alive. He was the painting under the precocious summer sky. The sea air swooned down on us, intoxicating our eager, curious, athletic bodies into a trance; his smile transfixed me, his eyes recognized and kissed my soul. We were immersed in our own dance while the others, Vinny, Joey, Maggie and Kiki sparred and flirted; Cat and Raff already disappeared into the dunes to fool around. We were left knowing what they were doing and it heightened the heat and the seduction of the dance, the fertile sea air intoxicating, flooding our pores with pheromones like a swollen sea sponge. JJ dismounted from his moped and with cool confidence walked toward me, gently reached for my hand and led me out of the parking lot, towards the stairs of the Surf Club, bypassing the teasing from the gang, we stole steps, glances, and smiles. Refraining from breaking into a gallop, we trotted past the entrance way where no one was there to check us in. Without talking, my heart racing, we found an empty locker in the back of the girl cabanas. Kids played in them too, but now, the molting of my childhood, the indoctrination to love and its profoundest physical expression….. The kiss… The initiation, pecking at each other’s mouths, nibbles, introducing ourselves, tongues swimming like minnows jumping from pond to pond. His touch healed and calmed some unidentifiable storm within.
I was instantly and forever changed. My bike soared down Dune Road faster than the flashy convertible cars that proliferated it more each day, not many station wagons anymore. Wheeling my sister’s way cool Red Chopper into the garage, I walked towards the house, carefully unlatched the clothesline that doubly secured the weathered, flimsy gate, then slithered through the porch, expertly closing the door and tiptoed through the kitchen, dodging the long brown honeyed fly catcher that hung stupidly with dead, some still twitching flies, and stolen hair. I crept up the antiquated maid stairwell. I love these outback, hidden regions of the home that house the best kept clandestine stories. I much prefer these surreptitious stairwells over the grandest, cascading, spiraling ones….for life, smells, noises, music dwell there and secrets, stifled for fear of being heard. I made it to the top of the staircase and heard my sister Tracy’s voice emanating from her room. ” So, birthday girl, how was your night?” I walked in, leapt on her bed and snuggled in beside her. ”OH! You have sand in the sheets!!!” I whined.
Giving her feet a playful kick, “I think I’m in love Trace.” “You’re a jack ass!” Tracy mocked in an Irish whisper. “There’s no such thing as love at first sight.” “Trace, for real, he is soo CUTE! Adorable and….” “Did you kiss?” She interjected. “Just his eyes.” “What?!” she was incredulous. Twiggy screamed from down the hall, “You two are such idiots! SHUT UP! I’m trying to sleep!” Tracy and I giggled wildly under the covers, two mischievous kids being caught yet again. “You are such an ass.” Tracy teased in between giggles, “You are;” I chided. “Let’s go to sleep.” She nudged my feet in retaliation. ”Let’s draw letters, I go first!” I pleaded. “No ME! She said. “Me! My idea!” I challenged the pecking order, she exercised her bossy, big sister way then, surprisingly, maybe a final birthday gift, retreated. I drew a /J/ with my finger on her back, and she correctly guessed it, then she anticipated the next /J/. “Ok, ok, I’ll do another.” Then I drew a million hearts. “STOP!!!!” she insisted, aggravated by my juvenile antics. Moondance, the song of the summer just begun, was on my mind so I drew a /M/, “M,” she echoed, then a /O/, “O,” another /O/, “O,”……and before I got to /N/, we were both fast asleep. The ocean waves crashing through the window, the shade flapping rhythmically, these were my summer lullabies.