Naturally, and with Great Speed
I'd say it was about nine, maybe nine-thirty that night, August or September or thereabouts. We were in the middle of a hot spell, and the heat continued to rise off the concrete well into the evening. On any other day I'd tell you all about Eloise, and how she was a breathing, dynamic version of the soft light you can see at night sometimes, when there's snow on the ground and a decent moon overhead.
But this time around I have something different. Eloise and I were jammed in the corner of a small café, dining with friends. I'd love to tell you that our waitress approached the table with an innocent looking rotary phone on a server's tray, and notified me that I had a telephone call. And when I picked up the receiver the voice on the other end reminded me about what I'm going to tell you, addressing me by my first name and acting as if we were long lost friends.
Only it wasn't like that. The memory just popped into my mind. I was feeling self-conscious for ordering my fifth glass of cranberry juice, and then, knee deep in friends, and the night air, and Eloise, there it was, knocking on the door.
The memory was of a dream I had when I was twelve. It involved several classmates, the first a girl named Emily. Lunch in seventh grade involved stopping at the hotdog stand, smothering a foot-long with ketchup, and cramming it down on my way to the gym. The rest of the time allotted was spent playing basketball. I had no real talent for the sport, nor a real feel for the game-but, to put it frankly, I was tall. There were maybe three students in my class that were within six inches of my height. And, another thing I had going, was speed. I outran everyone (even Brian Schugart) to claim the title for the quickest fifty-yard dash.
Anyhow, after lunch I had History with Mr. Smith, and sitting in the row next to mine was Emily. I had just tromped into class, covered in sweat. She could see the individual droplets on my forehead. "What is that?" she said, looking at me with a mild fit of disgust. "Sweat," I said, dumping my schoolbooks onto my desk. I was proud my head was a sopping mess, to the point where a few beads managed to escape and drip onto my schoolwork. "Can't you wipe it off or something?" she said, parting her flat, reddish hair down the middle. It was not only her hair, but add to that the droopy shoulders and the smooshed Jansport backpack, and you had a very mousey looking girl-as if her mother were a librarian and every night for dinner they had canned spaghetti, served on paper plates with a children's sized dollop of applesauce on the side. They'd sit and laugh, her mother mocking the way she said lemonade, all nasally and with a scruffy D sound at the end.
The second person on the list was Curtis Ivey, whose mother always insisted he call her when he visited my house. It took him five or six minutes to ride his bike over, but she was concerned faceless men in windowless vans or low-flying aircraft would abduct him. Upon arriving he'd take off his jacket and carefully hang it on a chair, and then help himself to the phone. He'd let the phone ring twice, and then hang up. This was the family's code. The second time around, on the third ring, his mother would pick up. "Mom?" he'd say, "I made it."
I could go on and on about the guy: how he'd wrap Nintendo games in a flannel shirt and tuck them into his jacket for fear they'd get too cold on the trip over, about swimming in his above-ground pool with his wiener dog, Rufus, and how his family fasted occasionally, causing him to hide cans of Flavorite Peaches under his bed and eat them late at night.
The last person
to make an appearance was Cam Frasier. He was tall and thin, with a
dark complexion. His shoulder length black hair offset his porcelain
teeth. Once, in Mr. Goichechea's biology class,
with the aid of a girl's pigtails, he climbed onto her back and acted
like she was a horse. Her name slips my mind, but she turned around
and punched him in the stomach. Mr. Goichechea laughed, mostly to himself, and told the girl to
let him have it. I was amazed at
at our table was busy talking to each other, it seemed, leaving me to
my own island inundated by cranberry juice. I became very conscious
of my breathing, like it was something I had to remember to do instead
of my body doing it automatically. For a moment I considered excusing
myself from the table. The heat continued to rise off the sidewalk,
and in a way I was at a loss for not wanting to interrupt everybody
within ten feet of our table and tell them what was going on in my head-that
There was soft music playing-a song called "I've Been Thinking," and the starlight, and the great effect the indoor pool had on everyone's voice, and the little ritual of everyone wading into the water fully clothed, as if they were giving homage to John Cheever. The sound of it all reverberated off the walls and up up up to the glass-everyone grinning and hoisting their cocktails above their heads.
We had not lost our childhood innocence, but had gained a certain savoir-faire, a magnetism usually coveted by gentlemen with hazel eyes concealing black and white photos of Audrey Hepburn in their jackets. Naturally, and with great speed, the four of us took flight, crashing through the glass rooftop, suddenly engulfed in the cold blue air above the hotel.
I hovered above, crossing my arms in reaction to the cold, and watched an older woman tilt her head down and carefully try to brush the broken glass out or her hair.