Night Moves

This was it.

The night of graduation. Four years complete. The party had long since started.

I’d taken ecstasy and was well into hours of drinking, running from party to party offering intensely felt goodbyes and impassioned promises of staying in touch forever to pretty much everyone I ran into.

Emotions were high, and so was I.

It was at the fountain, as Deborah and I danced around the falling waters, that he passed by. I realized in that moment that I had been looking for him all night, or perhaps just my body had.

We both yelled out “Heeeeey!!!!” as he passed by, and then I impulsively said, “I’ve been looking for you!”

“So have I!” he stopped and said.

“Let’s meet up!” I said.

“Yeah! Let’s meet up! Your room, midnight,” he suggested.

“OK!” I gleefully yelled at his back as he ran on with his fraggle (gaggle of frat brothers.)

My high ratcheted to interstellar levels.

I’d been in love with him all semester, since the choir ski trip. He finally noticed me one day on the bus when I made everyone laugh by reading a cheap romance novel aloud in a sexy voice.

After that he started leaving me hand drawn cartoons and notes, and then we started meeting up and hanging out here and there.

We never went on dates, exactly. My sorority and his fraternity did not mix, so it was a bit like the Capulet – Montague situation going on. I guess you could say we kept in on the DL, though that phrase was yet to be coined. I was so bedazzled by him that I didn’t even notice that it was happening.

He was just the most amazing guy. I had a huge physical attraction to him and he made me laugh so hard. He was creative and smart and I just got weak in the knees around him.

Though we’d fooled around, we’d never taken to the next level. Not that I hadn’t wanted to.

But I was not super comfortable with my sexuality then. I still felt conflicted about really owning it (all that inherited and social conditioning that a “good girl” didn’t admit to liking and wanting or even having sex.) So I tended to sort of deny my own sexuality while at the same time pursuing it.

But I knew one thing in that moment that night when I ran into him at the fountain. I wanted that boy.

And now here it was, the last night of school. My last chance.

After the fountain, the goodbye tour continued, as did my drinking and drugging. I had no purse, no watch, as I had long ago learned that I would lose anything not on my person. I remember riding on the back of somebody’s green moped through the night to hit all the spots, laughing. I was giddy with anticipation, and hazy with inebriation. In the back of my mind, all I could think about was meeting up with him.

At a certain point I suddenly snapped to attention. What time was it?! It felt late.

I grabbed the nearest wrist and strained to read the time. The big hand was on the 6, and the little hand…fuck! It was 1:30 AM! Noooooo! My last chance! And I missed it?!

I starting running at full speed across campus. Maybe he got caught up too. Maybe he’d be there, sketching funny drawings of me dancing around the fountain,

When I finally reached my dorm room, my heart sank into my gut: it was dark. I fumbled for the key under the mat and entered the room, tears welling in my eyes. I blew it.

Why had I played it safe all semester? Why had I passively let him call the shots? I really liked him. I really wanted him. I may never meet another guy like him again. Damn my stupid Protestant good girl upbringing. I’d missed yet another opportunity to really live.

I closed the door, and as I turned, my body became aware of another body in the room.

My eyes, adjusting to the darkness, began to discern a shape in my bed.

“Cal? Is that you?” I asked, my heart doing flip flops in my chest and my mind, reaching for possibilities. Maybe my roommate had gotten into the wrong bed…was that Kim? No, she was already gone. Maybe…hope against hope….

“Yeah. What took you so long?” That voice. He was there. In my bed. Thank you Jesus.

In what felt like the most bodacious move of my life, I slipped my dress off and stood there, in my naked desire.

I whispered out into the darkness, “I want to make love to you. I know we’ll never see each other again, but I just really want to. I just want this one night. OK?”

I risked humiliation in his rejection or total disappointment in his gentlemanly restraint.

I risked my imagined-but-until-that-moment-still-crucial-to-my-self-delusional-upbringing-repressed-sense-of-my reputation.

I risked my own potentially life-long regret in the light of day.

I took a deep breath, and I think in that very moment, I changed in some very crucial way. I already knew on some level that no matter his answer, it was my asking that would always matter.

I waited through seconds of heart-aching agony and anticipation for him to reply.

“Yeah, sure, me too,” he whispered back.

My entire body sighed in relief, and then vibrated in pure desire.

I walked the few steps over to the bed where he lay, looked down at his face in the moonlight, and began to descend.


Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: descend

Spinning Art

Inspired by The Daily Post: Yarn

I come from a family of storytellers.

My earliest memories are of the family folklore as told by my father, his cousin, his two sisters.

It was something I loved as a child. Listening as they worked their tongue magic, savoring details, their limbs and faces in lively animation. Laughter would erupt from all of the adults and the older kids, and I would feel buoyed by the effervescence in the room. I couldn’t follow the stories per se, but I loved the way the room felt.

My father was perhaps the best of them. He had a presence that commanded attention and he used it well. He also had an understanding of the use of a pause for dramatic build, and used this as deftly as Bruce Lee used his signature one inch punch.

However, my Aunt often elicited the strongest responses with the often shocking sexual innuendos that she had learned to weave into the fabric of her tellings. She worked bawdiness like a pro, and often had us teary-eyed with aching sides.

Once I became a teenager, of course, I became less than enthusiastic of their talents, these yarn-spinners.

I had no appreciation then that these stories had been developed over many re-tellings. That what might appear to an observer to be a spontaneously shared anecdote was actually a nuanced and practiced yarn, carefully spun over time, punchlines and timing finely honed through repeated sharing at family gatherings over the years.

I also had not yet developed an understanding or respect for this kind oral storytelling, that it is actually an experience wherein the storyteller and the audience create live art together. As an actor, as a human, I appreciate that more and more every year.

I think they call it a yarn for this reason: the storyteller connects the listeners together through the shared experience of the story itself. My memories of our family together are held together by the colorful threads of those yarns. I am connected to those people by these invisible strings. They live on in my heart.

Today, I relish my memories of these two masters at work. My Aunt still holds court at family gatherings, but my dad has since died. I have to rely on conjuring up sense memories of his booming voice and that devilish timing. My husband tries to re-create some of the best around his family. I’m glad they are given continued life through his breath.

Fortunately, I married into an Irish family. To my delight, I am able to witness an even stronger oral storytelling tradition through them. Talk about masters at weaving yarn! I think the Irish have perfected the art.

#storytelling #oralstorytelling #yarnspinning


Roots for a Generation

Inspired by The Daily Prompt: Roots

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, television was a profound presence in our home.

My earliest memories are of hearing the word “Watergate” being discussed on nightly news. I don’t recall images or specifics, but I do remember wandering through the room and the adults being very interested in the TV screen.

I remember loving Romper Room with every fiber of my being, awaiting the day when the hostess would say my name as she held her magic TV mirror up in front of her face at the end of the show, calling out to little viewers in their living rooms as if she could rally see us there. (If you are too young to have any idea of what I am referring to, this is what I am talking about.)

But the biggest television event from my youth (pre-MTV that is) was, hands-down, Roots.

Roots was a 1977 miniseries based on a book written by Alex Haley. It was the story of African teen Kunta Kinte, brought to America to be enslaved, and the generations of his family and eventual emancipation.
A remake was made in 2016, and it once again became a television event. But the impact it had in 1977 can never be repeated. It was a different time.
In 1977, it was pretty huge that network TV was devoting so much time to an African American story. And we didn’t have the internet. Our cultural exposure was limited to television, films, art and books. As a young person, television was pretty much all.
And to my middle class, fairly all-white community, Roots brought to full technicolor glory some of the stories that had only been read about (barely and I am sure very biased-ly) in our history books.
I remember clutching pillows and crying, feeling outrage and shock at the outrageousness of the treatment of Kunta Kinte and his family. My friends and I talked about what we saw on-screen at school the day after the episodes. It opened our little minds up to whole other realities of our history.
According to Wikipedia: Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.
Apparently, the making of the miniseries was quite controversial in that the executives are afraid it would bomb. The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts the apprehensions that Roots would flop, and how this made ABC prepare the format:

Familiar television actors like American [sic] actor Lorne Greene were chosen for the white, secondary roles, to reassure audiences. The white actors were featured disproportionately in network previews. For the first episode, the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain (Edward Asner), a figure who did not appear in Haley’s novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade. Even the show’s consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network’s imminent losses—and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.

— Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications
 All important to examine today, and I am sure there are wonderful articles that analyze and explore such things much better than I can, but I didn’t know any of that then.
Then it was just a really riveting and important piece of television, one that told the stories of people and of a time in American history about whom I knew very little about up until that point.
I am so grateful for that. Historically accurate or not, it brought into our living room and into our classrooms another way of understanding who we were, where we had come from. It was a powerful use of the medium of television, and it opened up more than a few minds, I hope, to considering more than just what we had been told about America up until that point.
May there be many more “Roots”-inspired works to come. Maybe now more than ever we need such powerful television to be created.
#Roots #television #powerfulstories