No one has asked me to share, but I thought I would at least give up a little of my NaNo for this year. Because I wasn’t prepared to write a November novel, I am taking bits and pieces from what I remember from my own life, embellishing on those memories to make a story. What I am going to share right now is a bit of one of those memories, a total first draft free write. I do like the way it flows and the personal aspect of it brings the character out in my mind. I can see her like I saw her some 30+ years ago. Funny, because if I wrote about her with what I know now, it would not be even as close to the fond memory I think shows here.
Working title of the NaNo is ‘Facing The Ice Age’. Without further adoodoo:
Tami found me as an open slate. I had so much to learn and she had just the right amount of woman in her, even at 17 years of age, to teach me what I needed to know. Tami was fair, a clear head even when her emotions tried to get the best of her, but she knew how to let me know I was the most special man in the whole world.. well, special boy in the whole world to her. That evening for dinner at the McKay’s, when the sight of Mike Barnett had almost sunken me completely. I had just about turned away, but Tami whispered to me “you are the only one I want to see tonight and from now on.. Mike is gone”. My heart was already halfway there and hearing those delightful words from her lips was a dear gift to me. She could have asked for anything from me and I would have given it to her.
Oh and one more important thing about Tami – she wore a tiny white bikini that night in the pool. Dang. Even now I can see her wearing that bikini in my mind, short wet hair, how she felt as we embraced in the shallow end of the pool, just us as the dim lights in the pool shimmered around us.
I thought I was in love that night.
I stayed that way. I still wonder if I was. The memory makes me feel the same thing over and over and over, endlessly, again. I ache with the enjoyment of the memory. There is a part of me that wants to live that memory each moment I breathe, ecstacy mingled with the sheer joy that she has surrendered herself to me. I am her world and she is mine. We had the ability to create our own world. Instead we created memories for each other.
You know what is odd about remembering Tami? I only want to remember how I felt to her. I don’t want to go back, don’t want to relive that time with her. I think it is also because I also remember the absolutely dreadful months of pain as I lost her. I had gone away for college and she had gone to another college. We came back for the summer and she didn’t want to see me. Something had changed, changed so much that she did not want to tell me right away. It took all summer before we finally went through a tearful break up, a final night of passion together.
She was married a year to the day after she broke up with me.
I want to hurt like that again. I would like to love like that again. Call me odd for saying that. There was something about the pain that revealed how truly in love I was. I grieved, but I willed myself to let her go without a fight. I loved her. I couldn’t fight her. Not after the gift she had given me. I needed to feel that way, wish I had the chance that feel that way again, feel the pain that comes from loving from deep inside.
She was pregnant when she broke up with me. I don’t understand it. She was in love with me, told me over and over and over again in letters, during our phone calls, as we shared those sweet evenings together kissing until we had to part (and we could easily have kissed forever). I was still a boy, could not understand how love could change in an instant. It did for her. She decided that being married to a minister was not the life she wanted. Her sister had convinced her of that. I remember when she told me that. It was the first night after I had returned from my first year of college. But she couldn’t tell me to my face. She called me. But she didn’t break up with me. She just told me that she could not marry me, which I suppose was the same way of telling me that she was breaking up with me. I didn’t hear it that way because I didn’t want to hear it that way. I wanted to touch her again, kiss her again, feel her close to me again like I had been waiting for intensely during those last few weeks of the semester. I waited all summer, calling Tami now and then, hoping she would want to see me. I needed to see her, wouldn’t believe what was happening until I saw the truth in her eyes, let her really tell me.
I got the chance.
August. A week before I had to go back to school. I knew Tami was not going back to school. She had told me over the phone, the same night that she told me that she needed to see me again before I left. The news buoyed me even knowing that seeing her likely would be my last, the fact that she did not want to see me but once all summer telling me that she had given up on me. But she loved me. She needed me. A summer without me had helped her to realize that. It did not matter to me that I was in denial. There was hope. She wanted to see me.
I don’t know how to describe that night. Even now I am confused. Love is confusing, an enigma that has no code. No one needed to tell me how to feel. Seeing her was enough for me, the longing for her touch overtaking me. I didn’t know how pitiful I really was, how stupid. Perhaps that was my redeeming grace. Youth is not as creepy as middle age.
I pulled up in front of her house, my red Plymouth knowing where to go, a place it knew so well. She was waiting for me in the front yard of her house. Even now I see how she looked as she waited, forlorn and defeated yet somehow ready to see me again. I didn’t imagine it. It was not something I imagined because I wanted to see her that way. No. She needed to see me.
Why did life have to change her before it changed me?
She wore jean shorts, a nice tee, flip flops. I liked that she was comfortable, laid back, just like me. I had always enjoyed that and I think she enjoyed that about me. I can see her in my mind, sheepish in a way, looking down as I drove up as if she were ashamed but yet when she looked up I saw a smile. In a way, I liked the apparent reluctance as she approached my car. I got out as usual, opened the door for her, something I enjoyed.
Then she did something strange. When I got in the car, she grabbed my hand and held it tight, kissed my cheek, put her head on my shoulder. I looked at her, tears streaming from her eyes. I didn’t know what to think. Was this the girl who had shunned me all summer? What was going on?
Hardly a word was spoken as we drove away from her parents’ house. I took her into Springfield, ten miles away, for dinner. The whole trip we didn’t say much.. until I spoke.
“I miss you so much.” I squeezed her hand, still entwined in mine as I drove with my left hand.
All Tami did was snuggle closer to me. She said nothing. Nothing at all. It was as if she were trying to get as much of me as she could, like she would never see me again. I was in between ecstatic and despondent. Something was both good and wrong. I could feel her tears on my shoulder.
Why did I have to know she loved me? Why did she have to leave me to live a life without her? That night I just needed to hear her say that she loved me, that she was sorry about the summer, that she wanted to be with me forever. I was ready. I would have asked her to be my wife. I would have been happy. I knew she would have been too. I would have changed my entire life, my entire destiny, just to be with her. I would do anything, give up anything, just to feel her holding my hand for eternity, her head on my shoulder. It—felt—so—good.
We didn’t feel like eating, so we didn’t. Tami asked me to take her to a quiet place where we could park and talk. I didn’t argue. I wanted to be alone with her. So we went to a city park, found the parking lot and went to the back of the lot, far away from where we could be seen. I parked, shut my red Plymouth off, released my hand and put my hand around her head as she rested against my shoulder.
“I still love you.”
She said nothing. Nothing at all. Her right hand went around my waist.
“I have missed you so much. This has been the worst summer of my life.” Such a contrast to the summer I had spent with her before, the best of my entire life, still the best of my entire life. Tami lifted her head, looked me deeply in the eyes, kissed me on the cheek, then moved to the other side of the car, her back against the passenger door while she faced me.
“I don’t want to tell you this.” Resignation.
“Then don’t.” I reached my hand across to her. She held my hand. Why did it have to be this way?
Tami leaned across the car, put her hand behind my head, pulled me to her and kissed me. It was the most passionate kiss I had ever experienced, even on the most passionate of nights with Tami, which had been extremely passionate. I don’t think any woman has been able to match her passion yet, none, not even starved Jodee. But the kiss that Tami gave to me had a sadness to it. I could feel it as I looked in those beautiful green eyes. I knew what was coming, yet her kissing me told me everything I needed to know. But why did it have to be this way? Why? It just did not make sense.
You need to know something about Tami. When we realized how attracted we were to each other, not long after our night together in the pool at the McKay’s and after Mike Barnett was out of the picture, Tami asked me one of the questions that shaped my young perspective – how far should we go sexually? I had never been asked that question, had never thought of it. But that day we agreed to never have sex together until we married, a promise to each other that we kept no matter how difficult it became. It was difficult. Very difficult.
And it made Tami the most special woman I have ever been with. She set the standard that I tried to meet with Sylvie, a standard I thought Sylvie passed and exceeded.. until it came to passion. Until it came to putting herself aside, something Tami did until the end of our relationship came. Sylvie has never been able to get past herself enough to really want to please me.
But that night, as we kissed, Tami had a different look in her eyes, a surrender that was different than what I had seen before. She pulled away again, this time pulling her shirt over her head, revealing tiny breasts but perfect to me. It was my first time to see a girl’s breasts, ready for me, surrendered to me. Tami sighed as I pulled her closer, then pulled my shirt off as I took her in. That was far as we went, still not breaking our vow. And we stayed that we for hours that night, greeting the dawn together, holding each other. We both cried, my chest wet with her tears. She waited to tell me, knowing full well that I knew what was coming.
Do I need to say what happened next? Maybe you know. I don’t remember what she said, but it was not what I wanted to hear. All summer she had been seeing someone else, someone she had known before me, a man several years older and a farmer in the area, someone she had worked for walking beans during the summers. Apparently she had walked more than beans. She didn’t say she was pregnant. I didn’t know it then. But she told me about him, told me that he was good to her, told me that she loved me but did not want to spend her life with me.
There is something I have left out of the story. I have a tendency to do that as I demonstrated when I failed to immediately mention that I had met Jodee through an adult dating web site. In the case of Jodee, it just made my taint even stronger. I am a good Midwestern boy, churched from birth, and I don’t want that taint to be hung on me. There is something I have failed to mention, the reason why Tami could not see herself married to me. The college I went to was a bible college, intended to train men and women to be Christian ministers. I went there hoping to escape the moral weakness I knew existed in me, certain that I would be too vulnerable at college to avoid the temptations available. When I got to bible college, I found that it suited me. I had been a leader at my church youth group when I was in high school, something that Tami liked after she started seeing me after that week of camp. She liked my faith in God, but she didn’t like the idea of the serious commitment it took to be a minister’s wife. When I decided to stay at that bible college another year, maybe even try to be a minister, she knew she had to weigh her future with me. She wanted to be with me, but my decision had forced her to make a decision about me.
But I still held her that night. I didn’t want to let her go. God, I wish I could have held her forever, keep her from making the mistake of marrying that farmer. She would have been so much happier with me. Had she not listened to her sister, she may not have been with him. But she was. And I hated it.
Listening to myself say that seems a bit insane. An insane man says that a woman who has rejected him would be so much happier with him.
Tami’s mother, more than thirty years later, saw me at my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party, told me that I was the best man Tami had ever dated, that Tami had made a big mistake letting me go. Insane statement confirmed.
Seven years after our break up, while I was a youth minister at a church not far from where I was born and raised, Tami called me. It would be nice to see me again, she said, and we could catch up. We picked a night to get together, so I picked her up at the apartment she had rented near the city hospital. Tami invited me in and greeted me with a hug, nervous and unsure, friendly but unsure. I had a sense that maybe her mother had encouraged her to give me a call. The apartment had very little furniture in it, as if she had only been there for a short while, we talked for a few moments at her dining room table, then she excused herself to finish getting ready.
When she came back out, a little brown haired boy followed her. I didn’t have to do the math. I could tell how old he was and knew that his age would correspond closely with our break up. He wasn’t mine, I knew. That was impossible.
“John, this is Steve. He is an old friend of mine and I know he wants to meet you.” I am not so sure John wanted to meet me. He was ready for bed, flannel footed pajamas, and he refused to look at me until Tami asked him to.
“Hi John, I knew your mom when she was really young.” Tami smirked at me. “How old are you? Do you go to school?”
John didn’t have any problems looking me in the eye and answer my questions. “I’m six. I go to school at Monroe. My teacher is Miss Pekar. She is pretty cool.”
“It’s good to meet you, John. I bet you are getting ready for bed, eh?”
“Yeah. It’s past my bed time, but mommy said she wanted me to see you.”
“OK. Well, maybe I will see you again.”
“Maybe…. Good night.” John led Tami down the hall to his bedroom, waving to me as he got the doorway. Tami mouthed silently that she would be out in a few minutes. I heard her urge him into bed, tell him that grandma would be here for him if he needed her, and that she would see him in the morning. They recited the now I lay me down to sleep prayer together, then the sound of a kiss on the cheek, and the bedroom light shut off. Tami hummed to him for a few minutes, then I heard her tip toe across the bedroom floor. She continued to tip toe as she came to me down the hall, then quietly pulled up a chair next to me at the table. I sensed an awkwardness. Neither of us knew what to say.
“He’s a little man, isn’t he?” I tried to smile as I asked the question, an attempt to reassure her. I knew she had to be self conscious about the little boy I had just met. “And don’t worry. It’s OK.”
“You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out, do you?” She was the same confident girl I had known some seven years before. Tami wasn’t afraid to meet my eyes, something I was grateful for then. A lot of the awkward went away as she looked at me. When we had known each other, she said that I relaxed her, made her comfortable. As she looked at me, the tension visibly began to melt away.
“No. Were you pregnant when I saw you last?” Might as well get straight to the point. I didn’t really want to know for sure, but asked any way. I sensed she needed to tell me. “It doesn’t make it any easier for me, but I do want to know. You don’t have to tell me.”
“Yes. I had just found out the night we said good bye. I didn’t know how to tell you, so I didn’t. I’m sorry. I really am.”
“I wish I could say it’s OK. I needed you. It took me a long time to get over you, if that is even possible.” I felt wrong for telling her that. I didn’t need to tell her that. How do you tell someone that when she was gone, there was no sense of freedom, not for a while. Yet that wasn’t completely true. I dated. I had other girls. But no one lived up to Tami. No one was her and I wanted them to be.
“Your dad told me you have dated a lot of girls. You must have gotten over me.” Dad had always been infatuated with Tami, had told me after I had dated her for two years that if I didn’t ask her to marry me soon he would do it for me. It was no surprise that he had talked to her. My guess was that he was one of the reasons I was sitting in Tami’s apartment tonight.
“Not one of them was you.” I had said too much and tried to change the subject. “So tell me about your life. Tell me about John’s father.”
Tami did tell me about her marriage. Her husband had indeed been a farmer, eight years older than her, expected Tami to be a farmer’s wife and give up her education. Knowing Tami, I doubted that had sat well with her. That was one reason why she had given up on me. Any threat to her independence would be rejected. But she was pregnant and Tami was also honorable. She wanted to give her son a name. But there was also another problem to being a farmer’s wife – she was allergy ridden. When it all came down to it, she was miserable. All she and her husband had done during their marriage was fight, abuse involved, so eventually she had left him and filed for divorce. Now she was completing a psych degree and working at the hospital across the street from her apartment.
“I don’t suppose you would want a beer, Mister Minister? I am going to have one.” I nodded a yes to Tami as she pushed away from the table to grab a brew from the small refrigerator in the kitchen.
“I don’t drink often but I can make one concession. Watch out, I may have to crash on your couch.” Her eyes instantly lit up at the little joke I had made, a cute little chuckle as she laughed at my attempt at humor.
“You haven’t changed at all. Always have to make that little joke.” She handed me a bottle of light beer, foaming as she popped the top with an opener, “Except I don’t think I ever saw you accept a beer.”
“I’m a wizened old man now and I’m thirty miles away from the church. No one will see and I don’t think God cares.” I hadn’t really changed a whole lot. I was still a boy in a lot of ways. “You would be surprised at what I will accept and what I won’t accept.”
Tami had relaxed considerably, her expression warm and loosened, the distance I had felt between us when I walked through the door a few minutes prior growing closer. We leaned in towards each other, not so close that there was a temptation for contact, but close enough that I could feel the connection as the wounds from years before began to soothe. The distance had been there that last summer when I so desperately wanted to see her, wondered why she didn’t want to see me. It had been there that last night, the two of us so determined to come close that one last time, a real love that had been destroyed by a man who had taken her from me by turning my girl into a woman.
That distance slept in a child’s bed just a few feet down the hall.