Everything In The Tall Grass Hidden
Sneak peek ... raw.
It was summer then, and the air was thick with her smell. She was everywhere. My mind filled with her image. My eyes often staring when we crossed. I could damn near taste her on my lips. She wore cheap flip-flops all summer long; didn’t matter if it was the pool, or the corner store, or on that one occasion, the graveyard. The sound of them flip-flops, padding softly against her feet; her toes painted rose gold one day, purple the next, and maybe sky blue day after that. The way she wore her shorts. Or her skirts. Or that red bikini. The bikini I can recall the most. Even now. I can see the curves of her, and the slopes. The rise of her breasts when she sunbathed on her back. The way her stomach was tight, and her legs strong. Her skin was soft. Or so I imagined on those days. Before the knowing.
I’d found her and Jesus that summer. It was a mistake now to find either. Both left me more broken than saved. But I was a young man. Foolish in all the ways young men are foolish, and misguided by beauty and fearful of eternal damnation. Now, I am fearful of beauty and eternal damnation can be damned. It was a helluva summer.
I saw her for the first time at the community pool. Or I should say she was pointed out to me by a friend. Had to have been the fourth or fifth day of June. School had put us out. Released us into the world. A small reprieve. I’d heard they’d moved in actually before I every saw her. A friend or something talking round the soda machines about a new family in Lot 109. It was a doublewide. I’d heard it came with a microwave built in above the stove. How modern that seemed.
It was Reggie Carnell who saw her first that day around the pool. Reggie was one of my few black friends as we said back then. There were maybe thirty black families or folks at the Double Jacks in those days. No Hispanics. This was before they came to Georgia. The world was either black or white. Reggie was alright. He could do a nifty wheelie on his bike. He’d twist the wheel this way and that as he hung in the air. I could pop a wheelie pretty good, but I kept the front wheel steady for balance. Reggie was always braver than me in that way. Dumber, too. His heart gave out in the early 90s after too much cocaine one night in Atlanta. I’d heard he’d gotten into crack cocaine there at the end. I don’t know that for sure. We lost touch shortly after high school graduation in '84. He went his path, I went mine. But for a stretch of the late 70s, early 80s, he was a good friend. Those don’t come along too often.
Hot air clung to the very fiber of our souls that summer of ’78. I was 12. The heat didn’t bother me as much then as it does now. Not sure why.
Raeanne stepped from the water, Reggie smacked my arm, and I looked up at this new found heaven. She walked different than the other girls our age. She was certainly built different. I pegged her at 16, Reggie called 17. We were both stunned when we later learned she was 13. It didn’t seem fair. Like we knew we didn’t have no chance with a girl like that. She flung her hair, water whipping into the wind, and my breathe caught. The golden light of day's end lit upon her hair. Air and time seemed halted, choked. She ran her fingers through the straight tendrils, and the world waited. She caught my eye and smiled. My breathe returned as I flushed. I thought perhaps the smile was mocking, insecure as I was at that age. But she flashed her eyes towards me a second time, I knew she wasn’t belittling. My chest expanded on its own. Tiny as it was back then.
Boyhood is a strange thing. No different today, I imagine, despite all the high tech shit in the world. I celebrated her glance with a cannonball into the pool. It was the most masculine thing I knew to do. As I sunk to the bottom, my mind tried to devise a plan, or even a scheme, that would allow me to say, hello. I sat at the bottom for as long as my breathe held. Finally, the air squeezing tighter and tighter, I rose to the surface ready to declare my undying devotion. Such is lust.
I said nothing that day. Didn’t even look back at her. Least, not directly. I kept trying to see her out of the sides of my eyes. Willing my eyes not to look and look all at the same time. She adjusted her bikini top, once, and I caught the briefest of glimpses of the underside of her breasts. At the time, it was the most sensual thing I’d ever seen.
If my memory serves, it was the fourth day — perhaps the 9th or 10th of June — that I finally spoke to her. It was quick. Just something like, hey, or, cool, or, alright. Something that probably sounded a lot more mature in my head than it was on my lips.
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