I’ve never spoken about this to anyone. I keep it in the back of what’s left of the recesses of my mind, but it creeps out my time to time when I feel like punishing myself with those, “what if” moments.
This story happened a million years years ago when I was a struggling student at the University of Texas. Austin was a great place back them. Every day, even the boring ones were exciting. I mean, why wouldn’t they be??. There were millions of things to do, scads of people to meet, I was young, told I was cute, thin with an amazing metabolism and while I wanted to do well in school, I believed in the quality of my education, not the quantity of years I with which I could rush through. My degree was my goal but so was making like affirming college memories. I majored in making life affirming college memories.
Like, most everyone I knew, I worked through college and with the help of loans, grants and working as many hours I could, Infully supported myself. This often meant living in places in which squalor can only aspire. You did the best you could. Covered up holes in walls with posters, placed books in the front of obvious points of rodent egress and regress in the walls. One learned to live with regular applications of various roach repellants, sprays and nasty roach motels and it was imperative to make friends with the invariable biker/heroin addict who always seemed to live across from you in your the third floor apartment in the firetrap in which you lived. It was important to at least familiarize myself “Knuckles McTats” for a myriad of reasons. Namely, for me…I wanted to live. We were on first name basis. I’d smile, Knucks would semi-snarl, but I never felt p threatened.
On the days and nights he’d be unconsciously sprawled out across the stoop that connected our third floor apartments. I’d leave a small bag of what I’d eventually call “rape-me-not” cookies on his stomach with a small note, wishing him a good day and that his time on his Harley never be sullied by a moving violation of any kind.
It worked, too. He scared off a few Peeping Toms and weird lurkers on more than one occasion too. Although, now that I think about it it may have been unintentional, but it worked. Knuckles was a very large, very unbecoming man with a booming voice, plus every vile, disgusting word or phrase known to man, was in his lexicon.
While the presence of a guy like Knucks might be a variable, this was what college like for all students not on parentships. Sad living conditions and scary locales just came with the deal. You enrolled in school and you enrolled in poverty. It was part of the collegiate dance with the academic devil . But we were assured that with a bachelor’s degree, it would all be worth it some day.
I’m still waiting. A lot of people are.
Back to my story.
His name was John……or Jim…..or Jay…..or maybe Paul……I don’t remember. Nor do I remember soecifically where or how we met, though I think it was at a courtyard party at my complex. But I certainly remember him and there was an instant connection, At least, I felt one. He had longish, dark, wavy brown hair, tall, on the thinner side of a medium built and just cool as hell. He was smart, well-read and oh so smooth, but not the cheesy kind. There was a vibe about him that drew me to him like a moth to a flame. He had gone to Rosenberg High School (not far from Houston) and someone who knew us both told me he thought I was cute.
BINGO!!!! Back then, for me, that was reason enough to start selecting China and crystal patterns.
As the evening of long conversation ended, I’d given him my name and phone number and he gave me his. This was 1980. I still had my mother’s archaic sentiment screeching through my head that girls don’t call boys, much less ask them out on dates, but he hadn’t called and two weeks had already gone by. So, I called him. We had a lovely reunion by phone and ultimately, I asked him out to dinner. I was pleased that he remembered me and even seemed pleasantly surprised and flattered that he’d never been asked out by a woman before.
Oooooooooooh this was gonna he good. Let’s pick out a reception hall!!
We chose to go out Friday of that week. We both worked or had school ‘til six so we agreed to meet at a restaurant of my choosing. It was a quaint little place that served interior Mexican cuisine and the fact that it offered unlimit $50 cent beer by the cup was incentive.
In the interim, I emptied every purse, checked under couch cushion, under the seats of my car, collected aluminum cans and maybe even hocked some jewelry just to be able to take John or James or Jay or Paul out for a lovely evening.
I managed to scrounge up $37.50.
Well, Friday finally arrived and I had to decide between my two best outfits. It was a casual place so I wore a Navy Blue Izod pullover and a pair of highwasted blue and navy checked straight legged jeans. I LOVED those jeans. They gave my IMAX flat screen ass some much needed curve appeal.
I got to the restaurant early, but he’d beaten me there. He looked terrific as he stood when I approached the table, grabbed my hand and kissed my cheek. He smelled like edible lust. My God, by that time, I’d already named our third child.
I hated having to keep tabs, but I was on a budget. We had $6 worth of beer, some nachos- like things then split a a large plate of something called Polo Pibil, which is seasoned chicken breast cooked in a palm leaf. Delicious. We talked a while getting a bit closer physically with each sip of beer. After two dollars worth of after-dinner hops were downed, he suggested going to his aparment which conveniently, was nearby.
I paid, left as much of a tip as possible and followed him to an apartment complex not unlike mine , only smaller. We went up two flights of stairs to his place which if memory serves, was small, round and all windows. Round like gazebo. Interstingm but fufferent. It contained one double bed, no chairs and a blue carpeted floor. Blue Shag carpet. Matted down blue shag carpet. Adonis could be forgiven. He told me he wanted to invite me over to say thanks with a little after dinner music.
“I’ll so glad you called”, he told me. “Let’s give this great night a perfect ending.”
Oh my god, I’d already picked out our burial plot.
He sat me down on the floor as he lit votive candles in a large circle. He sat down too, facing me, he grabbed his guitar and started playing. His voice was beautiful as were his musical skills. We looked deep into each others’ eyes. I was mesmerized. I was transfixed through a Beatles tune, then lost my mind through a James Taylor number. He was starting a song from John Fogelburg and I was a goner. I touched his face, his kissed me lightly. Another song, then he stopped mid-lyric and kissed me. Hard. Velvety. The kind you relive in English Lit class three weeks later and forces you sit cross- legged.
Then, naturally our sides fell gently to the floor. Then, a certain rolling movement started and hormones were surging but one good undulation in my direction ruined everything. My right butt cheek hit the votive on the floor. I instantly let out a scream as the wax covered my right cheek, but the fabulous 10-year old shag carpet caught fire and apprntly, that was ALL that mattered. He stood up in a panic, extinguished the tiny flame and IMMEDIATELY started bitching about never getting his deposit back. I was still sitting leaning on my unburned left cheek trying not to cry, not that he gave me a chance. Burnt flesh was no comparison to a 1/8 inch charred spot on ugly ass, decades old blue shag carpet. He started pacing like a madman, ranting about his damn deposit . I didn’t matter at all. I even told him I’d been burned. No response on that subject
So, I decided to leave before he handed me a repair bill, I winced as I stood up, I said nothing. He asked me something about re-melting the wax on the carpet, . I ignored him as I grabbed my purse and exited his weird round blue shag world. I slowly made my way down the staircase, empathizing even more with with Napalm victims, got in my car and went home.
When I got there, I took off my pants, applied cool compresses to my burn and then some random unguent and shook my head. I looked over on the chair where my favorite blue and white check jeans had landed. There, on the left side of the pants was the perfect waxy outline of my left butt cheek.
I kept the pants on the chair for a few days as a reminder of the occasion. I eventually removed the wax and they were as good as new. There wasn’t a scar on my butt either, so I felt lucky to have escaped poor, but unscathed and a bit more realistic..
Beautiful men with all the right moves, but no real world manners or couth aren’t worth it and it cost me a hard earned $37.50 to learn that fact.
Yep, John, Jim, Jay or Paul was the one that got away and I have molten candle wax and apparently an asbestos butt cheek to thank.