1958

Moonlight covers the dewy backyard like one of my grandma’s quilts: light shimmery

stuff here, heavy velvety stuff there, and who knows what goes on underneath.

A new song from Jack’s Drugstore jukebox runs through my head as I kneel at my

bedroom window, nose pressed to the screen the better to inhale the honeysuckle flavor of the

hot Missouri night. My young breasts rest easily on the varnished windowsill, my toes tap

upside down to the internal replay of Elvis’s “Teddy Bear.” Somewhere out there in the dark is

my bad boyfriend with his white silk shirt, black pants and black leather jacket slung over his

shoulder. He smells of tobacco and Old Spice and Brylcream. One curl falls daringly down his

tanned forehead, risking the back of his hand.

Soon he’ll whisper to me from beside the swingset at the side of the house. And I’ll tiptoe

to the front door and let him inside.

Or maybe not. Not that I wouldn’t open the door in the middle of the night with only my

baby dolls covering my adolescent yearnings. Not at all. But some nights he’s too busy with his

pals, his old friends from before he dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force to see the

world. I resent them deeply. They knew him first, they know him best.

He’s a shadow in my life, a fantasy of the night. In my fantasy he loves me and takes me

away. He could. He’s in the Air Force. He’s been to Saudi Arabia. He’s being transferred to

Washington State. He could marry me and I could be an Air Force wife. I could have his sparklyeyed

babies and a home of my own.

I don’t know what I’ll do about high school or my dreams of a career. I want to become a

powerful woman like my mother’s union business agent. And, I need to leave here now.

I rise from the window and lie on my bed. Will he come tonight? In the other room, I can

hear the snores my mother makes after an evening at the Stardust Ballroom. The nightclub sounds

so glamorous when she talks about it with her friends. That must be why she hates coming home

to me and my sister. We’re not glamorous at all; me with my pimples and periods, my mewling

asthmatic sister with her lanky hair. At least when Mom goes out she can rest when she gets

home. Even if she does get up angry tomorrow. We’re pretty good at staying out of her way.

Tonight I wish I could dress in taffeta, put rhinestones on my ears, Evening in Paris on

my wrists and dance in the arms of my lover all night at the Stardust. Every night I wish I were

already grown and gone.

It’ll be dawn soon. I don’t think he’s coming. Tears slide off my cheeks and dampen my

tangled hair as I try to rock myself to sleep with a pillow between my legs. My little sister stirs

in the bed, so I get up and go to the front door.

I silently close the screen door behind me as I slip out to sit on the steps. The cool

concrete soothes my behind, but nothing calms my raging caged spirit as I watch the sun come up

on one more summer day.

****