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.