by Jane Doe
In many ways, that white frozen river was a crack down the middle of my life, separating it into two parts. On the far side was the child who wanted to held and caressed, sought after and admired. On this side was the still child being held and caressed, but not sure why she was sought after, or what about her was admired.
Without design, David and I fell into a pattern of meeting so my parents seemed unaware of any changes in my life. It wasn't intentional on our part; nothing was openly hidden. It was as if a siren of silence blew whenever there could have been a reference to David.
Sunday evenings, dad would drive me into town for MYF meetings at the church. Afterwards, David drove me home. It was tempting to try to shorten the MYF meeting to eke out a few more minutes together before I had to be in at nine. We usually parked in the pasture turn-out on our lane, filling the 45 or so minutes with all the kisses we could.
On Wednesdays, I accidentally started a routine that saved dad the trip into town for choir practice. In General Science class we came up against magnetism in our glancing blows at the study of physics. I had asked the teacher several questions like: Is it lumps of molecules or single molecules that, when charged, arrange themselves in the the negative-positive order that causes a piece of iron to be, as we say, magnetized? Why do pieces of iron dug up in some places have another "north" than other iron deposits? Out of his depth he referred me to the high school physics teacher, who also taught higher mathematics. She was a small thin, birdlike lady in her fifties, complete with a tiny gray bird nest knot of hair on the very top of her head.
This was the first year Mrs. Fisher was a teacher. Before she had been a mathematics expert for a large insurance corporation. When her husband chose to give up city life to raise strawberries in the country, Mrs. Fisher moved to our area, enrolled in classes in the university, got her degree and commenced doing what she should have been doing since she was twenty – teaching. She was a natural-born teacher. She loved questions and she never gave any one an answer, but she'd move heaven and earth to find the books to answer one question, and raise ten more.
The ironclad separation in our school between high school and junior high was so restrictive that even David and I were kept apart during the days. These regulations also meant that I could not, during school hours be in the Physics lab. I had to arrange to meet Mrs. Fisher after school. One Wednesday she invited me to her house in the afternoon to talk about magnetism. Since this meant that I would miss my bus home, she kindly invited me to stay for supper and remain with her and her husband until it was time for me to go to choir practice.
The first afternoon turned out to be such a joy for us both, that I drifted into staying there every Wednesday sunset. I loved her house full of green plants in every window, rugs with knotted fringes lying this way and that like continents with ragged coasts on the carpeted floor. The best parts of the whole house were the walls. They weren't like the ones in our house. Mrs. Fisher had floor to ceiling books in every room. Even the kitchen had bookshelves, filled with cook books and strange cooking utensils she had collected in her travels. This renaissance woman had more books in her house than our puny school's library. When I was in her house, everyone of those books belonged to me. If she had work to do, I'd sit across from her at the dining room table covered with a dark red patterned carpet instead of a tablecloth, to do my homework while she graded papers. The lamp over the table was full of curlicue wire work and glass fringes which were a fountain of thinking for me.
Mrs. Fisher was not an innovative cook so we always had the same menu for supper – hard cooked eggs in a dill cream sauce on toast and canned peaches. She and Mr. Fisher had no children so for that one night a week I was gladly theirs. When I was their child they showed their love by conversing with me as if I was an adult on topics ranging from the "rightness" of war, to how to raise parrots or the fullness of zero. Often I was sad to see that it was time to leave for choir practice. To go from the Old World atmosphere of the Fisher's to the hurly-burly of the church choir was enough to give one the bends. I endured the rehearsals only by carrying my anticipation of being with David afterwards like an enormous, invisible cloak with a high collar that protected even my ears from the pandemonium.
Friday nights David played on the varsity basketball team. I couldn't enjoy the games when he played. It was too public to have someone so close to me out in front of all those people, running about, chasing a ball, exposing themselves to the possibility of making mistakes publicly. When the foul whistle blew, I nearly came to praying that it wouldn't be David's fault. I was forever wishing no one would throw the ball to him, so there wouldn't be the groan of the whole cheering crowd if he missed. But, they did throw the ball to him; sometimes he made a beautiful leap in the air and piled the ball in so neatly that my heart ached for him, and sometimes we'd miss. He didn't miss, I missed getting the ball into the netted basket, too. When it became too painful for me, and if it was a home game, I'd go downstairs to the concession stand to help the junior class sell popcorn.
Afterwards, alone in the car, David smelling all soapy with sprinkles of rubbing alcohol, his hair still slightly damp and his heart pounding from the excitement, I'd lay my head on his chest while he talked out his exuberance if he had played well, self-criticism if he had miffed a play or his despondency if he hadn't played at all. With the two of us there were no fireworks, no cheering crowds, no drowning in pits of flaming passion – just David and I, within of these nights, telling each other how it was in our world without the other gentle kisses to assure ourselves how nice it was when we were together.
Once, after the championship play-offs in the spring, when our school got third place, David asked if he could touch my breast with his hand. If he had just asked that, I might have let him, but he added, "If you let me touch you there, it will make them bigger." I would have let David do almost anything to me if I knew for sure that it would really give me something to put in a bra. True, I was no longer wearing Shirley's pink cast-offs but the new ones from the city were the very same size.
The flaw in his argument was the conversation the girls had the other week while waiting on the gym teacher to get the new volleyball teams organized. With howls of laughter, we were comparing notes on all the sexual activities that according to male authority, cured pimples and made breasts bigger. We came to the conclusion that it was only pregnancy that cured these two ills and pregnancy was the last illness we wanted. It was a dreaded word among us. Most of us weren't clear about how one did or didn't get pregnant, we only knew, nice girls didn't.
We were even shocked when Ruth Anne's mother began swelling up with a child in her. It didn't seem right for us to associate with the daughter of people who did "that" sort of thing.
Evidently, the boys had had a similar conversation about bust-building and David thought he'd try it out. My refusal didn't seem to bother him. David was never angry with me, never impatient, never critical. We didn't force any feelings – there were no jealous fights like the other girls described.
Once I had read the saying, "The course of true love never runs smooth." I figured we had something else going on between us because it was so smooth. In some ways, I felt like an old, married woman, living on kisses. We knew each other's thoughts, needs, desires and they were all filled with the "us-ness" of us that we had.
David never encountered my parents when bringing me home. When I came in, the living room was discreetly vacant. David never called for me at the door. He and Dad never had to look at each other, calculating what who meant what to this child. I often wished I knew if my parents thought of us as "dating" or if they only saw David as my friendly
It took the spring to answer that. David was graduating. The biggest event, next to graduation itself, was the prom. There was no question in our minds but that I should go with David. I was so scared to ask permission to go from my parents. It was easier not to know, to still have hope for their "yes" than to carry around the cold, hard stone of their "no."
Shock, upon shock. They not only consented to let me go, but offered to let me have my first formal! I fingered the page with the three formals in the Sears book, wondering which one mother would let me order. It was getting closer and closer to the twentieth of May and still no mention of ordering a dress. I knew it took over a week to send off the order before the merchandise arrived.
Unexpectedly, one Saturday morning, mother said we weren't going to clean the house that day. Instead we were going to the city to get the dress that would take me to the prom. That mother gave up her cleaning day to go shopping, told me mother was taking this seriously. She did! We ran from store to store, shoving me in and out of piles of
By noon, we had the choice narrowed down to two dresses. To think about a choice, we had lunch together. We kidded and chatted like school girls. Everything and everyone in the whole world was outrageously ridiculous to us. Such a cloud of companionship floated about us that it was no surprise when we were leaving, we heard two men speculating whether or not we were sisters. We enjoyed that joke the very most of all. That day I wished we really could be sisters, because I loved the persons I was discovering we were.
The formal was gorgeous. Pink. Strapless. Yes, it took enough wire to fence in a cow pasture to hold it up over my flat chest, but rows and rows of tucked and pleated net created the illusion that there was, in deed, enough of me to do the proper levitating. The skirt billowed out in layers of satin and net, one of which was tiered with hand-wide gathered net ruffles all the way to the floor. Demurely over this profusion of pink confection was a plain flared net skirt, caught up at the hem with a cloth rose. The dress was perfect in that it hid all my faults to disguise me into someone beautiful.
The night of the prom, mother made an early supper for me so I could soak in the tub as long as I wanted in some of her bubble bath dad had given her for Christmas. She advised me to rest, to think lovely thoughts while she and dad ate supper. Instead of doing dishes, mother came up to help me dress. She came into my room so rarely, I was more impressed with her being there than anything she said or did to get me ready.
David did come to the door. I wasn't allowed to be ready. Dad did have to let him in and ask him to sit down. When dad asked David about the current situation with the boy scouts, dad forgot to laugh as David explained to him that he had given up boy scouting for girl scouting.
I made my entrance, mother in tow. David gulped, bowed, shook hands with mother, handed me the box of flowers. Only mother had the presence of mind to take the flowers out, to pin them in the tucks of the bodice where I wasn't.
A lot of impressions brushed by me that night, but none were as moving as the surprise when I got home. After taking off my beauty and hanging it up carefully, hoping all the wrinkles David and I had put in it would fall out before morning, I went down to the kitchen for a 2 a.m. snack. In the place where I expected to find the soup pan sat a dish of melting butter. I gave up looking for the pan and decided to eat cheese and crackers.
In the refrigerator sat the clean, empty soup pan.
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010