By Diane Walters
Those younger years filled with teenaged days, borne of bittersweet emotions . . . everything is brighter, life wrapped in energy that bounces and zings with boundless possibilities. Until something happens to bring it crashing down, down, down. Those lows can reach as far down as those highs that can touch the sky. Time flashes by in the same cadence. Hours can zoom in fast-forward when on the Tilt-O-Whirl, the monster roller coaster, a sunny day on the beach with friends, or a flirty conversation with a boy. Minutes move as slow as slugs when the teacher drones on and on about this theory or that rule. The clock’s second hand is moving so slowly you wonder if perhaps you’ll be stuck in this class forever—the teacher carrying on with the same tired subject for days, months, years on end.
Somehow the mix of this wild energy and that weird internal clock that ticks on–fast and slow–creates such intense and memorable times in a young adult. As such was the end of the summer of 1967. I was 17. I had spent the hardest times of my young life with my best friend by my side. We shared everything. It seemed I had so much more to share than she did, though. In two short years, both my parents had died.
We were tight. We’d spend hours talking about life, boys, school, love, life, boys. . . . We had dreams of graduating, moving to the bright lights of Chicago and getting an apartment together. The bus took us to school; we shared classes, lunch, cigarettes, all the while talking about likes and dislikes, and our quixotic fancies of leaving our child-selves behind to finally reach that new plateau of adulthood. And, somehow, after my parents died, we became closer, our bond tighter. It was that time in life when it seemed you could trust sharing anything with that one person, and you knew they would still be there for you, and still care.
She was gorgeous! Long, thick and wavy, dark red hair fell to the middle of her back which would sway slightly side to side as she walked. It hung just low enough to show the undulation of her full hips in opposition to that sway in her hair. She had a perfectly proportioned body with a small waist and large breasts that had the boys trailing after her with drool running down their chins. Her bright green eyes which were intelligent and full of excitement were highlighted by the brown freckles on her face. And, we spent all our time together. We went to school football games and basketball games. Occasional evenings boys would invite us over to listen to records,to talk, to kiss. It was a sweet time in life for me–one that was so far removed from my normal reality that it seemed like a dream during those two years.
There were sisters in her family, and maybe that made the difference. She had absolutely no inhibitions whatsoever when taking a bath or a shower. When she was ready to hop in for an afternoon refresher, I’d modestly shut the bathroom door and she’d say, “No! Don’t go! Keep me company!” The tub would be filled with water as she lifted one leg to shave, and we’d talk some more about school, life, and boys. She’d finish up the other and turn on the shower to wash her hair, all the while—still talking, every few minutes sticking her head out of the shower curtain to say something. Then, the water would turn off. Her hand would reach out blindly grabbing for a towel for her hair. She leaned forward to wrap the towel around her long wet strands—the top of the towel tossed back securing it all turban style. Droplets of water were still clinging to her skin, running down her face, over her full, round breasts, across that gorgeous flat stomach. I had never seen anyone more perfect, more beautiful in my entire life. And, it seemed that every day I was falling more in love with my best friend.
I’m not sure how things happened after that. The sexual tension between us just grew stronger until I couldn’t stand it anymore. One night, I held the phone–shaking in fear as I dialed her number. The words I spoke faded in the memory of the emotion. I was so scared that she would say no, that when she said yes—I was still hearing, “No.” I hung up the phone. She really did say yes! YES! Relief led to joy, which led to more excitement and more fear. I had never been with a woman before. The idea was so marvelous that I could barely get through the night and the next day. This wasn’t just a sexual experience. This was the first experience I would have with someone who I loved so deeply, who meant so much to me, and I could finally share with her what I was feeling in the most sensitive connection that two people could have.
And, somehow in those late summer days of teenage years, this time was so perfect, so precious it was pure magic. Johnny Mathis was crooning on the record player. We were drinking Johnny Walker Red that an older neighbor had gotten for me. We both were lying on the bed, and the evening just played out long and slow and luscious. I caressed as we talked and kissed. Buttons were loosed from their secured holds. More caressing and more kissing continued even though I am certain I had no idea what I was supposed to do or how to do it. It didn’t matter. I was with someone I loved and cared about and that was all that this evening held for us. It was fulfilling in a way that no other experience had ever been.
The next week was awkward. It seemed that I was following her around now, instead of the friendship being equal. It was strained and uncomfortable. I didn’t understand. I knew what I felt. I didn’t understand why she was so standoffish. Shortly after that she gave me a sweet looking card. That was so sweet, I thought . . . until I read her sentiments, “I love you dearly—not queerly.”
Queerly. . . ? Really? I hadn’t even considered the word until that moment. I hadn’t based this experience on being a “queer” anything. She was a person who was my best friend and I loved her with all my heart. What we shared was beautiful, sensitive, precious. But, after that . . . it didn’t matter. Once again, in life, I felt pushed aside, neglected, and alone. We still talked. But, that wasn’t the same either. The foolish abandon of any thought that came to mind was no longerfree to run wild between us. Words were measured out in level portions, monitored closely as to not offend. It seemed that we didn’t laugh as hard, share as much, or spend as much time together.
I left my home shortly after that, embarking on life as an adult early on. I went to school. I worked in the local department store. I lived at the YWCA and then moved to an apartment for $110.00 a month. After my graduation from Sears Driving School, I drove a car. The phone calls with my best friend dimmed and faded. I got married, and moved south that year after I turned 18. The letters came more infrequently with her pleas—to stay in touch. I didn’t. The marriage was bad. I couldn’t. We moved. And, as life often does at a young age, the bad times hit me hard and adjusting wasn’t so easy. I was alone in the world and had to learn to fight and cope and manage the hardships the best I could on my own.
After the divorce, I spent many years trying to find a connection like that with someone. Man/woman—it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a gay thing. It was a love thing. It was the person I wanted to love and care for. And, whether it was the zing of those high energy emotions or the time racing fast and standing still, I don’t know. But, I do know that in that late summer of 1967 I had the strongest love of my life, the most beautiful, sensitive, and precious affair. I was gay for one magic day—one lucky day that would have to last me the rest of my life.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Student