A photograph snared me.
Two weeks ago I started juicing the www.slowboatmedia.com visuals by adding a picture gallery. The first pictures were enlargements of those thumbnails dotting the Slow Boat Media pages. As time progresses there’ll be additions. In our age words are insufficient. Maybe next year I’ll offer a coloring book.
To gain attention for my site I mailed postcards to a decent range of people. Some were publishing luminaries, others issuers of precious literary journals. You know. The kind subscribed to more for their cachet than content.
But I also flung my self-promotion around. Since mass market newspapers are retrenching coverage, I bombarded counterculture weeklies. The free ones we browse primarily for club listings and personal ads. Given they’re picking up much of what the daily broadsheets and tabloids dismiss or deem unconscionably mature, therefore unfit for mythic Middle America, I targeted columnists and beat writers whose readerships know the difference between naked and nude. And rarely find either immediately offensive.
My kind of heathens.
Away from periodicals, I sprinkled my list with recipients whose curiosity I hoped to pique. These were addressees known for their cinema and broadcast credits. After all domestic viewing audiences can only stand so many insipid sequels or adolescent versions of superior foreign products.
Time to start adapting American source material again. Start with mine.
Finally I imposed upon my friends. Except I didn’t inform them beforehand. Surely a few suspect and don’t mind playing along. Others are downright dumbfounded. Good. I seek objective responses, not “attaboys!” Having been a reporter, a thick-skinned one at that, I can absorb as well as inflict.
The revealing photograph wasn’t first seen by one of my intendeds. Instead, in the best “telephone” fashion a connective friend of ours saw the enlargement. (The precise reason I sent her a card. Word of mouth is the best promotion and she’s always been yappy.) Our friend recognized the woman sitting on the daybed handling the camera, then alerted Marion.
The woman pictured was “The One” who never should’ve gotten away. After a roundabout fashion, Marion simply pointed me in the right direction.
After ignoring and running through our respective stop signs at the same intersection, Marion and I narrowly avoided crashing because our relationship was so often out of sync.
When didn’t we clash? That is outside of brief respites occupied with peace and patience. Sure. We could’ve been a couple. A sparring couple. By the way, this is my first post where I sought and got a subject’s consent. Or put plainer, just needed masking one or two distinguishing features instead of epochs to protect myself.
Happily time and distance have not softened our singeing bordering on brutal regard for one another. Isn’t that called honesty? There’s so little of it. Wonder why.
Alerted, Marion visited the Slow Boat Media site. After determining how much I’d changed and what remained fixed, she read my ebook Reveries (http://www.amazon.com/Reveries-ebook/dp/B004H8G1KO/). Right away she picked up how journalism had affected my writing. Less starch, more meat.
I’m in the alumni directory. Instead of fending comments through Slow Boat portals, she jolted me twice. First by reestablishing communication. Second by discussing my alter ego’s product through me.
Talk about really talking about yourself in the third person!
Marion didn’t bother asking whether I had remained careful and incorrigible, and responsible and reprehensible throughout the years. Neither did she mention “the Harem.”
“The Harem” laid the trail which later wended Marion to Slow Boat and me, as well as granted me “The One.”
After our 51-49 ardor/anger balance pushed, transforming reciprocal frisson into friction, the connective friend who would eventually inform Marion of Slow Boat’s contents spied me then shepherding three sophomore transfers, all women, from the Student Union across the Mall. Presumably to my room for a thorough hour of repetitive physics exercises.
That was me conceptualizing as a busybody. She exaggerated. I never took a physics class.
Unfamiliar with their surroundings, those three newbies had banded. Until reaching individual comfort they traveled as a pack. “The One” was among them. Except it was too early. She became “The One” later.
I’d been out and about looking to wrangle chicks for a dorm party. By promoting the therapeutic benefits of mixing booze and horny guys, I exceeded my quota. Rocky as that drunken night went, it started the fumbled opportunity who became “The One.”
Marion did not bring up “The One.” But she did raise Jill. Uncanny how women’s recall works. She read my Jill posts. After three decades she asked whether the Jill referenced was the same woman who clerked at a nearby bakery and waited at one of the city’s better local greasy spoons. Bulls-eye!
She has yet to point out my own double standard concerning May-December affairs. No doubt that lecture is coming.
Marion was untroubled by Reveries’ sex, but stated my candid portrayals would offend some readers. Particularly those our age who when younger had gotten around and now regretted the circuit completed. I asked wouldn’t their belated shame make them hypocrites. She said that would make them parents. They’d reinterpret their feckless days. And nights. From fun times into fearful cautions.
Her biggest criticism was the novella’s length. It was too short. Reveries was intended as a brisk entertainment. No way I’d shoot my whole load first time out.
These days, Marion, a widow, lives in the Intermountain West void. Visiting Ogden, Boise or Spokane are her ideas of big trips. We last saw another 20 years ago during our 10th Class Reunion. She’d worn glasses when we first met as freshmen. By our reunion she’d switched to contacts. The sight threw me off. In the past, bereft of lenses, it meant we were defenseless and unclothed.
She’s resumed wearing glasses.
Until meeting Marion, I’d never skinny-dipped. I gathered immediately she was a frequent practitioner. Her having a favorite spot and carrying blankets in her pickup just for these occasions clarified that.
At first, there was an illicitness about gazing upon bare flesh baking beneath pure desert sunlight. Shouldn’t this activity have been abnormal? Weren’t our perfections and blemishes meant to be hidden in order to further stoke imagination while fumbling in dim or darkened spaces?
Our location, a mountain stream bank, drew hikers. Not a steady parade but a dodgy trickle. Too many of whom failed feigning indifference. Seems Marion’s site found favor with plenty of others enjoying the same happy jaybird states, though they mainly congregated under and around the falls 70 or 80 twisty yards above our placid portion.
With Marion I quickly acclimated to utter openness. I also realized we needn’t rush. She ended my groping furtive teen days.
Adults, we lazed. We lolled. We also likely luxuriated more than recommended.
Of course every idyll has its snake. For me it was the water. Winter runoff fed streams are exceptional for chilling beverages, but entering such proved, oh, challenging. Numbed limbs and torso were the least of my problems. That frigid stream nearly turned my gonads into ovaries.
Marion laughed at my distress then. She chuckles at the memory now.
If sharing intimacies with a woman unlike any other you’ve met, under conditions formerly considered alien, in part of the country ceded to John Wayne and James Stewart types, somehow produced insufficient reward, then the combination of all those factors adding perception into what had previously been rutting started genuine passage into more estimable comportment and greater awareness. Mine.
Though some old habits linger.
Some inconsideration, obviously the writer’s, redefined terms between Marion and me. So much so 10 intervening years hadn’t softened her.
Skip seething. The Marion of 1991 wanted to launch ICBMs up my rear.
Her hostility boiled from intemperate remarks I’d brayed back in the earliest 80s. Something about her future husband. I don’t know if Marion deserved better, but she might’ve chosen wiser. Nice enough man as the groom ultimately became, he was 25 years her senior and well on the way to his third chin. Yet with him she wanted to realize her paint by numbers dreams.
Pleasant though on the plain side, Marion augmented that with a piquant attitude. Had she been vain and pampered herself ridiculously maybe she could’ve developed into one of those women whose looks latches men’s eyes, whose beauty remains so memorable that when she’s glimpsed again after decades the extent of her decline pains past male admirers. If Marion made suitors ache, any throbs came from her core and not through slavish treatments and dieting.
Lifestyle kept her naturally slender. Today, her family’s former homestead exists within city limits. Back then it occupied unincorporated scrubland. Pavement ran quickly into crushed gravel and that didn’t extend far before the track became dirt. Canvas or open-sided shoes marked greenhorns like myself. Boots were necessities because of snakes or scorpions.
I didn’t tarry long after the obligatory desert orientation/survival session ended before buying my first pair of coyote skin “kicks.”
Marion’s father worked in the mines. Before the vocation became derided, her mother was a housewife. Parents and siblings stabled and rode horses out there as well as bred and matched gamecocks. Until civilization encroached and overwhelmed them, nobody regarded bloodsport as nothing more than a primitive, potentially lucrative pastime.
That Marion was direct. At least more direct than any other woman I’d met until then. Subterfuge and scheming were alien notions to her. Initially I saw this new woman as refreshing but soon realized such unsheathed honesty needed equaling. Or else be rightly seen as less a man.
She commuted to campus in an old drab Ford pickup. So old young Edsel Ford himself might’ve driven it off the assembly line. Perfect for that terrain, it was a tank. Gunned hard enough, her wheels kicked up beautiful dust plumes.
When parked on campus, Marion stored her rifle and shotgun in a locked compartment beneath the cab’s bench seat. Otherwise heavy metal slatted the gun racks and advertised willing deterrence. Hers were the first weapons I ever fired.
Aside from rare celebrations demanding elegance, and dependent on the season, Marion’s daily ensembles consisted of either sun dresses or blouses and jeans. With the former, she gave her boots a break and wore Candies. It’s not strange I remember that. Wedges lent her calves nice definition.
Uncommon activities kept Marion lean better than any workout regimen. Saddling and unsaddling, grooming the horses, mucking out the stable, training cocks with her brothers and sisters, helping her mother in the garden, kitchen, canning, all those built muscle and sharpened senses.
Refusing to join Farah’s feathered hair mania, Marion clipped her brown strands pixie short. Labor as she did blunted any extravagant nails. Despite gloves and lotions which moisturized the rest of her skin, her palms were tough for a woman’s.
Marion zoomed me before I noticed her. Back in the late 70s the Southwest amazed this newcomer. Thirty-plus years on it still does. While the sere scene dazzled me, she calmly took my measure. She compared this stranger against her “shitkicker boyfriends.” Tired of the usual jerky, Marion decided gambling on new beef.
The only way she could’ve been more condescending was to have called me a “dude.”
Marion considered me a “specimen.” Hers was a fairly homogenous environment. I was the first Easterner, forget New Yorker, she’d met. I wasn’t a “dese ‘n’ dose” guy either. While local TV seldom ran cowboy movies, there was no shortage of Bowery Boys features. Slip Mahoney and Satch seen from outside their Lower East Side should‘ve created a whole new branch of anthropology. It would’ve given “Routine 7” another meaning.
We first became acquainted as university freshmen in an American history class. It surveyed the Gilded Age. Having read Reveries, Marion was curious whether certain titles mentioned within referenced us. I wish. Clever obscurity was my intent. I mean, who reads William Dean Howells and Frank Norris nowadays?
She and I bonded over ridiculing our TA, a stunning blonde of Hungarian heritage, one having the course’s professor wrapped around whatever she wanted. She had tresses instead of long hair and it cascaded. Now that woman was vain. And distant. And gorgeous. Absolutely.
Superior as we believed ourselves, supercilious as we were, Marion and I rewarded her the honorific “Sister Magyar.” She got away partially concealing her foxy features behind a peek-a-boo hairstyle. Another woman attempting this might’ve been nicknamed Cousin Itt.
Her body was voluptuous on the way to luxurious and her wardrobe emphasized these curves. I doubt her male charges heard much of those lessons but we surely paid rapt attention. Not that our focus attracted her. Sister Magyar succumbed entirely to our campus’ petrodollar contingent.
Before the Iranians shattered diplomatic decorum and Western illusions in 1979, they, Saudis, Iraqis, and other Middle Easterners whose sand boxes sat above huge pools of black gold crowded our university. Ostensibly they attended the engineering school, though they kept better attendance at local clubs and appeared quite attentive to women mesmerized by such close proximity to casual, careless and carefree wads of money.
Sister Magyar was one of the more accessible two-legged party favors. If you were male, swarthy, Sunni, recklessly drove an American muscle car, and substituted nightly shots and chasers at the club, er, excuse me, disco, for daily prayers towards Mecca, Sister Magyar became your girl. And she greeted you with wide open legs.
Marion and I are in our 50s and childless. Me from strict dependence on latex; Marion because she and her husband never created the right alchemy. Their significant age difference hindered the process. Him. Poor fellow’s sperm had the motility of frozen lard. Science caught up to their desire too late. Luckily they had love.
She asked about the next “Rex Merritt” effort. And who the hell was “Marianne Messing”? (Damn! She had read the book!) Was Marianne based on a real German?
Good questions! I suggested Marion reread some of my oldest posts. In them I must’ve thrown around the words “amalgamation,” “embellishment,” and “invention.” If didn’t, I sure should’ve. Besides, I’m still thinking about what comes next.
I expect to provide answers by November. Just in time for our 30th reunion.