"Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do." ~ Maurice Sendak
The old man is snoring.
He bumped his head
And fell on the bed,
And couldn't get up in the morning."
When I was a little girl, I sang that song over and over until my Mom asked me to learn a new one! She didn't know that I was concerned about that "old man" and how bad his injury might be, and I wanted to help him, but I didn't know him. I was sad when I sang that song.
Now I know that the old coot was probably just drunk, and when he finally got home from the tavern, he probably fell across the bed and passed out. He couldn't get up in the morning because he had an hellacious hang-over. And that's that! I've very little sympathy for him now.
A while back I wrote a piece about my three best friends in Culver City who all liked me but didn't like each other very much… There was Bobby, the sweet one. There was Linda, the selfish one (but don't forget, she was an only child). And then there was Sandy. I've not written about her, mostly because she wasn't either one of those kinds of people. She was Sandy.
Of course, now I'm looking at Sandy through older eyes, but then I was as innocent as a dove. And I wasn't what you'd call a child. I was 12 or 13 years old, but back then, most of us at 12 or 13 were not very worldly-wise. Most of us, that is, but I'm pretty sure that Sandy had been born worldly-wise.
Sandy was about two years older than I was and she lived caddy-corner across the street from us. Her parents owned a gas station in Culver City, or maybe her Dad just worked there, I don't remember for sure. They were nearly never home, though, and Sandy was on her own most of the time. She had an older brother who I nearly never saw, either.
Sandy went to a private school somewhere, not to Betsy Ross Elementary School or Culver Junior High, like I did. They must have taught lots more in that school than they ever taught at my school because she sure did know more about life than I did… well, the parts of life that no one had ever introduced me to. I learned things from Sandy that I learned nowhere else.
We'd walk for miles talking, talking, talking about things that most teenaged girls talked about. On one of those walks I told Sandy that I "liked" a boy named Jim.
"Wha'ja do with him?" she asked me one day.
"Well, in speech class the teacher picked Jim to do a scene in front of the whole class, and she asked him to pick someone to be in the scene with him, and Jim picked me!" I still remember feeling my face flush. Jim picked ME!
"So what!" said Sandy. "Wha'ja do with him?"
"Well, I sat in the chair next to him and we were supposed to pretend it was a car, and…"
"Who cares about THAT! What did you DO with him!!!"
"AFTER CLASS, SILLY? Didn't you kiss him and stuff?"
"Noooo. Of course not! We were in speech class. But what do you mean "stuff?"
"You know…. STUFF! STUFF!!"
No, I didn't know. I hadn't even had my first "real" kiss with Chris yet. (Remember… I wrote about that a while ago, about the party at Larry's house… you know, my first real-life kiss. If you don't know look back a few entries… it's there.)
"C'mon… tell me… what's 'stuff'?"
"Well, I have a boyfriend, too," Sandy said. "He likes me, and we've kissed and stuff."
There she went again with at that "stuff" stuff. What in the world was she talking about, anyway?
"If you don't tell me what "stuff" is, I'm going to…" What, Terry, what in the world are you going to do? The truth is that you're going to do nothing. After all, you couldn't threated to tell her Mom like you always did to your little brother Jack! I bet her Mom knew what "stuff" was, though.
"Oh shut up!" Sandy snorted. And I followed after her, still wondering what "stuff" meant. But the Foster Freeze place was just ahead, and my mind turned to bigger and better things like a tall vanilla ice cream cone double-dipped in hot chocolate coating that would quickly harden just after the lady twirled it in the chocolate sprinkles.
On the bare-footed walk home with chocolate sprinkles still sticking to my face, I realized that I hadn't asked Sandy about "her boyfriend!"
"Who is he, Sandy? Does he go to your school?"
"Nope," Sandy giggled. "He works at my Dad's gas station, BUT DON'T YOU TELL MY DAD ANYTHING!"
"I wouldn't do that, Sandy!"
"Well, he's 28 years old and he likes me! He told me that he did, and we kissed and stuff," Sandy announced proudly. "He's married, but he said he didn't love his wife anymore, he said he liked me more, so we did stuff and he said he's my boyfriend now!"
That was a lot to swallow for me. Poor man… he didn't love his wife anymore… How could that be? I mean once you were married ALL the books I'd ever read said that "they lived happily ever after!" Sandy must be wrong about that. It couldn't be. Wait… what did "stuff" mean, anyway? Hmmmmmm………….
Well, time passed and Sandy announced one day that she was going to have a party at her house, and I was invited. She was going to ask some kids from her private school to come and I HAD to be there. No threats were necessary, though. I'd be there, for sure.
We probably had cake and ice cream, but I don't remember. I DO remember that we played "Spin the Bottle," though. And I do remember that one of the boys from her class was there and he was cute! Now, I didn't have a clue what "Spin the Bottle" was, but Sandy said that we all had to sit on the floor in a circle, so we did. I noticed that Sandy's floor wasn't as clean as our floor at home, but that wasn't part of "Spin the Bottle."
Now, I've always liked Coke, and the first part of the game, evidentally, was finding an empty bottle. Sandy only had full bottles of Coke, so she handed me one and said, "Terry, drink this, and hurry up! We need the bottle!" So I did. I figured this game was going to be good. So far, the first part was fun!
Well, we were all sitting in a circle on the floor and I was full of Coca Cola and the cute boy was sitting right opposite me and he was smiling at me. I was starting to LOVE this game. Who'd thought this one up, I wondered?
Then Sandy grabbed the empty bottle out of my hand, set it so carefully in the exact middle of our circle, and she gave it a spin. This was the dumbest game I'd ever seen! You sit in a circle and you spin a bottle around… must be a game for lame-brains, I thought. But the silly empty bottle finally stopped spinning and it pointed to me! Sandy grabbed the bottle and gave it another spin. Is this all there is, I thought? Yuck!
I did notice that she had given the bottle a slower spin this second time, and when it finally came to rest, it pointed to one of the boys in the circle. Sandy nearly broke her knee stretching over to reach that boy, and they kissed! They KISSED! So that's the gist of this game… It was a "kissing game!" Hmmmm….
Well, the bottle made the rounds of the circe and it finally came to me, and I gave it a mediocre spin. When it stopped, the mouth of the bottle was pointing directly at the homeliest boy in the circle… one I had no desire to kiss. He looked at me sheepishly, and I leaned across the bottle for the shortest kiss in human history. I was always one who abided by the rules, mind you. But why didn't that stupid bottle point at the cute guy directly across from me? Just my luck, I thought.
Round and round the bottle went, and round and round the circle we went, and finally, finally the bottle landed where I'd hoped it would land. The cute boy across the circle had his turn, but he never spun the bottle at all! He brazenly took the bottle in his hand, laid it on the floor, and turned it carefully so that it pointed at me! I guess he wasn't abiding by the rules, but I didn't care at all, because this game was finally getting interesting! I think the homely boy said something like, "No fair!" but who cared! I loved this game! What genius had thought this one up, I'd like to know!
Well, that was the only time I ever played "Spin the Bottle," and it was many years before I learned what "stuff" meant. I was always a "late bloomer," and, as much as I hated that term when I was young, now I think that I was lucky. In fact, I think that luck was always on my side! Whew!