A Random Image
 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || January 30, 2001 || 1:27 am

Just me and Nina Simone tonight. All is quiet, and she croons to me from the past. Suitable, because tonight is all about voices from the past. Tonight I have shoved the heel of my hand in my mouth to stifle my rather large laugh. Tonight I have bitten my lip, telling myself that the subsequent welling of tears is due to the sharp pain I am inflicting on myself and not to the heartstrings being plucked. *yes, Virginia, that bitchy Jett Grrrl does in fact have a heart* Tonight I have remembered things long forgotten. Sometimes those things evoked the big “Awwwww….” from me. Sometimes they made my stomach do a little hitch and gather.

I have this hope chest in my bedroom. My Uncle Roger, master of the woodworking craft that he is, made it. It is beautiful cedar and glows warmly with the hand-rubbed finish that was carefully applied to it. My Uncle Roger doesn’t know how to say I love you with words, so he does it with handicraft. There was never a greater testament of his love for anyone than this hope chest he crafted for me, or so I like to think. It’s one of my proudest posessions.

When I was younger, I placed things of future value in there, waiting for the moment that I could set sail into the world of ‘grown’. I literally did not allow the proverbial door to hit me in the ass; I moved out of my mother’s home at 17 and became self-sufficient. As self-sufficient as any one person could be, anyway.

Now that I am older, I place things of past value in there. My first corsage. My first W-2 form. My first ever business card. My first diary. My little Strawberry Shortcake figurines. The christening dress that my old drunken grandaddy bought for me as an infant. My school annuals, K thru 12. My confirmation certificate. My soccer medals. My thin blue prayer book. And the letters.

Oh boy, the letters. I have notes that were passed in elementary school. I have cards and letters that were sent to me by friends and family when I flew away from my little hometown as fast as my boots would carry me. I have those long, drawn-out angsty letters that teenagers are known to gift one another with. Everything was a crisis or a subject of wonder.

That box of letters is so juicy and inviting and bittersweet. And TELLING, Let’s not forget that one. Maudlin and mundane and maddening, it’s all there, my life in all it’s subtle and not-so-subtle glorious drama.

I originally dove in for a specific purpose, but ended up perusing them all for about four hours.

My high school AP English class is having an ersatz reunion in a few weeks. Normally I would endure any number of tortures before going to a reunion, but this is different. Once you were placed in this class, you pretty much stayed for your entire high school career. So there you have it, a dozen-and-a-half or so of us saw one another each and every weekday for FOUR WHOLE YEARS. Like it or not, you develop a special bond. You become a stilted family of sorts.

I intended to dig out some letters to take back for their respective authors to read. Twisted sort of fun, if you will. I get to feed off of their reactions. Then I get to come here and entertain you with it. As with any other plan I have ever had or may have in the future, it simply did not unfold in that fashion.

I rediscovered people that I had forgotten, or recalled moments that were lost to my consciousness for some time. I am really amazed at my lack of wisdom in certain situation. I was a really smart kid and pretty fucking savvy, but there was a whole lot that I just simply missed.

The first packet of little folded squares that I read were from this boy named Milton. Milton Lee. He hated my guts at first, but as he was unfortunate enough to have been assigned seating next to me, I pestered and pestered him until he would talk to me. You see, I HATE (more than anything else on the planet) to be disacknowledged without being given a chance to stick my foot in my mouth. Hate me if you will, but please allow me to fuck up in some manner by your measure of things before shutting me the fuck down. I simply WILL NOT tolerate it. Lee and I became good friends. He was handsome, with fine features and broad shoulders and an easy grace. He was reserved to a great degree. Lots of people mistook him for a dumb jock because of this. He had a refined sense of humor and a great intellect and luckily I got to experience both of them. We exchanged a one- to two-page letter every single day for 5 months. They are filled with affection and warmth and inside jokes. In the next-to-last letter I received from him, Lee told me that he loved me. Wanted to be with me. I balked. He was a black boy (I’m pretty sure that he still is) and I was a white girl (the mirror tells me that I still am) and we lived in the Delta. My family would have shit bricks, as would have his. Things were never the same. It’s blame that could equally be shared by the two of us, to be completely honest. I would love to see him and hug his neck (a purely Southern term) and ask about his life to date. I have all of your letters, Milton Lee, and they are some of the finest that I posess…do you still have mine tucked back somewhere?

There was David, who helped me endure boring-ass dronelike Mr. Foti in Mississippi Government class. His notes were by far the most clever and off-handedly funny. This kid was crazy and hounded me, the new girl at the time, relentlessly. Every time I would move seats, he would pop up right next to me, grinning lopsidedly and saying something endearing about feeling me up. He was Ducky Dale, I swear, but only lots cuter and demented. He took me for a ride in a black Porsche one time and let me lay that fucker wide open down Highway 61 before saying, “Hey, not ALL girls drive like total shit!”. David disappeared at the end of soph year. I looked for him for awhile, to no avail. He lived rather recklessly, so I hope that he isn’t six feet under somewhere.

There’s the creamy newsprint where my best friend, C’Mell, threw down the lyrics to “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs. She wasn’t always the best at expression, and communicated ideas best through her painting and songs that she related to.

There are the letters that 4 or 5 guys sent me when they were shipped into the world via the Marine Corps and Navy, leaving me stuck with my big dreams in a little pond.

Jeff and Brooks, two guys from my first-year French class. Jeff was cavalier, a smooth rogue who was like a protective big brother to me. Except when he himself was peering down my shirt and complimenting my pretty white bras. He deemed me the last of the valuable pieces of purity and gently guarded my virginity against potential invasions. Some years later, when he came home on leave, we had a really nice visit….we spent the afternoon bullshitting, lifted weights, went out for milkshakes. The afternoon culminated in one of the sweetest, most soul-vibrating kisses I have ever experienced. The letters stopped after that and his cousin called me up out of the blue one day. She told me that I frightened Jeff badly, because he never wanted to love anyone more than himself. I totally got it and understood, never begrudging him that. Brooks was Jeff’s sidekick, edgy and funny and wise-aleck and intense. He had a great ass. We dated briefly and broke up, remaining friends after he graduated and became a jarhead. He wrote me often from bootcamp, telling me that mine was the only picture he had and that he looked at it every night before lights out. When he came home on leave, we spent most of his 30 days together, leisurely tooling the countryside, soaking in the night air and just telling one another of expectations and dreams for the future. He once told me that it really ate Jeff up that Brooks and I dated, and that I had such a flippant attitude towards Jeffrey. I was just fairly savvy for my age and saw no point in swooning for Jeff. Why set myself up for that kind of heartache? If he had once cracked his thick self-defense and told me how he felt, then, wellll…..I would have been his for a song. Brooks and I spent that month in a quality way, all cherry cokes and long lingering kisses, heavier than even the humidity around us. We lost touch after I started state and country hopping; he’s now married with three kids. I hear from his wife every so often. She sounds happy, but I wish Brooks would call and tell me that he is. I think that maybe I loved him in an odd sort of way and just didn’t realize it at the time.

Tammy and I were thick as theives for the first two years of high school. We were both thrown into a huge new school after hailing from tee-niney places with readily familiar faces. Everybody had a name. At this new place, it was large and loud and intimidating, even for two as sassy as we. We did some wild shit. We talked about things that 15 year olds usually don’t know about. We had lots in common and one of the things that figured prominently was a love of words. We poured ourselves all over notebook paper on a daily basis and I still have every piece of nothing and something that she ever bothered to scribble to me.

Then there were the twins. I was short on female friends, and they were willing accomplices to my foolery, despite the more solid morals and restraint that they exercised. Angie was more wordy, Amy was more profound. Aim wrote me the sole best letter that I have ever received in my life right before I was to pack up and get the hell out. I valued it so much that I carried it around in my wallet for YEARS. My wallet was stolen in ‘97 and there went the letter with it…….I just cried and cried for days. That letter walked continents with me safely just for some redneck punk to steal it in an outlet mall parking lot. I hope he rots in hell. I can just hear both of the twins: “Now, Beth….that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?” Yeah, but that’s why ya love me….

The stuff from Robert in school is a laugh riot. He was one of my best friends, a horrible smartass with a rapier wit and a penchant for wanting to make me guffaw. It was honed to perfection by his family. *ahem* The whole lot of ‘em is crazy. I bent down on a whim and kissed his dad on his bald head one time. Apparently he still brings that occurrence up fondly to this day. I think he wanted me as a daughter-in-law… Rob’s letters after high school weren’t so funny, however. He had a bit of trouble finding his place in the world, and the pain and frustration and confusion are evident in his correspondence to me. He made it through the fire and I know few people more deserving. I love him to this day and most certainly always wil.

And Adam, oh Adam. He was always that quiet presence, slipping a dirty limerick or a goofy drawing my way. He wrote to me faithfully after I took off, confessing regret that we were never more than friends. Over and over he told me that he was in love with me in his Adamish way, but I was oblivious. Until today. The words just glare out at me. Recently he and I have resumed contact and it is just as warm and endearing as ever, but with an air of wisdom. We have both had our trials by fire, but we are both survivors. We both have made mistakes, but are our own harshest critics and much more forgiving of others than self. And neither of us realized that right there, at a tender 18 years of age, right there was a soulmate for the taking. We just might have spared one another some agony and misery. But we may well have not; we’ll probably never know. However, we are ‘grown-ups’ now and can cherish one another in an entirely different, somewhat better, way. I totally groove on the thought of that.

Ultimately, I am thankful for all of the people that have lent the bits and pieces that I have taken away from them, those iddy-bitty parts that make me the person I am today. For me to have ‘wasted so much time’, this evening was very productive.

Nobody worked it out »

Don´t be shy. Lay it on me.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

(you know you want to)