Ralph Bland App. 8500 words
By Ralph BlandAbout a million years ago when I was a whacked-out weird-ass sophomore at a little Church of Christ college in Nashville, I got to where I spent a predominant number of weekend nights solely in the company of myself. This solitude wasn’t something I necessarily sought for my being by choice, but occurred generally because most of my buddies by that time in life had discovered girls and also had money in their wallets wherein they could pursue that exploration by going out on dates and to the movies and such. Being from a family that had no preset notions on acquiring and possessing money I was forced to work at every available drop of the hat to escape poverty, which meant I received a paycheck but had no free time for such a thing as a date.
Being desperate for cash and having not too many discernable talents to merit respectable employment, I was thus forced to work afternoons and evenings and weekends at our neighborhood Cooper and Martin grocery in East Nashville, which was later bought out by Big Star, then Giant Foods, then Megamarket, and now, these three and a half decades later, is a run-down Disabled Veterans discount store in a dilapidated area where people live in houses with rusting cars in their front yards and suspiciously watch the comings and goings of each other through bloodshot alcoholic stares. These observances would be enhanced further by the use of illegal drugs and mind-altering substances, but most of the neighborhood populace can’t afford such luxuries.
It would be nice, I decided one day, if I had a girlfriend too- a girlfriend like normal guys have. Then, when I was fortunate enough to be off on an evening, I would actually have someone to spend it with.
Of course, a fellow can’t just pick up a phone or go into a store and order up a girlfriend like a pizza or a dinner to go, so I was forced to do some looking around and compelled to formulate a game plan to alter what I was fast beginning to consider my pitiful and pathetic situation. I took to examining each and every female who walked through the Cooper and Martin’s doors, which proved to be a futile effort in the long run, since most eligible college chicks back then chose not to spend their time shopping for groceries on the poor side of town but opted rather to dine at restaurants or the campus cafeteria instead.
About the only choice I had was to scope out the female population while I was at school each day. Being as I commuted to campus, it was difficult striking up conversations with girls who didn’t know me. I wasn’t like a lot of guys who could easily enter into any scene or situation and start in with any woman who happened to be in the line of fire. Heck, I had trouble talking to girls even after I’d been properly introduced, so for me to begin a conversation with someone I’d never said jack to before was asking way too much. Generally the best I could muster was to study somebody out of the corner of my eye and wait for a miracle to happen, like her knowing I was alive or even speaking to me.
Which, in both cases, typically didn’t occur.
I went to school at David Lipscomb on the west side of town, a private Church of Christ institution where about half the meager population drove back and forth to classes and home every day, and if you weren’t a devout Church of Christ who believed only you and your group was going to Heaven and you didn’t care to hear any musical instruments while you were worshiping God and you didn’t keep yourself involved in Church of Christ socials and organizations and meetings there wasn’t much else to do but go to your class and then get in your car and leave, which I was more than happy to do the large majority of the time.
Five times a week you had to go to chapel at David Lipscomb. You got to hear every Church of Christ minister in town explain doctrine and tell you how to live your life, and while you were there in your assigned chapel seat stool pigeon students walked around with charts and marked you absent or present. If you were among the missing too many times during the semester you got placed on probation, and, if you didn’t watch it, you could get yourself kicked out of school. It didn’t matter if you were sick or had a doctor’s excuse or whatever. You missed a certain number of times and you were out of there.
I wasn’t anywhere close to being a religious guy. I wasn’t even a Church of Christ at all but a Methodist the last time I remember going to church. But I had to work my way through school and I believed Lipscomb to be the most convenient place I could go to do it. I wasn’t nuts about going to chapel five times a week or taking a Bible course as part of my academic load, but I figured I could endure it long enough until I had money to transfer and attend a real college. I read paperbacks and class assignments while the ministers preached and instructed, and sometimes even dozed off and took a little siesta if topics were boring enough.
The first chapel of that sophomore year jolted me to high heaven without anything religious being said. Instead of sitting by some bespectacled church-mouse goody-two-shoes like I had the previous year, I found myself beside this dreamboat I’d studied around the campus about five thousand times at the least. Like any good sex maniac I already knew her name. When there’s a shortage of good-looking females around a fellow tends to memorize the quality ones immediately, so I’d memorized Bonnie Lynn along with every other heterosexual guy on the premises. Bonnie was in an elite group among the legions of dogs wandering around school property without a leash.
Still, I don’t want to act like Bonnie Lynn was some kind of beauty queen. She may have looked like one in comparison with everyone else, but in a real beauty pageant I seriously doubt she would have stood out too much. Bonnie was the kind of girl your dad would have considered attractive, your mother would have described as pleasant, but initially you probably wouldn’t have noticed her at all. No, the way it was with Bonnie was you had to see her a while before you really started appreciating her. She got better looking the more you were around her. You’d start out with a glance and end up staring a hole through her. And being at Lipscomb only enhanced the effect. If the two of us had both been students at somewhere like the University of Tennessee- where there were more knockout chicks than you could shake a stick at- then I might not have noticed Bonnie so much, might not have studied her up and down and built up my courage enough to speak, and then none of what went on between us never would have taken place.
Life’s funny sometimes. It’s like Hardy called it, the convergence of the twain. Of course we were just human beings, no Titanic, no iceberg, so you couldn’t call what happened with us particularly earth-shattering. It was just the way things go most of the time. I know that now. It wasn’t grand tragedy on some high scale. But I was young and nobody could have told me that then.
It was a lot easier looking at Bonnie than listening to all the Lipscomb propaganda. Some preacher would start in on the chapel topic for the day and I would immediately begin examining Bonnie’s books or her feet or the fine hair along her arms when she wore a short-sleeved blouse. I spent many a chapel hour conjuring up scenes where the physical presence of Bonnie Lynn inspired me to move on to continuing scenarios of how she might look totally and completely in the buff. Now naturally this sort of fantasizing and theorizing did little to enhance any spiritual leanings I might have had inside me, but I did find myself on occasion enraptured enough to have to wait until the chapel crowd filed out and Bonnie herself had disappeared before I could rise from my chair and proceed along to my next class without experiencing the pain of my youthful raging masculinity.
It wasn’t that I was all that shy. Given the right environment I could talk a blue streak to a girl, but being at David Lipscomb surrounded by an absolute legion of Church of Christs who had it on faith that they and they alone would be entering Paradise when the time came wasn’t exactly the best place for my oratory skills to flourish. I think because I was out of my element I spent most of my time gaping and examining and feeling dumbstruck and hardly any of it trying to ingratiate myself with Bonnie Lynn. There were a lot of guys who could operate smoothly under those kinds of circumstances, but I sure as hell wasn’t one of them.
About the best effort I could muster in conjunction with my sorry social state was to go cruising every night after work and allow my rowdy hormones time to get placated by music and solitary meditation. Somehow riding around all over creation by my lonesome listening to the radio or the eight track served to make me feel better about the fact that out of all the fellows in the world I was surely the horniest and it was a God-given proclamation I was going to be the only guy on the face of the planet who was doomed by the stars above him to remain that way.
So I spent my nights in a car driving aimlessly. The store closed at nine, so if I busted my tail mopping and sweeping and filling up the milk and eggs I could be ready for blastoff by a quarter after. It was according to who I was closing with as to whether I could procure a six pack of Miller High Life or not to accompany me on my journey. If it was Darlene and Jessie I could ring the beer up with no problem and smuggle it out in a paper sack, but if it was Mr. Jenkins- who was the manager of the store and nervous as a cat and a Sunday School teacher on top of that- then I had to go down in lower East Nashville and use my fake I.D. at a seedy curb market, even though I was never actually carded. I don’t know if I looked old for my age or if the curb market characters basically didn’t give a shit who they sold beer to. Probably the latter. The people behind the counter didn’t much look like pillars of the community or anything.
In those days I had a GTO that sucked gasoline like there was a hole in the tank somewhere. I didn’t care. The way I looked at it was I had enough money to pay for school and to eat and buy beer, so the GTO and the fuel it sucked were technically my only luxury. I had no girlfriend to lavish money upon, so I gave the GTO whatever it wanted. I could justify it in my head. It wasn’t like I was depressed or anything, because I did have myself one fast car. You should have seen the way people looked at me when I sat at a red light or drove around the campus. That car would be hitting a lick and I’d be sitting behind the wheel, cool as hell. Now outside the car, on real ground, I was easy to ignore. I was instantly forgotten. But in my red GTO I got noticed. People might not have known my name, but me and the GTO were at least not invisible.
I still can’t get it totally straight in my mind whether it was me or whether it was my shiny GTO that first caught the attention of Bonnie Lynn. I suspect General Motors was the real winner, though, because for many weeks I sat beside Bonnie in Chapel without ever exchanging a word, but on a March afternoon I walked from my Economics class past the library to the lot where most of the day students parked, and as I was unlocking my door I saw Bonnie getting in and out of a blue Maverick, obviously upset and distraught over the car’s inability to function the way it was supposed to. I was no mechanical marvel, but I looked at Bonnie and thought I’d do what I could to help her.
“You having trouble?” I asked. I’ve always been a keenly observant guy.
“I think my starter has gone kaput,” she said. “It’s either that or I may have a dead battery.”
“Let me take a look.”
Bonnie’s battery looked like it had been in that Maverick since right around the time the Beatles crossed the Atlantic. There was corroded dried gook on the posts where the cables could barely connect. Even a dummy like me could tell there wasn’t much of a chance this car was getting any juice. I scraped and poked for a while, then fit the cables back on.
“Try it now,” I said.
The ignition caught and turned over. Bonnie looked at me like I was a cross between a genius and the Messiah.
“All I did was clean off your connections,” I said, wondering if I should be divulging trade secrets or not. “They were a little dirty.”
“Well, you fixed it. That’s what’s important.”
Away from the darkness of the chapel auditorium and out in the light of the budding spring day, there was something different about her. I’m not going to say the added visibility made her look any better, for that wasn’t it. Bonnie, as I was later to find out, was a girl who flourished in the dark, in an absence of light where you couldn’t see certain signs that might alert you into being a tad more careful. But in the sunshine her voice took on a harmless song-like quality, and her eyes had this innocent sheen. In the light she was a dream. It wasn’t like that in the dark, where that other Bonnie resided and lurked. In the dark was where she drove you crazy. She gave you nightmares in the dark.
But I liked it for some reason or another.
I don’t know if she felt like she owed me something for fixing her car, but fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the student center drinking cherry cokes, which she insisted on paying for, which I categorized in my head as compensation for services I had rendered. Actually, this was the first time I’d ever graced the territory of the David Lipscomb student center, called the Range since the school and all of us were the Bisons, so I guess everybody was supposed to feel at home there at or on the Range. I didn’t really feel that way. I felt nervous and jumpy and completely out of place, like I was at a party where I didn’t belong. I sat there at the table and tried to be sociable and entertaining, but the whole time I kept thinking everybody was looking at me because I was nothing but a phony.
But in some way Bonnie seemed to like me, which was amazing. Even though I knew I was off my game and a little too shaky to be at the peak of my powers she still sat at the table and smiled at what I said and laughed at all the appropriate times. This was unusual to me. I was accustomed to having to work like the devil in order to have a good time with a female, and here it was coming all too easy. As a matter of record, up until that impromptu encounter with Bonnie Lynn I don’t think the occasion had ever arisen when I’d had a genuine good time with a member of the opposite sex. Until this moment I didn’t believe such a thing was possible.
It went along that way. We’d sit in chapel listening to a visiting minister get on his wagon talking of sin and repentance and doctrine and how it was up to all of us to keep the world from going to the dogs, and I’d awaken from a self-imposed trance and have a word to say about the state of everything myself. I’d mutter “Amen, brother,” and raise my eyes to Heaven and wiggle my fingers around above my head. With Bonnie to watch me it became at times necessary to gyrate and writhe around in my seat and speak in tongues just out of the sheer ecstasy of the moment- language which could have been identified as some form of wrong side of the tracks French if I could have mastered the accent enough to make it discernible.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she’d say with a smile, and her fingers would latch around my arm. “Someone’s going to hear you one of these days and tell, and you’re going to end up in a whole lot of trouble.”
“What are they going to do?” I’d tell her, savoring the delicious feel of her fingers on my arm. “Make me go to chapel more than I already do? Heck, if I go any more than I do right now there won’t be time to take any regular courses. Then I’d never graduate. Then I’d always be right here in chapel, week after week, semester after semester, and man, would they get sick of that. They’d never be able to get rid of me, then their whole idea of trying to reach Heaven would pale in comparison, because they’d be stuck on earth with me all the time, and believe me, Bonnie, after a while I’d have them convinced they’d gone and done descended into Hell itself.”
I liked the way Bonnie’s fingers rested on my arm, so quite naturally I began to plot ways to get her fingers touching other parts and portions of the new entertaining me too. That was a little easier said than done, as I somehow knew it would be. Girls at David Lipscomb weren’t at the time prone to have roving fingers and roaming hands and showing public displays of affection at every stop and opportunity. If a guy was looking for something like that he might go search under a rock at one of the state universities, where one was likely to find any sort of wriggling creature with no morals or ethics whatsoever.
In short, I didn’t have a whole lot of extracurricular luck with Bonnie right off the bat, but even though I was shy and destitute and had to spend most of my nights at the Cooper and Martin, I figured if I was ever going to make heads or tails out of this dalliance I was going to have to get off my chicken little fanny and ask Bonnie Lynn out on a full-fledged date. I wasn’t sure if she’d say yes or no, but it was up to me to ask. If the answer was yes I could always call in sick for one of my weekend night shifts. That, you know, was what God invented telephones for.
I’d love to,” she said on a Thursday night. We were on the phone since I was too much of a coward to ask her out face to face. This way, on the phone, if she said no, I could hang up, drop out of school, then disappear off the face of the earth. There wouldn’t be that moment where she’d see me begin shrinking and sliding down into the cracks of the sidewalk, which can get pretty humiliating for a guy if there are too many people around watching and having a good enough idea what’s taking place.
I probably should have figured it out early. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken a couple of months for the fact to get hammered into my noggin that Bonnie Lynn and her world and all the things around her were not for me to have or possess, that I was merely passing through a territory where it would be better for me to keep the wheels moving and the windows rolled all the way up. It was all right for me to look, to visit and observe for a time, but it was in everybody’s best interests for me to stay mobile. This was no place to try and set up permanent stakes.
First off, Winky despised me. Winky was the Lynn’s collie, the family pet, supposedly the friendliest canine on the face of the earth, but for reasons known only to the dog and me my presence on the Lynn property or even in nearby proximities elicited a new form of rabies/distemper in Winky. He began with a barking pattern that said he definitely meant business this time. This wasn’t a case of the mailman or somebody trying to read the meters. This wasn’t a vacuum cleaner salesman or a Jehovah’s Witness. No, this was a cause for full alarm. This was an announcement that there was someone this family unit didn’t want around doing his best to weasel his way inside. This someone was a threat. So after the barking came the growling, a low guttural noise from deep in the throat that made me think old Winky was gargling ball bearings. I could have lived with that, but when Winky bared his incisors and decided to take a bite out of my leg I came close to calling it a day right there. Bonnie acted like this was such a great surprise, like she had never seen Winky react to anybody in such a violent manner before. I suppose I liked Bonnie more than I was prepared to admit. I didn’t go away.
When I finally negotiated my way around Winky and made it to the Lynn’s door I fairly well pounded the damn thing down out of panic and fear. I thought about kicking the living shit out of this would-be Lassie with rampant hydrophobia who was currently menacing me to no foreseeable end, but I figured about the time I did the door would open and there I’d be, caught red-handed assaulting the beloved family pet.
Not exactly what you’d call a good first impression.
It was Bonnie’s mother who answered the door that first time, and if I believed then that daughters grew to someday closely resemble their mothers I certainly would have vamoosed right then. Mrs. Lynn wasn’t exactly ugly, for her eyes were big and brown like Bonnie’s and she had a big smile with the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. What it was about her was there was just so much of her to digest and get to know right off the bat. I hoped I’d never have to drive her anywhere in the future. The GTO had a lot of horsepower, but even mean street machines have their limits as to how much they can haul.
I had to stand there in the living room with Mrs. Lynn and all her immenseness, and for a while I answered questions about what I was studying and where exactly I was from and tried my best to be pleasant and to smile some but felt, on the most part, like keeping my trap shut and not showing my dull teeth or mentioning how I had no idea what my major was going to finally end up being or exposing how I was from that side of town where there’s likely to be a murder every night and either you or someone very close to your proximity has a car on blocks in the middle of a grass-dead front lawn.
In other words, I was already feeling pretty inadequate right there from the get-go.
All the time I was standing there I could see into the adjoining room, which was a den, and see the top of a head over the back of a recliner. The head was facing the opposite way, the hair was wavy and silver, and I wondered if this mane and cerebrum was connected to Bonnie’s father, and if they were, was I going to have to go in and explain my existence to him in the next few minutes also, after I’d finished up with his large wife. Bonnie, however, saved me from that ordeal by appearing at my elbow from some mysterious chamber of the house. She smiled and held a finger up.
“I’ll be just a minute,” she said. “Let me tell Daddy goodbye.”
She walked away and entered that den, not bothering or asking to take me along to meet the patriarch of the house, which at the moment made me wonder if such an action was a blessing or a foreboding curse, whether only the boys Bonnie truly liked were granted access to this father sitting ten feet away. Being the optimist I am I tried not to dwell on it too much. I told myself to consider myself lucky for not having to pass another test so early in the game. I was, after all, better at dealing with mothers, who possibly couldn’t see through the bullshit webs I’d weaved around me by the time I appeared on their doorsteps. Fathers, being boys once themselves, possessed the ability to see all the way through my lies. They knew in a nutshell what the ultimate goal of the predator at their door was.
I don’t recall a lot of details from that first date. I remember going somewhere to eat and then seeing a movie, but the menu choice escapes me and the title of the film wasn’t memorable enough to stay in my head. I think I was in some sort of daze at the time, not out of love or lust, mind you, but mainly because I was in a section of the city where I had rarely been before and I was with someone who shared few of my own sociological traits and it was a Saturday night and I wasn’t filling up a dairy case with milk and eggs or bagging somebody’s groceries or swinging a mop across a tile floor. It was a strange experience right then, that feeling of being normal, and I wasn’t used to it. It was like it was happening to someone else and I was just along for the ride.
I think what really got to me the most was the way I opened up and talked to Bonnie even from the beginning. I can’t remember one time before that when I was able to carry on any kind of serious conversation or communicate in much of any way with a girl until that night. Oh sure, I’d done my share of bullshitting and all that, but this was something totally different. I guess I’d never looked at a woman by that time as anything other than a warm body I was supposed to try and get my hands on. I had no idea a guy could talk to a female and actually have a good time doing it.
“Your dog acted like he hated my guts,” I told her.
“That’s the funniest thing. It’s always been a joke around our house how if a burglar came inside Winky wouldn’t do anything but lick him to death. It’s really strange for him to act like he did with you. Maybe he thinks you’re going to steal his food or something. Maybe you look like you’re going to try and sleep in his doghouse. He’s pretty spoiled, you know. He’s like all the rest of us in the family. We like for things to stay the same old way. We don’t like change.”
“Well, tell him I sure don’t want to rock anybody’s boat. He doesn’t have to bite me about shaking up the status quo.”
“Winky would never do anything like that. Not unless he thought you were trying to hurt someone in the family- me or Mama or Daddy.” Her eyes grew wide and a smile passed over her face. “How about it, fella?” she asked. “Are you one of these criminal types who’s out to do me harm?”
“I wouldn’t hurt a flea,” I told her. “Scout’s honor. Anyway, a flea takes too much effort to kill, and I’m a very lazy guy.”
I wanted to say how Winky was already getting on my last nerve with the teeth-baring and the lowered haunches and the growling and that with my nervous condition being the way it was just being around her it would behoove me tremendously to not have such an obstruction in my headlights. I didn’t have the nerve to voice any of that, for my intuition told me I would end up doing anything I could to get in that dog’s good graces, no matter how he acted toward me.
When I took her home that night I had no idea where I ranked as far as me being a male and she being the opposite. She was talkative and laughing at what I said, but there was a distant side to her too. I couldn’t tell if she liked me or not. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
Of course the more I thought about it the more confusing it got. That’s the way I’ve always been about almost everything. I’m okay until I start thinking too much and analyzing every little detail. I could pitch a baseball over a plate from sixty feet all day as long as I didn’t start thinking about what I was doing. Soon as that happened I couldn’t throw a ball off the Jefferson Street Bridge and have it land in the Cumberland River. Don’t give me instructions or tell me how to do something, because all that’s going to happen is I’m either going to screw everything totally up or I’m just not going to try and do anything whatsoever out of an all-abiding fear of complete failure.
I drove home afterward having at least a thousand mental wars rage inside my head. Should I bail out of this situation before it ate me up but good? It wouldn’t take too long before Bonnie saw through my thin act and discovered I was one of those people from the other side of the river, and over there was another world that wasn’t exactly pretty. My family was nothing like hers. We tended to hate each other with a tiny dose of affection mixed in to even it out.
A half hour into my journey home I abruptly found myself in a neighborhood that was completely unfamiliar to me. How had I arrived here? I’d been lost in thought while driving along, but this was ridiculous. I looked at dark houses where anonymous vehicles sat parked in driveways, where strangers slept behind locked doors. I drove down cozy suburban streets that I had no idea where they might lead, took chances on turning right or left or going straight. The notion of being lost in my own home town exhilarated me and gave a rise to my spirits, which only a few moments before had been in the process of wilting, considering I’d felt lowly returning to my part of town on the far side of the river after seeing how others were allowed to live.
For perhaps an hour I reveled in my lostness. Every turn sent me deeper into a land of mystery, but the anonymity and the well-defined fact that I was a stranger here and there were no doubts about it calmed me and gave me an assurance I hadn’t believed possible earlier in the evening. I felt some strange inner peace settle in my brain and nestle down to the tips of my toes, and suddenly I never wanted to find my way out of this murky neighborhood and its foreign pavement. I wanted to stay on these streets forever, winding the GTO down the oblivious parkways and lanes and circles.
It was three a.m. or so when I finally and sadly found my way back to familiar surroundings. I’d done a lot of thinking about where I was at this point of my existence during my sojourn, but mostly I was happy with the fact that I’d at last been able to let go of my inner funk and actually hear the music coming out of the GTO’s radio. I heard the Who and Jimi Hendrix and of course the Beatles and the Stones, but what stood out in my head the most as I completed my rambling was Yes. Something about being the roundabout, and I was it precisely as I grew more lost in location and thought, driving around and loving all the time I was staying away from the places I generally frequented in body and soul.
For about another month I enjoyed Bonnie’s company on the selected weekend nights when Cooper and Martin figured it could live without me. I never got to where I could pet Winky or exchange masculine viewpoints with Mr. Lynn or present myself as any sort of future son-in-law to Mrs. Lynn, but these facts were not in the least surprising to me. No, Bonnie’s parents and I occupied the same wave length in that regard. It was never a question that after a certain amount of time I would disappear back to wherever it was I came from in the first place. My presence was never construed as being anything permanent. There was never anything said, just sensed. One and one were two, two and two were four- nothing was ever going to change that.
So I went out with Bonnie as often as I could. The fact that she was a pretty girl and guys my age ought to be striving to hang around with such attractions drove me a little, but mostly I went through the motions just so I could arrive at the end of the evening- evenings where perhaps I’d perhaps get an extended kiss and a whispered goodbye on her dark porch- and then I could walk in that wondrous evening air beneath the late stars and the moon to my shining GTO with the 8-track player and the radio and the speakers located generously about. I could back out the drive and coast down the hill listening to that mighty engine hit its lick while the mufflers growled like a hungry jungle cat. Soon, I knew I would be lost again. Soon I’d be the roundabout.
During the height of spring an outfielder on the Lipscomb baseball team suddenly found Bonnie irresistible, and since he seemed to be a person with a future and on top of that was infinitely more handsome than I could ever dream of being, Bonnie soon found him to be irresistible too. Nobody had to paint me a picture, my heart wasn’t broken in a jillion pieces or anything like that. I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I’ve always been able to determine when the winds begin to blow in a different direction. I can make shelter before a storm arrives. I can get myself as safe as the next guy.
The thing that still burns me is I didn’t mean so much to Bonnie to warrant a big Technicolor goodbye. I suppose she was so caught up in her new liaison with the outfielder that she scarcely noticed I quit calling her and asking her out on dates. It didn’t occur to her I was no longer lingering after chapel to talk. I simply said hello and sat through the service quietly. Then I’d say goodbye and turn on my heel and walk away. I couldn’t have made the end of us any more simple or uncomplicated.
I just hoped this wasn’t going to turn out to be one of the watermarks of my life. If so then I was sure in for some mighty boring times down the road.
I did my best to grieve and wear my heart on my sleeve, you know, just to sort of let the world know I’d been officially wounded on the battlefield of Love, but I couldn’t maintain the performance very long. I have to admit the only genuine emotion I felt was a basic relief the entire experience had ended with none of my lifeblood actually being shed. I didn’t have to ask for any more weekend nights off or stand in a living room waiting for Bonnie to appear and save me from my own feelings of insignificance or worry anymore about making conversation with Mr. or Mrs. Lynn or feel ignored or like I didn’t really exist. Heck, toward the end it even got to the point where Winky didn’t even bother growling at me. I guess he considered me not even so much of a threat to bite or bark at, which I took to be the final insult. It was like he knew I was already on the way out, already history whether I sensed it or not. I was there for a while and then I’d be gone. I was something he needn’t concern himself with much.
The last time I saw Bonnie was the week before exams. I tried to be friendly and even made a few witty remarks during that last chapel of the year, doing my best to make it easier during that moment which was probably it for the two of us. I waited for some big dramatic instant to arrive and chronicle this ending, but inside I already knew nothing was going to happen. What I was looking for only went on in books and movies, certainly not on Church of Christ campuses in this Nashville I inhabited.
“So what are you doing this summer?” I asked in my friendly way.
“I’ll probably work somewhere,” she said. “Make a little money. Maybe go to Florida. Who knows?” she smiled. “I may even get married.”
“What about you?” she asked, as if she cared even a little, which I knew she didn’t really, but I still appreciated her at least acting like she did.
“I’ll work. You know me. I have to make enough dough to stay in school.”
“Well, I’ll see you around then. Maybe next year, huh?”
“Yeah, Bonnie. I’ll see you.”
I watched her walk away across the lawn. Her brown hair hung down her back. Damned pretty girl, I thought.
“I’ll see you, Bonnie,” I said to myself. “I’ll see you roundabout. Yeah, that’ll be where I see you.”