Chapter 14: Luke 12:2
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
James Waters somehow affixed a hat atop his afro and perched himself on his four-inch platform shoes so that he almost didn’t clear the eight-foot suspended ceiling. As John’s party mix tape played AWB’s “Pick up the Pieces”, James did his best pimp strut with the assistance of a walking cane.
“Water looks like one of those dudes on stilts at Mardi Gras,” John spoke loudly over the music.
“Yeah, it’s just good to see him out here and letting loose; check out those threads!” Mike noted James’s outfit which was a charcoal gray pinstripe vest and pants, with a dress shirt and white tie to complement his white hat and the white tip of his gray walking cane.
“What it is, bloods!” A grinning James greeted Mike and John as he loaded up his plastic cup with some of the party brew.
“Water, you’re looking bad, my man!” John slapped hands with him. “Hey, the party’s starting to pick up!”
“Yeah, it’s all good, Long John. Borrowed my gramp’s hat and walking cane, and my Sunday best should work in confession too.”
The lobby seating was taken up, and the dance floor was crowded as the party mix succeeded in getting people moving. The study room, just a right turn out of the lobby and about 20 steps ahead, seemed to be doing some brisk business as well with a steady stream of people moving in and out.
“Looks like everybody’s happy and that we can co-exist with Frankie’s Lounge,” Mike joked with Donna as he handed her a beer from the keg.
“You probably want to go in there and see for yourself, don’t you?”
That sounds like a loaded question, so I’ll give the safe answer, Mike thought. “No, I’m happy just hanging out with you, listening to the music, watching people, and waiting for a slow song that will give me an excuse to rub my body against yours.” He kissed Donna and felt her tongue joust with his.
“Well, I’m curious, Mike. Why don’t you buy a girl a drink down the hall?”
I’m just not going to figure her out, so I’m going to stop trying. “Let’s go, then.”
The bass voice of Barry White hugged back at the walls in the courtesy room, complementing the splashes of alcohol and the clinking of swirling ice cubes. A handful of people stood around with drinks in their hands, some translucent, some opaque, bending elbows bending the dim light. What had to be the massage table was doubling as a bar counter covered with a folded bedspread. This separated the patrons from the makeshift liquor cabinet. Behind the bar counter was a bespectacled, curvaceous brunette, who had to be Toots.
“Hi, I’m Donna.” She extended her hand to the bartender.
“Hello, I’m Tatiana, but everybody calls me Toots,” she laughed. She might have been of Eurasian descent, the almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, and delicately carved nose and chin gave her a strong beauty, and there was just enough ampleness in her breasts and hips so that voluptuous fought through her clothing to be an adjective. She could have been 18; she could have been 30. “Nice to see a couple ladies in the courtesy room tonight,” she added. “Let’s make it ladies’ night. What’ll it be, Donna?” There was a confident quality in her voice, a richness in depth that was unquestionably feminine even as it competed admirably in the predominantly male-populated room.
While most of the party-goers were dressed casually in jeans and sweaters, Toots boosted up her height with some stiletto heels and squeezed her strong legs into some black leggings that she mostly covered up with a man’s white dress shirt worn over them. Her sleeves were rolled up, and with three shirt buttons undone, a lacy bra was working to hold up her left breast. The natural scent of her body worked magically and uniquely with perfume, a harmony that cut through the stench of cigarette smoke. Like some patented trademark, she carried a beautiful oddness in zero gravity, a floating, charismatic presence.
Donna and Mike found a place along the wall and people watched. “Well she seems pretty nice,” Donna was first to share an observation.
“I suppose,” Mike said. He took a sip of Jack Daniels on ice and watched Toots smile and have some sidebar conversations with a handful of males that weren’t from the sixth floor. She was overly made-up with too much red lipstick and eye shadow, but she appeared to be able to hold her own in a conversation and draw an audience. “Hey, Donna, do you see Fred anywhere?”
“No, come to think of it, I don’t, and I didn’t see him out in the lobby either. Maybe he went home for the weekend.”
“Yeah, maybe. Hey, let’s get back to the party.”
“I don’t know Mike; this vodka and tonic sure beats the kegger, but you’re right. I’ve satisfied my curiosity to some extent.”
“Hey, going so soon?” Frank intercepted the couple as they were leaving. Alerting Little John, who had just returned from the lobby, he said, “Look at this, Little John. It’s the lovely Nurse Donna and her beau and my buddy, Mike Rosovich.”
“Ha, hah!” Little John laughed. “Glad you could stop by.” In the dim light afforded by their speakeasy, Little John’s crinkled eyes and chiseled facial features seemed ominous to Mike.
“Yeah, well enjoyed the drink, but we’ll be getting back to the party.”
“Hey, Ms. Donna,” Little John called after her in his gravelly voice, “you are looking special tonight. Mike is a lucky man.”
“He just gives me the creeps,” Donna shared with Mike as they broke away from the party a little early and sat on his bed.
“He gives me the creeps, too, Donna. Something is going on over there. He’s got a lot of influence on Frankie and Water J, not to mention Fred. I think Fred is afraid of him.”
“Poor Fred is not in his right mind, Donna. You said so yourself. It’s really complicated over there, and I want to share something with you.”
“Go ahead, Mike. What is it?”
“I know that Carol is not your favorite topic, but you saw that guy she is with tonight?”
Mike spent the next 10 minutes relaying the Little John, Water J, Sylvan connections to Donna, and when he was done, he asked, “So do you agree with me?”
“I agree with you, and I’m concerned for James. He is too nice, and he is naive, Mike.”
“Do you think Carol needs to know about this guy?”
“Now, you’re asking me to choose between doing the right thing and being a jealous bitch. Do you think she’s in any danger?”
“I don’t think so, but her reputation, if this guy is some kind of small town hood, is going to take a hit, and her status as an R.A. would be jeopardized.”
“I don’t want to sound indifferent, Mike, but she needs to make better choices, so no, at least for now, I don’t want you talking to her. I admit it’s a sore spot for me, and I shouldn’t be like this, but girls have a sixth sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“Whether she’s in a relationship or not, I know that she would drop what or who she is doing to be with you in a heartbeat. I see the way she looks at you, and frankly, I’ve watched you when she’s around us.”
What’s the correct answer from me at this point? Mike wondered. “Donna, I’m with you, so why does this matter?”
“It matters, Mike, because I have to look up at her just to talk. Her eyes are impossibly beautiful. Her face and hair are perfect. I took an art class last year, and who walks in to pose nude, Body Builder Barbie. The whole room gasped when she took off her robe. I can’t compete with Carol. Look up the word ‘perfect’, and her picture is next to the definition.”
There was a mist in Donna’s eyes; it picked up the desk lamp like a lonely moonlight on the water. Beneath the mist, her greatest secret lay bare as it awaited the elegant fingers to drape the towel over her body, to hide the shame she felt.
“Donna, you’re the Ivory girl next door, and nude masterpieces weren’t painted using Barbie’s to pose. You’re real and the best thing that ever has happened to me in my life.” I mean all of that and more, but she’s also right about Carol. What’s wrong with me?
Donna grabbed Mike’s hand and pulling him, said, “Come dance a slow song with me.”
Back in the lobby, Earth, Wind, and Fire were singing “Devotion”, a slow number, and Donna was content to press her head against Mike’s chest and allow him to move minimally.
“I’ve got a surprise for you tonight, Mike,” Donna said as they cuddled on his bed and listened to “Pillow Talk” with Uncle Alan on the FM dial, the tuning needle precisely lit up on WNIC as the light in the foyer accented the mood.
“I can’t wait,” Mike said.
“First of all, I brought this.” She reached into her bra and pulled out a joint. “I thought you and I could get high together, and I know it’s not the ‘show’,” and she did the quotation marks with the fingers of both hands, “but I’m providing the entertainment.”
“Yeah, Buddy. I don’t deserve you.”
“Come on, Baby, light my fire,” Donna sang softly and then held the joint to her lips as Mike grabbed a lighter from his desk.
They passed it between them, and after a few tokes, he asked, “So where did you get it?”
“Does it matter?”
“I was just curious. Usually girls don’t have hook ups, so I was wondering, that’s all.”
“My ex wrote me and sent it in the mail months ago. He said it was a parting gesture, to smoke it, and to remember the good times we had.” As she said this, the finger tips of her right hand touched the specific area between her breasts.
“Do you think he would want you to smoke a joint with me? How come you don’t talk about him to me?” He placed the joint in the ashtray.
“I’m choosing to accept the gesture and have a good time with you. Moving forward, Mike, remember?” But as the haze from the marijuana smoke dissipated, Donna plopped herself closer to his right side and held his hand tightly. “Mike, we have to talk.”
Oh, no, is she breaking up with me? His insecurities were brought out with those words, and he felt his heart pounding. “Sure, but what is it, Donna?”
“I haven’t been completely honest with you, and I’m going to tell you something that only Mary knows about and trust you totally with that information. You know how I felt about your sharing our intimate moments, so I’m going to tell you this in strictest confidence.”
“Sure, Donna, what is it? You’ve got me worried. Are you okay?”
“Mike, I’ve never felt better or been better, and I’ve never been this happy to be with someone like I am with you, but there is something I want you to know about me.”
“Go ahead then.”
“You just asked me about my hook up, and I was honest with you about my ex, but left out some details.” She looked downward as she said this and wiped away a tear. “I don’t want you to think any less of me.”
Mike reached to hug her, and she kissed his cheek as he did this, but wiped away more tears and continued. “My ex’s name is Ron, and he is 30 years old. He took my virginity when I was in tenth grade and had just turned 16.”
“Whoa, how did that happen? Where did you meet him?”
“I thought he loved me and that made everything okay, even,” and her voice trailed off as she began sobbing.
“Even what, Donna?” There was alarm and urgency in his voice as he hugged her to him.
“Even though he was my biology teacher and gymnastics coach, Mike.” Donna paused as she sobbed lightly. “He was 26 at the time, so I was doing the math in my mind to make it okay. You know 26 and 16 sounds better when its 33 and 23, and I was dumb enough to think that we had a future together.”
“Holy shit, Donna, how did you guys not get caught? How long were you together?” He selfishly thought of his sexual performance and how it must have compared in Donna’s mind. Then, he thought of Donna with another man, doing the things she had done to him. His stomach began to sour.
“We made arrangements to meet in places where nobody would find us. Cross Island is a small community where everybody knows everybody’s business, but he had a car, and I had Mary.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mary has been a guardian angel for me, Mike. Instead of turning me away, she discouraged me, advised me, but supported my decision which obviously went totally against her belief system. She even allowed me to use her as an excuse at times where I needed alibis for my whereabouts. I still carry around guilt for doing that to her.”
“How does somebody in his position even go about starting something like that?”
“We were around each other a lot. I was his office aide. I had him for last period bio with practice right after that. He was young, good looking, and really seemed like one of us, the students, you know? He joked around and was a lot of fun. All the girls had a crush on him. So he had asked me to stay after practice to work on the balance beam. By 6:00 o’clock everybody was out of the school except for the night custodians.”
“Sounds like a perfect set-up,” Mike interrupted.
“It does, but I don’t think it was intended that way. I’ve replayed it in my head hundreds of times since. Because the beam was my most difficult apparatus, I lost my balance and kept falling. He caught me the first few times and kept encouraging me, but when I did a reverse turn, my ankle buckled, and I landed awkwardly on the mat. It hurt like hell, and I started crying. He picked me up and carried me to a chair. I felt safe in his arms, but it was turning me on, and I was scared. I felt like a fool for having fallen and getting hurt. I really think my tears were more from embarrassment because the pain went away quickly. Coach Ron, that’s what we called him, was holding my foot, moving it around, and asking whether I had any pain.” Donna paused and wiped away another tear.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, are you okay hearing all this? I want you to know.”
“Go ahead.” He wasn’t okay. He knew that Donna couldn’t be a virgin, but thoughts of her body over another man, doing those things to him, making him feel that way, smiling lovingly down at him, those thoughts, those images had been exclusive, and with this revelation, Mike suffered in silence, felt an inferiority, and the beginnings of arousal which added the element of shame.
“I felt myself getting excited again when he was touching my foot. I felt my face getting red. I was horrified that he would sense that. Then he caressed my hair and asked me if I was okay. I lost control. I took his hand and touched it to my face. He was so close. We kept looking into each other’s eyes, and our faces were getting closer. He kissed me, and I kissed him back.”
“How far did it go that night?” He thought of another man exciting Donna, touching her, and a tear trickled down his face, something he quickly wiped away and hoped she wouldn’t notice.
“That was it for that night. He called my house, and my dad picked me up, and the whole way home he was asking me if I was sure that my ankle was okay, not knowing that it wasn’t my ankle that was bothering me.” Donna again starting crying as Mike held her for several minutes until she wiped her eyes and continued. “I thought all night about our kiss. I touched myself everywhere pretending it was him touching me. I was overpowered by this feeling. I made this happen. Our world makes it a crime, but how is a 26-year-old man supposed to deny his urges? He made the shame I felt go away, only to return when I was away from him. It was wrong, but it wasn’t wrong.” Donna bowed her head.
So how did all of this end? Is he really in California?” His mind drifted to Donna touching herself, just thinking about another man, touching herself, another man, touching herself.
“It ended right before he moved, but yes, he is in California, and he’s still teaching. He said that we both had to move on and that we met each other at the wrong time in our lives. This summer was the worst for me. I found out he was seeing someone else, someone his age, and I guess I should have known all along it wasn’t going to work out between us.”
“Did you ever think of reporting him?”
“I may have been only 16, Mike, but I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it, so no. I still have some beautiful memories of our relationship, but as I think about it, I really believe he was disappointed in himself for what we did.”
“How do you feel about him now? I guess you’ll always remember him.” How deep was her want? What beautiful memories has she held? Why was she even bothering being with him, a boy.
“No, but I’ll never forget him.”
Mike looked puzzled and said, “I don’t understand. What’s the difference?
“Always remember takes too much space to allow for new memories. Never forget takes a special place in my heart which still has room.”
“Donna,” he had hoped desperately to confess to her something that had been on his mind. He wanted this night to be that moment, but her heart and her soul were elsewhere, and they had taken his heart and soul there as well, so he could feel the depth of her loss and question his significance in her world. And now he had an understanding of what it would mean to lose her.
“I meant what I said about moving forward, Mike. I have my scars and my jealousies and insecurities as a result, but I don’t have regrets, except for what I did to Mary.”
“Do you talk to Mary about this at all?”
“All the time, Mike, Mary is a forgiving soul, and one of two people outside my family that I truly love in this world because both of them have innocence and the kindest eyes. Mary saved my life, and I’ll let you fill in the missing blanks.”
“Wow!” Mike digested her confession. “So who’s the other person?” He thought of her love for Ron and assumed that he was the other person.
Donna tilted her head quizzically and smirked as she reached for the joint in the ashtray and re-lit it. She inhaled deeply, grasped Mike by his face, pressed her lips against his until they parted, and blew out the smoke into his mouth. She giggled at the surprised look in his eyes. “You’re so naive, Mike, that you give me goose bumps.” For several minutes after her story, he laid back with Donna aside him, her head on his chest, her hand lightly stroking his inner thigh.
“Are you going to say anything to me, Mike?” She raised her elbow to prop her head and look him in the eyes as she smiled. “I believe you wanted to tell me something earlier and maybe changed your mind.”
The warmth of Donna’s sweater sustained him as he curled his body into her arms and began crying forcefully, head pressed against her chest, she kissing his hair, stroking his back.
“Mike, what is it?”
It was the frailty of relationships, the transgressions, the infidelities that cracked through the veneer, the illusion that two people can build a life with a foundation of love and caring.
It was the fallacy of the marriage between his parents and the casualness with which they could drift apart and seek comfort elsewhere.
It was the question of his worthiness to have his body held, to be caressed and bathed by the warmth of something that could only be love.
They undressed each other, and it was the most real nakedness either had ever felt, a comfort of intimacy that lulled them each into deep sleep. It was in that sleep that Donna’s mind hovered over Donna’s body, taking her back to that night, back to the feeling of the endless fingers deep within her, probing, bringing ecstasy and a deeper shame that disposed of her pride and brought her to her knees to beg pathetically.
With slivers of sunlight shining on them at 11:00 A.M., Donna turned around to find Mike still asleep on his back. She placed her head on his chest and kissed him playfully. She reached her hand southward and then decided to nudge him awake.
“Hey, Sleepy Head,” she said as he stirred, “I don’t believe in waste.”
She positioned herself over him, warm hand grasping, directing her heavenly descent. Fully engulfed, he watched through clouded eyes as her body began a gentle motion, undulating forward and back, light waves arriving then carried away, arriving then carried away. Above her swaying breasts, a rosy tint appeared on her skin and crept onto her cheekbones, igniting a smile, tilting her head upward, and closing her eyes. Still she moved, beckoning him then carrying him away, beckoning him then carrying him away to the hypnotic closeness of a Sunday morning during the best time of their young lives.