Cindy’s ‘Look at me’ presence made his nostrils flare wider than a lust-struck stallion culling the herd for a receptive mare. Self-confidence to pursue her was all he lacked. At the vulnerable age of fifteen, he was too young, too sensitive, too inexperienced to risk ego-shattering refusal from an older girl like Cindy.
It was 1965. Fumbling male innocence was weightier, serious, not as quaint as it is now. He would have to hurtle past the final few vestiges of puberty before he learned a woman’s rebuff is just an erotic battle lost, not the war. He did achieve some small victories though. He succeeded in soliciting a female’s earnest smile, silently conversed with another’s desire-moistened eyes, inhaled a maturing girl’s feminine scent as she glanced his way with wistful, ‘come on’ eyes. He was anxious, although unprepared, to wade hip deep through the line up of bubblegum-chewing girls his age. He spent hours mentally cataloguing a library of finely honed glib invitations, suggestive innuendos, flattering lies that might elicit more than a hesitant kiss, a tenuous hug, a suggestive fib whispered in his ear. Until he attained what he thought were the basics of masculine poise, he distantly sniffed at girls, uncertain as a timid mouse afraid to leave its hole. To him just the prospect of pubescent petting was an earth-tilting event. To Cindy such feeble pleasures were merely clumsy foreplay akin to exploratory surgery in search of ailing lust begging for a cure.
Cindy was a slightly more sophisticated change from the girls his age. She was older, eighteen, daunting; a mystery book with myriad disjointed chapters demanding a lifetime to comprehend; a fresh young woman oozing Pheromones. She stood shoulder-high to him. She airily dressed in soft-colored pastel thin-strap halter tops, too-short thigh-choking cut-off jeans, shoeless. She kept a clear, make-up free Norwegian complexion without much effort. Her eyes were electric blue. Her lips were an inviting pout. Her sinewy smooth shaved legs exhaled paragraphs of hormones as if her female metabolism were a fast-moving conveyor belt stacking backed up product at the delivery end of the line. Her fine blond hair swam behind her, unfettered, untangled as she faced the wind. In the still air her yellow mane was a sunlit crown rippling past her shoulders, each wavy soft strand a meandering rivulet drooling down her back. Their golden tips kissed her lower shoulder blades as if they were a flaxen Niagara feeding a roiling river below. She did not walk, but flowed with curvy insolent liquefaction. Cindy had been friendly when they crossed paths in the neighborhood. They did not flirt, no propositions passed between them when they talked. They struck up short conversations that established a distant familiarity. She was genuinely nice to him; the exact opposite of aloof condescendence he expected from a girl three years older.
Cindy stayed with her aunt for the summer in Detroit, six houses down the block from his.
On a personal dare, he tapped on her screen door the first week in July. He stepped back, meek as a nervous pup uncertain of its master’s mood. Her thick-hipped aunt hopped three steps down from the kitchen with the grace of a heavyset gazelle in mid-flight. Her sweaty brows furrowed with concern. Her jaws tightened with determination. She frowned, a bit hesitant but sternly brave and cautiously peeked past the once-pure white crocheted curtains, now slightly faded yellow from too much morning sun. She breathed a sigh of relief when she realized he was simply a harmless post-pubescent boy still struggling with a high-pitched voice in the midst of change. She opened the door and yodeled in an otherworld Texas drawl, “Cindaay…Ya’ll got comp’ny,” opened the door, then dashed up the steps as elegantly as she arrived. Before he recovered from her aunt’s perceptive indifference, Cindy floated up the basement stairs, her smoothly polished, fluid bare legs flexing from heel to thigh, singing with symphonic precision. The quizzical expression drawn across her face seemed to ask, What on this green earth do you want with me? Before he could explain his presence at her back door, she blurted, “Let’s wander on down to the basement. It’s cooler there. They’s a pool table.” He visited Cindy every summer morning after that.
July and August are blowtorch-hot, brutally muggy months in Detroit. That summer with Cindy, the climate was almost equatorial. Of course, Cindy was accustomed to clammy, searing summer heat. She came from Spring, Texas, just fifty miles from the Gulf of Mexico. “Summer in Spring’s worse than here,” she slowly bragged in her sultry not-to-be-interrupted Texas drawl. “It’s hotter, muggier. Basements are tha only place t’be ’til the Sun sets,” she proudly boasted, as if surviving South Texas summers rated her a special merit badge.
Cindy talked mostly. She was pure South. She passionately raved about Texas. “Any’un with a legal gun can strap it to they hip in plain view of tha cops, tha mayor, tha church pastor, even a Texas Ranger and prance right past city hall. Ya’ll can even stroll front of tha judge with a pistol hangin’ on to ya and they ain’t nothin’ no one can do ’bout it. It’s the law,” she said, her pastel eyes sparkling with pride.
By the middle of July, her aunt just unlocked the door when he knocked, turned round and lithely hopped the three steps up to her kitchen chores. He would let himself in onto the multipurpose landing that served as a crossroad to the kitchen, the basement or the way out. He followed the steps down to the basement to find Cindy lying prone, belly down, on a musty, not quite ready for the junkyard couch, reading the latest issue she had recently plucked from a tall, teetering pile of teen magazines towering on a wobbly end table. Her bare-backed upper torso arched upward as if it were a crescent moon cloaked in frayed blue jean cut-off shorts and thin-strap low-cut top. Her head tilted so her eyes were comfortably level with the magazine she had propped up on the far arm of the couch. Her bare shaved calves rose like vertical wands, ankles crossed, foreign in their splendor like occasional swaying palm trees coming to grip with a desert wind, each new sentence a warm gust swaying them right to left, left to right. He would greet her, silently slip onto the end of the couch behind her and patiently wait for her to initiate the conversation, all the while snapping pictures for his mental album of her fluid, seamlessly molded upper legs issuing their perfectly contoured fleshy calves directions. He contentedly listened to her ramble about Texas while they sat heads together on the smelly couch. They played endless games of pool each early afternoon, ignoring the stale chemical aroma of the smooth brushed battleship-grey concrete floor that kissed their bare feet cool each step they took. The hollow noise of her aunt clopping about on the ground level floor above reminded them she was their distant chaperone.
Early August arrived like the end of a five-second dream. By then, every morning at 10:00, Cindy began promptly waiting for him, sitting on the back door step. Her sinewy lean bare arms tightly embraced her shining shins. Her squashed breasts rested on top her flexed, perfectly tapered legs. Her head and raindrop-blue eyes faced him. Her left cheek cuddled her knees. The morning sun lightly toned her fair skin a light brindle tan. Her short cut-offs crept further up her thighs, the denim stretched taut by her upright fetal curl. Her exposed inner thighs oozed invitations to the testosterone-infected boy.
There were myriad parts of her he would gladly sell his soul to. Her slow, coaxing Texas twang made him wish he were tucked between her breasts. Her eyes were deep daubs of pastel watery pools he would gladly leap headfirst into if he could. He would bravely throw himself inside her sexuality headfirst, leisurely swim in her hormonal oceans, backstroke to her heart’s welcoming shores; all he lacked were the guts to walk the diving board and jump in.
He never tried to grope her, steal a kiss, hold her hand, stroke her streaming hair. Not that he was courteous, or a gentleman; he lacked experience interpreting female body language, a dialect Cindy had already mastered. When she came near, he would shrink back, meek as a frightened child, overawed by the mere aroma of her natural female perfume. She was elated he took to her as a simple human rather than a shallow sexual prize. She was somewhat disappointed too. In spite of his age, she would have gladly allowed any advance he made. She would have enjoyed making love to him even more given his platonic interest in her first. She tried her subtle best to encourage him that both friendship and sex could occur and not taint what they had built between them.
Cindy offered subtle hints in an effort to coax him along: softened lusty-eyed smiles, moments too physically close, a graceful brush of her shoulder along his back, a swift tap on his arm as an affectionate reaction to a clumsy joke he made. She often voiced read-between-the-lines remarks suggesting she’d eagerly accept an intimate caress, a lengthy kiss, his warm hand stroking hers. “I’m sproutin’ goosebumps ‘n’ ya’ll barely even touched me,” she once hinted, as her bare shoulder brushed against his. “Ma hands a cold and they’s no-one to warm ’em,” she’d complain as she tucked them under her arms. “A forget what’s it like ta gently kiss,” she coyly whined. When shooting pool she stooped over far lower than what her shot required, blatantly exposing her creamy cleavage in an attempt to land the two ball near where he stood on the opposite side of the table. He completely devoted his imagination to the uncovered portions of her swaying breasts every shot he could. Just a small corner of his eye paid attention to the ball when he stood too near a pocket she was aiming for; his crotch was as high as the bumpers on the pool table. The table sat with one long side too close to the basement wall so there was no room to make a comfortable shot. It became even harder for Cindy to shoot if he was leaning against that wall right where she wanted to set up.
“Hold on, I’ll move.”
“No! Ya’ll stay there,” as she wedged herself between him and the table, stooped over, her curvy ass inches from his crotch, shot, turned round and laughed she’d made it, catching him admiring every bit of her lower anatomy as if she were a naughty marble smooth semi-nude Medusa and he Michelangelo’s chiseled David. She would proffer him a knowing smile then slowly saunter around the table to take another shot, her body whispering lusty lyrics as she swayed by. She would intentionally stoop low over the table to take a shot, flash her cleavage, then look up to see what part of her he was watching.
Although intimidated by her roaring hormones, browbeaten by her natural perfume, he was courageous enough to know her, if not in the Biblical sense of the word ‘know’, at least in other equally intimate ways. She bared all her soul to him; her hopes, disappointments, defeats, childhood scars. In turn, he gained a basic knowledge of female mental mechanics; a lesson few boys learn so young, if ever. Cindy inadvertently tutored him in how a woman might react to compromising situations, the strange way female logic works when an important decision must be made, why it was easier for her to cry than him, what brought her to laugh from her heart at humor he saw no humor in. Cindy obligingly educated him that women, once used, are not a broken toy to be thrown away. She represented several pieces to the female puzzle that had previously confused, bewildered, struck fear in him. She was his big chance to learn early on what the opposite sex had in store for his life on this earth and in the hereafter. At first, his demure diffidence was an entertaining distraction to her. By mid-summer, her emotions evolved well past amusement.
Basilio, an Italian boy his age, lived next door to Cindy. He and Basilio mutually disliked each other. Basilio noticed the boy’s daily visits to Cindy’s earlier that summer. The boy was on his way to see her when Basilio caught up with him.
“Hey Polack!” he taunted. To Basilio, anyone not Italian was a “Polack.”
“Bass,” the boy sneered. “Ready for football?”
“Do you know who she is?”
“Know? Who? Cindy?”
“She’s Tex, the biggest whore on Eleven Mile and Ryan Road.”
“Whores get paid. She has no money.”
“She’s screwed everyone I know. You haven’t had her?”
“No! It’s not like that with us.”
Basilio chuckled. “You’re a fool if you don’t get any of that.” The boy flipped Basilio the bird and kept on walking.
“I must be a fool,” he whispered to himself as he quickened his pace to Cindy’s.
The boy did not view her differently, suspiciously, possessively simply because Basilio labeled her a whore. After all, Basilio never volunteered he had her too. Moreover, if she were a whore, so what? The boy admired Cindy. They were close. He was ecstatic he knew an older girl, almost owned a small part of her heart, kept her secrets, sought her advice. He was her emotional lover if nothing more.
The day he and Cindy walked into the local drugstore together the truth came out. A tall well-developed fellow in his early twenties greeted her with a “Hi Tex” accompanied by a lecherous grin as she browsed the magazine section. She smiled back and gave a slight sideway nod to the boy down the row staring in wonder at the lubricants shelf. The boy heard her Adonis call out her nickname. He was astonished, as stunned as a deer in the headlights of an oncoming Mack Truck. Basilio was right; her sexual handle was Tex. Understanding Cindy’s gesture, her stud turned and casually walked away. He was confident he would have his time with her later that night. Cindy was a busy girl nights.
Near the end of August, Cindy could no longer prolong the dreaded talk with the boy. She initiated it over the pool table between shots.
“My aunt’s gettin’ tired a me.”
“It’s your shot. I missed.”
“I got one more year a high school left.”
“I can’t count that high yet.”
“I gotta do it in Texas. Except for you, I got nothin’ goin’ for me here.”
“You’re seventeen. You don’t have to go. Stay here. Finish high school here.”
“I’m up here for a reason,” she said.
“Got’n trouble back home.”
“A beau ’bout your age. We got too close. The wrong things happened. His fam’ly found out, raised a stink.” She saw no need to explain further. She did not want to clarify the incident further without it sounding like condemning evidence. He was unable to comprehend what ‘wrong things’ happened. Why pry? He accepted her the way she was each moment with her. Her past meant nothing to him. However, a future with her suddenly seemed unlikely. She took her shot, made it, then angrily ran the table, her bra-less breasts swaying freely, half-exposed before him during cross-table shots, her near-perfect teenage backside flaunting inches from him on occasion, as he leaned against the basement wall close behind her, dreamily courting her body.
She slapped her stick flat on the empty table after she’d won and started weeping as if she were grieving at a relative’s funeral. He circled around the table, wrapped her in his arms and slowly walked her to the couch. It was the first time he touched her. He kept holding her when they sat. She soaked the shoulder of his tee shirt with her tears. All was silent but for her. He held her as if he were comforting a curled up sobbing newborn. Her hands were clenched fists balled up under her chin. He securely swaddled her in his arms. He was suffocating with affection. He compassionately held her as she whimpered. He soothed her until she stopped crying, then he hurried home, late for dinner. He realized their season together would be over in a few weeks. They were little more than two narrow faded lines intersecting on a tattered and wrinkled outdated map inaccurately plotted recollections ago.
On a typically humid mid-August morning, he knocked at Cindy’s door the usual time, confused. There was no Cindy curled up on the stoop waiting for him. He sensed the floor of the world was about to crumble apart under him. That frightened him. Her aunt answered the door with a get-this-over-with grimace. She invited him up to the kitchen table. It was the first time he had ventured beyond the basement of her aunt’s house. The kitchen was orderly, spotless, in almost sanitized condition. It was the opposite of the barren, chemically treated concrete and cinder block basement below. She bade him sit at the table, her serious matronly face expressing the hard life her own eyes confessed. She was three times the boy’s age, but could still vaguely remember the puppy loves of her youth. “I’m sorry, hon. She’s a gone back home to Texas. She’s ma sister’s child an’ I love her dearly. I’d had enough. She always stayed out late night’s doin’ God knows what. But, she was up fresh’n early for ya’ll each mornin’ though. She had nothin’ else good, ‘sides you, goin’ for her. I sent the girl back to Texas last night. She’s on the bus halfway to Spring by now I s’pose.”
He bled inside, like a wound that never scabs. Her aunt compassionately felt the need to console him, explain more. “She told ya’ll ’bout it two weeks ago. I know all ’bout it. She told me. She considered ya’ll a close friend. She just wasn’t brave ‘nough to break it off with you face to face yesterday is all. She won’t forget you. Ya’ll were decent to her’. Ya’ll will learn ’bout women. You’re young.”
He stood up, said goodbye. He walked slowly home, hunched over like a jilted lover might cower in grief. He grew angry at first. Cindy cut it off cold. There was no goodbye, no exchanged mementos, no simple eye contact one last time. Then his anger turned to a dull pain he never felt before, as if someone cut a deep gash inside him with a dull deer antler. The wound would leave a slow-healing scar much thicker than a less painful scraped knee, or recently reset broken bone. No woman would ever compare to Cindy mystically leaning against the basement wall lighting up a Pall Mall, her right foot raised and resting flat against the cooling cinder block, the wavy muscles in her leg in genuflection to Eros, her tawny bare inner thigh the model he would compare all future lovers by. Her aunt was right, he would learn. He would learn slowly, but he would learn.
Steve Prusky writes, lives and works in Las Vegas. His prose, poetry and photography have appeared in Eunoia Review, as well as Foundling Review, Orion headless, The Whistling Fire, The Rusty Nail and Assisi.