We had more dictators and astronauts, and our secret infatuations were allowed to steep in their own mystery. The world was mobile on its feet, and the stars were allowed to be dissected and analyzed one at a time. In those days I sat and read books, both chosen and assigned. I auditioned for plays and was given parts to perform.
I knew a girl named Raegan, which I thought was such a lovely name. She, her brother, and her parents lived in the center of the village where a small playhouse was, and their house was close enough that she could walk to rehearsals. The house was limestone, the playhouse was brick, and the sidewalks were cobblestone.
On Friday nights, after we’d taken off our headscarves and prayer shawls (we were performing in The Fiddler on the Roof), I would walk home with her. She had a pool that was surrounded by redbud trees, and the water was as warm as a bath. We floated on our backs, looked at the stars, and sang in a confidently quiet harmony, without other friends or cast-mates around to join in or judge our musical ability. Little grey moths and glowing green fireflies flew above us, close to the pool’s surface, and the moonlight turned our skin the same shade of whitish blue.
As we floated, when we weren’t singing or staring off into the night sky above our floating bodies, Raegan and I would talk, like teenage girls do. I told her about the crush I had on the twenty-one year old man who played Mendel, the Rabbi’s son. She told me about the crush she had on one of the high school seniors who played a Russian. Raegan and I were both fifteen, but we had long legs and liked to think we passed for at least five years older.
Once the night grew too cool to swim, we would wrap ourselves in stiff old beach towels and clamor up the back steps to Raegan’s attic room. Once there we’d peel off our wet swimsuits, compare tan lines, and put on thin cotton t-shirts and underwear. I always kind of wished I had brought different clothes in my backpack, always felt what I wore was inadequate and plain. Maybe that’s why I buy too many articles of clothing now. I’m making up for those years when all of the things I wore seemed to me so wrong, so out of character, so scratchy on my skin.
Once dressed (half-dressed, really), we’d run back downstairs, tear apart her parent’s refrigerator looking for cookie dough and pop, and run back upstairs with our arms full.
Raegan had two different colored eyes. That is one thing I remember. I remember how round and beautiful they were, appearing larger because of her wet hair curling around her face. She told me that she had been ill with leukemia as a four year old, and that the radiation and chemotherapy had turned her blonde straight hair brown and curly, and her right eye from brown to blue.
Her attic room had low eaves, and dormer windows. Her comforter was white, and the carpeted floor was plush, and soft.
I haven’t thought about her in nearly twenty years, the memory of our friendship was buried that deep. The other night I was thinking about how much I like to swim at night and the memory of her house with the warm, tucked-away pool in downtown Centerville, Ohio came flooding and swirling back to me in a blue-green sort of way.
(If I was feeling very modern I would look her up on facebook. But I’m tired of that. I’m tired of robbing everyone’s mystery.)
I think as writers and artists, we stockpile our memories, as if we’re preparing for the bomb to drop. Part of why I write down my memories is to form a sort of reference library, if the time comes when I’m older that I can’t remember what my favorite color is, or that my middle name is Marie.
I’ve heard that those living with Alzheimer’s can remember their ancient history clearly and with glorious detail. It’s their recent history that eludes. At any rate, writing lets me live the favorite parts of my life all over again, so I continue.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” –
I loved the book The Night Swimmers, by Betsy Byars. One of my favorite books from when I was a girl.