“Mariposas” — ( a chapter from my memoir “whitegirrrl” )

You are lying on the beach at Butterfly at thirteen, waiting for your best friend to arrive.  She’s late and you are alone in your new turquoise bikini.  You walked all the way to the beach instead of hitchhiking like the two of you usually do.

There have been three occurrences this summer. The first was Henri.  Because he was a friend of your mother’s you felt safe going into his apartment for that glass of lemonade he offered.  Instead he reached his foot over to yours and touched his toes to yours while you sipped from your glass.  Not unlike “Lolita” you think.  You’d already read tiny parts of that tome anyway, the summer before.

It’s a little like you understand something, except you don’t.  Not yet.

Your best friend and you play at being sophisticated and older.  Older than you actually are.  Everyday.

“Mind if I lie down next to you?” he says, plopping down on your towel.

He’s a stranger and now he seems to come out of nowhere and now he is on your towel and he must be 27 or something.  All of a sudden you feel his broad palm sweeping over your back.

“You’re beautiful,” he says.

“Why are you lying here?” you ask.

That summer they try and touch you.  That summer is the cusp between thirteen and fourteen.  The younger ones are shyer than the grown men.  You’ve been called “Hot Lips” at school by the cutest boy of all.  He comes at you backlit by the sun, tanned like a young Greek god.   You can’t even open your mouth to speak to him when he talks to you, he’s that handsome.

Years later you will meet him again at the harbor.  He has become an urchin diver.  He still looks the same.  His wife is solidly large and respectable looking.  He has several children and they all sport the same long hair that boys wore in the 70’s.

You reach for his hand with the wounded finger.

“It was a diving accident.”

You hold his hand in yours looking at the half finger.

“Off Butterfly when we were kids.”

“You look great,” you say.  His handsomeness never left him.

“I’m pickled in brine,” he says.  “It must have saved me.”

Years later you remember the progression of their hands.  Some were furtive.  Or the way their feet reached out to try and tap yours.  You remember the years of your first lipsticks that you got at Kayser’s.  Crushed plums and cherries.  The mouth you felt you needed to accent.

“Hot Lips.” he called you.

“Didn’t you like me?’ he asks as an adult.

“More than anything,” you say.

“But I was shy.”


“Mariposas” ~ copyright by Valentine Bonnaire ~ all rights reserved.

* author’s note on this for music of that time ~ favorites are below.  I grew up on these songs in the 70’s.

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