Years later you will speak briefly and receive another postcard. You write with poets, now. Like the self you were back then.
Whole episodes of writing have been burned because you don’t save everything. He tells you back in those days that he was a soldier in Vietnam. He gives you a large photograph of himself to prove this.
You begin to wish that you had kept your own writing from that time no matter how painful it was.
Now, you will wield your pen like a knife. You will brandish it almost like a sword when you think about the postcards. Rose girl, rose red, rose true.
* * *
You are thirteen and Judith is holding your head in her lap on the lower field. She massages your temples.
“You better not hang out with her,” your best friend says.
“People are going to think you are a lesbian.”
At night you study your Seventeen magazine carefully. You plan whole escapes from the family you found yourself born into. What you want is to be a bookish girl. A girl who goes back east for college. A girl who will be a writer. Your grandfather manages an account that is your college trust fund. Your real father’s uncle set it up at your birth so you could go. In just four years your mother will steal the whole thing. She always comes first with her needs and her endless demands. Her parents — your grandparents — bail her out over and over again.
Your grandmother is cruel to her.
This is what your mother tells you over and over and over. She manages to divide any love you might have felt.
“She wanted to extinguish you,” your friend says years later.
The two of you are sitting on the sand at the beach while the waves play out low hushing tunes.
“Maybe she did,” you say.
“But so did yours.”
You remember how her mother was wild, just divorced and sleeping with twenty year olds. She abandoned your best friend to the wolf-pack of men that would soon be coming for her.
By 1971, the year she is fourteen her childhood is gone. He slept with her at a party. He was thirty. After this she turns wild and all the boys love her. She flashes her blonde hair at them and gets too drunk at parties. you hear the whispers all over the campus about your best friend. Boys talk. Boys that like to label girls.
She has to rummage in dumpsters for food. She tells you this in the little yellow Victorian house her mother bought after the divorce. Her brother is long gone. There is nobody to protect her, anymore.
It’s a series of boyfriends after that. All older.
You are fourteen and you still want to have slumber parties.
You still want girl talk, and shell collecting.
The Vietnam war rages on the televisions and Judith has given you a black armband. She explains why feminism is going to be important. She’s thirteen and she knows all about something called Roe v. Wade.
“Stay away from her,” your best friend says.
“You don’t want to be thought of as that.”
You like Judith’s crowd the best. You run with the protesters up and down State Street flashing peace signs.
* * *
He photographs you at the university you attend.
He captures you in little slices of silver like he can’t take his eyes off of you and you mistakenly believe this is love. You want to believe that it is love, very badly.
By then your best friend is living with the man she is madly in love with. He’s Mexican. He looks like a Mayan temple god. Like an Aztec. All long black hair straight to his waist.
He’s cruel to her.
He doesn’t want their children either.
She stays with him even after the abortion. She stills loves him.
He strays from her and she finds him having an affair behind her back. She loves him so much she drove the streets all over town to see where his car was, until she finally found it.
These are the years when the two of you will defend your lovers no matter what.
Years later you wonder why the two of you let them get a way with what they pulled.
Rose red, red rose. “He loves me, he loves me not” you say as you pull all the petals off one by one. He has gone back down to LA. He comes up for visits when he can. He calls you everyday and you hang like a little limp rag waiting for the sound of his voice on the other end of the phone.
Every day in the mail the postcards come. Every day.
You are falling into tiny pieces of shards. He was your teacher. He was your art teacher. he had no right to insert himself into your life like he did. But he saw you across a crowded room. He saw you just like they all have, and just like they still do. There was something about you he wanted.
But it wasn’t love.
It was imagery.
* * *
“I need you to go and ask Daddy for the child support,” your mother says. “I can’t face him.”
She has forbidden you any contact with him except for this task when you are thirteen. You go out to the car where he has your little brother already packed inside and you have to march to the window and you have to ask.
“Daddy, mommy needs the check for child support.”
You become a go-between. Your whole family forces you to become a go-between.
“You need to learn to stand on your own two feet,” he says, after finishing the photo shoot of the day. After he tossed himself down on your rumpled little bed and pulled you next to him.
You can see the room where he held you as if you were a rose that meant something to him.
“postcards” — copyright 2010 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved
author note on musical scoring: