He’s 31 and you are only fifteen, but he’s a friend of your mother’s. He’s the son of one of her best friends and he’s just in from New York where he works for a record company. He’s tall and golden like a god and when he looks you up and down you blush but he’s so handsome, and he’s giving you that look like they all have since you were eight.
You stand at a distance from it. From their eyes.
“Have these,” he says, handing you a stack of records fresh from the factory.
Your mother is in the kitchen arranging hors d’oeuvres for another party. His mother Ellen is there and the two of them have made Sangria and the guests are starting to arrive. There will be a hundred that night. All her parties are like that. She asks you to welcome the guests, and you do, all dressed up in something you designed that you wrapped around your leotards. They form the base of all your outfits. Danskins — because you are a dancer.
You study Modern when you aren’t at the barre.
Her boyfriend is dribbling ash all over the carpet. He chain smokes and he’s some kind of Hollywood writer who freeloads off the rich and his failed reputation — always in his tennis whites and boat shoes. His face is crinkled like old leather and his eyes are permanently squinted, or squinting at you through the haze that surrounds him. You watch him, the maroon and navy stripes on his V neck sweater — the white of the cotton cablestitched in cords. His cigarette dangles. He’s out on the terrace looking out over the city. He’s taking up all the air.
You can’t stand him by the time you are fifteen. He’s been there for two years with his kites and his Gladstone bags and his airplane propellers and his old oak Victrolas and his endless ancient jazz.
He’s dribbling the ashes over the little quiches your mother picked up from the caterers and the rest of her hors d’oeuvres posing as if he actually is important. As if he isn’t a prop.
Your mother is in one of her caftans, sweeping through the room like a grandame which she is — a diva to her friends, dressed butterfly bright. You tuck yourself into a corner and watch — but he’s staring at you, and he gave you the records, but there is no chance to play them. Not yet, and not at this party.
You reach for a cigarette when he offers it. One of your mother’s gay friends taught you how to hold it, elegantly, and you’ve watched all the old movies and practiced with your best friend, until you know how to do this. How to look older. How to hide inside costumes.
“I’m going to be down in Hollywood for the next three months,” he says.
“Want to go to the clubs?”
He just nods his head and you do want to go. All of a sudden you are going to be able to go to a nightclub, and he’s going to figure out how to sneak you in.
“If your mother comes down we can go,” he says.
“Want a drink?”
He goes and gets you a glass of the Sangria. You’ve already tried that too. Your best friend’s mother was the one who let the two of you try a drink the year before. You’d both convinced her that you needed to, just to try and see what it was like and the two of you had sat cross-legged on her bedroom floor with a bottle of wine and neither of you had really eaten anything much that day, and you had gotten sick from it, but she hadn’t.
“At least we know, now,” she’d said.
You’d nodded your head, but it was splitting and her mother had given you some vanilla ice cream to eat in the middle of the night.
He smiles, all golden, so much taller. So much older. So handsome and you’re going to be going on a date. A real date with him and you can’t even believe it…
Your mother drives to Hollywood and drops you off at your Uncle’s. He’s between films, taking you to lunch at Musso’s and you’re sitting in the booth like a grown up girl, ordering for the first time. He explains to you that you should always have enough money to pay for your meals, and your cab fare and he hands you a hundred dollar bill.
“If men take you to dinner they might expect something,” he says.
“European women go Dutch.”
Years later you remember how your Uncle had been teaching you something about men because you didn’t have a father to do this. He hardly said anything, even though you pressed him. You kept pressing him and pressing him and pressing him to tell you everything in those years. He’d lift the newspaper up until it covered his whole face and you couldn’t see his eyes. His cigar smelled so good, you thought. You loved him, better than anyone.
“Have a good time,” your mother says, waving you off.
He’s her best friend’s son and so she thinks nothing is going to happen even though he is 31 and tall and golden and you’re only fifteen wrapped in your leotards and fifteen pounds of jewelry and these are things that later you knew would protect you and that’s why you had them on. So many layers upon layers because you had on a skirt that night.
He’s driving down Sunset Strip looking for the clubs when he says “Let’s make some Irish coffees up on Mulholland.” And he stops and gets the coffees, piping hot to go, and you’re holding them and he has whipped cream and he’s got some sugar and some whiskey and all of a sudden he’s racing up the canyon curves to the top of the city and you’re holding the coffee in your lap, laughing.
“We’ll get in,” he says. “Don’t worry.”
And he’s parking and the two of you look out over the city at the lights.
“I thought we could have a drink up here.”
He takes the lids off the coffees and he makes the Irish coffee and you feel so grown up sitting there with him sipping it. The lights look like a carpet of stars below you, twinkling, and you never told your mother about what really happened that night did you?
You never told your mother about how he took you home and you were dizzy with the coffee and he led you to a little alcove where he was sleeping by a bay window and he laid you down next to him and he started to kiss you but the room was spinning too fast and you made it to the bathroom and he found you underneath the sink and held your head and washed off your face and it was in that moment that he realized you were just a child and so he didn’t go any further and in the morning when he took you home — when he took you back to your Uncle’s house nobody said anything at all.
“nightmoves” — copyright 2011 — by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved