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
19 thoughts on ““nightmoves” (from my memoir “whitegirrrl”) short chapter”
“when he took you back to your Uncle’s house nobody said anything at all.”
In between studying the global economy, Philip Dick’s 2-3-74 experience, I find you. And I always wonder what I might say as you open the door to these rooms in your life. I always want to say “I’m sorry” but I had nothing to do with this. Yet, I am. As your friend.
The adults knew better, and you didn’t. And you still believe he’s out there.
And I don’t..
“whitegirrrl” is a memoir? Of the SoCal exp in three generations of women — my grandmother — my mother and myself? I once had to write a paper for a women’s studies class, Song — at UCSB in the early 80’s that asked this precise question. What is the difference in the three generations? Well this memoir addresses that and it includes my own coming of age. Why this is important is because it is a feminist book?
What heterosexual feminism has been for my generation of tail end baby boom women. By the time I’m through? You can explain my life to me! LOLOLOLOL! xxoo!
hugs from me —
& don’t forget writing is a three part thing. The author’s “memoria” — the audience — the text. Look up Helene Cixous on “women’s voice” — ! French Feminism — like me… she has much to say about “the body” as lived and women’s text!
I forget everything when I read what you write because I am there, I have so much empathy. That is because of how you write, and I am attuned to you and to what you say. I always note the undercurrents, and the depths, the abandonments and your sane soul describing so much of what i cannot make sense of. It hurts. To read you sometimes. This lack of intelligence that surrounded you. Yet, very intelligent people.
In some ways i don’t believe you ever felt affirmed. Your perceptions. Who you are. And I am not talking about “the how-to of affirmations book at the drugstore pharmacy”. I am talking about recognition. Just recognition of you. Of who you are and what you say. And of your mind, and your heart. So, you are like a moon that no sun shined on, except in periodic rays from time to time. But nothing constant.. So you learned to be your own constant. You constructed your own sun, and masterfully so. In creation. In writing. In art. In pottery. But nothing held your attention because you needed so much light, to reflect yourself and all of your facets. This restlessness of creativity is the way you experience movement, and in movement–internal freedom.
That in and of itself, is one of the many reasons I love you, my friend.
I am always comforted that you have the constant flow of the sea nearby.
so, I will read Helene, after I finish with Philip Dick and my economic studies. I know I need to study these women’s voices. I have been too long in the world of men, mathematics, physics, and
random balls of light.
See, you fill in all the blanks for me? I had a very narcissistic mother. Many kids do. So, they are all gone now and I can write this? This is my Braverman (Palm Latitudes piece) (sort of if only I could write like her) In narcissism the parent is like the sun and the child is an object? Meant to reflect the Sun’s light, only. Gnarly, actually
Two books you might enjoy very much!
the bottom one is really fab — you would love it! but that price is nuts! seriously — you could find that for less I’m sure — she was huge when I was writing my thesis? Huge! Top one is little vignettes — oh believe me, after you read that one…. yep. It always amazes me what you see and say? really — what you get from the text on this one……!
ps: I am amazed that — the POV draws you in? So that is fab that it is invisible? Really! A tuffie, that POV…. but it works!
In my view of people the conflict between personality and essence has always been apparent to be. As Gurdjieff says, essence is who we are, and personality is who we are made to be, by education, family, the world, and all mechanically assimilated things. I believe that. Well, I do. And so when i read what you write, I read it on several levels and I rarely answer at the moment because I have to think about it. And then your words, unfold, their meaning and then, I answer. In all of your writing is your essence. Not just personality. Essence is there, too. This is miraculous given that you started out, as you write, an “object”. I think it is because you have multifaceted gifts, and you found through the creative acts, and outlet, for “self”. You still need a catalyst, because of your self generating “inner sun” and i understand that too. btw.
I see you sometimes now as your own sun and moon. Other times. You are the essence of the sea.
Don’t forget, you are a Cancer? So, you “care” — primary for Cancer — others would laugh because they see it as the girl who got sick? They will remember their own experiences — totally SoCal, as well — this period in the 70’s — that song I played. Trying to sneak into clubs!
I have taken into account all of what you have written in your memoirs, not just this piece. And yes, perhaps, I do take life seriously.
Interesting to think how others might read it, though. Thanks for the insight!
check this out!
I am really on this memoir — major flow right now no kidding!
Thank you for those books you recommended. I will bookmark this conversation, and in due course begin to search for them.
ps? I still need to make a cherry pie. Can you believe it?????
you mean tonight? bake a pie? Geez. Get going on it! xxoo!
hahaha! It sounded that way huh? No, I was just remembering another bookmark.
Your cherry pie instructions!
cobbler! ala blackberry!
Enjoyed the music. Could teach you those chords in a jiffy. Then you could sing along Bonnaire sings Bon Iver.
You share interesting music. Very nice.
the last song I wrote==I dispensed with words almost completely. I found them limiting. totally. So there were voices, or I did voice overs, simple rhythm beneath. Interjections of dissonance, so it would not be–repetitive. No need to put people to sleep.
it was called “spiritus sanctus” during the recording session, at the playback, there was a third voice that came through–not mine, or Steve’s–the engineer/musician.
We played it back time and again, to see if it was harmonics, that had somehow been created through the vocals. No. It wasn’t. It was an angelic as best I can describe it, female voice, that just dropped in.