BY SHEILA HORNE
Copyright is held by the author.
JIMMY KNEW I stayed out late in the summer with my friends and a certain boy he referred to as a, no gooder. Yet, he telephoned me at eight o’clock in the morning.
“Hey Mary Beth,” he shouted, “get your lazy self out of bed.”
An hour later, he showed up at my house with Rodney and Rosa Belle whose real name was Agostina. She hated it. It belonged to her mother, grandmother and great grandmother. They were all obese women with black hair and a perpetual scowl on their faces.
Rosa Belle and Rodney were going steady but they never spoke to each other. Not like Jimmy and me. We talked non-stop about anything and everything. At the beginning of every school year the teachers made sure we weren’t in the same classes. They complained that our ongoing conversations disrupted everyone. Our classmates made bets to see when we’d finally run out of things to say to each other. It never happened. Not that we were in love. Jimmy didn’t love me. He reminded me often that he liked me but couldn’t love me. Rosa Belle had said it was because of my parents. At least that’s what Rodney told her.
I knew Jimmy would never amount to anything more than a crazy handsome boy. I knew my family thought him too low on the social ladder and wouldn’t accept him. I knew Jimmy not loving me had nothing to do with my parents or me. It had to do with him. He couldn’t stay still. He jumped from girl to girl. He charmed them and they fell for him. But they had to be on their toes. If they slipped up and got hooked on him, he ended the relationship before it started. I also knew I was pretty enough to love him. I just didn’t want to. I think that’s why he liked me. That’s the way it was with those types of boys. They hung around if they thought you didn’t love them.
What I knew about Jimmy that the other girls didn’t know and he himself didn’t know, he was afraid to love anyone, scared they would tie him down and stop him from doing what he wanted to do.
Anyway on that particular day, Jimmy, Rosa Belle, Rodney and I drove to the beach. The three of us sat in Jimmy’s car with our legs stretched out on the dashboard. We watched him dart back and forth at the edge of the surf pretending to play football.
“Get off your butts and run with me,” he yelled.
We shook our heads. We wanted to listen to The Mersey Beat bands on the radio. We turned it up so loud we thought we’d go deaf. We didn’t care. It was all about rock and roll, cars and being on the beach. All the boys including Rodney imitated the bands. They dressed like them, wore their hair like them, some of them even started playing guitar. Not Jimmy. He liked to fix cars, race them on the back roads and play chicken in the dark. He drove so fast it made me giddy. He also loved to talk about war.
“I hope we never have another one,” Rosa Belle said, wiggling her toes in the sand.
“We won’t, we’ve already fought three,” Rodney said.
“I want a war,” Jimmy said, “I’m enlisting in the army as soon as I can.”
I planned to be an airline stewardess and suggested to Jimmy that instead of joining the army he could be a pilot. “Together we’d rule the sky,” I said.
He smiled. “Sounds like a good idea Mary Beth,” he said, “I’ll think about it.”
Rodney pointed out that it might cause a problem with our spouses when we married. Jimmy didn’t think so because he and I were buddies. Spouses couldn’t make you stop seeing your best friend just because she happened to be a girl. Rosa Belle agreed with Rodney. As far as she knew, men and women didn’t like their husbands or wives having a friend of the opposite sex. Jimmy and I looked at each other and laughed. We didn’t see each other that way.
A week later Jimmy enlisted in the army. He was one of the first boys from school to be shipped to Vietnam. He left his car with me with a list of instructions on how to care for it. Since we could no longer talk to each other, we wrote letters filled with details of our daily life. On his leave home he came over to my house to see me and check on his car. Once he made sure it was okay we took it for a drive to the beach. Jimmy didn’t seem happy. We sat on the sand and stared at the waves rumble towards us. For the first time since we were children he didn’t have much to say. Once in a while I caught him looking at me. When I smiled at him he quickly turned his head.
Finally, he picked up a shell and played with it. “Mary Beth, I’m not going back to Vietnam,” he said. “I made a big mistake. The place is a horror story. People are dying all over the place even in front of me. Don’t tell anyone but I’m thinking of making my way to Canada.”
“I’ll go with you,” I said, “I always wanted to see Canada especially Niagara Falls.”
That’s when he told me. There was something different about me. I’d grown hips and breasts since he last saw me. I couldn’t go with him. He had a good reason. If he met a girl and married her, she would never allow him to have a best friend who looked like Natalie Wood. I didn’t say anything. I knew what he meant.
Like the story? Help pay the writer by clicking on the button below and donating. Funds raised this week (minus PayPal’s cut and a small admin fee) will be given to this week’s contributors. Thank-you. Suggested donation: $5.