I was still wearing the clothes I had slept in, and couldn’t remember the night before. My head was on backwards. I was starving for something sweet to eat, and there she was. Her waitress station was all the way across the dining room. I felt no pressure that she would be the one to wait on me. Her hair was put up in a braided crown, the color of sunlight, of course. She looked straight at me and smiled. Oddly, I smiled back, surprised to feel at ease. Sudden eye contact with most pretty girls caused me to look sideways.
Leaving her assigned territory in the dining room, she delivered me a glass of ice water. She was obviously a college girl. I was sixteen, tall for my age, a beach boy with a six million dollar suntan (by my own personal estimate).
There was no possibility that a chance like this would inspire me to tell the truth about anything. I would say whatever I imagined would impress her. Getting set to launch the first lie, a sort of comprehensive nonchalance came over me, as though all the bones in my body had melted. I had become fluid, capable of taking any shape verbally. Lying, I had confidence.
“You look like shit,” I believe was the first thing she said to me, laughing with more than her voice. Her heart—not only her eyes—twinkled. Intelligence glittered in the sound of her voice. She laughed with me, at the truth of my astonishment in being the recipient of ice water from her, as if she couldn’t quite understand it either, why she had come all the way over to this side of the dining room.
Whoever I really was, which would be a mystery to me for years to come, jumped up and danced momentarily for her. I uttered the only truthful words that occurred to me during the whole conversation. I asked, “Have you got an aspirin?”
After breakfast, I hung around drinking coffee, rehearsing my lines for her next visit to the table. I told her I was a Sigma Nu, going to Carolina, majoring in business administration. I was convinced she believed me.
She let me take her out to dinner at the Dunes Club. We went to the movies a dozen times. She took me back to her apartment and let me to kiss her for hours. She taught me to kiss withbig full, wonderful lips.
The myriad stories I told her were mostly fiction. A baseline of fraud stretched into the letters I wrote that winter, as she sent me postcards from college, and later from the south of France, when she studied abroad, coming back to the beach each summer.
She gave me physical privileges, very specific, more than kisses after a while, as I got older and more confident. She raised me sexually. It would be several years before I wondered aloud, “How come you’ve let me keep lying to you all this time?”
I don’t remember what she said, just the glitter of her laughter. And the understanding I had that she was wise. She wouldn’t interrupt a good story just because the facts wandered off into the future. When she liked what she saw in her lover, she would show you reflections of yourself in the mirrors of her womb, what you were in truth, a glimpse of creation. All I wanted was to fly, all the way into the light, become a moth in flames.