Thursday, June 23, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 27: Falling in love with the lost boys for the rest of my life

It did not take me long to find an interesting possible boyfriend, a very popular boy from Garland named Neil who insisted he was going to run for cheerleader that year arousing talk about what he was all about. He did not seem to care what the kids said about him. I suspected right away from such an attitude that Neil was one of the lost boys, already beyond the power of the female sex to retrieve from whatever world he inhabited now, even at fourteen going on fifteen. I thought he would marry though in Mormon society and possibly have a family, but tepid love would be all he could feel for the lucky girl which I did not think would be enough for me.
However I feared I was doomed to fall in love with the lost boys forever. Neil found out I wanted to be a writer, so once when we were being bused to Salt Lake to see a Shakespeare production he told me to write plays and he would perform in them.  But only one time did I ever feel a real spark from Neil, which happened under very bizarre circumstances, but it was enough to keep me his willing slave for the rest of the time I lived in Garland.
I got acquainted with a little circle of girls from Garland, all freshmen.  Although I felt inadequate trying to be one of this sophisticated gang who had all grown up together, I did my best.  Aunt Neta and her daughter-in-law, Ada, started telling me right away I had to go to the football games in order to be accepted and popular.  Both appeared to be dismayed by the stacks of books I started bringing home.  I had never had access to well stocked libraries in my life, so I was taking books home from the school library as well as the town library and was reading so much, my eyes hurt to turn them.  This simply would not do as far as my advisers were concerned.  The least I could do was join the pep club so I could wave pom poms.
Given my past, it was impossible for me to dedicate my life to doing something so trifling. I never did go to the football games which I had not seen before, but I finally learned to love basketball games. Even though I never waved a single pom pom in Garland. 

When the girls day dance came around, Pauline, one of the girls from my Garland gang, begged me to ask a boy and take him in her car.  Her mother had promised she could take the family car since she had been driving forever even though she was two years away from being able to secure a legal license.  For some reason the cops looked the other way when she drove by, she insisted. 
 I felt very uncomfortable about asking a boy who had never asked me out to a dance.  She said everybody did it.  The way she got me to go along was by suggesting I could ask Neil.  The fact that I liked him had not escaped her notice.
I protested that Neil had not asked any girls to the previous dances that year.  She said that didn't matter.  He would expect to be asked to the girls' day dance.
Our plans were made but just a few days before the dance when I was going to have to rake up my nerve to ask Neil to go, Pauline said that she was going to ask Neil to go after all, but I should ask DeLyle, Neil's best friend.  She pretended to think there was very little difference between the two boys, but DeLyle was not very attractive even though he was a constant buddy of Neil's.  I did not have the faintest interest in him, and was horrified that I was now expected to take him to the Girls Day Dance.
Pauline said I had to go because she had persuaded her mother to let her drive so she could take at least three of her gang to the dance.  She was  fourteen, nearly two years older than I was, so I found her to be too forceful to resist. I dutifully asked DeLyle, kicking myself for ever getting into the position of feeling obligated.

I was sitting in the backseat with DeLyle who I scarcely knew on the way to the dance.  We were all crowded together. Everyone was talking.  In the dark car nobody appeared to notice when Neil slipped his hand over the back seat and grabbed mine.  I was sitting a little forward so there would be room for the other two in the back seat. He held my hand the rest of the way to dance. I have still never forgotten the feeling of mad delicious passion he inspired in me. Just that one time he seemed to feel it, too. 
I figured  Pauline might have even told him that she had gotten me to go by promising me I could ask him.  Now he was getting even. He did care enough about my obvious misery to respond!  He knew very well DeLyle did not appeal to me at all, and Pauline had taken advantage of my younger age and inexperience to force me into a humiliating situation. He probably felt manipulated by her willfulness, too. After all, if he was going to get elected cheerleader he could not afford to rile a powerhouse like Pauline either.  
 I was not used to dating boys at all and I thought the actual dance would never end. I never even got to dance with Neil. The dance occurred at the end of the school year, and Neil further alleviated my pain by asking me if I wanted to write to him during summer vacation.  I said yes with a leaping heart, but alas, I was to be sorely disappointed in his letters.
He sounded amazingly like Aunt Neta with her complaints about her ex husband's infidelity. Neil's letters were chock full of bitchy complaints about girls.  There was not one speck of passion for me or them in any of his writings, although I never stopped looking and hoping. 

I knew by those letters that school girl charms did not interest him.  Someone somewhere had already responded to his need who was not a girl.  I heard that his father had died leaving his mother a widow.  I thought that might have had something to do what happened to him. I knew Neil was not attracted to the quite ordinary DeLyle.  He really was just a friend. Neil was still fighting whoever it was, all of them.  He did not want to be one of the lost boys with all the misery and humiliation that might cause him.  Who could blame him?
It was as though he knew I did not have the power that could reach him.  His letters reflected his resignation.  I just accepted with as good of grace as I could muster what had happened to him.  That was the least I could do.  He had thought enough of me to write the letters, even though they were painfully revealing.

I went back to Garland for a second year unable to get out of a year of sewing.  I made a simply horrid looking dress I thought would at least be easy to make but it was so ugly I could never bear to wear it.  So much for the beautiful clothes Aunt Neta said I would be able to make if I would just learn to sew. 

I attended Mormon Seminary faithfully for two years, five days a week.  We studied the old testament the first year and the new testament the second.  I was going to have to take church history the third year which was partly the reason I balked.  I had even attended Mutual for the girls and boys my age.  I had gone to all the Sunday church meetings Aunt Neta required of me.  My second year in Garland was so uneventful, so completely lacking in excitement I made up my mind I simply had to get out of there before I had to make that suit.
I started asking my mother if she would please let me live in Salt Lake during my junior year in high school. I told her I needed to get down there and graduate from a big city school so I would be better prepared to attend the University of Utah.

In the meantime, Miss Woodside, the history teacher, had come back to live with Aunt Neta.  We three had quite a companionable time my sophomore year, getting along I thought very well.  But when I told Aunt Neta I thought I would be transferring to a Salt Lake high school the next year, she acted furious.  Why, I didn't know.  She seemed to take it very personally.  She said, "Oh but you won't be able to have Miss Woodside as your history teacher."  I said, airily, "Oh, that's all right, she talks too much anyway!"
I never should have said that because it made Aunt Neta angry beyond belief.  Miss Woodside did talk too much, I thought, because she could not possibly talk about what she was really interested in I did not think. But Aunt Neta all but never spoke to me again after I persisted in moving to Salt Lake.
I did not think she had been that attached to me.  A seamstress I was not going to make, a devout Mormon I did not want to be, so what was the source of her anger at me for leaving a school that was not really doing anything for me? 
Nobody read books in that school.  Neil had been my one hope. He only had expressed interest in the plays I would write, but his letters to me had been so flat, he could not hold me there.  We had no plans to correspond the second summer. I was not even able to get a part in the school play.  The drama teacher was in love with cheerleader type girls and they and other popular girls got all the good parts both years I was there. 
Nor I did not dare say an unconventional word or I would have had Aunt Neta smiting me down.  She appeared obsessed with what girls had to do and say to be popular.
I just did not care that much about being popular.  I was never going to be popular.  I read too many books.  I had always been regarded as disturbingly smart.  I was used to it.  But I still chose to read obsessively.  That's what people who were going to be writers did.

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