The Girl

Not having any other place to be, and given that I recently bombed out of my first semester in college, I joined the Navy and went to Boot camp on April 8, 1968.

Boot camp was interesting, as were the times. Those who are old enough will remember the raw emotion of Vietnam and how volatile and alive the 60’s were. My company was comprised of 100 or so of us, with 80 being from New York. This assured a healthy dose of attitude, humor, and drama. As part of that New York mix, I was comfortable and amused, but also singled out by the company commander as someone with attitude. He would take me aside to tell me so but never actually punished me. As those kinds of guys go, he was actually soft and I believe he secretly respected me.

The weeks crawled by and mostly we marched for hours and hours. As it grew hotter outside with very high humidity (Great Lakes, Illinois), all that marching became real work and my body was growing fit and trim. We would also attend classes that were very boring. The only one I remember was about how to guard against venereal disease. That involved washing repeatedly from your knees to your belly button. By now all of us were dreaming of the chance to wash between our knees and belly buttons and sometime in early June we were given day passes to finally get off base.

At 19 I was still shy and unsure of myself. Some of this was covered up by bravado, and even though I almost always had a girlfriend, I was, and am, naturally introverted. On one of these passes late in Boot camp, I took a train alone into Chicago. On the way to wherever I was going to end up, I stopped into a small seedy sausage shop and bought a quick and delicious sausage I could eat while walking. Continuing my easy and long walk I eventually made my way into downtown Chicago and took a seat in a plaza surrounded by tall shiny buildings.

It was then that I saw a very pretty girl, about my age, sitting alone on a bench across from me. She had long curly blonde hair, a blue dress, and a real sweet face. She was so pretty that I anguished about getting up and approaching her. Somehow I mustered the courage and walked over to her. We sat together and talked for awhile and all too soon she said she had to get back to work, but enjoyed our conversation. I asked her if we could meet again next week and she quickly agreed so we set up a time to meet in this same place. I know I was happy and excited as I made my way back to the train station.

At 19, a week is still a long time. How long? Just long enough for a shy and uncertain sailor to begin to have doubts. I did not doubt that she would be there, but I did wonder if she would continue to find me interesting, what we would talk about, and what the point might be since Boot camp would be ending in a few weeks. So I did what shy boys do….I did nothing. I didn’t go, and instead went with some friends to Milwaukee.

While it is true that I am happily married for 44 years, it is also true that it is the things never done that haunt us as we get older. Perhaps I am at an age when these lost opportunities grow larger, while the time I have left grows shorter. And maybe, just maybe, there is a fine looking woman, about my age, who wonders why that nice boy never showed up the following week.

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Natalie

natalie© 2014 Michael Fiveson

She was outside a restaurant trying to coax us in. I just wanted to get lost in her eyes and come out as a much younger man. That didn’t happen, but she did let me peek at her soul.

(please click on image for added detail)

The Ride

My father sold Oldsmobiles in 1965, and as a favor to those customers in our immediate community, he would take their car in for service and leave his own ride at home. On this particular day that ride was a 442 which was beautiful and strong. In a time when muscle cars were a reality, this one was a behemoth and when I saw that he left the keys on his dresser, I thought I should take it out for a spin. Never mind that I was only 16 and would not have my driver’s license for another year. I was somewhere between crazy and emotionally challenged, so I grabbed his keys and fired that beast up.

Drifting through our residential neighborhood I decided to pick up my friend David, who was the son of a dentist. I tell you that so you would know that it was a nice neighborhood and I had intelligent friends. Not all of their friends were particularly bright, and on this day David made a bad choice when he agreed to go for a ride with the likes of me. He seemed impressed that I was driving this car and perhaps the cool factor overtook his common sense. He had no idea what was in store for him as I continued to casually cruise our neighborhood, deciding to head back to his narrow street where many children played, and all was safe and well.

His street was very narrow with cars parked on each side. This created a very tight fit for two cars heading in opposite directions. As such, the speed limit was only 15mph. I wanted to do something crazy that day; needed to, because taking my father’s car apparently was not enough. Driving without a license came with little risk, so I decided to up the ante some.

As I turned onto David’s street I wanted to see what this bad ass car could really do. Putting my foot all the way to the floor I heard two distinct screams. The first was the engine opening up and firing all 8 cylinders in unison. The second scream was coming from David…..non stop…..panicked and freaked. I saw the speedometer read 95 mph when, *out of the corner of my eye, something tiny dashed into the street. I know this because I hit that small girl, who was chasing a soccer ball. As she flew into the air, already broken beyond repair, my windshield shattered and David stopped his screaming about the same time his head went right through my windshield. My father’s ruined car continued to travel down the street careening off parked cars until it came to rest with two broken boys inside, and a dead and blood soaked child 100 feet behind us. I was not dead, but already knew enough to wish I were.

I was awakened by angry voices and the sound of sirens. I ached terribly and had a broken skull and several broken ribs. I could not see as I was covered in my own blood, but that did not stop the pummeling I was taking from what turned out to be the murdered girl’s father. David was also in bad shape and in addition to having lost an eye; he lost a good deal of his functioning. Today they call it a traumatic brain injury. Back then they called it manslaughter and it was added to the list of things I was charged with. None of it mattered to me, as I could not crawl past what I had done to that little girl who turned out to be six years old and was named Amy. There was a great uproar to have me charged as an adult, even as I lay in a hospital bed for 3 months healing from my self inflicted wounds. The large scar on my forehead didn’t matter either, as I saw myself as the monster I had now become.

After much legal wrangling, I was charged as a Juvenile and agreed to all charges and was sent to the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, in the Bronx, until my 18th birthday. The horrors that occurred there are almost beyond description, but I was always aware that I was deserving of whatever evil that might come my way.

Who knows what I may have become, if I had not acted so stupidly that day. David’s parents successfully sued my father and ruined him financially. My father walked out of my life and I never saw him again. When Amy’s parents had their day in civil court there was nothing left for them to seize. I would have gladly given them anything they wanted, but I was lost to the world, and was so depressed that I had little to offer other than my sorrow and incarceration. And all they really wanted was their sweet child alive again.

There is no hate as deep as self hate, and my adult life has been marked by alcohol and drug abuse, broken relationships, lost jobs, constant relocation, and several suicide attempts. I take nine medications, and my best dreams always involve my own death. It is only in these dreams that I feel release and freedom. Once, not long ago, I had a dream about little Amy. In this dream she was telling a monster that she has forgiven him, but when I woke up I was trembling and knew that I was never going to forgive myself. One day I was an attractive and athletic 16 year old, and the next day I was forever broken, hideous, and alone.

* This story is true, up until the point where Amy ran into the street. No child was killed that day, and at the end of David’s dead end street I slammed on the brakes, and slid to a stop. He exited my car in a hurry and ran home. I casually drove back home and left the keys where I had found them on my father’s dresser. Life continued for me as it was, and it took many years before my impulsive and potentially deadly behavior of that day became clear to me. As part of my working life, I once taught employment modules in a prison for youth. They were there for a variety of stupid acts, including theft and vehicular homicide. I always saw part of me in their faces, and would look at them knowing that they were not as lucky as I was that day.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

Butterfly Wings

When I was but 12 and new to a suburban neighborhood, I was thought largely a curiosity, being from the city. Girls liked the way I looked but I was far too insecure to have embraced it fully, and draw warmth and self esteem from it.  I remember and reflect on that time which seems so magically like a prior life. It was a sweet thing and there is one memory above all that plays like a short mystical film clip.

As afternoon light grew dim, there remained a soft golden glow when she appeared, dancing. She wore a light blue dress that had enough material to allow for what looked like wings. She then did a slow ballet of sorts. As she glided to music only she heard, I watched knowing she was dancing for me, and the moment became all at once ethereal, surreal, and frozen.

She moved back and forth with her arms extended like butterfly wings, fragile and graceful. I don’t remember all that I was thinking as I watched her move, but I do know I thought her insane. I think the moment was so strange I was able to place it permanently in memory, and as my life has unfolded that memory has remained precisely intact, and has become profoundly more meaningful.

I knew she lived around the block and for awhile I knew her name, but she was not someone I was attracted to and I really did think she was crazy. As I moved into my life she was quickly forgotten but every now and then I find myself coming back to that evening and allowing the clip to replay. Within it lives the mystery of youth, and a life just beginning.

No Hesitation

There was a time when I did not believe in having weapons in my home. I did not fully understand the cruel nature of some human beings, their desperate lives motivated by evil and stupidity.

When my wife and I were in college and living in a rented home, I could not conceive of the need for self protection. It was not about gun safety, it was about karma, and the false belief that nothing bad would come my way. I had no knives, no guns, no swords, bombs, or hand grenades. All I did have is good intent, and that would be enough to shield us from pain and harm.

Had I known the truth about the degree of randomness in the universe, perhaps I would have been protected that night. When I first heard the front door being worked, I would have reached for my gun, and would have gained the advantage both by firepower and surprise. But there was no gun to be had, and as my sweet and pretty 25 year old wife continued to sleep, I was left only with myself, naked and scared.

It was well before I developed real sleep issues, and in those days all my parts worked, nothing ached, and I usually slept well. But that August night it was very hot and humid and since we were young and poor we had no air conditioning. This meant that while the front door was locked, the side door was left open, so the screen door could permit some sort of breeze. This door was locked, but only by a cheap and tiny hook latch. To get to this side door, this man walked up the driveway, and right past our bedroom curtains. Well, they were not real curtains, but only light sheets, crudely clipped to a curtain rod. This night was lit by a bright moon, and at 2:30 A.M, I sat up in bed and watched his silhouette move past our bedroom, only a few feet from that screen door.

My wife continued to sleep and I saw no reason to awaken her. In truth, I was just a few seconds from the potential for blood and catastrophe. Soon I could hear him jiggle the screen door. Then I heard him start to cut the screen, and I realized that it was about to be too late. He was going to be in my unprotected house, carrying a knife, with very bad intentions. Without any more thought I literally leaped into the kitchen and yelled “HEY!” What a sight I must have been, naked, with my heart pounding and my penis dangling, although I think he jumped away as I yelled, and the kitchen was dark. I could hear his boots echoing down the street as he ran away, and I saw long dark hair.

By this point Judy was awake and asking what was going on. Examining the screen door it was apparent that he had completed his vertical cut, and was just starting the horizontal cut that would allow his hand to unlock the door. I would estimate that he was 2-4 seconds from being in my home, when I yelled and scared him away.  Had I hesitated those 2-4 seconds, he would have found the two of us.

There is no possible scenario that comes out well if he had unlocked my door. Even if I would have been able to fight him some, I can only imagine how big that blade would have been. I do realize now that I acted somewhat heroically by jumping into that kitchen, but wonder what choice I really had.

The police arrived 45 minutes after I called them and shined their flashlights into some bushes. They took my information and told me to lock my doors. They did not suggest that I go buy a weapon, and in fact it took many years before I felt I could spend that much money on a gun.

I don’t know if I was a personal target that night or if it was a random creep looking for someone stupid enough not to lock their door. I know I survived and nothing was damaged, except some of my innocence and naivety. And maybe karma did play a role. I am, after all, alive to write this story. I was awake when I should have been asleep. I was alert enough to figure out what was happening, and my penis and I were enough to scare him away. Sounds like payback for something. That said, I sleep close to a loaded 38 caliber Smith and Wesson Detective’s Special, and the next creep that tries to break into my house will discover how special it is. No hesitation, again.

 

 

 

 

A Gift, of Sorts

In 1965 when I was 16 years old, I was living alone with my father who was very much a bachelor. He would have been 38 at that time and he was a car salesman who was successful in both his work and play. His male friends were kind of connected, if you know what I mean, and there were poker games where these goodfellas would play and drink and laugh quite a bit. In truth, they were a fun bunch, but there were always the dark secrets that came with these guys, and my father worked to stay on their good side. I’m not sure what his contribution was to this group but it probably had something to do with his work as a car salesman. He was more than a little interesting, my father, and his rough edges needed the kind of smoothing that would keep him away from the apartment for long periods at a time, and I was largely left to fend for myself. This was a lonely time in my life and I recall that I had made arrangements to visit my mother who was living in upstate New York. As the trip was approaching, my father told me to make sure I was home the following night as he had a “surprise” going away gift for me.

While I didn’t know for sure what was the surprise was going to be, I do recall thinking it was going to be most unusual, and my anticipation became quite intense as the day moved slowly into night. I was most excited when I heard the door open and my father coming up the stairs with someone else.

She was absolutely gorgeous, and her name was Ruth. Long blonde hair, 23 years old, and about 5 ft 4 inches. After a brief introduction, my father left the apartment and I was alone with Ruth. My heart was racing and my mind was numb when she started to kiss me. This kissing lasted for some time and she was very complimentary. Although I wasn’t a virgin (what can I say, call me lucky), I never imagined that I would be with a grown woman, and one this beautiful and sexy was beyond belief. After several minutes Ruth suggested that we move into my bedroom, and without any hesitation I stood to show her the way.

She undressed herself and then she undressed me. Her naked body was superb, and her breasts were perfect, arching slightly upward. I was so excited I could hardly breathe, and we were kissing when she climbed on top of me and guided my screaming penis inside of her. It lasted 6 seconds. Give or take 2 seconds. What, at 16 I should have known about restraint and timing? She was wonderful about it all and suggested that we wait a bit and try it again. I was kind of freaked at this point, having lost it so quickly and not really knowing what to do now. During the time that we spent in my bedroom, my father had returned and retreated to his bedroom, where he would wait for Ruth. She was very tender with me and very kind with her words. Right before she got dressed she kissed me for several minutes and told me she wanted to give me a piece of advice. “Always go down on a woman, you have fabulous lips”.

In the morning I peeked into my father’s room and saw them sleeping together. I wasn’t freaked out and wasn’t damaged. It was another era, a time when a misguided father might do something like that for his son. Today, of course, this would be considered way over the top. I never could arrange something like that for my son, and although he is a grown man now, when he was 16 he was, in my eyes, still a child.

My father didn’t know any better, and he just wanted to do something nice for his son. The gift was extended, accepted, consumed, and is forever a part of me. Many years ago I was attending some State sponsored training for social case workers, and I relayed this story during that training. It is fair to say that everyone was horrified that a father would do that to a boy of 16. I didn’t feel abused, but I also understood their outrage. My father was piece of work, and I still think about Ruth.