By Paula Killen
don't care how old you are -- everything wakes up in spring. Every
spring reminds you of the one before and you can't imagine ever
sleeping through another winter again. And when you are young, spring
affects you like candy in your pockets.
remember if the things that happened to me while growing up are
real or just punched up parts of little experiences. Ultra-color-washed
day dreams, that you take as real because all new ideas, like the
ones you have for the first time, plant the seeds of things that
will eventually become true enough.
memory serves me, all the colors in 1978 were brighter and it smelled
differently too. I had the same nose; a gap between my front teeth
and my friends called me "notes", short for "no tits."
But I had a flat belly, good legs and a tan. I stared at everyone,
but mostly teenage girls. I knew that I would be one of them soon.
I'd fill out a bikini, talk to boys, dance to the radio, pierce
something and pay very little attention to 11-year-old kids like
younger brother, Jefferson, was nine and we got along when I wanted
to. I liked an audience and he was quiet, shy and game for anything.
So, when my parents said that we were going to Mexico for spring
vacation, all we could think about was buying fireworks, sneaking
beers and going para-sailing off the back of a speed boat. Dad said
they had para-sailing in Mexico. Dad said they had everything in
only drag was that we had to take my Uncle Merv and Aunt Margy with
us, in our car. They lived in a house that was never entirely furnished
and all I knew about Uncle Merv was that he never held a job very
long and he had a big old gold tooth right in the front of his mouth.
Margy was a second wife that everyone said was better than the first,
but to my mind she was no prize either. We called her "plaster
brows" because she painted them on so thick.
Uncle Merv wanted to drive and my Aunt Margy said that she had to
sit next to him in the front seat. My parents were suddenly relegated
to the back seat of our station wagon and my brother and I were
stuffed in the trunk with the luggage. Our natural family order
was shifting and I wasn't for it, so when my aunt demanded that
I change my shorty top before we got to the border, I ignored her
the border between Texas and Mexico, my parents went for Visas and
my brother and I wandered around. I had never been to any foreign
place before and I had no idea why men were following us, tapping
my brother on the shoulder and making unmistakable comments. Sex
talk reads in any language. My brother was totally freaked out and
I was nervous, but suddenly awake. I walked slowly back to the car
trying to catch all the glances like fireflies in a jar. I knew
I'd never get this kind of attention back in The States -- after
all, they had teenage girls there.
the border in the car, Jefferson couldn't wait to blurt out the
whole sordid story, which made my Uncle drive faster and my Aunt
remind us all that she warned me not to wear that shorty top.
one million years, we arrived at our designated condo, hidden in
a compound of condos, under layers of rubber tree plants and right
on the beach. We had the best of both worlds -- the comfort of a
condo and the exotic landscape of Mexico.
rained every day and my mother got sick. There was no para-sailing
and no fish in the sea according to my Uncle, who hadn't even had
a nibble. Even fish can figure out a guy like Merv.
my brother and just walked up and down the beach all day, waiting
for something to happen.
night, we could hear the music coming from the bar down the way.
My family went there during the cocktail hour for "The Shrimp
Parade." Young men in fluffy white shirts would come to your
table with shrimps on a burning skewer, blow them out and then serve
them one by one to interested parties.
one lady open up her frosted pink mouth and let one of the boys
drop a shrimp right in. This was not America, after all, these were
sexy Mexican people, serving sexy Mexican shrimps to tourists who
could only hope to have some experience that would make them feel
night towards the end of the trip, my begging paid off and my parents
let me out of the condo for a walk around the compound. I went directly
to the bar. All the shrimp hubbub was over and a little band had
begun to play plinky, tango type music. I sat on the sand, close
to the band and tried to act like a teenager looking for action.
Hot teenage action.
was warm enough to take off my sweater and the sand was whiter in
the moon light than during the day. My hair was white, my teeth
were white and I had on a white T-shirt and shorts. And remember
I had a tan.
the busboy would look at me I would turn away, like I wasn't looking
at him. I liked the way he looked, young and not too lecherous.
He came up to me and asked in broken English if I wanted something?
I told him that I didn't have any money by turning the pockets of
my shorts inside out. He took my hand and walked me to the back
door of the bar, by the kitchen. He made some gestures that told
me to wait for him and he was gone long enough for me to worry about
what it was I was waiting for.
came back with two glasses of dark rum with fat limes floating on
the top. Made the back of my neck ache just to smell it. He held
my hand and we drank in silence, looking at each other a lot and
smiling. I put my drink down and started digging for a Kleenex in
my pocket because my eyes were watering.
hand followed mine into my pocket. He smashed my fingers and thrust
both our hands towards the inside of my thigh. I did not know what
to say -- he wouldn't have understood me anyhow. My whole body felt
like I was being stung by a swarm of bees. I pulled in the opposite
direction, trying to get on my feet -- I'd leave my sweater behind
if I had to!
all, I was not a teenager yet, but spring pushes young things forward
into the dangerous arms of nature. Ready or not.
twisting in this strange dance with the Mexican boy when my brother
Jefferson came down the beach with his flashlight and fireworks.
He was looking for me. And even though my brother was a geek and
a pest and a kid, I screamed his name, "Hey Jefferson, over
Mexican boy froze as my little brother shinned his flashlight right
in his face and asked me, "What are you doing?" Nothing.
Something. You'll get it later. Let's go back. I want to light fireworks
off the porch of the condo and look at the ocean from a safe distance.
Go to bed early.
could I have known that I was awake and would never really sleep
again without spring planted deeply in my pockets?
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