I earned an audition for a company in San Francisco a month earlier when I was a solid B cup. Now, after losing three more pounds, I was still pushing a full C. My genetics were pulling me away from the only dream I knew existed. A woman with a flat chest and a thick blonde mustache asked me to give my audition spot to another physically better-suited girl.
I should give up my barre for a pole if I wanted to pursue a career in dancing. Perhaps a drama team might be an artful use of my talents. I was shocked to the point of mutism. I ran out to my waiting carpool and tried to process all she said.
My mother was on her way to Vegas with one of her boyfriends while her fourth husband was busy at a biker run. It was a perfect time for me to have an early life crisis.
The following is an excerpt from Chronicles of a Valley Girl.
Being the last to arrive for a sleepover is never ideal. Everyone has broken into clicks, the pizza is gone, and the parents are frazzled. Lisa lived in Turlock’s rural area but went to a Modesto school with me so she could avoid attending high school with her white-trash cousins.
I arrived after my mother’s errands and straight from Ballet. I didn’t mention the disturbing conversation I had with my Ballet instructor over the size of my tits. My mother was already functionally high. No conversation would stick with her for long.
My friend’s house sat off the road behind a full walnut orchard. Besides the stereotypical broken down cars in the front yard, several fallen logs were littered with broken glass from target practice. The pungent smell of weed hit me as I opened the door.
Lisa’s mother came out to the car to talk with mine. I went inside looking for my friend and a shower.
“There she is. This is my dancer friend I was talking about.” The girls sat around a table playing cards and drinking wine coolers. They looked at me like I was an insect. Lisa promptly kissed me on the mouth, as she liked to shock everyone, and handed me a diet soda.
“I smell like ass from practice. Can I use your shower?”
“Sure, my bathroom is at the end of this first hallway. The boys use the other one.” She crinkled her face in disgust. “Don’t go in there.”
“Good to know.” The girls around the table flashed their fake smiles and giggled as I walked away.
The old farmhouse had a screened-in porch and several small common rooms connected by a confusing bedroom layout. The boys my friend mentioned were sprawled out in the various rooms.
Tales from the Crypt played in the main living room. A nature program about elephants played in another. Finding the bathroom occupied, I wandered back to watch the elephant show.
Two young men flopped across the couches with a table full of empty beer bottles between them. The mantel held several dusty graduation pictures. One clean frame displayed a handsome man in military uniform.
The younger boy in the room looked at me and huffed. “Can we help you?”
I returned the frame to its dusty groove. “Sorry, good looking guy.” The older looking boy smirked.
“The girls aren’t playing fair?” he asked, his voice deeper than I expected.
“Nah, I’m waiting for the bathroom — straight from practice. I need a shower.” I wrinkled my nose. He pulled a blanket off the couch, clearing me a seat at the end. “Sit here. You smell like perfume to me.”
“Sweat and disappointment,” I chuckled. “Is there more beer?” I set my empty can on the table like it was a game.
“Nope, I’m off to get more soon.” He looked into an adjacent room. Lisa’s mother raised her bottle to him and shook it. “Yep, soon.”
His shirt twisted over his thin, muscular frame revealing a puffy scar on his stomach. It looked like a slag burn from a welder. “My God, what happened to you?” I pulled his heavy-metal tee up to get a better look.
“Show her your shoulder. It’s gnarly,” The younger boy goaded.
He reluctantly pulled his shirt up enough for me to get a glimpse. “Wait,” I whispered, climbing on his lap. I pulled his shirt over his head, pinning his arms to the back of the couch. With a full beer in hand, he didn’t stop me. “What happened?”
The scar was the circumference of a baseball. It looked like his skin was melted. His arm on the same side dripped with several more scars. I ran my fingertips over the marks and looked into his brown eyes. Finding no objection, I continued.
Moving his arm close to my side, I lined the scars up. Pulling his other arm into position it became clear.
“Rifle?” I put my hand on his smooth skin and touched the other side. “Shrapnel?” I put my palm over the scar.
He nodded and smirked, “Something like that.”
My eyes watered. “I hope the bastard died screaming for doing this to you.” I carefully pulled his shirt back over his head. Images of violence I witnessed up close flashed in my mind. I blinked them all away.
“Let’s go get more beer.” He put his arm around my waist and stood up, tossing me over his shoulder. He wasn’t tall or thick or a football player or blonde. Nothing like my normal playthings, but I found him instantly intriguing.
We walked out of the kitchen door past my friend Lisa. “Shake your skinny ass and get us some Strawberry wine.” Everyone in the area howled.
He put me down when we got to the car. “I’m heavier than I look.”
“Not even, what are you a buck five?”
“Something like that, buck three.” I shook my head. “Not a big deal now,” I mumbled to myself.
“Why isn’t it a big deal?”
“I think I was kicked out of my ballet group tonight. My tits got too big. I’ve been keeping a strict diet, but they keep getting bigger.” He quietly laughed.
“John,” he looked over and stuck out his hand.
“Celeste,” I replied, shaking his hand.
“Since you’ve inspected my scars and told me your tit problems. I should know your name.” I chuckled and fiddled with my seatbelt. “I bet the boys follow you around all day.”
“My last boyfriend was so boring. He never talked, and sex was awful.”
“Really? What was so awful?”
“It’s been one disappointment after another. You see people in movies, and they look like something great is happening. It’s just not.”
John sighed and cleared his throat. “You might be going about it wrong. Have you ever? You know — climaxed?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh, you would know. How many times have you tried.”
“Four times with two guys. It’s not happening for me.” John nodded his head and pursed his lips.
We arrived at the liquor store. This was the type of store with bars on the windows and a junkie sleeping in the parking lot. The flickering neon sign bounced off the car’s chrome, casting a severe light in my seat.
“Stay here, lock the door after me and don’t talk to anyone.” I nodded my head. John returned a few minutes later with two cardboard boxes filled with beers and a bottle of strawberry wine.
Conversation on the way home was light. He was only home recovering for a few more weeks before going back to San Diego. I told him my birthday was last weekend, and how I planned to have my driver’s license by now but I had to wait. His birthday was a week away — he would be twenty-five.
Something about twenty-five made John too old to talk to. “Wow, my problems must sound ridiculous to you. I’ll shut up now.”
“No, you don’t sound ridiculous.” Arriving at the house, the boys ran out to collect the beer. I took the opportunity to shower and change my clothes.
The house was noisy. I escaped to the backyard to sneak a clove cigarette and dry my hair in the warm summer air. The back yard looked just as junky as the front.
John followed me outside and handed me a cold beer. “Thanks, don’t know why I asked for one earlier. I rarely drink beer.”
“What do you drink?”
“Jack until last weekend. I threw up everywhere. Now even the smell makes me sick. I like a good martini.”
“Martini? That’s a little fancy for your age,” he laughed.
“I learned to make them for my mother at seven — had to taste ‘em.” John laughed, “That’s fucking sad, but I understand completely.” He looked back towards the house.
“You escaped all this. Why come back?”
“Got hurt. Guess you come home when that happens. Even if it’s Turlock,” John laughed. “Hey, um, come with me.” He held out his hand and pulled me off the deck.
His room was small. Band posters hung on the walls. Clothes hung from a metal pole running the length of the room. A twin bed shoved up against the wall sat opposite a row of dressers. A new gun safe rested open in the corner topped with an assortment of glass bongs.
I wasn’t new to the come see my room ploy, but I wondered what angle he was playing.
“Uh,” he ran his fingers through his hair. “I want to give you something.” John motioned for me to sit on his bed. I complied, assuming he planned to show me his cock. “I’m only gonna use my mouth.”
“What? You want to kiss me?” He snickered, knelt on the floor and pulled me to him, kissing me softly. He tasted like beer and big red gum.
“Take these off and just relax.” One of the older Hispanic girls at school, bragged how her boyfriend ate her pussy. I thought it sounded totally disgusting, but I was still intrigued.
It was embarrassing at first, but then it wasn’t. John proved three things. One, I had not climaxed before that moment. Two, I could have an orgasm. Three, I was going about it all wrong.
He kissed me right after. I assumed he would taste like something, but he didn’t. “You don’t taste funny?”
“What am I supposed to taste like?” he laughed. “You’re perfect, even trimmed short. Your last boyfriend ask you to do that?”
“No, you can’t have a big ol’ bush stuffed in a leotard. Everyone will make fun of you.”
“Ah, makes sense.” He tossed me my shorts and finished his beer.
“Is that it? What about you?” I ran my hand over his zipper and felt his rock hard cock push back.
“No, not a good idea. You should get back to the girls.”
“Okay,” I lamented, pulling on my clothes and reaching up to kiss him. This time he kissed me like he meant it but still sent me out of his room.
The other girls all went home around midnight. My friend and I watched Princess Bride on laserdisc. She passed out on the couch halfway through the movie, with most of the blankets wrapped around her legs.
I crept onto the back deck for another clove. Insomnia wasn’t new to me. I only slept every other night. John was sitting in the dark on a broken picnic table. The cherry from his cigarette barely cast enough light to make out the shape of his face and his wet hair.
“I can see you out there. You look like a floating head.”
“I’d walk out to you, but I don’t want stitches.” The old picnic table creaked, and the ground crunched under his weight. He stopped at the deck long enough to pull the second wasted clove of the night out of my hand and quietly carry me to his bed.
I wasn’t completely inexperienced, but he made such a point not to hurt me that he shook like he was freezing to death by the time he let himself relax. Our chemistry was incredible. It would take me years to find that connection with another man again.
The next week he took Lisa and me to a Cinderella, Bon Jovi concert at the Shoreline for his birthday. Everyone at the house figured we were doing more than drinking together and using the empties for target practice. Nobody made a fuss about any of our trips.
The last weekend I stayed with Lisa, John took me driving down the old county roads and showed me what my Mustang could and couldn’t do. That lesson in defensive driving probably saved my life twice over the years. This was his last weekend home, and of course, there was a party for him at a house close by.
I showed up later dressed older in tight jeans, a motorcycle jacket, and my dark boots. Two age-appropriate women were hanging on John while he played poker with his friends.
Lisa was ready to go cruise Mchenry. She made me a cut up t-shirt to wear. I stood in the next room where John could watch and changed slowly, lingering in my bra longer than necessary. One of John’s women huffed.
“Oh, she’s a dancer.” Lisa was quick to defend me. “They strip naked for costume changes all the time. Let’s get going. I want to find me a tall cowboy.”
I smiled at the room, avoiding John’s gaze and walked out to my car. I could go numb and postpone my emotions. Stage time taught me that useful trick.
John followed us outside. “Where are you guys off to?”
“I’ll drop Lisa off later. I won’t stay over like I planned.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“You look busy.” I looked back at the house. We had an audience.
“I can’t take you out in public. I’m not supposed to even touch you. I’m headed back soon, don’t be mad at me. You can go back to your life and have fun.”
“Are you going to think about me while you’re with them?”
“Them? Whole different kind of party, Darlin.” John turned on my radio and motioned for me to dance with him. “Two songs, and everyone inside will get the hint. Yes, I will think about you for a very long time.”
Friday, Saturday, Sunday went by with a lot more lessons. Don’t let life live me, always make my lovers wear a condom, always use lube, only date guys who can’t string a sentence together while looking at me.
He talked about how he could visit me in two years, but my life would change so much that I would forget all about him. He stayed until four Monday morning. The very last hour, he could stay before he had to leave.
Lisa’s mother and I sat in the kitchen and had coffee after he left. She told me how worried she had been. How his mother died the year before, and he wouldn’t talk about anything with anybody. She thanked me for bringing him back to the living.
My life changed just the way he predicted. On my eighteenth birthday, I was working at an office. Several vases of flowers appeared from various people. One was marked from a secret admirer. All-day long, I was ecstatic thinking the roses were from John — they weren’t.
I stuffed my memories of him away in a box and didn’t think about him until I heard Nobody’s Fool or Gypsy Road on the radio.
My friend Lisa got pregnant in our last year of high school. We drifted apart, and I didn’t get any more updates about John. I don’t know if he’s even alive. I hope he’s living a happy life and if he remembers our few weeks together, he smiles.
I was at least thirty when I turned sixteen. I just didn’t know anything about living a normal life. Our time together made me realize the type of man I wanted, and I’m grateful to him for that lesson most of all.
An image held in smoke and memory has nothing to cling to. It’s an exercise of self-indulgence to breathe life into the past while ignoring the tangible present at your fingertips.
Chronicles of a Valley Girl is a cathartic exercise. Once the memories sound more like fiction to me, I hope to let it run free in its entirety. For now, I offer a chapter The Summer of 1987 and invite your comments.
© Celie Wells 2020