Laying on the grass my heart it flares like fire
The way you slap my face just fills me with desire
You play hard to get
'Cause you're teacher's pet
But when the boats have gone
We'll take a tumble, excuse for a fumble
Shocked me too the things we used to do on grass
— excerpt from "Grass", XTC (1986)
I have this image in my mind. But it's a lie.
The truth is, reality was never this good. So I have this image of how it could have been, if it were real.
If it had actually happened, it would be a memory. Memories often get messed up in your head over the years, changing into recollections that are half truth and half wishful thinking. Earlier events tend to color our perceptions of the moment, and later events have a way of putting some of the mystery that creates certain moments into perspective — forever altering our mental history of how and who we really were at some point in the past. The mind is a matrix of electrochemical reactions, and feelings tend to be remembered much more clearly than facts. Ideas stay with us far longer than details. The important stuff we keep, and the rest we write over in bits and pieces, like sectors on a computer's hard drive.
For whatever reason, the stuff we fabricate seems to maintain its integrity pretty well. Like the neural processes that allow some of us to have recurring dreams or recall the lurid seconds of a trauma, the mind's ability to retain the sordid elements of a fantasy is surprising. Like memories, some fantasies are special, and we replay them in our minds when we feel relaxed and safe, or when we want to feel that way. This is one of mine. But first, the backstory.
Sean was a boy who went to my high school. I didn't know him, as his father was in the Air Force and had recently moved the family to town, but I ran across him in the halls one day during my Junior year. He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in my life. I remember being spellbound in his presence; trying not to stare, but being unable to help myself. He was lean and blonde, with a perfect smile and perfect teeth. He ran on the cross country track team. I found myself increasingly obsessed with him, and after weeks of dreaming about him, I decided that we had to become friends.
This wasn't an easy task, as the small group of guys he ran with were outside of my social circle. I didn't share any classes with him, and knew only a few people who did. Luckily, I worked in the school's guidance office for one class period every day, and had access to his records and schedule. I stole glimpses of his file whenever I had the chance, and memorized his birthday, his place of birth, the places he had lived, and as much background on him as I could. I made a copy of his class schedule, and went out of my way between classes to try and cross paths with him — just to look at him for a few seconds, or to bump into him "by accident."
I guess I was a "stalker" by today's standards, but we didn't have that pop-culture term for it back then. I had a crush; a crush unlike any other I'd ever had before or since. Sean had fallen from heaven, and I couldn't see how I could continue to live my life unless I got close to him... the closer, the better. As the school year drew to a close, I managed to get myself introduced to him, and through what I could only qualify as pure luck and inhuman tenacity on my part, we started hanging out together.
It was both a dream come true and a nightmare of sexual frustration. We would get together during the summer break to go swimming, or play basketball, or go to the movies. At first it was me tagging along with him and his group of friends, but eventually we started spending time together one on one. As is commonly done among high school kids, I'd sleep over at his house some weekends, and he'd sleep over at mine. I got to know his parents and his younger brother, and he got to know mine. It wasn't quite like we were "best friends" exactly, but...
Well, here's the thing. Neither of us could face the reality of it at the time, but we were both the same. And by the same, I mean that we were both gay and seriously infatuated with each other. We were both deep in the closet, and scared to death that we would be exposed — a dangerous thing, given the environment we lived in. The 1980s wasn't an easy time to grow up gay in America, and living in the South made it even harder. So we lived behind a complex facade of lies. Lies within lies. So impenetrable were our personal defense systems that we would not even allow each other inside. That kind of trust was unknown to me back then, and it ended up costing me the realization of the greatest dream I'd ever had. We were both fools. I wouldn't figure it all out until so many years had gone by that there was nothing left to do but spin a shroud of regret... and to recreate the dream in order to keep it alive.
The image I have in my mind isn't real. It's make believe, formed from the desperation of unrequited adolescent lust, erotic R.E.M. states and intense teenage daydreaming. It's a little slice of perfection in an imperfect world. And it's the best memory I have left of it all, as the real stuff isn't worth the recall.
Sean and I are at the beach on some unspecified day. It's a blindingly beautiful day, and the surf is emerald green. We're clad in our Sun Britches and are bronzed from being outdoors all summer. Salty and sandy, we leave the late afternoon sun and cross the bridge to the park in St. Andrews, next to the bay. Unconcerned with the sunset, we sit at a picnic table under a stand of live oak trees, where Sean fires one up. We talk and laugh and smoke, and the words are unimportant because the subtext is sex. Stoned and giggling, we stretch out on the grass and gaze up at the moon, now rising in the twilight sky. The ground is still warm, like the breeze blowing across us from the bay.
Then there are fingers running through hair, gentle skin against skin, and our chapped lips come together in a dry tease. Tongues dancing. He tastes so good, it's like I'm drinking his soul. And as we roll in the grass, I hold his body in my arms with his mouth against my ear, and I hear him whisper the words "I want you." But I can already tell that through the thin fabric of his shorts. And for one split second, I am the happiest boy in the world.
And that's it. That's as far as the fantasy gets. It ends there, trailing off into nothing. Because there was nothing there. It's a lie I told myself, because it didn't happen that way — but it should have. There were more opportunities for getting it on available to us than any two teenagers rightly deserved. We were young and we were horny, and goddammit, we were stupid. Too stupid to see what was right in front of our eyes. Too scared to trust each other that much. We came so close, but we blew every chance we got. We both fucked it up, each time worse than the last. It was almost surreal how it never came to pass. It was nothing more than laughter and lying on grass.
Whenever I replay the fantasy in my mind these days, I have to laugh a little. It's so sad, it's kinda funny... you know?
Nods to thefez for the shell, to graceness for the challenge,
and to witchiepoo for the promise I made
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