Last night was spent putting the finishing touches on my work of collected fiction and non-fiction. I sat on the couch, listening to the BBC and editing on my laptop. I decided to republish “Changing Seasons” on my blog today (formerly entitled “1992 Changing Seasons”). It was originally featured here last summer.
The story represents 2015 – a great year for me, an intense period of reflection and a good writing year. The underpinnings of “Changing Seasons” are issues of race and class but primarily, it is a story about youth and the shifting tides of love. The book the story is featured in, THE DARKEST COUNTRY AND OTHER STORIES will be published by the San Francisco company Blurb this fall and will be available via Amazon.
I’ve included the above photographs of James Dean and Eartha Kitt along with this story because they were a couple for a brief period though never publicly acknowledged more than a friendship.
The second picture is an ode to Seth in all of his bong-playing glory.
The year was 1992. It was December. I was about to leave my small university town to head home for Christmas. I was with my boyfriend. He was my opposite. Short: 5’7” on a good day, pale, muscular, an avid runner with a ruddy complexion and intense blue eyes. At 5’10” I dwarfed him. When we held hands and walked around everyone stared. I liked it that way. So did he. We enjoyed shaking things up. We enjoyed bucking social convention. He was mad about the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones. At the time, I listened exclusively to R&B. I grew up in a small book-filled apartment with my mother and sister in a section of Portland peppered with picturesque Victorian houses that sat atop green hills. Houses inhabited by pretty, efficient, well-groomed mothers who had stair-step children, after having abandoned their careers to cater to progeny. When I babysat for them, sitting in pristine, antique-ridden living-rooms, the mothers eyed me curiously and asked how long I had lived in the neighborhood, then remarked upon my English which they surprisingly noted was accent-less, so much like their own.
Seth was a member of this social set. He knew I didn’t fit in. I lived at the bottom of the hill and he didn’t care. In fact, he rather enjoyed that I was different. Seth. He enjoyed making scenes. This was one of the reasons I liked him.
In December 1992, Seth and I were holding hands under the table of a Neapolitan restaurant while his mother, droned on about her upcoming vacation. She couldn’t decide if she and Seth’s stepfather should take a bicycle trip around Zimbabwe or spend the summer at their cabin in Big Sur. Seth’s mother. Her name was Anna. She was terribly petite, a red-head with Seth’s chiseled jawline and flashing eyes. She spoke in a voice which was nasal and her tone was one of perpetual boredom. Anna. She was forty-something, twice married and took piano lessons in the afternoons. Anna. I grew to like her. She liked me but disliked her son: his extreme political leftism, his bongo-playing and pot-smoking which he tried (and failed) to hide from us. When I entered Seth’s life, he calmed down. He didn’t fight so much with his mother. He began eschewing his militant vegetarianism so he might sit and eat turkey sandwiches with me at my favourite deli. Seth no longer played bongos at 1 AM. His room no longer reeked of marijuana smoke. In fact, his parents so approved of us, they fashioned a bedroom for me where I stayed on weekends. It became my second home.
In December of 1992 as Seth and I held hands in that Neapolitan restaurant, eating cream-laden tiramisu and preparing to head back to Portland, I didn’t know why but I suddenly looked down at my tiramisu and felt sad. Seth’s parents had bought an apartment for him not far from campus. Crushed in a dorm with a goth-style roommate from Arizona who had regular seances in our room, bragged that she wore a pair of fangs during sex and (literally) worshiped the devil, I was afraid to sleep on campus. Once again, Seth’s place became my second home. But we were young and wilful and argumentative and passionate. Seth said wanted to marry me after college and gave me a silver ring bought at a flea market one weekend. He wanted to have kids (eventually) but I was confused. What if our children had blonde afros? What if our children ended up with Seth’s eyes? As ridiculous as the thoughts seem now, at eighteen, they confused me.
I did not want to admit that Seth and I were falling apart. But at the restaurant, as we listened to Anna, I somehow knew, though I didn’t know how: I knew that Seth and I would not stay together. As he held my hand tight and Anna talked about Africa flights, I felt the sweat against the inside of my palm. I kissed Seth and excused myself to the restroom.
Moments later, standing before the mirror, I examined my reflection. I noticed I’d grown fat that fall at university. I was suddenly all breasts and my face was round. I couldn’t see my cheekbones and this disturbed me. When I went to place my hands beneath the dryer, I saw a red leather wallet sitting on top of the drying machine. I reached for the wallet. The moment I held it in my hands, my mind suddenly recollected a woman seated at the opposite side of the restaurant. She had blonde spiral curls and was speaking rather intently to a tall, elegant businessman who wore a tailored suit. The two were obviously a couple. I have no idea why but the moment I laid my hands on the wallet, out of all the people in that packed restaurant that afternoon, I was certain the wallet belonged to the blonde woman. I opened it. Sure enough, there was a driver’s license with the confirming photograph. I left the restroom and started over to the couple’s table. But something stopped me. I wanted to go up to her but I somehow knew it wasn’t a good idea. I flagged a passing waitress. I told her I thought the wallet belonged to the woman seated with the businessman at the corner table. As I returned to Seth and Anna, I watched as the spiral-haired blonde thanked the waitress profusely.
The following spring, exactly four months later, the cherry blossom trees were in bloom. I was seated in a coffee house, across the table was the businessman. This time he was holding my hand. Seth and I had gone to war that past Christmas and with the turn of the New Year, found we simply could not resurrect things. I gave him back his silver ring. I was heartbroken and Seth was very, very sad. Then one afternoon the businessman and I found ourselves standing opposite one another in the aisle of a bookstore. He looked up. He smiled at me and said hello.