I remember the first time I saw Susan. It was a warm, beautiful day; a Wednesday. I was on my way to English Literature, but I didn’t make it to class on that particular day. I found my surroundings too appealing. The cloudless blue sky, birds singing the songs of spring, and a gorgeous pair of legs standing in the courtyard.
She stood shoeless in the grass, the sun reflecting off the golden shade of her skin. My eyes began at her feet and worked their way up the longest pair of legs I have possibly ever seen. Her blue jean short shorts covered not a single inch of her legs.
My eyes had just gotten to the waist of those blue jean short shorts when a soft voice behind me declared, “That’s a little too easy don’t you think?” Slightly startled, I turned around. She was leaning down towards me, her arms resting on the back of the bench I had been sitting on. Her light brown hair dangled in front of her face. Her fair skin and light eyes shining in the sun, she continued, “I thought men liked a challenge.”
For the first time, she looked directly at me. She grinned quickly before whirling around and leaving me alone, speechless. I watched as she walked away, never looking back, in her blue jeans and sweater. She had very ordinary features, but was beautiful nonetheless. As her walk picked up speed, her hair moved with the wind. She was very sure of herself, very alive. It was the first time I had felt alive in months.
It was April 14th, 1971.
* * * * *
I was twenty-three years old at the time and had recently come back from a tour in Vietnam. My father had signed me up for classes at the local community college before it was even known if I would come home in time. Before it was even known if I would come home in a box.
His dissatisfaction with my desire to spend my time playing the guitar led to his decision that I must attend college. His dissatisfaction with me as a human being, a man, and more importantly, his son, was the driving force of every decision he made regarding my life that ultimately led to yet another feud between us.
He was quick to point out that I had accomplished nothing since graduating high school. Working alongside him at his construction company for three years was nothing to my father. Guitar playing was nothing to my father. Touring in Vietnam was nothing to my father.
“Boys are drafted. Men enlist,” he would say coldly, always shooting a glare I my direction. My younger brother Randy was eighteen at the time. He had heard my father say this time and time again, but it was never directed at him. Randy was at risk for being drafted, but did my father think he should enlist? No. Randy was going away to college in the fall to play football. Men play football. Hippies play guitars.
Note: This is the beginning of a short story I am working on. The rest will not be shared until it is completed.
Photo: Courtesy of author. Artwork by Joan Purcell.