[Continued from here.]
(NOTE: Before you read this item, first you really should read Mathematics of Love!)
And there was one serendipitous and totally wonderful benefit to working at this venue that summer, and her name was Jennifer.
She lived back east somewhere, and had just finished her freshman year at Smith or Vassar or Sarah Lawrence or one of those places. Her father lived near New York City, but this summer she was staying with her mother, who lived in La Charca. For some reason we kind of hit it off on the beach, and I don’t know exactly how it came about. She spent most of the time tanning on a large blanket on the sand, and since part of my thing was to patrol the beach for trash and keep an eye on the swimmers in the surf line, I would run into her on a regular basis.
Unlike most of the ‘guests’ at the Club, to whom the staff was invisible but always to be available, she would say hi to me, chat me up a bit, and so forth. I was quite taken with her but, true to my then (and, I guess, still) normal reaction around women to whom I was attracted, played withdrawn and low-key. She did have a terrific body, lithe and tanned to a smooth mocha, legs to her armpits, and her face had a faintly oriental cast – high cheekbones and very dark hair. Definitely my ‘type’! It surprised me that one of the hot dogs hadn’t hit on her, but that apparently was not the case. Or maybe she had blown them off.
Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, but had no notion of trying to do anything about it – until kindly fate turned up an ace for me. It was my custom to hitch-hike to work. We lived at that time on X Street, which was near a major thoroughfare where I could catch a ride. One morning I’d been dropped at the corner of A and B Blvd., and who should come bopping along but Jennifer in her mother’s Oldsmobile. She saw me at the last minute and pulled over in a quick swerve, and we had about seven or eight minutes together before we got to … work for me, play for her. She was bubbly and seemed excited, and I just found her irresistibly attractive. God, what a girl! Jesus, her smile shot right through me! She was talking about her love of English lit, which was going to be her major. She told me I’d have a ball at Stanford, indeed was impressed I was going to this iconic school. As we drew near the parking lot I surprised myself, and almost bit the words back, but asked her if she’d like to do something some time. “Sure,” she said, all genuine smiles and crinkly eyes. “What are you doing tonight?”
Wow! I could hardly believe my ears, and I probably blushed. “Uhh … uhh, well, no, I guess … uhh … I don’t have anything special going on.” “Great,” she said. Was that a chortle in her voice? I believe she was fully aware of the effect she had on me. “Pick me up around seven, and we’ll think of something. OK?” “Yeah, sure. That sounds great!” She told me where her mother lived, in one of the foothills out Z way.
The hot day dripped by like cold molasses, and as soon as I got off work I hurried home and showered, and my father let me use the family car. I don’t remember what Jennifer and I did that first evening – probably went to get something to eat and talked. But we had quite a few dates, and her magic gradually began to quench the torch I was still carrying for the first love-of-my-life I’d gotten into it with the previous summer (1953) in Sweden [see here]. Jennifer was very fond of Shakespeare and I could talk with reasonable intelligence about him (I’d studied Julius Caesar in tenth grade and Hamlet just the year past, as well some of the sonnets), indeed at that time still had large portions of those plays in memory and showboated a bit, which of course delighted her – as I had hoped it would.
In the past my parents, both of whom loved Shakespeare, had taken my brother and me several times to the famous San Diego Globe Theater in Balboa Part for the usual summer Shakespeare repertoire, and I was now suddenly very grateful to them for having introduced me. I suggested to Jennifer that we take in one of the plays, and she readily agreed. So we got dressed up and went to the Olde Globe and saw, I believe, Twelfth Night: God, she looked tasty when she dressed to the nines!
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
But rather than surfeit, this night, after the play was done and we had driven back at a leisurely conversational pace to La Charca, love neither surfeited not sickened. It seemed inevitable that we should head for the beach, take off our shoes, and walk hand in hand along the edge of the breakers and, shortly, toss down a blanket on the sand and get very physical with each other. She was as pent up as I, and it was a sweet, sweet few hours of memorable deliciousness. She was a terrific kisser, as I vividly recall, and not in the least bashful about her body. We spent more than a few evenings that summer walking the surf line and trolling the many tide pools in the reef-like outcroppings that stretch the length of the craggy coast. We never got, in the sporty vernacular of the day, to home base, but hit triples a few times. Even the doubles and singles were, for me, nothing to sneer at. I did not fall in love with Jennifer, nor, I think, did she with me, but we certainly liked each other enormously and had a great deal of fun together, physical as well as otherwise. When we saw each other at ‘work’, we played it very muted, and I don’t think anybody there had any idea we were an item. When the studs talked about the girls, as they did about what was sometimes referred to as the flesh on the beach, I kept my mouth closed, whether Jennifer or some other lovely young lady was the subject of harmless but often coarse speculations. I enjoyed my secret thing with her, as I think she did with me, and from time to time at work we would hold each other’s eye a beat too long. It was a delectable game of sorts, a very private hush-hush just between the two of us.
The strangest aspect of this wonderful relationship was that I have absolutely no recollection of how it ended. Presumably she just went off at the end of the summer to Vassar or wherever, and I headed north to the Bay Area. As far as I can recollect, we never corresponded or ever met again. Well, the fact remains that Jennifer stays with me as a happy, happy memory of one very smooth, uncomplicated relationship that was what a relationship should be: no recriminations, no games, no teasing, no tears, no manufactured modesties, no neuroses, no guilt. I want what you want, and I like you a lot, and let’s just be very nice to each other and have some serious fun.
Would that there had been more Jennifers in my subsequent life rather than the pin-pulled hand grenades I seemed so fatefully drawn to like that fluttering moth to his searing singeing flame: whiners, complainers, world-class teases, wounded creatures, damaged goods, score-keepers, grudge-collectors … that whole dreary dreadful tribe of beautiful losers who, with a few magnificent exceptions, dogged the kamikaze-passions of my amatory life. In some sense, Jennifer had imprinted me, and she was a very special lady. I hope that life worked out for her: her joie de vivre, upbeat outlook, her sharp mind, her physical charisma, her wholesome carnality – they all gave her more than righteous claim on superlatives, and from that endless summer of 1954 right up to this sunny day of January 2012 my wish has been and is that she met the right guy who in turn could meet her halfway. She is a permanent and welcome guest in some back chamber of my memories. I wish you health, but more than wealth, I wish you love, dearest Jennifer.
But that was the end of the good times — for a loooong time!