Many of you may recall that I recently had author Robin Shope as a guest on my blog, following the release of her new book Wildcard. I’m delighted to share with you chapter one of Robin’s introspective narration titled Passages. I love the cover, by the way. It was designed by photographer Amy Munoz, and she did a fabulous job.
A new chapter will be added to Robin’s blog each week along with a contest, so be sure to visit her blog and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. Without further ado, I give you chapter one of Passages.
The Stairway to Heaven
When I was twelve, I worried I was going to grow up to be ugly. My body was budding in weird ways. My eyes turned almond shaped, like my mother’s. My lips were narrow, seemingly frail, dotted on either side with dimples. I thought my nose cast a shadow when I turned sideways. My arms and legs were gangly. Boys began to look at me peculiarly as though they were waiting for me to ripen.
It’s nineteen-seventy-two, a month past Christmas. My most excellent resumes are already in the mail, putting me way ahead of the other graduating teachers. I stand mid-center of my bedroom and pan the area, disgusted to the bone at the accumulation of library books on ‘How to Write a Winning Resume’, drafts of my resumes, marked-up drafts of resumes, my unmade bed, grimy laundry and half-eaten pizza. Even my fingers are ink stained from attaching the new striped ribbon to the roller of my Smith Corona electric typewriter.
It’s time for a break. I leave my blonde hair in the messy ponytail, apply basic makeup, grab my jacket and head out to meet friends at a local bar where we sit at a back table eating peanuts and drinking. Pounding tunes from a jukebox and carefree laughter pulsates in the smoky air as we talk the talk of naive young women, geared up to get on with life.
Groups of college kids saunter in and I feel the sharp wind arrive with them. I am nursing my soft drink when he slides his lanky body in between the front door and doorjamb, entering alone. Wow, is all I can think. Wow. Wow. Wow. Waves of chills careen my entire body in the form of goose bumps. This guy is, as they say, tall, dark, and movie star handsome, with a great smile that shows off his even teeth. The two top buttons on his white shirt are left open, revealing just enough of his chest hair to make it interesting. Oh yeah, he wears dark slacks and a tweed jacket too, a stark difference to the sloppy jeans and t-shirts everyone else wears.
Mister Perfect saunters over to our world, I mean table, and just like that, sits right down without being invited which I find totally ballsy yet so appealing. His magnetic powers are strong, rendering five gabby girls totally speechless. He talks to everyone—except me. So, I act like I don’t care much and even consider leaving since I might as well be a piece of furniture. Then it happens—we make eye-contact. My heart stops for a beat of a second while I stare into his icy blue eyes. I feel drawn to him like a magnet to a refrigerator door. Dad calls men like him slick talkers. That he is. Smells good too—fresh—like winter air. I can only hope I look dazzling with my shoulder length hair, and lips that never leave home without gloss. Now I wish I had worn something other than my grungy jeans and day, old sweatshirt with UW Whitewater branded across the front, looking like I had just come from an all-day study session.
MP explains, through his delicious lips he keeps licking, he is a first-generation tractor salesman. “I’ve never heard of a career choice put in those terms,” I giggle pathetically as though I were still in middle school, releasing my hair from the ponytail. For the next hour he impresses us with his salesmanship stories of selling more than three specialty tractors to farmers in the county just this week alone. One of my friends drinks too much and says she needs to leave. The others take her home, but I stay. By the stroke of midnight, I am the only female left standing, er, sitting with Mister Perfect. He doesn’t seem to mind my blouse is covered in peanut shell remnants. He finds me ‘brilliant,’ ‘creative,’ ‘intelligent,’ and also ‘beautiful.’ Never before have any of those words been pinned on me. Before tonight I felt ordinary times three—that is, before MP walked into that particular bar in College Town and makes me re-evaluate my entire soul.
The bar closes. He walks me back to my place where we say goodnight on the steps leading to the building’s front door. MP seems shy, respectful. There is no fire-rendering scorching kiss, just a sweet peck on my cheek with the promise of tomorrow—I will see him again. “What a wonderful guy,” I admit, closing the door to my apartment. Okay, so I want a scorching, heart-stopping kiss, but hey, the peck is a nice change. Admiration is good and my mother would approve. The thought occurs to me that I might have bad breath. I cup my hand over mouth and when I inhale, I smell peanuts.
I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, listening to sleet pelting against the window, knowing by morning there will be layers of ice sealing it shut. On this side of the window is my desk and all my school books, my transcripts, my letters of recommendation; everything that I have become proud to call my own. In the midst of academia excellence, I concoct a new goal of the personal kind—to be kissed.
I roll onto my side and think about MP’s lips, wondering if he uses them as an artist sculpting his masterpiece with easy stroke and detail precision, or if he presses hard like a jackhammer tearing up cement. The thought keeps me awake for hours. Well, maybe not for hours. Maybe just until about two-thirty when I fall asleep but it was the first thing I thought about in the morning while brushing my teeth.
These memories are burned into my brain cells. I circle these compulsive images as one scrutinizes its prey, remembering each one individually. They are etched and absolute. Years later, knowing now what I didn’t back then, I have often considered the repercussions of choices. Had I stayed in that night instead of going out, if I had gone to the bar on the other side of town, if I had been the one who left with my sick friend that night, then the next several chapters would never have happened. And today my life would be at a different place.