With a fragrant Puffs tissue, I wiped beaded perspiration from my brow before applying final touches of black-eyeliner. I sprayed Avon-Unforgettable cologne beneath my ear lobes, on forearms and wrists. Andy, my new love, could arrive any minute, and I wanted to please him. Standing before the dresser in my parent's room, I took a final glance in the mirror. From my geometric-blunt haircut, to white ruffled blouse and stretch aqua striped denims, I looked Mod from head-to-toe.
A small table fan had drowned out the sound of someone knocking at the kitchen screen door.
My kid sister, Gail, rushed in. With shocked expression, and hushed tones, she confided.
"Neil is waiting for you in the kitchen!"
There I stood, primping for Andy; to my horror, my old boyfriend dropped in unannounced.
"What am I going to do?"
She smiled, shrugged, and agreed to be close by for moral support.
By the time we reached the small kitchen, our mother had already offered him a seat. Nervously, I greeted him and sat down at the opposite end of the table. We had not met face-to-face, since he left for boot camp, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Before his departure, without as much as a good-bye phone call, we had dated on a regular basis. He never officially asked me to go steady, but we were decidedly a couple.
Away from his familiar surroundings, family and friends, he quickly succumbed to homesickness for Yankee country. He contacted me right away. I lived from one airmail letter to the next, and was ecstatic every time he found the opportunity to call from a booth on base. I framed the picture of him in his Army drab green-dress uniform, and mooned like a lost pup. After top brass had him stationed at Fort Polk Louisiana, his correspondence became scarce and I was heartsick.
There, at a normally cozy kitchen table, small talk stifled the air. How could I breach the present obstruction, in a once meaningful relationship? I waited, for what seemed an eternity, for my date to rescue me. I did not intentionally deceive Neil. Andy's home state was Louisiana, and I had called him to inquire about Fort Polk.
Through a friendly chat, he explained that the base was in the city of Alexandria. Andy revealed, at the age of eighteen, he himself, at any day, expected a letter from the draft board. Likely, he'd be fighting in the Vietnam War. I'd shared that information with Neil. Of late, his letters were sporadic. Andy asked me to go out with him. At first, I refused, but later accepted his invitation.
In relentless heat and distress, through parted cafe curtains, I watched for Andy. When he arrived, I introduced the two. I was in the security of my kitchen, but at that moment, it seemed more like a conference room holding a delegation from the U.S. and U.S.S.R. I listened to taunts exchanged between my beaus. Andy delighted in Louisiana. Neil deplored it.
"Mosquitoes nearly ate me alive! The humidity was terrible!"
Neil could not think of one thing good to say about Louisiana, unless it was good riddance!
Mom offered everyone instant iced tea, and I was glad to have something to divert our attention away from the rift. Our kitchen, though small, had never seemed so cramped. The conversation was going nowhere, and I was beginning to feel the same. Suddenly, Andy spoke to my mother, who stood looking towards our table, with her back leaning against the sink.
"Mom, why don't you sit down?"
He had never called her mom before!
The icy stare, in Neil's gaze, sent a chill through the sultry kitchen.
"Guess I'll be going." He made a speedy departure through the screen door, slipped inside his 1957 Chevy wagon, backed out onto the road, screeched his tires, in a quick get-away.
I felt no remorse in the severing of a faltering relationship. Andy had sealed ours. We married after Christmas, and settled in Dixie Land. I recall tales of a far distant era, and a San Antonio mission. William Travis drew a line of declaration in the sand, at the barricaded Alamo. Staunch-hearted men, in loyalty, rallied around a call for freedom. "Remember the Alamo!" My Andy-Reb won the War Between the States! I crossed the Macon-Dixon line, burning bridges to past beaus behind me. Andy, in his reference to my mother as Mom, drew a line at the sink. "Remember the kitchen!"
*Authors note: Creative Non-fiction. Names have been changed.
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