Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Katharine Hepburn

Fifty-four years old and a crusader for the heartbroken, I drove my Chevy Impala back to the place we had met and listened to sad songs.

We were just kids in the snow when we met; ambushed by sequoias we later called our protectors. I fell in love with the red of her hair. I saw her depths reflected in the snow- the myriad of reds attached to one girl. It’s as dangerous to be young as it is to be old; we could’ve missed a lot.

“Maybe if you met me now,” I said the last time I saw her, “we could’ve stayed together forever.”

“We wouldn’t have given each other the chance,” she said.

Jane’s father wore suits in every color, but nothing else; never had a day off even that January he brought me Jane; all of us voluntarily snowed in, his suit the color of coal, dirty against the white of the snow- our forever background.

“I remember poetry,” she said of her childhood, “Dr. Seuss and Rilke.”

Daddy used to read to her at night, causing her to laugh, a laughter that echoed- HA HA HA’s her entire life, and all those dreams she never could reproduce- dreams that evolved into “life-games.”

“It isn’t about success,” she said, “success is like the end-all.”

This when we were only ten, playing monopoly underneath the kitchen table where our parents sat, speaking in foreign languages- numbers, always some form of numbers.

Jane’s hair was bright against the snow, like I could squeeze juice out of it- never a brighter shade of red on any woman.

Martha T. Graham, the only other red-head I know and she wasn’t worth anything. She was Catholic and cute. I was a Presbyterian boy haunting the pews on Sundays, trying to get a peek under Martha T’s skirt when everyone had their eyes closed.

Jane didn’t believe in God, but she wanted to. She prayed and prayed that one day God would exist.

“You think God appreciates that?” I said.
“No, but my father does,” she said.
“You pray to your father?”
“I pray for my father.”

You would think that she wasn’t funny the way she said such things so seriously, but she was. I was in love with her funniness, even when the snow melted on our favorite spots and we could barely stand to sit next to each other because it was too god-damned hot; she made me laugh when I thought I didn’t have the energy for it.

Katherine Hepburn was her favorite actress. She made me watch Holiday eleven times projected on the side of her cabin.

“I want to be like Linda Seton,” she said every time. The funny thing is she always was like Linda Seton, all those big dreams and disappointments in people.

“You know you’re prettier than Katharine Hepburn,” I told her for the eleventh time. She didn’t smile or laugh. She pulled my hand from her hair and moved over to the end of the couch. Nobody’s prettier than Katharine Hepburn.

“You’re full of a lot of shit,” she said. She bit on the inside of her lip, not looking at me once, just watching Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn as they did their silly acrobatics. Our fights always started with compliments.

My car is parked where the cabin I might as well have grown up in used to be- where I kissed Jane on the forehead for the first time, and then later, the lips. This cabin in the snow where she taught me how to dance even though I didn’t want to, even though she didn’t know how to dance herself.

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