A "Becoming" Christmas
Wildwood, New Jersey
December 24, 1952
She liked him. She knew it didn’t pay to like any of these boys because they’re so young and so… transient. But he’d been to the U.S.O three times, that she knew of, and each time he’d had a glass of punch, one or two doughnuts, and had danced with her, once, and then only after she’d prompted him, and then only to the slowest of dances, and he had held her closely, but not, she was sure—a girl starts to get a feel for these things—for the touch of her body, but more so for the warmth of human contact.
She’s kind’a cute, he’d thought the first time she had asked him to dance, but, really, he hadn’t wanted to and besides, “I’m really not very good at dancing.” he had told her.
On his third visit to the U.S.O., when the record player began a slow one, without asking, she had taken him by the hand, pulled him to his feet and onto the floor and… What could he do—be rude?
Other than his mother, this was the first time he had touched a female hand — since Susan had broken up with him — in nearly six months, and he wondered at the softness, and seconds later, the warm, human touch of her body pressing next to his almost brought tears to his eyes.
Dancing to two more slow ones, Mitchell and Connie had spent the balance of the evening talking, and minutes before he had to leave, “Mitchie, come on! Come with me!”
“Connie, I’m a Jew. Jews don’t go to Christmas Eve mass!”
“You said you didn’t have to be back till eight tomorrow morning, so come on, Mitch! The midnight mass is so beautiful, and even if you are Jewish”—knowing there was a sadness within him that this might help dispel—“I’m sure you’ll like it. Please come with me!”
“…What do I do? Should I wear my cap inside?”
“No.” Taking his hand, she led him through the arched doorway and into the crowded church, where it took a few minutes until they found a pew with two vacant seats.
Apart from the Ark holding the Torah, the interiors of whatever synagogues and temples he had ever seen had all been free of ornamentation, and he was all but overwhelmed by the trappings of the Catholic church.
As the mass began, even though Mitchell knew nothing of the Latin verse, closing his eyes, he allowed his mind to become surrounded and overcome by the beauty of the mass… And he came away from the mass somehow feeling more at peace with himself then he had felt in months… In six months, to be exact.
A light snow falling, “Mitchie,” the streets deserted, they walked with their collars turned up and their hands held deeply in their coat pockets—their own pockets. “Here’s where I live,” Connie said. Then, surprising herself, “Would you like to kiss me?”
Surprised, too, thinking, Oh, God, it’s been so long since I’ve kissed anyone. “Yes, Connie, I would like to kiss you.”
Taking his hand, opening the outer door, she led him into the dark hallway.
Their lips meeting, his hand, finding the opening to Connie’s coat, went about her waist.
He felt her lips on his. He tasted the kiss.
He smelled the floral scent of her perfume.
He felt the curve of her hips.
The kiss wasn't Susan's kiss and didn’t taste right.
Her perfume wasn't Susan's perfume and didn’t smell right.
The curve of her waist wasn't Susan's waist and didn’t feel right.
Mitchell didn’t want to hurt Connie's feelings, but breaking the kiss…
Orphaned, raised in a Catholic orphanage, having given up a few of her virtues already, willing… wanting to give up “that” virtue again, “You said you didn’t have to be back till morning, Mitchie, and I don’t feel like being alone on Christmas Eve, so if you want… If you’d like to, you can stay with me tonight.”
She wants me to spend the night! She wants me to sleep with her! But… “I can’t, Connie!” She’s not Susan, and, I can’t! I just can’t! “I forgot, but I do have to be back tonight…” Glancing at his watch, “Now!”
“Now, Mitchie? Now?”
“Sorry.” Backing out of the hallway, “I’ll see you at the center.” But, never going back, he didn’t.