“You guys…” Shelly stammered, “get all the fun.”
Out of breath now, the hysterical laughter stopping slowly, “Know what I think, Shell?” Marsha said. “I think they went to the whore.”
The boys looked at each other, then at Marsha.
“How the hell’d you know about the whore?” Norman asked.
“How? It was all over Roosevelt on Monday. There were about a hundred-forty guys there, and when the cops came, there was a kind’a riot and twenty-three of ’em got arrested.” Looking at Mitchell, “It was the whore, wasn’t it?”
June 16, 1955 to July 2, 1955
“Uhh…” Looking at each other, the boys smiled.
“Yeah,” Norman said sheepishly, “we were there.”
“But it sure as hell wasn’t our idea!” Mitchell said defensively. “It was that putz, Lurey. He dragged us there, and we were never up there, uh, with the whore.” Adding, “Jesus, it was the funniest thing I ever saw! You think, Normie?”
“Yeah, it was!” Adding defensively, also, “And we never even got close.”
“The idiot that had the whore up there didn’t want his neighbors to know that he had a whore up there, so he had all the guys come ’round the back…”
“Yeah,” Norman’s laughter coming again. “and guys were all over the place. And just so’s everyone knew they were in the right place—I couldn’t believe it!—the stupid guy had a…”
“Red light!” Mitchell interrupted, breaking up again.
“A red light?” Shelly asked. “Really? A red light!”
“Yeah! Well, like we said, we didn’t think it was such a hot idea in the first place…”
“Actually,” Mitchell interjected, “I thought it was a real…” looking at the girls, speaking softly, “shitty idea!”
“Yeah, actually I did, too, and when we saw all those guys, whether Lurey wanted to or not, we figured the hell with it!”
“And when we heard the cops, we took off.”
“Fast,” Norman added.
Becoming serious, looking at Marsha, “Yeah, fast! And I rushed back to the J to see if you were still there, but you’d gone.”
“You could have tried calling! I did tell you my name!”
“I don’t have such a hot memory, and couldn’t remember if you said your name was Goodman, Goldstein, Goldman, or Golden. God, do you have any idea of how many Goodmans, Goldsteins, Goldmans, or Goldens there are in the Chicago telephone book?”
Attempting to hide her pleasure, “You tried calling me, huh, really?”
“Yeah, Marcy, sure,” he smiled. “I cannot tell a lie.”
“You cannot tell a lie? Who are you, George Washington?”
“No. I’m not George Washington, but I cannot tell a lie.”
“Jeeze, a guy that doesn’t lie,” Shelly said. “That’s different.”
“Yeah, I cannot tell a lie because I always get caught.”
Forgetting what Marsha had told him last time, his thoughts and intentions not being all that honorable, afraid that she might still be too young for him, just to be on the safe side, “Marcy,” he asked timidly, “you don’t, uh, still go to high school, do you?”
“Are you starting that again, Mitchell?” she scolded jokingly, but…
Not picking up on it, “No,” he said seriously, “but…”
Seeing the pained look on his face, “Don’t worry, I graduated a year ago.”
Relieved, “I wasn’t worried.” he lied. “You going to college?”
“No. I’m a meatpacker.”
“Huh?” Norman stared at her. “A meatpacker?”
“Like in the stockyards?” Mitchell asked disbelievingly.
“No, not like in the stockyards. I fit and sell brassieres and girdles in a lingerie shop over on Lincoln Avenue.”
Not understanding the pun, “Oh,” Norman said.
“You kids be wantin’ somethin’ else?”
Looking from the waitress to the girls, “You guys want dessert or anything?”
“No, thank you.”
“Thanks, Mitchie, but I’m stuffed”
“Well, so long as you’re paying, Lipensky, I’ll have…”
“Forget it, Parminter… No, ma’am, just the bill, please.”
Outside, in the warm, spring air, standing within the throng of milling people, “You know,” Norman said, “when we first met you two, Mitch’n’me wanted to go to the beach and you said…”
“No doubt to watch the submarine races.”
Looking at Marsha, remembering, smiling, “And you said, ‘You don’t know us well enough.’ Well, we’ve known each other for about six years now, so how’s about a walk down by the beach?” Without waiting for an answer, taking the initiative, reaching to Shelly’s hand, Norman led her out of the crowd.
Glancing at each other, Marsha and Mitchell followed.
Separating sand from grass, the sidewalk ran crookedly south and north, seemingly going on forever. Millions of minute, sparkling pinpoints of light emanating from its creamy surface, reflecting moonlight caused the concrete ribbon to glow a milky, iridescent white.
Far in the lead, as they had been six years earlier, Shelly and Norman were all but out of sight.
Strolling slowly, silently feeling the night’s beauty and close proximity of each other, Marsha and Mitchell walked side by side, without touching… except that every now and then their loosely hanging hands “accidentally” brushed each other.
Looking to his right, “You know,” he said after a while, “it’s really amazing how things work out. I mean like us, now.”
Looking to her left, “Yes, it is."
" In Union Pier that night, when you got mad at me and ran away… Strange, but even now I remember how badly I felt.”
“Well, Mitchie, you were right, I was too young for you.”
“Oh, I don’t know… Yeah, I guess you were. How old are you now?”
“I’ll be nineteen in October. You?”
“Twenty-one in August.”
“You like the Coast Guard? Why’d you join?”
“Well,” using Norman’s rational, “I’d started at Wright, and wasn’t going anyplace very fast and thought the Coast Guard would give me time to sort of figure out what I wanted to do. And, yeah, I liked the Coast Guard okay, then I got shipped to Rockaway, and…”
“Rockaway? Oh, yeah! You told me last time, in New York.”
“Yeah… The old man, uh, the skipper, there is a…” Stopping, he looked for a word that could best describe Ewing and his feelings towards him without offending her. “Excuse me, Marcie, but the only way I can describe that son-of-a-bitch is as a first class asshole.”
“It’s okay, Mitch, I’ve heard the word before.”
“Maybe you have, Marcie, but I don’t like swearing in front of girls. But that’s the only way I can describe him because he hates Jews and did everything he could possibly do to make me hate him, too. And by the time I got transferred from Rockaway I hated the Coast Guard also, so now all I’m doing is putting my time in, waiting to get out.”
“That’s terrible, that someone like that could be in charge of a place like that… You said you’re not at Rockaway anymore?”
“No. I had a run in with the… skipper, and transferred to sea duty. I’m on a weather ship now.”
“Now you see,” smiling, “you learn something new all the time. What’s a weather ship?”
“We go to sea for four to six weeks at a time, reporting weather conditions, and in winter to see if there’s any icebergs floating around that could be dangerous to other ships.” He chuckled. “In winter we’re usually somewhere north of Newfoundland freezing our… tushies off, and in summer, when we wouldn’t mind things being just a bit cooler, they send us to patrol off Bermuda.”
“Sounds like it could get kind of boring at times.”
“Nah, it ain’t so bad. Matter of fact, in a way it’s kind of relaxing, being at sea with nothing to worry about except doing your work… Unless there’s a girl ashore that you miss.”
Looking at him, “Is there a girl ashore that you miss?”
Quiet a number of seconds, then, when Marsha thought he was not going to answer…
“No,” he said softly, adding, “not until now.”
Feeling her heart lurch, Not until now. Getting the answer she’d wanted, but not sure how to respond, “How long till you’re discharged?” she asked.
Hoping for some sort of positive response to his not until now, but not too sure if she’d even heard him, “Almost a year and a half.” he answered.
“Oh! That’s such a long time, Mitchie!”
The tone of Marsha’s voice causing him to look at her, “Yeah, I guess it is.” Pointing to a bench, “Let’s sit for a while.”
They sat a foot apart, looking at the reflection of the moon’s wide tail on the calm water of Lake Michigan.
Overcoming much of his shyness, Mitchell had been much more aggressive with the girls he’d met in the last two years, by this time kissing them—or at least attempting to kiss them—and he wondered about his sudden shyness with this girl, whom, if taken piece by piece, was just about as far from what he thought “his type of girl” was as a girl could possibly be.
Now, though, inching closer—again feeling the heat of her thigh against his—bringing his arm over the back of the bench, his hand brushed her hair and, holding a few silken strands within his fingers, looking at Marsha in profile, the two sat without speaking: he, looking at her, and she, looking at the water.
Marsha was aware that Mitchell was touching her hair and—the sense of just his touch sending a shiver through her—turning her face to his, she forced a smile, but Mitchell did not smile in return and her smile faded as, looking at him, Marsha suddenly had the sensation that they were alone in the world; just this young man and herself, as…
Not yet sure if he was happy that this was happening again, but for the first time since—the thought truly, now, no longer hurting him—for the first time since Susan, Mitchell had the sensation that he and a girl… that he and this young woman were alone in the world, and…
In two minds there was the remembrance of a balmy night, such as this, with soft music and fireflies, and an innocent, soul-touching kiss, and…
Kiss me! Marsha’s mind willing him, Kiss me! And…
Each feeling the softness as they came together gently, their lips barely touched, then parted. And this innocent, passionless kiss, for the second time—with this same young man—in Marsha Goldman’s eighteen years, and the third time—twice with this same young woman—in Mitchell Lipensky’s twenty-one years, this innocent, passionless kiss sent their universes spinning.
Moving closer now, Mitchell’s hand upon the back of her head guided Marsha’s head and lips back to his as, crossing her body with his left arm, putting his hand onto the small of her back, he moved her chest against his, as, without hesitation, Marsha twined her arms about his neck and, melding into each others arms—this kiss not quite as passionless nor quite as innocent as the first—the first touch and caress of tongues on lips sent a sweet, subliminal jolt, then, a moment later, the fondling of their unfamiliar tongues fired waves of excitement throughout Marsha and Mitchell, as…
Holding tighter, Mitchell felt the yielding pressure of Marsha’s breasts against his chest, as…
Moving her hand against the back of his head, forcing Mitchell’s mouth harder onto hers, and…
As though attempting to make up for the years the two had been lost to each other, their kiss became even more heated, even more impassioned, as…
Subconsciously, the emotion of this kiss fused with the emotion of two past kisses and there came to Mitchell the sensation of being kissed… There came to Mitchell the sensation of kissing a girl within a field of swirling snow… or might it be fireflies? And…
Enraptured with the taste and touch of this kiss, Mitchell moved his arm from around her back and, as their bodies strained onto each other, his splayed fingers held Marsha within the warmth of her bare armpit where the palm of his hand rested upon the soft swell of the outer side of her compressed breast, and from the heat generated upon his hand he knew it was not padding that he felt and, Oh, God, how he wanted to hold this girl! But…
Her mouth open to his, the erotic probing of their tongues was at least as much due to her passion as his and, psychologically reeling, this kiss, emotionally, was like no other kiss Marsha had ever received, or given, but now she did realize that he was touching—somewhat, kind of—touching her breast, and as much as she did not want to break the kiss, or the mood, or really for that matter, move his hand, Marsha did have her instinctive boundaries—especially with this, their first adult, kiss—and was about to remove Mitchell’s hand when…