“Sometimes I feel a little mad, but don’t you know that no one alive can always be an angel, when things go wrong I seem to be bad. But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…”
It was a day of reminisce. The first rain of the season hovered in the air, boxes were being spilled out on a table in a purge of the past. Photographs, letters, greeting cards. As I write these stories, I find myself digging further and further into my history, searching for answers and often only raising more questions.
As I pried apart old photos that were stuck together by time, showing them to my husband and telling the stories behind each one, my mind drifted – lazily at first, but soon I was scouring the internet, searching names barely remembered, some never forgotten.
My thoughts found their way to one whom I had no photographs of. Like I’d done a dozen times before tonight, I typed his name, hopeless but habitual, into the search box on my Facebook page. This time, however, there was a name. And a picture. The face of my fabled past stared back at me, childlike as ever.
Peter.. my Peter Pan. Your Wendy is still here.
* * * * *
I am struck with fiery images that flash like an old drive-in movie on a faraway scratchy screen. My breath comes up short as I remember that night in front of a fireplace – the first time I’d ever allowed a man to see my body in any kind of light. Everything intimate before that night had been hidden in darkened rooms.
But I wanted Peter to see me. To see who I was, inside and out. It was frightening, following his lead and relinquishing my need to be in control.
He’d taken me back to his apartment after dinner, and we sat back with a glass of wine, soon falling into some sort of meaningful conversation as we always did. It was our attempt at pushing away the superficial stigma that came with being a part of Generation X, aka The MTV Generation. We were grownups, and determined to prove it!
The kiss just happened. It came out of the blue and our hunger to be physically connected somehow filled the room.
* * * * *
How Peter and I met escapes me. It remains an elusive mystery. I simply know that my life was forever altered by his being a part of it. Many years were wasted, thinking I was in love. With Peter, at the end of our journey, there was meaning at last to that tired old line: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
He was an average looking young man, close to me in age at 22 years old. Slightly taller than I, with dark hair brushing his shoulders but no real sense of style – it was like a half-assed rebellion statement soon forgotten. His eyes were deceptively cheerful and boy-wonder like, as were his chubby cheeks that didn’t go with his long, pale, lanky body.
I’m never near the musky smell of leather without Peter in the back of my mind. He had a black jacket that seemed a part of him, part of his skin. When he’d wrap his arms around me in a hug, my face would bury deep in his shoulder and I'd breathe deep the scent of his armor.
And the rain. Peter was the first of my rainy day lovers. Even though we were not sexually involved at first, he was the first kindred cloud spirit I’d known. It was tangible, every time we ever touched, mind to heart.
Long were the nights we spent on the telephone. Back in the days before texting, before email really took hold over our lives. I used to love to draw a warm bath, turn all the lights off, save for a few candles, submerge myself and talk to Peter.
If only I could remember the words… I long to hear what a young woman who was still finding her way socially, sexually and emotionally had to say, in a bath of scented water, tiny flames flickering on the tiles, phone in hand to hide behind, leaving her inhibitions as bare as her body.
I barely remember that girl. Like a silent movie that runs in my head on a rare occasion, but there is no dialogue, just a dramatic musical score. Sitting here now, alone at as I await the confirmation of our friendship on Facebook after a twelve year hiatus, I’m trying to remember the innocence that may still have existed, but it’s long been washed away in tides of tears and heartaches.
I don’t know if he’ll “friend” me. Perhaps he’d rather keep me in the closet with all of his other skeletons. Surely he’ll see my name as a familiar one. Or maybe I’m just another forgotten face in a pile of rubble he has tossed away. I can’t help but wonder if he remembers the words he said to me... that night.
That night, when Peter Pan crashed into me, taking me to Neverland with him, and then left me standing at the window, just another adventure he’d take with him when flying away on his child-like whims with his shadow chasing after.
* * * * *
I made no secret of the crush that kept me hovering, up until that evening. It was laid out very clearly to him over the course of our casual dates, as I was beginning to find my way to the mind-speaking woman who writes this today. My thoughts have a habit of expelling themselves faster than I can stop them – especially in matters of my contorted heart.
Unwittingly, I became one of the girls that would never live up to the vision he carried inside of him. She existed, if only to him - he was wrapped around her and in her. It was likely that that no woman could take all of him, and he’d never find his dream, but my sadness wished that he would.
After our night together, we drifted. The conversations, the feelings, were diluted as I struggled to understand what he’d tried to say to me.
It was a few years before I really got it, before it melted through the dark layers of me like a sinful butter that lingers on the tongue.
* * * * *
When the feelings went unreturned, I wandered into a relationship with Keith. He was never too fond of my scant closeness with Peter, despite the infrequency of our contact. Never one to put up with jealousy, it was a slight irritant that buzzed between us. In truth, he wasn’t all wrong. While loving Keith, my head was still haunted by my fickle friend.
Approaching the two-year mark, Keith and I were headlong into some major problems. Too many obstacles, most of them hurdles of my own making. We were on the verge of some sort of ending, and there came a night I stood at the window, like Wendy staring out looking for her favorite Lost Boy. I called out, and he came.
It had been some time, perhaps a year or more, since we’d last seen each other. I pulled into the lot of a desolate park and turned the engine off. The radio continued to play, the piano rising and falling, the strings crying along with me. A breeze rustled in the darkness as I waited, or was it the black cat that skittered across the sand? Closing my eyes, leaning back, my mind shifted like a slow simmering kaleidoscope.
Hearing something, I looked through the rear window to see the feline sneak in a stealthy manner through the shrubbery. I’d heard that if a cat crossed back upon its path, that it was a sign of recourse coming to light. Something feared coming back to haunt.
Headlights swept across me as I watched Peter drive into the dark lot. He stood tall as he rose from his car and walked toward me. I stepped into the cold night. Quietly I pushed away from the closed door, and walked toward him, picking up speed until I was in his arms. My friend - this was what I needed right now. No expectations, no hurt, just warmth.
We held each other, and my heart stopped, drowning in the cool leather against my cheek. Only for a moment, but there it was… fatal hesitation. The scent of him, the feel of him fitting so right against me, my arms holding him. Then it was over, slipping away into the night.
And so I began. These things went wrong. These things were right. In between he peppered my monologue with crumbs of his own wrongs and rights and sadnesses.
I knew his thoughts.
Somewhere he knew mine too.
I whispered a song into the night, something he never heard me say. "Just a little boy...runnin' out of time...and still keeps on falling out of love..."
He moved away from my embrace to pace back and forth. Casually he pulled a cigarette out and flared up his lighter. I ducked away with a slight frown, seeing he still liked to go for the shock value of his actions, wanting to surprise me, for he was not one who smoked. I watched him in sadness, because before he hadn’t been destructive.
On went the night, with the comparisons, the revelations. The knowledge of our own minds frightening us respectively. I slid up on the hood, and he perched next to me. Wanting to be brave, I pushed my gaze upward to his, and after a clash of wills melting into understanding, had to blink back the tears as my eyes dropped again.
"You're looking for ....magic..." Peter challenged me softly. I refused to answer. What is known cannot be unknown, and he was right. When I wasn’t looking, the need for something special, someone special, had taken hold, and Keith wasn't it.
He leaned in close. “I can’t offer you that…” He walked away, kicking at the curb.
You already have, and haven’t a choice about it. I watched the protestations forming in his head as his heart tossed them aside.
He was back by my side, and again the smell of leather, mixed with ...something. Oh but I couldn't... wouldn't… be able to... I couldn’t betray Keith, but Peter knew too much. I stared at his mouth, watching it form words I never heard, as his eyelashes swept across his little boy cheeks while they looked downward.
In the next moment I pulled him close, and I asked, and I kissed. And suddenly I was alive. The wetness, the aromas, the warmth, the rustling of clothing, the soft hair tangled with my fingers.
This moment would never end, even when the kiss did. It would always be with me. It was not a torch in the tormented night, rather a candle in a sea-hidden cave.
I knew that kiss would bind our kinship, however much he didn't want it to. Freedom ringing – it was freedom he needed to step into, and I offered him no chains. Rather, a place to sail home to, a place to rest. That’s what would be waiting, now or twenty years from now.
Two long journeys, ending in a foggy night, but no longer was I blind. Like the ancient riddle: "at night they come without being fetched, at day they are lost without being stolen." Fleeting were my thoughts, but lasting was my love. The fog lingered in his and I could only wait for it to lift, but it would, someday. I was sure of it.
The night had to end, but I felt, if for a moment, not alone. At last I could hold my hand out to him, knowing what he’d be missing if he didn't take it – knowing for the first time.
Time swirled around us in the dark, through the trees, across the sand and green grass. In the end, things hadn’t gone unsaid, but thoughts were left unthought.
The next day, Keith and I ended. My heart plainly was elsewhere, and it was the humane thing to do.
* * * * *
“I always wondered what it would be like to have sex with myself. Now I know.”
Sitting by the fireside, the disconcerted afterglow of our bodies tangled still, his words left a stinging slap across my cheek.
Covering myself quickly, I reflected what I’d done wrong. Granted, the few experiences under my belt weren’t anything to brag about, but apparently I hadn’t even needed to be there? Mortified, I fumbled to get dressed.
The look on Peter’s face was one of bewilderment. “What did I say?”
“As if you don’t know? Come off it.”
“Honest, Kymberlie, please tell me.”
What was there to tell? We finally gave in to each other, but you may as well have jacked off alone. Had our sex really been so bad, I was barely a part of the equation? Is this what he was saying to me? Thoughts scurried rabidly throughout my insecure mind.
I had given in to my feelings, went blind into kissing him as a lover, sexing him as a man, holding him as a kindred. A moment that our common madness connected us.
It wasn’t love. It was need. I needed to prove to him what awaited him in the real world, he needed to prove what eluded him in his dream.
* * * * *
We never spoke of it again, and my hurt was tempered with time. My feelings deepened as I grew to know Peter, grew to rely on him – and as such, pushed him away. Another talisman to collect in my pocket, he stayed in my memory after our night in the park, but we were never to see each other after.
Ironically, my best friend, Keith was the one I couldn’t confide in, because our entire relationship had been haunted by the ghosts of Peter Pan and Wendy. I couldn’t admit that truth to him.
There came a night, some years later, that I was in bed with a faceless, nameless someone. I knew him to be a liar and a cheat, and out for one thing.
It was like looking into a mirror.
Like having sex with myself.
“Sometimes I feel myself long regretting some foolish thing, some little simple thing I’ve done, but I’m just a soul whose intentions are good… oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood…”
© Kymberlie Ingalls, October 19, 2010
Lyrics: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood / as sung by Cyndi Lauper
Falling Out Of Love / Ivan Neville