Friday, October 29, 2010

Georgia, on My Mind

In many ways you have only now begun to understand, Georgia was your first love.  You were a rowdy, wise-cracking six-year-old, newly moved from the outliers of kindergarten and first grade to the big time.  Having some kind of coordination and being generally good at games were the two passports into polite society, or so you thought. You had neither.  Even then, you were good at what passed for wit.  Georgia had coordination and hauteur. She drew your attention first and foremost because of her approach to the tether ball court.  "That's your side,"  she would say, drawing a line in the gravel with a decisive slash of toe.  "This--"  indicating the opposite side from which her opponent stood,"-- is my side."

No one could beat Georgia.  You began keeping written records of the boys and girls who challenged her.  For every game she won, you made a tick mark.  There were no tick marks for Norman, who was a sixth grader and, thus, in every way unbeatable--except this way.  No tick marks for Stephen nor Albert.  Peter, who was even shorter than you, saw the uselessness of trying.  So far as you know, Ivan began losing his milk money to her.

One day she approached you.  "What things are you writing about me?"

"The games of tether ball you win."

"That's nothing.  I can do other things."

This was before you understood much if anything about sex and so you were afraid to ask what other things.

"I can beat anyone I want,"  she said.  "I can beat you."

You recognized the truth of this, but for the next two years, you challenged her every morning and if you could find her, every afternoon.  By the time you were eight, you discovered the great joys of sneaking into the back yards of houses on the way home toward Orange Street, finding the houses with garages with sides facing a patch of lawn.  You would climb to the top of the suitable houses on Lindenhurst and Blackburn and Maryland Streets, jumping from the garage roof to the grassy patch.  You were building a reputation as a splendid roof jumper.  As such things go, word got out and yo were even invited to baseball and football games in which your class mates attempted to establish their own reputations for coordination.

None of this helped in any way with Georgia, who showed you no mercy, only disdain.  "I'll say this for you,"  she said one morning after beating me again, "you are truly a terrible tether ball player."  At this point, you experienced an early nuance of love.  Across the years, you can see her Nordic blonde hair, her supple arms, her purposeful, no-smile expression as she maintained the record of wins against all comers, and you can see you, who would grow some in the next five or six years to the point where your nickname was Shorty, wanting to be a part of that cavalcade of event, competing against what seemed like unutterable perfection.

During the advance of years when you were made aware of sex by your own hormonal growth and by the incessant signals of nature, you frequently found yourself drawn to the cool, Nordic types, seeking in them the utter perfection and stature of Georgia, wanting as it were to regain that sense of being in the give-and-take of coordinated perfection.  In retrospect, you can see that as a part of a pattern of growing away from some things and toward others.  Some years later, when you were writing and acting in so-called Mystery Dinner plays, an actress you'd hired to play one role improvised something you believed to be truly wonderful and in a flash you were reminded of Georgia and instead of responding to the actress as the script called for, you showed your enthusiasm by telling her you loved her, and as Georgia had been ready for you, the actress was ready with yet another splendid improvisation.

The moral you take from these vagrant lines is that it always produces a kind of euphoria to work with individuals you recognize straightaway as at the top of their game and euphoria is, after all, the name of your game.

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