Once again (or Girl in the Yellow Volkswagon)
She slipped into the club like oozing oil, no jerks, no jumps, no stumbles, just the slight vibration of her unrestrained breasts beneath her white silk blouse.
You couldn't forget a woman like that on a good day, but my last remembrance brought only sharp jabs as I recalled her in the kitchen of a mutal musican friend in the late 1970s.
She was so cool then, and I was so shy, that when she picked me out for seduction, I didn't believe it, thinking it the kind of mock dorky kids in high school used to suffer.
You just don't think women like her will look at you that way and mean it, her slick fingers moving up along the inside lip of her open blouse, her gaze so caught on me I nearly melted.
Someone said she worked as a model -- though she hung around the band too much for my comfort, going home with a different member each night. Perhaps she had found out everything about them she needed to know, working her way down through the ranks until she reached the humble level where I worked as roadie.
I'm not certain anyone ever said no to her before I did, something she took as an acute insult, her shrill reply full of mocking outrage I was still too numb to understand.
Time turned her into one of those nagging memories full of regret and enternal possibilities, and seeing her again turned me into a raw, aching nerve, now less shy than humiliated, easing me back into the shadows of the club to keep her from seeing me.
After five years, she had lost some of her porcilin features, lines etched at the corner of her slightly dulled blue eyes. She seemed less certain of herself, sitting down on the bar stool as if fully prepared for a quick escape, not certain she could be accepted in this venue after so long, perhaps a little surprised that the band maintained its grueling schedule, unphased by age, alcohol or cocaine use.
Then she saw me, frowned, not quite able to make out my face from the shadows though she was almost sure of who I was, a slow, uncertain smile registering on her lips, then another frown, then an expression caught half way between the two, as she lifted a finger and curled it as signal for me to come to her.
Had I had power to resist her, I would have used it then, instead of stumbling drunk-like out of my shade to perch beside her on a stool, suffering an rbrn closer, more intense examination.
"You don't remember me, do you?" she asked.
"Of course, I remember you," I said. "After the last time we met..."
The frown deepened, creating a havoc of additional lines. "The last time?"
"In John's kitchen," I said. "Surely you remember."
No despair could have gripped me so greatly than her failure to recall a moment that remained so vivid in my mind, after I had spent the greater part of the previous five years building up my refusal to a personal myth.
"I dont' recall anything being the matter with..." she started, then stopped, then laughed. "Oh you mean that!"
Her light laugh crushed me.
"Yes," I mumbled and fumbled with the a bar napkin, the first and only thing I could find to keep my fingers occupied.
"But that's not the last time we saw each other," she said.
"I used to beep at you in the mornings when you jogged. Don't you remember?"
In the mirror behind the bar and beyond the bottles of booze, my face broke into a web of confused lines.
Beeping? In the morning?
I had ceased jogging daily because of my aching knees, but for most of the years between my previous meeting this woman and this moment now, I had made a morning ritual of jogging the same route up River Road in Garfield, a study of endurance that took me through heat and cold, nearly leaving me with sunstroke or frost bite for all my efforts.
Yes, I recalled someone who had made a ritual of beeping at me, some young women in a yellow VW beetle making her way along the road in the opposite direction of my run, always beeping and smiling and waving as she passed -- though I never saw her face clearly nor understood why she had.
"That was you?" I asked.
She nodded, smiled, but with a weariness that said she had been through much since then, and had changed so much she could not claim credit as more than inspiration for that person.
"Why didn't you stop?" I asked.
"Would you have wanted me to?"
It was a point well taken and I shrugged, trying to explain how that part of me no longer existed, and how much I struggled to change myself, going back to college, making a legitimate effort to become the writer I only previously pretended to be.
Yet in shaping it, I heard how hollow my boasts still were to a woman who had seen rock and rollers come and go, making it to the brink of big time before fading away. While I routinely sent stories off to the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, their rejection slips arrived with equal frequency. All I could boast of were a handful of small literary publications that didn't even pay, important to my ego, but nothing in the eyes of people like her.
And yet where I expected mockery and dark humor, her eyes glinted a little with admiration, as if she could find no more to boast about, telling me she would have to read my work sometime, and me, knowing she never would, knowing that the orbit, which had brought us together for this final moment, would whirl us away from each other again, she clinging to a circuit where she would later take on the name of barfly, while I wandered through the streets of my imagination, stirring up the images of my past, shaping them into tiny fragments I hoped to get published somewhere in time.
Maybe I should have insisted she come home at that moment, sneaking her through the hazy shadows of my still humble life, perching her over my handwriten notebooks as we avoided the cold and the mice. Perhaps she might even have agreed to make love to me, fulfilling a promise she had made years earlier.
But it would not be the same; we were not the same people, and I politely excused myself, making my way back to the shadows and the bag of half-filled notebooks -- her memory joining the collection of hopes and disappointments those books contained.