The Miranda Complex: II. The Girl From Zody’s

By the age of 11 I had certainly already long harbored a fascination with girls and their bodies and also had already experienced erections, but up to that time the two sensations bore no connection to each other. Catching glimpses of Gina Dichlich’s panties when she hung upside down on the monkey bars in the 4th Grade, though enjoyable and sought out whenever possible, was not associated with wanting to fuck her nor were my various boners on bumpy bus rides or sliding around in the tub associated with any penetrations.

No, the first time I ever saw a pretty girl and got an erection because of it happened when I went to the psychedelic department store Zody’s with my grandparents. Zody’s was a trashy low-end retail outlet where the trippy colors and acid-drenched wall designs made it, at least, more entertaining than similarly basement quality venues like White Front or, worse, The Akron, a drab, ratty place that sold merchandise guaranteed to break within hours of bringing it home.

Zody’s had concession stands near the entrance that sold snackfoods like popcorn and ice-cream and frozen bananas (plain or chocolate covered) on a stick. In fact, my first sex-related hard-on occurred near the concession stands, where I saw this gentle, brilliant creature with curly black hair and enormous blue eyes working a frozen banana in her mouth. She held the frozen banana in her left hand and moved it back and forth across her lips. I couldn’t stop watching her do that, and the longer I watched the harder my pubescent tumescence grew accompanied by thoughts of my body touching her body. And I do believe that I was ashamed of those thoughts. Yes. I was ashamed. Ashamed of wanting. The recurring theme. And the shame doesn’t stop the wanting. Oh, to be android.

I rode the exacting blade’s edge of staring at her and not getting caught staring at her. While strolling the aisles with my grandparents, who were looking for some gadget or other which would undoubtedly be useless by the next day, I passed the blackhaired beauty several times, each instance averting my eyes from her but longing terribly to look. She was with a grandmotherly lady. I sneaked enough peripheral vision to know she still had the frozen banana. But it was really her eyes I wanted to look at again, not her mouth. I couldn’t bring myself to risk interest. As if by instinct. I didn’t even know why yet. It’s called the fear of being human. Of dabbling in the actual. It’s called trying to be a good warrior and avoid confrontation. I didn’t talk to her. Ashamed of wanting.

It was 1972, the summer “Alone Again, Naturally” came out, the perfect soundtrack for wallowing in one’s own social paralysis. I loved that song when I was 11, very much God’s own lurch-left sediment dweller. I remember feeling her gone forever while riding back to my grandparents’ house. I resurrected her image nightly for quite a while; she was a leading player in the fantasy pantheon. Sometimes she’d have the aspect of an Egyptian bird-god; sometimes she’d have a more human plumage. But the reality of the girl from Zody’s, the bird made flesh, I felt, would never be encountered again. As it turned out, though, my premonition of finality was (almost for certain) incorrect.

Because, weirdly, I’m pretty sure I go to college with the girl from Zody’s, what, these 7 years later (when I first saw her in lit class I thought she was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, but then I saw her face and realized in a mind-gasp that, no, it was the girl from Zody’s), and a fellow English major at that. From the moment I noticed the lavender flash in her eyes I exerted tremendous energy downplaying my awareness of her, diligently avoiding contact through several different literature courses in Freshman year, but trying to drink her in clandestinely at oddly focused moments, or openly when I had permission to look at her, like when she’d answer a question or comment in class. In the stretch between Zody’s 1972 and Cal State Northridge 1979, I had mythologized her in a perverse sequined imaginary shrine to lust and shame, but I was not entirely positive the English major I ogled from the side in Major British Authors II (Romanticism to the Present) was in fact the sapphire-eyed lass I had peeped in flagrante delicto with her frozen banana at Zody’s a different lifetime ago. I had no indication she had any sense of my existence at all until we had one awkward conversation in Oviatt Library. I was reading Volume II of The Norton Anthology, I think sort of tripping out on Blake’s imagery, and she sat down next to me and just started talking:

“Hey,” she said, “from Dr. Acorn’s class, right?” and I was forced to look at her eyes, which were of course still beautiful, born but to smile and fall, “Are you ready for the test tomorrow?”

“Hey, yeah, um, pretty much. I’m also taking Romantic Lit with Wild Bill this semester, so it’s a lot of the same stuff,” I stumbled in fixation with her face, nearly lost in self-conscious awareness that I was talking to the girl from Zody’s.

“Ah, well, you have a distinct advantage then,” she said, herself perpetuating the eye-lock for a number of uncomfortable moments until she averted her stare downward at my book. “Blake,” she noticed, “I’m not sure about him.”

“What aren’t you sure about?”

“No, I mean, I don’t think I’m getting him completely. It doesn’t seem like poetry to me.”

“What does it seem like?”

“I don’t know. Something else. Ecstatic scripture maybe.”

“It’s that too, definitely. But why can’t it also be poetry? What’s it missing? Look at this passage,” I pointed out and read to her, in a library whisper, the following passage from “The Book of Thel”:

Ah! Thel is like a wat’ry bow, and like a parting cloud;
Like a reflection in a glass; like shadows in the water;
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face;
Like the dove’s voice; like transient day; like music in the air.
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time.

“I mean, come on, all the music you need is right there. A gorgeous anaphora. It’s got dance, it’s got rhythm, it’s got the perfect virgin in paradise unwilling to give it up for the pleasures of the world.”

“That was me once,” she said, “before I cared if boys liked me. Such a shame.”

“I bet there are plenty of people out there who wish they’d made the same decision as Thel,” I said, “I think the poem is a word concerto.”

“I love that. A word concerto. I’m Lily, by the way.” For some reason, I didn’t automatically tell her my name according to accepted custom. So she took up my dropped end of things: “And you’re Georgie, right?,” she asked.

“No, I’m Lance. I sometimes refer to myself privately as Georgie Porgie, but how would you know that?”

“Well, maybe I’m psychic.”

“I don’t groove on psychic phenomena,” I said dismissively.

“I don’t know, for me it’s more of a character study than anything else,” she replied with the bohemian air of someone who isn’t quite sure what she means.

“All right, if you’re psychic then what am I thinking of right . . . now?,” I challenged her. I was thinking of her body in total submission to me. This was my very feeble way of flirting with her. Because I am just so the total loser.

“Um,” she closed her eyes as she concentrated (I wanted her to leave them open). “You’re thinking of the fat kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Buzzy something . . .,” she groped.

I offered, “Augustus–”

” . . . Lagniappe.”

“–Gloop. Augustus Gloop,” I finished.

“I thought his name was Buzzy Lagniappe.”

“Augustus Gloop.”

“Then who the fuck is Buzzy Lagniappe?”

“Well, actually, I grew up next door to a guy named Buzzy Lagniappe, if that’s who you’re talking about.”

“Is he fat?”

“He was at one time, yeah. And his real name is Augustus. You know him?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Then how did you know he was fat?”

“I didn’t. That’s why I asked YOU, dum-dum.”

I hadn’t heard the term dum-dum since before my Zody’s days.

“Well, Buzzy looks nothing like Augustus Gloop. Buzzy’s more of a Danny Partridge-looking motherfucker,” I explained.

She looked at me like she knew something. Was she on the verge of realizing she’s the girl from Zody’s?

Instead, “Sooooo, you’re one of those people people talk about,” was her ambiguous innuendo.

“Sorry?”

“Mr. BIG Stuff,” she started singing the Jean Knight song, “who do you think you are?”

“Could you, um . . . ?,” I tried to get her to stop. Heads turned and stared as she did her impromptu number.

“You made ‘em cry, many poor girls cry,” she belted in her Jewish croon then abruptly stopped.

“I still don’t get what you’re–”

“I do that song with my band, The Girly-Q’s. We’re playing Wednesday night at the Bla-Bla Cafe. You should come check us out,” she explained as she handed me a flyer for the show. While I looked at the flyer without really reading it, she added, “You remind me of somebody . . . “

(Looking up into her eyes again, I was ready for the great Zody’s revelation. Alas.)

“. . . This guy I’ve been stalking for a while. I wrote a poem about him. You want to see it?,” she asked as if I had the option of saying no.

Lily pulled a worn hard-bound journal out of her backpack and opened to the page where she had written the poem in longhand. “Here,” she said, tell me what you think.” I read it without really looking at it:

The Iceman Liveth

When you first meet him
he looks like Willy Wonka
addicted to heroin

Then his magic face starts to throb
with layers of potent attraction
You are drawn to his wild brown cavy eyes
and charismatic intelligence
the way he knows about everything

But there is only so far you’re let in

A sudden freezeout numbs you into desperation
You want to follow him
Find out where he’s hiding
Win back the balmy conversations
the fascinating plank

The Iceman Liveth
Right here
He will overwhelm you with his kiss
until your swoon embarrasses yourself and others
You are becoming one of those females and you hate it
You fixate
You unleash a barrage of pathetic beggings
Be careful in his midst
For he is a vile magnet

“English major?,” I asked.

“No, duh,” she replied with a scurvy snarl. “One night he kissed me on the beach with such caveman passion I thought he was totally into me. Then when I ask him, like, ‘What’s going on between us?,’ he goes, like, all formal and shit, ‘Uh, I have enjoyed your company tonight,’ and I’m like just standing there confused. ‘But that kiss felt real,’ I told him, and he was just, ‘Oh, it was. I loved it.’ And then I said, I said, ‘Wait a sec,’ I said, ‘But you only loved the KISS, you don’t love ME,’ and the asshole goes, ‘Hey I don’t even know your name, girl’ as if that’s some kind of excuse. Oh, but he’s such a fox. I must have him.”

“So, what, you started following him around?”

“Well, basically . . .”

“Do I know this guy?”

“He knows you. Tony Crumb?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. Really into 18th Century stuff. He’s a Pope/Dryden dude. And a total Pepys-head. The biggest one I know.”

“You know more than one?”

“Pepys-heads? Hundreds.”

“So you know Tony then.”

“He’s cool, yeah.”

“Well, he thinks you’re an arrogant prick,” she offered without invitation.

“Ah, well. Huh. That’s, um, thanks for telling me that.”

“I think it’s ’cause he heard you making fun of Dr. McMichaels’ vocal tic or something over on the roof of Sierra South.”

I smiled, “Oh, the ‘hmm?’ thing McMichaels does at the end of each sentence?”

“Yes!” she laughed too loudly for the library, “the beep sound!”

“My theory is it’s because McMichaels is Canadian and tried to swallow saying, ‘eh?’ at the end of his sentences, and it got stuck in his throat: ‘hmm?’”

“Fuckin’ McMichaels,” she scoffed, “what a hard-ass. If you answered one of his questions wrong in class he never called on you again. I had Major British Authors I with him last semester, and the class got so hypnotized by the ‘hmm?’ at the end of each sentence that we all unconsciously started beeping ‘hmm?’ in unison with him ’cause we were so caught up in the rhythm. It was really funny when some of us would become aware of the group ‘hmm?’ and look at each other and start giggling. The best though was when he’d look up after a classwide unison ‘hmm?’, thinking that somebody was asking a question, and to acknowledge the person who asked would go, ‘hmm?’ Oh, it was so hard not to bust up right then.”

“And McMichaels never figured out what you were doing?”

“Hell no! But I always thought about what it must sound like to somebody walking by in the hall or sitting out there waiting for the next class. You could probably not hear McMichaels, just a classroom full of students beeping ‘hmm?’ together every few seconds. I got a ‘D’ in that class. But Tony thinks McMichaels is God, so when you were lampooning the deity it bugged him.”

“And that’s what you mean by I’m one of those people people talk about.”

“Oh, no. I was referring to something else.”

“Like what?”

She stood up to leave.

“I’m going to go get a frozen banana from Zody’s, wanna come?,” I thought I heard her say.

“Huh-wha?”

“I’m hoping to suck your cock like a pony’s, wanna cum?,” was the next version there’s no way I actually heard because I was too busy thinking about the first time I’d laid eyes on (I think it was) her with a frozen banana in her mouth.

“Sorry,” I motioned, pointing, “rock and roll ears. One more time?”

“I’m going to try to find out where Tony is, you wanna come?”

“No, I need to work on Blake. I’ve got a paper due on “Thel” next week. And I wouldn’t want to prick Tony with my arrogance anyway.”

“Well, if you wanna study together later for the test, here, give me a call,” and she proceeded to write her phone number in the palm of my hand while continuing, “And can I ask you a question? Why do guys have to be such assholes?,” she put forth rhetorically. “Before I started having relationships with them, I thought they were awesome. Reality changed my understanding of . . . um . . . reality. It’s been my saddest heart-fall.”

“That’s a lovely image. You should use it in a poem,” I observed.

“Ooh, cool idea! I will. I’m working on a poem about following Tony around campus. It’s perfect for the last stanza. My saddest heart-fall,” she wrote in her journal.

(I was actually referring to the image of reality changing her understanding of reality. That’s when I understood she was not a poet but a journalist).

“I still want to know what you meant by I’m one of those people people talk about,” I made one last plea.

She fobbed, “Oh, I don’t mean anything by it. People talk about you. You are a topic of conversation.”

“But what are they saying, other than calling me an arrogant prick?,” I whined.

“Hey, call me tonight and I’ll be more specific, ‘k?”

“‘K. And let me read that poem when it’s done,” I whispered as she left.

“I will,” she promised without meaning it. I tried to turn my attention away from Lily and back toward Blake and Thel:

Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
the glist’ning Eye to the poison of a smile?
Why are Eyelids stor’d with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts and graces show’ring fruits and coined gold?
Why a Tongue impress’d with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling, and affright?
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy?
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?

Indeed. Lily.

I was pretty sure I had just talked to the girl from Zody’s. And I was a little more heart-fallen because of it, having lost the paradise of a frozen banana. I never did call Lily. By the time I worked up the courage my sweaty palm had blurred the ink beyond deciphering. That probably wasn’t her real phone number anyway.

 

© 2007, All Rights Reserved

About Lance Atlas
The narrator and protagonist of The Miranda Complex

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