17

      Wives are leavin’ their husbands.  They’re beginning to roam.

They leave the party, and they never get home…

     –Bob Dylan

 

            The closures of some things just aren’t meaningful.  You want them to be.  You imagine how you want it to be.  You romanticize.  But that’s not how it happens.  Warren Bloodwood’s sister-in-law, Jeremy’s mother, maybe wasn’t acting out of fear of Bethany.  Her playful practice of putting make-up on a boy.  She just knew about Sissy Walker and Wishbone—what happened the summer Bethanywas born.  And she didn’t want her boy associating with it.

            She was a Southern Baptist, and raised her boy that way.  Her husband, the country doctor for black folks in their parts, passive to her religious domination.  Quietly maintaining his scientific practice.  Maybe instilling in his son the love of numbers and what they represented.  But Jeremy’s mother was studious as well—severe.  Jeremy not touching another girl ‘til practically in his mid-twenties, after graduating the seminary his mother prepared him for, marrying a girl from his church—a girl that probably wouldn’t have minded putting make-up on him at the experimenting age of thirteen just as Bethany had done, but that we will never know.  Let’s just say he never overcame certain inhibitions, inhibitions that might have found a healthy outlet if his relations with Bethanyhad been able to continue to blossom, but that we will never know either.  That’s the problem with closures, especially those romantic in nature.  Psychological manipulations eventually become heart wounds.  Wounds never resolved if not given their proper window for resolution.  And boys and girls with their first crushes need the right closure, the right fulfillment of the experiment, if they are to grow into men and women, adults, lacking baggage.  Repressed regrets on what ifs.  Fantasies that never go away.

            But we do have a journal.  A journal Bethanykept where she speaks of this first love of thirteen, written when she was eighteen, the winter of 1941.  About the time David Threnody and Johnny Tribout were receiving closure in Biloxi on their involvement with Nina, the base commander’s daughter, and their time as prison guards before America’s entrance into the war.  In fact, she speaks of her fiancee.  Her engagement to a soldier, her first husband, who may very well have been doing his enlistment in Biloxi at about the same time David and Johnny were there, possibly even hearing the rumors that abounded about them then—their fifteen minutes of fame, at least for people that read police blotters in Biloxi at that time.  And I have it here, saved in Threnody family records—the journal Bethany Labeau kept.  Her entry in the winter of 1941:

 

February 13th, 1941—I know what tomorrow is, and I wish there was snow.  I wish it would snow here.  I’ve never seen it.  I’ve seen it only in pictures in books, in black and white.  I’ve never seen it with my own eyes.  Never felt it in my hands.   I wonder if I would like it, or just feel that it is cold…  I’m eighteen now, and engaged to be married.  And just like the snow, I wonder if I will like it.  What I will feel with this man I will marry.  We’ve kissed, sitting on the swing of my father’s porch, but nothing more.  And now he’s gone away, going to a war across the sea, and I don’t even know if I will ever see him again.  If he will receive my letters, and write back.

I can say it here because no one will read it but me.  Thoughts I’ve had after smoking—musings…  I’ve kissed other boys.  I’ve felt their hands on me, and honestly I can’t say his touch, my future husband’s touch, was any different from them, that I felt something unique touching his lips with mine, that it was special somehow—meant to be…  It reminds of the first boy I let touch me, when I was thirteen and just becoming a woman.  How it ended abruptly.  His mother forbidding us to see each other, like I was bad somehow, bad for him.  I thought quitting then, quitting my visits to Sissy Walker then—opening her bible.  But I just couldn’t see how I was bad for it, that it was bad, because it doesn’t feel bad and I don’t have to wonder what it’s like, like the snow—because I know.  I know I’m not bad.  That’s the strange thing about people’s expectations though I guess.  You try to be good when they expect you to be bad, and so you’re bad.  You try to be good, but it gets you nowhere with these expectations, and you’re human and give in.  You give into the expectations in your weak moments, and I don’t think being weak, especially when people are forcing your hand and enabling it, makes you bad.  But then when you’re bad people remember it, further enabling their expectations even when you try to change, when you want to change and become a better person.

It’s the same with people’s expectations on how things end too.  Their religion tells them how it’s going to end, what happens after you die, and people try to live up to these expectations, some of them fantastic and in no way compatible with a normal life.  At least life here as we know it.  Certain facts about how people are and what they do—good and bad.  I suppose they just want some sort of meaning, meaning to the end, the end of their lives, even if it means living a life that’s hypocrisy because they have these expectations on how it’s going to end, in the meaning after…  But I don’t think there is.  I don’t think there’s any meaning in how things end.  I learned that with that boy, that first boy I loved, who touched me and I touched him.  I mean it ended so abruptly, without us being able to say goodbye to each other, at least in a proper way.  A way that our hearts could go away from it and mend right.  I couldn’t say the things I wanted to say to him, and he couldn’t say what was on his heart…  Our last meeting was in the rain.  That creek bed where we chased each other swollen with water, and I remember he fell.  He fell trying to follow me over a fallen log, and I laughed.  I laughed at him even though his face showed he was embarrassed…  I thought the rain would just wash off the make-up I put on him, but it just smeared, and his mother saw it.  She came to my father’s door with him, not allowing him to wipe it off so she could show it to my father.  So she could rebuke my mother for her ungodliness, her associations with that old mid-wife presiding over my birth, her shoddy church attendance.  I remember I could only catch glimpses of him peeking around my father.  How his face was downcast and ashamed, and how I couldn’t tell if he was crying because it was still raining.  I couldn’t tell his tears from the rain….  I never got to say goodbye to him, never got to say why I did it, why I showed him what I did.  That last playful pat I gave to the erection he had when I showed him my breasts, and nothing more.  A tease for both of us, in what we expected, what we hoped to find in each other…  There was no closure, and I don’t think there ever is.  Not in the way we imagine it to be, and it hurts.  It hurts not to have that, and be left with what you have—meaningless gestures, disconnected, nothing profound in the last breath of lovers, or anyone for that matter.  Sometimes there’s nothing good in it at all, just malice.  And like the snow I imagine, the snow I’ve never seen or felt, I will never know if it’s more than that, more than just cold…

Advertisements