back to the Black Table

 November 3, 1992.

It’s important to remember that it was election night, the big election night, the night we switched from a boring, Republican country to a shit-kickin’, skirt-chasin’ tornado of absurdity. My friend Gary was having our whole nerd crew from high school over to his place to watch the election returns – I was looking forward to rubbing it in my right-wing friend James’ face when Clinton inevitably won – and I was supposed to come by afterwards.

It was my girlfriend’s birthday. My first relationship, really, the first one that meant anything, was with Myra. She had worked at the movie theater, the Cinema 1-2-3, in downtown Mattoon. She’d been there for two years, going to the community college during, tearing tickets at night, and then drinking and cruising until dawn. She was blond, sweet, smart, and funny. She was turning 22.

I was 17. I had just recently started dating Myra. When I met her, she was engaged, and I was, well, I was a 16-year-old dweeb who was the captain of his scholastic bowl team, wore a feathered mullet, and had kissed two girls. For whatever reason, we started hanging out when we screened the new movies after work, and we would subtly flirt, knowing it would never happen, what, with the age difference and all. (What, she would pick me up from lunch at the high school?) Then one night, she had a bit too much to drink, and I drove her home, and she kissed me in front of her place, and the floodgates were open. That had been two weeks before November 3. On Halloween, I saw my first pair of exposed breasts. She did not know this. I had told her I’d had sex before, because I surmised (correctly, I later found out) that if she knew I was a virgin, she’d be freaked out and not let me kiss her anymore.

She felt more comfortable about the age difference than you might suspect. In a nice twist, her father had been close friends with my grandfather, and she remembered having schoolgirl crushes on my uncles, who, not surprisingly, look exactly like my father, who looks exactly like me. In Myra’s eyes, I was a lucky coincidence, a nice, smart, innocent, harmless guy whom she could train in the ways of the world before I inevitably bolted for college. Myra would be my water wings before I left to swim in the big pool

Ultimately, I would prove anything but nice, smart, innocent or harmless for Myra, but that is not the story we are telling here.

The day after Myra kissed me for the first time, I spoke with my mother. Mom had heard me talk about Myra for a while and was keeping a close, skeptical eye on the situation. (I didn’t know it at the time, but Mom had decided there was no way her only son was going to gallivant around with some 22-year-old floozy.) I had never sipped alcohol before, so I asked my mom, while she was ironing, what it meant, exactly, if someone kissed you after they’d been drinking. Did it mean anything? Was it an accident? Was it indicative of larger feelings, or a fluke? Would she even remember it the next day?

I underestimated my mother’s resolve against Myra. She put down the iron, looked me in the eye, and said, "She was drunk. She didn’t mean it. She won’t remember it, and she doesn’t even like you. Stay away from her." It was the first of many battles I would have with my mother over Myra, and, to be honest, I have never been as open with my family about what’s going on in my life since. (Ironically, years later, when I’d graduated from college and lived in Los Angeles, Myra ended up working with my mother. They put the past behind them and became close friends. Myra even taught my mother how to tie a tie. At this point, however, Myra had long since stopped talking to me. But, again, another story.

Let’s get back to the timeframe here. I apologize. I have not thought of these days in a long, long time, and I find myself wanting to toss in every detail as I remember them. That makes for a convoluted storyline. Ten years is a long time. It’s funny how the details return

So I told Gary that I was taking Myra out for her birthday, but I planned on stopping by in time to see Clinton’s acceptance speech. I picked her up at her house in my father’s 1967 Chevy Camaro, the car he and I had rebuilt into his crowning achievement. I don’t remember how I talked him into letting me take it. She was wearing a black jumpsuit-type thing with blue jeans on over it, and a black jean jacket. The jumpsuit has a little snap at the crotch, she said with a giggle. I couldn’t imagine what kind of outfit would have a snap at the crotch.

We were heading to Arcola, about 15 minutes north of Mattoon, up Route 45, a two-lane thoroughfare through cornfields and barren, silenced dirt roads. The restaurant was called the French Embassy, and it was the world’s only four-star French restaurant that was also a bowling alley. That’s not a gag. It was a real place. To the left was a bowling alley, and to the right was the finest French restaurant in Illinois, from actual French guy Chef Jean-Louis. It’s odd how it didn’t seem all that strange to me, at the time, that the fanciest restaurant I knew was also a bowling alley. I don’t think Myra found it that strange either. She was just impressed that I’d saved up enough from my minimum-wage usher salary to take her to a nice birthday dinner, and that I wasn’t wearing a Wayne’s World T-shirt, which was my style at the time.

(Seriously, I’m not joking. It was a real French restaurant/bowling alley. I didn’t imagine it. Swear. In fact, I just learned, while researching this column – I do research these things, you know – that the French Embassy is no more. This saddens me immeasurably. Here’s a link:

We headed up Route 45, with Nirvana’s Bleach – Myra’s birthday present, on cassette, which is what people listed to before they downloaded MP3s – providing the soundtrack. She smiled from the passenger seat, looking fantastic, her large breasts firm, the snap intact. She had recently stopped calling me "Skippy," which was the older girls’ nickname for me at the movie theater, apparently because of my boundless energy and enthusiasm. I had never liked being called "Skippy," and now that I had seen Myra topless, I definitely didn’t like it. She rolled down the window, laughed and said, "Well, Skippy, thanks for taking me out tonight." I made a pouty face, which, at 17, was as close to a frown as I could come. She smiled again – lord, that smile – put her hand on my leg, bit my ear, and said she was just kidding, William Franklin Leitch the Third.

The restaurant was not crowded. It was a Tuesday. I ordered something I couldn’t pronounce and a Coke, and Myra had a glass of wine. We talked. She took her shoe off and playfully snuck it up my pants leg. I acted like that happened to me all the time.

I paid the bill. It was 9 p.m. I think Florida had been called for Bill Clinton. We hopped in the car and drove back down Route 45. We were just outside the Donnelley’s publishing plant where, two summers later, I would work a temp job on an assembly line with my uncle Ron. Myra leaned over, unzipped my pants, and took me in her mouth. She bobbed down, then up, then down, then up again. A whisper. Pull over.

I turned left, over the railroad tracks on which I had never seen a train, drove about half a mile and eased to the side of the dirt road, leaving my parking lights on, lest a drunken teenager come barreling through. Myra took off my jeans, and then hers, and then my boxer shorts, and then, snap, snap, up went the jumpsuit. She reached in her purse and pulled out a condom, a strange ring-shaped contraption which, up to this point, I had never seen. It was different than I’d imagined. I was hardly the epitome of manly dimensions, but, still, it seemed unlikely that I could fit that thing on. It seemed small.

Myra bit off the wrapping and tore. She grabbed my penis, tightly, and then unspooled the green latex – green? I hadn’t imagined it being green – onto me. I worried, instantly, that the tightness of it would make me lose my erection; I had never worn one before, after all. She licked my ear. Does that feel OK? I nodded like a retarded basset hound. Yup-yup-yup. And then she hopped over the stick shift and straddled me.

The seats in a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro do not recline, and the steering wheel is far too close to the driver. This makes for discomfort. Myra tried to move, but could not. Move to my seat. I did, scraping my bare ass on the stick. That’s better. She then began to move, slowly, slowly, slowly, so slowly. She lifted up her jumpsuit so that her breasts were exposed. The windows steamed up, instantaneously, it seemed.

I cannot say I was enjoying what was happening. Sure, I enjoyed the view, and I suppose, had I been able to separate myself from the experience, it might have even felt OK. But I was panicked that I would lose my erection, and we wouldn’t be able to finish, and she would be embarrassed for me, the teenager, and then she’d start dating a burly farmer named Hank, and she’d tell all my friends I couldn’t perform, and they would laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Amazingly, I was able to keep going. She sped up. I was surprised it was still happening. How long had it been now? Thirty seconds? Four hours? A week? Faster now. A moan. A grunt. A misstep … get back in there. Another moan. A strange whistling sound. Faster. And then, and then, and then … it was over. Myra made an unhinged, insane smile I’d never seen before – her lips appeared to be pursed, yet above her eyeballs – and kissed me. That was good. She then raised, and lowered herself off me, took off my soiled cover, opened the side door and threw it into the ditch. For some reason, I had an urge to go grab it and put it in a Ziploc baggy.

Thanks, she said.

No, thank you, I said.

I drove her home in silence. I didn’t even turn Bleach back on. It had suddenly become very cold, and Dad and I hadn’t fixed the heater yet. I saw her shiver. I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her next to me. She kissed my ear again. She was always kissing my ear.

She opened the door, looked at me and sighed. "So, I’ll see you at work tomorrow?" I said yes, yes she would. And happy birthday.

I never made it over to Gary’s. But Bill Clinton did win the election, a fact that a young Illinois kid, just off a dirt road, in a Camaro, with a mullet, as a used, historic condom rested in a ditch, didn’t learn until the next morning.



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