Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Issue No. 1, School Boys - The Matinee Idol


It’s not my fault I was named Tina. Don’t blame me for Tina. I’m flat-chested, I have thin lips, and I’m brunette. To you, I can be Edith.

My parents have men over ripping up the carpet in my bedroom and putting in hardwood floors. It’s about time, I’ve begged for this for months. It’s my Christmas present. It’s June. My parents have rented me an apartment to stay in until my room is put back together. They’ll call when I can come back.

There’s a high school nearby, thank God it’s not the one I graduated from, and I run a good racket picking kids up from the cafeteria and taking them out to eat. I park in a lot next to the school’s. I lean against my car and wait. Kids come running out of the cafeteria ducking down low with a jacket thrown over their heads. They pay and we go to Hardee’s.

It used to be three or four kids a day, groups and double dates. But it’s gotten to be just this one kid, Jeffrey. “I’m running out of quarters, I can’t pay you today,” Jeffrey says. “You have a cafeteria,” and I lean intimidating. “Pleeease!” It’s those eyes. I take him to Hardee’s.

Things loosen up when he doesn’t have to pay me. He starts getting personal. “Is Edith your real name?” he asks me. “Yes. Is Jeffrey your real name?” “No.” He asks if I like going to the movies in the daytime. I tell him I only ever matinee. I shouldn’t have been that honest. Our relationship moves swiftly out of Hardee’s and I say goodbye to afternoon daylight for the summer.

The call comes. The floors are in. “Mom, Dad – Jeffrey will be enjoying the floors with me.” Jeffrey takes quickly to his new bedroom, sliding wall to wall in his stocking feet as I move in my books.

Jeffrey and I mosey downstairs Christmas mid-Day. There is nothing under the tree. “We gave you hardwood floors!” is the rent’s sorry defense. “So?!” “You said it was your Christmas present!” The camel is on the floor but no amount of writhing will fix his back. I turn to Jeffrey to escape whatever the next straw will break. “Jeffrey, do you know what an Amtrak is?”

Jeffrey gets the upper berth and I the lower. New Year’s Eve there’s a party in the dining car. Jeffrey has been promising to kill the lights at midnight and murder Mrs. Pearl. She and her husband, that’s Mr. Pearl, are spending their eighth honeymoon slowly crossing the country, the same way Jeffrey and I are spending our young adulthood. They stay in the compartment next to ours and keep us up every night shouting gin rummy scores and reminiscing very loudly.

Jeffrey conspires, “I’ll pull her skirt down and empty a bottle of aspirin up her” – “She’ll scream!” I reason. “I’ll whisper in her ear, ‘Don’t scream.’”

The lights do go out at midnight and it’s true, I never see Mrs. Pearl again. But Jeffrey never says anything. I think he’s disappointed there’s no investigation, no detective, and Mr. Pearl doesn’t stop reminiscing at the top of his lungs. I learn these sorts of dis-appointments really wreck Jeffrey. “It can’t all be matinee,” I reason again. Luckily, the coast comes and wipes away the train melee.

I’ve never been to the West and neither has Jeffrey, but he seems to know exactly what to do. He opens a briefcase, one he’s never opened before and that I’ve always been a little curious about. It’s full of movie magazines, Flick and My Idol.

Jeffrey gets us an apartment with a sea view. It’s carpeted. “Are you going to audition?” I ask Jeffrey. “No.” There’s even more need on the coast to fight the gentleman’s club connotations of my name with heavy scarves and trench coats. All the kids at the local high schools already have cars and already go out to lunch. There’s not a lot for me to do.

Jeffrey should be bored, too, but he’s not. After one unemployed month, the drive wells up inside him and he takes a bus to the offices of My Idol. He walks straight into the studio and sets himself in front of a fan. The issue devoted to Jeffrey’s face is framed and displayed above our fireplace.

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