by George Constantin
The first time I dropped my pants for Megan was when I was five. We were playing Frisbee and a neighbors dog came up and bit me on my butt, for what reason I dont know.
I cried, and Megan ran up and said, Let me see if youre bleeding.
Zip downed trousers, exposed still hairless smooth legs.
So! I demanded.
Theres an X here, she said, dabbing her finger with a soft poke on my right buttocks. Not the only time a finger would be near my butt, but unlike those intrusive physicals a lot nicer.
An X! I yelled, horrified I had been marked like a pirates booty map.
Itll go away, she said authoritatively, squeezing my butt with straight fingers and thumb like making a clacking duck shadow theater on the wall, as we did with the lampshade off in my room.
Okay, you can put your pants back on.
I bent over stiff feet back rigid, butt sticking out. I felt something touch close to the bite. It reminded me of the soft peck Mom would give me on my forehead before going to sleep, or when Miss MacCollay (we said Miss, more like miz, since easier to say than missus) would greet me on a cheek.
I turned and looked eyebrows askance and mouth tunneled at Megan. She smiled teeth, her neck tilted away, a hint of tongue starting to tip out of her white smile. Had she kissed my butt? I dont think at that age I would have been bothered by the ramifications of gluteal osculation (Im the ass kisser). More appropriately, little Megan MacCollay, my best friend a girl no less had kissed me! That wasnt very friendly.
Megan MacCollay and I were friends since we were born eight months apart, she before me. She was always my sweetie. I guess I can say that now. And how could Megan have liked me anyway? Its obvious. Im a likable guy. Ive always considered myself very straightforward, an approachable and adorable sensitive zygote produced from the propagation of two loving and progressive parentages. They instilled culture and civic responsibility in me; advised me that it would be better to be plain than an elitist. Undoubtedly, they have succeeded, for I would feel aghast if I was a snob . . . if a bourgeois culture were to emit from my self-form. Megalomania and pseudo intellectualism are abhorrent; I would detest myself if I propounded or postulated a quasiliterati air.
My parents also had the good wisdom to move next door to the MacCollays on Bruford. This was a planned maneuver: Fred MacCollay and my father worked for the same aerospace manufacturer designing hydraulically actuated flight controls, slats, flaps, engine nacelles, landing gear and fairings. Since they were the head engineers of the design team, they shared an office and naturally spent a lot of time together, becoming good friends.
I have a black-and-white photo of the two of them in their office typical defense contractor post-world war design: Walls wood paneled halfway, metal desks and a tilted gray steel drafting table, white foam panels on the roof with abundant white light squares, U.S. military recruitment and morale posters along the wall . . . the only thing missing is the uniform company pride slogan so prevalent with aerospace then, urging the employees to do their best. Theres Fred and Dad. Theyre at a desk; actually, Dad is sitting on it with his arms folded and Fred is standing, leaning with his right arm supporting himself at desks edge and his left arm bent, hand on hip. Both are wearing white, short-sleeve button shirts and skinny dark ties. Dark slacks. They have V crewcuts, its the Sixties you know, and theyre both smiling. They have slide-rules and mechanical pencils for engineering in their shirt pockets (they were skilled with drafting tools, French curves and stencils and eventually found themselves designing rockets).
In the background, through a glass window in another lab, a huge steel cabinet holds a bleeping variant of an analog, Doppler-encoding Portable Radar and Mobile Air Command and Superiority Unit (PRAMACASU). As young upstarts my father and Fred designed it at another contractor, but found themselves on the streets when the stockholders sold it to a Southern California defense leviathan that had its own airfield for test flying. The employees, Dad and Fred included, got their bonus checks for the design and their pinkslips in the company mail the same day. The next day, moving boxes were in the offices and by five oclock the following day, Friday, Stratacorp entered into the pages of defense journal weeklies as the only contractor that folded up after scoring the highest profit of any firm its size in a single year. The design ended up being an industry standard, the shareholders cruised well into the late Seventies with offensive amounts of cash and most of the employees went to the company that bought PRAMACASU. Not my dad and Fred. They went to a competitor.
At the time of their re-employment into a new company, Dad and Fred MacCollay bought into a new housing development in a Northern suburb that allowed distance from the City, but, by new interstate link just a mile away from Bruford, brought them speedily in Ford Fairlanes to work, ready to design liquid oxygen-eating rocket boosters that could send a man into space if used in that application or deliver a nuclear warhead (atom, hydrogen, neutron, polyester) into your middle-class white American independence day backyard barbecue, circa late sixties (Oly beer not included).
Freds wife, Jane MacCollay, and my mom were great friends too. Jane would come over and watch the Zenith television with Mom, toying with the Space Command remote during Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in peace for all mankind; Apollo 12 with bald, gap-toothed Pete Conrad I really walked on the moon! Really! What, you never heard of me? or Apollo 13 with Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert and Main Bus B Undervolt; Apollo 14s Alan Shepard hitting a golf ball out of a lunar sandtrap; Apollo 17 with Gene Cernans not-broadcast Lets get this mutha out of here, mans last recorded statement on the moon in the Twentieth Century; and Apollo-Soyuz vodka drinking in outer space. Although Fred and my dad didnt design Saturn V boosters, Jane and Mom were NASA space cadettes.
The families had yet another thing in common. Each had an only child. The MacCollays had Megan. The Van der Zoofs had me, Zander.
Even though I was a young lad and by gender naturally predisposed to detest girls boys have become temporarily-avowed misogynists by the age of six or seven something attracted me to Megan from the first I could remember. It was a friendly attraction, but there was an element of being friends with the All-American girl who was framed in tomboy charm. I liked Megans freckled, peach-curved cheeks, her sharp crested eyebrows and straight red-brown hair, cut short and almost round with her head, catching a glint of gold in the right light. Her skin would tan a lustrous brown that got no darker than a paper bag, always looking healthy even when in the winter months she lost the sun.
I normally would go next door to Megans to play I liked going there, even though I had sandbox, jungle gym, treehouse and family garden that went clear to the concrete wash that was officially called our citys River but remained dry excepting a very freak rainstorm flood. Playing with Megan occasionally brought discoveries.
But butt bite aside, I had a proclivity for making an ass out of myself in front of Megan. Once, I pulled my TWA red and white painted 747 model off its stand and buzzed around my room.
Look, Megan! I yelled.
I hurled the 747, expecting it to glide on to the bed. Instead, its mass just pulled it pitching and yawing into a sideslip (the flight crew inside would use the pilots term skid) that overshot the blanket runway a balked landing and smashed loudly through my bedroom window, landing on the grass, a good regain of control by the captain. Glass shards plinked out of the frame. Megan sat quiet on the shag carpet floor.
Quick Megan! Get out of here before Mom kills you too!
Another time I was at her house in the back yard. Apparently my Boeing via glass incident not well versed, I found a screwdriver that Fred had dropped while working on his lawnmower.
Look, Megan! A missile . . . a beautiful parabola through the crashing tool shed window, hitting glass jars with assorted bolts.
Look! Megan repeated with a stuffed, consonant-stressed appropriately condescending imitation of my peepvoice, uhh misselll! Mr. MacCollay handled it generously
Well, you found my screwdriver and returned it to the shop for me . . . just not the way I would go about and do it.
The worst of my goofs in front of Megan as a child came as I was cruising on my ultra-cool Sears Free Spirit bicycle equipped with banana seat, white grips with nylon streamers, the unexplainable fad of orange antenna/flagpole mounted on the left chainstay the boys had back then (a five-foot Im a geek announcement), and the ultimate in nerd broadcast training wheels. At least Dad was cool enough not to put the little basket on the bars. That would have been unconscionable. I might even run away, at least to the corner since I wasnt allowed to cross the street unattended.
I hooked up my red Radio Flyer wagon with some twine to the seat post of my new bike. I would circle around in some neighboring houses while the families were gone. Since Bruford Street sloped down as you went South, first past the MacCollays then to ours, two up from the end, you could pick up some appreciable speed with your one-speed bike. I got a start, ten houses up by the Dines house (Dine pluralized with possession), and pedaled like, well, an inexperienced cyclist. It was hard from a standstill, but since I had those plastic training wheels bolted on firmly teetering since Dad, like a rocket scientist (he is), was moving them up weekly in finely measured increments I could drop with a straight leg on the top pedal and explode it into the first half of the power crank. It wasnt as impressive, since I didnt hold the bars firmly and the front wheel swiveled and the bike lurched into a post-abortive launch. Slowly the pedals churned with my feet on the tops. I built up speed. The wagon clattered and bounced, occasionally catching air and scaring various street cats. I was nearing the MacCollays. Megan was on the sidewalk with a jumprope.
Hey Megan, lookit me!
She looked up, arms at angles, rope looped lazily on the shiny concrete. Just as I was going to shoot past her in a brilliant display of speed, control and finesse, I heard the doiiiing! of a sure rope snap and a separation of wagon noise. I turned to look over my shoulder, slowing a bit.
Zandy! Megan yelled.
I looked forward at Megan first. She was pointing at me, or maybe something in front of me. The brick wall on the North of the MacCollay house, tiny at only two feet high. I jerked the pedals back to apply the sophisticated coaster brakes. I made a nice skid, laying down a wicked stripe of rubber. The wall was unavoidable, but I had slowed down my Free Spirit. The front wheel hit the wall just hard enough to slide me off the banana seat and onto the top tube. The whole time my hands were rooted firmly to the bars, so my upper body stayed erect while I shot a disco pelvic thrust and hit my nards along the Sears logo, my feet landing flat on the ground and a split second later sinking inwards until my knees touched each other. Megan was silent, not knowing whether to laugh or not.
I looked at where my leg base met the bicycle frame. In so slow a movement by dissipating momentum, the wagon rolled by on the sidewalk past me, past Megan, past the MacCollay garage and then past our house to the stop sign on the corner. It tapped the stop sign, with enough of a disturbance to evacuate the sparrows living in the hollow Bruford St sign.
* * *
I went over to the MacCollays. I was in junior high. Megan called me into her room. Even though we were too old for the game, I loved Chutes and Ladders. Megan was looking for a grownup game for us to play. She rummaged through the closet, wearing a pair of shorts that just hinted at the lunar curve of her buttocks. I wasnt scheduled to hit puberty for a few more years, actually, the last guy in class to do so. Nonetheless, I realized that Megans body was not the same anymore. Her legs seemed more slender. As she rested her hip against the closet door jamb I saw how her body was cranked in a boomerang curve: Hips to the left, upper body tilting away and her legs following the torso tilt, only they were long almost double the length from her shoulders to the bottom of her butt. Megan was wearing a loose t-shirt that had a v-neck and sleeves that reached to her elbows. It was watermelon colored.
I discovered that her shorts were frayed along the cuff then realized they were actually blue jeans with the legs cut off completely. The closet bulb silhouetted Megans figure, a blasting white light that made it seem if she went into the closet, closer to the light source, her outline would melt, like a vision of pure cream butter in an iron griddle. Megans toes gripped into the carpet, signaling her calves to tick-twitch. Her inner thighs were like mine they curved in from the knee, then out again to where it reversed like a shallow S. The games were on the shelf above the coat hanger dowel. Megan raised her arms and started pulling different boxes. Doing this made her shirt rise a little bit, displaying about three inches of her lower back. I saw how narrow her waist was. There was a soft shadow in the middle of her back, charcoal on newsprint thats been thinned by the artists thumb until you cant notice the contrast, just gradual shade until the darkest part and back to lightening again.
Damn, Zandy! I cant find the Scrabble. How about Chinese checkers?
Megan pulled the game, and a shoebox with playing cards and dominoes fell to the closet floor. She bent over to pick the box up, keeping her legs straight and knees locked, hinging her waist down. I saw just legs. My chest felt strange. The shorts had only a few inches between leg openings. Megan had the rattley box of Chinese checkers in her hands. We always played games on the carpet floor, and I was already sitting down. She stood, slipped her right leg in front of her left and sat legs crossed. As she opened the box she looked at me, her face pointed down, but eyes looking at me. They shined. Shined like stars. The edges of her mouth barely curled up but enough that no doubt it was a knowing, wry smile. Or am I placing this detail here now, since I believe Megan knew what was ricocheting in my pretty much empty brain box?
I put the round metal game board with star painted on metal dimples upon the floor. Do they still make this game? Megan started to put the chrome balls into the appropriate crevices. As she leaned over, I noticed the v-neck of her shirt. I saw a movement inside, marking flesh with shadowy division. We started to play. My chest felt strange: Heavy and tight but also empty like a pigeon bouncing around the windows of a room it has mistakenly flown into. I wanted to look inside Megans shirt. I realized she was in possession of other feminine attributes.
I stood up. I stretched. Megan looked up.
Whats the matter?
Nothing. My legs are sore. I need to stand up for a minute. Keep playing.
Megan leaned over the game. The whole shirt front moved a billowy forward progression. I looked down the neckline. There. There was what I so desperately wanted to see. Megan was developing such beautiful breasts that even in my pre-pubed body I could not fail to desire so badly. As she leaned forward, I noticed how conical and geometric they seemed from above. The nipples were tiny points the thickness of pencil lead, and their circular aura about the width of dimes were dotted with lighter bumps, and each breast seemed perfectly formed, as if individually and completely developed. My legs were so weak, Oh Lord, how weak I felt if I had any feeling left. I wanted to touch her body. I wanted to put her to my mouth. Then I shivered, horrified at the possibility that I would lose my control or sanity and grab poor Megan. I sat down, breathing hard, trying to forget about Megan, her naked breasts, and the spasmodic convulsions absurdly stretching my Fruit Of The Looms.
I went home and avoided the MacCollay house for at least a month.
* * *
Since we lived in North Valley and had always gone to public schools, Megan and I went to high school together. We even came home together, normally taking the city bus line from school and opt to walk up Vespucci Boulevard, turn left at Centerwood, up Azure, left on Inscription, and then a right onto Bruford. The walk was half an hour normally. At Vespucci and Centerwood was a market complex that had a soda fountain, where we sometimes went for malts.
I liked walking with Megan. She was a real beauty by now, but I was such a misshapen, poorly proportioned mess that it was illogical to even think she could see me the way I saw her. Besides, some of the assertive guys liked her, the sports types. Who wouldnt? I had liked her since we were kids. It was a boost to my ego, because all the guys in school saw Zander Van der Zoof go home every day with Megan MacCollay.
Soon Megan was on the cross country team, and I couldnt go home with her all the time. That was okay, because I was starting to take ground school. I had struck a deal with Dad that if I did the sundry yardwork, he would initially pay for flying lessons. To deny that I wanted Megan and could not have her, or any girl for that matter, I became fanatical about aviation. Throughout high school, I never got my drivers license. But by seventeen I was flying solo. Often I had to get a ride to the airport. My classmates would laugh that sometimes I had to ride my Pep Boys bought bike to Slayton Field so I could go flying. I didnt pay attention to any of them, and save for Megan and my pal Joshua Tokaknan, did not talk to a single other person.
I did not like the guys and girls Megan hung out with though. I hated them, wanted them dead. The phony girls looked like sluts with their whore laughs. They tried to fool me with niceness
Zander, youre so cute! Megan wishes she didnt have practice so she could go home with you. Isnt he a doll? Why dont you stay after with us, Zandy. You can until Megans done running.
I didnt want to wait with them. I didnt want them on this earth. I would not waste my time with them. I preferred airplanes, or when I couldnt fly, the high school boy favorite pastime masturbation. I had accessed a large multimedia library of stroke mags and videos, a veritable pornucopia. Sometimes it was a race to jerk off a couple of times before my folks would get home from work (Mom picked up a good job at the defense plant as a wire girl, threading circuits and chips into huge military computers). Even the hardest porn tapes left me disillusioned. Even though they got me horny, they left me unsatisfied. I wanted Megan. Not just for sex. I wanted her to be my love. Goddamn her for not loving me! I thought of the MacCollay house. I could go in anytime I wanted. I was like family, a son. I imagined I could walk into Megans room. She would be naked on her back. The bed so inviting. Her arms would be cast by her unthinking. Her legs bent up and distanced, feet flat on the covers.
I want you, Zandy, she would say. Ive loved you all my life.
And sweet virginal Megan would softly pull my hands on to her breasts. And! huuuhh, softly gasped, air whistling inward through her teeth. Her lips dry, wanting my lips. I would know what to do. I would know what to do! And Megan would love me for knowing it. And Fred and Jane MacCollay would know it and love me for always loving Megan and growing up together everyone always said what great friends we were and finally as I realized it then I had been treating Megan as a friend and pretending I never loved her Oh God how I loved her how the tears were gonna explode from the ducts goddamn Goddamn it Megan how I love you I love you I love you so much Goddamn it I want you for ever.
Goddamn it, I hate you Megan.
Two weeks before graduation the phone rang at home.
Hello? I answered.
Listen, Zandy. I was accepted to Adelphi, you know, that private school in New York? Ive got good grades and I can get a scholarship. Zandy, I dont want to leave you, youre my best friend. Please understand, I need to do this for me.
She started to cry, that oh woh who kind of low throb that will build up and just totally blast from ground level and radiate shock waves into loud, thundering wails. Did she want me to feel sorry? Did she ever see how I felt for her? Had Megan MacCollay ever once not thought of herself and just liked me for me? How long did she think she could get away with the cute-girl act? Her short brown hair Jesus Christ grow up Megan.
Youll do whats best for you, Megan. Were always friends. Besides, Ive been a bad student. Ive got to go a junior college before I can think of university. Ill probably go to Valley in the fall.
We have the summer, Zandy. It will be a great summer. Well do so much, just you and me.
Oh, Zandy! I almost forgot! Im having a graduation party right after yearbook signing, Friday night. Since Mom and Dad are going up to the mountain house they said I can invite some people over. You know youre always invited to anything here, Zandy, so just bring yourself. Come anytime that day, okay? Theres gonna be a lot of nice girls.
At the party everyone walked around with orange-flavored wine coolers in their hands. I wanted to tell the girls, who gleefully hoisted the hard bottles up to their giggly lips You look like youre fisting a glass dildo, but I didnt. Megan was being a good entertainer, alternating between boozers.
She came over and gave me a strong hug. We talked, she just chatted away, probably about unimportant things, not interested in the things I wanted to tell her. I just let her talk. Forget what happened to me.
I sat down on the couch and watched people drink it up and disappear to the bathroom. Megan took a walk. I sat, thinking about the cross country flight I was going to make to the high desert the next morning. I would walk around, looking at tumbleweeds. Id have a really good burger at the airport cafe with a nice slice of pie, home baked. It would be hot, but idling lazy at eight-thousand feet would be mellow, the hot gust blasting through the overhead vents. I loved the feel of flying during the different seasons. On a cold day with a strong headwind I loved the feeling of pulling the plane off the runway and the rush of altitude gain in an otherwise lackluster performing training plane.
The hot weather over the desert would be neat too: the seemingly sluggish response of the ailerons in a banking turn; the euphoric lethargy of turning on various axes in the air a feeling of not having to be anywhere or needing to get there. I would do a great landing, a textbook approach and greased-on touchdown, as I always did. I would start flying parallel to the runway, but in the opposite direction. Exactly at the halfway point of the runway I would throttle back to power-off idle, the prop turning so slowly that no thrust is achieved. I would slow my sink rate to the best glide speed. A hot gust might occasionally massage the plane in little soft-fisted thuds, but I would correct for any flight misalignments, keeping the little bubble in the attitude indicator exactly like the one in a carpenters level perfectly between the black lines. I love precision. As I banked an exact ninety degree turn onto the base leg, I would see the runway in my side window, and then Id bank another turn onto my final approach leg. The whole time I would never have to touch the throttle, having executed the correct manouvre. I would land, and hopefully, there would be enough pilots in the coffee shop to see how a perfect approach and landing could be done.
So I sat there and thought about flight. After twenty minutes I walked down the hall to use the can. I saw Megans room door closed. I could see from the door jamb that the light was off. I went to open it, wanting to sit on the carpet and remember how we used to play.
I opened the door. Moonlight was streaming in through the thin, creamy curtains.
What was worse: watching the creep plow himself into sweet Megan? Or watching her legs bent up in the air, her hips curved up in acceptance as if wanting this outrage, or hearing her throttled gasps slam out into the frigid air around my ears, my hand ready to smash the door knob and accept the twisted metal as the physical element of the torment going through me, to justify the hurt?
I closed the door quietly and fled into the post-imagery night. Years later it dawned on me that it might not have been Megan after all, because I heard what sounded like her voice in the backyard on the way out. But the image moved me to momentum. I went as far as I could go, to the airport. I sat on the wing of my rental plane and listened to the wind blow the windsock semi-engorged with it. Swifts crossed the night air, and I watched the spongy clouds drift past the moon, staring or perhaps sympathizing with me.
* * *
Through a half-dozen frustrating years of junior college and living on a Western coastal town with an uncle and aunt, Megan made it a point of contacting me. I gave up flying. Whenever Megan came to North Valley on visits, I made sure I would not be at my parents home, excepting holidays.
Well into my mid-twenties, I kept the Van der Zoof house as a mailing address. I got a letter from Megan with airline tickets to New York inside. She wanted me to visit. She was working on her doctorate, and she intended that I stay with her at least a week. We talked on the phone and sure enough, found myself on a flight to the East Coast with packed-for-a-week bags.
With arms around me, Megan welcomed me into her flat. Pasta was on the boil. I wont go into what Megan was doing, thats not important. But Megan looked beautiful, a real lady. My sweetie, still.
One night I asked to come into her room.
Megan, you know, weve known each other for a long time. I would like to stay in here with you tonight.
I was still a virgin. I didnt know what I was asking for, really, but partly I suspected I wanted to relive the good memories of our childhood, somehow force a return to happiness.
Is that such a good idea, Zandy?
Whatve we got to lose? Cmon, Meg. Were friends, right?
We talked on her mattress. I told her about my one failed attempt at intimacy with a woman. It was the kind of thing Megan would have easily laughed at. It was truly funny. I expected her to laugh. Instead she was quiet, her chest in nightgown rising and falling rapidly.
Zandy, I tried to get close to you. You know it. You just kept pushing me away.
Its nonsense like that that made me not listen to Megan a lot of times. She was constantly saying some sort of nonsense, really. I felt comfortable. Megan looked at me for a long time as I stared straight ahead. I thought about the nice flight in, and how smoothly the pilot handled the Boeing 747. From the moment of taxiing, I knew he was a skilled aviator. I thought about him throttling back at 29,000 feet as he let the big turbine engines spool down. The banking turns to the runway were smooth and shallow. I watched as the leading edge slats actuated forward, and how the wing flaps trailered out on their rails, each progression backward also applying more degree down to the flap application, changing the camber of the wing to a greater lift for our approach speed.
I sat in my window seat and propped my feet on the seat rails of the passenger in front of me, pretending I had my own feet on the jumbos rudder pedals. As we neared the runway I could tell by looking at our altitude I felt the hydraulic veins squirting below the aluminum floor, the whirr of aortic pumps, and the opening of the landing gear fairings. I felt the landing gear descend from the buffeting against the fuselage you can feel the sheer drag of the massive main gear and I propped my elbows on the arm rests, holding my forearms like I was gripping the yoke of the 747, and I pushed forward slightly as the pilot did in the cockpit one-hundred feet in front of me, to keep the approach speed safe and the glide angle correct, ever wary of a stall at low altitude.
We flashed over the black stripes of big aircraft tires, and the pilot added a little rudder, slipping slightly to compensate for crosswind, and touching down on the right main first, then dropping smoothly on to the left and finally the nosegear. I anticipated when the pilot would throw the levers marked THRUST REVERSE and push his Justin flight-booted toes against the tops of the rudder pedals applying the brakes, holding the throttles firmly in his right hand and the yoke in his left, bringing the jumbo to an easy taxiing speed.
The minutes droned on, and Megan and I sat upright in silence.
* * *
Fall 1995 · Fresno · California · USA