Topics continue to spill out of my fevered brain in no particular order as I hit the cumulative 700,000 word mark. I think I’m done with Italy, but I cannot be sure. Never say never. Never ever. I never finished my hitchhiking adventure from way, way back in the way back days of my early 20’s and the early digits of this blog. I’m sure there are memorable moments back there; it’s just the thread of cognitive connection gets thin, or something else catches my attention and the story is gone for that moment. What did hit me between the eyes recently was a Facebook post that referenced the death of the girl who lived across the street from me in my childhood. I think I liked her when she didn’t like me, or she liked me when I didn’t like her. No matter. She was the neighborhood tomboy girl athlete, better than most boys at sports. Apparently she died in the recent past from what I could remotely piece together. I am so disconnected from the old school and neighborhood days that it’s just a fluke I learned of her death at all. God bless you anyway, Judy.
It was a tough neighborhood for girls. Boys were in the majority and ascendancy in The Hills during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Most girls stayed inside rather than run the risk of harassment outside in the aggressive testosterone zone. Not Judy. She played basketball and baseball and football alongside any of us, as well as the hide and seek games of summer nights. She could chuck a snowball like a boy if not better. Climb trees, monkey bars, run, swim, etc. A young Amazonian she was. And a good shot with a BB gun.
It must have been in 7th grade when I heard a tiny tinkle explode from the first pane of our double-paned picture window. I was sitting down after school one fall afternoon trying to find a fitting place for a jigsaw puzzle piece. “Ptttkkk” was the sharp snapping sound I heard as the first BB hit and a conical shard of glass plinked against the inside pane. I immediately turned to my left and looked out at the gray November sky and our barren black elm tree. I didn’t see the tiny hole yet. Then the second “Ptttkkk” hit and I noticed a fleck of glass pop across the small gap between the double panes. I knew I was under attack and the target. A rifle barrel awkwardly slid back inside a bedroom window across the street.
Hmmm, what to do? I did nothing but worry about the window pane, feeling it was somehow my fault. Indirectly it may have been. The time period of this shooting may have included the swarming of boys toward older, more developed girls in the Hood. A certain Sue down the hill held court at her bedroom window for three or four of us boys on warm nights. She sat in her bedroom window “grounded” by ineffectual parents, while we boys offered her cigarettes pilfered from our ineffectual parents. To watch her smoke in little more than a tee shirt, silhouetted against the back lighting of her bedroom was like watching Marlene Deitrich in the 1930’s on the silver screen. Obviously it left a strong impression.
She would occasionally ask if one of us would like to give her a hickey. Would we? We swarmed like rat pups around a slice of holy cheesecake.
It must have been tough for Judy as the undisputed neighborhood jockette, to have broken the glass gender barrier in sports, to have been accepted as an equal to the guys, only to lose that empty victory to the unfair curvature of secondary sexual characteristics in slutty girls. It takes no talent or skill to grow a pair of melons or wear short shorts. No intelligence or wit is involved in plump butts tightly wrapped in skimpy skirts or filling out a barely there bathing suit. I can only imagine the frustration she endured. Her mom and older sister lived miles away in an apartment complex. Divorce, sure, but why leave your vulnerable younger daughter in a boy’s locker room environment? I’ll never know the hows and whys of that arrangement. One can only speculate among ugly options.
I think the stay at home moms on our block had a soft spot for Judy. They could see the raw deal she’d been dealt and endured heroically though we boys could not. We just knew she had a good jump shot, was fast and agile, and tough while still being cute. Not sure if I ever told anyone how those BB’s popped our picture window. It would not have gone over very well when every unexpected expense seemed to herald the end of the world. Perhaps this mood was fed by the nightly news with Walter Cronkite narrating the latest carnage in Vietnam, or the racially torn streets of America, or the string of assassinations. These two glass insect bites hardly mattered in the grand scheme of things. There were just big enough to tinkle in my memory banks tonight. God bless you anyway, Judy.