Trail of a Heart 11 – Girl in the Golden Swimsuit

 In Autobiography

It wasn’t until junior high that my love life picked up. That has to sound scary to many parents, me included! I think I met him at the city swimming pool where I spent almost every day of the summer.

Daily I would walk to the pool, collecting discarded soda bottles on the way. There was a tiny little store between my house and the pool where I redeemed the bottles for enough money to go swimming. Except for times of bad weather, that was how I spent my summers between by freshman and sophomore years. It didn’t seem as cool a thing to do as I grew older.

I felt a lot of confidence in the pool. I usually met friends there so had people with whom to hang out. Mary Lou was one of my longest-standing friends. Often we were at the pool together. Other good friends were Gay (yes, that was her name!) and Gayla. We enjoyed cooling off at the pool as we lived in an area of New Mexico that had 100 degree plus summers. But, truth be told, we were there primarily to scout and be scouted. Reminds me of the song about looking for love in all the wrong places. Hmmm.

Regardless of which of my friends came swimming any one day, I was pretty much there every day. We would hang together and encourage one another in our attempts at diving and boyfriend catching. It made for great sport regardless of which activity we were involved in.

I was a strong swimmer and many days would summon the courage to  dive off the high board. Many times I would stand at the end of the board debating with myself whether it was such a good idea. I don’t remember ever exiting back down the ladder, but I was always a bit scared of diving from so high. Usually I would make up my mind when either someone was waiting to dive or when one of my friends would either taunt or encourage me.

My activity at the pool alternated between actual swimming and just playing in the pool. As hunger or boredom appeared, I would head to the snack bar, after which I would lie on the concrete on my towel usually gossiping about the boys with my girlfriends. Everyone knew you shouldn’t go into the pool after having eaten something.

About this time my figure had pretty much developed, and I was aware of being ogled. I remember feeling a little embarrassed, but also pleased. I loved my single-piece, form-fitting golden bathing suit. The material had a pattern that looked like fish scales. In my mind’s eye, I was a sleek goldfish. At a high school reunion some 25 years later, one of the boys of those pool days described that bathing suit to a “T.”  Ahem…

It was at the pool that I spent time with Charles and his group of friends. We all goofed off together, playing the tag games in the pool and sometimes just sitting around and talking, joking. At some point we all realized that Charles and I were enjoying each other’s company and had begun hanging together, talking, both in and out of the pool.

There is a sensuality of near-naked bodies in the pool together that did not go unnoticed by either of us. There was not much opportunity for anything more than playful pushing in that environment and talking in hushed tones by the sides of the pool. Every so often Charles managed to sneak a kiss in the water close to the side of the pool. The pool, being the only public one in town, was always packed, but we managed a few pecks and knowing glances. Charles began to ask me to go to the movies with him. We both knew it wasn’t about any movie. I tried to pretend I was not aware of the implied consent. Even though I knew I would never go all the way before I was married, I did enjoy the idea of playing around the edges.

My parents did not consider me old enough at 14, to officially date–I wonder why–so Charles and I would arrange to meet at the theater. I usually would be allowed to go to the movies Saturday afternoons, as I spoke of earlier. We sought that dark environment for hand-holding, his arm being put around my shoulder and the titillating sneaking of a kiss. We had to be careful to not get caught by the occasional flashlight of the theater worker who was sent to discourage young lovers. A couple of years later I became one of those flashlight-wielding smooch-thwarters and saw the situation from a different perspective.

It was all very thrilling to my young heart. Sometimes Charles would take me for a ride on his motor scooter afterwards, but I couldn’t let him take me home. More than my parents were worried about any of us girls getting involved with boys, was the fear of the danger of motorcycles. Charles’ scooter was no real danger, but I was sure the distinction would have been lost on my parents on both counts if they had seen me riding with him on his scooter.

Charles was dashing and a lot of fun. I think there was as much thrill in the sneaking around as there was in the actual relationship. There were some problems I had with him, as we spent more time together. He seemed very possessive, but yet I had several occasions where I was sure he had been seeing someone else. He told me I was beautiful, the revelation of which was surprising and soothing at the same time. He gave me a jewelry box and a necklace and earrings set that Christmas. I gave him a wallet.

I am not sure how and why we broke up, but I think that there always seemed to be other girls, or at least the rumor of them. I remember several scenes of explanations being demanded and offered. In the end, I got the word he was going to “break up” with me, which he did. I was not as disappointed as I had thought I would be. The more I knew about him, the more I realized that I had been dazzled by a few well-placed compliments, or flattery, as well as his seeming suaveness. He was way less cool than I had imagined at the beginning. My fantacies of having a boyfriend were pretty far afield from the real thing.

Isn’t that the way it is. Why can’t we know that as we step into these relationships? Being in love, even having crushes, is so dazzling, seemingly transforming mere mortals into spiritual beings!

Watch for the next installment of my life story…

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