In seventh grade Gail Robasco was the girl we all wanted. She was what
our mothers would have called "well developed," which to us meant that
she had big tits. She also had long brown hair and huge brown eyes which
even too much blue eye shadow couldn't ruin. Her skin was creamy white,
as though she never saw the sun, and her skinny legs were often encased
in black fish-net stockings, the rage in 1967. But I liked her voice, which
was uncertain, like she was afraid to let the words get too far away from
her, and tiny for such a big girl. Talking to Gail was like an invitation
to get closer to those tits.
She liked me, I thought. She liked to flirt with me, especially in Mr.
Cyr's history class, where I always got into trouble. I made her laugh.
One day Cyr caught us passing notes. "Mr Thomas, come forward," he said
in his theatrical baritone. Everything with him was such an event. I tried
to remind myself as I walked up to the front of the class that this man
was the eighth grade bowling coach, for Christ's sake, that I couldn't
let him break my dignity. He grabbed my shoulders, squared me up, then
turned me around and kicked me. It hurt, but I didn't make a sound. After,
when I turned around to look at Gail she gave me this look that I wanted
to save forever.
One day at Bobby's house we practiced what we would do when we finally
got Gail alone, how we aimed to kiss her and feel her up. We made up a
clumsy code of words and moves that we thought might work, stuff I'd heard
guys talk about in metal shop class. We had signals for when to French
kiss, when to grope her tits, when to take the beaver shot. I watched Bobby
squirm around on the couch, grinding his hips and kissing the pillow, and
I called out the code words at what I thought were the right moments. Later,
he did the same for me. We were men.
The next week she got kipnapped and raped by a man in his thirties.
When they caught him they put his picture in the paper so we could all
look. There was a story under the picture, I remember, though I noticed
they left out the rape part. I studied the words, the peculiar black and
white pattern they formed on that awful page, the way they referred somehow
to Gail: minor, undisclosed location, allegedly, protect. When Gail came
back to class all she got from us was silence. She limped, and every time
our eyes met I would look away, or at the white hospital gauze on her white
thigh that kept slipping down her leg as Mr. Cyr talked. The stockings
It's funny: I don't remember seeing her again after that, not in high
school, not anywhere, though I'm sure I must have. We lived in a small
town. How could I have missed her?
I'm older now. I have two sons of my own. I've never told them about
Gail. What would I say? When I was your age I knew this kid, a classmate.
I was really hot for her, you know? We never did anything about it, though.
We were kids. Then one day, she was gone. Just like that. I don't know
what happened to her. I can't find any of my high school notebooks, or
my notes from college, even. Yearbooks, graduation tassel, gone, all of
it. At the time you thought it was important. You thought it would all
be there for you, somehow. Life is like that. Things change. You don't
know how or why but they do. You just look up one day and everything is
gone. Cells of your skin die every minute, second by second, from the time
you are born, brain cells decay, you lose what you most wanted to save,
and the ghosts carry the rest away. Trust me on this.
Now, I sit at home late at night and try to imagine what she looked
like. I sit at this keyboard and try to remember her into existence. I
tap her back into my life lovingly, one keystroke at a time. I'd like to
think that I do this for her, but middle age tells me that I don't, not
really. Gail is at our twentieth year high school reunion, drinking by
herself at a corner table, and her voice hasn't changed. I still have to
lean into her to hear her.
Copyright © 1997 Blip Magazine Archive