by Jane Doe
August usually included one week when it made everyone unhappy with the heat and humidity. Every day it threatened to rain. The sky swelled up with purple-blue clouds and the air was thick as a cloud of gnats flying down your throat. Thunder would roll around on the horizon like a female dog in heat. You wanted it just to rain, to prove it could still rain, even though you knew as sure as shooting it would feel even hotter and wetter afterwards.
Not everyone wanted it to rain. Dave, and most of the other farmers were trying to get in their hay. Sometimes there would be a shower of sprinkles here or there. The farmers would stop in their fields to watch its movements, wishing it away to the neighbor's farm or at least away from the hay. While driving down the road, the asphalt would change from dusty gray to blue black and you'd realize that you had just passed over the edge of a rainstorm. These places were like decision lines. Here one had a choice. If you stood by the bridge you could be dry, or walk to the corner and have your rain, if that was what you wanted. For me, I wanted the cooling, refreshing release of rain. For Dave, I wanted the heavy clouds to roll on, taking their bloated burdens somewhere else.
Depressed by the indecisiveness of the weather, I stayed in the house. I wanted to sew something new to wear back to school. The summer had been a burden a fight of wills fenced in by the open fields around us. I was lost between what I wanted versus what I got. I felt punch-drunk and dragged down by the bad weather between me and my folks. I missed the regular doses of loving and righting the world with Dave. To make a new dress for school would perhaps prove to me that this summer would end. That there would be days of cool fall weather when I would sit in classrooms again smelling yellow tablet paper, pencils with red erasers and wooden desks instead of doggy-do and pickles canned in vinegar.
Upstairs, I ratted through the pile of fabrics mother had on hand. There were always lengths of cloth bought for some dream garment, but before it was cut and sewed, the mood or the fashion changed and some other piece was bought. I didn't find anything suitable for school clothes. Mothers have such ungodly tastes about what is attractive, or not for daughters, I thought. There was no car at home that day for a quick trip into town. I was so determined to make something, I settled for sewing a simple summer dress out of some blue and white chambray that had been in the pile as long as I could remember.
The next task was to find a pattern. Mother kept all the patterns she had used since I was a little kid and the ones she had bought and never used, in a big banana box. I disorganized them all without finding one that fit the mental picture I had of how I wanted the dress to be. Knowing it was foolhardy, with my limited sewing experience, I decided to combine the bodice of a dress Mother had made a couple of years ago for me, with the way the bodice of a sundress for her was designed. The skirt was no problem. For a plain gathered skirt, I needed no pattern. For the straps of the top I needed only strips of cloth doubled over and hemmed.
I went right to work, cutting the dress out and sewing it up. It went together pretty fast, except when I had to rip the darts out at the waist to make them tighter. My relatively small waist was my one physical asset, so I was determined that it should be emphasized. Besides, gathered skirts were not the wisest choice for my wide hips but I didn't want to bother making a flared skirt. If the waist nipped in enough, the billowing gathers should look, umm, not so bad.
All the time I treadled the old machine, I thought about how the dress would transform me into someone better. Wearing such a cool, clean dress, no one would ever see the hot, sweating me sitting in a room furnished with boxes and cartons and too-good-to-throwaway-uselessnesses swearing when the needle came unthreaded or the seams didn't meet.
I had little chills of excitement as I dropped the balloon of stripes over my bare body. When I zipped it up, I was glad the zipper was in the back, as it was more than a bit crooked. But, who would be looking at the back of me? The waist fit nice and tight like I had hoped. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that the bodice that met my waist two years ago was now ending somewhere in the middle of my midriff which tended to pull the gathered mass rather high above my real waist. If I pushed the gathers down, it wasn't quite so noticeable. If I remembered to stand up straight and suck in my tummy as I did when I looked in the mirror, the dress appeared less maternal. I concluded that when I made something for school, I'd better buy a pattern and stick to that.
Saturday, came and so did the rains. It was such a relief to have the cooling dry wetness of a rain that kept raining and didn't stop to let the sun come out to steam it back into being cloud. I went to town with mother to buy corduroy for a skirt and a vest and matching brown cotton for a long sleeved blouse, along with a pattern for every thing I wanted in one envelope. I wanted to go right home to cut it out.
We were no more than in the door, our arms still loaded with sacks and bags, when the phone rang. It was Dave. He had gotten in all of his hay and had helped his dad until the rain stopped them. Now he felt like celebrating by going to the drive-in that night.
Frankly, I don't know whether I was more excited about going out with Dave for a change we had had so few "real" dates this summer or the prospect of wearing the new sundress in the dark.
The first show was not very good, but it was interesting to us as it portrayed a young homesteader in Oklahoma, who, with his wife, was trying to carve out a bit of happiness in this wild land, still infested with wilder Indians. She has a baby and one day when the
young husband is off helping a neighbor, the Indians come, do something terrible to the young mother, (rape is broadly suggested), then they kill her and the baby. When the man comes back home to this mess, he swears revenge on the Indians, goes out after them, gets wounded, is saved by a young, doe-eyed squaw who nurses him back to health,
Some parts of the film were such clichés and so badly acted, it was better to imagine the action by listening to the music and supplying our own kisses. Twice, Dave's elbow bumped the horn , scaring us and all the other couples nested about us. It was embarrassing even more so the second time it happened when someone tooted back to us in sympathy.
At intermission time Dave went to the snack bar for popcorn and cokes. I smoothed out the wrinkles in my dress, congratulating myself on my accomplishment in making me beautiful. When Dave came back we decided to get into the back seat where there was more room, less horns and other hindrances before us. We ate, each distracted and contained after the closeness of one and a half hours of constant contact. The second movie started. The first bars of the music told us it was going to be a badie, so we turned off the speaker to watch the action to the sound of crunching popcorn. It was so poorly filmed that by the time the last sip of coke was down. we weren't even interested in the lighted screen.
We scrunched down, getting comfortable, ready to make up for all the Saturday nights we had missed that summer. We weren't accustomed to long periods of just kissing. After a mountain of lip touching we stopped to talk. We had missed the talking, too; perhaps as much as the kisses.
Dave asked again about the night dad whipped me in front of him. I had been so relieved to find out that dad had said or done nothing to him that I had quickly terminated the conversation. I was distressed that he was bringing it up again, especially here. "Does your dad do that often?" he was pushing for more information.
"Are you telling me the truth?" That hurt. I felt I was being truthful when I didn't want to say anything against my father. He saw my silence but still he had to say, "I don't like the idea of you living with someone who does that to you."
I started watching the images on the screen just for the comfort of their abstract shapes. To distract me, Dave said, "I like your new dress."
"Thank you, I made it myself."
"I didn't know you were so talented. It does nice things for your figure." Dave slid his hands around my waist, making sweeping circles with his thumbs. I was thankful I had re-sewn the darts tighter.
"I made it hoping you'd like it. There wasn't much else to do."
"Is it true, you haven't gone out with anyone else?"
"You know there is no one else for me. Is there for you?"
"You needn't ask that question. You are the only one I've thought about all summer. It's been just you and that tractor. I thought a lot about you while driving back and forth across the fields. It made me forget the heat and the boredom. Dad wondered why my rows were so crooked. I wonder what he would say if he knew what I had been thinking?"
"Can you tell me?"
"It was mostly how you looked in the pink dress the night of the prom, or how good it felt the days you were there to help plant the tomatoes or how nice it would be in the evening when I finished in the field to come in and find you waiting for me."
"I know. There were nights when I sat out on the lawn in the dark, wondering if you were still working. If you were, how tired you must be. I wished by some magic I could fly over to you just long enough for one kiss and time to tell you how proud I am of the job you are doing."
"Oh, Jenny, things have changed so fast this summer. I don't know, I don't know." With a sigh and a soft moan he pulled me into his arms. Consent without consent. Our bodies sought to fit the puzzles' pieces together. The lump in the jeans in the fold in the blue and white gathered skirt and more. Behind these bits of cloth was the flesh that had known too much hot weather dreaming. Dave's hand slid down over my back to press tighter together the searching parts.
Lifted and calling were my forbidden valleys. "Please, Dave, come to me." Seeking and pressing. Then no longer caring that all was so veiled with cloth and clothes; just the crush and thrust against vague outlines was enough to arch Dave into a moment of moving stillness.
"Jenny, Jenny, I didn't mean for that to happen."
"It's all right, it's all right, it's all right, Davey." I sat up, took him by his shoulders, turned him around so he was lying in my lap. I held him against me, whispering nonsense words, to stop the thinking about the feeling. When he was quiet and seemed to sleep, I watched his face in the colors of the film. I wondered who he was. What other secrets he had that could surprise or delight me? How different was what I had been wanting than all my thinking about sexual intercourse. It had nothing at all to relate to the pictures I had drawn or the questions I had tried to ask.
This was me and these were my feelings. What I felt and wanted had nothing to do with anything anyone else ever talked, or thought, or wrote about. In the half-darkness I saw how tanned Dave's arms were the muscles that hadn't been there in spring. Was this too, the result of dreaming on the tractor? A lot was changing. Was I keeping up? I didn't think so.
After many thoughts and disconnected scenes on the movie screen, Dave sat up, put his fingers lightly around my neck. He seemed to be wandering around in himself, surveying new territories, or fields, as it were. Idly, his finger traced around the shoulder strap, so sensuously that I was aware of only that one small strip of skin. With a jerk, he pulled his hand away. "Jenny, I have so many thoughts."
"Can't they be shared?"
"I guess not."
Seeing I was feeling shut out, he leaned over to kiss me for reassurance. As he did, his hand rested on top of the billowing gathers of the too short-waisted skirt. He looked down at his hand. I read his wistful wish. The film we had watched was still very much with us .
I wanted to laugh with tears, to tell Dave that the vision he was having was the result of poor tailoring, too much soda pop and popcorn, plus six hours without a bathroom, but I didn't. I sensed he was dreaming dreams I wasn't equipped for due to a disharmony of hormones.
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010