Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Pilot Light

The phone rang yesterday.  I wasn't home, so the blinking red light on the answering machine called to me when I returned.  As I listened to the recording, a tousled blonde voice jerked my heart back half a century to a silver-grey Vespa piloted by a six foot tall teen Adonis.  He called to find out when "The Body War" - the sequel to my book, "Ednor Scardens" - would be available.  The first time he read it out of curiosity, wondering what lay between the covers of a story written by someone he knew.  Satisfied, he put it aside until recently, when he read it again more slowly, dissecting the clues buried in the main characters: a certain phrase, an expressive description, or a setting that no longer exists. Unable to resist, he had to ask how much of himself had been poured into the young alpha male of the story, Michael Kelsey. 

He is still happily married to his lovely wife with whom he has several adult children.  I am not, having unwisely married my childhood off-again, on-again boyfriend who had traded me in for a newer model some years back, so I couldn't help a bittersweet 'what if' moment.  My caller had been the love of my life when I was fifteen, until an unfortunate convergence of misunderstandings brought our relationship to an abrupt end.

We were at a dance and a mutual male friend approached during a band break.

"I always wanted to go out with you," the friend said, out of the blue.  Caught off-guard, I blurted what I thought was a polite reply.  "I always wanted to go out with you, too."  And the evening spiraled out of control from there.  The traitorous boy wasted no time repeating my meaningless (to me) comment to Tousled Blonde, who announced in a wounded, aggrieved voice, that I was now free to do exactly that.  Weeks of varying degrees of anguished tears followed as I banished myself to my tower on Rexmere Road, sadly writing his name in bubble letters in my wire-bound spiral notebooks. 

We both moved on, to very different lives and parts of the country, until I saw him again last year when he stopped by unexpectedly to pay his respects at my brother's funeral.  Still handsome and remarkably unscathed by time, he told my sister-in-law that I once had the ability to stop traffic by simply standing on the curb.  Well, lots of women have that effect, and make a lot of money at it, but his rose-colored assessment still made me blush.

Even as I compose this, the strains of the songs we danced to...the Ronnettes' "Be My Baby'' and James Brown's "Try Me" float softly through my brain.  I told him that the character, Michael, was a composite of boys I had known: the star athlete, the wealthy son, the cheat, among others.  He was not those.  But the devilish humor, kindness and compelling good looks...well, I've been outed.  Now I'm going to be embarrassed, wondering what he'll think as the characters mature into more adult activities in the four-book series.  

You know who you are, and you are welcome.  You've been immortalized and I know I've just made your day.  Hell, at our age, I may have made your year! ;)


Connie J Jasperson said...

It is true that the past bits of your experience work their way into your work, even whent you write fantasy. I have been reminded lately of just how much of my real-world experience has emerged in the form of 'leftover-casserole' (you know the one - you take all the leftovers, add garnishes and dress them up so they look different) in my more recent works. But if you are going to write about something, you must have some knowlege of it!

Kathleen Barker said...

So true, Connie. How else can we write something with the ring of truth?