There'll Always be Something About Sylvia
First note: There'll Always be Something About Sylvia. How true. How true. (Kenneth.)
Explanation -- allow me to be sensitive. Okay, nostalgic too. When you were age 15-19, you were bound to have a few dangerous brushes with love. I did. The trick is not to be hit broad-sided. When this happens, you have troubles for years. This romantic narrative is a true account of me, age 17, a hectic summer Friday night and a divorcee named Sylvia. Notice, there are no air quotes at the front or back of her name. This is because this was a true account of this one night which I did savor, but have always wondered one question about Sylvia--that you will learn at the end. Thanks. (Kenneth.)
It was hot. Friday night, June 15, 1973, I was 17. These facts are lethal enough for you to know ahead of time because you may be omnipotent or just because I do not lie--what is waiting around the next curve just for you.
In small towns like mine, Hamilton, Ala., in this ideallic time of the year, summer, with me having no job to speak of, no girlfriend, just the use of my family car: a sleek, great-running 1964 Chevrolet Impala, four door (I hated that), running a 327 cubic inch engine. The car had power to spare. I drove straight from my home (location is not jermain to this narrative) taking all but 12 minutes. We, the Wild Teens of The Class of 1972, Hamilton, (Ala.) High School--truthfully, what few of us were left after graduation that was in May, were known to just park at a local eatery if you were over 22. But if you were us, a Wild Teen, it was nothing more than a hang-out. Lots of cigarettes were smoked, drinks of whiskey were slipped, and kisses were stolen at this one popular hang-out which I have told you about six previous stories. (Clue: "Jackson's Airport Drive-In.)
In the dirt parking lot across the service road leading to Marion County Airport, that was OUR parking lot. I can show you the tracks from guys loaded on booze putting their foot to their accelerators digging deep tracks from their hopped-up cars. I know. Only Dennis Hopper could have appreciated our non-conservativity. We loved being wild and free. People somehow respected us. Even if we did not wear tuxedos and red cumberbuns (like Desi Arnaz) in public.
As I parked, I saw Rondal Smotherman, my close friend and later, my boss in 1974, when I worked at Toll-Gate Garment Co. How one year made such a change in Rondal. Then, in 1973, he was laid-back, quirky, keen of wit, and loved people, but when I worked for him, he kept telling me, he was (to me) rigid of thought; stern-spoken and always wanted to be controlling. This grated on what few nerves I had invested in Toll-Gate, but pushed forward--just waiting for an excuse to quit this no pay, nowhere job.
With Rondal at the Wild Teen hang-out (which now you know the name), there was Larry Duncan, a pure rural guy at heart, but the girls loved his awkward ways and me. I cannot tell you where our usual gang of guys were on this night. Dates, maybe? I guess this might be where they were. I was like I was everyday, lonesome and looking for love. I didn't care what the potential girl looked like--age, well, as long as she wasn't 60, that would even for us, be very taboo. Then, as if my someone was reading my thoughts, she drove by--Sylvia. No last names, please. I do still have a lot of respect for this gorgeous woman. My body trembled with excitement.
She had stopped to check the traffic on the main road. I was enamored by her at first lust. She looked right at me and I could have swore that she winked at me. Of course, my hormones were running like a run-away locomotive in the Buster Keaton films, so the percentage of me only imaging her wink would start at 75%. That to me, is an honest estimate. For some reason, I waved her to come over at me. For me this was a bold and uncool move. We Wild Guy Teens let the girls come to us. I guess that was rule or something. She smiled. Then turned her new 1972 Chevy Monte Carlo around this popular teenage hang-out and drove back to where I was standing.
I was sweating bullets. She was actually stopping. Now I was in a terrible spot. At my back was Larry and Rondal who were watching my every move and I knew that I had to be cool as a cube from an ice tray, so I smiled at the young woman who looked to be the age of 20. I mentioned that as I bent over to talk to her while she sat in her car. But I was using a soft voice for two reasons: one, so Rondal and Larry couldn't hear what I was saying and two, I did one heckuva job of selling myself to this girl who told me, "Hi, my name's Sylvia." My body trembled with more excitement.
When meeting new girls, we always asked where she was from. That was a great ice-breaker. She told me about being from Red Bay, Ala., about an hour west. Then with the confidence of Roger "007" Bond, I softly asked: "Sylvia, would you let me drive your car--if I buy the gas?" She was quick to say, "Hey, I don't let just anybody drive my car. I hardly know you." Then the natural, male begging kicked in. "Please," I said. "See those two guys? They are hoping that I will fall on my face in getting to drive your car which I love so much. And I promise to not pull or say anything out of the way. I give my word." There it was. That mischevous smile. "Get in," she said as I watched her slide over to her side of the car--and guys, I am editing this so much, I dare say that you will breeze by this statement. When Sylvia slid over to her side of the car, I noticed she was wearing a nice shorts set that showed her tanned and taut legs. I was now about to have a fit for trembling like someone who has eaten some bad tuna.
I managed to compose myself, get behind the wheel of her car--and make good on my promise of filling her car with gasoline. Thank God for that twenty that my mom gave me. Sylvia and I chatted, but mostly I did the talking and she listened very intently. In her car were two distinctive aroma's: the smell that all new cars have and her perfume--not a loud, boisterous scent, but very attention-getting. I was growing more and more comfortable with my asking to drive her car.
When we left the gas station, we chatted about what I was wanting to do with my life since I was unemployed and not financially able to attend college. Matter of factly, Sylvia, now that I think of it, never shared anything about her life. I supposed at that time, she was trying to portray the role of a mysterious woman who had passed through my life. I wasn't complaining.
But single, 17-year-old Wild Teen Guys have "that" curse, I can only guess, of either saying or doing something so ignorant that even the most understanding girls will look pale, mute, and shocked in that order. I was no exception. I could not help but admire her nice legs. I thought to myself, she must work out everyday to have legs like that. Then it happened. My brain, obviously distracted, gave my mouth orders to say: "I am not being critical, but your nylons have a few wrinkles," thinking that she would appreciate my attention for detail.
"I'm NOT wearing nylons," she said and not in a friendly way.
I began to tremble, but this time, in fear. I had also noticed that she had one sharp set of fingernails. But I just remained silent and let the moment cool down. Sylvia was not really that upset with me as I am sure that she was really constraining herself not to laugh at me for being so ignorant as to point out the nylons critique. Or . . .maybe I was dealing with a very mature woman.
We rode and talked a few more mile and had a few laughs. Talk about Cosmic Interference, this time, I didn't make any stupid remarks. But one galluce of her shorts top, dropped to her lap causing her to yelp in surprise. I did not say anything--including, I didn't do that! But I did suggest that I drop by my parents' house and get a safety pin. My mom was a professional pack rat and for good reason: she, along with a lot of people, went through and survived the Great Depression and valued everything they had.
With safety pin in hand, Sylvia was so appreciative about having help in putting her galluce intact--and even this event that I blamed on the Cosmos, did not phase her. Most girls would be in shambles having a Panic Attack from a newly-found friend telling about wrinkled nylons and then part of her clothing having a mishap. Life, huh? What are ya' going to do?
Before our ride ended, we had made an agreement to meet again the next afternoon so I could talk to her some more for I really liked Sylvia. She had that gift of talking with her facial expressions, not her words. I didn't complain. But I did press her hard to give me a yes or no if she were going to meet me. She said, okay. See you tomorrow afternoon, as I got out of where my car was parked and watched her drive away. Now I felt two things: one, relieved that Rondal and Larry were nowhere to be found and two, sad that I knew in my heart that I would never see Sylvia again.
But I kept my word. I showed up right on time at the then-Hamilton Trade School which is now Bevill State Junior College--Hamilton Campus, and sat there. And sat there. Until two and half hours later realized that Sylvia was not going to show. I knew that I was dumb in thinking the contrary, but I was always told by my dad, always live up to the agreements you make with others and if you cannot, let them know. Be a man about it.
I would have been jumping for joy if I had known that she wasn't coming. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She might have gotten sick; a long-lost relative suddenly dropping in--any number of reasons why she didn't meet me.
And by now, you are even thinking about my ignorant remark about her nylons having wrinkles and the left side of her galluce popping off being the reasons why I was left holding the parking lot.
The biggest goof of that one delightful night was this: I never bothered to ask if I could get her phone number. This was the Number One Rule of Guy Code of securing a girl's phone number and I blew it.
But Rondal and Larry didn't ask for it, and I sure wasn't about to tell them that I didn't have it. And even if I didn't get Sylvia's phone number, this didn't matter to me as not ever seeing her again.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery