Adonis Diaries

The Stroll, 50 years later

Posted on: May 3, 2011

I am reading the French translation of “The tears of dad” by late John Updike. The title is one of the 18 novellas, but the story of “Elizanne or the forgotten stroll” struck a chord in me. I’ll abridge and rewrite the story.

I graduated in 1950 from the Olinger high school in the city of Alton in Pennsylvania. I am back with my second wife to the 50th reunion, a reunion held every 5 years. At the age of 17, it was impossible to imagine that the fated year of 2000, loaded with doomsdays predictions, might be reached and even crossed.

As I entered the hall of the hotel where the reunion was taking place, Sarah led me to a lady and asked me “Do you recognize her?”  I could not remember such a face.  Sarah prompted me: “She has never joined us in any reunion.”  By a deductive process I managed to stammer: “Elizanne?”   In my youth I stuttered a little, and recovered from that deficiency, except in very intense emotional circumstances.  Elizanne had the acuity of an owl and her black eyebrows extended a feeling of surly look.  Elizanne radiated evidences that she has done well in her life, financially and physically.

I was glad to see Elizanne but could not find anything to tell her. At the end of the reunion, as we were getting out of the hall, Elizanne laid her hand on my arm and murmured in an urgent tone of voice: “For years I wanted to confide that you counted a lot to me.  You were the first guy to accompany me home and the first to have kissed me.”  I said: “I recall the stroll”, but i was not sure.  She said: “This kiss was the beginning of a long series of kisses or whatever you want to think”.

I replied:”You were fresher than the morning dew.  I am glad the initiation was a success story.”  She said sadly: “I just wanted you to know”.  She shook my hand for what it meant “See you 50 years later”.  I was thinking “Wait!” and blubbered instead: “You look magnificient.  Better than most of us”

I remembered that Elizanne was a member of the brass band, playing clarinet, wearing the formal dark red trousers with golden stripes.  The whiteness of her skin contrasted with her black long hair.  She had soft light down over her upper lip. I recalled by bits the conversation we had at her front door after the stroll.  She said: “here we are”.

I used to stutter when young, and although I had recovered from this deficiency, I still stutter during intense emotional situations.  I said: “You have a b-beau-beautiful house”.  She said: “Mother hates to cook and hates the kitchen even more. She is thinking of moving us to West Alton because the schools match better our standards. I assure you this means nothing to me.”I said:” My mother relocated us to the suburb, on a farm.  My dad bring me to school where he teaches and bring me back at 5pm. I must be waiting for me by now”

She said: “You will not remain all your life in Olinger”  I said: “Why not? Many have stayed.”  She replied: “Not you.”  She looked seriously in my eyes, frowning a little.  I thought she would turn her back and go in, but she sustained her stare.  I said: “My dad must be waiting. I should be going.”  It must have been late October and daylights were shrinking.

She said: “Tell me frankly.  Have I been blabbing non-stop during our stroll? I talk a lot when I am relaxed.  I cannot stop talking.” I said: “Not at all.  It was as if I was listening to a song”.  She stood there and I leaned my face sideway close to her mouth and I kissed her.  She captured my lips softly and warmly, and she pressed her mouth, as if she was searching for something.  I retreated.  Elizanne eyes were shining by the sodium light.  I kissed her again and tasted her tongue.  She retreated:  A car passed by.  She said: “It is not over. I have other things to tell you.”  I said: “Later on.  I want to hear everything. We have the time”.  My cheeks were burning hot, and I had a knot in my stomach.

I remembered that we danced, cheek to cheek, during a celebration party and I didn’t want to part from her body and face as the orchestra was finishing the interpretation of Stardust or Goodnight Irene.  I remember that we flirted for a quick season and she linked up with the fastest sprinter in school.

Elizanne face is haunting me now.  I need to ask her so many important questions. Is her current husband one of many? Did the brass band kissed in the bus after ceremonies? Who were her boyfriends at schools? What does it mean this scandal: Having been children once and ending up old, closer to death? If men have women for antidote to dying, what is the antidote for women? I was afraid that if I ever meet her and ask her these questions her returned answers would be most banal.

If Mamie is correct that we will live eternally after death, I cannot imagine a better way to spending eternity accompanying Elizanne home, touch her, kissing her, and listening to her on that evening of October.

Note:  This particular story struck a chord in me because I failed to tell a lady that she made me walk on air.  I failed to tell her 15 years later when she invited me to a Thanksgiving lunch.  Autobiographies and diaries are meant for these moments.  I posted them all.

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May 2011

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