Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
This girl named Julie and I met in London the summer after I graduated from college. She was spectacularly lovely — a statuesque, dark-haired beauty, olive-skinned, wry-eyed — and magnificent to all observers. Somehow she latched onto me, humble breakfast-maker at the little hostel where I was living and she was staying.
Julie from L.A. — Van Nuys, to be exact. She was studying to be an actress. All of nineteen years old (and me the older/wiser at twenty-two). I was heading up to my room on the very day she checked in when she popped out of the hallway loo and immediately asked my name after a peppy, “Hi there!”
We hit it off right away, talking about our respective callings. I already knew I wanted to write novels, and she was “passionate” about acting, loved Albee, knew she was going to get into the movies one day.
How could she miss? She was like a Mediterranean Bo Derek.
That evening we walked together toward the City and popped into a pub near good old Dr. Johnson’s house in Gough Square. We sat against the wall, nursing our pints and talking, and I noticed that a lot of men were shooting not-so-subtle looks at “me Julie” (as Ali G would say). It was definitely interesting. And strangely appealing, that I was sitting there with this gorgeous girl who every other man in the house wanted to get his hands on. One gent straddled a chair opposite us and asked if we were American. It was clear he just wanted to engage this exotic woman, and I don’t think he said three syllables to me until he got up to leave. He said, in parting, “You are one lucky bloke, goin’ ‘round town with this beauty!”
Julie beamed but didn’t blush. Maybe I blushed. I think I said something like, “Don’t I know it.”
When we left, Julie put her arm around my waist, wordlessly inviting me to do the same, and we walked back up Fleet Street toward Bloomsbury. I was afraid people would see how thrilled I was to be with her, and touching her, i.e., my body was reacting in inconveniently prurient ways. I was more afraid Julie would notice.
Over the next few days we hung out a lot. We walked all over the place, talked about everything, touched each other, though we both held back too. Sexual tension. I was to the point where I was telling myself hourly, “We’re going to make love. Just don’t blow it, you idiot.”
One day we were sitting on the grass in Tavistock Square, near the statue of that most patient man, Mahatma Gandhi. I was so close to Julie I could smell a sweet cedar tang behind her ear. It was too much. I turned to her and said, “This is so weird, I know, but would you mind if I kissed you?”
She was surprised. Flattered though. She smiled and said, “Oh my God, I can’t remember the last time a guy asked if he could kiss me!”
A girl of nineteen. Maybe a girl who looked like that was used to being kissed without permission. I happened to be a guy who didn’t feel all that confident with a girl who looked like that.
But she did kiss me. We kissed each other with a pleasing commitment, letting it last as long as seemed right and reasonable in a public place.
I bet to myself that the next time we kissed we’d be alone in my room.
A girl Julie knew from L.A. came through town the next day, though, and I had to cool my heels while the two of them went to the requisite tourist sites together. She was busy every night. Then they went to Calais for a couple of days, and when they got back they had this six-two Scotsman with them, and Julie looked to be pretty taken with him. It was less than a week after our Gandhi-witnessed kiss, but I could see that I’d already lost her, the way she looked at that guy.
On the day she was leaving for Heathrow, we exchanged addresses. My sure-thing girlfriend was flying away.
Two years later. We’d been exchanging letters every so often. I had a real girlfriend by then, who didn’t ask about my letters to Julie — I had quite a few female correspondents from my travels, girls who thought I was a great listener — but I never confessed out loud that I still dreamed of the tall, black-haired girl I met in London.
Once I had an opportunity to meet up with her during a layover at the L.A. airport, but our signals got crossed and it didn’t happen. She stopped answering my letters, then I stopped writing them. And it didn’t escape my notice as the years went by that she never did make it in the movies, if she even tried very hard. Like most starry-eyed girls who do try but fail, she probably wound up marrying someone in the business, a producer or sound editor maybe, and having a couple of beautiful kids in Burbank or Simi Valley.
I doubt that she remembers me at all, our brushing up against each other was so fleeting, and I was one of many that summer, I’m sure. She probably remembers the Scotsman’s name, though. He’d have stuck out in her mind.
I’m grateful that Julie was a no-show that day at the L.A. airport. The last firm thing I get to keep in my mind about her is that kiss in Tavistock Square, an exquisite memory labeled “Julie from L.A.”