Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
I was out walking around the neighborhood one evening with this girl, Nancy, I wanted to have a relationship with because she was into classical music and Osmiroid pens, and it was around ten or eleven o’clock when we came to the chainlink fence that surrounded the Missouri Botanical Garden, or what St. Louisans call Shaw’s Garden. R. Buckminster Fuller designed the geodesic dome there that houses a lot of tropical plants, and the glass is always steamed up with condensation.
Nancy, a college schoolmate of mine, was feeling feisty that night and said Let’s go inside. She found a spot in the fence where the bottom could be lifted up and we could squeeze through. Normally I wouldn’t do anything like that, but since I was hoping to get somewhere with Nancy, I got down and belly-crawled under the fence after her. We were officially trespassing.
It was beautiful. To be in that forbidden place with its exotic flowers and trees and its careful landscaping, walking along the dark path with this girl I had so much in common with. I thought. We were enjoying the moment, and I think I was pretty close to trying to kiss her, when we saw a light ahead of us and heard the motor of a utility cart. It was the security guard on his rounds, we figured out. There was no way to run back to the fence without being seen, so we dove under a little Japanese bridge and pushed ourselves as far into the dark there as we could. And I took the opportunity to put my arm around Nancy’s waist so we’d be a smaller loglike shape under there. She kept hissing “stop it.”
The security man parked right at the bridge. We heard him get out, then we saw the angled shape of his flashlight beam as he shined it all around us. He seemed to know we were there, or near.
After a while he got back in his cart and left, and as soon as the coast was clear we dashed back to the fence, breathless and wild with adrenaline, slipped under the fence, and landed on the grass on the other side, laughing like we were high on risk.
That summer I went to England to work and hang around for three months, and when I came back I called up Nancy to see if she wanted to do something. I was no longer into Osmiroid pens, but I’d come back from England with a lot more classical music under my belt, and I still wanted to jump Nancy’s bones. We went to a movie.
When she came back to my apartment for some tea, I sat with her on my couch and finally tried to kiss her. She balked. She said, It’s not like that. You should ask out Debi—someone we both knew from school. Then she put out her cigarette and left, and I never saw her again.
When I finally landed on a photo of her years later, I realized something I wouldn’t have been able to realize at the time, because I was such an innocent young lad. She was not interested in men.
That’s all I’ll say about it. But in retrospect, I wish she’d said something because here, all this time, I’d been thinking I did something wrong and was too forward asking a girl to kiss me who I’d hidden with intimately in the mossy loam under a bridge in the dark one spring night when we were young.
We could have been lifelong friends who loved classical music, if only she’d said something like, It’s not you, it’s me.