I have a few free minutes, and god only knows when I’ll have another, so here’s another installment in the ongoing serialization…
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Grab the smokes, the headphones, walk down the hill… past the theatre to the park. A park only by the loosest of definitions. 100 years ago, when the theatre served as a church, this grassy hill was likely the yard and gathering area for church socials. Pot-luck dinners. Outdoor come-to-Jesus meetings. Perhaps the occasional choir performance or sunrise service held on Easter with a glorious, unobstructed view of the Valley below. For decades now, it’s served as a simple park. No benches, no play equipment, no sandbox, no fountain. Just a grassy hill, ringed by dark, aging oak trees. A little larger than a “good-sized” back yard.
I shuffle up the slope, being cautious to not slip on the wet grass, or the patchy, slushy remains of last night’s snow that has survived thanks to the deep shade provided by the perimeter of trees, even in their leafless, skeletal, winter state. I make my way across the grass to the edge of the park, the line of trees marking the boundary, past which the ground falls away in a steep, sandy cliff spotted with stones and broken glass. On the edge, looking down at the glittering shards, I wonder to myself if any of those pieces of glass… fragments of sharp, curving brown or green… are “mine”. If… even though it’s been almost two decades… I am the one who determined that they would find their final resting place here. On a sandy hill. In this town. After being hurled into the void by a drunken teenager who thought he had all of the answers.
Michael and I, along with the few classmates we considered to be our “posse”, called this “Paisley Park”… having discovered its existence shortly after the release of Prince’s “Around the World in a Day” album which had a track by the same name. To be more precise… we knew of the Park’s existence, but it wasn’t until High School… when we spent many weekend nights in search of a place where we could safely drink and smoke pot without being caught by parents, or well-meaning busybodies, or police… that we discovered that, past the ring of trees that surrounded the park, there was a small, grassy ledge. A perfect place for surreptitious teenage experiments in the alteration of one’s brain chemistry. We’d have long discussions, intense and earnest, about life and our place in it. Destiny and escape. The future and what was to come.
And girls. There were many, many, many discussions about girls. Getting laid. Not getting laid. What was the correct protocol and technique for bringing up the prospect of a blowjob when a girl you were “seeing” told you that she was determined to remain a virgin until her wedding night. Whether or not a certain girl was “into” you or not… a careful, group think-tank of analysis that was inaccurate, and cloudy, and myopic due to hormones and inexperience… If a girl was indeed “into you”, how serious would you have to get with her before you’d see any action. The pros and cons of eating pussy, and techniques for executing said activity. Vague information and data gleaned from the “letters to the editor” in porn magazines we had filched from hidden parental stashes. The pros and cons of different types of lingerie on women and the firm belief that, if a girl wore cotton “granny panties”, then you shouldn’t even waste your time.
There’s a reason I tell my daughter… even though she’s only in third grade… that all boys are assholes who only think about sex. That reason, in part, has its roots firmly planted in the sloped surface of drunken and stoned discussions held on this hill.
At the end of the night, we’d take our empty Olde English 800 40 ounce bottles… which we called torpedoes because of their curved, cylindrical shape… and hurl them out into the night. Discovering quickly that, no matter how hard we threw them, we couldn’t clear the horizontal distance of the base of the cliff, and our boozy missiles would invariably shatter on the rocky dirt far, far below.
The ledge is no longer there. The dirt and rock outcropping has been swept away. Whether it met its demise due to natural erosion and time, or because someone in the houses below the cliff got wise to the teenage hooligans using it to launch drunken projectiles towards their lovely homes… remains unknown to me. Either option is equally viable and possible. What matters is its absence. Another part of this place that… I didn’t hate. Swept away.