I’ve known for a while I might have to cut part of this chapter. Because I wrote myself into a bit of a corner by having the chapters of “SWAMIS” coincide with particular days, the chapter covering this day, with sub-chapters given letter headings, was up to “M” or so. I kind of liked the idea that both Joey and Ginny had been snobbish and/or cruel to other students they went to high school with, and this gave them a chance to do some small amount of karmic redemption.
I’ll save any other explanation for future therapy sessions, but, briefly, this is just after Virginia Cole and Joseph DeFreines, Jr. get busted making out in the photo lab. OH, and there is a setup mentioning how a Southern California Santana condition can end with a giant wave of thick fog coming off the ocean. OKAY, now you’re ready:
Ginny and I were passing the Student Union. There were twenty-five or thirty colorfully dressed potential marchers, butcher paper signs protesting the war being painted, cardboard placards painted and nailed on sticks and leaned in stacks.
Among those milling about was Alexander.
“Alexander,” I said, looking just for a second in his direction. “He’s a guy I always thought, even though he took lunch in the chemistry lab, was, um, not that smart.” Alexander was carrying a briefcase and sporting a goatee, a French baret, a tweed sport coat with elbow patches over a day-glow t shirt.
Ginny stopped. I stopped. “He looks smart enough. Activist. That’s good.”
“Yeah. I think these are the same kids who were decorating and moving chairs and tables for high school dances; and now… junior college activists.”
“What did you do? Dances?” A moment later. “Oh, you just didn’t go.”
“No. I did have to spend some lunch time in the chemistry lab, cleaning all the desks. I was busted drawing on one in English and the word got around. Teachers. My biggest fear was that I fit in too well with Alexander and his friends, hiding out in the sulfur-smelling safety of the chem lab. They seemed to think… they laughed at everything I said. They seemed to believe I, like them, didn’t actually fit in with the ‘normals’.”
“Probably not.” Ginny pushed hair back out of my face. “I, um; I danced.”
Alexander saw me. Or maybe it’s that he saw me with Virginia Cole. “Hey,” he said, “DeFreines. One; what the fuck (he was obviously just getting used to using the word) are you (emphasis on the ‘you’), Brain DeFreines, doing at Palomar? Two; are you still into that surfing thing?” He did a kook surf pose, the briefcase in his lower hand. “And, three…”
“Three; how’d I get to walk around here with such a fine looking… young woman?”
“Bingo,” he said, head nodding, eyes on Ginny. “Al. Name’s Al.” He switched hands on the briefcase, offered his right hand. “Al Weston; Palomar Peace Initiative, and, and I am passionate about peace.”
Ginny took his hand, said, “Gin, short for Virginia.” She dropped his hand, grabbed mine, did an exact replica of Alexander’s surf pose, my hand replacing the briefcase, and said, “Surfers; they’re so… sexy.”
“Obviously, then; you must surf.”
“She does. Obviously. Look, Alexander; you’re… (gesturing to include the gathering protesters) really into… all this. Activist. Good. Good work.”
“Cynthia,” Ginny suddenly almost shouted at one of the young women painting signs. “Cynthia! Come here.” Cynthia, who looked like she was about as close to Ginny, social clique-wise, as Alexander was to me; gave a half smile and approached us. A bit chunky, Cynthia was wearing painters’ coveralls that, probably, didn’t help, chunkiness-wise; with a few bits of paint showing and one strap undone. Cynthia had a red bandana around her neck, another, for some reason, around one thigh, and because the collar of the paint-splattered brown t-shirt she was wearing was stretched and loose, a bit of cleavage was showing.
“You know Alexander here, Cynthia? Al?” Cynthia looked up at him, he at her. “He’s, yes, from Fallbrook; but he’s so passionate about peace.”
“I’m, um, painting some signs. Over there.” Cynthia pointed to a group of tables with more young women than young men. Al Weston made a fist, looked at Cynthia, looked at Virginia Cole, looked back at Cynthia, then back at me. “Gotta go, Brain. Peace.”
Alexander and Cynthia practically skipped toward their fellow activists. “I was, uh, very mean to Cynthia,” Ginny said. Once. Only once. She got even with me. If you saw the yearbook photos of me…”
Ginny made the ugliest expression she was capable of, pushing her nose down, crossing her eyes. Still beautiful.
“If I hadn’t gotten into surfing, I’d probably be one of them,” I said.
Ginny looked at Cynthia and Alexander, back at me. She rubbed her own chin, then mine. Yes, I was trying, quite diligently, to grow some whiskers. It wasn’t really working. Peach fuzz, even that splotchy. “I can see that, Brain DeFreines.”
Ginny started to unbutton her sweater, looked at me when one side was off her shoulder, whispered, “Skin,” pulled it back together, buttoned two buttons, and kissed me. Once on the cheek. She looked at the other students, the cooler ones, the ones only watching the protesters; then back at me. She kissed me again, on the mouth.
I was kind of happy she wasn’t better at kissing. Better than me, of course. I leaned in, my hand on her arm this time. She didn’t move away. “For practice, Ginny,” I said as the wave of fog rolled over us, turning everything gray. I said “Ginny” again, for practice.
“Joey,” she said.
YEAH, I have a better ending for the way shorter version; for the book. “Swamis.”
AND, incidentally, I’m not sure what to call it when you wait around for the right tide, get your wetsuit on because there are some weak waves, paddle out and… nothing. I guess it’s called PRACTICE. No, that’s what I call riding really small waves. PADDLING. Yeah. Not nearly as much fun as surfing.