Summer time in Riverside meant the smell of citrus blossoms and Magnolia flowers. Mr. Misty’s at the corner Dairy Queen. BMX bikes and mud muddles. Castles in the sand at Corona Del Mar. Hot Santa Ana winds, and Sunday matinees and the Arlington theater.
My folks would drop my sisters and I off after church for the family friendly double feature and pick us up hours later. I waited all week for those days. Hot buttered popped corn, ice cold soda, and of course the object of all desire, Patty Burnell. Those sermons use to take forever to end. It was all I could do to sit still and wait for that final amen. As the olive green station wagon pulled up along side the curb outside the theater I wouldn’t even wait for the wheels to stop turning before I opened the door.
The theater was always crowded. It was the perfect place for adults to get rid of the children they already neglected at home for a few hours. And it meant freedom for the kids from the over bearing parents. For me it meant sitting next to the most beautiful girl in the world. Her thick glasses, long black hair, brown eyes. There was no place better than that seat right beside hers.
I would leave my sisters behind as I ran to go find her before the curtains pulled open and the lights dimmed. We went to the same church, the same school, her family knew my family. But on those Sundays, it was just us. Alone in that crowded theater.
I remember keeping my hand on my knee close to hers. Slowly moving my fingers until they brushed against hers, Waiting to see if she would pull away. nervous and sweating, heart beating out of my chest, lungs gasping for air. It would take the entire first feature to finally hold her hand. Another hour to put my arm around her. She would always rest her head on my shoulder. I would melt every time. Every Sunday was the same, another long journey to the feeling of her soft hair against my cheek. I could never remember what movies played on that silver screen. But I could tell you what perfumed she wore and the color of the ribbon in her hair. Even the seconds in between each breath that she took.
I knew from the first day I held her hand in mine that women held a certain magic in their touch. Flesh turned to putty under it’s movement. Men became boys. Boys became men. I relished in that time of my youth. When love was mysterious and uncontrollable. I always knew it wouldn’t last however. I mean how could it. She was much older than me. I could never hold on to her for very long. After all…she was already in the second grade, a lifetime away from the first grade I was in.