Skip to content

Red Haired Boy

Red by Jim Dollar

Price Park, Greensboro, NC            Red by Jim Dollar

She passed him almost every day, trying not to look. He was a strange one. He wore tee-shirts that he’d creating himself, patterns cut into them that moved, revealing pale, gaunt skin. The glaring sun in the quad reached in and found flesh tones to illuminate, his auburn hair also taking on a bit of the fire. Taller than the other boys, thinner, he walked like a symphony. There was nothing, absolutely nothing in him that tried to hide. Not like her.

There was a lot that she tried to hide. Of late, that most abundant feeling being crammed under the nearest heavy, darkest of things was her sadness. Her absolute devastation. She presented an odd mixture, for even with downcast eyes and this air of attempted melting-into-shadows, she cut quite the picture of fashion. It was the eighties after all, and she did have her ideas about beauty—just like the boy in the courtyard of the college. –And, beautiful, he was!

Every day, she changed her clothing over and over in her newly acquired dorm room, trying to find just the right statement and just the right fit. It was so much so that one of the counselors (who wasn’t even hers) took it upon herself to take her aside and pronounce, “You seem to have your priorities mixed up. If you paid as much attention to your studies as you do to your sense of fashion, you’d be at the top of your class! Why don’t you?” It was a good question. Without her three children, without her husband, with only the sparse decor of her dorm-room, her music, and her clothing to keep her company, she did give dressing a good portion of her attention. It was a distraction from an unbearable pain.

Oh, and then there was the sex. Lots of sex. Lots of boys, a couple of men, but mostly men who felt like boys (don’t they all?). In a funny way, her sexual activities were just another way of hiding. Hiding in the open. Hiding in the act. A losing of herself. A drug.

She felt herself living multiple lives—all of them new. The silence in the dorm was deafening. The lack of children’s voices was an echo of torture. Her empty bed was a mockery, so she rarely touched it. Most nights, she fell asleep in her car after perusing the nightlife. Sometimes, she slept in the bed of another, but her own bed within the cold-block walls of the dormitory got no action at all, including that act for which it was meant.

Even with numerous other men to think about, the Red-Haired Boy began to occupy more of her attention than she would like to admit. Crossing the courtyard in front of the building where the nurses studied, she would always hope for a sly glimpse. Or a feel. More accurately, a feel. For, she could feel him. His spirit, his energy, it bounded out like a puppy looking for a pet, and she longed to be the owner to give the token his soul desired. She loved his loud, self-assured laugh when he’d let it go, chatting with other boys who were his friends. She wondered what he was like. How he’d manage to come by such self-assurance. She wondered what else lay beneath the peeping holes of the shirt…and the super-tight pants below.

What was he studying? Did he have a girlfriend…or boyfriend? Was he gay? The easy way he reached out to his friends to touch them, the slightly effeminate curve to his cheek, his flowing walk and sense of fashion, all indicated that this might be the case. No matter! Gay men seemed to love her, and she them. His greenish-brown eyes told her of a complicated story, even though she’d never had the gall to look directly into them, or let him catch her sneaking peeks. She thought that a boy like him must be attached. There was nothing for it. He was very young and full of life, she, a soon-to-be-divorced (again) mother of three. Her tired, post-babies body would never attract the attentions of a butterfly on his flight to alight on flowers. She considered herself more a bit of vegetable, long past the flowering state.

—But, it didn’t stop her thinking. In her mind, she’d undressed him already, slowly rolling away the last dregs he’d left of the shirt adorning his body, his arms over his head—and the shirt too, hiding his eyes from her as she took in the full, exposed sight of the sexy nipples that had teased their way to her notice, peeking out from drooping lines of fabric. In her mind, her hands had followed the slim lines of his waist, her mouth on the pale skin of his hairless chest, her grasping his buttocks with a grip as firm as the cute cheeks they sought. She could smell him. She could taste him. Not because those things had happened on the physical realm. Oh, no! She was quite sure that he didn’t even know she was alive…but that couldn’t stop her drawing in his essence. His not knowing her had not stopped her knowing of him, and his inability to keep his spirit in check had been met with her own’s great pleasure.

Thinking about things that weren’t her real life, those were the only things that made her real life bearable. She seemed to live through series after series of events that were out of her control. Never mind what the philosophers said. There were sometimes things that were not in her control. When one lives this sort of life for a long-enough time, one gravitates toward grabbing the little moments, the blooms opened before the path. Never mind that the petals might be poisonous.

This night, the thing that was wrong was that she was wanting to see her son. She was desperately needing to see her son. He was still a baby and it was he that she worried about and missed the most. Not that she didn’t miss her daughters, because not a second went by that her heart wasn’t breaking over her not being able to live with them at the moment—but they were in a safe place with trusted family and she could see them at any time…that was a decent hour. Not late at night, not on a night like this when her spirit could not find a bit of rest. Her daughters had school in the morning. What could be done is that she could try to make arrangements for a visit with her son.

Money was tight, and even money for the pay phone in the student lounge was hard found…but rummaging through her purse and the pile of receipts and things on her desk, she managed to scrounge up a couple of quarters. Clutching them tightly, before she could think too much and talk herself out of making the phone call, and without taking the time to fix herself up, she made her way down the echoing hallway to the stairs. The industrial smell of unpleasantly scented cleaners assaulted her as she sharply in-took, then held, her breath. It happened every time she hit the stairwell. It smelled worse than a hospital. It smelled more like a jail.

The activity room was silent, as always. Folks just seemed to walk through it, and never actually stopped to DO anything. It was a relief when she pushed on the metal bar of the glass door to outside, a breath of perfectly temperate night air replacing the stale air in her lungs. The night’s crickets serenaded her on her walk up the cracked sidewalk, the fireflies barely showing themselves amongst the trees, their back-ends losing the competition, drowned out by the artificial lights of the campus. Fiddling with her coins all the way to the student center where the payphone was, she kept her hands in her pockets.

Drat! The building was full of people! She could see through the large, glass windows that lined the snack area that she was not the only person of restless spirit tonight! Not wanting the others to notice her eyes reddened from crying, not wanting to be asked questions too awkward to answer, not really wanting to “hang-out” with the younger “kids”, she kept her head down and barely nodded as she passed the gathering of people. It was a careful trick to be social enough not to be targeted for not speaking, but not being inviting enough to have people begin a conversation she couldn’t break away from. Once people began talking with her, she often found it impossible to end it and walk away. She’d never been good at that part. –And tonight, she was on a mission!

The telephone was in a room a little to the side, in a quieter corner of the building, and for that, she was grateful. She wouldn’t have to compete quite so much with the noise from the tables in the snack room. This was an important call, and it took a lot of courage. It was hard for her to speak about her son without breaking down. It was even harder for her to navigate the timetable and logistics for arranging a visit. Time was always hard to manage. It always seemed to slip away, to disappear into this dark, unknowable hole. What with work and school, and her late-night activities, what with her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s unbendable rules, would she be able to work out a way to see her son anyway?

She missed the sight of her baby’s smile, and his beautiful, light eyes…so unlike his two older sisters’ deep American Indian brown ones. She missed the scent of his head when she buried her nose into his dirty-blonde locks. She missed caring for him, and for her daughters. She missed the messes. She even missed the presence of the husband who had annoyed her so much, hurt her so much that she had decided to leave. She missed the family. Her identity as a wife and mother was the thing that had kept her grounded. Who was she without that role for herself?

Taking a deep breath in preparation, she knew she wouldn’t be able to breath, really, for a while, she picked up the receiver, stuck in the quarter, waited for it to clang into the mechanical belly of the phone, got a dial-tone…and punched in her husband’s number.

The next thing of which she was aware, she was outwardly sobbing and blubbering things that didn’t, to her ears, seem to make any sense. She was trying to get the receiver back into its cradle, but her hands wouldn’t work right and she couldn’t see, so it took a few tries. Shoulders hunched forward, she had to, literally, use the brick wall of the building to lean against to keep herself from hitting the floor. Her body had that all-too-familiar feeling of bearing the dead weight of thousands of pounds, all while her mind floated somewhere above her, dissociated, uninterested, not-involved. She felt the flatness in her face, the blankness come to her eyes. She reached into her pocket to feel for the other quarter.

She wasn’t exactly sure what had gone on, what had been said, but the one thing she was sure of is that she had failed her quest. There was going to be no meeting with her son. Her baby son. Her precious baby son. The sobs that had subsided returned with full force, her awareness snapping partially back into her body. The pain came flooding through her system and her mind began to immediately plan things without her. “Call Devin,” it said. “No, he’s too far away. How about Josh? Do you know the number to his dorm? Will they go get him? You’ve only got the one quarter. You’d better not try it. Call Ray. Tell him you need to come over. He’ll say yes. Go right NOW! You’ll have to have sex with him, and it was awkward last time, but this time, we’ll make it better and it will all be okay. He’s safe. Put the quarter in the slot! NOW!”

She might be noticing the people speaking in her head, but outside people were beginning to notice her. How could they not? She’d made a spectacle of herself after all. Carrying on as if she were dying! (Why did she do that?) She had to get herself under control. Oh, no! They were going to speak if she didn’t hurry. Yanking her hand out of her pocket, she stood in disbelief as she felt the precious quarter fall, as if butter-coated, through her fingers, and then…nothing. No sound of it hitting the floor. No sign of it bouncing. It was GONE. Just like that. Vanished into thin air.

—And the people were here! Talking to her, asking her questions. At least it was welcomed now…because now, she needed help. “Honey, are you okay?”

“What in the world has happened?”

“Can we do anything for you, Sweetheart?”

“I’m okay,” she lied, feeling bad because everyone was trying their very best to be nice. “Just problems with my ex. You know. We’re getting a divorce.”

The friendly faces nodded all around. They did, indeed, “know”.

“You can help me if you can help me find my quarter, though. It’s my last one and I dropped it. It has to be here somewhere.”

“Yeah, sure! No problem,” a helpful voice offered. “I mean, it can’t just ‘disappear’, right?”

Things got busy for a moment while people diligently looked…and looked…and looked. In spite of dirty knees and kinked backs from odd positions looking under things, no coin appeared. Neither could anyone else produce a quarter, in spite of pockets being turned out. There was no change machine for bills, pennies were useless, and a dime would no longer do it.

It would be weeks later, while doing laundry, that she would find that pesky coin folded into the cuff of her pant. It was a place she could not have dropped it into if she had tried a million times! It’s not a place she would have dreamed of looking. This event would always make her think of fate, and timing, and destiny.

Things in her mind were getting louder. “You have to go now! We have to cry! You have to get us away from these people!” The feelings and the voices were most insistent–and, they were right. She knew it. She had to get to safety, to a place where she could let lose her emotions. That is not the same as to say that she needed to feel them. Sure, she’d feel some, but mostly, she’d be the sea upon which the storms raged, her floating above and through them, not actually “of” them.

Thanking her new-found friends for their help, she stepped through to the snack room and, because she was in social mode, her head was now up. She was actually seeing the people before her eyes. One of the searchers had stepped through here to inquire after coins, but she had not seen the occupants in the room, not really seen them, until this moment.

There he was. With the friend that he loved to touch so much. The one who made him laugh so much. It was the Red-Haired Boy. For a second, their eyes touched. He saw her. She knew it.

“Oh, my god!” a voice screamed inside her head. “I look like shit! I have on not one speck of makeup and my eyes must be so swollen and red, plus…what am I wearing? What the heck am I wearing?” She realized, with a start, that she didn’t even know. She sent a weak smile his way, then looked down again immediately, embarrassed and very eager to make it to the door as soon as possible. He was between her and the door, though. She would have to walk near, and past the table where he sat with his friend. She could smell him again. His musky essence radiated through the place.

He was still looking at her. She could tell. Walking by, she noticed a flurry of motion. His chair made a scraping noise as he pushed himself back from the table and, wonder of wonders, he stepped toward her…then past her…and opened the door.

There he was, standing in the doorway, waiting, and not getting out of the way, as if purposely making the space close. They were “close”, very close, as she reached him and looked up to say a simple, “Thanks.” Nothing came out. Not a word. There was no chance to screech out the sentiment stuck in her throat. With a half-step forward, he pressed his body slightly against hers and bent down (he was quite taller than he’d even seemed), planting a warm, sexy and lingering kiss, directly on her trembling,long-awaiting lips.

Releasing her lips from his, hers left limp and unresponsive from the double-shock they’d just received, he stepped back, jammed against the doorway, holding it wide for her with his lanky arm. Her looking up, his eyes danced their way directly into her as he stood so close that she smelt his actual breath. His eyes had a slightly Asian flair that she’d never noticed, and they were smiling. The rest of his face followed suit, his lips still wet from the kiss. Frozen in place, it seemed that an eternity had passed them by, all in the blink of two seconds.

She realized that she didn’t even know his name.

Dedicated to: Red Haired Boy…wherever he may be.

Warm and Wonderful thanks to my friend, Jim Dollar, for the most perfect photograph, as always.


Posted in My Life Today, My Loves and Lovers.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Hosted by DreamHost