It was shady deals andConnie Francis on jukeboxjunipers and chevy convertiblesparked outside Dino's restaurant;it was brighter skies, manageableskyscrapers, gang-fights and Kennedy;it was gambling at Atlantic City withthe Four Seasons, it was crabs andJohnny Unitas and Connie Arena whoteased my heart through ten schoolyears, her father practicing race-trackcornet every day driving us nuts onsuch bored summers of tee-shirtswith cigarette packs at the sleeve andBeachboys and weights.
It was romance, people takingPeyton Place seriously, of miniature golfand trampolines, of barbecuing with themob on Chesapeake Bay, of drums andBrylcream and hairspray and thescents of night in parked cars and alleyways.
It was the girls I never had and did have,and Ben Hur at the Paramount, Rome Adventureat the Patterson, Sandra Dee walkingaround everywhere, and Frankie and Dion,it was October skies fallingwith promise and spring like an unhatchedeaster egg, Christmas with train-sets out of Idealmagazine, Nat Cole singing White Christmas
ending gang-fights and hits for the night.It was sneaking out to a night oftire screech and bushes and hushed love.Of holding hands forever until time whacked youin the back of the head, time, the real ruffian,not Butch, not the Dundalk boys, but time, that guywho said we had forever to comb our bangs andget the Orioles tickets and cruise the Fatima dance;it was time. It was time beyond waiting for your dateand plotting the jump on suckers, and waiting forthree o-clock school bells. It was time like a foreignanimal that killed us.
But there was God too, beyond the maverickand the delinquent, the crazy, the dice, thefighting, the lunacy of girls behind the bowling alley,under the fabric of fat ladies in salons and stevedores,and black vendors at Fell's Point; inside the dance ofmusic of the Rat Pack and the myths of Liberty Bellsand Camelot and Sun Valley and Niagara moons,and death arriving at Johns Hopkins and bocce ballson August nights in the mesh of living, the haphazarddesperate living, to satisfy, to have, to love, to holdyour dream to the words of your favourite song, therewas this God, holding the foreign animal back, holding himby his heels, holding him back fromthe kisses of Vivian, holding him back, holding himback from the good and the bad, God and hisinimitable good nature, leaving us with illusion,that grandest of gifts, the illusion of everythinglike the taste of a candy-apple.
It was that, the rich, confused, carnival feelof rooms that were scary and perfumed, and it wassomething any real God would have given us and we took itin stride, and sang him easter songs andcarols and went on living.
We took nothing seriously,and he wanted it that way, the God we had,talking in chrome glint and pastels andsunsets that had lyrics.It was the sense of that, of a juggler whodropped a ball and laughed, of a fatherwhose business was letting us out.
There was this God,and shady deals and Fabian,and terror in the schoolyard and things welater called scars but were like theColorado River carving the heart.There was this Godwho saw romance in the meanest effortsto love him. There was thisGod who made all things His inour wrestling.