“Mathew,” the Terminator said. “I notice you spend a substantial amount of time watching young girls playing with their hair.”
He was right, but fortunately I was young myself at this point in my life.
I’d say I was around eight or nine when I first admitted to myself that watching girls – being a voyeur, really – was, yes, a “substantial” part of my life.
To say I was watching young girls playing with their hair to excess, though? I’d say that would have been an excessive statement on the part of the Terminator, had he gone that far … which I think he was possibly implying in his characteristically staid tone of voice.
One would assume that his highly tuned CPU would render him incapable of hyperbole. All those pure, clean calculations being made at lightning speed. How could he possibly be anything but wholly accurate in his observations?
But, there he was. Exaggerating. (More or less.)
I didn’t mind, really. Not at that time, anyway. The Terminator was my best friend and, I believe, I was his, too. And when you’re so close as all that, you accept one another’s faults.
In the case of the Terminator: overstating. In the case of me: staring at girls.
To this day, outer appearance is very important to me. I’ve never been much of a He-Man Macho Superguy, myself, even after pal-ing around with a 6’3 muscle-bound Terminator throughout much of my upbringing – but I can’t lie: I love girls’ hair.
I love their skin. It’s so soft and even when I’m merely looking briefly I can see it: that pale, lacteal silkiness, that way their skin can shimmer as though lacquered in some ethereal coruscated essence.
Their smell – ahhh. Again: milk or cream, fresh mom-done laundry … The cliché flower petals that literally smell of powder-pink.
Their eyes. Big, doll-like always. Blue, if possible. Though, I’ve been known to go for green if necessary. I may be Jewish on both sides of my family all the way back to Bob Dylan, Karl Marx and Jesus Christ himself, but I do have an Aryan’s predilection for azure oculars.
But the hair.
Oh, the Terminator was maybe right to overstate my fixation, after all. Because, well, perhaps fixation was what it was. The long, lustrous onyx sheen. The gentle golden-straw blonde hanging by her glass-fragile shoulder in an ocean breeze, fishtailed; loping strands of errant bangs flowing by her clear-frame glasses.
Hair falling past the girls’ filigree straps of their yellowish sundresses.
Their sandaled feet. Their toes. The Terminator asking me if I want to go for a ride, awakening me from my fever dream of girls’ hair and bows and ribbons and, no I do not want to go on his motorcycle. I don’t even know how he got a new motorcycle. I don’t want to know.
He of course doesn’t have a job. He’d been working nights piling boxes at a local Hallmark when he accidentally broke the store manager’s hand; a story I’d rather not go into here and won’t.
Motorcycles are loud, obnoxious, annoying and extremely dangerous. The Terminator knows I feel this way, so I can’t figure out – even at age eight or nine – why he continues to choose them (to, indeed, pluck them out of the very trees) as his preferred mode of personal conveyance.
“Mom’s asked you not to ride the motorcycle up and down our street,” I remind the Terminator, possibly being as precocious here as some had said about me in the past.
The Terminator reasoned that because he never went out of first gear on our small, narrow strip of road tapering off to the main drag, it shouldn’t be such a big deal. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)
But we did at that time live in a very cloistered subdivision of townhomes, and the reverberating racket of the Terminator’s chopper – even in first gear – was too much to bear. And I didn’t even want to think of these things, anyway.
I was eight or nine, as I’ve repeated, and all I wanted to do was to be lost again in the frangible bubble reverie of staring at the girl across the street, out my window under the Nintendo Power Magazine poster. The girl: seven? ten? (so hard to tell at that age; even now I still do struggle over whether a girl is sixteen or twenty-three or thirty-two).
She herself, too, lost in her own poppable bubble of reverie, lost in her eyes behind those clear-frame glasses of hers, lost in the world around her that is not around her while she is so lost, sitting in the green-green grass glistening after having been freshly washed by the noisily spritzing sprinklers, glistening like her slender pale legs semi-covered by that sunburst yellow sun dress of hers.
I can see through my window that she is gazing off to nowhere under the tall, full dark-green eucalyptus trees whose leaves seem plastic and reach out to nearly cover the left side of her building.
The dappled sunlight magical and dripping on her, but not all of her, and she’s twirling her fishtailed hair falling on her shoulder and I can almost see the light lavender color of her fingernails twirling and playing with her hair.
The Terminator asks me if I don’t want a motorcycle ride, if I might prefer a tuna fish sandwich instead.
I do; I’m hungry. But, I can’t keep my eyes off the girl through the window.
The Terminator has grown worried, though I know him well enough to know his stock-still Buster Keaton expression behind me has not actually changed.
He asks me if I require assistance and I tell him no. After a brief pause, I explain, “I’m thinking. You go down and I’ll be there in a minute.”
He leaves my bedroom and I hear him clomping downstairs to the kitchen where the clatter of dishes resonate throughout our small duplex, and I do stare at the angel-fairy girl playing with her hair.
She is my first crush, and I’ll never know her name.