Jim Bonnett and I had lived in the same town all our lives. We had graduated high school together, started our families right here in our hometown, and attended the same church for decades. While we were never best friends, we were alright with each other, having occasionally run into each other at football games or the grocery store. We'd often give each other a nod at church even though we sat at opposite side of the sanctuary. On this particular fall morning, we had bumped into each other at the coffee shop and found ourselves sitting at the same table catching up on a whole lot of nothing. Old men our age really don't have that much to tell generally. The conversation paused and Jim leaned forward, a nervous look on his face.
"Do you remember that girl from high school, Susan Mills?"
I nodded, "A skinny little thing. Sort of a big nose. Always wore daisy dukes and short blouses with her belly button showing. Yep, I remember her."
Jim took a sip of his coffee and continued, "I've had this memory, just a junk drawer memory that never seemed to have a purpose, of her all these years. I remember her coming over to my house one summer afternoon. I had mowed the yard and was asleep on the couch when she knocked on the door. I was so shocked to see her standing on the porch dressed, well like you remember. I couldn't imagine why she was there but invited her inside. I remember I was only wearing a pair of cut-off shorts and felt a bit embarrassed about her seeing me with no shirt. She sat on the couch beside me and within minutes was really putting the moves on me, touching my leg, running her hand down my back. I had no interest in her. She was sixteen, a sophomore in high school. I was nineteen and through a whole year of college. I found her annoying and immature and was really put off with her making moves on me. Finally, after a half-hour or so, I basically told her to leave. You could tell it really pissed her off."
He shook his head and stared at the coffee cup in front of him, "The last thing she said as I shut the door was, 'you'll never know what you missed out on."
I raised an eyebrow and listened intently.
"I never could figure out why that memory stuck with me all these years until the other day. I was plowing one of my fields. I really like to plow. My mind just wanders when I'm out on the tractor. Just never know where my mind is going to go, sort of like meditation. Anyway, it came to me, as clear as if I were watching a movie on Netflix. A memory from way back then hit me like a bag of rocks!"
My eyes grew wide as I noticed a bead of sweat run down his forehead.
"Do you remember the old gym out west of town? The school had burned years ago but the gym was saved. Someone had taken it and opened it up as a skating rink?"
I nodded and replied, "Oh yeah. It opened the first Saturday night of each month during the summer. Kids from all over would come out to skate. They had pool tables, foosball, and pinball machines. Yep, had some good times there."
"Well, out there on that tractor the other day, it came to me as clear as if it had happened yesterday. I was in my car, that Dodge Charger, parked across the road from the gym under a big elm tree. Susan Mills was there with me and we had drunk a whole bottle of Wild Turkey. We were making out, I mean heavy, sweating and panting. She unbuttoned my shirt and was grabbing me places she shouldn't. I was all over her. I can still smell the whiskey on her right now. She was wearing a pair of short blue jean cutoffs and a little white blouse with flowers on it, and yeah, that belly button exposed. A streetlight in front of the gym cast a blue eerie light into the car and I could see the wildness in ner eyes as she took my hand and shoved it beneath her blouse. Suddenly, she peeled off her shirt and before I could blink, she had kicked her shorts into the floorboard."
Jim paused and wiped his sweaty palms together, "I sat there on that tractor and had a full blown panic attack! I freaked out! I looked down at her lying naked in the seat of my car and realized she had the body of a twelve or thirteen-year-old girl. She was sixteen! She was jailbait! What was going on in my mind that night?"
He stopped and stared at me.
"So what happened next?" I asked.
"I don't know! That's the end of my memory of that night. I have to tell you, this has me all torn up. With this news of some woman accusing that Supreme Court Justice nominee of something that happened over thirty years ago! What would something like this do to me? My life could be ruined! I honestly don't know what I did with that girl that night!"
"And that's all you can remember?'' Our eyes met for an uncomfortable period of time and then a smile spread across my face, "Well, let me tell you the rest of the story."
He cocked his head and stared in wonderment.
"You and I went out to the gym together that night. I remember The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes" was playing over the speakers when we walked in. We stood around with other guys and watched the girls skate in their little short shorts for a bit, then you went to play pool with someone. I ended up at the foosball table with a bunch of little high school girls. You eventually came over and whispered in my ear that Susan Mills had a bottle of Wild Turkey stashed outside and you were going out for a drink with her. I didn't see you the rest of the night. When the gym closed down at midnight I went outside and stood around with those high school girls, them mooching cigarettes off me. We were standing right under that street light when Susan Mills got out of your car, literally pulling her shirt over her head as she came toward us. She walked by in a huff, raising her arms and shouting, 'Can you believe he passed out! He passed out drunk! He'll never know what he missed out on!"
"Really?" he responded as that sank in, "So, she came over to my house a few days later to give me a second chance and I turned her down."
He nodded his head as a look of relief came over his face.
"You know, Jim, there isn't a soul on this earth, especially of our age, that doesn't have a few things they'd rather not share with their mama or their wife or their preacher. Not one. The Good Book says, 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' I think that's something to carry in your back pocket at all times. Live your life in the present. That memory...belongs in your junk drawer."
We rose from the table and headed toward the cash register.
"Say, Jim, remember when I loaned you fifty bucks back in '78 for a battery for your car?"
My friend paused and thought for a moment. "You never loaned me fifty bucks! I'd remember that!"
I grinned and slapped him on the back, "I thought it was worth a try seeing how your memory is on the outs lately! Good talking to you, Jim. See you around..."