Elissa stood waiting for me on one of the balconies of the big stone house on Bell Blvd. She was watching for my bus, and when she saw me approaching the house she turned and disappeared from the balcony. I figured she was coming downstairs to meet me.
I didn’t even get a chance to ring the doorbell; she flung open the door and kissed me demurely on one cheek. She stepped aside and invited me in.
It was a beautiful house, with expensive furniture and drapes on the windows. At home we had curtains my mother had sewn herself.
Elissa took me by the hand and led me into the kitchen to meet her mom.
“This is Xavier, mom. This is my mother.” A good looking woman in middle age, with light brown hair a shade darker than Elissas got up from the long wooden kitchen table to greet me. She had blue eyes and a knowing smile and reached out to shake my hand with her good hand. The other hand was curled and bent against her wrist. I never asked what was wrong with her hand.
“It’s so nice to meet you, Xavier. Elissa seems to be quite taken with you.”
I had only heard people talk like that in movies before, and at that moment I felt like I was in a movie, in a place where I could never hope to be.
I nodded dumbly and smiled as best as I could upon meeting the mother of a girl I was hoping to sleep with.
“Come, on, let me show you the house,” Elissa said taking me by the hand. I followed her up the stairs, marveling at her knee length hair that she kept in a thick braid as it bounced against her behind. I never saw such long hair on anyone before
“My grandfather built this house. He was a stonemason. Isn’t it neat?”
The house was impressive, three stories high, with the kitchen and living room and a den for her dad on the first floor, two bedrooms and a small kitchenette on the second, and the master bed room and Elissa’s room on the top floor.
Her room was like something out of a magazine, with framed artwork on the walls, and a bed with and iron frame and headboard painted white. She had down pillows and a thick colorful bedspread. I wished it were my room.
The second time I visited her parents were having a party, and Elissa laid out the plan:
“I’m going to ask my dad if you can stay over after he’s had a few drinks and in front of his friends. He and his friends are very liberal and if he says no in front of them they’ll give him a lot of crap about it.” That was Elissa, she would say ‘crap’ and ‘darn’ rather than shit and damn.
Later that night I stood by and watched as she slunk over to Frank, her blue-eyed Italian father to make her move.
“Daddy, I think the last bus to Flushing just went by. Can Xavier stay the night? He can sleep in Nadine’s room.
Frank looked over at me through his small wide set blue eyes. He was a northern Italian, with fair skin and blondish curly hair. His look gave me a chill, like he could see right into my brain and read what I was thinking.
“Yeah, Frank, what about it? You gonna let the kid stay over?” I couldn’t believe one of the men he’d been talking to would say something.
“Sure, sweetheart. Your Xavier can stay.” He continued to bore his eyes into me as he took another sip from his glass of wine.
This became a routine, ask dad if I could stay over on Saturday nights, and we started having sex.
That first night she settled me into her sister’s room and whispered:
“I’ll sneak down after they’re asleep.”
And she did. her sister Nadine was in India for the summer studying Sanskrit, another thing I’d never heard of. Elissa’s widowed grandmother slept in the other second floor room, and I was worried she would hear us.
“Don’t worry about grandma, she’s as deaf as a post.”
This is how the second chapter in my sexual awakening started, with an adventurous, uninhibited Jewish-Italian girl from queens. We were doing things I had only heard about before, but the one worry was always there, pregnancy.
I took her home to meet my mom, as well. My mother was smitten, Elissa was so polite and demure, and the complete opposite of the brassy painted doll my mother felt uneasy in front of, the Newport-smoking Anna.
I did other things besides see Elissa that summer, I was enrolled in a summer prep program at Pratt Institute, which was the college I would be attending in the fall. I was in a special scholarship program for poor minority students, and the powers that be thought we had to be brought up to speed in order to fit in with our more affluent classmates. After classes I worked at a shoe store in the Village, Bloom’s Shoe Gallery on 6th Ave.
Elissa and I saw each other every weekend. One of our early dates was Shakespeare in the park. Elissa had gone to stand in line for tickets while I was at work one day, and met me after I was finished for the day. She had brought some food she had made herself, and we had a little picnic in Central Park before going to the Delacorte Theater to see Stacy Keach and James Earl Jones star in Hamlet.
She also introduced me to the recorder and classical music, things I knew nothing about. We went to the piano recital of one of her friends at TAMI hall, and once we were at another friend’s home, where a bunch of other college-bound Bayside kids were hanging out. We had all been smoking pot and suddenly one of them said: “Hey, let’s jam!” But instead of the expected guitars, they brought out violins and a cello and did a string quartet. These were new horizons indeed, and I was totally seduced by the girl and the lifestyle.
Old relationships give shape to our lives in unexpected ways.
Every relationship is a learning experience.