His baritone vibrates in a chamber of my memory and haunts with tenderness, uninvited. He is past. Still, my head insists that I think him. Not his face, not his embrace...just his name. It begins with the intruding reverberations of his voice upon my skin. Then those crawling echoes carry me to my former reflection—who I was then, especially when he was compelled to say my name, in full, and how I once, prompted by his vibration, performed myself, in full, somewhat, quite a while ago. From here, I think of him, first name only.
Long ago, on random occasions, something I said would impress someone I was just getting to know to the point that the person would recite all nine of my official syllables. First. Middle. Last. How do I get you to hear it? His elocution was iambic. First-Middle-Last. And like a hyena endeared to Mufasa, my name would, for the first time in my life, dowse me in goosebumps, one syllable at a time, as my nine rolled off his tongue, and down my spine. I would hang upon my nine syllables as they lifted me away like Piglet attached to the string of a bright, tremendous balloon. First. Middle. Last.
My friends would see him and deduce another fun and juicy body in the lineup of my type. My best guy would see him and uncharacteristically assert that this one was distinct. My elders would see him and smile with Claire Huxtable-style words, and brow lifts, unspoken. And like the night I met him, I would see him and just see something I quite liked. Like the night I met him, every time he caught my eyes, the crowds parted and there was no one else and I just felt nice and easy, aware of how much I really like myself, and him too.
These days, he is stored in the place where my brain puts the good things I can no longer handle. He is on the shelf with fried dough, red juice, ramen and kombucha. He is where I used to store Cheetos, until I learned to manage the craving for two 0.99 bags to once a year or less. He's on a different shelf than teddy bears and my Apple IIe, but in the same room of good, old things. In the replay, he is a marvel, and the tape stops just where it becomes unclear if I was the only one in the deep enchantment that entire time. It stops before I descend into the doldrums of being someone who is too hard to match, too hard to really love. If I play the tape, I will beg and beg and beg again to Fate for a re-positioning in the constellation of romance, not with him, with someone who sing the syllables I possess now, every day and indefatigably. I just want to move three stars left in the constellation’s orchestra seating for Possibility. But it's not the time to get so caught up in the tape.
This is an ode to our vortex and that feeling I chewed and carelessly spit like salted sunflower seeds when he would say my name. Nine syllables, and I would go from the shivers of direct eye contact to the peace of knowing myself. First Middle Last, and I would be bare before him, bare before myself, beaming from the front row access to her--me. Me. First. Middle. Last. Nine syllables, and I see myself complete, good enough, possible and satisfying. Nine, and it would be indulgence when he divulged them again and again. Nine syllables, and I would, yes literally, twirl. First-Middle-Last.
He is gone now, rarely prodding my memory, tucked in recesses. I like to think that I honor the close of seasons. After all, my leaps are meticulously scrutinized, against my nature of Olympic caution, because the calculations in my head must determine that possibility merits exposure to failure. And being so thoughtful, I know to love the burden that there is a time to bask in the banquet before you, and just sit and gobble and nuzzle the gristle and loosen your buckle and eat some more. And I know to tenderly welcome the burden of what becomes of your heart and your oxygen when there is nothing left on the bone, and the whiskey is done, and the chime of emptied platters is louder than the conversation, and the expiration of your seat at the table has arrived and everyone knows it because everyone is noting the presence of the person tugging at your chair. So I have known seasons, and obediently bid them farewell. Obedience has meant the shamefully long bouts of mourning and mourning, all pride vacated, bones pressed to the hardwood floor to lessen the fall of unrelenting tears, nose familiarized with odor of the patina upon what was romance, head never wishing for rust to regress, just lost until it isn't.
My memory holds to the months of our season as the time I possessed an optical telescope for exquisite views of my planet—knowing my stars, my moon, my population, and my bodies of water. I saw so much of myself, and still not the composition of my atmosphere, never counting all of my rings, not considering the next step is to have the rocket that will deliver me to myself. But that view of her, me, I can feel the memory of myself then without really seeing it. And I am grateful to be someone who was always in proximity of someone else who happened to always have the instinct to return me to myself. I love that I know what it is to have someone who prepared for me. In every recollection of our shared moments, by the time I allowed him the conversational lead, he'd always be ready to return my serve, not just with telescope in hand, but having taken the orchestral silence that exists between soul mates to set up the instrument, adjust its aperture and patiently show me how to stand and gaze into its eye piece.
I knew someone who knew to assume the silence required to live out the awe of seeing one's own light refracted, then reflected, then magnified, then witnessed. Someone who would always leave the telescope behind for me to navigate myself on my own. Someone who would always carry a spare, should we unexpectedly find the perfect point to observe my planet, because invariably, I'd always run out the house having left my telescope behind. Someone who recited me by nine.
I do not miss him--and that's without any dismissal or disdain. But his name haunts in the midst of my deep longing for myself, and for a long-term telescope handler and true love. I have not worked on building my own telescope, never retraced steps to the locations where the dozen misplaced telescopes may remain. I just want the someone who will do his part, because I will do mine.
When he left, I decided that nine syllables was just too much to carry. Jenna Bond is something between two and three. It’s one-and two. Not one-two-three. Maybe between one and two.
Not an incident of a fruit platter goes by that I do not wonder, What happened, Miss Honeydew?
(Cue Dick Fuld at the SEC trial saying something like, "Until the day they put me in the ground, I will wonder." I loved natural gravitas of his words in that moment. Sign of the cross to the 2007 financial crisis; please stop haunting us.)
You, honeydew, were once the fruit dynamo of the 1980s. You and orange sherbet in ginger ale rocked the era of the upscale turtle neck. Now, you are the fruit voted least likely to succeed. The kids look back at your yearbook and say, "That was you, Mom? Woah! Is that going to happen to me?" The last question coinciding with the kids pointing at your face, honeydew.
You probably were the prop that bridged the lives of the Gimme a Break cast and that of Dallas. I am certain that both J.R. and Nell Carter had dramatic pauses, wondering if they remembered the honeydew, their white kids hopelessly looking on, hopelessly hoping the honeydew would turn up, eventually, fretting that somebody would be killed if that honeydew did not turn up. Because at least six 80s television shows had the requisite honeydew melon episode. You know, there was the "just say no" episode, the "abstinence" episode, the "have one black friend" episode, and the "go to a tennis court, wear white polos, and feast on honeydew" episode.
Honeydew had to have cameoed in a classic Danny Devito and Arnold Schwartzeneggar film, and I would bet money that it was in Overboard. Susan Lucci must have sealed her iconography holding a honeydew. Tony Danza probably ate honeydew on every episode of Taxi. Joe Camel had to have become the male ideal with a cigarette in one hand, honeydew in the other, cruising by in his bulging Mustang. I thought I saw honeydew melons rolling around in the background of the "My Prerogative" music video. Definitely in a Bo Jackson commercial. Basquiat used to invite the ladies over for honeydew and chill. The leading lady from the old Robert Townsend movies, she looks like the type who definitely loved honeydew.
When women fantasized about a romantic night with Fabio or Luther Vandross, honeydew was being served during the first part of the evening, three courses later, orange sherbet and ginger ale. It had to have been written into the early riders for an Eddie Murphy contract. Was the Ebony article, "At Home with Florence Griffith Joyner," not inclusive of her post workout indulgence in honeydew? Honeydew melons were definitely in the Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" video. Iman was petting a honeydew in every scene. Fruit of the gods, Isis and Osiris. I think the Gremlins wore all white, eating honeydew, in Gremlins II. Or was that Alf? (Anyone else disappointed that Soleil Moon-Fyre did not grow up to be as interesting as Punky Brewster used to be?)
It is a foggy memory now, but I remember when you, honeydew, put cantaloupe to shame. I used to love when my grandmother brought back a ripe honeydew from the farmer's market. I would grab the spoons, while my grandmother halved a honeydew the size of a smart human's head. Then we would scoop out the seeds, before heading out to sit out on the front porch and enjoy that nectar of a fruit, watching the neighborhood happen in the afternoon. One, maybe two, cars drove by. Both were burgundy, driven by people who were young in the 50s, who never quite breaking 15 miles per hour, because that is the speed limit of driving a burgundy vehicle. We would just watch burgundy cars and scrape that honeydew to the rind.
I used to love honeydew, a perfectly named fruit. But now it is the blue ice pop of the fruit tray, still in the bottom of the freezer, 10 years later. I cannot understand how that happened to you, honeydew. But now and again, the question crosses my mind.
I forgot to explore the question: what did happen to honeydew?
Recently, I've flooded my calendar with learning: books, Donny Deutsch, New York Times Magazine, Allure, and a couple serious classes throughout the week. I'm incredibly stimulated, and with the help of my trusty helping of fresh fruits and vegetables, I am endeavoring to keep pace with my intellectual hunger. It is a great feeling.
I've even had an intellectual breakthrough. I was going hard in class, pushing through the rigorous material, and just as my brain was hitting overload, the instructor called time out for a break. And there I was, looking for some vending machine bliss, called to the all-time greatest snack, Cheetos. I had gone for about ten or so years without having it, but recently if I cross a vending machine with some Cheetos and have a little appetite, it's on.
So back in my seat, considering combinations and algorithms, or something like that, I am taken by the image of Chester Cheetah. I am looking at him, suddenly aware of his influence in my life. He was one of the first guys I was attracted to. I know admitting that puts me in the sanity category of Paula Abdul (she was smiling so hard at that rapping cat), but I honestly think that in place of a male influence at home and the lack of boys in my age range on my block, my first male attractions were to cartoon characters. Oh god, that reads so sad, but thanks to my new intellectual ferocity (or obsessive ingestion of HBO's In Treatment), it really explains so much. (And for record, I’m serious, I'd never talk to a Chester. I’m such a Sagittarius; he seems like his sign is Comic Sans.)
In general, I am in love with the dream of a guy. I am more prone to build attraction for someone I know less about because imagination drives me and truth drains me of human compassion. Conversely, I disdain men who feed intrigue. You know, guys who think I want the topless shot. Looking at Chester really reminded me of Joe Camel for whom I truly hold a bit of unhealthy attraction. I definitely like guys of his coloring, build, ease, gentility, and down-home quality. He could have been an athlete, a banker, a mechanic, or a barber, but he looked like he was good at living and like he could have been from around my way. He looked like he could give a sturdy hug and hold a firm place at the dinner table. Plus his nose is a penis.
Joe Camel had some nice homies and a banging ride. Does anyone remember the convertible? Of course, the big downside was that he was a chain smoker and made me unscared of smoking -- a practice that I do not participate in or promote, except at parties or when my coworker is too stressed. But the dream of the spectrum of his manhood and his melodically low-key and warm fella style shaped the kind of guy I look for today. No, I didn't actually fantasize about dating a cartoon Camel, just all the guys I've liked could have come from his world. Penis noses.
Liking Joe Camel, also shaped the values I placed on femininity. I want to be Joe Camel's girl: curvy, edgy, smart, intriguing, stylish, and on the scene. This is now over-analyzation, but I wonder if this is me at my simplest. A girl from Toon Town trying to find love. (Not Jessica Rabbit, I would never date a guy that reminded me of her guy Roger.)
So as I came to making some concluding statements, in the midst of writing this, I found myself attracted to a new type of guy, who may or may not be a Joe Camel, but he sure is a looker. He's tall, smooth, and low key…and he inspires fascination. While I can imagine myself being cool, mellow, and sultry costar to his pre-1996 ad campaign, the actuality of him has me swooning like Daisy or Minnie in a classic Disney cartoon: my eyes bug, my hands clamp, and knee-knocked, I could feint backwards at the thought of Donald or Mickey but never Goofy or Daffy. Though reality guy is neither Donald nor Mickey. He is Camel cool. And I, the delighted romantic.
But now back to intellectual paradise. My brain just wanted a mental break.
(It was not until after finishing this piece, that uploaded his pic...not so hot. Apparently, I have a generous memory. Or Ebony did a better job styling him.)
Sometimes people say they want to read my next essay. Usually it's from my email to your email, because we spoke about it. But since I write for people I have never met professionally, I am doing the same with my personal writing. I write for adults.