Alphabet Stories #1
D— tried to sell me on the Beatles. But I liked the Monkees better. It was a long ride to her house. Past the three-story home with the 29 Lincoln convertible in the driveway, past the small church at the end of the street where I watched fascinating time-lapse films on long summer nights, I’d cross the vacant dirt lot and climb down a deep trench lined with broken bottles placed to stop cars from cutting across and lift my bike over the short barbed wire fence. Then I could ride, and lean into the broad sweeping curves of the upscale tract homes, past K’s house, across Calloway canal to the strip of ranch houses where she lived.
D— knew I loved K. She was a consummate matchmaker, and thought we would be a good couple. I’d sit in her bedroom and listen to Beatles records. My obsession with K started when she passed me a note during a seventh-grade field trip. In the dark art-deco Fox theater downtown, while we were supposed to be watching The Sound of Music, K passed me a note.
I like you. Do you like me? Check this box. . .
I checked the box, and much to my surprise, later she acted like the entire episode never happened. I was okay in the dark, but in the light of the playground she wouldn’t have anything to do with me anymore. I was perplexed, and D— tried to console me. I usually changed the subject to music.
“No, no . . . Mike Nesmith is much cooler than Paul McCartney. John Lennon is the smart one!”
“But Paul is so dreamy and I like Davy better!” she rebutted.
I was far more interested in crazy than dreamy. I plotted crazy ways to get K to like me again. I didn’t know how to be dreamy, but I thought I might be able to master crazy. When I moved away midway through that seventh-grade year, I was still plotting. Sometimes I’d ride my bike back to D— ’s house. It was a thirty-mile ride this time around. Through agricultural back-roads and busy city streets, from one end of the city to the other. I remember that sometime in my eight grade year, D— gave me a photo of K.
Spindly legs and a Chihuahua on the front lawn— I suspect the image is still around here, buried in a box somewhere— but it doesn’t really matter. I can still see it my head. I think something happened as a result of this— perhaps I started to connect images with strong feelings then, but I’m not sure. It was years before I became a photographer. I know that now whenever I check a box, or make a journey, I think about it first. But thinking hasn’t usually lead to better decisions, only different ones. Perhaps it was when I started measuring myself by what girls thought of me, but I’m not sure about that either.
It was also years before the next girl whose name began with K forever changed the way I thought about images. I don’t think I really knew the meaning of heartache then, but it didn’t take much longer before I learned. K has never been my favorite letter of the alphabet. It’s horribly reductive, I know. But it forms a convenient way to frame a tale. D’s have also been somewhat troublesome; so have L’s. M’s have universally been good though. Sometimes I think I need to broaden my alphabetic influences.