The greatest pleasure was getting back together, after having ached and cried and crawled back to the sonic womb of After the Gold Rush and walked down Senior Hall with his head under his arm day after Ichabod day.
Then Winter relents and comes back to his room. McCormick will never know physical relief more complete than the return of her long fingers to the small of his back and the points of her hips pressed to his, Jordache grinding against Levi, until 10:30 when Bill raps stern on the door and says “Time to break it up in there…”
It’s the cornball joke of best-man toasts and widower’s eulogies, but McCormick seems compelled to marry up.
Watch the Christmas concert. Winter leans forward, red in her cheeks, the soloist bringing good cheer, while McCormick, who can’t find the tenor entrance note, silently mouths ding dong, ding dong.
In spring she gets 5s on three AP tests. He quits trying halfway through History. Just fills bubbles that make an X across his sheet.
And when they argue, Winter stands tall, car keys in hand, while McCormick enacts the death that would be losing her by crumpling to his bedroom floor.
Winter drove a Ford Falcon. Her forearms bowed with tension on the turns. It was a muscle car.
Her father kept it tuned at his shop but refused to purchase a power steering kit, explaining to McCormick “a beauty like that should be kept original.” Whether the NRA sticker on the bumper had been applied by Winter, Mr. Matheson, or a previous owner was a mystery.
The Falcon took them on their best date, up Middle Cottonwood. In the canyon Winter eased, spread the blanket she’d brought, opened her arms, laughed her alto laugh. The sun was hot all day.
Falling in love. Deciding to be in love. What’s the difference?
“Long May You Run” is playing. McCormick remembers the “chrome heart shining in the sun.” Winter Matheson driving away.
He’d chosen her at chorus practice from a row of altos, written her number on his palm like he imagined people did.
Neil Young songs charted the whole thing. She was a “Cinnamon Girl,” hungry mouth offering lifetimes. Until the day she couldn’t stand him, after which McCormick lived on his knees and always replaced the needle.
“Nestled in your wings my little one…tomorrow see the things that never come…”
June hears them first and pulls us into the square.
“Welcome to New York, Welcome to New York!” Two dozen big gay voices.
This is exactly why I moved to the Castro at twenty, and bought in the West Village at fifty. Freedom, like singing, comes from the drawing of breath.
Michael arrives for Empire State of Mind. We played it at our wedding.
He whoops for the top-knotted soloist, but I catch him eyeballing a hard-looking white-boy taking pictures outside the fence. He’s worried about an alt-right assault, I know it.
Dance with your daughter, McCormick. Fill your lungs.
McCormick roamed free in the backseat and had a cassette player and the bandana blanket his Yiayia made. How much longer? Bill would answer, Three Batmans, and he’d play them in his head.
He offers June this measure—two more Sophias honey—but this emphasizes the absent iPad, the actual princess. And she’s strapped into the car seat, a condition no blanket relieves. She responds with her signature hmmph.
McCormick owned that Mustang. June despises their Honda. But she has her own skills. Eyes closed, she composes…
Did you know that I love you? Do a painting all in blue…
He arrives early enough. Walkways are clear, although many benches are occupied. The homeless seem to sleep in.
There were sweeping city views the first time he was here, during the summer of online dating that lead miraculously to Julie.
That day’s Digi-Match was Greek. So is McCormick, on his mother’s side. She had shiny black hair and believed in angels. Told him about a friend’s child whose aura was indigo. Who had been born to save.
He called her again—Nikki—but she didn’t return. Ego dent. And new construction has made a narrow valley of this fancy park.
Reading Harry Potter aloud. June tracks it, but only stops practicing headstands when there is a picture. Her favorite is a bleeding ghost.
The Hobbit had no illustrations, but Bill’s reading voice was smooth like his singing. Delaware nights. Couch up on cinder blocks, bouzouki leaning spot lit in the corner beneath a lamp.
McGonagall tells Harry he’s made the Quidditch team, like his father before him.
“Wow, now Harry knows what he’s really good at,” says McCormick, compulsive provider of object lessons.
“Now he knows he had a real family,” June answers, because she is where it all resides.
Freshmen year McCormick converted this to story:
Waking suddenly in a roadside motel (Vermont?). Ceiling tiles fallen down around around them. Barbara and Bill in opposite chairs, made visible by the cherry-red dots of their cigarettes.
Planning their next move, how to extricate a startled child in the middle of the rainy night? Assigning blame for the chaos? Anger and asbestos dust.
He doesn’t recall what they said or he wrote, but does remember sending a copy to Barbara (purple ink, yellow paper) and her reply, folded around a check for fifty dollars.
“I’m sorry you remember it that way.”
(McCormick tells Sal Bergen about the night when he was six and thought he was going to die…)
The poison-lemon-juice arrow grazed his cheek and became a part of him.
The spindly shaft matched his skeletal appendages. He was the skinniest boy in any class. Frayed green fletching precursed thrift store and even home-sewn outfits Barbara sent him off in (more out of Pioneer thrift than necessity, he explains to the crossed, hairy ankles just visible from the couch). And the crux of the biscuit, that fraudulent head, only pretending to be special.
That’s how you see yourself? Sal spits.
No, he admits. Then, yes.
Whenever he trips someone’s wires like that, McCormick knows he must be wrong.