The cast list for the spring musical goes up. The King and I. She gets I.
He watches her back away from the choir room door, fingers templed at her lips. He feels only triumph. He is Winter; that’s what love means.
They drift in silence to a practice cube. He’s never kissed her in school.
McCormick waits, motionless, for an auratic flicker to draw him closer.
“This is just going to be my time. I can’t deal with you until the show is over.”
Pierced, he calculates the months with no Winter. It makes her angry that he stays.
“You want her for her body right?” Scott Snow asked as the Oldsmobile chugged along I-90.
Talk like that about a girl made him feel queer. Especially about Winter. McCormick was seventeen. Going slow. He wanted her for her face.
And Snow was so Mormon. His folks were more uptight than even Barbara and Bill. How could he make Winter’s chest announce and her legs invite?
“Because she is truly terrible, man.”
In Billings they had Orange Julius, played Asteroids, then started home.
“We have to go to school tomorrow,” Snow said. “And you have to put that girl down.”
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.