I am standing at my locker, there is no one there for I am late to class which is normal for me, having already accrued enough credits to graduate I spend my time shuffling to and from class at my own leisurely pace, quite certain of the fact that the educators are as excited to see me leave as I am. Ducking out of class whenever possible and failing to show up on time many mornings as there is no-one at home to rouse me out of bed. Inside my locker there is a calendar marking the end of days, only one-hundred and twelve days left of school. The relief will be comparable to the first flight of a gosling. Jenny’s locker was next to mine, we were seniors and even though our last names were only one letter apart we never really spoke to one another, I was comfortable launching my pot shots in the back of the classroom to humor myself, and she was more than comfortable to be the center of attention. She was also in all of the college-prep courses while I fled for the safety in regular education classes where the only expectation was that you were supposed to breath. Today, she is wearing a pin-strip jumpsuit; she explains that she had a presentation for the National Honor Society. She glances at the calendar, nods towards me and states “you really hate this place don’t you.” Smiling I reply, “Yup.” Just then a box of chocolates comes crashing down out of her locker, “Shit, now I really going to be late.” I help her pick them up; she must have a boyfriend I think to myself. I arrive late to English class and offer the explanation that I’m late because of Jenny Leffel. The instructor smiles and says “I understand.”
Within a week we are dating, my car breaks down the first night of our date after I had coaxed her into the shower and dropped her off. Her father must have been suspicious because of her wet hair; he had to drive me home. I am sure he was impressed. He was skeptical of methat first day, not just because I brought his daughter home with wet hair just days before Christmas but for the fact that I was so very different from most of the other boyfriends she had brought home. I didn’t care two licks about farming, the Clark County Fair or what was on television. I was interested in books, music and being a wise-ass, I showed little respect for people whom I had little respect for in essence I was somewhat of a punk. I had a funny name, wore big glasses and thought that I was more clever than anyone I knew. I could drink a lot of beer though and this was the only bond her father and I ever had, we both loved beer.
I had always thought that I would attend Ohio University in Athens, where I spend the majority of my childhood, my father had taught architecture at OU early in his career. Jenny had her sights on Ohio State University in Columbus; she was going to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She had a fantastic academic career in high school, National Honor Society, she placed and won several distinguished awards for Future Farmers of America and had scored high on her college entrance exams. She played first trumpet in the marching band since her sophomore year but drove the band director nuts because she couldn’t read music. He said that she was the most talented musician he had ever taught; he would frequently contribute trumpets to her cause many of which would be dinged and left behind in the various houses and boats she lived. She has also planned to march for the Ohio State Marching Band. By the spring of our senior year, after many showers together I had decided to switch from attending Ohio University to attending Otterbein College, located just north of Columbus. My dependence on Jenny was in full bloom in just a few short months together.
My home life was a mess my senior year, my brother joined the US Army and was living in Germany, my sister was living in Pensacola, Florida and my mother had left the Methodist minister that fall. She was living in Columbus and the minister had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for some time; I was pretty much on my own. I spent my afternoons reading and listening to music. Music was my savior, I had a cassette of R.E.M. “murmur” on one side and “recokoning” on the other. I discovered Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground when I was fifteen and had purchased half of Lou’s entire 70’s catalog in a few days mostly in the cut-out bin at Woolworths and at School Kids records in Athens. “Street Hassle” and “Berlin” were particular favorites as well as the newly released “New Sensations.” I could easily spend hours by myself with music. I would read and jerk-off. That was pretty much my days. When Jenny entered my life, she was completely flabbergasted by the amount of music I had and the wide range of tastes I had developed at that early age. I suppose when you have little else you just tend to immerse yourself in what gives you release. She had never heard of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Smiths or even that the Beatles had released a ton of albums.
We would spend our afternoons going to my house, fooling around, listening to music and laughing. We laughed like crazy, I suppose we were both heading towards the deep end already at that point in our lives. I totally regarded myself at the edge of the social scene in high school, I had a few really good friends (one of which was Chris Biester who would years later form Appalachian Death Ride) and was known as the pretty much the eccentric class clown in high school. By the end of our senior year Jenny and I were voted “best couple” and she was voted “funniest female”. Gas was only $1 a gallon.
One afternoon, shortly after we started dating she was showing me some of her photographs in her parents basement and I noticed an old organ, I asked her who played and she told me she did. She then proceeded to play several songs that she had written to help sing her young brother Tony to sleep. I was impressed. Looking back the songs were not too unlike some of the songs that Daniel Johnston wrote on his parent’s organ, the melodies were buried within the claustrophobic chords of the machine, muffled and blunted but strong nevertheless. I encouraged her to keep writing them.
We went back to her bed and she giggled, and said that she had something to show me, immediately I had the over-sexed thoughts of a seventeen year old boy as she reached under the bed. She then produced a giant burr-penis. It was giant, made by her and her sister Rachel with about a hundred round prickly burrs found on their farmland. They had constructed a giant penis complete with balls. It measured roughly nine inches not including the nuts. I laughed, more at the brilliance of making a giant dick out of burrs then the creation itself. Rachel bounded down the stairs, laughed and said “no, you aren’t showing him the burr-dick are you?” We all laughed and then Jenny’s mother Ginger walked in. Ginger was as straight as straight is, a woman for whom the phrase “gosh-darn-it” was an offense. Ginger was horrified and immediately offered me an apology, saying “Bela, I’m so sorry you have to see that fifth, I told her to get rid of it.” Just then Jenny laughed and said “Oh, mom you know you always loved it!” with that she flipped the sticky burr-dick towards Ginger, where it immediately latched onto her chest. She was horrified and as she tried in vain to flick it off, the burr-dick just seemed to become more entrenched in her blouse. “Oh, Jenny you are horrible!” and then the absurdity of the situation hit her and Ginger had to laugh soon, “Just don’t let your dad know you still have this piece of trash.”
Jenny always had a knack for making light out of any situation, her wit was quicker than Hawkeye Pierce and because her delivery was so fast and fun loving she could get away with it. There would come a time when the wit didn’t work anymore, it seems that charm and brilliance can shrivel with age if it is not cared for, when a person’s circumstances and tragedies can engulf them and leave little trace of flash that burned so bright within them