Back in June back Then (a Juneteenth report)
Jocelyn Jesus was a girl I knew back in my hometown. We used to lay on a blanket in the high grass at the old abandoned horseshoe mill afternoons after school – this started when we were in our junior grade and went right on through the end of the summer after we graduated, which I will tell what happened with us then. I did not own a car, though I do now, but those days I’m telling you about it was Jocelyn who’d slip me a note in the corridor between classes, it could be either morning or afternoon classes sometimes I think it depended on how hot she was to get together and when I say ‘hot’ I don’t necessarily mean sex which is where some of you might think I was going, though it’s also true it could play a part in it, so say if she bumped up against me in the second-floor corridor on purpose between third and fourth period and handed me a note that could mean like she could barely wait ‘til school was over and we were back at our secret place which we also referred to as out magic place which you will see why in a minute.
Jocelyn’s parents when she turned 16 and since she had been working for them pretty much for free for three years during summers in their seafood restaurant down on 28, they must have figured they owed her so just after her birthday one day – and she told me all this in real detail – both her dad and mom sat her down when she got off the bus and handed her a little box which it turns out had keys to a used but still in really good shape 1965 Mercury Comet, which was a pretty popular car back then and especially the ones with eight cylinder engines which, the car’s body being smaller, could roar like a bat out of hell. Jocelyn’s Comet had the six which still moved along pretty well and I know because of all the times we took off down toward the Cape and got on the 6 Mid-Cape or stayed on 28 all the way to East Falmouth and one of the beaches there, and I may have given the wrong impression because even though I did not have a car of my own I had gone and gotten my driver’s license through the school’s driver ed program, which they gave you a cheaper rate on your insurance if you had proof of that, the point is every once in a while when we were meeting up in the lot after school she’d dangle the keys in front of me and drop them in my hand and she’d walk around to the passenger side and that meant I was driving that day, and this situation did happen pretty often on the longer highway trips which is why I know what I’m talking about when I say that six engine could still motorvate pretty quick when you punched it,
But let me explain I wasn’t big on that because it was Jocelyn’s car and I had no intention to abuse it or even, as we used to say, “beat” on it. So that is some detail of history that explains Jocelyn was usually the one driving down to the horseshoe mill, which of course lots of people in the town knew about, kids for sure to head down and make out both in daylight and night time but also other people for going fishing because the Weweantic River ran right through that piece of land, I guess they built the mill there to use the water for powering stuff, so people did come and fish in some of the quieter pools, but having said all that people stuff, most school afternoons, from like 3:30 when we would get there until maybe quarter ‘til five when we had to leave in order for her to be home in time for dinner with her family – see they were pretty old fashioned about the whole family which beyond her parents included a younger sister (by a year) and a lot younger brother (She called him “My little man”) and her family believed it mattered that they eat dinner together at the dinner table every night, tradition and a way to stay close with everyone getting to check in with everyone else, the “How was your day” kind of questions, and Jocelyn told me her little brother (the “Man”) would ramble on for nearly forever until dad or mom said enough already, so apparently it was a nice time even if her sister Jasmine barely said anything,
And this is so not like my family which consisted of my mother Jean and no dad, he had left us years ago, and my younger sister Sandra, and in our house we usually, each of us, were making a plate of our own and depending on who you’re talking about, bringing dinner to sit in front of the TV or up to a bedroom or also at the kitchen table, and I did that a lot because the kitchen was my favorite room in the house except my bedroom, where I had taken light tan brown masking tape and cut it and ripped it and wrote the words “Jefferson Airplane Loves You” and stuck that up on one of my bedroom walls, as that was a saying in the rock world and especially the music of the west coast which is where I was always dreaming of going – though not really when Jocelyn and I were on the blanket at the horseshoe mill — anyway that was a saying you’d hear and see back then, the “Loves You” thing, and my other favorite group was The Four Tops though I did not have a sign for them on my wall, but I did have way more of their records, and I suppose there may be people that wondered why I put the white kid band up on the wall and not the black guys which would be stupid because like I said the Airplane had that saying and I suppose I could have put “Reach Out” for the Tops, or maybe even “Sugar pie Honey bun”, but those weren’t sayings so to speak,
And I have not told you yet but if you haven’t guessed Jocelyn was black, an African-American (and of course she still is), and I was and still am white, but in our town that wasn’t anywhere near the big deal it would be for sure in lots of other places which are loaded up with racists which I in my heart believe are the worst of all people, and that is one reason I have always felt lucky to have grown up where I did which was a town with lots of both white and black people, and a small amount of Asian people too, and so there was kind of that Sly Stone “different strokes” thing, like a live and let live which was a saying I learned later in life which is a whole other story, but let me go back to the very beginning here and say – yes!! –
To finally deal with the suspense, it is a true thing that sometimes Jocelyn and I went all the way when we were on the blanket down at the mill after school, not always and not even mostly, but we did (what they called) “the deed) once in a while and I am 25 years old now and I cannot think of anything better so far in my life, and it’s funny to tell you the summers after both junior and senior years – all that time we were doing our rendezvous thing, I went to work at the Snack Shack which was Jocelyn’s parents’ restaurant and the last year her dad and her mom, both of them, called me “son” every once in a while, in a respectful way and maybe even admitting I might be sitting at their dinner table on a permanent basis someday, which means Jocelyn and me will have to move back from San Francisco, she’s still driving the Comet too, I have a Renault, a two-car family. We both work for the SF Chronicle newspaper, among regular news I get to write a once-a-week column called “Horseshoe Days”. It’s usually about everybody digging the good in each other.
Pretty cool, huh?