Once more at the old movie front.
I watched one of my favorites on TV recently, “I Know Where I’m Going!”, with lovely Wendy Hiller and the wonderful Roger Livesey, and I must say it never fails to cheer me up - it may be the perfect romance film, it’s like no other. My pal Mouse loved this film, too, and this was one of the few movies we saw together where she seemed to let down her guard, and actually gave me a big hug when we got outside the theater. Come to think of it, that may have been only the second hug I ever got out of that girl, but it was one to remember.
Long ago, towards the end of our long and quirky relationship, I saw her with one of her dates and when he glanced away, she gave his arm a squeeze while looking at me thru her ever-present sunglasses, shook her head “no” slightly, and stepped through the door of a restaurant and out of my sight. When I picked her up in my car a few days later for our weekly movie, she waved as she got in, and then we drove quietly for a block or so - the first thing out of her mouth wasn’t “Hey, there!”, or “How ya doin’?”, it was, “Do you remember when I hugged you after ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’?”
“Huh?” I feigned stupidity until she punched me in the arm, then I grinned and twitted her, “How could I forget? You must’ve thought I was lovable Roger Livesey!”
“Hah! Don’t sell yourself short - someone thinks you are, I hope you know, altho it ain’t me, idiot boy.” She was talking about my future wife, with whom I’d just fallen in love, and she with me. Mouse was very perceptive and kept right on, “Don’t be in a hurry to sleep with her, ’cause even tho I think she’s prolly receptive to that - not every girl is as receptive as me.”
Christ, she was always so direct! She was exaggerating some about herself, but of the two of us, the sexual revolution had a real self-starter in Mouse, and I never did catch up with her. She had become - if not quite beautiful - very elegant, and had a full love life by her freshman year in college, of course with no one I knew, she made sure of that - this was another compartment to her life she kept locked away with no keys lent out...but on occasion she would ask advice, as I would of her.
We parked and got out into the glaring sunlight and blast furnace heat of an Arizona summer. She didn’t talk again until we got inside the theater.
“Anyway…I can’t seem to hold anybody quite that way…anymore. I like to think it was that movie, and the way the moonlight made me feel like I hadn’t left Scotland, and, yeah, maybe you being there had a little to do with it.” She blushed a little, and I think I did, too.
“I’ve never felt just that way again…like that guy you saw me with at Macayo’s this week - it turned out he was just out with me for the sex, nothing else; is there something wrong with me?”
I shook my head no. As you can see, neither of us was shy talking about anything anymore.
“I dumped that sonofabitch, just like the others. If they’re lucky, they get a squeeze on the arm when I see another friend walking past.” She grinned, and then got a strange expression on her little face, and she paled under her tan – it took me a second or so to recognize it: Fear, something Mouse rarely, if ever, displayed.
“I’m always looking for something more with guys, but I never seem to find anything that makes me want to put my whole heart and soul into a kiss. We were lucky that night - you got all of me for a few seconds, and I gave all I could just then, too.”
I knew what she meant - I can still feel the almost desperate power in that one short embrace, which made it so memorable.
I looked down at her for a few seconds - so small and vulnerable she seemed right then, I’ll never forget that look on her face, she just looked so lost. I felt she deserved somebody special more than anybody I knew; she had become something more than just a friend over the years, and would’ve resented any trite responses, so she knew I wouldn’t BS her no matter how stupid it sounded.
“Well, we both know that I’m not the one for you …now or then.” I said, “Hell, I just found somebody myself, look how long that took. Somebody’s looking for someone like you too, I bet. You just gotta keep trying for someone special, you can’t stop - don’t make that one time the only time.”
She reached up and pulled my face down, and surprisingly, kissed me lightly on the cheek.
“Stop it,” Mouse said quietly, “You’re such a funny guy, like there is somebody out there, for real.” She shook her head, smiling ruefully. “Thanks for the Gipper speech, anyway – sometimes, you almost say the right thing, you know.”
I rubbed my cheek, “Sometimes, you almost make it worth trying.” I grinned.
She smiled serenely. “Won’t happen again.”
“Ouch.” I whipped my head back like I’d been slapped. “Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if it did, tho.” We were both grinning, now.
I took her arm and we walked to our seats, me with Milk Duds and a big Coke, and Mouse with a huge tub of popcorn. I looked at her while she switched glasses – she had cut her hair to just off her bare shoulders, and her white peasant blouse and hoop earrings made her look like a gypsy waif. Stylishly, for sure, tho.
She was totally transformed from the plain, small, almost androgynous girl from 5th grade, into a naturally attractive young woman, with unlimited prospects, IMNSHO; smart, funny and usually pretty damn sure of herself. I could see where a lot of guys would feel a little intimidated, and she wasn’t one to temper the shorn lamb – you got the full force of her personality, and she told me once that she figured a lot of guys tried to deflect that by trying to get her into bed. She went thru a lot of prospects, that’s for sure.
“Okay, pollyanna-boy, I’m all better now.”
She crossed her tanned legs, and picked some spilt popcorn off her lap, then she took my Coke and had a long sip as the lights faded for the first retrospective. Yup, you guessed it, Wendy and Roger and all things Kiloran: Powell & Pressburger’s matchless B&W romance.
“I’ll keep looking. Maybe I need to take ‘em to “I Know Where I’m Going!” - it did wonders for you for a minute or so, once.”
Before I could say anything about possible hugs after it was over, she stuffed a handful of popcorn in my mouth to shut me up.
“Watch the goddam movie.”