Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Terry & Jeannie

Most men have a dream girl—an ideal they push before them like a ball, always out of reach. As the years pass, this phantom either fades in the face of reality or becomes refined in the imagination, accommodating attributes, known or wished. By the time I reached twenty-five, the woman of my dreams had become so exquisite, I’d acknowledged that, bar making a pact with Beelzebub himself, she wasn’t about to enter my life. Then she did, albeit through the media.

. . . here was Vogue, regularly featuring a creature who made the other fashion plates look just that. Her cover shots were pinned to the underside of prefects’ desks and bedsit walls across the country. None of us knew her by name; for months she was ‘that girl with the big eyes and the legs.’ Of course, it didn’t take Condé Nast too long to cotton on to the fact that they had given birth to a substantial commercial entity. They broke a cardinal rule and personalized the first of their models: Jean Shrimpton, alias the Shrimp.

“Stamp,” she said. “There is something I want to tell you.”
I couldn’t think of anything I’d done to give offence.
“Do I need to sit down?” I joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere which was curling the hair on my neck.
“You may, if you please,” she said, like a teacher of English grammar.
I hunched into the matching armchair by the big fireplace. . . . Silence. I realized she was waiting for my attention.
“I know you’re bad with girls. Into one night stands and that. I just want you to know. I don’t care.” She looked down. “I like you, that’s all.”

I kissed her. It could have been my first kiss. I felt as though I'd reached home.

“Stamp. There is something.”
“Don’t commit yourself.”
“Almost anything.”

I could say I was dazzled by wealth, success and fame, but, actually, it was one of those occasions when I knew full well what I wanted to do, while simultaneously doing the opposite, as though my so-called free will was being overrid.

I kept enquiring every few minutes whether she was all right. Jean, exasperated, finally drew attention to it.
“Please don’t keep asking me. I’ve said I am.”

“Are you all right?” I’d asked. Am I all right is what I’d meant.

Unable to contemplate life without her, I pushed her away.

Sometimes driving aimlessly, even asleep in dream, I find myself taking the turn off Sunset Boulevard heading south on San Diego freeway, towards LA Airport, on my way to meet the flight that brought her to me. With a start, I realize it’s only a play of shadows falling on the mind, and ashes of memory dry my mouth. I feel the chasm open in my chest. It is there, the heart concealed within the heart, an emptiness inside me that mourns, that seeps darkness into my daily existence. I grope towards the ache I’ve buried alive which constantly smoulders, in the hope of sealing up the ancient state, but it won’t forget the moment it glowed and longs to be rekindled. To be warm. To come home.

All quotes from Double Feature, copyright © Terence Stamp 1989

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