So I learned to make shirts.
By hand or with a sewing machine.
I met Lisa’s parents. And her brother.
And some of their friends.
And I got to spend some time on her boat.
She and her family
lived aboard a forty-foot, junk-rigged ketch
anchored off North Bay.
And I learned that my world
didn’t end where the water began.
I learned that my world
ended at the fabric of Lisa’s shirt.
Sitting on a deserted dock
at sunset, necking, I squeezed
Lisa’s breast through her shirt.
I said, “I can’t believe this occurs
to me now, but someone asked me
what fabric you used to make
these shirts. We couldn’t figure it out.
We thought, cotton, yeah, but
smooth as silk and colored deep,
beautiful, like I don’t know what.”
Lisa laughed, low and throaty.
She leaned back against my shoulder.
“You and shirts,” Lisa said.
“Do you know what the word fetish means?”
She laughed. “My father calls it
Peruvian cotton,” she said.
“We get it from a village
near the coast in central Peru.
A few families there still practice
some very ancient secrets.
The seeds and growing techniques
of the colored cotton. Weaving
the fabric with hundreds of strands per inch.
Good stuff. Pretty. Tough.”
I felt the fabric of my shirt.
“I can’t believe it,” I said.
“I can’t believe big designers
or some big corporations
don’t mass-market this stuff.
How can anyone keep it secret?”
Lisa shrugged. “Good secrets keep themselves.
I wouldn’t tell. My dad
wouldn’t tell.” Lisa put her arm around me.
“And a guy who
likes shirts as much as you like shirts
wouldn’t tell. Would you?” she asked.
I thought about it. Then I shrugged.
“I guess not,” I said. “Not if
the people down in Peru
didn’t want anyone to know.”
Lisa stared closely at my face,
smiled deeply and pushed me down.
“Good secrets keep themselves,” she said.
“See? Good secrets keep themselves.”
A couple of days
after our make-out session on the pier
Lisa and I sat laughing
in my small apartment watching
professional wrestling show on television.
“In grade school,” I said,
“I used to think this stuff really worked. Once
in a fight a kid knocked me down
and got on top of me. I
didn’t worry because I figured
I could just arch my back
and flip him off, the way the TV wrestlers do.
Nope. Didn’t work.
That guy pounded on me
till a teacher finally pulled him off.”
“No relationship exists,” Lisa explained,
Even a funhouse mirror can only
reflect something in front of it.
But television can show
can show anything. Anything.”
Then Lisa said something
that took me completely by surprise.
“We cruise with the summer,” Lisa said.
“Tuesday, we set sail south.”
(“Kings And Queens Of The Ancient Seas” concludes tomorrow)