i wrote this today - it is kind of inspired by Judy and the Dream of Horses by Belle and Sebastian and is my first attempt at writing from a male perspective.
Judy arrived when I was 17. Just like that, turned up in my English literature class, long legs in a denim mini skirt, small waist and shoulders in a stripy jumper, hair in a bob and those dreamy brown eyes that made me wonder.
“I'm Judy,” she said, her higher pitched voice not suiting her husky look. “Can I sit here?”
I nodded and we opened our copies of Measure to Measure.
I wanted to be her friend, that was clear from the start.
“What do you think about Mariana?” she asked, just like that. “Sex object plot device or fully formed character?”
I shrugged. I didn't know. I got all confused by her use of the word sex.
“I'm Steven,” I replied. “I like your top.”
She shrugged back. “Thanks, it's old.” Then a pause. “Sorry, I do that. People pay me a compliment and I have to semi refuse it.”
“It's ok. It's fine, really.” I wasn't sure what she meant, but I knew I wanted to make her feel ok about whatever it was she was apologising for.
When she smiled at me I knew that it was. Ok.
This, of course, was ten years ago, nearly as long as it has been since I saw Judy. But she's the one you don't forget.
That day Judy and I hung out at break and lunch time together. I found out that she had moved from the other side of town and had moved schools with it, “coz, you know, it's a pain all that travelling. But it's a pain moving schools too. Not that, like, there was much nice going on in the old school.” She would roll her own cigarettes and smoke them like a beatnik. I didn't smoke, but was happy to watch her smoke them. There was something ancient in her, and when she smoked her cigarettes you would notice it more. Sometimes she would wear this black hat that looked old, and when she wore it, she looked even more like a beatnik. She didn't look like anyone else I knew, or had known up until that point. She didn't look like the girls in school, or the girls that I saw around. She looked like Judy.
“What do you like doing?” I asked that day, clinging on to the teenage vernacular that I knew was the questioning uniform.
“You know, the usual,” she had replied. “I like reading, I like reading a lot.”
“Cool,” I nodded. “Reading. So, you like Measure for Measure?”
“Yeah, it's ok, you know? I like the fact that people were writing about sexual politics so early on. But I guess I'm not sure about the angel whore thing, you know? Like, that seems a bit, I don't know, I guess it's a signifier of the period.”
I didn't know. But I could see it was something Judy had thought about, and something we hadn't yet covered in class.
“What books do you like reading?” I asked, hoping I wasn't too obviously glossing over with my ignorance of the questions about sexual politics in the Shakespearean era. “I like reading,” I added lamely.
“Hmm.” she seemed distracted. “Yeah. I like, you know, a lot, a range of things really. I'm reading Kurt Vonnegut at the moment, Slaughterhouse 5. And I read Catch 22 recently.” She took a long drag from her cigarette. “Sounds a bit war obsessed I guess!”
I laugh. “It's cool.”
That night I dreamt about Judy. We were walking in a park and she held my hand. She whispered in my ear and told me about her life and about all the secrets that she had never told anyone else, all the secrets girls have that they never tell us because we are scared we won't understand. I learnt about her body and her thoughts and the tales she had learnt from the books she had read. We went through the woods and she whispered her desires and I held her in my arms and her life in my hands, her bobbed hair falling over my shoulder as I kissed her neck and when I kissed her mouth it was like all her secrets entered my body and I could hold her inside me forever. Against the bark of the trees and the leaves on the ground we held each other and I knew that Judy would be with me forever, because I knew all her secrets.
In the morning I woke up and groaned because I knew some how I had to get the sheets changed again and it was so frustrating.
My friendship with Judy blossomed as she played me Sonic Youth, and I taught her Beatles chords on the guitar. She lent me Catch 22 and I lent her Iain Banks. She showed me the Breakfast Club and I showed her The Godfather. She smoked her cigarettes like a beatnik and I watched her smoke them, and sometimes we'd drink rum and whisky and giggle, smoking a joint, like children, telling funny stories and laughing at jokes that aren't funny but that were funny at the time.
“Have you had sex?” she asked me once, bluntly. “I mean, if you don't mind me asking.”
I did, I did mind. But it was Judy, and the question in her mouth seemed no different than if she was asking “Do you have a pet?” or “Have you ever climbed a mountain?”. I looked at the floor. We were sitting in the park, smoking a joint.
I can't remember my exact words. A lot of mumbling, wells you knows what I mean is wells you knows.
She smiled sweetly, in this way she had when she felt sorry for causing embarrassment but was kind of amused by the chaos she had caused with it all at the same time, and wasn't sure how to recreate the sense of peace that we had had a moment before.
“Sorry, I'm a nosy parker.”
The archaic phrase and her beatnik face made me laugh, and I remembered how I knew all her secrets and so she could know that I hadn't had sex, that knowing Judy she already knew.
“I have,” she replied. “Once, when I was fourteen.” She took a drag on her cigarette. “I haven't done it since. I don't know if I should have done it then.”
I tried to imagine Judy when she was 14, but I couldn't see her being any different. She seemed, so much herself, so much the essence of herself, that she was probably as Judy when she was 10, or 4 as she was now, at 17. When I was 14 I had felt halfway between everything, now that I was 17 I probably think this is ok but things will change again. Judy was eternal. She was Judy in the fifties, she was Judy in the twenties, she was Judy in the 1800s.
My friendship with Judy was raising eyebrows and causing comment amongst the boys in loose jeans and tight t-shirts and the girls in tight jeans and tight t-shirts, in the natural order where a boy and girl were not friends in the school yard, where drinking and laughing together could only ever mean the precursor to sex, and Judy would laugh and say how silly, all this obsession with sex because we are the opposite sex, when we could easily have sex with the same gender, and I would laugh and feign nonchalance and then go home and hold her memory in my head until I came.
“Have you fucked her yet?” the tallest and broadest guy in the class asked me, as his girlfriend, all spray on clothes and spray on tan and high giggling insecurity, laughed and flicked her hair. “She's hot man.”
“Really,” his girlfriend asked, her flicking and shimmying and preening suddenly edged with fear.
“Yeah, different you know. Different, but fit.”
She fell back, biting her fingernails nervously, pulling on the ends of her hair.
“We're just friends,” I murmur. “Nothing like that, just friends.” But I suddenly understood the bragging need, the desire to say she was my piece of ass, that I fucked her in all which ways, that she worshipped me and would suck my cock at will. Even though I would never think I was the kind of boy to want that, that I was never the kind of boy to say those things.
“I had a dream about a horse,” she told me, and I wanted to tell her that I had a dream about her, that every night it would be a dream about her.
I kissed Judy, one day, about six months after she turned up. We were sitting in the park, as we always were, she talking and me listening, agreeing, about books and films and music and the staple diet of the “alternative” teenager conversation. She was looking straight at me, straight at my eyes and I knew that all I wanted, all I could ever want, was for Judy to look at me like that forever. Her hair, her eyes, her body so nervously sitting in her summer dress, a smudge of eye-liner and a twist in her lips, the lips that seemed to contain all the knowledge I wanted, all the stories I wanted to hear. I leaned over and clumsily kissed her lips, my virgin softness against her female softness. She caressed my lips with hers, and let them stay there. I reached for her hungrily, and placed my hands on her waist, on her breasts, and her body became a place for my hands to lie upon. I wanted so desperately to lay her on the grass and slide my hands inside the skirt of her dress and allow myself to be enveloped inside her, that inside her I would be safe, and free. But I was too nervous. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what she wanted. So I just kissed her.
She stood up and started dancing. She was singing Into the Groove by Madonna and danced, the sun setting behind her. Against the background of the park, my mouth still wet from her lips, dancing to the tune she sang, was Judy.