Donna in the Senior Year Ch. 01
[Other women mentioned in this story are Charlotte (Lioness Limousine), Michelle (First Day of Class) and Judy (The Ravishment of Young Judy): those stories take place in 1975-76.]
Sometimes a girlfriend just walks into one's life when one is not making an active effort to find one. In fact, during my college years, all the girls I met seemed to appear that way. I did want girlfriends but I often lacked the motivation and perhaps confidence to seek out one. Then in a period of less than a year four of them emerged from the mass of students at the City College of New York. The first one picked me up on the central avenue running through the campus. Then it just seemed just as easy - and quick - to lose all of them.
Thus I went into my senior year alone again for the first time since I had been a freshman. I was bothered by that but a lassitude had come over me as I faced the last year of college. That joke I often heard about various schools - "I went there to get out" - seemed more appropriate than ever.
His 1976 party was in one of those bland post-war apartment houses that line the streets of middle-class Queens. At least the place was cleaner than the previous one. After about an hour the party itself was a bit of a letdown. Maybe I'm becoming jaded at the advanced age of twenty-one. My friends from college were there as well some of Warren's friend's from his Queens youth. I suspected that a few friends of friends had crashed the event as usual but no one seemed to care.
My host couldn't afford the electric bill for air conditioning so at nine P.M. the apartment was still warm and humid. I limited myself to white wine for the time being and had just finished my second glass of it.
In my pensive mood I considered the nature of college parties: plastic cups for glasses, British progressive rock bands on the stereo. That kind of thing seemed like a novelty when I was a freshman, but now I was looking for something more adult I supposed although I couldn't quite imagine what that would be like. Even The Salient newspaper, which had been so central to my life for three years, lacked interest for me now. Just two more semesters, maybe eight courses, and I'll be out. Jesus, then I'll have to get a real job I guess.
What was the big deal with this song anyway? The one thing I wasn't ruminating about was women. Yet at that moment one walked into the kitchen, a girl I had never seen before. She was a late arrival, she seemed to be alone and she had obviously come in here to get a drink. I noticed she was wearing a beret which seemed a bit unusual for the Sunday before Labor Day.
She looked askance at me as she said, "You're quite the Beau Brummell; I see you're dressed to kill tonight."
Two years earlier I probably would have flubbed my response with something like it's hot today or this is all I've got or even so that's what you think. My previous ladies had all been smart - and in fact they were smart-asses at times - so I was able to improvise something.
She laughed at that. Then she made a little gesture indicating herself; go ahead, have another look.
I looked at her body but I tried not to be too obvious about it. She wasn't slender but she wasn't curvy either - more like straight, level if those words made sense. But I indeed liked what I was seeing.
"If you're buying, then sure."
I looked at the wine bottle, hoping for some inspiration for a quip, but I couldn't find anything. It was from some vineyard in the Napa Valley of California. "At least it has a cork," I said and then I poured for her. Then my worrying side came to the fore and I thought, what if she just says, "Nice to meet you" and then she goes into another room? Following her would be a hopelessly lame gesture if that happened
I had a little jump in my nervous system. Okay, so she came here to Flushing from someplace else, ostensibly for this uninspiring party, and the first thing she wants to do is talk to me. What does she want: to flirt a bit or just toy with me for a lack of anything better to do? I had to shake myself out of that. Don't over think it, just see what happens.
"So are you one of the City College people?"
"Actually I go to Manhattan College." That was an important fact; despite its name it was in the Bronx, perhaps two miles from my home. I decided to not mention that just yet. She continued, "I'm Donna, Donna Azzato. Despite my name, I'm actually half Italian and half Jewish." She leaned forward slightly, "So you get two princesses for the price of one."
She laughed, "You've got that right!" I suspected she had used that line before and I was the first one to have a plausible comeback. She had certainly verified the details of the ethnic identity I had already surmised.
She finished her drink and said, "I could use a refill. How about something stronger?"
I pondered the question and then it hit me that something like that must have happened to her before; a guy making some time with her at a party had his current sweetheart walk in at a later point. I responded, "No, I don't have one coming later." I knew enough to be vague about whether or not I had any girlfriend out there. I continued, "How about you, do you have a boyfriend arriving later?"
Then she looked out the window and said, "The dating scene does get kind of - I don't know, I guess it's better than sitting around doing nothing."
And then I was struck by very intense sexual thoughts about her. These seemed to arrive completely unbidden. The sequence went: I haven't been dating since June, she hasn't been since who knows when, but we haven't been doing nothing - obviously we've been masturbating. Then I visualized her, right there in her kitchen chair, with her skirt up and one of her hands deep inside her underpants.
I did have a great time in my sophomore and junior years, especially for a period when I had three of them going at once. It was also painful to be dropped by them, especially when two of them - they were friends of each other - left me in a single month.
On Labor Day weekend 1976 one of my college newspaper colleagues, another senior named Warren, held a party at his apartment in Flushing, Queens. When I had first attended one of his summer events two years earlier I had been totally inexperienced in matters of love and sex and almost as naive about alcohol. That had been in his first apartment; it was on the second floor of an old wooden house about a mile from my home in the Bronx. It was an unpleasant night for me as first I got sick and puked out a window - too much Southern Comfort among other things - and then I walked home in a semi-blackout rather than waiting forever for an owl service bus.
People drank and talked; I knew that somebody would introduce some joints soon. Pot and booze didn't really go together in my opinion but it seemed to be a popular combination at that time. I was just young and foolish enough to hope that some harder drugs would eventually come my way but fortunately none ever did. That was a period when a lot of people still had misconceptions about how dangerous cocaine and other substances could be.
Warren had put on an Emerson, Lake and Palmer album that he always played at his parties and I thought this was a good time to go to the kitchen for a refill. It was pleasant to be alone in there; Warren had set up a couple of table lamps so the overhead fluorescents weren't turned on. The window was wide open so there was a breeze coming in that made it a bit cooler then the stuffy living room. I decided to sit in there next to the bottle-laden table and be by myself for a few minutes.
Soon the Gypsy Queen In a glaze of Vaseline Will perform on guillotine What a scene, what a scene
She glanced at the bottles and then she looked at me sitting in the corner by the window. I had to remind myself, don't break eye contact with her. She put a hand on the table and leaned on it. I could have just said hello but I sensed that it would be better to let her have the first word.
That was a good one. It was a put-down but I was impressed anyway. I never had a knack for clothes and in any case I didn't have the money to make up for that lack. My outfit consisted of a t-shirt, blue jeans and high-top Converse sneakers. In addition, like most of the guys my age, I was in dire need of a haircut. There was some kind of lingering post-hippie idea that messy hair was cool.
"Well, I could say the same thing about you."
I gave myself a couple of moments for this assessment. She was obviously one of the multitude of New York ethnic girls. The Girls of Ellis Island ; Playboy should do a pictorial with the female descendants of immigrants. Even my WASPy ex-girlfriend Charlotte had seemed ethnic after several years in the city. Like Charlotte, Donna was dark-haired and wore glasses. Her hair was trimmed shorter than was common for that time.. She was simply but neatly dressed with a pullover top, a skirt and sandals.
Then I said, "Can I get you a drink?"
Of course all the liquor had been donated by the party goers. She held out a cup and said, "I'll have whatever you're having."
But she didn't leave; she pulled out a chair and placed it opposite me. She sat down and crossed her legs.
She didn't gulp her wine but she didn't sip it either. I had seen people do that at social functions and I had done it myself: get some alcohol in right at the beginning.
"Right, I'm on one of the papers with Warren."
"And, eventually, just one queen."
I introduced myself and then we had some student chitchat about courses and majors and so forth. Later on in life I would find that people talked about their jobs, then even later it was their houses, lawn maintenance, their mutual funds.
I was in need of one too. "A vodka and tonic, that seems about right." To my twenty-one-year old self that seemed like a sophisticated drink. She assented and I had to stand up to do my bartender act. When it was done she sampled her drink and said, "Don't mind me for asking, but you don't have a girlfriend coming here later, do you?"
She gave me some mock scoffing, "No, of course not, I wouldn't do anything like that." Yeah, baby, prove it. But that cynical thought melted away as she smiled at me again.
What should I do now, propose myself as an alternative? But Donna was still looking at the Queens night so I let my mind process things. Maybe she was just thinking out loud.
This dry spell has only been two months but it feels like a year. I've got to take this down a notch or I'll overplay it. I decided to momentarily distract myself but I wound up having sexual thoughts about someone else. It wasn't a fantasy, it was a memory of a real event with my first girlfriend Andrea about two years earlier. On our second date we were parked at night in her car. She decided to pull out a hairbrush and she used it to masturbate in front of me. For some reason she wanted my virginal self to witness what a female orgasm looked like. It had been quite a show, the best kind of real-world sex education.