We rarely got to see our relatives; they all lived over a thousand miles away. As a result I never became close to many of them, most were strangers to me, people I’d see maybe once a year for a few days during my childhood, less as time went on. The last time I visited any of them was twenty-five years ago. And people change over time, you know.
But there were a few relatives I came like a great deal, fewer still I came to love and treasure. One of those was my cousin.
I remember how happy I would be when we’d pull up to their house, knowing that I would be seeing her. She had long black hair, straight and shimmering in the Western sun, which ran all the way down to her waist, and her skin was a dusky tan, almost an earthy color. Her eyes were brown as coal, almost black, with long thick lashes set above a cutely upturned nose. How she got those characteristics when both her parents were pale white people is beyond me, and it didn’t matter, for I loved her beyond words. I remember us pulling up to her house one hot summer afternoon, the first visit of the summer, and hearing the screeching howls of a poorly played violin emanating from the house. “She’s taking violin lessons,” my mother explained as we got out of the hot, stuffy car. I took off running, and before I’d even reached the house, the sounds had stopped and she’d come out, smiling from ear to ear, her dark eyes dancing with happiness and affection. For she loved me, too, every bit as much as I loved her.
We’d spend hours in the basement of her house, kissing and hugging and doing all those things kissing cousins might do, and a few proper cousins would not dream of. This was no experimentation, no kids at play – we were passionate about each other, telling each other all our secrets, our troubles, our concerns. Sometimes we kissed with open mouths, and how well I remember the warmth of her, and her soft lips embracing mine. She knew I was having sex with the boys back home, but that didn’t bother her; indeed, being just children, neither of us understood the bad that was to come of it. All we were concerned about was each other, being with each other, and sharing the world between us, being in one another’s company.
I remember once we visited some relatives who I didn’t know. I think I was eight. It was a big party, perhaps a family reunion, and as is so often typical with such events, the children went off to play while the grownups stood around and talked, ignoring us. During this reunion a group of girls went down into a dark basement, and after awhile, invited us boys to come in.
The lights were off and the girls were all lined up against a damp brick wall, their pants all pulled down. They had us boys going around in the dark, ‘feeling’ them, touching their private parts, but there was only one I was seeking. My kissing cousin, my best friend, my lover and true confidant. Going from one to another, I touched them all as they had bid us, until I found her in the darkness. Touching her wet softness ‘down there’, she embraced me like a lover, and I stayed there with her until the girls, all giggling, hiked up their drawers and shooed us boys away. I don’t know why they did that with us; there were at least five or more girls, but there again, only one that held my interest, the one who had captured my heart.
Her family came down to visit us one summer when I was ten; her mother complaining about the heat, humidity, dirt and bugs, until they found us, me and her, in bed. I was on top of her, we were attempting to make love in a kid’s clumsy way; neither of us knew how, we only knew we wanted to do it, and do it with each other, our hearts beating with love. We could see no wrong in it – after all, we both knew we loved each other, and loved each other dearly – beyond words, like I said. Her mom and mine came in, interrupting us – I vaguely recalled shocked yelling and being roughly snatched from the bed, our confusion at their outrage at our expression of love – then some kind of punishment where everything turns black. I know what that means – nothing good, and I suspect I was severely beaten. They never came to visit us again, though we continued making those long trips west to see them.
I remember her and I sitting in her parent’s metal storage shed one hot summer day when I was eleven; the doors shut, the heat stifling, while my brother ran around outside. We discussed this thing I wanted to do – make love. But she was older and so was I, and because of my brother trying to peep in the windows, she decided that we should wait. To this day I sometimes curse my brother and his meddlesome nosy ways, for I’m sure that if we had, it would have been a moment I’d always cherish and treasure, even if she was my cousin, despite what society sees as wrong. That didn’t matter to me; it never did, for this was a girl I loved with all my heart and soul — more than anyone else I had ever loved before. It had always been that way, my love for her. And I had been having sex – being molested, if you will – for over five years, but with her my desire was different. It was more pure, based on a deep love instead of purely sex. If ever there was a soul mate, she was the one, the first one I ever met. But then again, I believe a person can have several soul mates, for there are many souls in heaven. But meeting them on this earth is a rare event, and sadly, only happens a few times in one’s life – if you are lucky.
Time passed, we moved overseas, and I didn’t see her again for years. I’d hear stories about her from my mother – how she got married, then divorced a few months later; her problems with drugs and hanging out with all the wrong friends. She got married a couple other times, and began putting on weight. She bore children but never held a job, or if she did, it was never long. She fell from the list of ‘favored’ relatives in my mom’s opinion, and fell onto my mom’s ‘shit list’.
I went out west once when I was in my early twenties, just to go and see her. She’d just gotten married again, and I met her new husband – a nice guy, but they were already having problems. But it was as if we’d never been apart, though we refrained from kissing anymore the way we had when we were children. She opened up her heart to me, and me to her, discussing the old times and the new. I remember us sitting in a park, her huge and voluminous, but her hair and eyes just the way I remembered them, beautiful to me. Strange – I have troubles emotionally bonding with obese people, but with her it never has made a difference. I guess I just love her too much for that. (My emotional troubles stem from other causes; personally I know what it is like to be overweight, having been there myself for some years. Not so much now.)
She ended up getting divorced again, became a classic welfare mom, bearing more and more children, until she had a pack of them. Then she went to jail for dealing drugs – again and again and again. She has lived the latter part of her life more behind bars than out of them, and she currently resides in a half-way house near the last prison where she was stationed. She does not do well on her own; she loves her kids (now all grown up) with a fiery passion, but she cannot shake her habits or live in an unstructured setting. I talked to her some years ago – about twenty – when my own marriage was facing stormy times due to my eldest stepdaughter. She advised me wisely, us falling into our old pattern on the phone, able to talk about our hearts and desires.
I still hear about her, mostly through the prejudiced eyes of my disapproving mother. According to my mom, my cousin was also deeply in love with her father, so much so that she wanted him in all the ways a woman can want a man, even as a young girl, despite it’s incestuous implications. Though I don’t know if he ever gave in (my mom says no, as if she could know), it apparently caused a lot of friction between her and her mother, both competing for the same man. Perhaps that is why she went through so many husbands – she was looking for a man just like the man she loved, her own father. Right or wrong, I don’t know. But I do know this: the heart knows no moral bounds. When it comes to love, and the love is strong enough, there is no wrong, there is only that bitter-sweet longing, that purity that knows no bounds. Such I think is the love between soulmates, no matter who or what they are. A love that transcends the laws of man.
If you can’t tell by now, I still love her. I often think about making that long, long drive out West, just to see her again, despite our circumstances, despite the amount of time which has passed. If we were to meet again, I know that we’d be able to talk openly about our hearts and loves, our trials and troubles, just like we always did. I don’t know why that is so; what it is about each other that brings this quality out in us, only that it has always been there, ever since the beginning. Sometimes I think perhaps in a previous life we weren’t just cousins. That we were made for each other in some magical, mystical way, but time, distance, and circumstances prevented what should have been from happening. I don’t know.
I just know that no matter the passing of time, the events in our lives, the changing of our ways and bodies, there is one thing that still endures.
And that is our love.
(Oct. 3, 2011: and here it is . . . Mikie is sad, very sad; his arms are reaching for her in his mind . . . Matthew is somber and hurt, but not too bad. M3? Okay – realizes people died every day – yesterday and beyond….
We would like to go to her funeral – still might, though it’s still a long way away, and there probably isn’t enough time. Meet her children; tell her how much we loved their mom – how especially special she was to us . . . but I doubt we’ll go . . . I don’t know . . . we’ll see.
But (and this is strange) – for despite not having seen her in so many years – we’re gonna miss her . . .
Kissin’ cousin Julie.
Girl with the dark hair . . .
the girl we loved first and foremost,
the girl who won’t be there . . . .