was an only child in a big house, so it wasnât likely anyone had overheard. The house was so solidly built that it ate sound.
âI love you, Maggie, and I want to marry you.â
Saying the words made him dizzy. He thought he must be leaving his childhood, shedding it like a carapace. And suddenly he felt so open, so soft and unprotected, that he had to sit down on the edge of his bed.
He never repeated the words to Maggie. He cannot remember many of their conversations, but certainly he did not. He did not use the vocabulary of longing, because there was nothing unrequited in their relationship. Nothing unconsummated. He had everything he wanted before he knew what that was.
She did once say, âGreen, if you were twenty-one, I would marry you.â
She was peeing when she said it, in the pink bathroom attached to her bedroom, in the fur-trade house. Her parents were in Laguna Beach, California â they flew everywhere for free. Maggie and Green had just had sex in the basement and she had shown him the gun slits. Green pulled out handfuls of pink insulation fibre and peered through a narrow opening between the stones. It was dark, so he could not see the lake very well, but he could smell the water. He pressed his mouth and nose right up against the slit so that his cheekbones were touching cold, sharp rubble, and he breathed in the darkness and moisture, the scent of Indians, muskets, and fur.
He could imagine himself inside her skin, feeling what she felt, and so he understood how to touch her. How roughly, how softly, with what rhythm, and for how long.
It did not seem strange that she should pee in front of him, so unembarrassed, with her underwear crumpled in a ball beside the sink. It did not seem strange to be so intimate with a twenty-one-year-old woman.
And when she said that she would have married him if he were twenty-one, he understood she was not being serious. Marriage was as unlikely as a visit to Mars or a walk on the moon.
He used to have a Polaroid snapshot that showed half a dozen young people sitting on a diving board at the club. Maggie and Green were both in the Polaroid, but not sitting together, and no one seeing the photo would ever think of them as a couple. Green was just a boy, sunburnt and squinting, Maggie a wry, pretty young woman. Nothing in the photo connected them, but that was the night it had started, in the parking lot on the lake side of the road.
He doesnât know why she chose him, what role he was playing in her life that summer, if he was standing in for someone else or representing something, or if she was just a girl who got excited breaking rules. Screwing one of the older boys around the club would have been breaking the rules, but a pretty ordinary infraction. Screwing Green was more dangerous, though it was difficult for Green to see himself in those terms. At fourteen he was shy and polite â âwell brought up,â people at the club would say.
Perhaps she was looking for danger, but in a regulated dose. Danger that she knew she could handle. That was Green. She could handle him perfectly.
She did try to get him to dance at the club, but he would not, afraid of looking ridiculous. Not that the club dances were extravagant or formal, as they had been in his motherâs era. On the Lakeshore in 1968, barefoot girls and boys in madras shorts hopped and shook to the call of a record player set up on the concrete patio by the club pool. There were bowls of potato chips, hamburgers on a grill, ice chests of Cokes, and Green, who was neither young enough nor old enough to feel at his ease.
Just the summer before he had built a diorama of the Normandy invasion on the Ping-Pong table in the basement, meticulously hand-painting hundreds of miniature troops and constructing the cliffs of Normandy from bricks, screen mesh, and plaster of Paris. He used matchboxes for German pillboxes and more plaster of Paris for the ocean. He painstakingly