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TORNADO men inclined place undue emphasis


Purple Tornado
By David Lawrence

Lend me your eyes and I'll tell you a tale; a true one, actually, about a
friend of mine and a time past that will not return. Not a tale really, but
a series of snapshots, impressions, memories. So as an apology for a lack of
structure I can only plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the
court, asking only that the jury agree that plot must sometimes yield to

I had heard of Shelley before I met her. I remember a conversation with a
female friend who could not believe her honesty was not part of some deep
unfathomable manipulation, and some mention of her by a man who could not
believe that someone so easily touched was in the end so untouchable. But I
only remember these fragments because of what happened later, and my first
encounter was an experience for which I was completely unprepared.

I can show you the place where the bar I met her used to be, but it's gone
now, replaced I believe by an appliance store. It was quite awhile ago, long
enough for me to be a little unsure of the exact year, and a little
reluctant to really think hard about it. But I do remember going in for a
beer with two friends of mine, not planning to look for women or even stay
more than an hour or so. But we were in our mid-twenties, and believed
ourselves ready for just about anything.

An average night inside; music a little too loud for my tastes, tiny dance
floor crowded with wiggling and jerking hopefuls. We found a table in the
corner, ordered a pitcher and proceeded to moan and groan in the way people
do when they are really quite fortunate but don't know enough to appreciate
it. I think the pitcher was about three fourths gone when a voice in my ear
whispered "I've got someone here you'd be interested to meet". It was Lee
Ann, a friend and coworker, who was the whisperer. As I turned to meet her
friend, my eyes met two bright blue ones, framed by close cropped brown hair
and a smile whose genuine happiness it would be illegal, immoral and
impossible to doubt.

"This is Shelley. Shelley, this is a man you ought to know".


Oh my. A pretty face on a short but athletic body, with a chest that would
elict a sympathetic wink from Dolly Parton, and all manner of crude
proposals from men inclined to place undue emphasis on that part of female
anatomy. But it is the smile that I remember.

I think we talked a little, everyone was introduced, and I found myself
invited to dance, something I don't do well. It is supposed by the ignorant
that skill at dancing corresponds to skill at making love, a belief that in
her case was true and in my case not, for as I stumbled to keep up with her
I was thankful the floor was too crowded for my ineptitude to draw
attention. I found her attractive, and hoped this dance was not some kind of

But I feared it was, as I took her leave and returned to my seat, not really
caring that much, talking with my friends. It was, on the whole, a very
ordinary and unexceptional night, so far. The second pitcher (or was it the
third?) gradually disappeared as occasionally I watched her dancing
inexhaustibly with a succession of would-be Juans most of whom looked to my
jaundiced eye like they would pay just about any reasonable price for a ride
on that short sweet roller coaster this particular night. Alas for the human
condition. I wondered if we would stay long enough for me to see who the
winner would be.
Much later, almost time to leave, and unexpectantly the vision appears again
before me. Those eyes, that smile again. I smile back, wondering, as she
says with an inflection hard to describe here but impossible to forget:

"You...are coming...with me!".

Ye gods. I briefly consider making an excuse, any excuse, but the lower
angels of my nature remind me of the shortness of life, and so I take her
offered hand and stand up, glancing back at the astonished eyes of my
compatriots. A throat-clearing noise from my housemate reminds me of a
slight transportation difficulty, and with a coolness that amazes me even
now I hand him my car keys and trust that transportation for my adventure
will be provided by the lady of the evening.

It will. But not point A to point B. Up, down, over, around, through, and
beyond. No time for stopping, no pauses allowed. Through no merit of your
own but through a whim you have been selected:
Welcome to the Tornado.
...Gliding through the night in her maroon Monte Carlo, windows down, roof
open. We both live in a small, rich little resort town, I on the outskirts,
she in the middle, apparantly. Neither one of us close to rich, but we live
there anyway.

A little talk over the noise of the wind. Her passions are Passion and Golf,
not necessarily in that order. Life is too short to waste time. She's trying
out for the LPGA tour again in a month (she flunked out once already, but
just barely). She hands me a perfectly rolled joint, lights one up herself.

Funny, it must be later than I thought; the streets seem practically
deserted, mercifully.

Screeching to a sudden halt under a streetlight at an intersection.

Monte Carlo in the middle of the street. No one else in sight. "Let's
dance!" she whoops.

"Uh, let's don't and say we did..."

"C'mon outta there".

I'm under the light, dancing with her, beginning to forget sanity, a
nice condition when it's temporary and if you were born lucky.

We must have gotten back in the car, somehow. No police in sight. Amazing.
Born lucky. But, is it temporary?

...Bursting into her apartment, door banging. I wonder about the neighbors.
What time is it anyway? In her bedroom, very clearly in the darkness, she
opens some blinds slightly and the light makes zebra patterns across the
bed. Soft red light from the gallium arsenide outside. Big smile that it's
hard not to love.

Zebra patterns across our bodies, lying there, exploring. She slows down the
frenetic pace, a relief. Soft raindrop sounds of kisses go on and on, and
then with legs across me the sound of a drawer opening.

"Be still now." she says, and wraps a soft blindfold around my eyes.

"Have you ever done this?".

No. The room swims a little as darkness takes away the zebras. I await her
touch, and get smells instead. Flowers, roses, the milky scents of flesh,
and then seashells. Lots of seashells. I'm floating on the ocean, but retain
the discipline to paddle blindly, and eventually she howls above me. She is
not a silent maker of love. Again I wonder about the neighbors, but decide
they can move if they don't like it. Alas for the human condition.

It's a funny thing about pleasure; no matter how intense, you can't really
remember it. You can remember what happened, remember the details, imagine
it re-happening, but you can't really remember the physical sensations. It's
probably best so for the progress of the human race. But I do remember
somewhere in there realizing that I was not an entirely silent maker of love

Two zebras asleep in the night, exhausted by their exertions. Or at least
one of them is. The other is up and in the shower as the sun begins to
lighten the sky.

"No time to waste. Got to hit a few buckets of balls.".

I'm not fully awake by the time she's at the door. "Want to go home or stay
here? Or come with me?" she offers. "Garrgh. Do you ever sleep?" I mumble.

"Well, not usually more than a couple of hours a night. Sleep is such a
waste of time!".

"Do you mind if I stay then?" I moan.

"Not at all." as she closes the door. No car. I crawl back under the covers.
Glad it's a small town, only about 2 miles to my house. I could call Matt to
come and get me. Or stay here and see what happens.

Temporary surcease from the Tornado.

Back home, I reflected and knew this would not last; that I was just one of
many, and half-seriously I was glad. My candle was only meant to burn at one
end. Better to just chalk the night up to a nice memory and otherwise forget
about it.

But no: the phone rings the next day.

That voice, quick; and low for a woman's. "Can you meet me after work?
Downtown at the offices. The big white brick building. Yeah, I work there.
In Data Processing. See ya! Looking *forward* to it!". The "forward"
emphasized. She has a way of putting the emphasis on unusual words in a

She's a programmer, like me. We meet, get to know one another. Eat out,
where she makes a terrific mess, and seems not to notice. She tells me
anything, more than I want to know. Never slowing very much, but I am
charmed in spite of myself, and wonder what she finds attractive in a
laid-back type such as myself. But, take my word for it, these things are
generally best left unanalyzed.

Later, darkness comes and we make more zebras, with candlelight variations.
Different configurations, and I'm amazed at the surprizing and extravagant
emotions the human tongue can evoke both aurally and sensually. One night we
bang over to my house, in the Monte Carlo, find Matt with a girl, and roar
away. Later the next day I find my way home again. He greets me.

"Where's the Purple Tornado?".

I smile.

I know not what I am in these days. It is beyond lust, but is surely not
love. Or is it? What is love, anyway? Some say it is Trouble, and that I
feel I am not very far from whenever I meet her. But the beat goes on.

I find other women do not like her, despise her in fact, mostly. She has few
true friends, though she is incredibly friendly. The price you pay, I
suppose, when you make your own rules and flaunt the unspoken and unwritten
rules of others, however innocently. True freedom is an ugly sight to the
self-enslaved. Most men want her because she has a sexy body and is well
known as Easy. But this is no way to have friends either, being perpetually
used. She is an enigma to me. Always moving, but with so little direction.
Such lack of control is usually associated with stupid people, but she is
anything but stupid. Is it an act, a game? To what purpose?

I am warned against her by friends, but proceed blindly.

Truth is, I just can't help but hang around to see what will happen next.

As time passes, we drift apart, then together. There is something in me she
values. Maybe that it's that I'm willing to accept her without judgement or
manipulation. That's easy to do, it helps me to keep what I believe to be a
safe distance. But still, something in her seems to induce stupidity in me
sometimes. I remember leaving a watering hole at closing time, wee in the
morning. I was high, but she was drunk. I wanted to drive, she insisted.

"I've been in wrecks, totalled cars. You haven't. You don't know what it's
like. I am the safer driver!". She insists.

We start to my house. At least it's late, not many cars, and I live out in
the outskirts. I shudder at my stupidity as I write this. I realize she'll
never make it; we'll never make it in one piece. We compromise, I will take
the steering wheel, she will take the pedals. I try to drive straight, with
my left hand, giving her directions on when to brake and accelerate. Every
tree, every ditch we pass is a triumph. Thank the merciful gods, no cars to
be seen.

We reach the house at last, thorough the gate and onto the long dirt
driveway. She guns the car in celebration, and we land in the shallow
roadside ditch. We stagger in the house, and make wild love on the floor. As
we do, I remember thinking: Never Again.

Well, not exactly. Never say never. Still, we agree on driving home rules,
but she breaks them and I am angry. She has one DUI already and is caught
again later that month. The authorities are not pleased, but these are days
before MADD and the public outcry, so she gets by with warnings, fines, and
threats of jail.

But I am not sympathetic, and we drift apart. She sees others, I see others.
We remain friends, which is easy because that's all we really were anyway.
But what scares me is, I miss the thrill. The edge of not knowing what is
coming next.

"Let's get a coke!". She lunges into MacDonalds in the maroon Monte Carlo.
Other people drive, but Shelley lunges. It's a personality thing. The rest
of us, whoever happens to be with her, just hold on.

There's a line at the driveup window, but she ignores this, pulling around
all of them up to the actual handout window which is empty at the moment.
Orders a coke, full of smiles.

Stony stares from the staff inside.

"It'll only take a sec. No one will have to wait. Here's the money. Keep the
change!". Makes perfect sense to her.

"NO." I hear the girl at the window bark. "MOVE YOUR CAR".

For some reason, I seem facinated by some piece of fluff on the floor.
Cheerfully, she drives off, back on the road.

"Worth a try!" she says. "Were you embarrassed? Why?".

Well, there are rules, and there are rules...and secretly, like you gentle
reader, I hate them but know they are necessary. But still, I miss the
thrill of someone who challenges them daily.

Time passes, she moves out of town, gets fired from her job, makes money by
hustling the dumb-smart-male-macho-yankee golf tourists at the Country Club.
Tries for the LPGA, misses again. Meets lovers, rejects lovers. Breaks her
collarbone in a bicycle accident. Gets bitten by a rattlesnake and nearly
dies. The usual stuff. Calls me and I visit.

We comfort each other, make love very, very occasionally.

She is lonely. Has any lover she wants, and is lonely. "It's too bad we
never had a real romantic relationship" she says one day to me.

"I just like being friends" I think I replied.

"Still," she says wistfully, "it could develop, couldn't it?". I make
no real reply.

Could it? Should it? Ah, the Road Not Taken.
Then, in some way at some time she Gets Religion. She's discovered the local
church in a tiny town where she lives now about ten miles from the Golf
Capital of the World. She invites me to church. I am not a church goer, but
I accept. I accept because of the wonder of it all, the wonder at the
limitless possibilities of the human mind. She's now a Presbyterian.

I arrive the night before, we drink, make love. I notice a schedule she has
meticulously drawn up, trying to organize her life:

6am - 9am : hit balls.
9am - 12 : play golf
Sunday: Church
12 - 1pm : lunch, nap?
2pm - 5pm : Find partners, play golf.
6pm - 7pm : free, choir practice
8pm - ?? : Dinner, cook?
10pm - 3am: drink, smoke pot, fuck
3am - 6am : sleep

Organization is a wonderful thing.

It's Sunday morning, we make love in the shower getting ready for church. We
try it standing up, but wind up on our knees, me behind her. I'm not quick,
and the hot water runs out just as we both come. Leaping out, shivering,

"God never said you couldn't have fun!" she chirps. Matter for eclesiastical
debate, eh?

We smoke pot on the way to the service.

Stoned, she sings in the choir. Stoned, I listen. She does not sing
particularly well, but makes up for it with enthusiasm. It would be illegal,
immoral, and impossible to doubt her sincerity. She prays with the same
fervor she makes love. If God does not understand this and welcome her to
heaven when her time comes, then I have been personally worshipping the
wrong God for all my born years. She would like for me to be a Presbyterian
too. But no, not yet.

The church is collecting aluminum for recycling. You just bring your bags of
cans to the preacher's house, and he takes it from there. She contributes,
we pack gigantic bags of empty beer cans into the Monte Carlo and deliver
them with that characteristic smile. The preacher smiles too, back at us. I
think he understands, I really do.

She invites me back to church, but I do not go.

No boundaries. When I first heard this term, years later, I thought
naturally of her. The rest of us live within our own fences, fortunantly for
society at large, but if she had any they were far out on the horizon, out
of sight and out of mind. I thought there was a basic innocence that
redeemed her, at least to me, but others did not agree and at one time or
another, usually quickly, she offended or alienated almost all my other

Eventually, I moved away, but not so very far away. She would visit
sometimes, and sometimes I would find some freelance work for her, and this
would occasion a meeting or two. I found a woman, and she began to glimpse
some fences, and the world seemed to be slowly but irreversably changing.

Dinner conversation, I remember it well, in a restaurant in Chapel Hill:

"You know, the bible condemns adultery. It says that adultery is any sex
outside marriage.". She seemed disturbed.

"Well," I replied, "these things are subject to individual interpretation.
In places, the same bible also prohibits eating pork and for women to attend
church with men."

This did not comfort. "You know, sex and golf are my two favorite things.
What will I do without sex?".

"It's your decision, not some preacher's. Get married?".

"Oh, I just don't know.".

She was genuinely perplexed and disturbed. Moral confusion, the precursor
of guilt, the killer of love.

Time passed, too much time for this short tale, only a tiny sliver of the
reality as I remember it, but maybe enough to give you the flavor.
Eventually, years later, we both got married -- but not to each other. She
has settled, ostensibly. With two children, a boy and a girl. Our separate
ways. Ah, the Road Not Taken. I must write her a letter -- it's been a year
since I last heard from her.

I wonder, did the rules win out after all?


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