So, it’s Monday. I have a book hangover. My tea went from too-hot-to-drink, to so-cold-I-am-personally-affronted in the time it took me to perform the most basic of morning tasks. Weekend plans did not work out as planned, but there are no snooze buttons on Monday, so I’m here. Proper undergarments under sleep shirt and leggings mean that I am technically dressed. Concealer, lip gloss, and clear mascara/brow gel mean that I am technically wearing makeup. Hair is reasonably presentable, and there will be fragrance, because my brain knows that is the last thing I do before I am prepared to adult for the day. Which, in my case, means writing.
The book hangover comes from this bad boy (er, girl; this book is definitely a girl) I Will Go Barefoot All Summer For You:
My heart hurts because of this book. That’s what the good ones do. They change us. They take us to a place we’ve never been, and they take us back to places in our lives we’ve been through before. I think I went through first heartbreak again by reading this book. Oh, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, sweetie, honey, sugar pie, baby girl. You’ll be okay one day. Someday, Toby Bright will be only a boy. You might not even remember his last name, once some time has gone by, and you’ll know, older and wiser, that he wasn’t all that great to begin with, but, right now, we’re both dying a little.
Right now, we’re both wondering if things wouldn’t have been different if you hadn’t put on the (expletive deleted) shoes, because, when you’re that young, and that deep in calf love (old timey word that means infatuation; it has nothing to do with calves. If you were infatuated with an actual calf, that would be an entirely different sort of book, and I would be writing you an entirely different sort of letter -yes, fine, I am writing a letter to a fictional character; let’s go with that- right now) that’s how things work. You wanted to prove the depth of your love, and that would earn the happily ever after, right then and right there. You almost made it through the whole summer, and I’m proud of you for that, even if the reasoning behind it was, well, adolescent, but so are you.
Not now, though. Your book was written in the early 1970s, set in the 1950s, so if you were born in the 1940s, and it’s 2017 now, well, I’m not going to do the math. I hope you’re happy, though. I hope you found someone, farther down the road, and I hope you were able to keep your aunt’s house and raise your family (or cats; cats would be cool, too. Maybe both.) there. I hope you wrote your books there, or anywhere, really, and I hope your cousin, Rose, knows that playing Robin Hood and other games in the woods with you was actually her walking around inside the very earliest drafts of your stories. I’d like to read some of them. I’d like to see how those seeds sown by your barefoot summer and fantasies of Toby Bright (I’m not all that concerned about where or how he is, if you’re wondering. He turned out to be only a boy, after all, for me.) germinated and changed and grew and blossomed in your own work, later on, with some time and some distance.
As I’m writing this, I am doing a little math. You were born in the 1940s, around Virginia. I was born in the 1960s, in Virginia, and you write, (or will write) and I write, so, y’know…well, apart from the whole you being fictional thing. Some books, we don’t read as much as we recognize, and I recognized this one. Yes. This.
If anyone had asked me, before this copy showed up in my mailbox, if I’d read this book already, I would have said no, but then I got to the part about the bus station and the Mars bar, and I had been there before. Yes, I have been in bus stations (and no, I have not eaten any Mars bars, because I have a tree nut allergy and I would stop breathing) but that wasn’t the thing. The thing was how you drew the line of maturity as being able to keep candy without eating it right away, and that Mars bar sat in your purse for a respectably grownup amount of time (well, the second one did, anyway) and that’s when I knew this was the second time I’d met you.
I’d been a teenager the first time, a little younger than you were in this book, I think, and I had not had my heart broken for the first time yet. I have no idea why it was the bus station scene that made itself part of me, but it roared into my consciousness the first time I took a bus from VT to MA, as a college freshman, and stood in front of a row of vending machines. (I did not get anything chocolate, in case you’re wondering. I don’t even like chocolate that much.) Were I to guess, now, what scene would stick with me most, it would maybe be that first kiss with Toby Bright (I am always going to think of him with first and last names. That’s not changing.) and the way riding home felt like flying, because new feelings bore you along and the door to a whole other part of life had been flung wide open and off its hinges, never to go back again.
I don’t know when it was you found your real happily ever after, and if it was with someone worthy of you, or on your own, but re-reading this book was like that for me, that door-off-the-hinges feeling, so maybe I’m going to stay here for a while. Go barefoot all summer for this book, or at least the next couple of days, because, as soon as Fair Day, And Another Step Begun, shows up in my mailbox, I am screeching on the brakes to whatever else I am doing and diving into that. In case all the characters one writer creates, even if the books do not intersect, all live in the same place (probably the writers’ head; that’s how it works with me) say hi to Ellen for me.