Listening to Brian Ferry on the way to work this morning brought me back to a Roxy Music CD a friend gave me years back. I was 16 at the time, and had never heard of Roxy Music – in fact had never heard of anyone really if they didn’t make the top 40 play list of the local pop station. Gary was maybe a little bent on broadening my teenage, Southern Louisianan horizons – with the Roxy Music CD, with the t-shirt he brought me from Australia, with his gentle lectures about spending less time worrying [about my petty teenage melodramas] and more time living: “life is like surfing, just learn to ride the waves,” he used to tell me. Gary was 24, English, and a soccer coach, who somehow had ended up in Baton Rouge. I had met him on a plane when I was returning from visiting my grandmother and he was returning from a soccer match. The kids he coached were roughly my age, but somehow I ended up in a conversation with him rather than with one of them.
What interest this 24-year-old English soccer coach could possibly have had in a 16-year-old girl was something of a mystery.
Or perhaps it wasn’t a mystery at all. So thought my mother, who met him with an incredulous “Do you have ANY IDEA
how old Heather is?!” when he showed up at the door one summer afternoon, tennis racquet in hand, having driven an hour from Baton Rouge for a game of tennis with me. I don’t recall how Gary responded to her ill-mannered (though perhaps justified) shriek, so devastating was my teenage embarrassment. But I’m sure he was extremely polite, in that very English way of his, despite the fact that in her muddled rage, she had just addressed him as “Chris” (Chris being the other
24-year-old guy that I had recently met, also on an airplane, who called frequently and once even came into town to take me to dinner…).
No, it probably wasn’t a mystery at all what a 24-year-old guy might want with a 16-year-old girl such as myself. The term jailbait
had been circling around me from the age of 12. But to Gary’s credit, his intentions truly did remain a mystery; looking back with all 20/20 worth of hindsight, I can honestly say that he never showed any desire to be anything more than a friendly presence in my life. And he remained a friendly presence for a good while.
The last time I saw Gary was when I was 21, at which time I had called him up crying while driving back to Louisiana from Austin after a failed rendezvous with an old flame. I don’t think I’d spoken to Gary in at least a year, but he didn’t seem the least surprised to hear from me, even full of tears and anguish as I was. I told him I didn’t want to go back to my parent’s place yet, and could I come see him instead? And he said sure, come on by. He wiped away my tears, cooked me dinner, put me to bed on the couch, and the next afternoon we went to a movie. Then I drove home. That was all. So innocent.
Again and again I have been accused of being naïve, and have been told by many a well-meaning male that all men are pigs. And generally I would have to agree, as I've learned the hard way that, saddly, my mind just isn't that
interesting. And I’ve even come to believe that there’s simply no such thing as true altruism – everyone wants something and nobody does anything for nothing; that’s just the way we’re wired. But the memory of my old English soccer-coach friend reminds me that there are no absolutes. And perhaps some people really are simply benevolent beings.
I wonder what ever happened to old Gary Williamson?…