Friday, November 13, 2015

The Awakening

The Awakening

A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations

Fergus and Julie are two kids just finishing high school. Fergus has always lived in this town; Julie moved here almost two years ago at the start of her Junior year. They will both graduate soon, but have not, yet, actually decided what they plan to do with their lives.

Fergus and Julie are not, in any sense, you know, “Fergus-And-Julie.” They have seen each other around and go to the same church. They have been in Algebra and Geometry classes together and, in their Junior year, were in the same Senior Class production of The Sound of Music where Julie had a leading part that involved singing and dancing.

Fergus is strongly attracted to Julie but hasn’t done much about it; he knows that he has his faults. He is not an athlete, nor very adept socially, and so is not popular with the “in” girls. He is, in fact, a little nerdy, but not so much that he is an actual dork. Yes, that about does it.

Julie is unusually short; not at all like the statuesque beauties with long legs that go all the way to the floor. She is whip-smart, moves with grace, and as you might expect, loves to sing and dance. She knows that she has her faults, but being Julie has always been a good thing.

Fergus likes to watch Julie, especially when she dances. Julie has noticed Fergus watching her, but Fergus has never noticed Julie taking any particular notice of him.
He never teases her (cruelly or otherwise) nor bumps her “by accident” in the hallway. Their occasional conversations have been casual and uneventful.

Julie thinks Fergus is good looking, but she has been generally dismissive about him and his (somewhat annoying) attentions. She, as a matter of principle, doesn’t approve of the way boys stare at girls in general nor, at times, at her in particular.

In their Junior year, Fergus asked Julie to a school dance. Julie had already accepted another invitation and so she, naturally, declined. It happens sometimes; neither of them took any offense at the unrequited transaction. Although quite disappointed, Fergus ended up asking someone else and they had a pretty good time.

Fergus and Julie occasionally found themselves together on the same group dates. Again, this was nothing special; we’re talking about an informal mixed litter of classmates in a low-expectations exercise in hanging-out and being sociable together.

As time went on, Fergus and Julie talked about their expanding range of experiences, attitudes, and interests. They discovered that they shared a lot in common. They came to not only accept, but appreciate more of each other’s qualities.

At the start of their Senior year, Fergus agreed to help Julie with her Geometry. In exchange, Julie agreed to help Fergus with his dancing. Truly, he needed some help; he seemed to have a disconnect between his feet and the rest of his body. Still, with persistence, both made good progress and were pleased with the results.

They both volunteered for the Yearbook Committee. Fergus became an active and enthusiastic photographer. Julie conducted interviews, gathered comments, and worked with Fergus to select pictures. Together, they collaborated to organize the photographs and lay them out with appropriate text. And so, Julie and Fergus came to a comfortable accommodation that allowed them to regularly work together without too much tension (in both senses, if you catch my meaning).

They both auditioned for the Senior play, My Fair Lady. Julie was selected as standby for Eliza Doolittle and Fergus was assigned a bit part of no enduring consequence. Fergus was not disappointed. With his help, Julie’s Geometry grades were high enough to allow her to participate, and he got to indulge his preoccupation with surreptitiously watching Julie while she rehearsed.

Fergus asked Julie to their Senior prom and, after several days’ delay she accepted. It’s not that she didn’t get any other offers; her performance in the play had brought her some gratifying notoriety and increased her popularity. Julie had invitations from several fellas who would have made more-impressive arm candy. But, I think that it kind of appealed to Julie to play the Henry Higgins bit and show off how well she had gotten poor, poor, backward Fergus to dance.


Well now, let’s just get to the good part. It happened that Fergus and Julie were both helping with the party that was to be held shortly after the final dress rehearsal for My Fair Lady. They had just returned from the school and were still wearing their costumes. So, they rushed back to Julie’s house to take care of some details and let Julie change. Fergus only had to take his tie off, so he sat in the living room to wait.

Julie was in the kitchen, for a while, with her mom and several other women. They were getting some food together; everybody was busy and preoccupied. While he waited, Fergus remembered something rather urgent that he felt he needed to tell Julie.

Getting out of his chair, he found Julie in the hallway, just outside of the kitchen. She cut him off, though, saying that it could wait and that she needed to go change. She left Fergus, standing unsatisfied, in the hallway. After a few moments of frowning at his shoes, he followed Julie down the hall. This was important and really needed to be discussed sooner than later.

Julie is now in her room, laying out her clothes. Fergus, anxious to resolve the problem, steps in, sits in a chair and starts to talk. It really doesn’t matter what the issue is. Nobody, least of all Julie and Fergus, will ever remember.

Julie, impatient and anxious to get going, acts on a sudden impulse. Not moving to close the door, she begins to change. She thinks, “He shouldn’t be interrupting me like this. He deserves to be embarrassed. I wonder what he’ll do.”

Fergus’ words trail off. All conscious thought evaporates from his mind as she mostly turns her back to him, pulls her blouse over her head and drops her skirt. Fergus, having seen Julie’s expression the moment before, and expecting a tense conversation, is stunned. He reflexively watches. His senses are acute and immediate – he feels a sense of floating detachment as he stares.

Julie is still wearing a bra and smooth white panties that are cut aggressively to show some butt. Her legs are trim, and a dancer’s muscles ripple slightly beneath the surface. Her hips are all girl — smooth and round. They gather to her waist with just a hint of bulge riding on them that will probably, someday, create a torso with boyish blockiness. Fergus can see from the curves of her bra that, as he has imagined, her breasts are smallish, but not ungenerous. Her long hair glistens as it falls to the middle of her back, cascading over a shoulder.

Fergus doesn’t realize that Julie is looking in a mirror and watching him watch her. She is a little surprised; his expression is more like he is studying a rare orchid than drooling over his next meal. Julie feels a little flushed; her boldness begins to embarrass her and a sense of fearful apprehension suddenly kicks-in. But, there is no turning back.

Fergus, belatedly, thinks to avert his gaze for modesty’s sake. Fergus, too, is startled to find himself in this unexpected situation. It has the makings of some of his best dreams. This never happens to him in real life. God, she’s beautiful! God, how she moves with poise and grace! God, whatever possessed her to give him this gift? He feels a catch in his chest. Did his heart just skip a beat?

Julie appreciates that Fergus has given her some reprieve. After all, she could have been made to feel like a bug being eyed by a chicken. She takes that moment to worry that the door is still open, which is immediately followed by relief that it is not closed. What if someone walks by and wonders what is going on? Why had she let Fergus come in and stay in the first place?

Finally, Julie concludes she is kind of enjoying her impulsive exhibitionism. She likes Fergus. And, Fergus isn’t being stupid; he’s being damn quiet, but not obnoxious. In fact, Fergus has never been deliberately offensive. He’s nice. He’s smart. He’s even kind of cute in a dorkish sort of way. Julie is surprised to notice a growing warmth that spreads and teases. She realizes that she could maybe get to really like Fergus.

Fergus thinks warmly about Julie, too. He is surprised by his own reaction. He is not feeling the heat of urgent need. It is more like the coziness of familiarity among friends, except that it borders on rapture. He has always admired Julie for the life and light dancing in her eyes, her ability to express her joy in good times and her ability to manage her unhappiness in bad times. He concludes that he even admires the angry fire that dances, occasionally, in her eyes as well. Yes, life must sometimes touch fire and ice at the edges.

Fergus realizes that he would grieve inconsolably if he were ever threatened with the loss of her presence. The tightness in his chest becomes comforting warmth that spreads until it feels like it embraces his entire body. No, his soul and spirit, too.

Julie has been sitting on the corner of the bed while she finishes tying her shoes. She stands up, gives Fergus a smile — a smile like you give your best friend when they suddenly walk around the corner — and then holds out her hand to him.

Fergus returns her smile, stands up and moves — a move like you feel when magnets come together. He flows, drawn by new and invisible threads, across the room to embrace her. Somewhere, in the swirling mix of readiness, opportunity, hormones, acceptance, appreciation, and wisps of soul and spirit, a durable bond of uncommon love has awakened.

Together, Julie and Fergus make their obligatory goodbyes and walk to the car without looking back. They will never, ever, feel the need to look back.

David Satterlee