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Mysteries of Love / Mark Rogers



Are we born installed with a Jungian anima or animus? An ideal man or woman who from birth lurks in our subconscious? Or is there a moment in puberty (or even earlier) when an ideal lover takes form in a mingling of dreams and the real world? I don’t know the universal answer to that question but in my case, I think it happened when I was 12 years old, in 1964, when I saw the dark-haired beauty Mrs. Schultz. She lived a few houses down from us and hired me as a babysitter. Mrs. Schultz was in her mid-twenties; married, and with two infant boys. She was trim and smart and talked to me like I was a person. I don’t think her husband ever said one word to me.

 

Mrs. Schultz wore her hair cut short and her general appearance was a bit like Barbara Feldon, the actress from Get Smart. 

 

I didn’t get a lot of compliments growing up so when Mrs. Schultz would tell my parents how handsome I was I would feel a swell of pride.

 

On the weekends my parents would go to boozy Lake Edenwold community parties, held in a concrete building with no proper doors or windows—just gaping window spaces and openings where a door might eventually be installed. It wasn't an abandoned building but it resembled one. My parents never had much to say about these parties, except to mention that the Schultzes, one of the younger couples in the community, were the best dancers, especially when someone spun a Herb Alpert album.

 

When I heard this I imagined Mrs. Schultz dancing in bare feet, her eyes closed. For some strange reason when I had these visions her feet didn’t make contact with the concrete floor.

 

When I would babysit for the Schultzes and the kids were in bed for the night, I would scan the bookcase in the parlor. I came across the Harold Robbins novel, The Adventurers, and still remember a line uttered by a depraved Mexican, by way of explanation for raping a young woman: “…I’m a three-day virgin.”

 

One strange moment occurred when Mrs. Schultz and her husband were preparing to leave for the night. I was sitting on the couch with her two boys. Mrs. Schultz leaned over and kissed both of them goodbye on the cheek. She then leaned in and kissed my cheek, too. She drew back, laughing and said, “I thought you were one of my boys.” I was only 12 but I thought that was absurd since I was twice the size of her kids.

 

You see, she liked me. She wanted to kiss me. That’s how I preferred to see it.

 

I’m not sure why, but the Schultzes stopped asking me to babysit. A couple of years went by. I’m 15 and I’m raking autumn oak leaves in the front yard of our house, only a step away from the street. A car brakes and Mrs. Schultz gets out. She seems glad to see me and asks me about high school and how I was doing.

My parents were always short of money. One of the things that got pushed to the side was trips to the dentist for us kids. Maybe this wasn’t all that big a deal when I was 12. But here I was at 15 and my teeth were rotting in my head.

 

When I smiled at Mrs. Schultz—really happy to be in her presence—I saw her recoil. Her look of alarm quickly turned to sadness.

 

I wasn’t all that handsome anymore.

 

The weird thing is, instead of feeling dismay, I was smiling inside. I’m not sure why.

Maybe I was smiling because I felt someone cared.

 

But I think it was something more perverse. I was smiling because I had spent years lusting after Mrs. Schultz and now she was the one off-balance.

 

For a moment I was the one in control.

 

from the memoir in progress, Fort Rosarito

 

 

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MARK ROGERS is a writer and artist whose literary heroes include Charles Bukowski, Willy Vlautin, and Charles Portis. Rogers lives in Baja California, Mexico with his Sinaloa-born wife, Sofia. His award-winning travel journalism has brought him to 56 countries. His crime novels have been published in the U.S. and UK. Uppercut, his memoir of moving to Mexico, is published by Cowboy Jamboree Press. NeoText publishes his Tijuana Novels series and Gray Hunter series. You can reach him at markrogers627@gmail.com.

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