Sunday, September 2, 2012

I HATE PAUL by Peter Nolan Smith

The Beatles began their infestation of America in 1963 and the following April the Fab Four dominated the US charts with 5 #1 hits. I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND was followed by one chartbuster after another. My next-door neighbor favored John Lennon. Addy Manzi had seen the group at Carniege Hall in December 2, 1964. Her father had played with big bands in the 40s and his old music contacts had scored the tickets.

”I screamed John’s name a million times. He never looked my way,” the beautiful brunette told her brother and me after she came home from New York. My ex-babysitter remained broken-hearted until seeing the Beatles at Boston Garden a week later.

“John played every song for me.”

Every girl in the audience thought the same and their teenaged adoration adoration of teenage girls transformed the English group into gods with the release of A HARD’S DAY NIGHT and RUBBER SOUL. No one in the rest of the world paid much attention when John Lennon claimed that the Beatles were more popular than Christ in the summer of 1966, but priests and preachers throughout America sought to burn their LPs in Nazi fashion, however the bonfires of the Bible Belt were shunned by virtuous teenage girls willing to sacrifice their maidenhood to Beatlemania.

This defloration fantasy was shared by the majority of New England girls.

Most girls pined for Paul McCartney. My younger sister wrote ‘the cute Beatle’ a dozen letters. She was not alone. Kyla Rolla was the cutest girl in my 8th Grade class at Our Lady of the Foothills. Kyla wore her blonde hair long like Paul’s girlfriend, the British actress Jane Asher. I knew her since we were 8. We had been going up since the fall of 1965.

My band was the Rolling Stones. They were outlaws. I couldn’t tell Kyla that SATISFACTION was the greatest rock song of all time or that I loved the B-side of the 45. UNDER-ASSISTANT WEST COAST PROMO MAN. In order to gain her heart I had to commit treason to the best rock and roll band in the world and pretended to like the Beatles.

I stopped visiting the barbershop in Mattapan Square. My hair grew over my ears. Desert boots were abandoned in favor of Beatles boots. I wore a Beatles jacket without a collar. It cost $15. Matching pants were another $10. I wore the suit to school. The nuns sent me home with a note for my parents, breaking my perfect attendance streak, but Kyla noticed my belated surrender to Beatlemania and after school on the bus ride home, she sat next to me for the first time in years.

“Who’s your favorite Beatle?” Her uniform skirt was four inches over her knees. The nuns sent home any girl with a higher hemline. There was only one answer.

“Paul.”

“Me too.” Kyla sat down close. Her skin smelled of Ivory soap and her hair bore the faint fragrance of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Her green eyes were emeralds stolen by Murph the Surf from the Museum of Natural History in New York. I prayed that she didn’t notice my breathing her scent, as our conservations revolved around Paul McCartney trivia.

Paul was a Gemini like me. He was 22. I was 12. His favorite color was blue. Mine too. I told Kyla that she looked like Jane Asher. She let me hold her hands. I sang her songs off BEATLES 65. ‘YOU’VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY. Kyla closed her doe eyes dreaming that I was her Paul.

“Kiss me, Jane.”

“Oh, Paul.”

Our lips met at the red light before the local church. Paul’s soul invaded my body and my hand touched Kyla’s sweater. It was cashmere. Her ribs felt like thick guitar strings. My fingertips inched higher. They grazed the bottom of her breast.

“Oh, Paul.”

My hand glided over her nipple. I had practiced the movement on my own thousands of times. I had expected a moan, instead Kyla gasped with outrage. A slap to my cheek devastated my imitation of Paul.

“But I thought that____”

“You thought wrong. You’re no Paul.” Kyla pulled down her shirt and stormed down the aisle to the girls her age. My older brother had seen the entire episode. His eyes warned the other boys to not make fun of me. It didn’t stop their snickers.

Every day I begged Kyla for forgiveness. I had never imagined that her fantasies were rated PG. She ignored my every entreaty. I was no longer her Paul. She went steady with Jimmie Lally for the rest of the school year. His hair color was closer to Paul’s than mine. I didn’t hate him or her, because they were accurate caricatures of the greater world beyond the confines of Boston’s South Shore.

Kyla broke up with Jimmy in May. She let me write her letters that summer, while she visited her father in Florida. In September we were a thing again, but I was only me and never Paul. Her kisses were for him same as her caresses. I hated Paul. His poster hung over her bed. He stared at me all the time and I gave him the finger. I hated Paul.

My parents bought SGT. PEPPER for my birthday. I listened to it once. Kyla had ruined the Beatles for me. The Rolling Stones regained my devotion. I played HIS SATANICAL MAJESTY’S REQUEST twice a day as if the Devil could turn Kyla’s love for Paul into stone, but the Beatles seemed more powerful than Satan.

Kyla and I never went all the way. we were saving it for our wedding night. Her mother was going a man from Chile. They spent nights out in Boston. We had the run of the house until midnight. I was almost a man.

Kyla introduced me to WBCN on her FM radio. “Mississippi Harold Wilson” was the first DJ to play Cream’s I FEEL FREE. She loved the Velvet Underground. I was a big fan of the Jefferson Airplane. We lay on the couch of her dark living room. Our nights were everything except have sex. My parents understood that we were in love. My mother was okay with our dating as long as I got home before midnight. I felt a little like Cinderella.

My hair grew longer. Kyla and I talked about running away to San Francisco for the summer of love. We got as far as Wollaston Beach.

At summer’s end I spent a long night on the couch. Her bra was on the floor. Her panties down at her knees. My Levis were unzippered. Our hands did the rest. Time disappeared from our universe, as WBCN’s night DJ played the Modern Lovers’ ROADRUNNER, the Velvets’ ROCK AND ROLL, and Quicksilver’s MONA. We were naked, when JJ Johnson announced over the air, “I have a special song to play this evening. A masterpiece. HEY JUDE by The Beatles.”

I stopped rubbing against Kyla’s thigh. WBCN never played The Beatles. Paul McCartney, my old rival, opens with vocals and piano. F, C and B-flat. The second verse added a guitar and tambourine. Simple. Pure Beatles.

“I love this.” Kyla pulled me closer and closed her eyes. The four minute coda of ‘Hey Jude’ went on forever. At the song’s end I was still a virgin, but only just. Kyla opened her eyes and sighed, “That was good.”

I read the love in her eyes.

Paul.

Always Paul.

I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 2:10. I kissed her lips and dressed fast, as if my speed could turn back the hands of time. Kyla waved from the door way. She was wearing a silk robe.

“Tomorrow.”

“Manana.” I had learned the word from her mother’s boyfriend. He let me drink wine.

The streets of my hometown were suburb quiet. No cars. All the houses dark. My home was three miles away. I began to run. I was on the track team. A car appeared around a curve. A VW. My father’s car. He must have been coming to get me. His mood had to be dark. He liked his sleep. The VW 180ed in the street with a screech. It had a short turning circle. The car braked to a halt and the passenger door shot open.

“Get in.” It was a command. I sat down expecting the worst. My father read the riot act. “All you had to do was call. Ten seconds and say you were all right. But you were only thinking about yourself.”

I never saw the punch coming. The VW never swerved. Blood dripped on my shirt. My father handed me a rag. I could tell that he was sorry for having lost his temper. I had never hit me before.

“You’re grounded for a week.”

“Yes, sir.” A month was punishment. A week was an apology.

He turned on the radio. WBZ. The disc jockey was playing DAY IN THE LIFE.

Soon The Beatles song would be the only song on the radio. Kyla played the song at home. My mother too and my father knew the words. I couldn’t get them out of my head.

At the end of my grounding I went over to Kyla’s house. I lay on her bed. Her mother was out on a date. I looked up at Paul. Kyla put on SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. Most of the songs sounded like they had been written by Paul. She pulled me to her and I heard her favorite Beatle singing to her.

I should have walked out, but leaving Kyla wasn’t in my heart and I sang along with Paul. She smiled and kissed my lips.

I might not have been her Paul, but I was holding her hand and Paul never did that other than in her dreams.

I lay down with Kyla. I embraced her with the pure love of a teenaged boy and shut my ears to Paul. He had nothing to say to me.

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