Monday, August 17, 2015

I kissed Diane Sluss

In this very vivid dream I had last night, I kissed Diane Sluss.

As soon as the kiss happened, I drew back and said, 'that wasn't a good thing....'

First of all, who is Diane Sluss (and, yes, that was her name). I went to Junior High and High School with her. She was from the very top of Jenkinjones Mountain. Another few feet and she would have gone to school in Virginia instead of West Virginia. She was very smart, so I was in class with her a lot. She was extremely outgoing and funny, so I liked to be around her. But she lived a long school bus ride from me in Junior High and I wasn't 'into girls' in Junior High--in fact, they scared me silly...except for Diane, who was my friend. And there was this: she was the greatest 'listener' I knew in that 6 years of my life. The workshop I help lead is mostly about 'listening'--and Diane, more than most everyone I've ever known--could get her 'listenings' our of the way and simply be 'present' to whatever I was saying. Rare, indeed.

When we went to high school in Gary, she was the first person to get on the school bus that came from Jenkinjones through Conklintown and O'Toole (yes, where I grew up places were named stuff like that!) and then to Anawalt, where I got on, then on to Spencer's Curve and Pageton, which was, as I remember, the last place Woodrow stopped. (Oh, by the way, the bus driver's name was, God help me, Woodrow Wilson, brother of a Methodist minister in Pageton and an all around good-guy. A couple of his nephews got on the bus in Pageton and he treated them just like the rest of us--fair and consistently. (I can't imagine driving High School Students was the best job in the world, but he did it with grace and even flair.)

{Here's an example of Woodrow's flair. He had to pull over the bus near a monument to 6 white men killed by Indians in Black Wolf--there was no drama to the place he pulled over, it's just that in southern West Virginia, there aren't a lot a places along the roads to pull over a school bus. He pulled over to read us the 'emergency school bus schedule'. It was the day that the Navy was stopping Russian ships taking missiles to Cuba and McDowell County had plans to evacuate us from school sine the largest coal processing plant in the world was 4 miles from Gary High School and thought to be on the Russian ICBM list of targets. He was half-way through reading the paper he'd been given to read when Gwen Roberts freaked out.

She ran down the aisle and tried to get off the bus. She was screaming stuff like: "We're going to die!" and "Let me off this bus!!" and "Oh Lordy, Lordy!"...people in southern West Virginia said that last one a lot.

Woodrow dropped the sheet of paper and wrapped Gwen in his arms. He spoke softly to her and rubbed her back until she calmed down. Masterful, he was, dealing with her.}

I know how masterful he was because I was sitting in the seat right behind his driver's seat with Diane Sluss. For three years Diane and I sat in the front seat behind Woodrow as he drove down to Gary in the morning and back in the afternoon. Everyday for three years. People on the bus knew better than to try to take that seat. The way down was no problem, Diane was first on the bus every morning. On the way back people just knew--that's Diane's and Jimmy's seat (Lord yes, I was Jimmy in high school until I decided to be 'J. Gordon' my senior year.)

I'd have to think long and hard about how many hours Diane and I spent sitting next to each other, talking over those years. She was a large girl, but not fat, and had a beautiful face and wondrous hair. It's not that I wasn't, at some point, attracted to her--she was shapely and attractive--it was that she was my first long time 'friend' who was a girl. We talked about everything--our heartbreaks, our loves, current affairs, movies and tv, political stuff (during our three year conversation I moved from being a Goldwater Republican, like my father, to being a left-wing Democrat and she talked me through that transition).

Truth be known, when we graduated and she disappeared from my life, I missed her not enough.

Diane gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone ever could--the sure and certain knowledge that I could have intimate friends who were female with none of the complications that men and women have between intimate friends and intimacy.

What a gift! And it has served me well over the decades since. Many of the closest friends I've had in my life have been women. And I value them mightily.

So, in my dream, kissing Diane on the bus...It was not a good thing, it was a mistake, it would have robbed both of us of one of the abiding relationships that got us through those awful years from 15 to 18.

Ride on Diane. I won't ruin the gift we gave each other.

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.