Essay: A Blue Dress Sparks a Mix of Memories

First posted in August, 2003

Put it on
I can feel so much
Put it on
I don't need to touch
Put it on
Here before my eyes
Put it on
Because you realise
And you believe

Love those lyrics. So basic and yet so... something else. I love writing like that, that gets at the base of desire in such a basic way.

The song is Blue Dress by Martin Gore, off the Depeche Mode album Violator, the best one they ever put out. For some reason, that song made me think of someone, and of a story, and of how sometimes it's not always the gorgeous people who win, and how dates are more than movies and dinner. Some of this I've told some of you, but probably not the entire story, and it's a good one about a short but fantastic romance in the purist sense of the word. Nothing physical, just perfection.

I was seventeen, and one of my best friends was Travis. Travis was a fantastic girl in every way. She was beautiful in a way that I will never be; not that I'm unattractive, just that my qualities are different from hers. She had this amazing personality - vibrant and so, so funny. She was very intelligent, yet popular beyond belief. The boys flocked to her at a pace I couldn't comprehend, and she enjoyed the attention; I once remember helping her balance three dates with three different guys on the same night. At the time, I think a part of me wanted to be her, and desperately wondered what it was like to exist the way she did.

She could get a date with anyone. Anyone at all. All she needed to do was drop the hint and they'd ask her out. Except one. One guy saw her only as a friend, no matter how hard she tried to convince him it could be - should be - more. She talked to me about this at length, boggling over how he couldn't see past the friendship, about how he tried to set her up with his friends, and how she allowed him to do it so that she could be near him more. It really tore at her.

One night, with no date for once, Travis asked me to go with her to visit David. I'd never really met this enigmatic guy that held her at arm's length, and I was interested in discovering what the fuss was about, so I decided to go with her. We arrived at his house, this amazingly large mansion, and knocked on the door. His mother answered, and she told us that he wasn't home but that he'd be home soon and she was sure he'd want to see us, so she invited us in - and then she just left us there, in the foyer, alone. We went upstairs and found his room, looked around it a bit. There were DM posters in his room, and Travis and I chatted about the group for a bit, because Violator had just come out and it was a really fantastic album in many respects. We went back downstairs and walked about, and I don't think we saw his mother again.

Eventually, David arrived, and he had his cousin in tow. The first thing that struck me was that he wasn't as handsome as most of the guys Travis went out with. I couldn't really figure out what it was about him that tormented her so, at least at first glance. He was delighted to see Travis, greeted her very warmly, and asked how long we'd been there. We told him over half an hour, and admitted that we'd been in his room. We complimented him on the leather underwear we found in his drawer, and he took the joke well (we didn't go through any of his things, of course). He asked if we'd stay for a movie. I don't remember what we watched, I don't remember much about that part of the evening, except that I suddenly found David sitting incredibly close to me.

We went to leave at the end of the evening, and he once again tried to fix Travis up, this time with his cousin. She politely shrugged off the idea, and got in the car to go. David took my hand, told me he'd really enjoyed meeting me, and then he did something completely unexpected - he kissed me. I was so taken aback that I just let it happen, and sort of lost myself in it somehow. There was this semi-awkward moment of looking in each other's eyes, and I mumbled something in parting before joining Travis in the car.

And that's when it hit me. This was the guy she wanted more than anything. The one guy she could never get, and I had kissed him right in front of her. She said something akin to, "Congratulations, Jacqueline. You just accomplished in one evening what I've wanted for two years." She drove me home in silence. There are few moments in my life where I've felt as horrible as I did that night.

After thinking it through for a few days, Travis forgave me, and she told me that if he called I should pursue it, that he was a great guy and since she obviously couldn't have him, I might as well explore it. A few weeks went by, and I hadn't heard from him, and I was delighted. He'd caused enough trouble between Travis and me, and I was glad to have it behind me.

Then he calls one day, completely unexpected, and asks me out. Now, I'm not terribly attracted to this guy, and my best friend is. Despite that, and God only knows why, but I accept the date. Turns out to have been one of the best decisions of my entire life.

I remember only shadows of the date from twelve years ago. Feelings, thoughts. I can't tell you the specifics of what we discussed because I don't remember. But I'll tell you what I carry with me from that night.

He picked me up at my home, my very small home not in the rich section of town, and he never said a word about it, which most rich guys did. He took me to this really dark, semi-seedy part of town and parks at the end of an ally, and I get a little bit worried about the location, but I trust that he knows something I do not. He walks me to a brick building and opens the door, and I'm amazed to discover that it's a small Italian restaurant. I don't remember there being a sign outside. Very Godfatheresque in that respect. We had cappuccino and chocolate mousse. We talked.

We left and he drove me out to his house. We sat in a room, at a table adjacent to a window, lights out aside from a candle, and we watched the sunset. We talked.

We go to his room. I had to be crazy to go to his room with him, it being a first date, but I did. He put on soft piano music, got a book off the shelf, lit a new candle, and asked me to lie on the bed. There was something so different to this, something so atypical of your average teenage boy, something so intriguing in his voice and his manner, so I did. I laid back on the bed. And he read to me. He had me close my eyes and he helped me meditate to a place that I still remember vividly.

In my mind, I stood on a stone balcony, feeling a light breeze in my hair. Stars and moon above lit a courtyard below. In the center of the courtyard was a pool filled with azure blue water, and upon its surface were hundreds of red rose petals. I turned and walked down the steps from the balcony to the courtyard. I undressed pool side and dove into the water of the pool, slicing the water perfectly. I swam beneath the surface, watching moonlight play in the water, seeing the shadows of petals on the bottom of the pool. I enjoyed the water for quite a while, taking in its scent, its temperature, its feeling against my skin.

I nearly fell asleep, but not quite. I was sort of in this odd place between reality and dreams.

He took my hand and said, "Come on, it's time I took you home."

He kissed me again at the door to my house, and that was the end of the best date in my life.

I never went out with him again. And for some reason, I didn't care. It was this moment in time that was so perfect, and we both knew that it was best to just leave it at that. We saw each other in public, and he did phone once, a year later, when I was off at university, and in that phone call he invited me to come spend the weekend with him in Chicago. I declined, and I don't regret it. Strange.