I was 18, in the Navy, stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station across the bay from my hometown, San Francisco.
I had recently bought my first car: a 1934 Ford, 5-window coupe with a rumble seat. It had already been modified with a ‘41 Mercury engine, moon hubcaps, spade bumpers and horse-cock taillights. It was powder blue. I was ready to take girls out in style.
I had met Virginia, briefly, through her dad who was a “lifer” in the Navy. She lived with her parents on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. She was half Irish and half Pilipino, a very exotic combo for me, and seemed like a nice, well-mannered girl. She had freckles across her nose and her skin was as brown as a good suntan would be on me.
I was all spiffed out in my civilian clothes when I called at her house just after dinner. We were to go to a movie on Market Street in the City.
Her mother, a small Pilipino woman, greeted me cordially at the front door. She called to her daughter who was on the second level. Virginia floated down the stairs in a billowing wide skirt that ended at knee level. She swirled around the final corner to face me. Her radiant smile, and the brief glimpse I had of her legs above knee level, made my heart pound. I was barely able to get my mouth to work in greeting her.
As we sat together in the movie I wondered how to place my arm around her shoulder, but could only get it to lie on the back of her seat. I brought her home at the promised time and knew I had not been a good date for her. I just didn’t know what to do with a pretty girl, or any girl. I wanted to be a gentleman, but I also wanted intimacy. I couldn’t reconcile these objectives.
I felt defeated by my inexperience and lack of courage. I bought a bottle of whiskey to drink while I drove all over San Francisco trying to deal with my feelings. I finally realized I was going to get killed if I continued drinking, so I stopped in a park and sobered up before I drove back to Alameda.
I still occasionally dream about her, reviving the vision of her skirt twirling around her pretty legs and her warm smile as she descended the stairs to greet me.