I would lay with Daisy Gayle for eternity by choice.
In college, when Daisy and I were both twenty, I had dreamt of that possibility for one crazy night. A night filled with innocence and trauma.
When I met her, I was a wide-eyed man-boy. She was already woman in full bloom. She dominated any room she was in. To the average guy on campus, she was a femme fatale. Sex wrapped in danger. She was too smart to be tricked, romanced or flirted into bed. If she was with you, you were there because she wanted you.
To the school, Daisy was their star physics student, whose only limits were her imagination. She worked hard, played harder and made our school special. The faculty and administrators would dine on stories of her accomplishments under their tutelage for decades. Yes, she did study with them. Everyone at school knew we were all better for her presence in our lives.
To me, she was the girl sitting on my coat at La Maison Française party. La Maison Française was the dorm for French majors to immerse themselves with others who were learning or spoke the language. I had come as the guest of my friend Arnold. He was a French major who was studying French because he thought it would help him meet girls. Sure he had natural talent with languages, but he was clearly in it to meet and romance women. He dragged me along because I typically didn’t get out unless forced. As the evening waned I had my fill of jokes in French, jokes that I didn’t understand, and was ready to head back to my room when I discovered that Daisy was sitting on my coat.
My breath caught and I became instantly light headed when I saw her. I had never seen anyone like her. It was coup de foudre. She glowed with life. The gravity of Daisy’s smile made me claustrophobic. Terrified that I would have to speak with her to get my coat back, I braced myself against the nearest wall. I decided to flee. I failed.
My struggle and panic had not gone unnoticed. People began to ask me “Est-ce que vous vous sentez bien?” I really was not.
With concern and compassion in her lovely, inescapable gaze she focused all of her attention on me. She slowly began to rise, as if to help me. Never blinking or averting her eyes, I lived a lifetime in that moment. That moment stretched out like light trapped in the pull of a black hole. I hung precariously in that moment, as she arrived and steadied me with one hand. I collapsed. As I fell, she rose to steady me. I felt myself die in her embrace.
I awoke a few minutes later to the haze and confusion of being on a strange floor in a strange room with a goddess taking my pulse. Daisy had put my jacket under my feet, covered me with a blanket and was stroking my hair telling me to lie still. They had called an ambulance and I would be okay. I wasn’t so sure. When I tried to move, I found I could not. I shook, either in fear or from a chill. I was sweating and pale.
Daisy asked me a million questions while we waited for the EMTs. Six minutes in which she extracted my deepest secrets. Much to my surprise my secrets weren’t all that deep or secret.
I was studying history. I wanted to be a teacher. My mom and dad lived in Utica and I wished I was home to give the stink eye to boys that called after my sister, Veronica. We called her Ronnie, she was pretty, sweet, and I was proud of her. We didn’t fight. Ronnie was a talented actor and I was going home in a few weeks to see her in a production of “Hello Dolly”. I was a good brother.
I would be okay. But that moment of panic had given me a special connection to my heroine. I would relive that night where she rescued me a million times in my head. She was an angel, an angel that I savored with a palpable terror. I would do anything she wanted and give my life to her. I had screwed up the courage to go to her, thank her and then confess my undying love for her beauty and kindness. What I managed was to meekly leave a note on her door. It contained a simple card. The card read:
"I cannot thank you enough for saving me at the party. I am back at school now and feeling better. Ronnie says you must be one hell of a lady. You are my savior. Thanks, That Fainting Boy at the party."
I never crossed paths with her again at school. Specifically, I went out of my way not to see her. My embarrassment and the feelings I felt were too much to ever admit to. I had felt my fate in her hands that night. She saved me and I could only fear she would kill me or I would die for her. What scared me the most is that I wanted to die for her.
After school, I wouldn’t think of her again until the rummage sale at church. I was helping set stuff out. I was going through a box of office supplies and old John D. MacDonald mysteries. It was in that box I found her suicide note.