Stories of Innocence and Experience
Mary Rose Kreger
Copyright 2020 by Mary Rose Kreger
chalk-colored gravel and scrubby green cedar trees streaked by as
Charles drove us down to Austin in his weathered tan Buick. Was this
a date, or just a nice trip between two friends? I wasn’t sure,
but it felt like a date.
like the kiss Charles had given me last week (my first) had felt like
a real kiss. Like maybe—no, almost certainly—Charles
wanted to be more than friends.
a kiss mean something?
a date, I decided, fiddling with the pearl dangling from my
gold-chained necklace. I glanced at Charles and perked up in my seat.
Of course it is. Right?
sweltering June heat greeted us as we hunted for a parking spot
downtown. In Texas, the summer heat lingers deep into the night.
took me to the Iron Cactus, where we ate chips and queso on the roof.
The evening breeze kissed our cheeks, warm and moist as dragon’s
this heat!” I complained, drawing my sweat-frizzed hair into a
tight bun. “It makes you miss those cool summer nights in
he agreed. We were both Michiganders, stranded in steamy central
pulled my hand-me-down camera out of my purse. “May I?”
nodded and shifted in the steel chair across from me, posing for my
picture. His red T-shirt sported a black skull print encircled by
rose petals. Death wreathed in beauty. It was a cool shirt, and a
little strange. Unsettling.
frowned as I gazed through the camera’s view finder.
an atheist, Mary.
gave me a sweet, boyish smile that didn’t quite reach his pale
clutched my camera tighter and swallowed.
don’t belong here. Not in Texas. And especially not with
fingers squeezed the flash button, preserving the moment.
He stretched leisurely in his seat. “What would you like to do
this is Austin, isn’t it?” I hid my camera away and
leaned towards him with an eager grin. “The live music capital
of the world? Let’s go hear some tunes!”
paid our bill and descended the stairs to Austin’s “Dirty”
Sixth Street. We ambled past a cluster of bars and restaurants, each
bedecked with colorful strings of lights and flashing neon signs. The
main drag was packed with motorcycles, and rumbled with the sound of
engines and bass guitars. Charles pulled me down a side alley, away
from the crowded street. Dark ivy clung to the red brick building on
our right as we passed through to the other side.
room we entered was literally a big, ugly, hole-in-the-wall. There
were no furniture or furnishings to speak of, just guests gathered
around a heavy metal band jamming on the other side of the
musicians hollered, screamed, and bounded across the stage with
electrifying intensity. Their music roared wilder than their punk
hairstyles and black leather getups. It reverberated deep in my
chest, rattling my rib cage, like a fresh heartbeat invading me, body
and soul. Each of my thrumming bones became their instruments.
thud, crash. Thud, thud, beat.
forgot about the ugliness of my surroundings, and drank in that sound
like it was my very own Elixir of Life. My ear drums rang, but I
didn’t care. As long as that beat pounded in my chest, I was
feeling something inside. And as long as that beat went on, it was
okay to feel. It was okay to feel angry.
friend Jim turning me away for Rosa. All the strained smiles and
awkward meetings, the happy-for-them expressions that shocked and
stung and tortured my weary spirit.
Hurt. Betrayed. Alone.
gaze flicked between me and the band. I smiled to let him know I
liked it. I could not, and would not, tell him why.
the music stopped, he took me up to meet the musicians. We met a
taller, good-natured gentleman, and a sweet-but-fierce young lady.
Both loud, unapologetic, melodic warriors.
let me take your picture.” After a quick smile and a blinding
camera flash, we said good-bye to the musicians and headed out on our
didn’t tell Charles about the storm brewing inside. I figured
maybe he knew. I thought maybe that’s why he was so kind, so
gentle. He must have known about my broken heart.
I followed his tall, loping figure down the city streets to his
Charles doesn’t mind so much that I’m broken. I
pictured Jim Roberts in my mind: classy, handsome, a man of
think Jim likes classy girls, my friend had warned. I patted
my frizzy hair and studied my un-painted fingernails.
Not so classy. I chewed my lip, gazed again at Charles’
steady figure. But Charles doesn’t mind.
that moment, he turned back towards me and grinned.
rushed to my cheeks, and I fidgeted with the collar of my floral top.
man was something of a mystery. What did I really know about Charles,
except what he wanted me to see? The one thing I did
that he believed almost the opposite of what I did. He thought God
was a myth, and “if it feels good, it is good.”
but at least he’s kind to me. I don’t have to pretend
thought of his two tattoos—the peaceful snow leopard, and the
demonic, snake-tongued skull. If I started dating Charles, which side
of him would reign over our relationship?
Texas swelter rustled the fringes of my top, pushing me towards
Charles and the gloomy expanse of the city parking lot. Charles
thumped the hood of his old Buick and watched my journey across the
for another long ride home?” His eyes sparkled, reflecting the
amber glow of a distant streetlight.
I agreed. As we drove home, I allowed myself to hope.
this was a date. Perhaps Charles and I could make things work. Maybe
the snow leopard side would win.
would change everything.
Army public affairs to convent life to marriage and motherhood, Mary
Rose Kreger’s journey has been filled with twists and turns.
Wherever she’s journeyed, she’s always been writing
stories. She lives in Warren, Michigan with her family, writing about
teens who battle with swords, and memoirs about the wisdom we only
gain through experience.
Innocence and Experience” is an excerpt from her memoir
manuscript, TEXAS IDOLS. Mary is also seeking representation for her
young adult fantasy novel, AVALON LOST, and is working on its sequel.
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