1977... the year Skynyrd crashed, Star Wars came out, and I had an 9th grade math teacher named Mrs. Lambfinger. Horrible name, I know, and it was that much worse that her first name was Pamela and sort of rhymed (Pamela Ramyerfinger), though I only thought of her as Mrs. Lambfinger.
No. Not quite true. I thought of her in many different ways. I sometimes thought of her unbuttoning her top for me, button by button, to reveal-- well, I'm not sure now how my fantasies played out, since they had no basis in reality with any girl at that point, of course. I knew nothing about how girls really behaved when you were about to have sex with them, I didn't know if everyone but me was having it or no one was, but I did know one thing. Mrs. Lambfinger was hot.
She'd be talking about calculating radiuses and angles and stuff, but all I could do was look at her in her peach-colored, pyjama-like pantsuits, their bell bottoms swaying behind her as she strode from one end of the chalkboard to the other, and contemplate the glorious reality underneath it all.
What was it that I found so entrancing about her? The girls my age were gawky, bony, skinny faces and big lips sticking out, boobs stuck to them like tennis balls glued on a board. Mrs. Lambfinger was... ripe. A fully ripened woman in her 20s (which seemed so mature to me then), lips broad and sensual, blue eyes sensitive and knowing, straight blonde hair cascading down to her arms. Her breasts ample underneath their peach polyester prison, her hips wide and womanly and topped by little love handles, her thighs pneumatic, stretching the artificial fiber to its tensile limits, forming a pair of perfect smooth ovoids in which flesh and polyester seemed to have come together as one.
Or on a sunnier spring day, she might go all hippie chick, loose peasanty blouse under which those big handfuls of breast swayed back and forth loosely, jeans stretching around a round, squishy butt, little toes peeking out of brown sandals, inviting you to imagine the flesh that continued underneath the clothing. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't fat, she was simply filled out, squeezable, plenty to hold onto. She was a woman, not a girl, hear her roar (as a song of the day had it), and day after day, night after night, her shape filled my dreams.
And then the year ended. I got a B+. Considering how little I was paying attention to math, that was probably pretty good.
College. Elvis Costello and Violent Femmes, My Dinner With Andre when we were being sophisticated (which is not to say we didn't all race to see Empire and Jedi, of course).
I graduated in '86 and got a job in technology for a big paper company. The job was a little on the boring side-- what first job isn't-- but all in all this was a good time, young, money to spend, skinny ties and new wave to dance to.
One perk was getting to go to a convention in Dallas-- travel and fancy dinners on the company dime, hurray-- as one of about a dozen people from all over the company. I didn't know any of them.
We met up in the lounge of the Westin to get our credentials and meet each other, and it was then that one of the women, a tall, somewhat well-padded but still shapely blonde turned toward me, and we looked at each other for a moment, and then we stared, not believing what we saw, and then--
"Rich. Mrs. Lamb... ?"
"Oh, God no," she said, laughing. "Call me Pam Stengaard. I haven't been Mrs. Lambfinger for three or four years, thank God."
"You two know each other?" one of the men asked.
"You won't believe it, it's totally embarassing," she said, but she wasn't embarassed, she just found it funny, as she explained to him how we knew each other.
She was more rounded out than she had been then, broader across the hips, even bigger breasts, a little rounder and fuller face. But she still had the easygoing, relaxed earth-mother confidence that I'd responded to years before, and even if she was now starting to look a little-- not fat, but big-- I still found her sensual and ripe, and not just for nostalgia's sake. That is, I had these thoughts, but quickly put them away, as being purely of academic interest.
We went to dinner in a large group but I barely had a chance to speak to her and it was mostly boring business talk all evening. The next day we were too busy talking to customers on the floor to catch up, either, but finally that evening I caught her and invited her to dinner. She said dinner was already spoken for but she would be happy to join me for a drink beforehand.
When she came down to the bar she was in a black cocktail dress which followed her curves unabashedly, and showed off a little cleavage to boot. The relatively short blonde hair and the sparkling earrings were quite a contrast to my 70s memories of her, but if my 15-year-old self had been there, he'd still have knocked over the table when his wood hit it at high speed.
"Glad you don't mind being seen with an older woman," she said as I handed her a glass of chablis.
"To the Westfield Titans and math class," I toasted, clinking my class to hers. "Actually, I'm delighted. It's really nice to see you again. As adults."
"Adults," she said, as if she was merely humoring me with the idea.
"I mean, not to pry, but as grownup as you seemed to me then-- to the whole class-- you must have been about my age now. Fresh out of school, anyway."
"What class were you?"
"Class of '81."
"So you were only the second class I ever taught," she said. "God, that was terrifying sometimes. I hope I did all right."
"You were great," I said. "I learned a lot." I took another sip before the next thing I was thinking of saying; it could have ended the evening real fast. "I thought you were really hot, too," I said.
"You were 15, you would have thought a lamppost was hot," she said. Whew, at least she took it in good humor.
"True, but I did," I said.
"Ah, my glory days," she said. "You know you're getting old when your students start turning up as your colleagues."
We chatted a bit and then her colleague, Jerry, came to get her. I couldn't tell if they were more than colleagues or not, probably not. I spent the evening watching pay per view and eating room service-- the classic lonely guy night in a distant city. It would have been so much better with... somebody.
The next day was another long day of working the exhibit and talking to customers, and I hardly had a chance to speak to Pam again. So I was surprised, but pleasantly so, when she came up to me at the end of the day and said "I don't have any other plans, do you want to join me for dinner?"
I hope I didn't seem too pathetically eager to take her up on the offer.
We went to a little Mexican place recommended by one of the other exhibitors-- we both laughed when we saw it, it was "romantic" in the most overdone way, strolling guitarists and red lighting and all the other atmospheric touches of a bordello. Maybe because the atmosphere was so preposterous, we soon turned to talking about ourselves a little more freely than before.
"It wasn't anything bad," she said, by way of explaining her divorce. "We got married so young-- before we knew who we were, really. By the time we figured it out, we were different people than the ones we'd married. But what about you? Is there somebody?"
"Not really," I said. "I mean-- I had a girlfriend in college, but I guess we're over."
"Well, she lives in Boston--"
"Do you visit her?"
"I have once or twice. It's hard, it's expensive--"
"If it's worth it to you," she said, "you overcome those obstacles. You take the chance. Is it worth it to you?"
"I don't know. We thought it was, but as time goes by, we just don't seem to be able to keep it going," I said, and as I said it I could see a kind of disappointment in me in her eyes. It was like being in class with a teacher again-- I'd flunked a test. Well, who asked her to grade my life? "It sounds all romantic to say distance doesn't matter and you'll make it work no matter what, but life just doesn't work out that way sometimes, I guess."
"As we both found out," she said, turning her gaze from me to the dessert menu.
Somehow the evening never really recovered from that point. We were cordial but there was a little sour note in the air; I'd disappointed her somehow, she'd gotten under my skin a little, and so any distant hope I had of getting into her skin faded. We said good night in the elevator and went off to our separate floors.
I had a restless night and woke up thinking about her and the things she'd said. If it's worth it to you... you take the chance. Is it worth it to me? Goddammit, it was, I wasn't going to let it end where last night had ended.