In those days, I was always falling in love. I fell in love with Mrs. Muir from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, with Mary Jane, Spider-Man’s girlfriend, with Wonder Woman. I loved the last two especially.
I would imagine going for drives with Lynda Carter or for walks in a park. I imagined sitting on a sofa and holding hands. The fact that I could not drive and Wonder Woman would have to drive for us embarrassed me. It made obvious the difference in our ages. I felt that the proper relationship for me was with Mary Jane, who was younger and a cartoon, although I liked Lynda Carter more.
Years passed. We moved from Queens to New Jersey. I was thirteen and the town we moved to had a lot of construction going on. When a house was nearly done, it would stand with landscaping around it, but one could see through the front windows into the backyard. If, on my father’s evening walks, he came to a house with a new lawn that had freshly laid rectangles of turf, he would hurry home, get into his car, and drive back to the house. He would crawl over the lawn, peeling sections of turf from the yard. He would carry these into the back of his car and bring them home to our own lawn, which was yellow and sunburnt with rectangular patches of bright green.
One summer evening, I was sitting at my desk, in my room upstairs, when I heard my father’s car. In the back were the sheets of turf. My mother came running out of the house and stood by the driver’s-side door. “If you are going to steal, don’t steal during the day,” she screamed. “Do you know nothing?”
“Grass doesn’t belong to anyone,” my father said, getting out of the car. “Grass is like air.” Not looking at her, he walked to the trunk.
“Do people pay to put air on their lawn?” My mother was so angry she was panting.
I cranked open my window. I leaned out. “Are you circus folk?” I yelled.
Then, too, I often thought I was in love. First there was a girl named Joanne who was very skinny and had square blonde hair and who worked at a dry cleaner. In high school there was a pudgy girl with pasty skin named Cathy. Both were quiet and listened intently in class. Both were good at math and hoped to be engineers. Although I spoke to them only a few times, in each case I thought about the girl all day and dreamt of her at night. I would fantasize about living happily together and being good. When I am married, I thought, I will give my wife a single flower every day. In my fantasies, we were always married, although this idea was vague to me, represented mainly by our living in a house that had a dining table.
I went to Rutgers for college. I was fat. I didn’t know much about women. My father once told me, “Ajay, don’t be proud. Marry someone taller than you.” My mother laughed with malice. “The first well that gives this boy water, he will build his house next to.”
After college, I started working as an accountant in the comptroller’s office of a big pharmaceutical company. I liked working. I liked going to an office and getting a salary. I liked driving into an office park with lush green plantings and a fountain. I felt that I had been allowed into an important world. It was here that I met my first true love.