I was a little girl on a grey rainy Sunday afternoon, playing with my Barbie dolls, I remember it so vividly. My mum switched the television channel over and I moaned at her, claiming that I had been watching the cartoons but we both knew that wasn’t true. A film had just started on the other side, this was a familiar and frequent weekend event, my mum would watch an old movie as I played with my toys. I would pretend that I wasn’t interested but I would rapidly get swept up in the dark and haunting Bette Davies, I’d gasp in shock when Clark Gabel frankly didn’t give a damn about the beautiful Vivienne Leigh and I would smile at the comedy and pure oozing glamour of Marilyn Monroe.
I was half dressing my dolls in ostentatious ball gowns and half watching ‘The Long, Hot Summer’, until I saw him, and then I forgot all about Barbie’s prior engagement with Ken. Those eyes. I stared at the screen; I had never seen such eyes, the most dreamy, delicious, piercing, scene stealing blue. I felt myself melting and when he appeared shirtless, with a bronzed chiselled torso and those eyes, my knees wobbled and I felt a peculiar sensation in my stomach. I was seven years old and hopelessly in love. I was hooked by the plot, I partly wanted Ben and Clara to live happily ever after, but I partly despised Clara because she had those eyes looking at her and loving her.
My eyes scanned the film credits once it was over. Paul Newman, I whispered his name and a crimson spider crept up my hot freckled face. I was mesmerised. My mum told me that Ben and Clara were married in real life, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. My mum always knew how to piss on my chips. I have never since cared for Joanne Lucky Pants Woodward.
I felt so very lovesick that I couldn’t eat my tea, which was strange as Sunday dinner was my favourite. My mum sent me to bed without dessert and just this once, I didn’t care, even though it was Sara Lee’s chocolate gateaux. I closed my eyes and placed myself within the film, his sultry voice called my name.
After that, I developed an obsession with eye colour. I checked everyone I came into contact with, all the children at school, the milkman, the customers in the tiny local shop, the passengers on every bus, but nobody had eyes as blue as Paul Newman.
Brown eyed boys couldn’t delight me. I had the blues about those blues. I wanted to look into the eyes of a boy and see an ocean, have my breath taken away, find my own soul there. I wanted to find the bluest eyed boy and make him mine. I wanted to be Clara. I wanted my own long, hot summer.
I grew up, became a confused teenager, a time that I did not relish. None of my friends understood my unusual quest, they were happy decorating their pencil cases with stickers of floppy haired band members in jeans, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
As spring arrived, along with my sixteenth birthday, hormones fell with April showers; lust arrived with baby pink blossom buds. I had stirrings and yearnings and longings and needs. I was frustrated, empty and so desperate to be touched that I would lie on my bedroom floor, like a wretched wild wounded animal, for hours, wailing, feeling it as a palpable pain.
The boys in my school year must have felt similar pangs because, all of a sudden, they talked to my chest and looked at my legs and begged me to meet them in the evenings, to go to the park and kiss badly against an uncomfortable tree trunk. I tried it, I wanted to be kissed, tasted, devoured, but I couldn’t feel the magic, the butterflies had died, nothing danced and teased and tickled within my abdomen. I still wanted those blues. I wanted a man, a man with a chiselled torso who would stand, half naked, outside my bed chamber and seductively call out my name. I still wanted Ben. I still wanted Paul Newman and the longest, hottest summer.
College was a riot, pubs, nightclubs, lager, spirits, too many late nights and early mornings. I went along with the frolics and played my part but there was something always missing. I never saw those eyes, those exotic blues.
University was even better, a diverse and eclectic mix of new and old friends, different experiences and perspectives, being a tiny goldfish in a vast yet noisy sea. I even found a film club which was wonderful. We’d all meet up, drink wine and watch old movies. One night, we watched ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ and I felt ill with desire, dizzy, nauseas, hot and sticky. I was seven years old again, transported back in time to my mum’s living room, silly, foolish, lovesick and in awe.
Now I am thirty six and I look around at all my friends, cosy, coupled, married, mothers and fathers. I am still alone, untouched, burning, and still waiting for those blues. I wonder sometimes, if I should have settled, would I be happier. I worry sometimes; where are those blues and will I ever find them. But I so want and need those blues and so I wait.