That weekend would prove to give me a deep oasis of memories, all beautiful and surreal. It was a heady time, that summer when I was seventeen. I had straddled the line in between worlds. One toe still dipping into the puddles of adolescence, whilst the other leg draped over languidly into the pool of feminine whiles I newly possessed. A time when I was longing for freedom, adventure and exploration. I’d always known a life that was less than ordinary, but that was all about to change.
It was 1969, the year my parents divorced. Dad found a new relationship with his young secretary; Mom found the bottle. I was left to my own devices those months leading up to the festival. No one even noticed that I had packed a nap sack and roll blanket that August. No one cared that I spent money on a single bus ticket to the neighboring town, Bethel, New York. I slipped out the door quietly like a ghost into ether, there were no chains for me to rattle to draw attention to my departure. No one saw me. No one cared to look. I wasn’t a specter, but I was indeed invisible.
The bus ride into Bethel hadn’t been much in the way of miles, but it may as well had been a trip into a different galaxy. The peaceful town was abuzz with an ebbing energy. People were making their pilgrimages to the festival. No shoes, no shirts, no problem. The hives of hippies moved closer to the open concert field. Some carefree women flitted in clouds of exhaled cannabis, gentle breezes lifting long hair up just enough to reveal young, taut breasts. The men that walked alongside them in bare feet, heels pressing hard against the road’s pavement, didn’t seem to notice the nudity. Perhaps they were simply too stoned to care.
I dismounted the bus and stepped into a dream. A universe of sights and sounds overwhelmed my senses in the most delicious ways. Elicit smoke created a surreal fog that hovered just over the crowds of dancers swaying and clapping, as Joan Baez sang out an anti-war ballad.
It was as if a magnet pulled me to the middle of the experience. I danced closer until I was immersed in the tambour of the deep soulful cords coming from fingers against guitar frets.
Everyone around me lifted their voices together in song, they all believed they could be released from the shackles of the senseless war.
I found a sweet spot facing the stage, taking a seat cross-legged on the unrolled blanket. My eyes focused on the performance; it was then I felt a tap on my shoulder.
‘I’ll share my joint with you if you’ll share your blanket with me.’ He winked charmingly.
My glance moved down his body. Tall and lean, his young physique tanned from shirtless days out in the sun. My eyes settled on his crooked smile, the bottom lip curving like winding roads into my mind. I nodded, a mesmerized ‘yes’ as he sat gracefully next to me.
No formal introductions were made between us, just a beam from that crooked smile before we shared his joint. I took it in and felt myself become lighter than air, floating up and hovering in the setting sun and psychedelic stage lights that twinkled as the concert played on.
Back and forth we passed the dwindling rolled smoking paper between us, until it had burned down to nothing. I breathed out one last puff and tilted my head up towards the sky as rain droplets started to fall. Crystalline pellets succumbing to the release of the cumulus clouds lingering overhead. I laughed at the audaciousness of the moment.
My lips parted; the boy took his brave opportunity to land a kiss on my novice pout.
With me distracted by the increasing precipitation he had managed to edge closer to me on that shared blanket. I was in a trance procured by his deep brown eyes. Every magical kiss he gave, I reciprocated, until there was no space between us.
I felt every print of his fingertips exploring my body, pushing the dampened tresses off of my cheeks so he could kiss my face. All the while the old blanket cradled me from the ground and from reality. We were surrounded by thousands of people, some moving to the beat of the drums on stage, some creating more love in the world, as he and I were. There was only ‘us’ in that cosmos together and yet everyone at that concert had the same shared euphoria that can only be known at the moment, like lightning in a bottle.
When our high came down and we returned to earth, the boy and I stood together, wrapped in my blanket as we listened to the Grateful Dead jam. The first night’s music was coming to an end. The boy had glanced over at me and unwound himself from our shared cocoon. He kissed my forehead in a farewell, I hadn’t wanted to let go of him, this unnamed angel from heaven.
‘We’ll never see each other again, will we?’ It was all I could manage to say.
He smiled at me and said over the rumbling of the crowd.
‘I see all of you, and I’ll never forget the way you look right now.’
With that, he held up two fingers in the peace sign, disappearing into the masses of hippies like a beautiful mirage.
What a time it was…all those years ago. Every August, I pull out that festival memorabilia, the edges of that frayed ticket reminding me of the night that changed my life.
The night I was finally seen.
‘Got out that old blanket, babe? We had some good times on it.”
He smiled that crooked smile and winked charmingly.
Gina Maria Manchego is a multi-medium artist and poet. She has been penning since childhood, her goal is to create dynamic scenes with the written word. Gina lives in the wild mountains of Colorado, USA. Her other work can be experienced at her website at Gina Maria Manchego – Author on Wordpress.