Monday, November 21, 2011

A History of Love, Pt. 1

Why do certain memories stay fixed in the mind and others fade as quickly as dusk? Answer: their importance.

A friend of mine recently said that, in the end, the only really strong memories we have are our interaction with the opposite sex.

The dude has a point.

I'm going to say the third grade was when I became aware of those most curious creatures. I wouldn't take that time as as accurate at all, but it's as close as I can come to pinpointing the time when I was aware of girls.

By aware, I mean they made me nervous. I would twitch and go silent. In high school, my friend started calling me "Silent Sam" because I would go mute around the pretty ones. Not just those, but all of them mystified me. One thing though: I liked what I saw.

Who's On First?

Where do we start? Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania in the year of our Lord 196x. Hell, I can't remember.

I remember going over to some girl's house and standing outside and talking to her for what seemed a long time. She was really cute, but her name is lost to time now. I do remember a Carol Ferguson- a blond whom all the boys had their eyes on. Her family ran the local funeral home. The same place where they would later display my grandfather, father and then grandmother. Carol was just a distant dream-unobtainable.

I suppose Susan Reilly (Spelling a guess, but her name was pronounced as "really") was the first girl I had contact with and my crush was bad. This was third grade and for some reason, I was the new kid. She sat behind me and I liked that-a lot, but a kick below the belt came one day when she told me, "We were in the bathroom and I said to my friends, 'I hope I don't have to help that new kid because he's so ugly.'" Sweet, yes?

You might as well have thrown me out a window. Looking on it now, we know young people play games with words and ignoring someone is a way of not letting your friends you think the new guy is cute. Whatever her meaning, I took the meaning literally and it knocked me sideways for many years.

Third grade went, but Susan and I had classes together and despite her basically calling me the Hunchback of Notre Dame, we were friends. I still had it bad for her. That never changed. One time and this was around Valentine's Day, I had bought her a box of Russell Stover chocolates. For a reason which I cannot now recall, I got really angry with her. Lord help me, I withheld my chocolates and she started crying. I remember her sitting there pissed and hurt, combing her hair, with red eyes. Not my finest moment, but I do recall realizing that Susan knew that I was her puppet. Maybe I just got tired of that role.
Now, before you call me a monster, I will tell you about what one of her friends did to me during Mrs. Smith's class years later. I sitting in the back row, chatting to this girl, so much so that Mrs. Smith warned me about talking.
The girl said, "Look at my shoe." Dumb as an ox, I did and she promptly kicked me in the face.

It is a wonder that I'm not a serial killer.

She laughed, I was stunned, but it wasn't over for me. Mrs. Smith came back and gave me several light shots with her fist to my nose. Yes, teachers hit students back then.

Imagine what I was learning: girls are devious, well ahead and smarter than boys and what they do to you gets you punishment from authority figures.

That was rough, but not the end of the lessons I was to learn about love in all of its thorny glory.

I did learn one thing about myself even at that age: I could get laughs. I don't know why, but being funny or stupid was both a means of getting attention and diverting the anxiety I felt around girls.

One fond memory I have is at a dance. Now, dances are normally traumatizing events where the socially awkward realize with even further clarity their alienation, but this one was part of Phys Ed. As my partner and I twirled about, I made her laugh with, "I'm going to vomit." I wanted this magical moment to be repeated when class came again, but it didn't happen. It occurred to me that moments like that cannot be recreated. They are spontaneous.


Later, I remember developing a friendship with a girl who was very sweet to me. Once I got over my initial shyness (Yes, once I was shy.), talking was a lot easier. I wish I could remember her name dammit.

She even flirted with me. "When a girl does this," she said while scratching the palm of my hand, "it means she wants you to [insert needed]." I honestly don't remember what sexual thing she was describing. Sorry to disappoint, but that has flown with time as well. I remember it because she was so nice to me.

I do remember having a long conversation with her over the phone. This was progress. Girls don't have to kick you in the face nor call you names.

OK, I'll stick with this.

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