My long ago crush and friendship began when I was 13 years old. I began ninth grade away from home and was not too happy in the house where I would be staying. The environment was stifling, religiously rigid, and left little room for fun.
He was a senior and I was a freshman. Dating was completely frowned upon, but we might run into each other if I walked past the house where he was boarding. Sometimes, if somehow a message could be squirreled to me, we would meet at the park to talk. Always, a healthy distance was kept, but I felt my young girl crush grow.
After that year, we both left for other schools. He went off to study internationally and I headed to New England. We wrote for a time; those lovely blue onion skin letters folding in poetic words, longing, Jane Austen dreams of romance, and enhanced feelings of understanding. In that limited space, each letter was a gift and a wave of deep and intense complexity.
Within two years, we had lost touch. As I considered my next steps in life, and waited for the dearth of intelligent conversation to end, I sent him a letter. In fact, I had sent him several over the period of time we were not in touch.
Our daily interactions were no more, but a young teenage crush has broad imagination and magical thinking. It clung to my heart all those years.
One day, at 17, I got a letter from him. How did it find him after all this time? Apparently, I had the wrong street name of his address. The first letter was off. One of those times, instead of ending up in a dead letter pile, a knowing postman had delivered it. It must be fate! He asked if he could come to see me and I said Yes! He arrived at my home in an orange VW that he had driven many hours from the Midwest. We went to a diner for a cup of coffee and ended up speaking for the next six hours. Luckily, it was a 24 hour diner!
What I remember from that time was a picnic in a warm sunny meadow, verdant with yellow flowers and weeds. James Taylor music played his greatest hits over and over. Too many topics to cover in too little time. We were leaving and it was time for me to move again in less than a month. We spoke of the passing of his father and how he would have to strike out on his own to make his way into a future.
He came to visit once more when my family had moved. Yet again, great distance held great promise and enhanced and suffused memory with the golden blurring of time and flaws. I thought I could marry him and dreamed of having found my one true soul mate. But, somehow with the distances drawn again, and college, we drifted apart.
The last time I saw him was in New York. This time, he seemed too short, his hair too long, and far removed from my own view of myself. This time, he shared that his mother had died of cancer. This kind young man, orphaned at a young age, kept his smile and deep brown eyes. The words between us were halting and superficial. This was someone that I had loved. How could that fade into the past? My thoughts of that time are always kind, but lost in the enhanced microscope of memory. On one side, things look so large and detailed. On the other, objects are smaller than they appear and their hold and pull miniscule in the personal history I was creating. My teenage years gave everything so much permanence and intensity. We felt so adult at the time, but in hindsight, there were too many more years needed to mature and curve to the demanding changes in our lives.
Thirty years have passed since I last saw him. I have not used Google or any other way to look for him. I left the memories in the past as part of adolescence.
I hope that he found someone to love him and give him a family and that he is no longer alone. He was gentle and I hope that he found a career that allowed him to retain that part of him. Would he be a therapist? Veterinarian? College professor? In 1979, he wore brown suede moccasins, like the hippie vibe that existed back then. While I know that I am not as naïve, thin, or poetic in this fast forward to middle age, I hope that he would recognize the empathy. Hopefully his heart would understand that mine was not ready to settle down, after all, but he was always meant to remain in my fond youthful meanderings.