The first sweetheart that I can remember having an impact on me came into my life when I was 13. We lived near the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Virginia. I accompanied my parents to the home of one of Dad's Navy pals and his family who had a son named Skip. To this day I don't know if that was a nickname and can't recall his last name, but that evening over a nice meal cooked by his Mother, and amid happy family banter, we became instant friends. To my eyes he was the most handsome boy I'd ever seen, with black hair, deep blue eyes and a brilliant smile!
After the meal was finished, Skip and I migrated away from the adults and with a surprising lack of awkwardness began our inquiries into our likes and interests. Never before had a boy paid much attention to this skinny, fuzzy haired girl and I couldn't help wondering if his interest was just the politeness one shows to a guest in their home. For hours after we returned to our home and I was snug in my own room, I rehashed the events and the giddy feelings of the night, harboring the desire of my heart that we would meet again.
We had no telephone in our home at that time and the only means for Skip and I to stay in touch was through the mail, so we had exchanged addresses. Our schools were in different districts and even though I begged Dad to have a telephone installed he kept putting it off. Perhaps he thought keeping a phone out of the equation would be the cause of our relationship fading away. He didn't know nor did he believe in the extent of our devotion to stay in touch, and only a few days later I got my first letter from Skip. Reading his sweet words of friendship in the fortress that was my room, made my spirits soar to heights never experienced before and immediately a plan was born. Remembering that just a block down the street from our apartment was a telephone booth, I quickly put on my coat,slipped out of the house and walked breathlessly down the sidewalk where I jotted down the telephone number of that pay phone! Then, returning to the warmth of my room, composed an answer to his letter and asked him to call me at a certain time in the evening at that phone booth where I promised to be be waiting for his call. Those next few days in anticipation found me, every evening at the time specified, shivering in the cold, standing in that telephone booth. Calculating that it would take my letter at least three days to reach my new friend, but not being certain, there was no way that I was going to miss that call, and on every trip down that sidewalk, there was always a nagging dread that there would be someone else in the booth. Magically it seemed, and much to my relief there was never anyone else there.
On the third day as I stood in that cold and stinking telephone booth, holding my breath, the phone jangled and it's sound was so loud that it made me jump out of my skin! Letting it ring a number of times so I could pretend not to care that my much awaited call was at last coming through, I grabbed the receiver and almost dropped it from shaking hands. “Hello?” “Hello back!” was his happy reply.
Every evening after that first call, come chilling, harsh winds, freezing temperatures or the embarrassment of huddling and shivering in that booth, Skip and I created our own reality with our words through the receivers as our paint brushes, and the rest of the world outside vanished for the long hours we spent there.
Then came the day that he told me he was going to make arrangements to take the bus the next Saturday to come visit with me. He had saved for the bus fare. I was in heaven. After what seemed like ages since that first and only meeting, Skip was taking the bus to my house. I was worried that my Parents would say he couldn't come but much to my relief they consented.
Skip arrived early on a brilliantly sunny Autumn Saturday. Not wishing to sit all day in the house under the gaze of my parents we decided to take a long walk in the woods down from our apartment building.
Today, as I sat at my window watching the wind toss dead leaves around the lawn, the memory of that walk in the woods with Skip came flooding into focus. The sounds of the deep leaves in those woods as they scrunched beneath our feet is a memory that is so close it seems like it happened just yesterday. Shuffling with our feet through those ankle deep, dried leaves, holding hands, quiet with our thoughts and feelings, we occasionally stopped to just look up through bare branches at a cloudless, blue November sky. And then, with our fingers still laced together, he leaned down to kiss me! It was a soft, shy kiss, filled with promise and stirred my heart to fluttering. It was my very first kiss and everything that I had previously in my daydreams thought a kiss should be, it was! I don't recall how long we stayed in those woods, but I do remember that later that evening he had to take his bus ride back home. There were many more days of our secret meetings in my phone booth and even another Saturday afternoon when we had a movie date, driven and picked back up again by his Mother.
That time spent in sweet bliss with Skip talking with me on the phone is a memory that has never been too distant to recall from time to time when the late November winds whip up the fallen leaves sending them them twisting and dancing through the brisk air.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
The room is stark and empty, with only one wooden, straight backed chair where you sit in silence, waiting. But the room hasn't always been empty. When you first came here, it was aglow with the soft light of love. The room was once filled with beautiful artwork, paintings of wild storm tossed seas brilliant sunsets, dappled forests and steams and of some sun drenched deserted beach marked with the trail made in the smooth sand of a boat being dragged across it, only to disappear into the curling, foaming waves. There were sculptors of dancing lovers, and of birds in flight. Shelves lined the walls filled with books telling of a love story. The stories recorded every tender word spoken from loving lips. They told of every soft embrace, every heart felt declaration, every musical note created with the delight of two lovers. Yes this room once rang with laughter and joy. Now that laughter is absorbed into the walls and as you continue to speak your words of love, they merely echo back to you, piercing your heart with every syllable.
The fountains of joy, have evaporated though time, the gardens of whispered delights have withered. And the sweepers and dusters have come while you've been focused on the hope of your future together, and have cleaned the remnants of your hopes away, and you have only now noticed. You have only now noticed that you are all alone, left with nothing but memories. Your voice, your love your yearning, reaches no farther than the empty walls around you.
How long have you been sitting here with your hands quietly folded on your lap, barely breathing and squinting with your eyes trying to see his form appear in the doorway? When did the love he gave so freely and poured so lavishly on you, turn to just the occasional crumb to keep you in this room. That kept you from walking out that door you see on the opposite wall. The door that has always been there but that you didn't see until the room was emptied?
It is a door isn't it. It's color the same stark white as the wall that frames it. The only thing that sets it apart from the room are the rusty hinges and doorknob. You stare at it for a long time, frozen with wonder as to what lies beyond it. Could there be life and freedom outside this room? You certainly were happy here. You had dreams and expectations for a time in this room. Those dreams and expectations left with each painting, each sculptor each volume each musical note that have vanished from the room almost without your notice. Now it's only you sitting in your lone chair, staring at that door.
There is no reason to stay. No longer a reason to wait. You rise slowly from your chair and move with hesitant feet toward the door. Before you realize you've even gained an inch, you stand with outstretched hand and take hold of the rusting knob. It doesn't turn with ease but is that because of the condition of the doorknob or your own reluctance? You hear a soft click, and a thin beam of brilliant light pierces through the cracked open edge. As you open the door wider, your eyes behold the most beautiful garden you've ever seen. Trees and flowering bushes line a pebbled path, wet with dew and sparkling like diamonds as the sun paints each drop with the colors of the rainbow. Birds sing a symphony in tune with a fountain in the small courtyard carpeted with wildflowers. Leaves suddenly start a dance with the breeze.
You take a deep breath and turning to look back into your empty room, you remember when it was full of the life the two of you had given it. You know that it's time to close the door to that life because one of you left it long ago. One of you gave up on the dream. One of you might drop in one day and find you gone and you wonder if he will question why. Then slowly turning to quietly close the door for the last time, you listen for that final click of the latch and begin the walk in your own garden.