Romance for beginners.
March 2, 2012 § 5 Comments
My sister liked Paul, but he was too easy-cute for me. George was quiet and broody like me.
Quiet and broody and misunderstood.
And we both had eyebrows that wanted to shake hands across the bridges of our noses.
A poster of his face hung on the wall by my bed. Feeling both passionate and foolish I’d kiss him goodnight.
Even alone in my room with the door shut, I knew it was dumb to kiss the wall. Real kissing couldn’t possibly be that flat or unyielding.
I knew I shouldn’t feel my own teeth pressed against the inside of my lips.
But we were separated by insurmountable obstacles. He was in England and I was in junior high.
I hoped he’d wait for me.
But I was the one who quit waiting for him, trading a long-shot future with George for a real kiss from Ziggy Bancroft under the stairs at “The Basement,” a church-run coffeehouse for teens—the church probably knew nothing about that space under the stairs.
It is only as I write it down now that I wonder, did he kiss me on a dare?
It wasn’t much of a kiss, but it was three-dimensional and I was sure it counted for something. I waited for him to call. He never did.
I remember the exact moment I fell for real. I was sitting on the steps down to Milo’s basement, the girl singer for a rock band called “Half Price Paradise.” Tolerant parents were probably in the kitchen sipping coffee and enduring the clatter of the high hats and the waa-waa of guitars.
Hidden on the stairs listening to a song that needed no girl singing a third or fifth above the lead, I felt the pulse of the music in my chest and watched Steven’s shadow dance big on the staircase wall as he sang and played “Hey Joe.”
But in real life, Steven was a year younger than me, skinny, pimpled and silent. He walked with his eyes down, his shoulders round–all of which changed when he picked up a guitar.
His wolfish shadow seemed to laugh as he punched out, “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand. I’m going down shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messing round with another man.”
The throbbing notes came after me, just me. The sureness in his voice said, I know what you don’t about love and life.
That sureness was borrowed from Jimi, who probably knew for real the twisted path love could take but once lured in, I was gone.
I loved Steven from sophomore year until I went to college. Like dog years, our early years are worth multiples of any lived in later life.
By the time I heard his voice on the dorm phone tell me he had a new girlfriend, one closer than a picture in a frame, I’d loved him for a sixth of my life.
Or maybe I had loved the idea of him, the shadow on the wall. He’d never become a talker, so in my mind he could be any way I wanted him to be. Just because he didn’t talk about it didn’t mean he didn’t love me. A lot.
I’d spent days and nights imagining the sweet things he thought but never said, and in a phone call it was over.
I didn’t get over him easy.
Ask any second-floor girl in my dorm.
They’ll tell you.
Note: See also: “A Day in the life: the day George died.”