Friday, June 11, 2004

Red-letter day

If history is any guide, I'll be having a memorable day today. To know why, you'd have to step into this here contraption. It merely *looks* like a Whirling Vortex of Death, but it's really my little memory machine. C'mon, let's go....*whoosh*


I'm seventeen years old, and I'm in love.
At least, I call it that. I'm sure that's what it is. But that love is, tragically, unrequited; the girl (I'll call her Janet, it's one of her three middle names) wants to be "just friends"...oh, the pain of that little two-word phrase. "Just friends" means I have to listen to the endless litany of crushes she has, most of them on guys not worth half a booger (or half one of *my* boogers, in my humble estimation and if you catch the drift of my thoughts here.) "Just friends" means that I actually need to *console* her whenever the object of her affections treats her like a turd. This last happens quite often, confirming the low opinion I have of these braid-dead hunks. (Hunks, alas; Ken, you little puny stick-figure nerd, you don't stand a chance...*sigh* *moan* *little lost forlorn teenage tear*
It's been nearly two years of frustration...3.68 eternities, in Teenage Time. My interest in other women is inversely proportional to Janet's perceived interest in me, which means one innocent smile on her part and all thought of other girls shoots from my mind as if on wheels.
What's more, Janet's moving at the end of this school year, to a city on the dark side of Neptune, a day's drive from here. We found out about this almost a month ago: her family's getting transferred. NEWSFLASH: SUN BEING EXTINGUISHED IN THREE WEEKS, ALL LIFE TO END. What do you do when every morning the newspaper in your mind has that same headline, counting down? Not much you can do--you just muddle along and hope that when the sun finally snuffs it, you go quick.

Sunday, June 11th, 7:50 p.m.

The phone rings.
Janet. Cool. She, like, almost *never* calls me.
"Ken, I'm lonely. Wanna go for a walk?"
Hmmm, now which of six thousand answers should I give to *that* one? Yes? Hell, yes? Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?
After checking with my parents and assuring them I'll be home before full dark (man, I am one *whipped* teenager), I set out from my house and meet her about two blocks down. She's wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt that I, with my infatuated teenage eyes, think she's simply adorable in. We walk to the school, and I ask if she wants to go sit on the bleachers. "No," she says, "there's people over there".

Right there, my heart chooses that time to start up a little dialogue with my brain. "Okay", says the heart, I've been beating now for, oh, aeons, and I've *never* heard anything like that, much less from *her*, so I think I'll just stop beating here for a while, how's that?"
To which my brain says "..."
"Hey, brain, you hearin' me?"
"Oh, damn it, Brain's gone into total meltdown, I guess I've gotta pick up the slack...Hey, Face, smile! Look calm! Walk normally! Shit, BREATHE!"

Subsequent events are the stuff of which only love-sick teens can empathize. The funny thing is, I never so much as kissed Janet, not once. We walked through the woods that abutted the school grounds, to a clearing, where I sat down and she immediately laid her head across my lap and looked up at the moon through the dusk. There was a lot of energy in the air, some of it emanating from me, some--I'm sure of it--from her. I thought about kissing her and found, to my surprise, that I couldn't do it...not because I didn't want to, but because we both seemed to be on hair triggers. Once *that* path opened up, I was going to walk it to the end.

You can lay your head back on the ground
Let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense:
This is the end of the innocence

--Don Henley, "The End of the Innocence"

After a time that was *much* too short, we got up and walked, hand-in-hand and then arm-in-arm, back home. And that was the end of my day. She moved, on schedule. Later that summer, I got mail from her proposing marriage. To my adult mind, it sounds almost corny: "Save me the aisle. Let me do the honours of being your one and only". It rocked my teenage mind on its heels. I wrote back, saying I loved her and would gladly marry her in time, but she should concentrate on school for now. Knowing, of course, that somebody else would probably come along...for both of us. He did--Janet's married now, with a kid who'd be eight or so. And she did...three shes, actually, a little procession, each one a step up and now I'm at the pinnacle, three and a half years married and happier than I could have imagined in 1989.
Haven't talked to Janet for years. I think about her sometimes, though. You never forget your first love, even if you've got your best love.

Speaking of best love...

Here, step back in here, I've got another tale to tell.



I'm 27 years old, and I've been through the wars.
Said wars always start with my own carelessness/stupidity/reckless disregard, and always end with me standing on the sidelines, asking "which way did she go?"
Just got through a long war of attrition, actually, with lesson learned: if you *ever* betray somebody, better to just break it off immediately, 'cause brother, there ain't *no* way you can still be friends afterwards, and you sure as *hell* can't start the relationship over fresh. No matter how many times you apologize, no matter how you show you've come to your senses, you'll forever be tarred with the cheater's brush. So kill the relationship after you have an affair. Better yet, don't have an affair, you feckin' idiot.
Back in February, relationship kaput, job yanked out from underneath me, my prospects looking increasingly bleak, I applied for a position at a market research company. Market research (he hastened to tell you) is *not* telemarketing, although the people on the other end of the phone seem to think it bears a striking resemblance. The interview was among the more interesting I ever in my life: my prospective boss, Eva, and I spent more time talking about Stephen King than we did the job at hand. Needless to say, I got the job.
I'm not very good at it. Like most jobs, the people you work with are the only reason you get out of bed at all most days. Among these people (pretty high on the list, if I'm being honest)is Eva herself. She's that rare combination of street-smart and book-smart, and she's a study in opposites. I'm slowly discovering I could spend a lifetime learning about her, and enjoying every minute of it.
But she's my boss, so best tread lightly.
In May, we went on what I thought of then as an 'excursion' and now recognize as a date. We went to Costco, K-W Used Books, and a movie. [2004 Ken intrudes: that's funny, it's exactly the kind of date we still have now!] The movie was The Matrix, something I had seen before by myself and thought 'this is exactly the kind of movie Eva would enjoy.'

Things are progressing nicely.

Friday, June 11th

Well, for the ninth year in a row, nobody's going to call me up and ask if I want to go for a walk. And for maybe the first year since Janet *did*, that'll be the last thought I spare for June 11th, 1989 all day.

I'll draw a curtain of privacy around the details of this date. Suffice it to say it lasted overnight. The thing that most enthralls me, though, isn't anything remotely carnal: it's that Eva and I can talk about *anything*. There's nothing taboo. Already I can't imagine anything interesting happening to me that I wouldn't want to tell her right away. We actually talked about getting married, sometime in October of next year. It's not like I proposed, or she did. Nobody asked--we just sort of told each other.
Isn't that odd? Well, it would be, with anyone else. With Eva, mapping out the future is an exercise in pointing out the inevitable.

This is different from any 'love' I've been in before. That's because for the first time, I'm happy with myself, not looking for somebody to "complete" me. Instead, I'm looking to share in the "completeness" of life.

Oh, what a feeling....what a..



House coming, kids coming, happy wife, happy life...can it get any better than this?

1 comment:

DOakley said...

Gosh...has it been 20 years! You have a good memory--but then, I never doubted your memory!