2008 PAST LOVES STORY CONTEST
I Sing of You
by Patricia Boies
I was still sixteen, a freshman like you, when we met, you who would become my first love, my first lover. I had a crush on you from the start, your thick curly dark hair exploding under the wide brim of your black felt hat, your smooth olive skin that needed no shaving, your crooked front tooth, your long lean body, the battered cane you carried because of your knee operation. I was shy and you were shyer, so even though we spent months hanging out with the gang, my eyes on you as the joint passed and the music played in all those dorm rooms, at all those concerts, even though we hitchhiked from Boston to Ithaca in the middle of winter, huddling close in the phone booth after the state trooper threw us off the highway, it was not until April, spring breaking out all over, that I told your best friend how much I liked you, and he told you, and so it began.
We would walk into the dining hall for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, and the guys would tease us, it was so obvious what we had been up to, feeding each other in ways beyond what cafeteria food could provide. The narrow dormitory bed seemed vast, it contained multitudes, as we breathed each other in, hearts and bodies humming.
We would hitchhike into Harvard Square and take the MBTA over the Charles River to Park Street, constantly touching, fiddling with the soft braided leather bracelets we had fashioned for each other. We made love under the willow tree in the Public Garden, and on the terrace of the Fine Arts Building in Cambridge, and in dozens of places with no name at all. We marked our territory wherever we could lie down together.I wanted to get to the bottom of you, wanted nothing to be off limits. I told you things I had never told anyone, and you showed me your own scars. But mostly we celebrated the moment, our bodies our bible.
First love has a strong grip.
After our time together, it mattered to me that we stay friends. Years later, when you met the woman who would become your wife, I was glad that I liked her and that she liked me. I changed the day of my departure for India so I would not miss your wedding. As you stood waiting by the altar, I blew you a kiss, and you acknowledged me with a nod.
When my daughter was born in Seattle, I wanted you to meet her, this new love of my life, this new testament to living in the present. After your son was born, and our two families, each with one child, would get together from time to time on one coast or the other, I imagined our children falling in love some day.
When my daughter died suddenly one April, just after her tenth birthday, you flew across the country to come to her celebration. It mattered to me that you came, that you were present at this unimaginable threshold. I stood at the altar and spoke of life with my daughter, and of life without her, and of the song that was still in my heart. You are part of that song, as you have been since I was sixteen, as you always will be.
The Last Time I Saw Dennis
by Deborah Schildkraut
Classic story. Opposites attract - underachieving high school rogue dates aloof, class brain - as big a cliché as the story line in any 1950s girl band song. Dennis and I were as different as snowflakes and hailstones. We didn’t have one friend in common. The differences fueled our relationship.
It was drama club where I first noticed Dennis. He swaggered when he walked and wore his russet hair low over his mischievous green eyes. The way he tossed his hair aside when he smiled made me shiver. And that smile, a little off center with just the left corner turned up, only added to his charm. From the first day I saw him, how I wanted to kiss that crooked smile. Silly me. My aloofness hid a naïve girl too shy to talk to him. Dennis had no such problem and asked me out the second day of rehearsals. I accepted, staring at my shoes, wary that this was a prank. How could such a boy be interested in me? But three days later, he picked me up on Friday night for our first date involving pizza, a movie, and some kissing. I don’t remember the details of the movie or pizza, but the kissing…that I remember. Flirtatious kisses, light and teasing, led to a depth of feeling I had not imagined I possessed. For the next year, his senior and my junior, we learned to enjoy our differences and moved through the months at ease with each other.
Dennis graduated in 1966, and went to work for his brother-in-law fixing cars at his auto repair shop. The Vietnam War was in full throttle. I feared that he would be drafted. I pleaded with him to go to college. He could have gotten a deferment if he enrolled. I wanted him safe, to be with me always. We struggled through my senior year. Even when we weren’t arguing, the draft was never far from our minds. It was a dark time. All the sweet kisses could not push away my fear. We ended the relationship a month before I graduated. I had gotten a scholarship to a college 300 miles away. We were weary, and the break-up inevitable.
Fast-forward to Thanksgiving 1968, my sophomore year in college. I hadn’t seen Dennis even once in the fourteen months since we broke up. Home for the first time that semester, I took a walk in the damp afternoon chill, needing to shake off the lethargy from the previous day’s feast. I walked a few blocks past familiar places, friends’ houses, the convenience store, and high school. I turned the corner onto First Street, and there he was, waxing his car, He had a chamois in his hand and was wiping the rain from the white and aqua Olds 88 that had been our chariot and refuge. He was bent over the front fender. His beautiful hair was gone, shaved to the scalp. I staggered and grabbed a fence for support, dumbfounded to realize he must have been drafted. Trembling, wanting to move forward but unable to face him, I skulked away. I slowed at the corner. Just for a second I looked back. His head began to rise up from the car. I ran away.
The shame I felt when I heard of his death in Vietnam thirty-nine years ago, lingers. I fear he saw me that day, and went to the other side of the world knowing I was a coward. I should have walked the half block to his car. I should have smiled at him, hugged him, wished him safe from harm. I should have.
Bittersweet are my memories of Dennis, first love and first regret entwined around my heart. And carried from those days are the lessons that love changes you and there is no turning back. For that I still weep whenever I think of Dennis.
by Lori Stott
Not too long ago, I came across a Dear Abby headline that caught my eye: Happily Married Woman Still Misses Lover Who Never Was. The letter was signed "Needs Closure".
Needs closure. That’s me. My past love, the one I can’t shake entirely, was my high school sweetheart, my first true love. Upon graduation, we attempted to carry on our relationship despite the fact that we lived two thousand miles apart.
At forty-five, I am truly happily married to a man whom I adore, and we have created a family and a life together that is built on trust and love and grace. But I still think of my young/old love. I feel that he- or the we that was- will always have a place in my heart of hearts. Our relationship, which ended badly to tell you the truth, holds a sacred place in my being. It is but a memory- a precious but tumultuous snapshot of a youthful time- passionate lovemaking on a blanket in the field behind my parent’s house, tender handholding in the local movie theatre.
I know so few people who are walking around on the planet who don’t wonder about a past love, or think about that time of life when that particular love was alive. Mine is named Darren. I have friends of all ages and backgrounds who have told me theirs: Kenny, John, Gayle, Derek, Colleen. My mother recently went to her fiftieth college reunion, and had those old feelings come up after spotting her first boyfriend, a man she had not stood next to in over five decades! This "wondering" seems to be a universal condition.
It is not so much the "what if’s" that get a hold of me (what if we went to college in the same state, what if we had managed to stay faithful, etc.) but more like the feeling in my body that won’t let go of the memory of him, of the us that used to be. So when I read this Dear Abby’s explanation that past loves are actually "imprinted" in our electrical circuitry, it just seemed right. Ah ha! Our relationship was literally "in" me still, just as I have suspected now for almost thirty years.
I have seen Darren at two high school reunions. At our tenth, we were still both single and I am sure the thought of "what if?" wandered across both of our minds. But nothing happened, and I know now that this is for the best. It was at that reunion gathering, after years of silence and despair that I felt (and after making a formal amends to him years prior, for essentially screwing things up between us) that I was able to look him in the eye and thank him for the gifts he had given me. You see, Darren had opened up my world to the joys of backpacking in the Rockies. He showed me awe and wonder for the grandiosity of nature while at the same time to appreciate the small things, even good socks or the right camping hat. I told Darren that, to this day, when I go hiking, the memory of him is with me, in my feet and in my heart. I was able to share my gratitude for the time we had together.
At our twentieth high school reunion, we simply had a good time, exchanging stories and laughter about our present lives, enjoying the fact that we still both shared a love of adventure, travel and the outdoors. He and my husband Jay hit if off so naturally (no surprise there, they are a lot alike!) that former classmates were compelled to ask if we were all buddies.
Through the years there has been healing and self-forgiveness for the pain and loss of that early love relationship. Still. Every now and then Darren pops into my mind or shows up in a dream. But I no longer wonder why. I just think, oh there he is again. And I know that he is "electrically imprinted" in me and shall forever be. And that is as it should be. Abby said so.
FOURTH PLACE (Two Stories)
When He Looked Like James Dean
by Terri Elders
When I walked into the foyer of the Little Brown Church for Bob’s memorial service, I broke into a grin. Our son, Steve, had posted a blown-up photograph of his dad. Bob, at 19, shrugged into a leather flight jacket, eyes squinted against smoke from his corona, looking jauntily suave, the perfect embodiment of early ‘50’s cool.
We had been divorced for nearly twenty five years. In fact, when Steve called me with the news, while he related the details, I was doing the math. If we hadn’t been divorced back in l980, if we had remained in our genial but increasingly disunited marriage, if Bob hadn’t succumbed to lung cancer, we soon would celebrate our golden anniversary.
Though I’d not seen my ex since I had remarried five years earlier, I had continued to send birthday and Christmas cards. I knew of Bob’s hospitalizations and painful decline, that over the past few years he had lost nearly seventy pounds, that he walked hesitatingly with a cane, and looked closer to 85 than his actual age of 73.
A career police officer, even after retirement Bob remained active with the Southern California Juvenile Officers Association and a 12-Step program he had lead for decades. I found it tough to picture how deteriorating health had laid siege to his robust appearance.
Now, staring at the photo of the Bob of my youth, I remembered how we met. In l954 I had been editor of the Compton College Tartar Shield, and Bob, a Korea vet attending on the GI Bill, had been taking a photography course. Since the photo lab was housed in the journalism building, Bob used to joke about trying to lure me into the darkroom.
I took my seat in the chapel, and listened as my son welcomed the crowds of people who had come to celebrate his father’s life. Steve spoke of finding the photo of his dad, how astonished he was to discover how cool his dad appeared, and how he had looked like James Dean even before Dean became a star. The audience chuckled.
Then he mentioned how his father had been smart enough to marry not one, but two, smart women. The audience laughed again, and I heard somebody in the back whisper, "I wonder if Terri is here."
Others came forward to relate appreciative memories. As they talked, I reflected on how our divorce had opened doors for both of us. Bob had found a more compatible woman, one who shared his interests, which involved recovery programs right in the town where he had been born.
Our divorce had released me geographically so that I could work with Peace Corps. I have heard gray wolves howl on the spring equinox in Mongolia, stared down a baby octopus while snorkeling in the warm Indian Ocean waters of Seychelles, dined on armadillo at Macy’s Café in Belize City. I’ve seen the Toledo, the castle in Spain I had dreamed of since childhood.
Whenever I returned to Southern California, Bob would take me to lunch, and smile at my adventures.
Steve asked if anybody else wanted to speak. I rose and approached the dais, and heard somebody say, "Why, it’s Terri."
"With the exception of his niece, I have known Bob longer than anybody here today," I began.
Then I told of our first encounter. As I exited from a rigorous Western Civilization test in late l954, Bob gave me a wolf whistle. I walked over and said, "That’s cheered me up." I stood on tiptoe and pecked his cheek. Bob grinned and said, "If I get that for a whistle, I’m going home and get my bugle." The audience roared.
I recounted some of Bob’s earlier achievements, how he had been the quintessential optimist, and I vouched that he indeed had been cool. "I’m happy to say," I concluded, gesturing towards the photo, "that I knew Bob Elders when he looked like James Dean."
A few days later I found an abelia shrub called Golden Anniversary. Bob and I had been married for only twenty five years, but had remained friends for an additional twenty five. That chilly afternoon I planted the Golden Anniversary.
In the Mood (Lost Love)
by Florence Haney
"Hey, Betty. I found out our dance tonight is formal. OK?"
So like Blake. He’s picking me up at my dorm before the hour. Everything’s last minute with him. That’s what makes him fun.
I hung up the hall phone and shot upstairs to my room.
"What are you doing?" my roommate, Ann, asked, as I flung sweater and swing skirt I’d chosen earlier on my bunk.
"Formal dance!" I pulled my long gold gown over my head, adjusting lace on sweetheart neck and puffed sleeves. Bless Mother’s artistic sewing fingers.
"He did it again!" Ann fluffed out my side bang, ran her fingers through curls over my ears. "I’d dump him!"
I shucked out of saddle shoes and anklets, slipped on high heels, tossed compact, lipstick, hanky into my beaded bag. "He’s the best."
Best dancer, best writer, best looker. I was envied by everyone in our tiny oiltown high school.
"You enjoy so many of the same things." "Like you were made for each other." everyone said. I agreed.
Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood" pulled us through ballroom doors. Driving rhythms called us to join brightly dressed girls and their dates. Many young men were in ASTP or Navy V-12 uniforms. Blake would be Navy-bound soon. A submarine somewhere. Pearl Harbor changed all our lives.
"This might be our last dance." I kicked off my shoes. "Can’t jitterbug in these."
Mellow sounds from trombones slid right down my spine to my toes. Blake’s hand took mine, twirling me onto the floor. Saxophones sang their way into every nerve. We knew just what the other would do. Our bodies moved faster as other dancers moved into a circle. We had the whole dance floor. Blake twisted me quickly behind him. Deep-throated growl of slide trombones urged us into swifter steps. He swung me out as far as he could. Our shoulders moved at the insistence of Miller’s music. We met back in the center, falling into each other’s arms as the last beat throbbed.
Panting, leaning on each other, we accepted spontaneous applause. Blake. Betty. We belonged together. Always "In The Mood" when we hit the dance floor. Benny Goodman, Harry James, all great bands. But Glenn Miller brought out our best
We kissed good-bye the day he left for duty.
"We’ll keep "In The Mood."
"Till you come home."
"Dear Blake, here’s my latest writing effort, called "Blue Vase," about Mother during the Depression. Hope you like it. Waiting for your article. In the mood, Betty."
V-Mail didn’t give much room to share thoughts, so now and then, I sent a story. He sent back a critique. We wrote about high school days - our freshman year at OU. Remembering the fun when we danced, when we worked in the Press Building wrapping and mailing out books worldwide. Mostly, we looked forward to writing a book together.
The war grew more intense. My family moved to California where we worked at Mare Island Naval Shipyard Somehow our addresses were no longer correct.. Blake and I lost track. I met other young servicemen, even danced with some. It wasn’t the same. Glenn Miller disappeared flying to Paris. Big bands faded away. The world was so different when the war ended.
"Where are you, Blake? Are you still writing? Dancing? Are you still alive? Where are you, my lost love?"
I entered a new way of life at University of California, majoring in Liberal Arts. Returning service men, sporting the "ruptured duck" on their lapels, registered under the GI bill. One turned out to be "love of my life." Fred, good musician, terrible dancer. He always played his alto sax, when other students danced. Glenn Miller was his favorite band through our years of marriage. We played those melodies over again, cuddling in his parents’ car.
Fred never knew why I felt so loving when Miller music played. Yes, even after these many years with the most wonderful man in the world, "In The Mood" still makes me wonder, "Where is my lost love? Is he still "In the Mood?"