Sunday, August 07, 2005

"Preoccupied With 19-, 19-, 1985"*

So I'm seventeen, I've been swept away from the person I'm pretty sure is the "love of my life," and I sit around for hours listening to Leo Sayer's "When I Need You" over and over on a 45, writing letters to Mr. High School, which I keep in a gray three-ring binder that I drag with me everywhere I go--letters in which I pour out my heart and soul in all their pathetic and messy glory. These are letters, needless to say, which I have no intention of him ever seeing.

Eventually, I get over it--sort of. After the turmoil of three schools in my senior year, and the death of my grandfather just after graduation, I decide to put college plans on hold and just try to catch my breath emotionally. My mother packs me off to New Hampshire where I have a supportive friend and a job waiting. I bring the notebook and the Leo Sayer 45 and an array of other sappy music, but there are friends, and guys, and the job and the melancholy doesn't look as attractive as it once did.

Still, when Hubby-To-Be first asks me out, I actually tell him I'm not sure I can go out with him because of my feelings for Mr. High School. Even though we'd technically never had what could be called a relationship, I feel a certain warped loyalty to him. I'm on the rebound from a relationship that never happened.

A few dates with Hubby, though, and the melodrama starts to recede into the vague and hazy past where melodrama belongs. I come to understand that my feelings for Mr. High School were a crush nursed into an out of control obsession. He had become an icon, a superstar, an idea.

He was an idea with some staying power, though. Every few months, I would have a dream about him, whether I gave him a passing daytime thought or not. News of his wedding, a year after mine, filtered through the grapevine to me. And eight years later, news of his messy divorce came in a Christmas card from someone we both knew.

I would indulge in a what'd-it-all-mean journal entry from time to time. That conversation in the barn, that afternoon at the pool, the energy between us that even strangers seemed to pick up on, surely it all meant something. Or maybe it only meant that adolescent hormones are even more of a force to be reckoned with than anyone had ever suspected. (Bottle those and sell them--it could either be the salvation of the human race or the end of the world.)

Around the beginning of this year, I began sorting through all my old spiral notebook journals--the ones I'd kept faithfully since 1983, the summer I turned 15--and typing them on to computer disk. It began as a kind of typing exercise--something at least marginally more entertaining than "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog"--but as I came to the pages (and pages and pages) where I'd written out my angst over Mr. High School, I found myself pushing back the urge to contact him.

Probably I would've kept pushing it back until it went away again, if it hadn't been for an entry I found in a much later journal--July 9, 1995: "A surprise to find out I am twice as old this day as I was when ___ held my hand and took various other hormonally-induced liberties with my thirteen-year-old body...____is so much a part of my adolescence and my perception of myself that I can not fathom that he is not in my life at all and hasn't been for almost ten years. I know it would not even make sense for him to be in my life--there's no reason for him to be, no vacancy to fill, no role to play. Still, I miss him, the idea of him, the simplicity of my agony over him..."

All this time, he'd only been a ten-digit number away. Or a thirty-seven cent stamp. I'd been talking myself out of contacting him (off and on) for nearly twenty years. It didn't take me long--a month or so--to talk myself into contacting him.

The note said, "This will probably be the weirdest thing you find in your mailbox all year..." I told him that as an Army brat I'd left lots of people behind and that he'd been one of the people I'd wondered about the most. I told him I'd love to hear from him. I dropped the note in the mail minutes after I'd written it so I wouldn't have the chance to chicken out (or come to my senses, depending on how you look at it).

Then I waited.

* Thanks Bowling for Soup!


  1. Man, you've got dedication! You make all my high school crushes and even actual relationships look like flimsy little nothings.

  2. There's no way to say this without sounding like a moron (but it's a little late to worry about that now & besides, if you can't be a moron on your own blog, where can you be a moron?). I've always thought "it" (whatever "it" was & the wondering what "it" was, etc) was dedicated to me and not the other way around. It's kind of been following me around and waiting for me to pay attention to it for years.

  3. Eighteen years (and a thousand chit-chats on the subject) later, all I can provide for commentary is the standard old-married-couple-couch-warmer: "I told you so."

    Since the above comment refers directly to privy information, let it suffice to say that Mom's dedication to ideas and sap (silly moron) has worked out well for me...

    Btw... I found your other sandal dear, while verifying that the afghan was still on the sofa.

  4. Ah, the patience of a saint and the body of Adonis, all in one package...too bad you're taken.

  5. Funny, I have considered doing the same thing with my "first" real boyfriend. I e-mailed him once from the website and never got a response. I always wanted to know "why" he broke up with me. Now I just try to convince myself it is a flaw with him...not a direct reflection on myself. As I laugh uneasily!