You might notice that after some suggestions about readability and the overwhelming appearance of some of my posts I’ve change things up a bit around here. I’m quite pleased with the final effect, although deep down I feel a bit sneaky hiding the real length of my posts behind a break. Oh well.
- Tonight starts the new season of funnies on TV, and I’m watching How I Met Your Mother (my third favorite show on network television) plus the good stuff that comes after it while I wait for Castle (my second favorite show on network television). I kinda miss having Big Bang Theory (my favorite show on network television) on Mondays as well, but thanks to the power of DVR, it’s not like it actually matters most of the time anyway.
- Less fun, I’ve had some issues recently with stuff being hijacked off of deadcharming.com which escalated over this last weekend. In order to prevent those posts from appearing abandoned, I’ve decided to repost the choice pieces here and eventually mothball that old site altogether.Which also happens to let me TOTALLY cheat out tonight and repost something, thereby fulfilling my wordcount requirement and still letting me watch primetime. Yay for cheesing the rules!
To be fair, I’ve significantly re-edited this post, as well as composed a new afterward that explains how things stand today compared to how things stood when I first wrote it.
I was in the same classroom with Miss V from the second grade until we graduated together from academy. Eleven years. She basically encapsulates my childhood and the journey to whatever was supposed to be beyond.
Assuming 40 weeks in a school year, at least eight hours a day, and add in time for Pathfinders camp-outs, church events, and the various non-school things we did together; I’d guesstimate that we spent about 20,000 hours together over the course of our lives. Of that, I hated her for roughly 10 hours; and I was completely in love with her for every minute of the remaining 19,990.
Number of times we talked on the phone: I’d guess over 100
Number of times we rode the ski-lift together: more than I can count
Number of times we “held hands” while ice skating: 8 (I only know this because I recently found one of my childhood journals)
Number of times we “officially” dated: 0
Number of times we kissed: 0
Number of times she wrapped her arms around me in a swimming pool, grazed my neck with her lips and let me slide my hand under the “fun” part of her bikini bottoms: 1
Age of participants: 18
Number of significant-other’s that were CLEARLY cheated on during that event: 2
Moments of regret that I touched her while dating someone else: a few, but they’re fading every day.
Minutes of regret that we never really talked about how we felt about each other: exactly 9,161,280 (and counting).
There are so many memories about Miss V that trying to explain everything starts to whorl together in some kind of mental tornado of images and sounds and tastes and smells…and then her face, smiling at me like it did as a thirteen-year-old girl washes over everything. For a moment, I’m back to being that skinny, unconfident outsider I always felt like as a kid. And I’m comfortable, because we were always outsiders together.
In the summer before the second grade, my parents completed the process of moving me away from my friends and a school where I was comfortable in a class of dozens spread out into several classrooms; and off to a tiny little outpost of humanity and a school where I was one of six kids in my grade. There were three grades to a classroom…so my overall class size was about twenty, but my direct peer group was six kids. Three boys and three girls.
I will never forget the first day of school, the cliques had already been established, and I wasn’t a part of them. And let’s be honest, I didn’t want to be there, and they didn’t want me there because I didn’t want to be there…ah, vicious circles, aren’t they fun. I was the outsider. I didn’t fit in.
I didn’t fit in at all. I ate meat, I watched movies, my parents had cable and let me watch HBO, I was allowed to read fantasy stories (the teacher confiscated my copy of “The Black Cauldron” because it was EVIL!!!). I was WEIRD. Because I was different.
At lunch on the second day of school I opened my brown paper bag and discovered I had three Oreo cookies. REAL Oreo cookies, not the fake sunshine versions that weren’t made with lard. Miss V was sitting at the desk next to me, she took one look and asked if she “could have an Oreo.” There was an audible gasp in the room. Real Oreo’s were evil. NO ONE should eat real Oreos! They’re MADE WITH LARD!!! (another classmate actually said that out loud). I reluctantly gave her one, waiting for her to use it to make fun of me. She smiled at me and said “thanks,” and then turned back to her friends and kept talking like nothing was out of the ordinary. She ate the Oreo. I loved her from that moment on.
As time went on, things got better. I made friends, I found my place, I tried to become a normal part of the school/group/place I was in; but I never quite made it. I was never the “best friend,” I was never completely at ease, I was never totally a part of the clique. I never felt just like everyone else. I always felt just a little bit like an outsider.
It would be many years before I realized that half of the people in that room felt the same way. Like something was off, like the picture was just a little bit crooked. But I knew instinctively that Miss V shared that feeling with me. We didn’t talk about it for another twenty years, but from that first day, it bound us just a little bit together. Just a little.
The two of us were competitive. VERY competitive. If you could compete at it, we did. If you couldn’t compete at it, we still found a way. We always pushed each other, if not physically then figuratively. There were people who thought we hated each other because we never let up.
Only once did it ever cross the line from pushing to hurting; and though it tears me up, I was the one that hurt her. In the fourth grade girls are very sensitive to anything that might draw attention to ANYTHING about their bodies or their physical cycles. Using that knowledge I said one of the things I regret most in my life.
In small classrooms with few students, collective punishment is probably pretty common. In this case conflict that had cropped up between “the boys” and “the girls” had spilled over into some heated exchanges between several classmates during recess and the ultimate resolution was to sit all of us down in our desks and have us talk it out. There were only six of us after all.
The teacher left the room and instantly the arguments resumed. I have NO idea what we were arguing about. Trivial couldn’t possibly begin to describe it. All I know is that the two sharpest tongues in the room went into combat like a pair of fencers…mine and Miss V. I remember she told me that if I was “going to be a stupid child” that I “should just shut up.” To which I replied calmly that she should “shut up and take a Midol.” The guys both gave me a hearty “YEAH”…as though congratulating me on the power of my counter attack. Miss V recoiled like I had physically hit her, and then broke down into sobs and fled the room.
For the record, I was pretty hazy on what a Midol was actually USED for, but that wouldn’t have been any consolation to a young girl who had just had her first menstruation start the day before. Obviously, I didn’t know that…
I’d say it was about a month before she spoke to me again. I never got a chance to apologize, even though I felt terrible about it. It wasn’t until the first ski-day of the year that things started going back to normal. I rode up in the car with her, and by the time we got to the lodge, things were better. We competed on the slopes, and we rode the chairlift together all afternoon. We were back to pushing each other, and helping the other one up again.
A couple of years later she was doing children’s theater and she would call me after rehearsals. She told me they were doing “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and I was excited because it was one of my favorite fairy tales from an old book my mom had given me. She wanted to know if it was any different from the story they were putting on, so I read it to her. Over the phone. As I’m writing this, I realize I have NO idea why I didn’t go see her perform, my parents certainly would have taken me…I was just too dumb to think of it I guess.
In the eighth grade I made another foolish comment that I would desperately like to take back. For whatever reason boys will pick on other boys about the girls they like. And no matter how much they like the girl, the boy will deny it. Why? I have NO idea. It was a small social circle, and maybe that was just exposing too much that was too personal…I don’t know.
I do know that after PE my friends were giving me “the business” about how much time I spent with Miss V, and teasing me that I liked her (which was painfully obvious to anyone) and for reasons I still can’t explain I said (with too much volume and intensity) “No I don’t! I like Emily you idiots!” Which was a lie. But since every single girl in our class heard it, I was pretty much stuck. I remember seeing the look in Miss V’s eyes as she walked out of the hallway where she’d heard me deny her. It still makes me physically sick, more than twenty years later.
Another thing we did together was Pathfinders. It’s a co-ed denominational version of Boy Scouts with all of the expected issues of hauling a dozen boys and girls ranging in age from eight to fourteen out into the woods. Hazing, tent raiding, ghost stories, sneaking off into the woods together…all that stuff. Miss V’s mom was a leader and that meant she didn’t miss a camp-out, no matter how uncool it was to head off to the woods. Somehow we always ended up spending about ninety percent of the time walking off together talking and laughing and ignoring the rest of the world.
All those hours together, all those hours alone with her, and not once did I tell her how I felt about her. Not once did I just take her hand and look her in the eyes and tell her I liked her. I was always afraid I wasn’t good enough, afraid she’d tell me I was just a friend, just blah. That I was just the uncool, unattractive little boy I was afraid I was. She was the only one who would call me on my shit, and it scared me too much to tell her how special I thought she was, how beautiful I thought she was, how wonderful every word she shared with me was.
Towards the end of eighth-grade, four of us went to a youth-rally in Portland. It was a long drive and we were leaving early in the morning, so her mom (who was the chaperon) decided all of us should spend the night at her house and leave together in the morning. The four of us spent about eight hours sitting on Miss V’s bed talking silly, laughing and enjoying time together. I came within a hair’s breadth of telling her everything, but there were other people there…it was both heaven and hell at the same time…I wanted to tell her, but I was too scared to do it in front of our friends.
Later that weekend, she bought an ice-cream sandwich. Sitting next to me in the front of the truck, practically on my lap, she finished half of it…licking the end of the ice-cream out of the cookie…and then asked me if I wanted to finish it. As stupid as it sounds, it was as close to a kiss as I ever got from her. I could taste her lip gloss on the cookie, and I can still smell her hair in my face.
I started high-school a week late. It’s a long story, but lets just say that once again, I managed to be the outsider. The first person I saw on campus was Miss V. It was the first moment of relief in a long uphill climb. High school sucks. High school where you live on campus with the entire student body (of about two hundred), shower in front of every guy you know, eat institutional vegetarian food, and can’t have caffeine in any form is just BRUTAL.
No matter what might have passed between us in the past, our circle of friends wasn’t particularly close at first. But we did work together for four hours every morning. She was the Boy’s Dean’s secretary and I was the desk monitor. I sat about ten feet away from her and as there was NOTHING else to do, once again, we spent many hours talking. And a few fighting, but mostly it was pretty relaxed. I heard about her boyfriend, about her girlfriends, about life away from home…and I pined for her silently. I smiled, we talked, same as always.
Our Sophomore year she tried going to a public high school near her mom, and I moved on and tried not to think about her as much as I had the year before. I had a couple of girlfriends, an absolutely crazy roommate, a better haircut, and a chance to realize that “cool” was as subjective as everything else. I found my footing, ran for class president, started working for the radio station, drank a WHOLE LOT of shitty beer, and discovered that life is good.
I don’t remember exactly when she came back…I’d guess it was around Christmas, but it might have been sooner. Regardless, neither of us was the same person by the time she returned. I think I caught her eye a couple of times, but I never knew at the time.
My junior year I met the girl who I would eventually marry and have children with, Miss H. We started a long distance relationship and for an entire year I was happily “off the market” and writing letters and making multi-hour phone calls every night. So much of that year is caught up with her that nothing else really penetrates. I know Miss V was there, and a friend, but everything is washed out in my memories with Miss H.
As a senior Miss H joined me at academy. I’ll talk about all that in other posts…what is relevant here is the last week before graduation. The senior class takes a trip together for a long weekend. As a group we went to central Oregon and stayed at a resort. Six to a condo, we really had the run of the place.
The last evening of the trip about half of us were in the pool, and Miss H was off with her friends enjoying some girl time. I was against the wall of the pool with one my close friends when Miss V and her best friend swam up and joined us. My friend had always been interested in Miss V’s friend, and they paired off as best they could. Miss V and I began reminiscing about all the years together. We talked for about an hour, and at one point she put her arms around me. For balance or support or…whatever.
Our friends got cold and hopped out of the pool to head off for the Sauna. Miss V and I climbed out and went off to the empty hot tub. After a few minutes sitting next to each other she climbed up over me a few inches to look over the wall and see if anyone was watching us. As she slid back down against me she grazed her lips over my neck and intentionally straddled my hand as it was resting on my leg. She looked into my eyes as my hand slid under her bikini bottom. As I touched her, her eyes half closed and she began to lean towards me…and then we heard the voice of one of the class sponsors and she slid away and sat down next to me.
I don’t write this part of our story to expose what was a really personal moment between us, but to highlight just how big of a dork I really was (and probably still am).
The next day Miss H (who didn’t suspect ANYTHING was between Miss V and I) sat on the bus home with her best friend and I ended up sitting with Miss V. We shared buffalo jerky, a couple of Dr. Peppers, and talked the whole way home. We talked of old times, funny things we remembered from grade school, and honestly, we were saying goodbye. We just didn’t know it. In a week we would graduate, and we didn’t know when we might see each other again. This was goodbye.
That night I gave Miss V a ride home. She asked if she could smoke and I said I didn’t care. I drove her back to her mom’s apartment and we stood outside for a few more minutes talking. Right at the end, I leaned in to kiss her, but she pulled back. I’ve never known why. I never had the strength to ask. The moment wasn’t right, and it didn’t happen. We were both dating other people. I never told her how I had always felt about her. I was still afraid I wasn’t good enough for her. Still afraid she’d reject me. And that was that. I will never forget the sound of the door closing behind her.
I saw her once, a year later. Miss H and I were on our Honeymoon at Disneyland and out of nowhere Miss V was calling our names. We stood and talked with her and her roommate for about ten minutes. When she found out it was our honeymoon she was clearly surprised. I was afraid she was going to say something about that moment in the pool…but she just smiled and politely found a reason for her and her friend to go.
As she walked away, I saw her give me a look…a look I hadn’t seen since the eighth grade. When I said I like Emily more than her.
Since then it’s been 9,161,300 minutes. And counting.
Like many stories we dredge up from our personal history, this one bears the chisel marks and rough edges that come from reshaping our history from what it was to how we remember it. And like so much of our past, Facebook and social media means that not only do we all now live in a perpetual high-school reunion, our past become less what we want to remember it as, and more what other people perceived it to be.
Miss V is now a nurse who works in the neonatal unit of a large regional hospital (a detail that is personally significant to me) with a beautiful son and a happy marriage, which makes me unspeakably happy. We want the best for the people that we love, and obviously I’ve truly loved her for a very long time. I say that with a clear conscience and no conflict of personal interest. Some people we can love as much for who they are as who they were in our personal history. We just have to remember to see past the chisel marks and remember the real person underneath.
[Word Count: 880 (new) / 3447 (total)]