This piece was written well over a year ago and is about a date I never had as a boy, and as a man, felt like fate’s apology for a rough adulthood.
A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile…
The 1972 Monte Carlo pulled out of the driveway at Arbor Lane, with Don McLean singing rock n’ roll gospel over the radio. This vignette summed up my history to age seven as we left Chicago, headed for California. My family was leaving everything I had known to this point, with me largely unaware of why we were fleeing suburbia.
Until then, Lisa Sartore was the only woman in my life, and let’s be honest, she was quite a woman.
Ok, she was a girl, and I was a boy, and we liked each other.
We commuted to and from work together and talked about our day on the way.
Ok, we walked to kindergarten holding hands, and I kept her safe by always walking on the traffic side of her like we were driving while we discussed the finer points of arithmetic and spelling.
After the move I changed schools every two years, with the exception of grades four through six. This afforded little time to form friendships or God forbid, fall in love at any point in my childhood. When we’re young, time isn’t really a concern when it comes to matters of the heart. Like the Cubs, there’s always next year. (note: the Cubs have since won the World Series and I don’t know what’s real anymore)
The cost of such neglect is that no history was formed. No pain was endured. No lessons were learned. Everything I look back on is fresh, like new fallen snow where angels should be.
Part of what has always caused me pause about high school reunions is that, having moved around so much, there wasn’t much time to leave an impression, and those who left an impression on me would likely not remember me. There’s a big gap in history there, and as I’ve often maintained about the past, time is the one asset we cannot reclaim.
Without detracting from who I have become since the days of holiday dances, pep rallies, football games, and passing a girl in the hallways between classes, that lack of shared history with anyone leaves a vacuum. Returning to a place where nothing moves and nothing changes is the same every time, even if the motivation for the visit is not. We all have a history, but some of us return alone because no one else knows about it.
It had been months in the making. First, a comment regarding The Smiths. Then, a volley about kitschy socks and a tattoo, followed by more conversation in private about, of all things, histories. What had happened in thirty years? Who are you now? Who were you then? How did we get here?
Again, who were you?
Much of me had expected something like this to happen someday, and that same part of me also wondered exactly how real this could possibly be. We never shared a class. We never spoke directly. I’m pretty sure I was that guy from the City who had returned to the Valley (eight years gone) to go largely unnoticed.
She remembered me, well, because she is extremely sharp, and because on the Yearbook team you have to know everyone. I remembered her, because she was the girl I was going to ask to Prom all those years ago, but she was seeing another boy at the time (as she reminded me).
On the day of the date, I did nothing different. There were no nerves. It was easy being myself because who I had become was good, and I trusted the process. Climbing into the car, I set out on the road toward a history that never existed; nothing but a memory on which to base a possibility.
The old highway to the City was dark, and uncluttered by the residue of Friday night traffic. Without history to guide me, I was driving toward Destination: Uncertain, and I could not wait to be there to see it.
Working without a shared history is walking a tightrope without a net. There’s no safety there, but sitting and watching is not an option. I press on, risking grievous injury to my soul because this is who I have become, and this guy needs some history.