From Girls (Part 1): Despite my capacity then and now to play the extrovert, I still endure the insecurities so many of us had as teenagers, and it was the fear generated by those insecurities that kept me from doing what I might have done to address my unrequited loves; in other words, I found the one-sided love I held for my two friends had become so indispensable to me that I was not willing to risk losing it.”
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, one-sided love is reciprocated, and many of us (I hope most of us) have memories of those first mutually experienced crushes coming to fruition, coming-of-age experiences that provided us with a sense of individualism because they may have been the first intimate emotions shared with a person who was not family. Not surprisingly, these adolescent experiences have been analyzed and reported on, including the romance-busting science that discovered: “feelings of a crush and feelings of love release the mood-boosting hormones dopamine and oxytocin to the brain.” (Here’s why you develop crushes … )
Which brings me to the third cheerleader, the young woman who became a friend when I complimented her new hairstyle one 1962 morning in a Cedar Cliff High School hallway. Thinking back, I know now that her response—that amazing, bright-eyed smile of hers—generated an explosion of cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin in my brain. That was the beginning of an ongoing, coming-of-age experience that exposed me for the first time to a barrage of intimate emotions shared with someone other than those shared between a parent and child.
Over the following three years, our relationship vacillated from an initial, intense infatuation, through periods of emotional intimacy when we learned things about each other and our life experiences—things that we had not shared with anyone else—that drew us into the closed paring of two young souls in love until a time when our love fell into disrepair.
That period of disrepair was certainly due to the fact that the woman she was becoming far outstripped my boyish and fawning naiveté; yet, during that time, we remained friends, and at times, still shared memorable moments, one of which was an evening when she pulled up in front of my house in a red Triumph TR3 with its top down.
If memory serves, she was dating an older boy at the time, and it was his car. He had apparently succumbed to her pestering to let her take the car for a spin, and she chose to share the spin with me. With me wrapped in a blanket against the cool air of that early spring evening in 1965, she drove through Harrisburg and its suburbs for three hours (and those who remember her know how well she could work a stick shift!).
We did not do much more than share smiles at the experience of that evening, but it seems now that perhaps we were celebrating going back and connecting with our memories of those months in 1962 and 1963 when we were each other’s “true loves.” That evening remains one of the top ten memories of my life.
Going off to college in 1965—her to West Virginia; me to E-town—effectively ended any vestiges of an active friendship, but on the Saturday of Mother’s day weekend, 1966, we bumped into one another, and the old feelings came rushing back. We shared one last magical evening, which ended suddenly in the most unexpected and unfortunate of ways, an event that shall always remain between just the two of us.
From the time we parted that evening until her passing, there was only one communication between the two of us, a letter from her that went unanswered, one to which, no matter how much I wish I could, I cannot respond because she is no longer a fellow traveler in this Vale of Tears. And what Thomas Wolfe wrote in Look Homeward, Angel now resonates within me: “It seemed to him that he never knew her until he remembered her years later.”
Many of us have our stories of unrequited love, of fulfilled love gone awry, of love sustained and celebrated. I have been fortunate enough to have matured from someone I would have described as being periodically “hopelessly in love”—a hopeless romantic*—to someone who, around the age of 50, began to evolve into a man who became “hopeful in love.”
I’m sure that my life has been no different than most Boomers in having traveled along a long and bumpy highway in search of that Best Friend Forever. In my case, after 24 years together, the presence of my BFF still generates the neurotransmitters of love in my aging brain; she is the person who has unwittingly helped me become hopeful in love.
* A very insightful article that may be well worth reading: Is It Healthy to Be a Hopeless Romantic?
For those of you who may someday read novels that are part of the Myers/Benton Chronicles, you will encounter the nickname of the third cheerleader. It is important to me for those who knew her to know that the character in the Chronicles is fictional; nothing described is biographical; rather, my use of her name for what will be the most noble of characters, one whose arc describes a life that overcomes the most demanding of challenges save for the last, is simply my way of providing homage to a person I once knew well and loved.
Pinctada (a historical noir, coming-of-age novel duo comprised of two novels that are intended to be read as one work) explores the lives of two young American teenagers — Bill Benton and Brittany “Bambi” Macey — as they encounter tumultuous months in French Polynesia, where they must endure and overcome unforeseen challenges of adulthood in an extraordinary world that is beyond their imaginings when they steal away on the Ultima Thule; challenges that are resolved by fate, courage, perseverance, a child, and a strategic return.
Click on the image of Bambi Macey above to order a trade paperback and/or eBook of Pinctada, which is comprised of two novels, En Mer [At Sea] and Found and Lost in Paradise; volumes 4 and 5 of the Myers/Benton Chronicles.
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