A Lifelong Dependency
Yes, all names are changed.
According to my mother, it in kindergarten. She said that I started school at four because my father wanted me out of the house. She also reported that I came home from my first day announcing, "I like the one with the tan hair."
Heck, that's what gentlemen prefer, no? Said bombshell, Lorraine DeMatteo, just turned 65. She is still gorgeous.
Call me a lech, but my strongest memory from that initial year was Pauline Kincaid's underwear. We had a little slide in our playroom at St. Ann's and I would make sure I climbed the ladder right after her, offering me an excellent view. I wasn't the only boy involved in catching a glimpse, either. I am still amazed that Sister Constance didn't segregate such activities. And so it began.
About three years later, a kid found a whole stash of National Geographics in an ancient storeroom at school. Although we had little interest in the Boobladishu tribe per se, for some reason we boys did ample research on indigenous décolleté.
And then came the big deterrent to GirlThoughts: confession. You non-papists, please walk with me here. It was a given that come Saturday afternoon, you went into the Box of Iniquity. Usually, you had Father Niceguy in one chamber—and Old Brimstone in the other. The parishioners were no fools. The longer lines were on Niceguy's waiting list. On the other side, you just saw old-timers, whom, I thought, had no occasion to sin.
One week, I tried switching sides—the lines were way shorter. So did Seamus Flannery, who went in front of me. Right after he entered, the whole church could hear, "YOU DID WHAT!!!!"
No hero here. I skedaddled over to the other aisle and waited an extra half-hour.
Then, around seventh grade, came the world's greatest invention (or so I thought at the time): Slow Dancing. School functions became a jousting match between boys, girls and the Good Sisters, whose mission was to maintain separation of, well, lurch and date.
Since I was the shortest kid in the class, I would end up dancing with the tallest girls. This usually put my eye level right at, well, you know. They would hold me limply as I tried to avert my peepers from layers of mystery. I tried not to think of Father Brimstone at moments like that.
In fifth grade, an older kid named Rich Markosian gathered a group of us together in the playground/parking lot to tell us of things apian and avian. His descriptions of things naughty were so off base that he had a bunch of us totally at sea. When I found out the real deal later on, my only reaction was, "My parents never did THAT!"
Then came drum corps. And I'm not talking about the music. It was our summer camp and girl-ed tutor combined. Hours of practice, long bus rides: plenty of time for boys and girls together. And I developed my first legitimate crush—on JoAnne Siroski. Of course, I was certain she didn't notice me. I could pass anywhere near her undetected. After we finished one parade, we went to a carnival at the end of the route and waited to hear the judging. When our corps won for best musical unit, JoAnne hugged me. It might have lasted two seconds. I have no idea whether I hugged her back, because I had just been tasered.
Alas and alack, this nascent amour was unrequited. She allowed me one slow dance at our subsequent Christmas party, where there were no nuns to bisect us. It was the first time I truly held a girl. I prayed for the record to skip. Not happening.
In seventh grade, Sister Hugo told us, "Going steady is the last step before marriage."
Several of the prettier girls in our class began blushing. I had no idea why, not being anywhere close to going anywhere with anyone.
My grade-school zenith with girls came in my last year. The drum corps had a skating party at a local rink. Lorraine DeMatteo—yes, THAT Lorraine DeMatteo—glided up to me and said, "C'mon Timmy, let's skate together." And then she took my hand. We went around the rink umpteen times that night, hand in hand. With gloves on (hers were red—like I don't remember?), but I cared not. I don't think my blades touched the surface. And that was that. I knew she liked one of the bigger, more popular guys in our class; these were one-time orbits.
On the ride home, I was with some of the older guys. The conversation turned to girls. One guy said, "Timmy, who's your girl?" I was dumbstruck.
Another guy said, "Oh, he's with Lorraine DeMatteo, the soprano player." A chorus of whoa's swept through the car. I ducked my head down, embarrassed, knowing this wasn't true—and wishing it were.
I broke through to the other side in grade nine. I was invited to my first make-out party. And I made out. Kind of. I remember her name was Kathy and that she had hair sprayed to the consistency of Brillo. We were on a sofa, so the fact that she towered over me meant little. After a kiss, I heard a sound. It might have been a moan—or something. Not long after, the host's father flicked on the basement lights, dousing festivities and ardor. I did get her phone number, though.
Then the walk home. Alone. Right through the churchyard. I Usain Bolt-ed past the building, trying not to think of Lou Christie's "Lightning Strikes." Once on the street, I still Ichabod Crane-d my neck around as I trotted, expecting the Headless Make-Out Avenger to strike. I slept in hollow fashion that night.
The next week, I ginned up the grit to call Kathy, who lived a town away. One of her girlfriends answered: "If you're that Timmy kid, Kathy doesn't like you." I have said this before, but sic transit gloria mundi.
I dated a little in high school and had—maybe—one semi-girlfriend for a few weeks. She ditched me for a lifeguard. This is when I learned that when a girl says, "Let's be friends," it's the gallows for you, bud.
In my last summer of drum corps, I fell in love, finally. Colleen Mahoney and I didn't know it at the time, but we did. I have chronicled the story—almost truthfully—in my novella Gina. Or Colleen. The eventual move to college in Pennsy and my stupidity ended this. I have never been able to find her. I think I may melt if I do.
Then music took over my life. Halfway through college, I joined my first serious band. We rehearsed for a while at my house. One night, we were visited by Donna Beresky and Gloria Lundquist—two of the prettiest girls in my neighborhood. This, I knew, is what I want to do.
Out of respect for the girls involved, I am leaving out road stories. Let's just say: In most bands I traveled with, I was like the monk of the outfit compared to some of my more randy mates.
I have been lucky to find many ex-gals via the Internet and ubiquitous Facebook. These mini-reunions have all been wonderful. I have also developed vicarious e-crushes on women whose posts and pics draw me to them. Just never had the nerve to act on them.
I don't think there was anything wrong with my early experiences with girls. It's an old-school Zeitgeist, but I treasure the handholding, the slow dance, the brief, fumbling busses. They taught me many lessons, but one stands out.
I had a crush on a girl when I was seventeen. And it lasted. Somehow, due to a series of nebulous events, we met at a party over a decade later, and we made out for a bit. We both knew that it would not progress further. I tried to confess my longtime crush on her.
She simply said, "I know." Yes, girls know. Which is why they're smarter than boys. Way smarter.
But man, could she kiss.
And I'm not done. I have fallen in love for the last time. With a woman I've known for years. She is wise, witty, winsome, wonderful. A woman who has done the best thing people can do for each other—she's allowed me to see how beautiful she is on the inside. And we live a distance apart. I fell in love with her remotely if you will. She gets me. I think.
I feel giddy again, just like in grade school. Also—just like in grade school—I hope she likes me.