(*** Warning *** Technically this post is rated R for language and thematic material. If you’d prefer the PG version, please stop reading and send me your email.)
Immortal Beloved –
I dreamed of you last night. The two of us, somewhere in our 20s. Reminiscing. At one point, your hand grazes my bare breast. We laugh, perhaps at the irony. Well, that was unexpected.
Today, I examine the dream from the security of my decade plus marriage and look back to the boy I first loved.
We met the summer after my junior year of high school at Interlochen Center for the Arts music camp. A couple hundred teenagers sequestered for two months in rustic cabins on the banks of Green Lake.
Maybe I spot you right away, your shock of curly blond hair, your Nordic height and features.
You’re the only boy in duet class (that’s what my clouded memory tells me) and entirely ill-suited to the ditzy girl of mediocre talent who giggles as your thighs touch on the piano bench.
I know that we are meant to be together, our four hands splayed across the keys, our eyes translating ink and paper into soaring phrases, lush harmony, and bare emotion.
Our teacher, the woman with crazy Phyllis Diller hair and gaudy accessories, finally pairs us. Or do we orchestrate the marriage? Once together, I decline to play with anyone else. Ms. Diller turns a blind eye as we steadfastly refuse to switch partners.
You are not really of this group. You are meant to shine alone, a star of technical grace and profound lyricism. I’m able to keep up – to a point. I can fake it through anything with predictable chord progressions and sightread my way out of a dark hole, the pages illuminated only by the intensity of my desire. But music will be your life. First at the Curtis Institute of Music, then in NYC. I will matriculate at Oberlin – the college part, not the conservatory.
I love playing with you for this brief moment of our lives. I love talking and laughing and practicing and not practicing. I love with a definitive end in sight.
The third week of eight, we take the one fieldtrip of the summer to the sand dunes. Atop the massive mountain of white you have something to tell me.
You: I’m a registered homosexual, so don’t fall in love with me.
Me: (taking a beat to digest this not altogether surprising news)
Me: Too late.
I keep a diary during those eight weeks and dutifully record the blow by blow. How you say you can’t fuck me. How I reply that I wouldn’t want you to.
I ask if you really have to register somewhere. (Yes, I am that naïve, though there certainly is historical precedent.)
The truth is, this conversation feels unsettling not because you are gay, which frankly is no great shock, but because the words are edgy. Their jagged contours prick my delicate skin.
And I don’t wish to be “fucked” though I wouldn’t mind learning how to kiss. I kick myself later for not asking. Ha. Could you please initiate me into the world of kissing my dear gay friend?
The days pass. You send your maroon undies via inter-camp mail. My entire cabin of eighteen girls ogles them, stretching the 30-inch waistband. Hanes? Maybe Calvin Klein?
I send back my maroon bra (we match! <sigh>). Maybe Tim and Peter and Alain hoist it aloft in a frenzy of adolescent male pheromones. Long Live Lust!
The two Canadiennes in my cabin ask if we are dating. No, I say, we’re just friends. They tease me a little. Oh sure Anne, you’re just friends. Really, I insist. I don’t share your secret, light the flame that would spread like a destructive forest fire. It’s 1986. Before Ellen Degeneres and Matthew Shepard. Before Prop 8 and the Marriage Equality Act.
We fight exactly once. In the cafeteria, over our rectangular lunch trays. I say something judgy about the way you chew or use your fork or whatever. You storm off.
The whole thing reads like a John Hughes script. Staged. Redhead returns to cabin alone. A tear glistens on her forlorn cheek. She rests her head on the thin mattress, reflecting on lost love while Alphaville’s “Forever Young” plays in the background.
After an appropriately respectful period of mourning, Redhead straightens up, brushes away her tears, and resolves to get her guy back. And she knows just what it takes and where to go.
Does she knock or does she merely slip inside the door of the reserved practice room? No words are spoken. He beckons her to the piano bench and enfolds her in his manly arms.
Everyone lives happily ever after. Cue OMD.
These memories shimmer, each scene a precious jewel. We meet up at the Friday dance. I wear a vintage brocade print square-necked blouse, thrifted black pencil skirt, and a black leather belt slung low on my hips. You look like the quintessential androgynous New Wave boy, doused in Aramis cologne. You pick me up high, clutched to your chest, and gallop down a flight of stairs to the dance floor. “Rock Lobster” from the B-52’s, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Spandau Ballet.
I am so very happy.
The summer is magic, a protected time. I take it off the shelf every so often, gently wipe away the dust, and peer into the crystal. In this insulated time we are forever young. In this enchanted space I will always love you, with the pure uncomplicated devotion that only an innocent girl can manage.