February 12, 2007

A love story

Thursday, the second wrestling meet of the week. I took a beating, yet still won. You remember the old joke about "does your face hurt?", yes it did. On the bus ride home I had time to think. In the dark it all became a stark reality. I just had to get out of going to that dance.

How could I break it to her? She bought a dress, I had ordered the corsage. Dinner reservations were made. I did not even know this girl. I could say I was sick. Think, man, think. If I cancelled I would be a heel, and Teresa would be pissed. That would be bad. She would not like me to cancel a date with her best friend.

Friday, I woke, no closer to a resolution. I had a crush on this girl, Teresa. Her best friend asked me out to a Sadie Hawkins dance. It was a big deal, the biggest dance of the year except for the prom: dresses were bought, suits were worn. I said yes, thinking the girl would talk about how wonderful I was and Teresa would see me as something besides a friend. Sixteen year old boys do not always think logically, especially when it comes to women. Yes, my motive was wrong. I did not care.

Wrestling practice was supposed to be short, most of the team had a date for the dance. I had two black eyes, the result of high cheekbones and sharp elbows. We started wrestling around and my partner Jeff got a bloody nose. He got them all the time and of course, I laughed at him. This really made him mad and he was determined to give me a bloody nose as well. The only problem is I had never had one. EVER. He proceeded to give me several hard cross-faces. He hit me with an elbow, he smashed me with his skull. No bloody nose. I took a quick shower before heading home to get ready for the dance. Shit, my left eye was swollen shut, my right eye and cheek were hues of blue, green and purple. I bet her parents would be real impressed.

I circled the block twice mustering the courage to knock on the door. Her nephew answered. Fortunately she was ready. A few quick pictures and we were on our way. No one asked how I came to look like a prizefighter.

On the way to the restaurant we did not speak much. I gave this girl a quick glance. I barely knew her. Only after she asked me to the dance did I discover her last name. Her short hair was dark, almost black. It fell in soft waves framing her face. Her nose was straight and narrow, freckles covered her cheeks. Her eyes lit up each time she smiled. They were hazel.

We went to the local Moose Lodge for dinner (the oldest in the world), there was not much else in the little town where we lived. I had pork chops. Neither of us spoke much during dinner. Aborted conversations ended with one word answers. "Is your steak OK?"

"Yes, It is fine," she muttered. Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? OK, dinner, go to the dance stay an hour or so and make an excuse to take her home. Maybe I can claim I have wrestling practice in the morning. I noticed her hands. The fingers were long and smooth, a small hint of white fingernail polish graced the long nails. A few freckles dotted her arms. I tried hard not to stare at her chest above the white sleeveless dress. The swell of her breasts was enticing. She was kind of pretty. When she stopped in the ladies room after dinner I briefly thought about just leaving. She was in there a long time, and maybe she was hoping I would.

I still remember clearly the events before the dance. What I ate. The back of my neck burning with embarrassment. The feeling everyone in the dining room knew I was a lousy date, a failure, a hoodlum. The rest of the evening remains a blur. We found our table at the dance. We were sitting with her friends. I knew some of the other guys. The lights were low and suddenly this strange girl looked lovely. The band was playing and we sat and tried again to talk. Finally a slow dance was played and I summoned the courage to escort her to the floor. She fit perfectly in my arms. the top of her hair came to my eyes. Her waist was the perfect size for my skinny arms. She smelled faintly of flowers. After the song we walked to the punchbowl holding hands.

As we sat back at the table I moved my chair closer, we began to find things to talk about. My hand was on her thigh. I forgot my mother's admonition to not try to be funny. Mom told me that often others just did not get my dry sarcastic sense of humor. The girl had the most melodious laugh. We danced some fast songs. She had rhythm, I could only jerk around like a spastic monkey with a lobotomy. I was having a good time in spite of my efforts not to.

Another slow song began and we moved to the floor hand in hand. I put my arms around her, her hands locked around my neck. I looked into her eyes and saw my soul. She leaned to me, and I to her. Our lips met and electricity shot through my body. My hair stood on end. As our tongues met, I never felt like this before! Wow, I said as our lips parted. I was out of breath. I was not sure if we had kept dancing or not. The room spun. I kissed her again.

The night lasted forever and ended too soon. As we made out in the front seat of my parent's Monte Carlo, hurried plans were made for another date the next day. I drove home with her taste on my lips. Pizza, a movie and more electric kisses followed on Saturday.

Monday came and Teresa did not look quite so hot. She asked me how the dance went, a knowing leer on her face. I know now girls talk about that stuff*. Teresa told me she just knew the girl and I would get along. She suggested a double date the next week. Why not?

I found an old picture taken at that dance back in December of 1978. I see a skinny boy, his left eye shut, his right black. I see a couple of kids, unsure of life, of themselves. The pretty girl is standing next to that boy. I know the picture was taken as we arrived, before the slow dances, before the kiss. I know this because in the picture I am just a shy boy, smirking at the world.

I dated the girl for several years. I left for college. I got engaged. I got married.

The girl is now my wife. Her kisses are still electric.


* My buddy Jeff just asked me if I got 'any'.

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