I’ve been kissed and more than once. I have been kissed timidly, passionately, aggressively, sloppy and carelessly. They have been good, bad and perfect, but as I look back at my stories of loves gone by the one I remember is the first.
Nearly sixteen and allowed to have my first date one week before the birthday. A young man came to pick me up at noon, and my father announced as we left. “She has to be home in an hour, and she better be fed.” Needless to say, hamburgers and cokes were consumed, and no kisses were shared.
On my birthday one week later, my dad and his firefighter friend had teased me over cake and ice cream about being sweet sixteen and never been kissed. I still blush at the memory and the embarrassment. It was all my dad’s fault, but he found it too funny to ignore.
Homecoming was soon after, and I had a date with one of the running backs of the high school team. I was dressed in one of my mom’s newest outfits. It was 1965, and the twist was starting to fade away, so I spent the afternoon learning to dance the jerk. The team won decidedly, and the players’ dates had to walk up the hill to the gymnasium to wait. Since I wasn’t popular, I tagged behind the group of excited girls. The bevy stayed together near the door, and I waited nearby on the bleachers. The lights were low, and the decorations were perfect. This was my first experience with live music and crowds of dancing teens.
It seemed like a week, but finally, we heard the shouts and stomping of the victorious football players as they stormed the auditorium. They were winners and ready to celebrate. There he was in the midst of the excited group, I watched him scan the crowd, and finally, his eyes met mine. I don’t remember much of the dance it was a blur.
At the end of the night, he drove me home arriving minutes before my curfew. He had shut off the Jeep and coasted to park at the curb in front of the house. The porch light was on waiting for me. We both were excited from the game, the dance and romantic possibilities. After awkward words, he jumped out of the car and held the door for me. He took my hand as we approached the fully lit porch and he asked if he could kiss me. I nodded yes, shyly. He took me in his arms, and his gentle kiss warmed my lips as the neighbor across the street hollered “Good job buddy, she won’t make sweet 17”. Then our porch light started to flash, on and off on and off. My brother had waited up, and would until I moved away. He lived to flip the porch light switch.
Dan was destined to be my first love, my first proposal and one of my last loves. We were together for over a year of stories, cars, fires, and passion. The break up still touches my heart as no other would.
PS We tried again 37 years later, and he did repeat a proposed. I tease him to this day that as an athlete and world champion powerlifter he never had the moxie to carry me over the threshold. In my last trip to my hometown a month ago, I stop by to visit. Being nervous about the address, I decided to double check it. Turns out he was marrying his fourth wife. Over the years, I have learned that sometimes a bad breakup is really an escape.
The most significant trip Diana had ever taken before was a two-hour bus ride to the Museum of Science and Industry in the sixth grade. Today, she gazes out of a bus window mesmerized by the mountain and the stunning familiarity of Italy. Once they park, all of her Senior classmates stand to exit, and Diana had a driving need to push them aside to rush home. An old man greets the group and escorts them to the Pompeii amphitheater. The guide starts a memorized speech, but Diana doesn’t listen. She inches her way to the back of the group, and then quietly slips away.
As soon as she steps on the stone walkway, her feet feel at home, and stories creep up her legs and finally reach her center. Diana follows her feet and becomes wholly immersed in a living, vibrant city that was Pompeii. She passes businesses and temples, but after what seems like centuries she stops and enters a room with broken walls and no roof. Where she stands, there is a design on a tiled floor. Diana knows the design well, it is the pattern she has doodled as long as she has memory. Turning to the view of the volcano, Diana remembers the shape that has changed, and she searches for the smoke. A father’s words whisper into her ear, “Vesuvius wants us to leave.” The message was in a language she didn’t know. Diana mouths a question, “Pater, Vesuvius semper loquitur. Quid relinquo?”
Diana slid to the floor, and tears flow from her eyes. She is home, but it would never be home again. She remembers hauling belongings on a cart and a heavy load strapped to her back. The further they fled the mountain seemed angrier. Her family walks with other citizens and neighbors, the group spreading out as they pass through Herculaneum. Pater decides we need to hurry to Neapoli, and there will be safety. The family walks on, and Diana could feel an indescribable fear and a desperate need to run.
She hears the remembered explosion with a shudder and turns to face the mountain. No longer smoke, but fire and rocks were visible showering all around where she lays. She sees the refugees stop and stare at the eruption. An icy shudder and then tears coat her face millenniums later. Diana is still on the ancient tile when her teacher comes in and sits beside her. “I know, this is an amazing sight and can evoke emotion, but I need you to rejoin the tour.”
Diana sighs, and nods her head. Words have not returned to her exhausted body. Slowly, rising the girl realizes that her memories are private and she must stay silent. Once back on her feet, a resolve embraces her, and Diana feels a new freedom and undefined resolve. All doubts have left her, Diana will go to college, and gather the skills to discover and share the lost stories buried in history. She makes a silent vow to return so she can tell Pater’s story first.
I lie here quietly trying to keep my breathing shallow and silent. I need to steal a little more sleep so I can face the day. I can hear it lurking, creeping though my home searching for food, any kind of food that will fuel its mythic strength.
Cerberus, the three-headed monster has taken over my life. It is a very devious beast, selfish and exhausting. As long as there is salty or sweet food within reach of its lion like claws it won’t hurt me. I never know for sure, when it will raise its heads and demand I pay a toll.
I find this roaring beast most charming, often funny, but it lies for no reason. It won’t brush its teeth or wash and comb its serpentine mane. It has the ability to tear me to shreds in moments, and it is aware of its power. Locking the door makes no difference as it crawls in through any opening, filling my home with energy and desire. After days of silence, it lights my total existence with its continual thirst for knowledge.
When it is gone, I miss it. When it is here, I can’t keep up. I run full speed trying to keep it fed and distracted with anything that is shiny. It has the appeal of a toothless Muppet and the demeanor of Medusa. It is an amazing beast only calmed with three flavors of ice cream, which energizes it to run in three directions fighting with itself and anxious to be anywhere at any time.
Although at this moment, it has decided to be kind to me with 10 minutes of quiet before the next feeding. I really do appreciate that act of generosity. I love a monster and I will give it everything I own. Zeus, please bless my three amazing grandchildren.
Creeping through a sleeping house
In my wool socks and Yoga Tee.
The world is blessed with slumber
Except for exhausted me.
Lying still with eyes pressed
Mind reeling with disjointed thought.
To haunt lonely corners the drowsy sneak
Bargains for an hour of dream .
Everyone else slumber s in peace;
No appreciation of good fortune
Until they pad the dark with me.
Why does slumber elude me so?
I truly love her best.
Those she caresses appreciate not
and the one she spurns is obsessed.
Here I am in the soundless house
Where even the termites rest.
Dressed the part, and hopeful
That fortunes will turn and reset.This week @USCD
As I drive west on Interstate 70, there is no other traffic. Draped in the solitude I continue lost in the rhythm of the road. The scorching sun beats down as I face hours of a straight highway and the only scenery consists of uncountable rows of corn. The vibrant green stretches beyond my comprehension, only broken by a few farm houses with dirt driveways. I peek down the rows as they pass organized in an unnatural pattern of human control. I see evidence of life on both sides of the car, and I’m wondering about the generations of choices that provided for a life on the plains. My personal angst continues to reverberate “What am I doing?”
I have labeled myself by relationships, job titles, politics and a few accomplishments, but I still don’t know who I am. Who I am supposed to be? What was I meant to do? I want to know the eternal question, the down deep, below false expectations.
I have had days to think as I look at my life. Today I see the metaphor of the highway. My story seems as straight and narrow as the barren road racing to the horizon not knowing when it will meet the setting sun. I can see my life as a series of stories, usually starring someone else and not a single hero. I see the multitude of possibilities spiraling in and out from the interstate, but there is no exit. So I chose the road most traveled. I have worked hard to fit an image that was designed and sold for women of the 50s. I have fashioned myself to appear to be a good girl, a loyal wife, an honest employee. In reality, I have only disappointed myself.
I turned my back on the possible adventures of life and wasted into a sad older age. I recognize at this moment that I’m not alone; we are all defined by our secrets, our dirty little secrets. It is the truth that breaks the rules; it is the truth that leads us to our authentic self. I want to turn my back on the lies and follow truth to the genuine me. I wasted decades hiding and lying, followed by even more years wanting to atone for the unspoken. The sins I committed in haste and confusion didn’t go away; they expanded in the dark recesses of my humiliation. I have exaggerated and fed the lies as they linger, poisoning and causing the same destruction as a slow moving cancer.
It is impossible to cut them out, as they have roots that enslave the heart. From this milepost I will no longer blame others for the crimes against me. I was complicit by allowing it to go on. What I can do is set the secrets free, and I will leave the guilt and shame at the very next rest stop. My salvation is this moment when my escape becomes a journey.